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6:40 PM on 06.15.2013

E3 2013: The Next Gen Battle Started, Who is Winning?




So, E3 came and is now over. After finally watching the conferences of the Big Three, I decided to cast some thoughts on the matter. Of course, they all wanted to be the best, with the biggest games, the best offer. A new generation of the console wars starts later this year, so, I was thinking: who is better positioned to win? So letís start withÖ




Nintendo

Nintendo was the first one to make its move, with the ridiculous named successor of the Wii, the WiiU (hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaÖha!). I really wonder how they decided the name was the best choice. Wii 2 at least would convey the feeling of a successor. WiiU, and the fact they put the gamepad, their tablet controller on front and prominent in its, box, sounds like an accessory. And we all may have heard at least one retailer story about consumers confuse if the WiiU is a new machine or an accessory. †SoÖ

What were they thinking?

Nintendo arrogantly decided that the 100 million Wiis sold since 2006 made every one of those people a loyal fan. They also decided the cheap pricing and different control schemes were another reason for their success, and that people wanted an all new different form to play. It does make sense on a superficial analysis. What they failed to see is that the Wii was a one hit wonder, just another fad that people have gone in droves to be in the trend and forget as soon. Wii sold most in its short first half lifespan and then become almost forgotten after.

Nintendo wished to repeat its success, and invested heavily in the gamepad, but not great came from it. It is neither intuitive nor easy to show off as the Wii is. We donít have many games where using that second screen show how better it is to have it there. Most WiiU owners I know love it just so they can play games on the screen and keep the TV free for others.

Nintendo WiiU have being selling poorly and many 3[sup]rd[/sup] party publishers are just ignoring it, and heavy hitters like FIFA are going to be absent on the console later this year. Nintendo is looking to be turning the WiiU a box that only play their own games, and while it will not kill Nintendo itself, it may put the WiiU in a very bad position.

What they did at E3?

Not much. They made no press conference this year, and with good reason. Their 40 minutes Nintendo Direct showed they only had a handful of Nintendo games to show. They didnít even price cut the system or revealed a surprise new IP. While the new Mario looks a fun, good game as most Mario games are and Bayonetta 2 sounds interesting, most games they show were actually expected, like Mario Kart and Smash Bros. Those Nintendo Directs are great to reassure WiiU owners that the great Nintendo games they likely bought a WiiU to play in first place will come, but it makes neither previous Wii owners nor people who arenít huge fans of Nintendo games wanting one.

What they likely will achieve with their showing?

A 3rd place, with likely GameCube numbers at the end of the generation. The GameCube sold almost 22 million units, which shows how big the actual Nintendo biggest fans community really is. With its price of US$350 for the premium package, the one most people would want, it is dangerously close of the PlayStation 4, and dangerously far of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 prices. Coming the Holidays, people will have both cheaper options with a big library of games and a not that much more expensive option of more powerful hardware that have better multimedia and online capabilities. Without a mass media marketing campaign, Nintendo have very little hope that their wait and see strategy will work.

What they should do?

Price cut. Stop selling the basic package that nobody wants and sell the premium one at that price, while bundling a game like Mario Kart to it. Also, stop sitting in the pile of money they made with Wii and DS sales and start using it to make the WiiU more desirable. When Sony had little 3rd party support with the PS3, they didnít sit in their asses hoping things would change. They made the games themselves.

Nintendo could also use that money to pay for 3[sup]rd[/sup] party support, so spending a little money now to be able to get a lot later would do wonders for them. Nintendo canít just release a new, more powerful WiiU. So they need to stop waiting and do something. Otherwise they will likely be at the bottom, and while Nintendo will not die, the WiiU can.



Microsoft

Microsoft went to E3 with an uphill battle. They needed to get away the bad taste they left in the mouth of their most loyal consumers, the people who bought a 360 to play games, after showing the Xbox One (which goes up there with Nintendo for worst name ever) and concentrating too much on the non-gaming side. Their DRM policies and need for online connection to access your legitimately bought games also was a bad move for them. They needed to get the love of their fans back.

What were they thinking?

That showing game after game after game would fix it. And in a way, they were right. †Games make the system, any system. And they had a strong showing. Metal Gear Soli V, Dead Rising 3 and TitanFall were all great showings. For a second, their stupid DRM and Kinect and TV would look worth it if you could play those games.

To be fair, Microsoft probably researched a lot about how to please their fans and yet trying to gather new consumers. They probably concluded that most of their consumers, the ones who bought a 360, where always connected anyway, love TV and had plenty of money to buy their new box. And in a way, nothing they did is actually wrong in a business side and could reward them in the long term.

What they did at E3?

That price tag was too much. After being vilified for months even before their reveal of the box due to the DRM, Kinect and almost everything else, they asked a whole US$500 from gamers to enjoy the machine they were asking to always have a connection to give their permission to you to play the games you paid money to play. They also made a lot of stupid statements after, who only made them looking worse.

They also showed a lot of 3[sup]rd[/sup] party games, and if anything we all learned that 3[sup]rd[/sup] party game exclusives donít remain exclusives forever. TitanFall is already rumored to not really be a Xbone exclusive forever, and it will be available on PC, so no real need to buy the new Xbox for it. And they yet had to show a single benefit of their policies for the consumer, which they failed and keep failing. Oh, and remember, the Xbone is region locked, will be available only in 21 selected countries and if you canít mask your IP, you will not be able to play games even if you import one.

What they likely will achieve with their showing?

Hard to tell, actually. Many 360 fans will justify accepting the higher price tag and the online policies so they can play their favorite Microsoft games. Others, specially the mass market MS wants, are likely to not even know why those policies are bad for them. The Xbone will likely sell well at the holidays, but after that their high price will be hard to swallow. Not only that, when all the problems their DRM policy starts, and they will, it can damage the brand.

I canít see Microsoft getting always with it at that price tag. If the console was cheap, or the games were cheaper, they could have being in a better position. As they are, I can see it selling well in the United States, the market they likely based their whole decisions, but all that TV stuff will make them no favors outside the US.

What they should do?

Microsoft put them in a hard place. They probably canít simple scrap the Kinect to cut costs and sell the Xbone cheaper, and they likely made a lot of 3[sup]rd[/sup] party deals for exclusives on the promise of killing the used game market. So, their only options is to make their executives to stop damaging the brand every time they open their mouths to defend it and to make a huge marketing push to make it seems the bad things will work in favor of the consumer.

Another thing they can do is making the deal with a cable provider to make the Xbone a US$99 machine through subscription, making it seems like a great deal since you could have all you need in a subscription, like LIVE Gold and an internet connection. But that depends of deals in every country they want to sell it, so the Xbone is likely to succeed in its homeland, but not everywhere else.














Sony

Sony has being riding in the good graces of their fans and gaming fans since February. They showed lots of games coming, the specs, and they shut their mouths about DRM, making people wonder, but not damaging them in the process. And after Microsoft made them a hug favor of shooting their feet, Sony had the easiest way to impress the audience and conquer the show.

They could also have killed themselves if they made all the wrong announcements, like a DRM policy, bigger price point and unwanted features. Sony was in the position to win, but the question was would they use the opportunity?

What were they thinking?

That after messing up badly with the PlayStation 3, they needed to make everything right. They listened to the developers and their needs, they asked them to help plan the PS4, they wanted to have more games so they courted the Indies and they wanted to keep costs down, so no new expensive tech.

Also, they held the console final design and many details for E3, so they had a lot of information to share, and their show was one of the most waited of the show. They knew they needed a good showing to keep the entire positive buzz afloat.

What they did at E3?

They passed quickly on the PS Vita and PS3 new and upcoming games, so they could reveal the final hardware for the PS4. It wasnít vastly different from the Xbone, more like a PS2 made love to a PS3. But they knew the plastic wasnít important. They showed plenty of games, including a heavy emphasis in the Indie developers. They showed some new IPs too, something all the fans of games love. Then they started all the good news.

Sony will keep their DRM policy the same as the PS3, so if publishers want to keep the online passes or make online only games like MMOs, they could. Sadly, multiplayer will be paid, which is bad news. But them they announced the price, US$399, and all seemed well.

Cheaper than the Xbone, no problematic DRM policy, no region lock. Sony did all the right moves they needed and showed plenty of games while avoiding the pitfalls Microsoft made for them and fell in.

What they likely will achieve with their showing?

More positive buzz, the preference of the gaming fans and a competitive edge over the Xbone. Sony has the cheapest machine without many of the hooks Microsoft created. †They also have a plethora of first party titles, 3[sup]rd[/sup] party support and Indie support. Meanwhile, they still have the media capabilities to avoid seem to offer less than the Xbone.

Sony is in the best position ever, and all they needed was to listen to the people who matters: the game makers and the players. All those factors make them likely to come on top and if they donít screw anything up in the way, to keep them there.

What they should do?

If Sony wasnít hiding any bad surprises at E3, they just need to invest in market, specially to show off why they are better than their adversaries and keep making games coming, avoiding anything like the drought the PS Vita and the WiiU suffers.

Sony did everything right and if that doesnít goes over their heads, they can return as the number one again.   read


6:27 AM on 01.19.2013

Arcade: Social Experience



Arcades are dead.

I will not deal here trying to figure out why, since there is way too many factors here. But they died long ago, and now we all play games in the comfort of our homes. We play with people from all over the world thanks to our broadband internet. Sometimes we even reunite our friends for a night of games and giggles. But the arcade was not only a place to play games, it was a great opportunity to socialize.

We would met people we didn't know, but because we shared a common interest, we would talk with them sometimes, maybe even befriend them. We would reunite our friends and go there just to mess around or even do a little competition between ourselves. We would laugh, get angry, laugh again and see our quarters being eaten by those machines. Some of those games weren't even that good, but trying to beat it with a friend by your side was great part of the fun.

And that I think was one big mistake that many arcades made. They didn't explored the social aspect.



Imagine if an arcade today was also a place of socialization. Plenty of machines, specially the ones geared toward co-op play or competitive play. Not only that, but all is geared towards the social aspect. You would have a restaurant inside, with waitresses going around the machine serving the people and lounge areas where people could talk and rest.

Not only that, but the arcade would be a connected club of sorts. You would have your personal card, and all machines would be connected to the internet. Insert the card in the machine and it would load your scores, your friends scores and even connect to social services like Twitter and Facebook. And even if you are in a different arcade, all the machines would be connected, allowing you to keep all information up to date. If the game had a console version, it could even connect the accounts.

Of course, someone could point that we could do all that from our homes. But guess what? You can see movies in your home, yet we still go to the theaters. Why? Because it is a social event in our lives. We still take our friends, lovers and family to the movies. Not because it is more convenient, but because it is an opportunity to socialize. To be with people you like, sometimes even meeting new people. If arcades had explored this, turned it into a place where people have gone not just to play games but to meet people, I believe many would be around today.

I don't know if it would be possible to apply this idea today. Arcades, specially in the West, are pretty much gone.But I will always wonder if the arcades could have being as much of a program as going to a bar or to the movies.

I bet they would.

  read


5:37 AM on 12.23.2012

The Brazilian Grey Market of Games



We have a particular kind of market here, maybe not unique to Brazil, when we talk about games. We call it the Grey Market. The Grey Market is an interesting case, and it is a constant to most Brazilian gamers wanting to buy games with better pricing than white market, but don't want to go the way of the pirates.

See, we pay a lot of taxes over games here, so, original games bought in the white market can cost up to US$100(200 BRL) for console games. It is quite a lot of money for games. You can go to Black Markets and buy bootleg copies for 5-10 bucks(10-20 BRL) but you have no guarantees and those bootleg copies can and likely will damage the expensive console you have. And of course, the guys that made the game will not see a dime of this money.

Enter the Grey Market.



Grey Market stores usually sell original copies of games, usually 15-20% cheaper than White Market stories. And different from the Black Market, they give you a receipt, meaning any problem with the game they will replace it. And those are original copies, meaning the developers receive money for them. For all intents and purposes, the buyer is acquiring a legitimate product and following the law.

The store? Well, not quite. The store is not an illegal store. They have all the permissions needed to operate, pay taxes and sell legitimate, legal products. It is how they acquire the products that aren't so much legit. What they usually do is buying legitimate copies of games overseas, in markets where the taxes aren't as absurd as Brazilian taxes. Usually, a 100% legitimate business would need to declare the products entering in the country to the Federal government and pay any applicable taxes. Except they don't do it.

Those stores smug the products in the country, and usually only declare a small percentage of them, normally the number of games that will be exposed in the store. The rest is stored in another location. If the police or any governmental agent goes to the store, all the products in exhibition have a legal receipt confirming its legal status and that all taxes where paid. Meanwhile, the rest of the stock, that is in a 'secret' location, is safe from any form of penalty.



When a displayed game is sold, they just go to the secret stock and replace the sold game and use the same receipt used before to present to anyone questioning the legality of the product. To the buyer, all seems legit, and he is acquiring a legal product in a legal way. To the developers and publishers, those games were legally sold in their country of origin and they receive their share. The ones getting screwed is the local publishers, selling a more expensive game and the government, that don't receive their taxes.

Of course, if the government wasn't so greed as it is here in Brazil, the White Market would have a more fair chance against the Grey Market. But it isn't the case. Us, Brazilian gamers wanting to not resort to piracy to acquire their games, will gladly use a Grey Market store, even knowing that those games aren't as 'clean' as it seems, to save some money.

So, that is how many Brazilian gamers buy original games here. I know it is not the ideal situation, but as I said, from the buyer's part, we aren't doing nothing illegal, even knowing those games aren't exactly 'legal' and you can't blame someone doing everything under the law to save money. Maybe when our government stop being greed, we will see some change.   read


10:33 AM on 12.22.2012

Expecting Bad Things



It seems that every time a new game is announced, people fastly goes to find something to complain about. I don't care why they do that. If it is for attention, if it is because they aren't loved back home, it doesn't really matter. I am, by nature, a cautiously optimistic. I don't look at a new game searching for things to hate. Neither I close my eyes to the obvious problems I may see. But when a new game is announced, I always expect it to be good and hope the developers can make it so.

Maybe third is a charm. And I really dig her new outfit.

Many times I saw people complaining about a new game when all they know is that a new game is being made. They will complain about the name chosen, the studio developing it, the publisher. And that is with not seeing anything of the game itself. And when the first screenshots appear, a new wave of complaints happens. About the art style, the characters, the setting. When people want to say something is bad, they will grab anything they can to justify their wishes.

I dislike this kind of attitude because it generate prejudice towards the game. As soon as those person put in their heads a game is bad, based solely in the minimum amount of information the game creators released, it is harder and harder to make those first impressions, no matter how wrong they are, go away. people don't like to be wrong, and they like even less admitting they were wrong. Once they decided with that bare minimum information that a game is bad, no matter how the new videos, demos and even the game itself turns out, they already desire it to be bad. And instead of assuming they weren't right, they will cling in the tiniest of things that can make then say 'I told you this game was bad. I was right.'

I still feel this is more Kingdom Hearts gameplay than Assassin's Creed

I feel a bit sorry for those people with this kind of mentality. This usually make it hard to them to have a good time playing games, since they already go there with a predisposition in taking every minor issue and make it seems as a game breaking problem. They will never be able to fully enjoy games that they decided it as bad and were never disposition to give the a chance.

So, I will keep hoping games turn out good, no matter how much the initial signs shows otherwise. I will let to pass final judgement only when I finally able to play it, be it on demo form or final form. And by doing so, I know the chance of being disappointed is bigger, but also is the chance of being gladly surprised with a good game, while being all negative means the chances of enjoying a game will decrease severely.

Well, that is it. Just a bit of ranting before the holidays. Hope you all have a great time. Till next year.

It looks like, Lightning can strike twice. YEEEEAAAAAHHHHH!!!!   read


5:50 AM on 12.19.2012

What Exactly Are You Relating To?



It is a quite common thing I read about games, specially about games people didn't like, that they couldn't relate to the characters. And then I started wondered: exactly what they mean with that? What it means to relate to? In my head, being able to relate means that you and the characters have something in common. Something in the story of such character resonate with your situation in particular and you feel 'closer to home' with the character situation.

But when people start saying they don't like a character because they can't relate to it, I always wonder if they really need a character to 'relate' with them so they can like it. Because, honestly, there is not a great number of characters you can 'relate' to, if you go with the definition I have in my head. To have relationship or connection with a character.

For example, how do you relate with Nathan Drake, for example? How many people have the archaeological knowledge he have? Or the climbing skills? Or was an orphan raised by a treasure hunter? How many people have gone in search of lost treasures while having to deal with others shooting at you? You can't relate with Drake's situation at all. Or better, there isn't many people that can relate with Drake's circumstances.

Yet a lot of people like him. You don't need to relate to someone to like him/her. The same goes for other characters like Mario. Mario have the personality of... well, he don't really have one and yet people like him. You can't relate to Mario, because aren't a Italian plumber trying to save a princes from a dragon/turtle guy. Yet you can like him.

Even more reality grounded game characters are hard to relate too. Take GTA IV Niko Bellic. How you can relate with a former Serbian soldier that migrated to America and got involved with organized crime? Or any first person military shooter out there? Most of people that play those games never served in military, making it hard to relate to it and its characters. Yet millions of people love those games.

If you say you can relate with this guy, either you are a dangerous criminal or you are delusional.

I could understand, for example, relating to characters in more real life situations. For example, it would be easier to someone relate to Junpei from Persona 3 because like him you grow up with an abusive, alcoholic father. Or Kanji of Persona 4 because like him you were made fun for not having hobbies that fit the gender stereotype society expect of you. But the fact you can relate to the characters doesn't mean you will like them.

See, to relate and to like aren't the same thing, nor they are a requirement to each other. I for example love Garrus from Mass Effect and no one can say they can really relate to him. You like him because he is fun, a badass and are always there covering your back. But if you say you can relate to him, you don't know what 'to relate' means. Or that I have a completely different meaning of what to relate mean in my head than you do.

Can I relate to Garrus? In no way at all. This doesn't stop me from liking him.

I think many people are using 'I can't relate to them' just as an excuse to not outright say 'I don't like them'. When you say you don't like someone, be it a real person or a character, it is something somewhat abstract and that doesn't have a logical explanation. By saying you can't relate to, it is something you can try to explain, so it sounds more logical and not open to argument than just 'I don't like them'. And yet, it make it seems that you can only like something if this something can, somehow, have some kind of link with your own circumstances, which is stupid.

Yes, of course there is things that sound more closer to you than others and it is easier to like them because of it. But it is not always the case, and definitely you don't need to relate to like. People use the 'I can't relate to them' too easy, in situations where there is no way to relate as exchangeable with 'I don't like them'. They are wrong.

So, before saying 'I don't like that character in that game because I can't relate to', stop and think: are you really disliking him because his/her circumstances doesn't have anything in common with yours or you just dislike him/her? Saying you just dislike a character is easier and way more honest than trying to relate with someone whose situation is unlikely yours no matter what.   read


9:51 AM on 12.17.2012

Far Cry 3: How Its Story Negatively Affected Gameplay



Gameplay is the most important aspect on any game. A game with poor graphics, sound and lack of story can still be an awesome game if it have fun gameplay. That is how many indie games and some old games become famous. Tetris need no story, no fancy graphics to be fun. If its addicting gameplay is there, you enjoy it. The same goes for the first Mario games, that are still famous for its great gameplay.

Far Cry 3 have great gameplay. And fancy graphics. And it is a lot of fun to play it. Except its story sucks. It is one of the biggest disappointments I had with the game. the problem, you see, is that the story drags in some points and move too fast in others. And that really hurt this game to me, since I love a good story.

Spoilers ahead!

See, you are parachuting with your friends and land in a island full of pirates, slave traders and a local tribe fighting each other. How the guy flying the plane didn't warn the group of 20-somethings about it is a mystery never solved in the game. Anyway, you land, pirates capture you and your friends and after killing your military trained brother, you are rescued by the local tribe, who helps you train to rescue your other brother and friends.

Training, unfortunately, resumes to giving you a tattoo, that automatically train you in hunting and shooting with a varied arsenal of weapons. If they spent a bit more time making sure you felt an untrained guy turning into a warrior would have helped. Nope, you just magically become a hardened veteran better than most pirates and privateers in the island.

As you rescue your friends, you spend zero time with them, knowing them, discovering why you should care about them. They are just generic 20-somethings, with generic personalities. You have no reason to care about their fate, because the game didn't made you care. They don't help you, they rarely call, they make their presence as forgettable as they could. And they should being the driving force of the story. They just aren't.

The other group of friends are the natives trying to get their island back to themselves. But the only two natives with major roles aren't likable at all. Dennis, the guy who should being your mentor, pass too much time being 'wise' and 'mysterious' that you feel no connection with him. The other one, Citra, the leader of the tribe, is another character you spend little time with and while she is beautiful and all, she is empty of real character. She is as much of an eye candy than your girlfriend, and is as must as useful as her.

Of course, all this would be excused if the villains of the game were memorable. They really aren't. While Vaas, the pirate leader and local psycho is well portrayed, he is just another obstacle, and after passing half the game trying to kill the guy, he dies in a very anti-climatic way. He is crazy, yes, and he overflow with craziness, but you, as what is common with the game, spent too little time interacting with him to care. It is something that happens with all the other two main villains. you hate them more because they annoy you to no end than anything else. They are all obstacles in you having fun with the game.

FUCK YOU! Stop bothering me! I have Komodo dragons to skin!

By the end, you are presented with the only choice of the game story. The locals kidnap that bunch of 20 somethings you are supposed to care about and make you choose between saving them and leave the island or kill them and become the king of the tribe. That tribe you don't really care about. Because the only person who showed concern with the main character well being is his girlfriend, I choose to save them.

But in reality, the game made nothing to make your decision hard. You don't find yourself torn between Citra and your friends. You don't care about both. Your decisions is more out of curiosity to see how it ends than because you develop any special connection with the characters. and that is a shame.

She is just pretty. That is all.

And all the story missions do something I hate. They take away all the freedom you have during the game and lashes you to do what they want you to. Forcing you to go stealth in missions you could otherwise do different, or making you doing menial jobs for the sake of its weak story frustrated me to no end. And while most missions taking away your freedom is justified story wise, I hate it, because this game is a game made with freedom to do lots of things your way in mind.

Gameplay wise, Far Cry 3 was one of the best games this year. All you do is fun and you can do a lot of things. But that is outside the main story, which is a shame. This is one case of weak story making a game worse than it is. Of getting in the way of the great game. and that is why while Far Cry 3 is incredibly fun, it is not one of my favorites this year.

Weeee!   read


5:36 PM on 12.08.2012

Diversify or Die



Every year, there is games that seem to be made to take the number one post of other games. Some want the Call of Duty throne, others the Elder Scrolls crown. Some comes from new studios, others from studios that aren't as big as the ones making the games they want to take down. They, many and most of time, try to recreate the game they want to beat, usually just changing enough in it to don't be an outright clone. Others don't even bother in not being a clone. And often they fail to succeed, most of the time closing their doors when the high costs of the attempt to be king isn't rewarded with strong sales.

One of the reasons is simple. People play the number one games for a reason. If they can play the original, that they know what to expect, why play the clone? And specially, why play a clone that many times doesn't even met the quality of the original? So, most attempts of beating the number one by using the same weapons that it uses usually are met with defeat.



Many people complain about games being too 'samey'. But this year, if anything else, showed that unique games can be successful despite people expecting high standards from the infamous AAA titles. Telltale and their The Walking Dead game showed you don't need to be a CoD clone to be a success. Dishonored showed that you don't need to have multiplayer. Borderlands 2 that you don't need to look all brown and military. Several of the best games this year were far from being similar to other games.

I do believe that small and medium sized developers need to stop trying to make the same games the big ones make. What they need to do, in fact, is discover the games that aren't being made but that have people who will play it. It is the guerilla marketing strategy. Discover a segment that the top games aren't filling in and take it for yourself.

Since you are small or medium, don't try to make a game as expensive as the big guys make. There is plenty of people that don't care if the game don't run at 3000 FPS and that the number of pixels in the screen is a billion kazillions. Gameplay is the more important, so, instead of making ultra-realistic graphics, go for beautiful, different ones. Compensate lack of money to do something technical perfect with something original, unique.



Make your game with the money you have. And them aim to sell it accordingly. If you make an expensive game, you will need to sell more copies at a premium price to get your money back. But if you make a budget game, at a budget price, you can either sell less copies to turn a profit or you will sell more copies because the price is more inviting than the usual $60. Either way, turning profit will allow you to make more games, and even to make better games with time.

The second thing is that there is plenty of people that don't care about some of the big titles out there, or that even can't find any joy in playing them and when they buy a different title, they are searching for an experience that can fulfill their desires. Instead of aiming at the people that are mad in love with the top hits, the people small and medium developers must search for is the people that aren't playing those games and why, then making a game for those people.

Another way is finding the people that still loves certain genres and that are left in the cold by the big studios and providing great experiences inside the genres they like. Again, many of them aren't asking for big budget titles, and in fact quality, specially in games, doesn't necessarily needs lots of money to achieve.

Competing with the big wigs is hard. And in fact, most of the times is pointless. The people that play their games aren't the only players around. The gaming scene is big, and there is plenty of fish out there, if you stop trying to get the same spot in the pier and go to that calm place over the rocks.

  read


6:04 AM on 12.05.2012

2012: Emotion from Unlikely Source



2012 will enter in my game as the Year of Emotion. This year, more than any other, showed games that weren't only great to play, but that messed with how I felt. Be either the innovative way that journey conveyed one of the most powerful and meaningful story I ever saw in a game, and that without using voice acting or even text; be it Spec Ops: The Line, making you regret being a trigger happy killer; or having to do some of the hardest decisions ever in The Walking Dead. But none of them was the most powerful experience I had this year. The one that made it was the most unlikely game ever, in a genre not well know for dealing with story and character development.

A fighting game.

Persona 4 Arena is the only fighting game I bought this generation. My love for the Persona franchise and knowing that both Atlus, famous for good storytelling and Arc System Works, famous for developing solid fighting games, made me sure I would love it. What I didn't expected is that they could make one of the most emotional, tear jerking story I ever met in fighting games, and in fact, in most games.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

'Do you understand the words coming out of my mouth?'

When you unlock Labrys in story mode, you start discovering her back story. Labrys is created as a humanoid weapon to fight against Shadows. To properly fight Shadows, she should be able to summon a Persona, and that requires her to develop a personality. In order to do so, the scientists that created her put inside a Dusk Plume, some sort of crystal that allows her to develop a personality.

At first, Labrys is just an android (or ginoid if you are pick) with no emotions at all. But as she fight against her 'sister, androids of the same model as her and start interacting with one of them, number 24, she start to develops a personality and emotions. As her story progress, she become more and more human like and develop a strong friendship with her sister 24.

But them, the scientists kept her fighting against her sisters, making Labrys wonder why she must do it, why she must destroy them, specially knowing that they are like her. After each fight, they would upload their data unto her, but sometimes memories of her defeated sisters would slip unto Labrys. Their feeling would slip unto her, making her more and more human.

And finally, the scientists make her fight against her best friend, #24, in order to force her to summon a Persona. Believing that a strong trauma would awake the Persona, these scientists, knowing what they were doing, put Labrys to fight against someone she loved. Even after Labrys damaged #24 to the point of her not being able to fight anymore, the scientists forced the damaged android to fight, forcing Labrys to 'kill' her sister and best friend.



And them, after uploading the data unto her, Labrys discovered that #24 had dreams of her own, and that she trusted that Labrys would be able to carry on with those dreams. Labrys was trusted to carry the wills and desires of her fallen sisters. Yet, the scientists decide to wipe Labrys memories and emotions, since an emotive 'weapon' wouldn't be a great weapon.

Labrys, with the prospect of forgetting who she become, the dreams and hopes of her and her sisters, the final wish #24 entrusted her with, rebelled. Using all her power, even almost awakening her Persona, Labrys tried to escape, to protect those precious dreams. To protect the last wishes of her defeated sisters.

And them she discover that she is in an island, without ways to escape. Without any chance to fulfill her dreams and the ones she was entrusted with, she gave up. But there, looking the sea that she can't pass, she desires that someone in the future, looking at that same sea, could fulfill the wishes she couldn't.



I must admit, I almost cried there. My brief description of her story don't make justice on how emotional this is. I never imagined that a fighting game, of all genres out there, could be able to have such powerful moment. Labrys story is one of the most emotional ones I have ever crossed over in games. I am glad I was able to play such story. And I hope 2013 don't shy away of trying to tell stories that aren't just excuses to shoot/kill things, but that can touch you and make you wonder.

Because yes, every game in every genre can deal with emotions. All you need is someone that knows what they are doing. And hopefully, we will have more and more games like those.

Thankfully, her story doesn't end there.   read


6:41 AM on 12.04.2012

The Curious Case of Naoto Shirogane (May Contain Spoilers)



Naoto Shirogane is one of the main characters on Persona 4, made by Atlus, a JRPG that deals with identity issues, high school drama, exploring a mysterious world inside TVs and a murder mystery. At first, Naoto is a young ace detective, that helped the police to solve numerous cases, despite being still a high school first year. As Naoto gets involved into the case, it is revealed that, in fact, she is a woman passing as a boy. And it is here that some misconceptions seems to happen.

Naoto comes from a family of famous private detectives, and from an early age showed interest in becoming a detective and carrying on the family business. But because she is a woman, and the world of criminal investigation is a male dominated one, she decide to pretend to be a boy, so to avoid the police dismissing her skills because both her age and her gender. Since she couldn't hide her age, she decided to hide her gender.

It is here a lot of people get confused. In no moment in the game is implied that her cross-dressing is sexual of nature. She doesn't do it because she feels attraction to other women or because she believes her physical gender is not compatible with the gender she believes she should be. She do it so she can receive the respect she believes her skills. In no moment in the game it is implied that she did it because she wanted to be a man.

As the game progress, after she is confronted with her hidden feelings, she start to accept that she is a woman, and that this shouldn't hold her from being the detective she wants to be. She decide to not hide her true self anymore and become a great woman detective, to get the respect she deserves, not with deceit, but with hard work.

The several faces of Naoto

Many people got angry with this, because they believed Naoto to be a transgender character and felt that she not assuming such role was a betrayal and a case of Atlus being hateful. But they forgot that in no moment in the game Naoto's sexual identity was said, even implied, to be that of a transgender. It was people searching for someone to identify themselves with that make them believe, without base, that Naoto was like them. And when the game revealed that Naoto cross-dressing had nothing to do with her gender identity, but with her need to be accepted in the job she loved, they got disappointed, even angry.

Since we don't have many heroes that aren't straight characters, many people who don't identify themselves as straight search everywhere for heroes and heroines that fits the image they have of themselves. Naoto seemed to fit the role at first, but when her true reasons where revealed, breaking the expectations, people get angry. It was their expectations that betrayed them, the image they projected themselves, not Atlus.

As the story progress, specially in Persona 4 Golden, Naoto comes into terms with her identity and her true desires. She left behind the image and expectations she had of what a great detective should be, that of a manly adult man, to understand that if she wants to be respected as a detective, she need to accept herself and work to get the respect of others, not conform with the image others created and that she impose on herself.

She accepted herself. Apparently, people can't accept her outside of what they want her to be.

Interestingly enough, many of the people that got angry at Atlus are doing exactly the same mistake Naoto's and society in Persona 4 made. Expecting someone to conform to an image they projected themselves upon others and then demanding this image to be fulfilled. Persona 4 main lesson is of acceptance of yourself and coming to terms with what you want against what others expect of you.

In this curious case, it is clear that people forget completely the lessons the game tried to teach and decided that their own expectations should have being met. Naoto's identity issues never had anything to do with her sexual identity. It had to do with being accepted as the person she is, not the person others and herself wanted her to be. And maybe that is what people need to remember.

That the main lesson of Persona 4 is not just the acceptance of yourself. It is also to learn to accept others and not let your own expectations cloud your eyes and hide the true others in front of you. Because if you let your expectations hides the truth in front of you, you will be disappointed.

We have a saying here in my country. The worst blind is the one who refuses to see. So, next time, always remember to not let the fog of your expectations hide the truth in front of you. Otherwise, disappointment waits.

  read


11:39 AM on 11.29.2012

Novelas and Visual Novels



Novelas are Brazilian soap operas. They are very different from Mexican soap operas, since they don't have the over acting and implausible plots. When I was a kid, my family was poor, so we had only one TV in my house. And I have a mother and two sisters, meaning that TV at night was all about seeing novelas. So, as the only boy until my father got home at night, I was forced to do something else or watch novelas.

A typical Brazilian novela is all about a couple of a charming, brave and all right good guy meeting an innocent, beautiful girl and falling in love. And them the bad guys around them trying to keep the couple apart for several reasons, from the bad ones loving one person of the couple, to social status to greed and any other excuse the author could find. Then you would spend 4 to 6 months wondering if the couple would ended up together, if the bad guys would receive the deserving punishment (to save your time, yes, most of the time, to each question), who killed Odeth Roithmann (if you are a Brazilian around my age, you get it).

So, as part of how I grown up, I can't deny the novela's influence. I still love a nice love story about people's fighting to get together, to see if the main character will ended up with the person I am rooting to be the one. So, I can't deny that everytime a love story is put in a game and there is several possible endings, I get curious to see if my favorite couple will end up together.



That explain in part why I find Visual Novels attractive. My first contact with Visual Novels was an eroge (yes, a porn game, live with it) when I was 16. It was Season of Sakura, or Plagiarism: The Game. And it was quite fun. Would I be able to hook the main character with the girl I like most? Or will I screw up? It was quite a remarkable experience to me. The sex scenes at the end, a reward to any horny male teenager, didn't mattered so much at the end. The story, the characters, all that mattered way more.

I know a lot of you are reading and thinking that I am a lonely perv that want to have sex with underaged girls. I am a pervert, but not of that kind. I have no sexual desire for underaged girls. And I am not lonely, albeit no girlfriend right now. I work, I go out, I flirt. Not everyone is drawn to Visual Novels because they are socially awkward perverts. Some of those Visual Novels have great stories with some remarkable characters. Some of them have no sex at all.

Of course, the bad reputation of them avoid them to be localized in the West, which is a shame. I would love to play some titles like Fate//Stay Night and Stein;Gate. Yes, some of them get so popular that become anime and even entire franchises on its own. And you don't do that, for more that some people want to believe, just by being a porn game for perverts. Asks how many porn titles become franchises outside porn.

Not all Visual Novels are about scoring with high school girls.

Many Visual Novels aren't about looking girls at bath, upskirts and dating stereotypical anime girls. Some have compelling, interesting stories and unique characters. The prejudice the whole genre gets and, specially, its players, only hold up some true incredible titles to have any chance of coming West. The interesting thing, it is not the dating sim element that holds it back.

Most people loves to talk about their favorite BioWare mate, like Tali from Mass Effect or Morrigan from Dragon Age. Or even their love of titles that are heavily made around a dating sim element like Persona 2 and 4, and yet many will see any pure dating sim or Visual Novel game as unacceptable. Funny stuff. Saying that your character got to bed with a blue alien is OK but saying you was able to make two fictional high schoolers fall in love makes you a criminal.

It is a shame that due to several reasons, some great Visual Novels that I would love to play will never get a chance. Of course, my own circumstances make accepting the genre existence easier, while others simple cannot see the appeal, and it is way easier to dismiss and mock than understand and accept. Yes, I realize that there is plenty of Visual Novels that only exists for people looking for porn. But that is not the only ones that exists.

I know a lot of people are just happy with games being all about shooting things. And that they prefer games with no stories at all. But I particularly don't mind a game that is only story, neither I have a hate for any story that don't involve you trying to end the existence of something else. In the end, it is just a question that I am different. This doesn't mean I am better or worse than anyone else.



I think it is a shame that sometimes due to several prejudices something that people may enjoy will never have a chance. Probably I am not alone, and I am pretty sure someone will come on the comments and make a lot of a fuzz about what kind of lame person I am. Of course, if I cared, I wouldn't have wrote this in the first place.

But I really would love to see some of these games get a chance of being released, even if just as a digital tile. Some of them have compelling premises, others just seem to be fun stories. And after all, we all just want a game that are a good time spent playing.   read


8:44 AM on 11.24.2012

How I Would Make a Vita's FPS



The second analog in the PlayStation Vita, for many, was a correction to one of the biggest flaws of the PlayStation Portable. And specially, it would open the doors for one of the biggest, most popular genres in this generation of games: the first person shooter. Unfortunately, all attempts on making a FPS on the Vita that would fill this need, for several reasons, have failed.

Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified (how many subtitles a game need? Next we will have Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified: Carl's Duty) was a rushed effort, with an alleged 5 months development. All other attempts till now to make an Vita FPS have met mixed to negative reception. It is not something inherent to the platform, I believe, but with developers not putting much thought in it. Therefore, I put some, and here is my ideas to make an FPS in the portable system that would be interesting.

How Vita FPSes feels like now.

First, everything starts as a normal FPS. You are fighting in WWIII, with one of two superpowers that split the world's domination till that moment. You are fighting your way, following orders like any soldier, in what is basically a tutorial mode. Then, in the middle of a firefight, you hear intense talk in the comm system and look up. Several dozens of missiles past through the sky in direction of the major city in your background. Than a series of lightning like flashes happens and all communication dies. Panic start to take care of the battlefield, while everyone is trying to make the communication system works. But it is too late.

Every city in the world and every tactical military location was hit by a new weapon that decimates all human life, leaving only the soldiers in the middle of nowhere alive. Because WWIII have being so long and the cost in human lives was so high, the only survivors are all the young, inexperienced soldiers in the remote battlefields around the planet.

With the world as they know it in ruins, some soldiers decide to return to their homes to find other survivors. Others try to restore the chain of command and keep the war going. Your soldier, together with an enemy soldier and a friend of the military training days, decided that there is nothing to keep fighting for and that the journey back home is too dangerous and pointless. So, your group of three establishes a camp on the outskirts of some rural areas near the city and start scavenging for supplies.

It is here that I wish to put an unique series of game mechanics. First, the quantity of supplies you acquire establish how good your character will be. Lack of food will make your character have half the amount of health he would normally have. Lack of medical supplies would make your health regeneration take twice as long. Lack of ammo... well, let's keep that all ammunition you have would be the ammunition you find around.

Going to the cities, battlefields and other places would be basic mission you and your partners would do. Of course, the amount of each kind of supply you can take with you is limited, forcing you to choose what you need most at the moment. Choosing ammunition can cost you health if you left no space in your bag for food, for example. In you incursions, you also will met people of all kinds. Maybe insane people, soldiers still fighting a war that doesn't matter anymore and people trying to still your supplies. But also, people that you can recruit to your camp and that can add something to your overall status.



Recruiting a mechanic means that you may have someone to fix that jeep and you will be able to carry more supplies in each excursion. A medic can make you medical supplies last longer and give you health and regen bonus. A computer tech can make communications work again and enable the use of drones in the battle. A cook or farmer can make the food last longer and maybe rise its own. other soldiers can be used to scout areas for supplies, protect the camp from bandits and alternate with your partners.

Of course, I would add some hard to make choices. For example, should you storm a house and take all food from a family that is shooting at you trying to survive? Should you take with you to your camp some children that will only reduce your supplies? Also, the people in your camp would have discussion you would need to solve.

I would make it as organic as possible. Just go away of the house to let the family leave or go ahead and shoot them. Go to the side of the character you agree with or between both to get a middle ground answer.

I would also add a certain deep of strategy games here. Who should go with you in the next mission? Should you send some scouts around or keep them around the camp? The mechanic should fix the jeep, allowing you to take more supplies back with each mission or help fix the generators and make food last longer with an refrigerator? All could be done with the touchscreen before each mission.

You could also use the touchscreen to plan strategies during the mission. While you and your two partners act in real time, you could put some extra soldiers to give you cover or to block some exits so you could have a better chance at the firefight.

I would make the mission goes as episodes, each with different challenges and enemies. In one episode is a group of soldiers trying to achieve the same ammo depot you are, in other episode is a crazy guy with a tank destroying places where supplies can be found. In other, a group of religious fanatics trying to take your camp down and its supplies. Also, I would either make missions short, 10 minutes tops, or make them a mission with 3 or 4 segments, where you could take a break between each, so making it easier to play on the go.

As for multiplayer, I would use some of the same mechanics. Every mode would reward the players with supply rewards, that would give them more ammo at the start of a round, more health, fast regen and such. Only the winning team would receive rewards, making being a team player crucial to be in the top boards. Matches would be short, 5-7 minutes each, so you could play a match or two in the bus.

Of course, this is just some ideas I had. A talented developer could make this awesome. Shame I am not one. So, that sit for my idea of a Vita FPS. If you have a Vita or want one, and is a fan of FPSes, how would be your perfect game?

This is my bet about the first good Vita FPS.   read


11:52 AM on 11.22.2012

Are You Angry at Games? Stop, Breath and Think



Games are entertainment. Of all things in the world, entertainment goes way down there in the list of important things. You know, after things like health, food, home, family, happiness, money, job and other human beings. Entertainment goes after all of those. Yet, sometimes, I see people getting way too worked up with it.

I know people love games. That is an important activity to them, something that many times get their head out of their problems. That having a nice distraction is all good and important to people. But every time I see people getting to angry about something game related, I got a bit worried about them giving an undeserved importance to games. Specially when it is about something minor.

See, today on my Twitter feed, I discovered that some people is getting angry at Erin Fitzgerald, the new voice actress for the character Chie Satonaka, from Persona 4 Golden, the new version of Atlus PS2 classic for the Vita. See, Atlus changed Chie voice actress for some reason, and fans of the old voice (Tracey Rooney). See, Tracey's portrayal was weird at first, because she sounded too old for a high schooler like Chie. But with time, many people grown to love it. I loved old Chie's voice. But I also like the new voice provided by Erin, that I heard before at Persona 4 Arena. You have all the right to like one more than other. But getting angry at the new VA seems stupid.



Erin probably have nothing to do with the changing of VAs. She was hired to do a job, and while you may not like it, getting angry at her is getting angry at the wrong person. In fact, getting angry at all is utterly stupid and if you are, you are blowing it out of proportion. The changing of VAs in a game is hardly what I would call something worth getting angry about. In fact, getting angry towards videogames at all is something that is not worth getting angry about.

Erin Fitzgerald, ladies and gentlemen.

Even if your angry make some change in games, what do you get? Maybe a new ending in a game, some free DLC. And all that will really not have any meaningful impact in the world. It is not like you convinced your government to change laws for the better. Or that you helped some war refugees having a better life. You, at best, get a few seconds to feel proud of yourself for something with very little importance.

Of course, I am not saying that we just must let game companies do whatever they want. It is very health to discuss with ourselves what games do right and what they do wrong. And if you think a game is doing something you don't like, it is OK to say so, and to not give money to a company that have done something you don't agree with.

What is not OK is getting angry, demanding others to get angry and specially being awful against other people, specially people that have no power to change what you think is wrong or aren't at fault in the problem, for something that in the end have very little importance. A game is just a game, a form of distraction. I love games too, and I want them to be perfect. But I also realize that games don't deserve me stressing about them.

If you are getting to worked up because of games, maybe it is time to stop and think. Are you giving too much importance? Are they having too much space in your life? Are the changes happening to games really worth all the time, energy and heart attack rising risks you are putting into it?

Enjoy your games. If a game is making you angry, don't play it. Remember, that in the end of the day, a game is just a game and there is way more important things to do with your life.

  read





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