I cannot even form the words or put together my thoughts in a way to even comprehend what I have just read. The leader of Team Ico and creator of both Ico and Shadow of The Colossus, Fumito Ueda, has left Sony to work in a more freelance fashion. Although He will continue to work on The last Guardian, I can’t help but feel that this decision is going to have some serious repercussions on Sony and Ueda’s relationship.
I can understand any developer wanting to pull his or her own reigns without an overlord constantly telling them what they should or should not be doing with the product, but as far as I can tell it doesn’t seem like he has ever had that problem. All of Team Ico's games have been successful and unique. There is plenty of speculation surrounding exactly why he left but now all of the delays surrounding The Last Guardian seem to make sense.
According to an article at Develop he may have left the company some time ago and, while working in a more freelance fashion, has continued the development of The Last Guardian. Doing it this way may be one of the reasons for all of the delays as of late and the lack of a playable demo despite the long development time. The Last Guardian was first announced way back in 2009 after all.
So far it seems that it may be even longer than anyone expected before the game is ever show in playable form. In the same article “Shuhei Yoshida, who commands Sony’s global fleet of 16 development studios, recently claimed progress for The Last Guardian has been ‘very difficult, not as fast as we'd been hoping for, and the team has been under big pressure.’”
Fumito Ueda has said that he will continue to work for Sony until The Last Guardian is finished but the way things are going, who knows how long that will be?
Ron Gilbert; the known creator of the point and click adventure game and Tim Schafer; the known creator of awesome, are finally back in the same bed together working at Double Fine Studios. In fact Gilbert has been working at Double fine since late September and now we finally get our first images of what they have in mind. There’s still not an inkling of information regarding exactly what the game might be, but knowing both Gilbert and Schafer, it will no doubt be the funniest thing since Monkey Island.
Apparently one of the reasons that Gilbert began working at Double Fine was because Gilbert spends a lot of time working there in Tim’s office, spinning ideas back and forwarth. In an article from Kotaku Tim finally popped the question while they were talking about a few game ideas. “Hey why don't you come here and build this thing.” he said. I for one
For those of you that don’t know Double Fine is a studio that was created by Tim Schafer and has produced such games as Psychonauts, Brutal Legend, and DeathSpank. All sign’s point towards their next game, whatever it is, being just as good if only because of the talent behind them. Check out the art and an article about it below.
I am not a fan of video game pirates. I say this towards those people that have never purchased a video game in their lives and somehow sit on a throne of self-satisfaction without ever thinking of the people that they may have hurt in the process. I am also not entirely a fan of music downloading, but with the rise of spottily and other streaming music services the need to pirate music is on the decline. Not so with video games.
In an article by Rob Crossely writing for develop; the research firm Envision has reported that illegal video game downloads has increased by as much as twenty percent in the UK alone. This to me is very alarming because this isn’t just hurting the big boys, it’s the little people. How can a small indie game company hope to compete in the industry if virtually every single copy of his game is downloaded illegal by some brat that doesn’t feel that he or she needs to buy anything.
Hopefully as gaming moves forward more developers will work with their players to provide their games in such a way that it removes the need to pirate from the equation. In an interview with Gabe Newell, the head of Valve, he feels that “Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem. For example, if a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24 x 7, purchasable from the convenience of your personal computer, and the legal provider says the product is region-locked, will come to your country 3 months after the US release, and can only be purchased at a brick and mortar store, then the pirate's service is more valuable. Most DRM solutions diminish the value of the product by either directly restricting a customers use or by creating uncertainty.”
I hope that Gabe is right and that the future will only get brighter. Otherwise we may see even more developers start turning away from PC’s and moving exclusively to consoles where pirating is still a problem, but not nearly as prevalent.
Video games fans can be a rabid, fickle bunch; especially when it comes to remake. Even when it's something as minor as the color of the characters eyes, similar to what we saw with the first episode of the Sonic The Hedgehog downloadable game, it could set off a fan boy fire that could be potentially difficult to put out. It's no wonder then that some developers that would love to remake or tweak things in past games don't do so.
In an interview with Eurogamer Final Fantasy XIII-2 producer Yoshinori Kitase said that "If I may speak as a game creator, if we were to produce a remake of VII, for example, I would be really tempted to delete things and add new elements, new systems or whatever because if we were to make exactly the same thing now, it'd be like a repeat.” No one wants to make something that treads the same ground as before. He would like to make something that is slightly different and maybe even better than the original instead of just swapping out old graphics for something shiny and new.
He also restates a sentiment that many old school video games fans I think can relate to. Saying that sometimes the memories that we have of games can be better than what they really seem to be. Try going back and playing the original Zelda or even the original Final Fantasy and you will see what he means. The original may be quite quint and interesting to look at, but there's no doubt that there are problems or things that could use a bit of polish.
He then goes on to discuss the changes in Final Fantasy XIII-2 and why they opted to go for maybe a more serious tone than what the company had done for their previous numbered sequel X-2. “When we decided to make a sequel to XIII I decided not to go for the same sort of drastic style change - that would be quite negative, we thought. The initial scenario, when it was brought to me, had Serah as the only protagonist, travelling with Moogle as a companion, and their conversation was quite girly, almost camp and a bit over the top and I thought: "OK, that shift is a bit like the one from X to X-2". It's a bit dangerous, so we decided to introduce Noel as another male protagonist, so that we kept the serious tone of XIII but added a few new factors.”
So for fans still holding onto hope for a Final Fantasy VII remake you should probably be prepared for the changes that may or may not occur. It's clear that Square Enix doesn't want to damage their reputation with their fan base and if they do ever decide on a remake they will be doing their best to tip-toe around any big issues.
If you would like to read the rest of the interview where he discuses some other issues, one in particular about the obvious comparisons to Chrono Triggers time travel mechanic, click the link under the article.
To stand upon the highest point, whether it be on top of a mountain or one of the tallest buildings in the world, or even a roller coaster is one of those exhilarating experiences that can almost “pay the price” for being alive. It's that moment when your staring with your jaws agape and eyes wide open out into the world stretching out before you, a virtual map of the choices that you can make or the choices that you made in order to make it this far. It's a feeling that, aside from being on a roller coaster or airplane, most of will never experience. Have you seen the size of Everest? Personally I have a debilitating fear of heights, even thinking about the cold air wiping through my hair as I climb to retrieve something from the top of the refrigerator can make me sick to my stomach. Thankfully we have video games.
The impending release of Skyrim is upon us, just a few short weeks away. I have been thinking a lot about something that I'm sure I'm not the only one thinking about; I cannot wait to go mountain climbing. It's always on the top of my check list of things to do in every open world game that I play. Now with the inclusion of a dragon shout that allows you to become impregnable (not un pregnentable) for thirty seconds not only can you climb the mountains, you can leap from them in a hulk smash like fashion. This makes me excited.
Climbing a mountain, a skyscraper or even a cathedral in a game gives you a real sense of power in that game world. If you can reach the top of the world, then you can sure as hell conquer it. Height can also be used as a set piece to bring you down to new a new low as I will soon explain. These are just a few of the most awe inspiring and just plain cool vistas in modern open world video games.
Assassins Creed: Brotherhood There are a lot of buildings to climb in Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, nobody is going to try to deny that. The game play was basically built around the idea of being able to gain some vertical space with ease. So how can you possibly decide on what the “Best” building to climb is? Sure there are plenty of tall buildings but how many buildings are the decided center for a known religion? That's right I'm talking about the freaking Vatican. What could possibly be cooler than dancing on top of the center of the Catholic religion, marveling on the denizens that were under their power. The only thing that could possibly make this even better or more blasphemous is if you could do this while also wearing the Popes' silly hat.
Just Cause 2 It's unnecessary to say that the sky is the highest point in all open world games, but until I played Just Cause 2 I had never seen it used to such an awesome degree. If you have never played it don't worry too much, the rest of the game is mainly for explosion whores; the plot is pointless, the missions are dull. If they had just turned the rest of the game into a skydiving simulator than I would have been in love. You can literally fly a plane so high that you reach above the clouds, hop out of your vehicle, and drop for what feels like 10 or 15 minutes. You can see the entire game world stretched out before you in all of it's glory and variety. What's even more fun? Hooking a car up to a helicopter and trying to catch it all the way down.
Fallout 3 Watching the town of Megaton expload into an ironic mushroom cloud combusted from a bomb that they worshiped doesn't give off the sense of glee and excitement that one would normally expect to have by causing an explosion of this size, a “Megaton.” While in most games height seems to be used to give players a sense of joy and excitement here it's used as a sort of punishment; not a tangible in game punishment but a moral one. The building from which you are watching the explosion from, Tenpenny Tower, is a place of luxury and almost what you would call royalty during this period in time. These are people who have from their point of view made it to the “Top” by keeping their poise and branch stuck up their ass attitudes amidst the destruction of the world.
By making the choice to destroy Megaton you have chosen a path that leads towards Money over Morality at the cost of dozens of innocent lives, including the young-ling! Think of the young-lings! The Nuclear cloud rises while you sit pretty on the balcony with the owner of the tower and it's impossible to not feel sympathy for all of those people below, in fact it's downright horrifying. This was a wonderful twist on the normally grand vista and a great visual consequence to your actions. You are above them, sitting in opulence and with a pocket full of money, but are you any better for it?
Oblivion In Oblivion there are many mountains to scale that let you marvel at the world that Bethesda has created. One of the most beautiful mountains in the game is from on top of the Jerall Mountains overlooking the main city and the surrounding country side. It's made even more powerful by watching the sun rise over your shoulder and the light enveloping the entirety of the land of Cyrodiil. What makes this mountain awesome and very relevant to this article is the fact that this is the mountain range that borders on Skyrim directly to the north. The only downside to the location is that it makes the decay in texture resolution the further away that you look even more obvious and ugly.
So these are just a few of my favorite high places in games, what are some of yours and why?
For this weeks blog about motion controllers I thought that I would do something classy, something that serves as a bit of a dedication, something that is just a little bit about....dildos. I am of course, talking about the very first motion controller. The very sexy “Le Stick” created by Data Soft in 1981, just a year after they were founded, two years before the video game crash, and just after the release of their very first video game “Popcorn.” Little did they know that they were about to change virtually nothing about the game industry for years to come. Anyway, as these things always go, to understand how this all started we have to take a trip way back. Back to the years of the dinosaurs, back to the 80s!
Datasoft was founded in 1980 by former Unidata Investments employee Pat Ketchum. The company mainly produced ports of games from the Arcades and was pretty heaving into the Atari cloning shindig like most other developers of the era. Who could really blame them for trying to capture the success of one of the only widely successful video game companies at the time.
Pat Kechum's company was spawned by a love for video games and a love for money. Who doesn't love making money? Unfortunately for Pat, making money as a video game developer was just as hard back then as it is today. The company went bankrupt after just three years and would sell most of what was left of it to two Datasoft executives, Samuel L. Pool and Ted Hoffman. They later changed the name of the company to Intellicreations and sold Datasoft games until the company finally closed for good. A year before losing it all though, Datasoft would put it's hands in the pot of hardware developers and try to create something that would hopefully change the way that video games were played forever.
Le Stick (just The Stick from now on) was released about a year after Datasofts' first video game, Popcorn. Which was pretty much a clone of the old arcade game Avalanche, but instead of trying to catch falling rocks you control a pan and catch popcorn kernels as they fall. This type of cloning was typical during this period of gaming. Everyone was trying to grab a piece of the magic that Atari had found with it's line-up of popular games and consoles. Although it's safe to say that it wasn't contained to this period only as much of this is going on today, especially when it comes to iPhone apps and Facebook games.
A lot like the Wii's Motion Controllers' before the Motion Plus add on that added a substantial amount of reliability, but virtually no games besides Red Steel 2 that made any use of it, the stick didn't do anything that a regular controller didn't do. It also couldn’t match a standard controllers degree of accuracy or lack of awkwardness while using. I mean seriously, look at this thing, it looks like something that you might find in the back of your girlfriends closet that gives you second thoughts about how great your intimate moments actually are.
Also, a lot like the Wii, most retailers saw it as nothing more than a novelty that would eventually wear off. Unlike the Wii though, video games were still relatively new and most publishers were skeptical of anything as radical as this design. Datasoft also didn't have a huge name like Nintendo to back up it's word that this device would do anything to change the way that current games were played. As it stood, The Stick had no games designed specifically for it and although it could be used for most games that could also used a traditional arcade stick like controller, it wasn't nearly as reliable and the design itself made the games much more tricky to play. Along with the huge price tag, no one wanted it and you couldn't blame them.
The Design of the controller is extremely questionable if you look at it from today’s standards. I understand that they were going for extreme simplicity but for their sake I hope that it at least sounded good to back up how it must of looked to the basic consumer. I can only imagine the guys in marketing discussing it. A controller that would transfer hand motions into actual gameplay was something that probably sounded like it was out of some science-fiction novel. Today, It looks like a giant black dildo that the average person would never even think of using to play video games. It is basically a long black stick with one buttons on the top that was re-centered by simply squeezing it. I imagine that most consumers that saw it in a store thought that they were selling sexual devices on the floor and that the few that did buy them tried to use them for that exact purpose.
The coolest thing about the stick at the time was that it did not require any type of power source because everything that it did was completely mechanical. The motions were registered by a mercury core that transferred the information to the computer via a regular control port. Angling the stick from side to side controls left and right movement, and forward/ backwards for moving up and down. It was a design that was even simpler than the Wii Mote. Especially because their was only one button, which was all that controllers really needed at the time anyway; because of the way the stick controlled it was best used for flight games, but none were made that were designed specifically for it. Which would have probably helped boost the sales immensely.
Even though with the right promotion and the right games it could have found at least some kind of a Niche market to make it sustainable, it was one of the causalities of the video game market crash in 83'. Manufacturing of the device was stopped and it has since became a distant memory. Part of me wonders if Nintendo didn't discover this while they were developing their own controller and decided to use some of the more basic ideas when developing their own. It wouldn't be all that surprising in a industry where innovations are built upon past ideas; even ones as basic, and lacking in good design philosophy, as The Stick had. It could have at least inspired the basic framework of some future motion controllers.
This was just the beginning of motion control for the video games, but because of consoles like the Nintendo Wii, it wasn't the last. The next motion controller would not be released until “The Activator” in 1993, which sounds like the name for a cheesy terminator arch nemesis, or at least his alter ego when he decides to take a break from killing and relax at some trendy local Los Angelas hangouts Nw every hardware manufacturer is trying to find it's own place in the market with them all having varying degrees of success, though none of them nearly as much as Nintendo's own console
Nintendo took simplicity and sleekness and marketed it to the people that had never touched a video game in their lives while also attracting the hardcore market with visions of swinging virtual swords in their living rooms. Although most of those ideas put foward by past motion devices have ended up being much less breathtaking than we had hoped for, they always give us something to build upon for the future.