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10:19 AM on 03.01.2011

Gamercise Me: Week three.

Sorry this is a day late. Anyway, finished week two of this experiment. Found a bunch of speed bumps, but looking at those just makes me more determined (plus I've heard the second week is often one of the toughest). I did the time upgrade to 45 minutes, and of course felt more burn and sweating from the extra time. It felt good, even if more sore at points.

I also added Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 2 to my gamercise collection, and later on would like to get the current DDR Wii game, just for a second mat.

Games I played each day:
* Monday: Just Dance 2, which turned out to be surprisingly intense, as well as fun.
* Tuesday: Gold's Gym Dance Workout. Got about 500 calories burned, according to the scoring on that game, and it felt at least that much.
* Wednesday: Ended up as a skip day, since I've gotten plenty of advice not to do this every day.
* Thurdsay: Didn't want this to be a skip day, but it happened. Don't want to talk about why.
* Friday: Got DDR HP2, and tried that out. Had to turn off all the fancy stuff after the first song though. Even though the weight loss is more important than the score, I still have to know what I am doing.
* Saturday: Moved furniture as exercise. My mother and sister needed new dressers, so we had to take out the old ones and put the new ones together.
* Sunday: Just Dance 2 again.

Still need to remind myself to drink more water, and did feel "off" some of these days, but I'm not feeling discouraged. I'm up to an hour next week, and then seeing if I should increase the time after that or the intensity.

Announcement.

Week one report.   read


3:00 AM on 02.22.2011

Gamercise Me: Week two.

Finished the first week of my gaming exercise experiment, so this is the update.

Games I played each day:
* Monday: We Cheer. Still haven't mastered the timing for that game, but I did break a sweat trying.
* Tuesday: Gold's Gym Dance Workout. Also started sweating after the first few songs.
* Wednesday: Skipped. I had some shopping to do, but since the grocery story was in walking distance, I usually walk there. But had to hurry, as there were rain clouds in the sky. I managed to get home before it ran, but it was still about 3-4 miles total at a hurried pace. My sister recommended I just count that as a workout this day due to that.
* Thursday: DDR Hottest Party 3. It was a good thing I waited until then, as my legs were still a little sore from walking the day before. So I started off with the lighter songs to get a warmup, and try to get adjusted to the "down" button on the pad (my biggest problem due to our carpet often moving the pad as we play). The more intense songs did leave me sweating by the time I was done.
* Friday: Skipped. More shopping. I didn't walk as far, but when I got home, I realized I forgot a few things, so had to walk back there all over again.
* Saturday: We Cheer 2. Spent some time beating three and four star songs, which was good cardio.
* Sunday: Wii Fit. Finished this week with a more rounded workout. I did a few Yoga moves to warmup, some of the strength moves, some of the cardio boxing, and did the "Lotus Focus" as a cool down.

All in all, was a good warmup week. My biggest issue is getting myself to drink enough water, which I'll make sure to work on this week. Will also make sure to have better portion control this week as well. It's also of course where I move into 45 minutes each workout.

Now I am posting this in multiple sites, to see what advice as many of you as possible can give, and I got some good tips. One was to not go for the full two hours, as just one is easier to stick with. I can understand that, as some exercise experts have stated it's not always the length of the workout, but the intensity. If some of you agree, I'll keep my time to an hour, but build up how hard each one is.

Finally, my family got Just Dance 2, which adds another game to this list. Will report on how it works next week.   read


12:41 AM on 02.15.2011

Gamercise Me - Can games really help weight loss: Week one.

My name is Luke Collins, and I'm overweight. I'm 31, 5'10'', and 280 pounds. I don't have a problem with exercising and eating right in the first place, just sticking with those things.

Well I like gaming, and my family and I have collected quite a few exercise games for the Wii and the 360 in the past few months, and I'm actually liking a lot of these games as well. Thus I am seeing if doing lots of exercising in the games can help me lose weight. And I'm posting this here and elsewhere, seeing if

Aside from the occasional walk, all the exercising I do will be with exercise games. No gyms, and no special diets. Not that I won't take out fattening foods, but I won't be replacing meat with tofu either (plus turkey meat is also healthy and tastier).

For the first week, I'm spending a half hour each day playing these games, and then adding fifteen minutes every week until I get to two hours. If this works, and I start seeing results by then, I'll be sticking with two hours a day until I get to below 200 pounds, and then sticking with an hour or so each day from then on.

In case you are curious, the exercise games, or at least those you can exercise to, my family owns are:
* The Biggest Loser (Wii and 360; actually that's the only such game we have for the 360 so far, so the rest listed here are for the Wii)
* Daisy Fuentes Pilates (although that's my sister's, so I'm not sure I'll try that for a while)
* Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 3 (unfortunately we live on a second floor apartment, so we can't use it that much)
* EA Sports Active (bought used, since... let's just say I don't want to give EA my money right now)
* Gold's Gym Cardio Workout
* Gold's Gym Dance Workout
* Jillian Micheals Fitness Ultimatum 2009 (although that's also my sister's, so I'm not sure I'll try that for a while)
* Jillian Micheals Fitness Ultimatum 2010 (see above)
* Mario Power Tennis (even though it's lighter than most)
* We Cheer
* We Cheer 2 (probably my favorite of these, and partly even for the right reasons)
* Wii Fit Plus
* Wii Sports
* Zumba Fitness

This is a picture of how I look now, and I'll take another picture every month, but posting other updates every week.   read


1:45 AM on 10.02.2010

What if Hamza Aziz had more to do with Medal of Honor than Fox News?

Yes, the recent news of Taliban being pulled out of the latest Medal of Honor game does have a stink of giving in to controversy, and failing to stick to principles.

But was the controversy the reason this change was made, or was it more from gamers who genuinely wouldn't have bought the game if this was left in?

This notion isn't new. In 2001, Time Magazine considered naming Osama Bin Laden their "Person of the Year". Now this was a while before he officially took credit, but it was still clear for most people that he had a hand in September 11.

Now here was the sticky point. Bin Laden really did have the strongest effect on that year. Principle meant that he should have been named.

But people were threatening to pull their subscriptions if he was. That isn't a mere controversy, that is lost sales and revenue. They could not afford to stand on any high horse and tell their subscribers they were wrong should continue to buy the magazine anyway. Time chose mayor Giuliani instead rather than look like they were honoring America's most wanted man. Now before some of you bring up Hitler being given that title in 1938, that was 1938. Imagine him being getting that title for 1945, after all the atrocities of his regime were revealed.

It's just as likely EA faced a similar situation. What if what caused removing the Taliban wasn't from people who weren't going to buy the game anyway (like people from Fox News about Mass Effect), or were going to buy the game anyway ("They made Sonic's eyes GREEN!"), but from people who would have bought the game, but including the Taliban actually would have been a deal breaker?

Thus I refer you all to "I can't support the new Medal of Honor". This isn't from an attention hound on the news, nor a whiny fanboy. This is someone stating very politely and respectfully that he does not like the inclusion of the Taliban in the game. Now Aziz does not say outright that he's not buying the game, but what if others are?

What if EA found it likely that some people would refuse to buy the game for including a this group? We can't tell those people they are wrong. It's not like gaming fans who follow message boards and gaming news, and therefore should know better. These are people who would see the game and likely walk away.

EA cannot afford that, not after all their quarters of losses. If this game loses sales due to people turned away, principles cannot make up for that loss.

It seems sad that principles have to be sacrificed for money, but this isn't an underdog triumphs film.   read


6:58 PM on 07.09.2010

Even if reviews "can" affect buying intent, do they actually affect sales?

This study about reviews and sales might seem to be conclusive evidence that reviews affect sales, but there are two reasons why it is not.

1. The participants were required to read the reviews, and most consumers are not.

2. The study asked those who intended to buy games, not those who did buy games.

Thus the study doesn't give an actual indication of whether reviews affect sales in real market conditions. The way to properly determine that might just require something along the lines of a Zogby or Gallup poll, asking people why they did or didn't buy certain games, and seeing what percentage of the answers were caused by reviews.

Of course such a study would be hugely expensive, as you'd need a decent sample size of people not only owning games, owning various systems, but, if you want to leave no doubt, also a number of buyers approximating the respective sales of the game. Even a getting the US President's approval rating wouldn't need to talk to that many people.

Another method would be to compare review scores and sales. Let me tell you, the film industry has known for years that reviews might as well be dart throwing. The disparity among box office and reviews scores is blatant there, but for some reason gaming hasn't caught on to this. Now perhaps with games there is a connection, but without verifying it, assuming a game did well/poorly because it got good/bad reviews is falling for the "correlation=causation" fallacy.

It's holding on to those assumptions without confirming them that lost Sony their first place, and made it all the harder, and more expensive, for Microsoft to get just to where they are.   read


12:09 PM on 01.14.2010

Game "can" be artistic. They just shouldn't "have" to be.

My last post on games and art was a thrown together rant, with the points not well put, thus leaving room for misinterpretation, as many of the replies showed. So I'm going to break the points down and and focus on them in different posts.

This post is about this notion that a lot of game developers and some people in the gaming press have, that games need to advance the notion of video games as an art form, and that any game that doesn't advance that notion is therefore bad.

This is just wrong. And it's also the same notion that has made movie critics so disconnected from audiences. Some films have been artistic, and some are just entertainment. But look at how the critics tear any film apart for being nothing more than something for people to sit down and enjoy for a few hours.

There is a similar thing with the aforementioned developers and press when it comes to video games. Anything that is just an activity with a set of rules where you win by performing well within those rules, and doesn't try in some way to make you think differently about life or has some attempt to create immersion, is therefore crap that should be spit upon at every opportunity.

Although the ideas of what makes films artistic and what makes video games artistic are different among these respective groups. While with films isn't about spending less money, with games it's about spending more money. Films praised as art are often for a "less is more" reason, while with games it's about trying to throw as much to simulate another world, ours or a fantasy world.

Now that approach to video games isn't inherently bad. The problem is insisting this is the primary way to make games into a true art for, when works in other media have varied ways they get praised as art, and that, again, it's a bad thing for games not to try to make games art.

This seems to be one reason they hate the Wii. Its lower specs make that approach impossible. So rather than try to find other ways to be artistic, or even not try to be artistic, they just avoid the system. For one thing, it shows a horrible lack of imagination and creativeness, and for anther thing, that approach actually puts style over substance. But those points are for another post.

The thing is games are pastimes to have fun. They can be art, and some have come damn close (Okami is one for me, as well as Orisinal, aka the artistic PopCap). But trying to drag the entire medium into being art is wrong. It hasn't happened with other media. Even painting was just as much about portraits as much as being art.

Yet the most important thing is that this narrow-minded view of games hasn't caused games outside these circles to be accepted as art. It's just made games more expensive.

Back to movies, I can see some looking at Avatar and thinking that's what they want. They see the film seemingly making that leap over the uncanny valley (can't be sure myself because I haven't seen it yet), and all the money it's made, and think if they just pull that off that will be the breakthrough they wanted.

What they don't realize is that James Cameron is one of few filmmakers going with that approach. If half the filmmakers were going for that, Avatar would just be lost in a flood of similar films. It wouldn't impress audiences.

We have a similar situation with games. So many try the same general approaches (even if the genres and actual graphical styles differ) that developers and the gaming press decided they should that only a few stand out anymore.

Some seem to think that if enough games follow this path than the medium will be pulled along by the tide and games will transcend beyond being just games and become just as real as movies and will be just as narrative as books. Even if that were possible, the approach is wrong. Because too many are doing that, anyone who doesn't follow gaming releases closely will just see too many similar games and go with what's proven and familiar, same with the recent burst of the "casual bubble".

BTW, I don't just mean HD games. I mean any game that tries so hard to be artistic. Even Nintendo has been guilty of this. Also, I like some of the games I'm discussing. But I know that they can't achieve what the developers and gaming press want them to achieve.

A specific example is Grand Theft Auto IV. Rockstar North spent record development costs to try to create the most immersive game ever. Critics lavished praise on it. And what did most gamers, and game detractors notice? That it was another GTA game. All that work and only the critics and developers cared.

And then Mario Kart Wii outsold it, despite being bashed for not being Gran Turismo with power ups. It clearly wasn't trying to advance games as art, but no one outside those circles cared about that either.

So what went wrong with GTA IV? Technically, nothing. What went wrong wasn't with the game itself. It was the need to make it something more than it was, and the expectation it would do so.

This in essence is the problem with the idea that games must be art, and that there is only one general path to games being art. It's an expensive pipe dream.

My personal advice to these people isn't to drop the idea that games can be art. Just drop the need for it to be so. And come at it from other, less costly, approaches. Also look at other kinds of art in the context of each piece on its own, not how you could make a game to imitate that form.   read


9:10 PM on 01.13.2010

"if the game (on the Wii) doesn't sell, we did something wrong"

Can you believe this? The Wii owners are somehow not to blame for them not buying a game? What kind of nuts are they? Can't they see that the million or so people who bought Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition and World At War don't actually exist? Can you tell I'm being sarcastic?

Eurogamer story

Capcom's "bitching" (and subsequent back-track) about poor sales of Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles was ill-aimed, WiiWare developer Bloober Team has told Eurogamer.

"With such a strong install base it's hard to believe that there's not enough people to appreciate mature, core content," said executive producer Marcin Kawa. "It's all about games and quality. I'm not surprised that another shooter on rails doesn't sell well. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that people expect something more than that..

"I bet No More Heroes 2 will do pretty good, as well as the new Metroid and Capcom's Monster Hunter. I hope that Last Flight will be successful and that's because we're making a game that was thought out as a Wii game.

"Instead of bitching," he added, "we'd rather create something that has value and doesn't feel like a third-rate port put together to make a quick buck."

Bloober's making Last Flight, a visually simple but striking action-horror game inspired by Golden Axe, although we've yet to see the similarities. Importantly, this is a WiiWare game aimed at a mature audience that Marcin Kawa is adamant exists on Wii, despite the public lethargy for critically acclaimed games like MadWorld and No More Heroes.

"Was it the right decision to develop a game on Wii? Should we make it less violent? Are we gonna sell enough copies to pay our bills? You know, typical questions, nothing unusual here," Kawa said. "And while we love and respect Capcom and Pachter, we wouldn't go that far and say that mature stuff doesn't sell or that it's the platform holder's fault.

"Our logic is far simpler: if the game doesn't sell, we did something wrong."

The first episode of Last Flight, of which there are four, will be released on WiiWare "really soon".   read


2:20 PM on 01.13.2010

Three reasons games are not considered art outside the gaming community.

Yes, I'm saying it. Games as they are are not art. Okay, games are more craft than art, but I mean in terms of actually being artistic, games are not there. Not for the reasons Roger Ebert seems to think, but they are not art. I'll just cut to the chase and explain the reasons.

Games are trying to emulate other media, increasingly at the expense of the native medium.

It's this notion that "games can be more than games" Actually, I don't disagree with that end, just the means.

Most people don't play games for hours on end. They have other things to do with their time. In short, they don't want a movie or a book when they sit down to play a game. They want a game. Other things can be bonuses, but game developers keep trying to make them the meat of the game, where gameplay is often just the filler.

I was honestly looking forward to Final Fantasy XIII, as I am a fan of the series, but after hearing about how linear the game was, I was turned off. From the pattern of some previous FF games (not all, but some), this smacked of making the game filler for the cut scenes. Even hearing about how the battle system was faster-paced just reeks of trying to get players to the next set-piece as soon as possible.

In short, they want to make a game that's also an awesome CGI movie. But since the most awesome parts require really good timing and reflexes, and you can't position the camera to get the most flashy angle, it's all done by cut scenes. When I watched the new trailer, this is one of the impressions I got from it (along with Vanille having an orgasm on her summon monster at just after a minute in).

And why does this make games not art? It's the "jack-of-all-trades" principle. It's trying to be more than one thing at the expense of others. Good art is focusing the art one one or two things and making art out of them. Even the Bible is more about parables and morals than art.

Now some might think you can't apply the notion of art to a game, and want to do something else with the game in order to make it art. This kind of attitude made Too Human the expensive, bloated mess that it was. Perhaps some of you could try making the best game that you can, and if it allows room for other awesome things, that's just a bonus.

Flashy graphics have turned into an expensive embracing of style over substance.

As a practicing artist (some hand drawing, some pixel art), I find this notion particularly loathsome. Whenever I see an article about something on the Wii, and it's a deliberately downgraded picture, I want to punch those people in the face, not just because they are dissing Nintendo, but because of why. They are actually putting the details of the graphics over what's actually being shown.

At least Paris Hilton is obvious that she's shallow. Those people try to cover it up. Yeah, I'm calling graphics whores shallow. That's what they are.

No, people who merely notice graphics are not graphics whores. I see details in graphics. I can see the jaggies in Wii games on HDTVs. I can see compression artifacts in some DVDs I watch. I find it's easier to see smaller letters in some games in high definition. But that's noticing details, not making them paramount. When it comes to a game, I don't care if in No More Heroes an enemy's beam katana in the distance is a bunch of purple pixels. I just get ready for fighting that guy.

But how this relates to art is that they are not judging graphics in games by artistic merit, but by arbitrary things like the polygon count and texture resolution.

By that logic, the Sistine Chapel is a better work of art Michelangelo did than David, simply because paint has more colors. Or dissing the works of Van Gogh because everything is so blurry. It's just like a Wii game! Aint' I clever?

Shallow, shallow, shallow.

Now some judge games with more artsy styles, but only the kind of styles they like. Something "cute" is bad, but something dark and gritty is better.

Dark and gritty. Wait a minute.



Wait, I'm not knocking Darksiders. I haven't played it, and for all I know, it could be great fun. The thing is the artwork. The look of the characters makes me think less "video game" and more "bad 1990s comic book". What's next? You think Rockstar New York has jerks running it now, imagine if later down the line someone forces Rockstar North to write a stupid and contrived reason for Satan reverting the map of Liberty City to what it was in GTA III, or even I. I wish that was a joke, but Spider-Man fans know what I'm talking about.

That's the kind of "art" a lot of these people seem to be going for. And if it wasn't art with comic books, it won't magically be art for video games.

Not that it's a bad thing for games, just don't try to call it art.

Or even photo-realistic graphics. That's not art either. Even photo-realistic painters were trying to capture a feeling or a moment. The art in those was still in what they were painting, not how.

Make good scenes, and only then worry about the details.

BTW, I'm not claiming Nintendo is free from shallowness, just that when it hits them it usually comes in a different form. Different, not better.

But you know what, I could forgive all of that, okay just the first part (not the style over substance thing), if the storytelling in games was actually good.

Not that it needs to be good, just that it's mediocre writing and passable plots. But for the most part, that's okay. Heck, in some imaginative hands, it can even be awesome, like the Disgaea games. Those don't have spectacular dialog, and they don't need to be. It's about just having fun, and I love the games for that if nothing else.

But it's in the "visionary" hands that the problem sets in. So many of them have this bug up you-know-where that they can make games, I don't know, transcend the medium of gaming. From some of the things said by them, that seems to be their goal.

They can't as long as they are going for flashy scenes instead of writing better. Why don't they try actually writing stuff to get some practice. Then they might see just how bad it is. Right now they just throw more money at games to try to cover up their lack of skill. It's a crutch and a costly one at that.

And that seems to be why many don't support the Wii. All this talk about processing power and userbase is just bulls***. The Wii won't let them hide their lack of talent with flashy graphics. Sure it's less expensive, but it seem only some developers are willing to learn that lesson, while some would rather risk losing their shirts. I should make it clear, it's not the lack of support for the Wii. It's the reason of wanting to pretend they are good storytellers and artists, and the HD systems let them have that fantasy better.

I mean, take the comment about the Wii supposedly couldn't handle the title screen of Resident Evil 5. First of all, that guy was full of it. Metroid Prime called and wants its intro back. Second of all, it's a title screen. You're not going to make the game any better with a flashy title screen. Even movies don't need great title cards. Okay, the slit-scan effect in Superman was cool, but it wouldn't have been a tenth as awesome without the John Williams fanfare.

Or go back to the Final Fantasy XIII trailer (I mean, she's actually getting off on her summon blasting the monsters). I agree that the voice acting is good. Just not the dialog. It's tepid and flat (the mouth flaps need a bit of work, the animation should also be changed to match the voice acting, but that could still be remedied). Again, not a problem when the story is filler for the gameplay, but again, this game is trying to do the opposite and the story just won't cut it.

In the end, gaming nowadays tries to be like Lord of the Rings, but it's too often like DM of the Rings.

Haven't heard of DM of the Rings? Look it up. It's a great comic. And check out Darths & Droids while you're at it.

But the basic plot is that Lord of the Rings is run like a D&D campaign, but the DM just keeps railroading the players and giving them barely any action. That's what gaming is like, only way too expensive.

Heck, Final Fantasy The Spirits Within was a great prelude to what's wrong with a lot of this console generation. You get graphics that try to be photo-realistic and fail miserably against the uncanny valley, a weak story with weak dialog, lots of brown, and a company losing millions. Just add some gameplay we've seen a dozen times before and it's more or less what these games often are: not art but trying all the wrong ways to be.   read


6:56 PM on 01.11.2010

What if we could remake games: part 01

In this, I try to look at games I like in a critical and analytical fashion, and then imagine if I had the authority and the means to have them remade.

What I mean is I won't go "I think this would be cool to add," or "I don't like this, so I'll leave it out." I mean to look at what worked for the games and what didn't, not just for me, but for others.

Anyway, the first game I'm looking at is a game I'm sure a lot of you agree has room for improvement, Dead Rising Chop Till You Drop. I personally like the game a lot. It's a personal 8.5/10 for me (although RE4 is a 9.5/10), but for others I admit it's a 7/10 at best.

Why not remake the first Dead Rising?

CTYD was meant to address many of the complaints of the original game. It did, but didn't go far enough. This is part of what my hypothetical remake would do.

So just say "I'd make them put actual effort into it this time."

No, no, no. That's just being vague. It's not helpful at all. Plus it ignores that what was done with the game was unprecedented. That is important. The original game was already a first in gaming in that it used the multi-core processors to make loads of enemy AI. Now CTYD tried to squeeze that all onto a single core process, and still have the loads of area detail that the mall required. How many SD games had both loads of enemy AI (not that Hitman game, those were extras, not bots) coupled with areas with lots and lots of detail, that doesn't even use streaming (as GTA would). If there are, I would like to hear about it. Now that is not an excuse for the game.It's just...

Firsts in gaming and electronics suck more often than not.

This is why my hypothetical game here is a remake instead of doing it over (like I would do with the Star Wars prequels). We would use what we learned from the first time as a road map. We'd know what does and doesn't work on the Wii and get more out of the system.

Zombies before graphics.

Zombies get improved first. Some were turned off by the zombies reappearing in frame Now they do that in the original game. It's just done outside off frame, but you can see them if you turn fast enough. But for me, there is a more practical reason to increase the zombie count. When I'm level grinding, doing a special move can cause them to disappear, or just turning the camera away from the zombie cluster for a second too long. I got used to it, but I would definitely remedy that here.

But it wouldn't be to get as many zombies in the original game. This would still be CTYD. The zombie density would be the same. It would just be constant here and have a larger radius around Frank (again, the original has a radius, it's just harder to tell). And like the original game, respawning and swapping would be behind Frank. So even if you clear out the zombies ahead of you with the Chicago Typewriter, you could still get attacked from behind if you don't pay attention to you all your surroundings.

Now what about the graphics?

I would keep the polygon count and texture resolution the same. They weren't that high in the original game, because the nature of the game was scale. But that doesn't mean I would leave the graphics alone. Just that the first priority would be increasing the zombie count to a satisfactory level. After that's done, I would see what could be done with the graphics.

But one absolute would be a more vibrant color palette (as that hopefully shouldn't require any more resource optimization). It wasn't so bad when I played the game on an SDTV, but then my roommates and I got an HDTV, and I could see why some were put off by the graphics. Too many spots looked outright muddy. Others looked horribly faded. It wasn't universal, as the plaza areas looked good. Just that the original game was a huge contrast to the brown look of so many HD games, and this game should as well.

Now if there is room to do other things with the graphics, I would improve the lighting and shadows, as those did help the other game a lot.

Do the cut scenes in game.

The graphics in CTYD could actually do decent animations. You could see it when you fight the prisoners. So I would remove the FMVs, which would also have the benefit of more ROM space to add more content. More on that later.

Remove the linear escort missions.

I got used to them, but I can definitely see that making the escort missions required, and effectively doubling their length, was not a good design decision. This can not be blamed on the Wii or the perceived lack of effort. It was all by choice, and it doesn't quite work. But would I make the escort missions time based like the original? Not quite.

Make the game case based instead of time based.

What I mean is that when you complete each case, particular side missions, including the escort missions, open up. Some even close past a certain point (as in the survivors didn't make it). So if you like you can just tear through the story (for speed runners). Others can do the side missions for 100% completion. And some bonus missions would require beating some of the side missions to unlock them.

This way it has the freedom of the original game, without the time turning that freedom into confusion for some.

Also, because of that, I'd remove the ropes, so there would be more freedom to move around the mall, and more freedom in the missions, such as...

Include missions about just killing zombies.

The main draw of these games is fighting zombie hordes. So there should be missions that encourage those things. It would be sort of like the "Odd Jobs" and "Second Amendment" missions (which would still be included here), just in game.

Some would be fun, like putting every Servbot head in the Paradise Plaza toy store on zombie heads. Others would be more action, such as getting on a cart, and it rolls forward. You have to use your shotgun and take out as many zombies as you can before the cart reaches the end. And you had better get that reference.

Include a camera angle that is tilted above Frank.

It would still move with him, but it wouldn't be directly behind him. This is because since games lack depth perception (one thing 3D gaming could actually solve) it's hard to make out small distances. I've missed a lot of attacks thanks to that little problem. Fortunately it wasn't too much of a problem...

Include a hardest difficulty setting, which is "Hard" but the life bar is like the original game.

Those who haven't played the game think fewer zombies makes this game easier. Those who have played it (even if they didn't like it) know that it's the life bar that makes this easier. Even at minimum it takes about seven to eight hits on Hard to get a game over. So it's twice as good as the original life bar without any improvement.

So to those who want more of a challenge, the hardest difficulty would be the punishing life bar from the original. One hit and you lose a whole unit. Although drinking juices to restore health wouldn't revert. That isn't a challenge. It's just frustrating. You'd still be able to just safely take the healing items in the sub screen.

Restore and revamp the camera system.

In a way, I can see how they left it out. For one thing, zombies fading away precludes taking pictures of corpses. And getting up close would be hard when they lunge at you half the time. But here I would just make a new camera system. You'd have different conditions in what pictures to take. Yet I would leave that guy as a zombie in this game. He's just annoying. Taking pictures in this game would just be about getting proof. In fact, if you take enough of the right pictures, you could even get another ending, one made just for this remake.

As for the actual taking pictures, I would have the control be the same as with the rifles. In fact, the camera would be the default equipment in the rifle slot for weapon selection. And the pictures could even be saved in the Wii system memory or an SD card, like the screencaps in Crystal Bearers.

Have Motion+ plus as an option for the melee weapons.

It might be a bit gimmicky, but there is a reason for this. But some options would be that instead of the usual A for one attack, swing Wiimote for anther attack, and stun zombie for another attack, they would all be in how you use the motion plus. Although some weapons would be obvious in the right motions. To use the golf club, you swing it like one. At least that would be for the most powerful golf club attack.

Plus it could be a way to have more options in swinging the weapons high and low instead of pressing up or down on the d-pad (which was only practical for swinging down anyway). A parrot comes flying your way, just swing upwards with the baseball bat and send it across the field.

Include multiplayer.

Right from the start I would have multiplayer modes to enjoy. You don't have to unlock them, just have fun. Some could be split screen multiplayer, some could be first person like a rail shooter (but just as an option, not as the game of course). But it's not against each others. It's still about killing zombies. Some modes would be who could take out the most. Some would be cooperative and some modes could even involve trying to be the last survivor. You can't hurt your opponents with weapons, but you can stun them, especially when your opponent is facing down a horde.

Now the split screen part would likely have a hit in the graphics, and/or zombie count, but for having all your buds with you taking out the undead, I think that's a good tradeoff.

Local would get the priority, but online would be an option, at least for some of the modes.

Actually market the sucker.

This is why I would have Motion+. Have ads where people are using the Wiimotes like weapons. You would then see Frank on screen taking out the zombies in that manner (no blood of course, unless it's a red band commercial). Don't market it like a party game, but as something like being an action hero in a zombie film. I would hope enough people would want something like that to at least make this a modest hit.

Now that's all I can think of for this game right now, but I hope it's a good way to look at how to improve games without being too vague or fanboyish. Next time, I'll look at a game that's a bit more popular, and thus might be a bit controversial about the changes I propose (sure this is hypothetical, but some would still argue).   read


4:11 PM on 01.09.2010

How to figure out the Wii market, both the expanded and core.

This is a two part article. The first discusses the expanded market, and the second the core market.

The Expanded Market

The expanded audience is this odd entity to many developers and enthusiast gamers. They just don't get them. These people seem to buy crap, but then when more crap is thrown to them, they stop buying it. What gives?

The proper name for this market:

The first step in getting this market is to stop thinking of them as "casual". Think of them as "gamers who just game when they have spare time". That's not just trying to come up with a politically correct term. It's about actually understanding why they game the way they do, and not just surrendering the understanding to simplified buzzwords.

Go beyond your own opinions.

The second step is to stop thinking the opinions of enthusiast gamers (which includes developers, journalist, and many people online) determines how good a game is for everyone. Stop thinking the way you measure a game is what matters to the expanded market. You don't have to agree with their opinions, but stop being myopic about yours.

Here's a quiz. Why did Carnival Games sell so well?

1. It's a casual game that's simplified to the point grannies like it.

2. It's cute and inoffensive.

3. Those people like crap better than good games.

4. Who knows? The market is unpredictable.

5. Games at carnivals are the predecessors to arcade video games, and some people just want to relive that experience. In short, it's an effective (if not perfect) carnival game simulator.

If you answered 5, then you made a huge leap in figuring out the market. It's also a big clue into many bestselling games, even the core ones. Many are, for the most part, successful simulators.

Simulators make hit games.

Gran Turismo - Race car simulator.

Grand Theft Auto - Crime spree simulator

Gears of War / Halo - Action hero simulator

Call of Duty - War hero simulator (just the wars differ)

Wii Sports - Sports simulator, and it doesn't even limit itself to one, like Madden.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympics - Olympics simulator, with the bonus of playing two of the most iconic game characters.

Guitar Hero / Rock Band - Take a wild guess.

Now this isn't an absolute rule for hit series, but I'll get to the other reasons games are hits in a little bit. The point here is that if enough people want to play a simulation of something, and you make a simulation that satisfies them, and you market it to that group (should be obvious, but I've found that isn't always the case), then you have a hit game.

What if you are a developer and you want such a game to satisfy you as well? The thing is that do you want to make the most grand, amazing casual game ever, or do you want to just want to give it a level of polish not normally seen in those games. Go for the latter. The former thing is like an episode of Frasier, when he was coming up with a theme song for his show, and he made it to his standards, which was a bloated mess, and wasn't a good opening at all. The latter is the Pixar method. They don't try to make their movies the most grand, amazing family movies ever, just that they go a level above the typical level of decent quality family films (and several levels above the typical quality ones).

Now the other reasons some games are hits. The second reason is a matter of utility, which is a rare thing in games. Most of the time those are edutainment games, which rarely work in mainstream consoles (they sell well enough for dedicated systems, though). Nintendo found the secret was not to target kids with those, but adults (which flies in the face of their usual strategy), since adults often want those things more than kids, who just want to play around.

Utilities for grownups make hit games.

So we have Wii Fit and Brain Age. It doesn't always work. Wii Music as a utility works for some, but not as much as those interested in the other games. Plus many expected the simulation and got the utility instead. Nintendo would have to include a lot more simulation next time for this to work.

Experiences can make hit games.

But now we have the third reason games are hits, the experience. I don't mean super-detailed graphics or the cinematics. I mean a game as experiencing another place. This applies to Super Mario Bros, Mario Kart (combined with racing simulation), Final Fantasy, Sonic, and many other games.

Now the reason detailed graphics and cinematics don't matter here is the expanded market doesn't want to just sit around for hours soaking up the game. They just want to get into it. They want to experience by playing. This can even apply to core games. Take Resident Evil. When gamers talk about the scariest moments, it's often related to gameplay, like the dogs leaping through the windows the first time. It certainly wasn't the cut scenes, not when it comes to that series.

Plus thinking about games in terms of experience can even show why there was this supposed "casual bubble burst". The only bubble was the developers thinking that was how to sell to the market.

"More of the same" can drive buyers away.

As I stated, these people don't play games for extended sessions. They don't absorb all the content of a game and then want to move on. This actually makes them less tolerant of what they perceive as "more of the same". Where enthusiast gamers can see what would set a sequel apart from the previous games, it's not readily apparent to people who game in their spare time. There has to be something to set the new games apart.

Take Carnival Games Mini Golf. It's not just more carnival games, but a whole new setting. The game wasn't as big of a hit as the first game, but it was new enough to sell about a million copies. Or Wii Sports Resort is in a tropical setting instead of just more sports.

Although some games can have a solution built in. The utility games have the utility as their content, so simply promising more of that can sell a game, like Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes A Day. But even that still needs the right words in the name. "Super Fitness" with a sequel of "Super Fitness Advanced Workout" will work better than "Super Fitness 2009" with a sequel of "Super Fitness 2010". The latter does come across as more of the same.

Even enthusiast gamers care about experiences.

Experience like that can matter to enthusiast gamers as well. All you have to do is look at how they jumped for joy at the news Call of Duty would finally move on from World War II. We would finally have a new experience. And World At War did disappoint many for going back, but it at least moved on from the western front, so at least that was something of a new experience.

Or on the JRPG front, how many of you got as excited as me when Tron was announced to be a level in Kingdom Hearts 2? Some of you likely have your own personal stories of experiences in a game being a deal maker for you. Content matters in a game.

Plus this can even explain why licensed games sell. It's about experiencing someone's favorite show/movie/comic/etc. And even enthusiast gamers get excited when a licensed game is good, because they get that experience and a game up to their standards (like a certain recent Caped Crusader game).

Pick-up-and-play is a must.

Regardless of which of the three things a game uses, pick-up and play is vital. This is a huge reason I suggested the new term for this market. It makes this aspect clear. You want to know why Super Mario Galaxy got its lifetime sales outsold in Japan by New Super Mario Bros Wii in about a week, that's why. 3D Mario games are just not pick up and play. Guess what Carnival Games is.

In short:

So to sell to this market, you should find out what kind of simulation, utility, and/or experience people who play games on the side want to play. Make a game to fill that need. Make sure it clearly fills that need, and is also clearly a new thing to try if there are already similar games (. I can't guarantee it will be a hit, but it will do far better than just throwing together a party game because Wii Sports and Mario Party 8 were hits.

The Core Market

To put it simply, make the games that would be a hit on the HD systems. To add to this, wishy-washy games with the name slapped on, and niche games, wouldn't have sold on those systems either. And if a game is a hit with multiplayer, it's a good idea to leave it in when it's on the Wii.

Don't make games that are part of hit series in name only.

It's rude, but either you are an idiot or deliberately sabotaging your support of the Wii (perhaps a little bit of both) if you put out a game unlike the kind of game(s) that made a series a hit, and slap that series name on that unlike game while throwing it out on the Wii as a "test".

Imagine making a sci-fi film and calling it Die Hard. Even if you cast Bruce Willis, suddenly setting the film in the next century or so, and taking out most of the action, would seem like a moronic move.

But somehow making a hack & slash game and calling it Soul Calibur, or a slow-paced rail shooter (hint, rail shooters are arcade games and need to be fast-paced) and calling it Dead Space, or a fighting game with unpolished gameplay and calling it Castlevnania*, are somehow seen as proper ways of putting series on the Wii.

* I'll give that one just a little, since Iga said it was more about a format where the Wiimote wouldn't tire one out from all the whip motions, which ironically would have made perfect sense for the swordfighting in Soul Calibur.

Now I do need to make it clear I don't mean established spin-offs. Those are selling well. Even the Resident Evil Chronicles games are based off of the shooter spinoffs on the Playstation 1 and 2.

I mean selling a game that is not like the actual series, and it comes out of nowhere, and acting as though it is part of the series. Okay, Dead Space only had one game before it, but still it wasn't enticing to the Wii audience to see an RE4 style game get turned into a "guided first-person experience".

But Soul Calibur Legends pisses me off the most. They couldn't just port III over to the Wii? They had to try a cheap imitation of Dynasty Warriors? Again, if that was meant to be a spin-off, I could have lived with that. But it's basically all the Wii has gotten of that series, while IV was f****ing ported to the PSP (not that the PSP got the game, but that the Wii isn't getting it as well).

BTW, some might mention Dead Rising CTYD. Now I like that game, but I admit it doesn't have wide appeal (which it seems some fans of Madworld cannot comprehend about that game), but at least Capcom didn't call this game a test. It was just to correct some of the complaints of the original game.

Also, even though it's a DS game, Chinatown Wars was not the kind of GTA game that sells big numbers. Last I checked, the top-down games sell a few million at best, and this one didn't even have the art style of those games. The DS audience had nothing to do with it. Same with the arguments about Wii games.

It doesn't stop being niche or a poor seller just because you want it to be.

Madworld was a short game with no multiplayer, little replay value, and sold at full price (and sales picked up after the price drop). It wouldn't have done that well on the HD systems.

Heck, note the genre and developer. What was the last brawler they did? It was God Hand when they were still Clover. How much did that game sell? About the same or less than this game. And that was on the PS2. You aren't going to tell me that the PS2 isn't friendly to core games.

So the game didn't sell less because it was on the Wii. It sold less because it sold less.

Or take another Clover game, Okami. It sold moderately well on both the Wii and the PS2.

Yet what about some outright flops? Take a look at games like Spyborgs and ask yourself if you would have bought those games if they were on the HD systems. It's not as though those systems don't have flops, and I don't just mean flop because of escalating costs, I mean games like Bionic Commando.

But the point here is that some of these are used as examples of the Wii not selling core games.

The thing is most games are niche. This notion that most games sell huge numbers is just a fallacy. And with the Wii, as with any SD system, they can still make a profit selling those numbers.

Removing multiplayer can actually hurt sales.

Crystal Bearers is a fun game, and has some of the best art direction of any Wii game, hands down. But while I like single player games, taking it out of a series known for it (save for some selective spots) is a bit of a problem.

And since the point here is using the games that sell on the HD systems, let's look at some hit games that have local multiplayer:

Halo, Gears of War, Resistance, Call of Duty.

And those are just shooters. Since Goldeneye, multiplayer in FPS have been vital. But what NSMBWii has made clear to me is that offline multiplayer is even more important than online. The Conduit doesn't have local multiplayer, so anyone without wifi connections have just the single player. Not the best way to reach a wide market (and I have the game).

Even the Call of Duty games don't have local multiplayer on the Wii, while they do on the HD systems. Combined with just now getting the game that launched the series into mega hit status, and that very game getting buried in marketing and shelf space by the sequel, and it's a miracle the game is selling as fast as it is (half a million before the year was over).

When given the same chances to be a hit as on the HD systems, it will be a hit.

Resident Evil is a hit series, and 4 and 5 sold millions on the 6th and 7th generation systems. So when 4 was on the Wii, but with the combined features of the GC and PS2 versions, and had better control, and had a bargain price, there was every reason for it to be a hit. It was.

Monster Hunter 3 had everything going for it as well, save for being on a home system when handhelds were where the series had become a smash. So even though the PSP versions sold better, this game is still this close to a million sales at the time of this writing. It had every reason to succeed, and it did.

Conversely, look at the Lego games. Those dismissing those games as casual should look at their sales on the HD systems. They are on par with the Wii versions, and even higher for some. If the markets were so different, that should not be the case.

The conclusion for both:

The Wii has two gamer markets, not one, and one of these is the same market as on the HD systems. Make the same games for that market. But for the other market, thinking of them as a casual market is to fail to understand their approach to gaming, and what games really appeal to them.   read


9:28 AM on 01.07.2010

Nuts vs Bolts - Comparing parts of games: part 3

This is a series where we try to go beyond simply comparing games as a whole. As in, it's not about "I think Game X is better than Game Y." That's been done to death. It's boring and predictable. This is about looking at them in a new way. Instead, this is about "Game X had way better powerups than Game Y." "Better powerups? All Game X had was the invincibility lasted slightly longer. And the health upgrades are crap. If anything, Game X had better boss fights than Game Y." "You mean the music in the boss fights is better at making your ears bleed." This is what these topics are about.

This time, I'm looking at the 5 Grand Theft Auto games released on the Playstation 2, including the PSP ports. What I am noting is what I say each game does better than the others. Again, this isn't about which game you think is better overall, especially since every such discussion I've seen puts San Andreas in first, followed by Vice City.

BTW, this is part 1, and part 2 (just with poorly chosen topic titles).

Grand Theft Auto III

Best Wipeout imitation -- Not a perfect imitation, but grab a fast car, put on "Rise FM", and tear down a highway.

Best sexual implications -- While SA has the "Hot Coffee" aspect, and even lets CJ wear a gimp suit, this game has lesbian bondage (or at least a lesbian tying up a straight girl). Now while I don't find that scene as hot as I might (nothing against Debbie Mazar, she just doesn't really do it for me), I have to put it up here on principle.

Best main villain -- Honestly, I'm not too impressed with the villains of these games overall. Either you barely know about them until it's clear they are the final boss, or you do know them, and they seem to be bordering on 2-dimensional villainy. Nothing against Samuel L. Jackson, just that Tenpenny seemed to be doing things just because it's what corrupt cops do (although from what I heard, scenes left out of the game would have explained it better, but they should have been left in for that reason). Catalina wins by less is more reasoning. You know she's a backstabbing bitch from the beginning, and it's clear why she's doing what she's doing (but the way she was written in SA makes it seem as though she would have gotten herself killed by the events in III).

Grand Theft Auto Vice City

Best overall story -- I also liked the stories of III and SA, just that III wasn't quite as polished as the story for this game, and SA just ended up trying to do too much, as well as *spoiler* the events of the riots happening way too fast, while only after they start are we told why they happened *spoiler*. LCS and VCS seemed to try to be deeper, and fell way short.

Best commercials -- While all the games had great spoof commercials, III didn't have as many as this game, and the other three had a significant percentage (LCS the highest) of humor that went the "It's funny because it's offensive!" route. I don't mean offensive humor (like George Carlin, who was awesome). I mean offensive stuff done as a substitute for humor (It's a Disney style theme park... but it's staffed by pedophiles!). Honestly I'm offended by the fact that they are doing that in place of real jokes than the actual offensive parts.

Funniest mission -- "Publicity Tour", the mission where you're driving a limo, but stuck in the same situation as Speed. But it's the dialog that often makes it hard to finish because you're trying not to laugh.

Best protagonist -- You're playing a criminal. You don't need to be sympathetic about it. But being a fun character is also good, and Tommy Vercetti has that in spades.

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas

Largest scale -- I shouldn't have to explain this one.

Best control -- Free camera, two way radio control (why the hell did the Stories games take that out when the PSP versions had them), gun aiming almost like an FPS, and firing with L1 so you can use the second analog stick.

Best cast -- Even the less famous voices are great, but my favorite is Wil Wheaton as Richard Burns, who makes Kent Brockman looks like Walter Cronkite.

Best news stories -- Loads of different stories, with Leanne and Richard making total asses of themselves (just Richard being more blatant about it).

Best taxi gameplay -- Two words: Nitro boost. As if the taxi driving in these games weren't an imitation of Crazy Taxi already (and I mean that as a good thing). All it's missing is music by "The Offspring".

Hookers pay you -- After you complete the pimping missions. This is just funny to me because a stand up comic (I believe Dave Attel) made a joke about how men can lie about their sexual abilities "I swear, the hooker gave the money back."

Best emergency services radio -- Favorite line is about a drug bust, one cop says he's on it, and the other guy says "Not you! You just got out of rehab!" Not to mention the things the cops are saying when you get enough stars.

Grand Theft Auto Liberty City Stories

Best character redemption -- While I did find LCS the weakest of these games, it does have its moments, like when Tony's mom is so proud of him being made, she calls off the hit she puts on him.

Grand Theft Auto Vice City Stories

Most polished graphics -- While GTA is about scale, not graphics, VCS did have the best of the PS2 games. LCS took an odd turn with this "dirty" look on many of the character models, this game just got the smoothest look.

Best map -- While III had the worst map (simply for not having a full map), this game let you know what weapon bonus items (what III, VC, and LCS called "hidden packages", but SA and this game called other things) you already got making the completion that much easier.

Best DJs -- SA came this close, but the banter/arguing between the DJs in this game gives it the edge.

Zombie fighting -- Okay, it's supposed to filming a movie, but you still fight them as though it was a real zombie attack.


And that's all I can think of so far. You agree, disagree, or have your own points to discuss, let's hear them.   read


3:26 PM on 01.06.2010

Why Chop Till You Drop should be a beginning, not an end.

Despite what the head of Capcom France said, Capcom apparently hasn't given up on such games for Nintendo, as Seth Killian states.

Among his words were that Dead Rising Chop Till You Drop sold well (even if well below what they hoped it would), and even hinted at possibly more games converted to the Wii.

Now before some of you start crying about more games remade as crap, I'm going to assure you that is not the case. The reason is that the game is not some information black hole about its development. As in Capcom can learn about what was done and improve upon it, the same way most game developers have been doing since the the Golden Age.

(I wrote "most" because they are exceptions, but this isn't Ninjabread Man and Anubis II.)

Specifically, there have been very, very few conversions of HD games to the Wii. Off the top of my head, I have this game, Rockstar Presents Table Tennis, and Call of Duty Modern Warfare (World At War was a multiplatform game, so was made with the Wii in mind). Three games aren't exactly a lot to practice and improve with, especially since they were all different developers.

But CTYD is also notable in that this was converting one of the few true HD games, in that a major part of the game (not just visuals) was made possible by the multi-core processors, and Capcom and TOSE had the task of trying to make that work on a single core CPU. Now if you've paid attention to firsts in electronics and gaming, you should know that most just outright suck, and that it takes many iterations to perfect them.

(Just an example, the first commercial motion controls in gaming were items like the Power Glove and U-Force. The Wiimote on its own is virtual reality compared to those.)

So with more such games converted to the Wii, we get more practice. Thus the games will be better. Heck, this doesn't apply to just conversions. Look at the graphics for sequels on the same system.

Super Mario Bros/Super Mario Bros 3 (even the US version of 2, despite being based on a different game)
Resident Evil/Resident Evil 2
Rogue Squadron II/Rogue Squadron III (Factor 5 even said they could get more polygons after they made II)
Metal Gear Solid 2/Metal Gear Solid 3
Final Fantasy on at least three different systems, IV/V/VI, VII/VIII (even if you don't think it's as good, the graphics are advanced), X/XII

And those are just those I can remember without looking any more up. The point is that if Capcom is motivated to improve up what they did (and considering the reception, I dare say they would be), then they will improve.

BTW, I do like CTYD, but I do know it could has room for improvement (which will even be the subject of a later blog post), but the point is that there is such room, and rather than calling for people to give up, you should do like me and call for those people to keep trying until they get it right.   read


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