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PvPPY's blog

3:31 PM on 04.26.2010

Come look! The beating of a dead horse.

I believe in "games as art" but like anybody who really cares about a thing, I am really mean about what counts and what doesn't in my books. Behold my cruel demands:

1) please have some kind of artistic message, some insight or emotion you intend for me to "get" from your game. Without some intended meaning on your part, the game is just a blank that I can draw anything I want on and if it happens to be art, it's my art. Thanks and all, but that's not an art game.

Fun games without a theme miss the first rule. Pac Man is the game design equivalent of a shark, it showed up at the dawn of time already in its perfect form. On the other hand it's a case of fun for fun's sake and the experience isn't some Big Reveal about life for the player.

not pictured: a Big Reveal about life, the tent I'm pitching at the thought of playing this more

2) its artistic message has to be communicated through game-play primarily compared to graphics, sound, story, etc. Games are the only art form with interaction like that. Those other elements could just as easily be a movie, talking book, etc. as proven by Final Fantasy movies.

Heavywieght games on exposition and cut-scenes, most famously Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid, miss the second. They're artistic, but the art comes from something outside of the game, usually in movies. The game you have to play as a chore to advance from chapter to chapter. I still enjoy titles, sometimes the game and the movie are both really good, these are also the kind of title that can manage to be bad in a hilarious and endearing way.

The most art-y games I've played are fairly mainstream titles. Ico did it very well, you're constantly guiding the strange girl you find through an abandoned castle. The game has you calling to her, holding her hand to guide her along, running to her rescue as she is attacked by shadows while you try and solve some sort of puzzle. Over time I think any player will become genuinely protective of her and anxious about leaving her on her own for too long. This is something that transcends the platform's technology, it would have worked just as easily in a game for PlayStation or Genesis or NES or even Atari Jaguar if only someone had thought it up earlier. Anyway nobody ever rubbed it in my face that I was playing "art", I only found out like a few hours after the fact.

art world: pwned

Some games succeed as art just for a moment ... the ultimate of those for me was near the end in Metal Gear Solid 3 where you have to pull the trigger yourself so that Snake will shoot The Boss. All you have to do is press a button, but I don't think there are many people who press it easily even though it is the only option given.

Ironically the products of the games-are-art movement tend to miss the mark completely for all their trying rather than hitting. Developing game mechanics that lead the player into an intended mental state is really difficult. Is it easy to discover how you're supposed to play? Is it fun when you do? My experience is usually a huge no. Flower tries to be relaxing and non-violent, yet players find themselves wrestling with the sixaxis controls, trying to collide an invisible object with flowers, and dealing with a frustrating break of flow (or resignation to loss) when they don't completely sweep groups of targets. There's even a trophy for a perfect fly-through of an area littered with shocking power-lines and broken towers.

me being relaxed by flower

Sorry for all the tall pics guys, but I was in a hurry and didn't crop.   read

1:35 PM on 04.14.2010

E for Effort: Def Jam ICON and also a videogame gift buying guide

So, I'm out with my buddy last weekend and it's my birthday. I got him a second PS3 controller back a month or two for his so we're off to the game store for my present. Presents are good. Here's the thing though, I can't for the life of me pick a game I want him to buy:

* Resonance of Fate: normally RPG purchases are for my wife and more often than not I play a bit then stop and just watch her go through the thing.
* MAG: I want very badly, but I don't want Adam to get it for me or else he'll feel like he needs a copy as well and has to split from Modern Warfare 2.
* Modern Warfare 2: he's trying to push it into my hands but I won't go. I know a lot of people who want me to play it and I'd have to let them all down with the pathetic amount of game time I put in.

Picking a couple cheapies was much easier than one big-name title, and the store had lots of good ones for $20. I was looking at the likes of Killzone 2, Resistance 2, and Bioshock (my FPS exposure is weak since they make my wife seasick) when Adam jokingly suggests Def Jam Icon. I really like music games and don't mind hip-hop... I can even breakdance a little. I've heard that older Def Jam games were pretty good fighters and according to the back of the box Icon has all sorts of things going for it: create-a-character, split screen action, cool boxart & screenshots.

tl;dr 30 minutes shopping for games with a friend and I walk out with Resistance 2 and Def Jam which is this:

I didn't start playing 'til last night, but I absolutely love the game. Metacritic's 68 is totally underrating the actual game and more importantly what it potentially could have been.

Fighting is okay although the opponent AI can be absurdly cheap. Being able to recognize the different speed advantages of various fighting styles helps considerably, which jabs are fastest, how often you can get away with trying to grapple. Using the right analog for move input is a little flaky but really cool when it works out... nailing a big hit feels awesome and gives you time to make use of the sweet taunts and dance steps, or start air-scratching to switch the music over to your character's fight song. Grabbing control of the soundtrack like that changes the lighting and powers up your moves. A lot of complaints in reviews are about the pace of the fighting and how the combat's not centered around flashy throws or long combo strings... totally overlooking that it's pretty innovative when you play it for what it's is about which is throwing your opponent into stage hazards and then blowing the crap out of them with a showy big-beat attack. For my own constructive criticism, I thing fights could end faster... you're not properly rewarded for pulling off a handful of devastating knockdowns and explosions, on the other hand the AI would have to get dialed way down since it's the better opponent at pulling that crap out of its hat.

The career mode to the game is also growing on me really quickly, it provides setting and personality for the series of one-on-one brawls that makes up the action of the game and it's empowering to get holla'd at by my boys for this and that and picking which problems to settle for them. There's an unfortunate lack of control over what's happening in the story, for example when there's beef between my artists I want to step in and deal so I can have both my guys happy but the game essentially forces you to pick a side or let it simmer with both of them getting mad at you.

The game's sense of style is over the top. There are all kinds of licensed clothes and bling, the scenery bounces and rattles with the bassline of the song, and a blurry over-exposure filter that kicks in when the fighters get to low health. I'm having a ton of fun dressing up the me-with-a-black-guy-voice rapper and just watching him walk around his pad, chill in cutscenes, do taunt poses in fights... he's such a badass.

What's frustrating is how dated the 2007 game feels on PS3 without custom soundtracks, character / story / music DLC that I can find, or trophy support. On the other hand, no trophies means I won't be replaying the game past the point where it wears out its welcome for me.   read

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