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11:07 AM on 05.29.2010

The Entitlement of Publishers: Used games sales pt2

For the second half of this c-blog, Iíll go more into depth when it comes to the various arguments from people, mostly other gamers, to defend the lengths that publishers will go to try to kill off the used game market.

ďA used game sale is a lost sale for the publishers.Ē
I feel this is an age old argument that applies to other subjects as well that doesnít hold water very well. This argument assumes that if someone couldnít buy a game used, then they would have brought it new. Now granted, some people would buy a game new if they couldnít buy it used. On the other hand, many people would just wait till the price drop, which would be less money for the publisher than if the customer brought the game sooner. Others would rent the game, trade it for another game, or simply not get the game at all. So in other words, publishers may only get some extra sales if buying a game new were the only option. A small difference, but not quite as big as they seem to be hoping for.

I feel that this is a form of entitlement. Publishers tend to act like they deserve every last penny of their games if someone as much as plays them. I have a feeling this might be a pretty big factor in why certain current gen games donít feature multiplayer on the same console, even if previous games in the series did. They said that some games are too powerful to handle split screen. They expect us to believe that?! How does that kind of downgrade happen for something thatís been common even going back to the beginning of video games? So the almighty PS3 and 360 canít do something that the Wii can this generation?

Itís like they want to reap Capitalism for all itís worth, but as soon as Capitalism works against them, they want nothing to do with it. Instead of taking the bad with the good, like customers tend to, they only want to take the good and not deal with the bad. Why do publishers deserve to get a cut of the profiles off the same game disc more than one? As far as I know, other industries have to deal with this as well, but they donít seem to be up in arms about it unless I wasnít paying attention. I feel this comes down to quite frankly, whining. Because the system doesnít always work like how they went it too, they throw a hissy fit at customers that used the system in a way that didnít totally favor them.

Some have even gone on to say used game sales are worse than piracy. WTF?!

ďDevelopers need the money to keep releasing great games.Ē
Well, maybe itíll be a wakeup call to consider what theyíre doing when it comes to development. This could mean theyíll have to do more with less, like figuring out how to make great games without putting millions upon millions of dollars into each game. Putting more money into a game doesnít automatic make it better, especially since a lot of that money is used for graphics. Iím not saying graphics are not important and shouldnít matter, but less money means they would have to focus more on game play if they want high sales. Not every game a developer makes have to be a huge blockbuster with a development time of three-five years. Square Enix must have spent tons and tons of money on FFXIII, but they managed to release lower budgeted games as well. So not every company has the money or manpower to develop multiple games at once, but the ones complaining about used game sales the most usually are big companies. If $10 or $15 games can prove to be great fun and cost a lot less than full blown retail games, why canít they do something similar on a larger scale?

ďIf you canít buy a game new, you donít deserve to play it.Ē
Excuse me?! What right does a customer have to tell another customer what they can do and canít do with their money? The money from a used game may not go back to the game industry, but it doesnít mean a customer still isnít allowed to use other legal means to get it. What, are gamers supposed to be saints that give fully back to every single game they play? If publishers donít like it, they can always find another business model; instead of acting like they can do no wrong and that anyone who buys a used game is the poison killing the game industry. In fact, they already are working toward other business models that become more of a reality day by day.

ďVideo games have a shelf life of a few months compared to other products.Ē
Compared to movies, books, and other media that people keep interested in a lot longer even many years later, video games tend not to do that, likely due to the rapid advancing nature of it. Even thatís not completely truth since there is the whole retro fever going on these days and older games being sold as downloads. On the other hand, how likely are you to find new copies of games from even five years ago, especially GameCube or Xbox games? Really, are you supposed to not just buy them because the developers and publishers wonít profit from them? Are you supposed to wait years and hope for a re-release, something that only a select few games will get?

ďBuy our games new and there will be cake.Ē

ďUsed games donít have the same wear and tear issues as other used products.Ē
People often mention that used video games can work just as fine as new ones. Yes they can, but not always. Just like how used movies are not risk free due to how the disc can skip parts of the movie, used video games are not risk free either, even to the point of failing to read the disc properly, making the game unplayable. Cartridges had it worse back in the days.

ďThe developers are just being nice to those that support them by giving extra content.Ē
Oh yeah, the same way that Microsoft is nice to Gold members by offering downloads a week sooner. Oh wait, Silver members just get the downloads a week later. The same way that content already in the game, but costs money for the 108kb download, is a way for customers to support the developers. Not to mention the ďchoiceĒ to pay for cheat codes that were free a generation ago. I had no idea being nice meant not offering the full game for full price.

Publishers will pass off the download codes that come with the DLC as extra content. Come on now, letís be realistic, is everything people say 100% truth? Of course not! Itís more like ďthis always was part of the game, but we blocked it off with a unlock keyĒ. Business, especially when greed is part of the mix, isnít 100% honestly. So between the time that the game gone gold and reached retail, developers had enough time to put in content worth $10?

The way I see it, publishers have been testing the waters for years, slowly building up to where we are now and where they plan to go. They are slowly getting people to accept spending far more on games or dealing with having less content for full price.

You could do a swordless run till you reached GanonÖ

ďThe content that was taken out and put up as DLC isnít vital to the game experience.Ē
Yes, thatís what the publishers want to hear, people being okay with slowly losing bits and pieces of a game that wasnít brought new. Why not just keep removing content till everything that isnít completely vital to the core experience costs more? Why not just take out all the side quests in RPGs for those that didnít buy it new? Brought Call of Duty used? Thatíll be $5 to unlock multiplayer. Rented God of War III? $10 for the non-standard weapons. Want that fancy car on the cover of a racing game? Buy it new or hand over $5.

Keep going and you could have a bare base game if you didnít buy a new copy and end up downloading the rest of it for $30 or $40. People may argue that it wonít get to that level, but even now, would we have been discussing something like this five years ago? Who would have thought back in 2005 that small bits of the core content would be missing for non-new copies? This reminds me when Michael Capps, president of Epic Games, got mad at used game sales and wanted to charge $20 on used copies in order to face the final boss in Gears of War 2. If you seen the final boss, would you want to pay $20 for a ďbattleĒ that lasts around that amount in seconds? This could become a reality in Gears of War 3 at the rate things have changed between now and late í08.

ďDonít like it, donít buy it.Ē / ďSpeak with your wallet.Ē
I donít think many people consider that if enough people do just that, than how will the developers make enough money to break even, yet alone make a profit? As proven by the boycotts alone in the previous year, many gamers donít resist buying something they said they wouldnít buy. I feel that publishers will keep seeing how much money they can get from people till they had enough. They need us, we donít need them, since without people buying their products, theyíll go out of business, but weíll just find other games or means of entertainment.

Often, this is just said as a cop out argument to not actually want to discuss things. All after, itís much easier just to act like people who donít like something donít have a right to talk about it than to actually debate the issue. When thatís all people can say without anything else to backup their words, itís a pretty good sign that their saying ďI donít like what youíre saying, so stop saying it because I have the right to tell you what you can say and canít sayĒ. Combined this with ďno one caresĒ, which is often when itís an opinion someone doesnít like, clearly does care if they give extra attention to it, and you have one of the many reasons I donít have that great of viewpoint toward the gaming community in general.

Even simply not buying a game wonít get the message across to many publishers. Theyíll find some other kind of excuse if their game(s) donít sell like they expect them too. They may push even further to get more money out of fewer sales. They could even fall back on developing ďsafeĒ games. Should that fail, they could always pled to gamers to buy their games, act like victims, and act like something is wrong with their customers for not buying their games. At the end of the day, theyíll still be greedy to the point of turning heads.

At this rate, I have a feeling that weíll be looking at another video game crash down the road unless the greed is toned down. In fact, I think there already are examples of core content (and not minor stuff) being put up as downloads. I feel like itíll be a matter of time where physical copies of new games cease to exist and publishers play entirely on their own terms by going full digital to cut out the middle man and without ever worrying about people re-selling. I would like to see more great games, sure, but I also fear my favorite hobby will become super costly and tear apart the gaming community even further.   read

10:31 AM on 05.28.2010

The Entitlement of Publishers: Used games sales pt1

With this c-blog, Iím gonna try something different, splitting it up into two parts because of how long it is, much longer than I originally intended. It should help for people to get overwhelmed with thousands of words and possibly not comment as a result. Should also help to keep things more focused.

Entitlement has been talked about a lot in recent years, mostly last year, usually because of boycotts that have yet to work. People talk about the entitlement of customers quite a bit, but here, I want to focus more on whom I feel acts entitled as well but donít get called out on it as much; publishers. I feel publishers treat people more as money bags than customers, especially these days. I feel like they expect customers to treat them with respect, but in return, they barely do the same, often pretending to respect customers.

So the new excuse for publishers to pretend not to be greedy and to blame on poor sales is used game sales. Okay so ďnewĒ in this case is about a couple years old or so. Notice how itís never the publisherís fault if they didnít make the desired sales? Never mind the lack of advertising and/or enough people simply not being interested in a game.

His karma is due to buying used games.

Just because a game is good doesnít always mean it will sell well. I know people donít like to see games they enjoy like Beyond Good & Evil or Psychonauts getting poor sales. However, does calling people stupid and such really help the rep of those games? Itís almost like such fandoms of great games that sold poorly act like elitists in a few ways. For one, they act like they have greater taste in games because those particular games werenít shooters or other mainstream titles. Second, they act like those who didnít buy the game somehow have lower intelligent than those who do. Just because you brought a great game that sold poorly does not make you better than the next gamer. If people are not interested in those two games mentioned above, theyíre just not interested and badmouthing them isnít suddenly gonna make them more interested. There are more positive ways to promote a game without having to come off as rude and elitist like writing positive reviews and suggesting it for those that ask what their next game purchase should be.

Have we forgotten about the recession thatís been going on for some time now? People left and right lost jobs, including many people in the gaming industry. Basically, thereís loss money to go around compared to the start of this generation. Itís like publishers want more money when itís a lot harder to get it these days.

At least this stops Nintendo from getting greedy on the DS, except the hundred extra models.

Why is it okay for publishers to get greedy, but not the customers? Customers may not be entitled to a publisherís product, but publishers are not entitled to a sale either. If publishers want to make extra money, people will defend them to the death, but if customers want to save money on a product, thatís no good. Now Iím not saying that being greedy is bad in itself, but lines have to be drawn somewhere. For gamers, the line is often drawn at piracy. Where is the line drawn for publishers? Thereís a reason why greed is one of the seven deadly sins and Iím not saying that to bring religion into this, but because I think thatís the best way to explain it.

No longer limited to PC games and music.

So it seems like console games are catching up to most PC games that have means to make resell undesirable. PC games already have this down to a science, especially with the increasing DRM not just to prevent piracy, but also to prevent used game sales.

EA, not content with no longer being the evil empire of video games, looks to want to claim that throne once again, kind of. I know Activision held that title last year, but would have they done this year toward that? EA are currently in the process of Project Ten Dollar which basically means that all their upcoming titles, at least starting in 2011, will come with a download code if you brought the game new, but otherwise will be missing some content that costs $10 to get if you rent or get the game used. I have a feeling this will only affect a small minority of buyers, which to the publishers, would be better than nothing. How many customers are even aware of DLC and how many will care to be missing out on a small bit of the game?

Weíre already starting to see examples of DLC that comes with a game if you have a new copy, but would otherwise cost some money to get. Youíre told that this is a thank you gift instead of likely being content disabled the last minute and put up as a unlock key. Right now, this only applies to minor content, but how much longer will it be before this applies to core content? The Saboteur is one such game that does this. Like many other things, this is carefully set up to make it look like anyone that complains is in the wrong. While a few features are included with the unlock key, the one that gets the most (and only) attention is the topless option. This makes naysayers look perverted and who wants to take such people seriously? Publishers are quite good at mind games.

At this rate, the digital-only future looks more likely by the day. Do publishers really expect to be rolling in the same amount of money in the event that games go full digital and can only be brought directly from them? Would customers want to deal with not being able to borrow, take to a friendís house, rent, trade in, or even sell games? What about the same price that may not ever drop except for rare sales? Do publishers consider that these customers may simply just not buy their games and leave them out of the money they could be making? Get too greedy and itíll backfire one way or another.

GameStop according to many people, especially developers and publishers.

Canít really talk about used game sales without bringing up GameStop. People have claimed they stolen money through used game sales. Excuse me? Stealing? I swear the meaning of stealing has gone all over the place. Even if you were to argue that selling used products is unethical, that doesnít explain how itís illegal. After all, stealing tends to be illegal doesnít it? Did GameStop found some amazing loophole that allows them to legally steal money? Just because you may like how GameStop makes money off used games doesnít mean they are stealing.

Thatís not to say Iím here to defend them. I know they give you crap deals on trade ins and sell used games for like 10% off new prices, but thatís more of an issue with GameStop itself and not used game sales in general. Would legal grounds would publishers have against GameStop? Even if GameStop could be removed from the picture just like that, what would stop other retailers from selling used games or people going to eBay, for example, to buy used games? Will publishers update the ToS for their games to state ďyou agree not to resell this productĒ?

Will publishers directly target game rentals next? For $10 in about a few days, you can play a game long enough till you get bored of it. Should Blockbuster be banned from having rentable games? What about GameFly, which I currently use to play about 95% of the games I do today? I managed to play and finish many games without giving a penny to the publishers.

Used games and rentals give many people a chance to otherwise experience games that they couldnít have or didnít want to drop $60 on. Maybe Iím poor, but $60 is a lot of money for the average game that I find low replay value in, especially without multiplayer. Another factor is that if someone is impressed with a game they got used, they may look at the other games from the developer and consider buying them new. Now that may not be very likely, but thereís that small chance which can help in the long run.

Part two of this c-blog will cover various arguments that people use to defend publishers that I feel get way too greedy only because they can get away with it and pass it off as not being overly greedy.   read

9:19 PM on 05.24.2010

"Iím right, youíre wrong, STFU!"

This c-blog is pretty short compared to most of the others I written since there really isnít a whole lot to say.

If thereís one thing I noticed from various opinion articles on this site, from both the staff and community members, is that this c-blogís title is what most of them boil down to. Thatís not to say that makes the points made in those articles or c-blogs invalid, but I think thatís something worth pointing out. Generally this tends to happen on a wide range of increasing controversial video game topics. Itís almost like you canít defend your views of a topic without at one point or another not just simply disagreeing with the other side(s), but pretty much saying that their side is so bad that they shouldnít even say anything further about it. Personally, I find it harder to take someoneís side of an argument even if I agree with it because of the elitism that often comes with it. But you could argue that elitism comes with almost anything even when expressed in the nicest ways possible.

For those that it applies to, do you really think that telling someone you disagree with to STFU will suddenly cause them to do just that? Do you really think you can just silence the other personís opinion (no matter how stupid) and effectively win your side of the argument? You wouldnít stop your side of the argument if someone told you to STFU now would you? So I donít know if people who say STFU really expect someone to just stop whatever their saying or just letting out anger.

This is not just limited to what people find downright stupid, but even somewhat annoying. Oh who am I kidding? In video game communities these days, almost everything is serious business. This is subjective much like many other things said, but wouldnít your side of the argument look better if you appeared more levelheaded? I know you can still get tons of people to agree with you if you flat out rip the other side a new hole and there are people who enjoy seeing others getting ripped apart with the harshest words possible.

However, does it really help the angry gamer stereotype? Now I know everyone doesnít care what non-gamers think of gamers, but if you donít like that angry gamer stereotype, then does venting your anger at every random person online you think is stupid help disprove that stereotype? Canít have it both ways. I mentioned that because I feel large aspects of the gaming community are creating these stereotypes which in turn many gamers react even angrier too, further fueling the stereotypes.

Although it could be read as such, Iím not telling anyone to stop. In fact, it wouldnít be my right to do so especially since I donít have authority over anyone on this site. People will keep fighting over anything that can be fought over. I just merely want to bring this light, even if considering how popular I am around here, very few people will actually see this (especially with no pictures) and even then it doesnít mean they have to agree with me or even tell me not to STFU. This whole last paragraph could even be me attempting to come off in a way that shouts ďdonít flame me!Ē Maybe, maybe notÖ   read

12:58 PM on 04.26.2010

E for Effort: Diversity

When I sit down and really think about it, video games rarely star a main character that isn't a white heterosexual male. Iím talking about mainstream games here, basically, any retail or downloadable game that can be found on consoles or PC that isn't restricted like hentai games. You may get a white heterosexual female every once in awhile, but otherwise, it seems like developers won't expand outside the majority when it comes to gaming's main characters. Even female characters make up a pretty small percent of main characters, despite them being just about as common as males in real life. Racial minority characters are even less likely to show up than females, even when it comes to secondary and supporting characters. LGBT characters rarely show up at all, even as very minor NPCs. In fact, compared to other media, video games are the least diverse when it comes to this. Maybe I could be proven wrong on this. People may argue that video games are still young, even after 40 years, but I personally don't find that an entirely valid argument. Unlike when films were becoming big and were still young prior to Citizen Kane and beyond, we're not living in an era where racism was very strong, women had limited rights like not being able to vote, and LGBT people were hated even more so than nowadays. So why are the majority of main characters a white heterosexual male? There seems to be numerous factors for this.

Mario, proving that you can be popular and a minority.

Now, Iím not about to get all politically correct here and act like video games must include all kinds of minorities in every game in an attempt to make sure that ďno one gets offended or feel left outĒ. Itís almost like developers think that their target audience canít relate to a character that isnít like themselves or that they have to relate to them in the first place. Never mind that most minorities wonít match whomever their playing as, but they seem to still get by just fine. Still, wouldnít it be nice to know that developers can think outside the box? On the other hand, how many gamers can relate to being a soldier or the over-the-top male rage that makes up many male video game characters? Thereís also the factor that many games come from Japan, which tends to be what, 99% of one race? If art is a reflection of life, than this certainly holds truth here as well.

Many video games... they come from here.

We don't have to go the route of having a near equal male to female ratio, every race on Earth, and the whole LGBT range, including intersexual people, just to make sure everyone feels like their being included and that no one is offended. Ever felt like a minority character felt out of place compared to the rest or that they were hardly developed? It's a double edged sword. It's bad if you do it and bad if you don't. For games in a real world setting that primarily has one race, do we have to put in someone of another race altogether that would basically be out of place? In a war setting that is basically all men out on the battlefield, does there have to be one random woman out there whom would look really out of place?

How about more playable animals?

This is going mostly by human characters since I think itís more trouble than itís worth to argue what race furries or robots are ďsupposed to beĒ aside from voice. Think, how often has a nonwhite heterosexual character been the main star in a game? Again, I'm talking about the main character, not a main character or major supporting character, but the star of the game, the one that you will likely play as the most (if not the whole time), the one who is advertised the most, and so on. It's already rare enough for a female to be the main character, but even rarer for a racial minority character to star and pretty much non-existence for a gay character to be the main character. Another thing to make clear is that this is for pre-defined characters, not those games where you can create your own character. In that case, it would be quite easy to have an old fat Russian lesbian and otherwise be able to create a character to suit yourself almost exactly. That also depends if the character creation system allows you to create females and not just males. Also, race is more complex than a skin tone slider, although games nowadays with such features often give you almost complete control over the facial features as well.

Let's not count out those who wear glasses.

I could go even further, like appearance and disabilities, but this is mainly focused on race, sex, and sexual orientation. However, I'll quickly mention appearance and disabilities. While many male main characters will be average or even ugly looking, that's very rare in the case of female characters, main or not. Most will be pleasing to the eye, at least according to the Male Gaze. To be fair, I think even many female players would have trouble accepting a female main character who they don't think looks nice, based on the idea that women are supposed to look pretty. Most video game characters tend to be idealized after all. Many males would prefer to play a male character that is strong and not considered a weakling. As for disabilities, how often does that ever show up in video games? Maybe physical disabilities have shown up, but mental ones? Couldn't that lead to more interesting characters and story where everyone isn't "normal-able" or super-able? In fact, I think disabled video game characters are even rarer than LGBT characters. What about hovering wheelchairs equipped with machine guns and rocket launchers? Surely that's been done. However, characters with disabilities does pose a great risk of backlash if done wrong, like with any other kind of minority, but maybe even more so.

Somehow Chell got away with not falling high on the pretty scale.

I think that many developers are too scared that they might screw up a character that is part of any minority. The more of a minority a character is, the more of a risk it is. How many developers want to work on a big budget game that's supposed to be "the next big thing" for over three years and risk getting blasted by tons of gamers and the media when they can play it safe? It's already hard enough to make a female character, that even if not sexualized, will have some aspect that will lead to backlash from certain people. A black character? Well, gonna be extra careful there. Iíll get back to that in a moment, especially due to a certain game that got a lot of backlash for racism, real or not. A gay character? Good luck getting great sales since many people don't like homosexuality and most of them are the ones looking to buy the game. A transgender character? Forget it. Many people don't even know what that word means. Even a lot in the gay community would have trouble accepting a transgender character or just flat out hate such a character. Just because the LGBT community has the name LGBT doesn't mean all the letters of the community get along that well. 'Course, any community has a chance to not get along that well, but just saying.

Beyond race & ethnicity.

On the subject of racial minorities, how many are the main character of a game that isn't an IP from another media or 50 Cent? Now I'm not saying that 50 Cent's games were designed to appeal to blacks because that's what the developers thought the community wanted, but instead, may have been designed more for well, 50 Cent fans. Many black characters often tend to be supporting characters or NPCs. Black characters also tend to be "gangsters" or comedy relief. Not saying that's always the case, but it's there.

Might as well cup a feel out of this before things get ugly...

I think Resident Evil 5 might have a big factor in this. I know this is digging up a dead horse that everyone pretty much decided where they stand on the issue, but how can I talk about race in gaming without bringing this up? After all the backlash it got, how many other developers want take a risk like that? The first trailer has a white man (Chris Redfield) fighting a bunch of black people. Well, we know how well that went over with certain folks. Nearly a year later, we would learn that Chris has a partner who is non-white and other races show up among the enemies. The developers claimed that this has nothing to do with the backlash, but how many people brought that, including those who defended the game? Later still, we found out about Sheva's bonus outfit and enemies later on in that game that dress like tribesmen and throw spears. Regardless of where you stand on the subject, the end result is that I think many developers won't want to get near a subject like that for a while.

Rockstar Games has a habit of having diverse playable characters, at least males.

I donít want to make the big mistake of talking about race and acting like only whites and blacks exist. There are other groups too, like the Hispanics, Latinos, Spanish, French, Russians, Germans, and more. Heck, one of gamingís biggest icons is an Italian-American, along with being shorter than average and somewhat fat. Fighting games tend to feature a wide range of ethnic groups. While fighting games tend to lack a truth main character, the closest thing to them will often be one or two characters that will likely be Japanese or American.

Hey ladies, these games are what you gals like to play right?

As for women, well, that's still rare. Even "noble" efforts to apply to females have been highly stereotypical. Look at how many games "for women", especially on the DS, imply that women are interested in cooking and other household duties instead of punching someone's face in or putting a bullet through their skull. Even the better rated ones and those that a guy would actually admit to playing, like Super Princess Peach, managed to do something wrong, in this case, the stereotype about emotions and women. Like I said, the difficulties of reaching a certain audience. It still basically comes down to "designed by men for women" instead of "designed by women for women". Even then, if we somehow got a development team of women only, would they end up doing something similar or just focus on making a great game without worry about directly appealing to women? To go over this briefly, as this isnít a c-blog about marketing to females, shouldn't more effort be focused on just making a great game without worrying about if men or women will play it? Naturally, certain types of games like shooting games will draw in more males than females, but it doesn't mean that isn't any women that don't like to play such games.

On another note, how often does a female main character in a game get any kind of romance? For genres like RPGs where it's common for there to be romance, a male main character often gets into some kind of relationship. For female main characters, this is much rarer. Are the writers just unable to figure out how to write romance from a female point of view? Maybe they don't want to mess it up, so they just avoid the subject altogether. Really, couldn't the companies just hire a couple of female writers. In fact, couldn't it be argued that a really good writer can write from points of view other than their own?

When it comes to LGBT main characters, well, that's pretty much non-existence. The few LGBT characters that exist tend to be supporting characters. No, I'm not about to take a "quick trip" to TVTropes to find every single mention of homosexuality in gaming, since there is no such thing as a "quick trip" to that site. Most gay video game characters are male, likely to avoid the backlash of "cratering to heterosexual boys with hot lesbians" and to look like a ďmore seriousĒ take on the subject. Really, itís almost like lesbianism doesnít go over as well as male homosexuality since it doesnít seem to be viewed as seriously. In most games where you can have a gay relationship, it's through a character you shape yourself and isn't pre-defined. In fact, there is only one main character that I can think of that was gay and that's the main character of Fear Effect 2. It was more of a "hot lesbians" thing than anything else. Otherwise, that would lead to far too many problems for the average developer looking to minimize risk and maximize profit.

They're not female, really, they're not! They just happen to look that way...

Even Bioware, who commonly allowed gay relationships (at least lesbian ones), suddenly acted like the first Mass Effect had no lesbian sex. The second game to my knowledge features no LGBT content. To be clear, I'm not saying that just because most of their games had a gay option doesn't mean that all of them need one. Let's see, there were unused clips for gay options in both games, so clearly they thought about it and even at least somewhat came close to putting it in. As for the Asari race, Bioware can tell us that they are mono-gendered and not women, but who's buying that? All of them that we seen look and sound female, not to mention they get addressed by female pronouns. Just because they can reproduce beyond normal female ways doesnít mean they still wonít be treated as female otherwise. They couldn't just say "we avoided gay relationships in this game to avoid backlash again", but instead, dodged around the issue.

Although I keep hearing about how the average gamer is an adult and that up to 40% of gamers are women, the Internet tells another tale that I'm far more likely to believe. Games would get hit so hard with "what's the point of the main character being gay?" that it likely isn't even worth it for most publishers. The usual racist, sexist, homophobia gamer would go into nerd rage. Fox News will be all like "won't someone think of the children?" Even many in the LGBT community will be like "a character shouldn't just be gay for the sake of it".

Let's not be ageism here. Old timers can keep up as well.

So how much longer will video games play it safe before attempting more diverse main characters that isn't forced, stereotypical, or in a side role? Surely among the community here, someone has more examples of minorities being the star of a game and otherwise a step closer to the gaming media being taken more seriously by ďoutsidersĒ.   read

10:56 AM on 11.13.2009

Ageism among the gaming community.

So what is ageism, a word I made up? Nope, but it is a word that I rarely hear these days, but a concept that happens all the time. It basically means discrimination against someone solely based on their age. It applies to young children and teenagers, but it can even apply to middle aged people and the elderly. Itís more acceptable toward youth than older people. People that do this may not even be aware of it themselves or they are aware, but keep doing so anyway. This is something that happens just about everywhere, but in this case, Iíll just stick to the gaming community, as much as I can anyway, since a lot of this wonít be strictly related, but possibly on topic enough to not be NVRG. To be clear, this doesnít directly apply to me since Iím not a teenager myself, but it still doesnít mean I donít find it annoying to see it happen anyway.

He hasn't reached adulthood yet, which means he sucks, right?

How often has someone treated someone else as stupid and immature, simply because of their age? Now Iím not denying that adults are generally more mature and wiser than younger people, or at least are supposed to be. Iím also not denying that the stereotypical 12-year-old racist, sexist, homophobia, loudmouth doesnít exist in Halo matches. Iím not even denying that in my personal experiences that I largely dealt with teenagers that I felt like punching in the face. However, it has gotten to the point where younger people are treated like those people even before they act like those people. Itís like young people are guilty before proven innocent by default. Itís like you basically suck just because youíre not an adult. Its one thing to be treated a certain way for acting a certain way, but itís another thing to be treated a certain way for being a certain way. Seriously, this is almost everywhere in one form or another. How often have people said someone was stupid just because they were young? How often do people say stuff like ďyoung people shouldnít have mics because I find their voices annoyingĒ? How often do people act like M rated games will rot the mind of anyone under 17 (or even 18)?

Have us adults forgotten that at one point or another, we were not adults ourselves? Sure we can look back and see that we were not as wise back in the days as we are now. However, did we liked to be treated like crap just because we didnít hit 18 at the time? Did we enjoyed being told we were annoying and stupid because we didnít live long enough yet? Do we want to relive the times where adults thought they were better than us because we were not adults ourselves yet? Of course, everyone likely gone through this and may have accepted it because the adults ďknew betterĒ. Just because there are people out there who do feel it was for the best to be kept away from certain stuff based on their age doesnít mean everyone else will or should feel the same way.

So yeah, we matured and gotten wiser and realized that we didnít know everything like we thought we did. However, how did this newfound wisdom lead us back to treating children and teenagers poorly? How did we turn the tables or saw nothing wrong with some of the treatment we may have gotten? How does this cycle repeat itself over and over? I guess with ever changing generations, especially with the Internet likely not being a part of our history, this issue can get super complex.

I think one of the reasons that teen rebellion is so common is because of ageism. Of course if someone feels like they are being mistreated, they will act out against it. Itís like ďyou have very little rights and freedom and I expect you to behave yourself and obey without questionĒ. Are we seriously expecting teenagers to not act out if we treat them like crap before they even done any wrongdoing? Put someone in a corner, especially for something they have no control over (like age) and they will likely want to get out of that corner, especially by those that put them in said corner. No wonder they turn to older friends to get stuff from and find a place to belong. Now Iím not saying children (or even adults for that matter) should be able to get something just because they want it or that they are entitled to anything besides whatís required for staying alive.

Its one thing to protect young people from stuff that adults think will negatively affect them growing up, but I canít help but wonder if weíre becoming over protected. I think an example of this are the ESRB ratings. Not so much the ratings themselves as how they are being treated. For what is only supposed to be a guideline for parents is being treated as if it were law. Look at how many people are trying to pass laws making the sale of M rated games to youth illegal. I even heard stories where adults may not even be allowed to buy M rated games if any youth is with them, because surely the adult must only intent to use it to poison the youthís mind right? Basically, this is such a sacred cow that I notice it hardly gets challenged without being told that you want to ruin our future since after all, todayís youth will be tomorrowís adults. I know various stores may not sell M rated games to those under 17, but to my knowledge, that is there choice, not something required by law.

Hidden sex mini game on top of everything else in this game? A must have!

Now granted we do have many parents who act like they are not smart enough to notice a big M printed on boxes that also reads Mature +17 on them or even look at the back of the box for more detailed information on the rating. Even so, what the game looks like right from the cover isnít usually enough to tell what itís about? Do they even deserve to be parents if they canít tell a game named after a major crime that shows guns, drugs, and other stuff right on the cover might just feature that content? These parents tend to have no problem with realizing this stuff when it comes to movies, but many are still under the misguided belief that games with mature themes simply donít exist or are just ďa kidís toyĒ. Since in their mind, they are never at fault, they tend to blame everyone else.

On the other hand, not all parents are like this, but regardless, if they get a M rated game for their child, they are automatic labeled as bad parents. Sometimes even discussing such games with children is considered too much by many. Itís like there is no such thing as anyone mature enough under 17 that can handle such a game. Have we became so over protecting that fourteen year olds will forever be ruined if they even know a M rated game exists? How it is even possible to go by for long without knowing games like the GTA series exist? Itís like smart parents are not even allowed to make choices for their children anymore that doesnít strictly fall within idealized standards that may have a lot of fantasy involved. Again, isnít the rating just supposed to be a suggestion so that people will know what they are getting into? They say the content may be unsuitable for anyone under 17, not will be unsuitable for anyone under 17. Iím also aware that games have generally gotten more violent and such over the years and that many of the edgy games back than may be tame by todayís standards.

This will only be appealing once you're at least 17.

How many of us avoided playing a M rated game till we were 17? How often does someone say ďdespite me playing M rated games when I was underage, I donít think others should do the same thingĒ? Itís one thing to have a bad experience and encourage others to avoid it, but this seems to be more of ďIím a special case that played GTA at 12 and turned out just fineĒ. No, youíre not the only ďspecial caseĒ out there. Of course people tend to make themselves look better than what they really are and I think this is just one such case. Itís like we set up this unrealistic fantasy where we act like we were saints when growing up and expect others to be the same. Itís like there is so much lying about this stuff, I find it hard to separate reality from fiction. Iím not saying I myself never made myself out to be a better person to people than what I am, before someone claims Iím on a high horse.

Iím aware that ďthe line has to be drawn somewhereĒ and 17 or 18 is that line where a person is supposed to be mature enough to handle such content. After all, it is much easier to assume that someone will be mature enough around those ages than for a much more complex case by case basis. However, I still canít help but wonder if itís getting so out of hand that we look much more at a personís age than how they act.

"I get to be a man that gets to choose what women I can have sex with? Count me in!

Many people do understand that even adults may be offended by certain content, so warnings are given before hand and told not to go further if they find the content offensive. Itís also accepted that adults will simply have self control in not further seeing content that find offensive, like walking out of a movie theatre. However, itís assumed that non-adults will automatically be offended by the content and should be kept away at all costs. People tend to be very serious about this and will act like itís your duty to do everything in your power to keep non-adults away from content like a nude body. As much as people like to make fun of Fox News from overreacting to the sex in Mass Effect, see how many of those same people will get pretty angry themselves if they knew anyone under 17 saw it. Itís like younger people shouldnít even be given the chance to ďwalk awayĒ from content they donít like. Itís like we expect them to be in this fantasy world for 18 years to avoid the harsh real world.

How are we expecting teenagers to not be interested in this game?

Based on what I see, itís natural that teenager males will be interested in blood and boobs. Now just because something is natural doesnít mean its right. Do we really think that M rated shooters are only popular among adults? How many teenagers want to play Modern Warfare 2? Being a soldier that runs around and kills tons of dudes is relative to the interests of many people, including teenagers. What is the difference in many cases between a T and M rated shooter? In most cases, the difference in blood and swearing. The swearing in M rated games tend to be the same words that many young people speak every day, especially among friends.

No teenager would ever use a nude mod for this game, right?

Why are so many people so shocked and surprised that heterosexual teenage males have a sexual interested in women? Do people really think that teenage males are not downloading nude skins? Are we to believe that teenage males are not running around fantasy settings or wastelands as women who wear little or nothing? Are people really expecting teenagers to not lie about their age to download such mods? If anything, this is setting up such concepts as forbidden fruit. The more youíre not allowed to have something, the more appealing it becomes. ďNo, you shouldnít see this because youíre not ready yetĒ is quite common. Thatís not to say its right to feel entitled to it, but something that just happens. No wonder why one of the reasons that sexual content is considered so dirty, itís because itís treated as such. Itís like the teenager is meant to feel that having sexual thoughts is wrong and dirty, so it puts them in a difficult position. Itís like a dark secret that they end up keeping and not discussing with anyone but close friends. Either they do their best to fight against their bodyís urges or go for the sexual content in secret.

"How dare you be a sexual being young man! I was never one growing up, really.

What, are we expecting teenagers to be perfect little angels? They are not little children anymore. Now thatís not to say they wonít risk running into something they find disgusting. However, people assume that anything they find will be disgusting. If thatís not the case, they want to completely protect them to avoid the risk of finding something that they feel like throwing up if they see. Since teenagers tend to be aware that sexual content is something that their not supposed to be interested in according to many adults, they will end up hiding it. They will pretend that they donít have entire families with nude lesbians or ranking up a frag count as a woman dressed only in boots and maybe gloves as well. Sexual interest is just one of the things that happen as a part of growing up and yet people unrealistic expect teenagers to not want to fulfill their sexual desires in any way. Of course we should maintain self-control, but I have a feeling this attempt to keep teenagers anyway from almost any sexual content can lead to greater problems. Like ďjust deal with bikini women for the next few yearsĒ is really gonna work.

So to not go too far off topic, at least with the gaming part, Iíll just quickly mention Iím aware of the risks like STDs, having unrealistic standards for women (and even men), being a parent while still being taken care of by one or two, and letting it rule your life. However, dodging the subject isnít gonna prevent these problems.

Iím hardly a popular member around here that carries a strong voice with anything I type or have my personal ďpromote to front pageĒ button, but it doesnít mean I canít catch someoneís attention and at the very least get them to think about this more. On the other hand, I could be very wrong about this and called out on it.   read

11:31 AM on 10.28.2009

My RPG Musings IV: Status effects

Since I last talked about elemental weaknesses, I figure that the next thing to follow would be status effects. Status effects are just as common as elemental weaknesses, if not more so. Many RPGs tend to have standard status effects like poison, darkness/blind, sleep, confusion, and silence. Even many of those with their own unique status effects will usually still have these common ones. Just like with the other stuff I talked about so far, I think there is room for improvement. At least they can change the tie of battle a lot more than the common elemental weakness systems that are damage only like I talked about last time.

The thing about status effects is that it can often be annoying to be on the receiving end of them, especially those that can almost or completely disable you. Confusion especially can be dangerous if used on any of your heavy hitters, since party members tend to do a lot more damage than enemies. On the other hand, a healer under confusion can be amusing when they take off like two HP from you. I think one of the most annoying of them all is when an enemy uses a spell that has a chance to cause death on all party members one by one.

Another annoying factor can be curing status effects just to get caught in them again. So you could be facing one or more enemies that poison you which lead to a couple of main ways of dealing with it. You can take up a turn to heal it, only to possibly fall under that same status condition again the very next turn. You could also just deal with it till the offending enemies are gone. I have a feeling this might be done in very few or even no RPGs, but what about having a cool down or grace period after getting healed from a status condition? Say after youíre cured from darkness, you canít fall under darkness again for two or three turns? That should take out the annoying factor of falling under it again right away just after getting cured.

The other problem about status effects is that regular enemies tend to not live long enough for it to matter much. If it takes three attacks to take out an enemy, why bother poisoning it when you could use that time to attack instead? Basically, a battle would have to last long enough for status effects on enemies to make much of a difference. An enemy could also be really powerful even if they donít live very long to make up for it. For example, an enemy that does powerful physical attacks, but doesnít live long, could be blinded to keep you healthy and that one action could make a big difference. Not to mention thereí isnít much of a chance of status effects working when used on regular enemies compared to player characters. Do I really need to get started on bosses? Itís rare that status effects will work on them at all. I understand they would be too easy if status effects worked the same on them as regular enemies, but what about having less of an effect? Poison could take off less health from them, they could recover from sleep quicker, and such. At least the status effects wonít be completely worthless on them.

At times I question the nature of status effects themselves, although Iím hardly the first. For example, darkness blinds you and sometimes youíll get lucky and hit the target, but it doesnít explain a couple of other things. For one, seeing isnít the only way to determine an enemyís location. Canít whoever is blinded hear where the enemy is at, especially in turn based battle systems where everyone stays in place? I guess hearing the enemy could factor into the limited chance you can still land a blow. Another thing is that this only effects physical attacks and not spells. Unless spells have a chance of missing (aside from status effect spells), the character affected by darkness will still be able to aim the spell perfectly. Then again, darkness seems to be sort of the physical counterpart to silence that Iíll get to in a moment.

Sleep must be some kind of deep magical sleep since itís the only way I can think of that characters can sleep through the loud noise of battle. For some reason, physical attacks tend to be the only attacks to get a character out of sleep and not magical attacks. Isnít it a bit much for Cloud to slash his huge sword across Tifaís even huger tits to get her to wake up? Silence might be the biggest offender here, all because of the name. How many RPGs does silence actually prevent characters from speaking? RPGs that may have one liners during battle can still have the characters speaking even when affected by this. Silence is supposed to be based off the idea that characters chant to cast a spell and being unable to speak would prevent this. This seems to be a left over from tabletop RPGs, since in most games, including with one liners, characters just simply cast a spell. Wouldnít a name like ďmagic disabledĒ or something work? I guess that wonít happen, since status conditions tend to be one word long and just about any RPG player is familiar with what silence does, so developers keep the name.

One thing I think would be more interesting to see are status effects that are both positive and negative. This can add more strategy and thinking on the playerís part. I think the closest thing to something that exists like this in some RPG is the Berserk status, at least when it increases attack power and not just simply force you to attack. On one hand, this could be positive and make physical fighters more deadly, but on the other hand, those that depend more on spells and such would be at a disadvantage. For example, you could use this on an enemy that likes to use spells a lot. Another positive and negative status effect could be one that blocks all damage, but also makes you unable to act. I suppose this wouldnít be much different than a technique that can do the same thing. Get where Iím coming from?

Thatís it for now. Maybe sooner or later I could spice up these entries with pictures, assuming I can find some that are related to what Iím talking about.   read

9:21 AM on 10.23.2009

My RPG Musings III: Elemental weaknesses

This sure came a lot later than what I originally planned due to being lazy, especially when I have less to say about this than other subjects.

Most RPGs have some sort of elemental weakness system and some RPGs make it a major focus while in others, not so much. Like status conditions, which I havenít cover in detail yet, I think elemental weaknesses in the average RPG doesnít do much for the game play, for better or worse. Although elemental weaknesses are supposed to add more strategy, I feel like this is not always the case, unless the game heavily focuses on them like Pokťmon. Elemental weaknesses tend to only make a difference in damage done. Once you know what an enemy is weak to, itís basically just a matter of blasting them with that element over and over. Itís not much more complex than throwing out the most powerful attacks. How many RPGs have elemental weaknesses that actually make much of a tactical difference than how much damage is dealt?

There could be various spells that are basically the same thing except with a different element attached to it. The Final Fantasy games tend to have the Fire, Blizzard, and Thunder spells that only differ in the element and nothing else. Unless an enemy is strong or weak to one of more of those elements, it mainly comes down to whatever you feel like throwing out at the time since it makes no difference otherwise. I suppose it would make more of a difference if you donít have access to all those elements at once.

Fire tends to be the one element that will always be there if a RPG has any kind of elemental system that uses any standard elements. Any other elements can vary between games. Ice and water tend to count as the other if the game only has one of those elements. This can be confusing if an ice enemy shows up and you expect them to be weak to fire when they really count as water. This can also lead to cases of water enemies counting as ice and possibly being weak to fire. For example, in Kingdom Hearts II, Demyx uses water, but counts as ice, so he turns out to be weak to fire attacks. Really, who would think to use fire against water and expect the former to overcome the latter? While what element is strong and weak against what changes between games, it tends to be a universe rule that water is strong against fire with little rule for exception. From what I heard, in Golden Sun, opposite elements are weak against each other, which leads to another case of fire being strong against water.

Thatís the other thing about elemental systems, especially if there is more than four elements, is that the logic of the weaknesses changes between games. Fire and ice may be weak against each other, but sometimes only fire is strong against ice and not vice versa. Wind may be strong against flying enemies, but if not, than lightning tends to be. Wind usually may be strong against fire, but not always. It tends to be a universe role that earth does nothing against wind since earth tends to count as ground. Certain RPGs may even have non-elemental attack spells, but they tend to be rare high level spells.

I felt like Chrono Trigger did elements in a way that could make quite a difference. There are four elements and each of them can have various effects on certain enemies. It wasnít just a matter of damage difference like elemental systems tend to be. Different enemies could react in different ways from what element you use against them, so the outcome of battle could actually have a big factor depending how you use the elements. Thereís quite a bit of ways that it happens, but I hardly remember specific examples off the top of my head.

Certain RPGs may use the four classic elements of Air, Earth, Fire, and Water, so each element is equally strong against one element and weak to another one. Aether never seems to get thrown in as a fifth element outside the other four. On the other hand, how often do the Chinese classic elements ever get used? They are made up of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. I think each element is strong against two elements and weak against two others. Come to think of it, Metal or Steel is quite a rare element to see in games.

How about seeing more RPGs with elemental systems, if they use them, that actually makes more of a difference than damage? How about attaching secondary or status effects to the elemental spells? I know there are some cases of this, but not very many. This could also mean that elemental spells that enemies are not strong or weak against are not just simply interchangeable in effects, but could lead to more tactical planning.   read

11:29 AM on 10.18.2009

The possible problems of the Super Guide.

So I may sound like yet another hardcore elitist here that acts like people are not allowed to play games if they donít meet a certain skill requirement, but at least hear me out before coming to that conclusion. Originally called the Kind Code, we now know this feature will be called the Super Guide and will debut in New Super Mario Bros. Wii next month. People have been praising this for reasons like ďyounger and in-experience gamers can finally get inĒ and ďNintendo can finally make hard games againĒ. Oh sure itís easy enough to see how the anti-Super Guide people can be missing the point, but I think there are some things that the pro-Super Guide people may have overlooked, which is what Iíll mostly focus on. When this subject comes up, itís like almost everyone that talks about it forgets the concept that has been around since around the beginning, difficulty levels.

"Don't jump on me while I slowly walk toward you."

"Jump on me, I dare you!"

Nintendo could have done this long ago without needing to file a patent for a modified ghost system. They already put difficulty settings in various games before, even back on the NES. Super Mario Bros. would allow you to play through again with harder enemies and some other changes. The Legend of Zelda has the Second Quest mode that upped the difficulty quite a bit. The first Kirby on the GB had a secret hard mode. None of this carried over to the newer games, with only a select few newer games having difficulty settings. Why not just make better use of difficulty settings, including being allowed to change it mid game instead of starting over? For example, easy mode could add extra power ups and extra platforms. I remembered how Capcomís Mega Man Powered Up on the PSP would change quite a bit of things between the difficulty levels. On easy, enemies wouldnít fight as well, extra platforms would show up, bosses would flinch from all your attacks, not use their more powerful attacks, and the final boss would be one phase instead of two.

"Touch me to grow big and gain an extra hit point."

Why couldnít Nintendo do it this way? Letís take NSMB as it is on the DS. Now, what if that game had an easy and hard mode? Normal mode would be like how the game is now. Easy mode could have more blocks up with power ups, extra lives, more checkpoints, none of the tougher enemies, extra platforms for difficult jumps, and bosses with less HP. Basically, this mode could be easy enough that even the people that the Super Guide is aimed at can get through and finish the game if they put just a little bit of work into it. The difference between this and only one difficulty with Super Guide is that you could have the joy of actually playing through the game and finishing it without needing help or the option for the game to play a part of itself if you lost enough lives. They also shouldnít shame the player for playing on easy mode like some games do, like Ninja Gaidenís Black Ninja Dog mode (which I havenít used myself FYI). Hard mode could be shorter time limits, less power ups, more enemies, including the tougher ones, harder bosses, trickier jumps, poison mushrooms, and more. You could be made required to use double jumps, triple jumps, wall jumps, and such that you could mostly ignore on a normal playthrough. Now that could take more work than the Super Guide, but creating a great game isnít easy. I say the Zelda games are in dire need of difficulty settings so you wonít have to do a self imposed challenge to get more difficulty out of the game.

Not all mushrooms are good for your health.

Out of my fantasy and back to reality, of course I am fully aware of ďyou donít have to use it if you donít want toĒ. However, I still worry that this could directly affect me in one way or another. I say this because I fear that it might put certain people into the wrong mind set about games. Video games are supposed to be an interactive media and if the Super Guide is done wrong, could give non-gamers the wrong impressions of it being passive, even if they choose to use it. After all, thereís already many other misconceptions like how games reward instant satisfaction. Compared to when we first heard about the concept, I think they are handling it better then I first thought they would. At least they are designing it so that there will be some rewards for not using it. You also have to die at least eight times on a stage before you can use it. Considering the lives system and possibly starting off with five lives, this would mean you would need at least nine lives and be able to save up to that much. It also doesnít locate secrets for you, so you wonít just be able to easily 100% a game by using it. It wonít take all the work out of finishing the game.

Hammers hurt! Fight back with fire balls if possible.

"Save me to win the game!"

Due to the nature of the difficulty going up in games as you progress, couldnít it possibly get to the point where if you could barely handle world 3, than later worlds could just be nothing but Super Guide usage? Guiding an inexperience player to an even harder challenge than the one they couldnít finish before doesnít sound very helpful. I feel like this could set up the player for failure and frustration which is what the Super Guide is attempting to cut down on in the first place. If they couldnít finish an easier challenge on their own, how do we expect them to finish a harder challenge on their own? Couldnít this just lead to a cycle of just relying on help from the Super Guide over and over to point where youíre almost watching the game instead of playing it?

It's a secret to everybody. Not even the Super Guide knows how to find it.

The difference between this and walkthroughs is that you have to go out of way to find those and thatís out of the control of the game. Even by watching videos, you still have to be able to perform what you seen yourself. No amount of knowledge will get you pass a difficult section of you donít have the skills to pull it off. The Super Guide goes a step beyond that. As for getting others to play the part for you, thatís also very similar to the Super Guide, but the main difference is that itís not the game itself doing it. Thereís a difference between getting help and having the work done for you.

Jump over attacks to avoid getting hurt.

Not everyone wants to kill you, just 99% of them. Here's a buddy to help out.

People have also mention stuff about hard to find secrets or poorly designed puzzles. Again, the Super Guide wonít find those secrets. A poorly designed puzzle or secret that is poorly designed is what it is, Super Guide or not. The Super Guide shouldnít be an excuse for this, especially stuff you have basically no chance of figuring out without a walkthrough.

Lava burns! Avoid contact!

Another thing that Nintendo has already done (or at least their second party developers) is that in the Metroid Prime games, thereís a hint system. If you donít find the next upgrade for awhile, the game would pinpoint the location youíre supposed to go to on your map. While you still had to figure out how to get there yourself, it did at least point you to the right direction so you wouldnít end up roaming around endlessly with hardly a clue on where to go. The hint system could also be turned off for those who didnít want it. Is this not something that could be adjusted and used for games where it would be useful in?

Purple water is bad for you. Please don't attempt to swim in it if you care about your health.

Thereís yet another issue I worry about, at least for younger children. Video games can go beyond just mere entertainment. Are we teaching a good lesson to children if they can just skip a challenge instead of working at it? I understand being good at video games isnít a requirement in life like getting good grades in school, but Iím just saying. The thing is, just about anything you interact with, even for fun, requires some amount of effort. Is it so wrong and elitist to think that to play a video game, you should at least put a little bit of effort into it? Even on the easiest difficult settings, losing and attempting to get better is a part of what gaming is about. Only a ďcanít loseĒ mode is the exception to this. Dropping the difficulty when the going gets too tough is not the same as completely skipping the challenge. Although schools may give easier or harder work to people in the same class room based on their ability, you ultimately have to at least put a little bit of work into it. I bring up the school comparison because I seen it used before when it comes to discussion of the Super Guide. Who knows, maybe this whole worry would have no basis in reality.

Avoid falling down pits to live, like the one between the green pipes.

Use the power of friendship to overcome tough challenges.

So now that I got what I wanted to say out the way (if you actually read it and not skipped through), is what I said of any mint or just hardcore elitism? I just feel like better options that have been around all along will be ignored in favor of this. So to recap, easy difficulty settings and hint systems should ensure that people can finish a game they brought and not deal with the frustration of not actually finishing it because they got stuck somewhere. Ultimately, properly designed game play is the biggest factor. The people that the Super Guide is targeting can still finish the game and get the active experience of it with a proper easy mode and hint system, along with some motivation and effect on the playerís part.   read

11:32 AM on 10.16.2009

My RPG Musings II: Linearity

One of the things I noticed about most RPGs (and the majority of games in general, including Metroidvanias) is that the progress is very linear and hardly open-ended. It seems like ďopen-endedĒ and ďRPGĒ has very little overlap. I think this is another thing that more RPGs should attempt instead of the true and tired formula of almost strictly linear progress. I find it much easier to replay a game if I know I can do things in a different order instead of the same events every time I play.

There are numerous ways that a RPG will stop you from not allowing you to go where they donít want you to go at any given point. I feel like a lot of these are pretty stupid ways to stop you. Even if you only played a few RPGs, you could easily tell the game was blocking you off from going somewhere that you wasnít supposed to go to yet. Could be anything from someone blocking your path, a puddle, a two foot high tree log, a protest against unnatural hair colors, a toy train, bad fog that day, a lost child somewhere, and numerous other ways to stop you from going where the game doesnít want you to go at the moment. This is often a result of very linear storytelling and the developers will strictly have you follow by the book and not wander off at all from the given path. However, I donít see why more developers canít allow a more open-ended experience and adjust the story to suit. I notice JRPGs tend to be more linear than WRPGs, although itís still rare for a WRPG itself to be open-ended.

Iíll bring up a very popular RPG series that people like to dream big about beyond the official games, including ideas for a MMORPG. What if Pokťmon games were more open ended? Instead of mostly going through gyms in a certain order, you could freely explode the region after getting your first Pokťmon and challenge the gym leaders in any order. This would also mean anything that normally stops you from progressing like people, lacking a bike, and HM barriers would have to be removed. Seriously, why do they need people blocking you from passing certain areas till you get a gym badge when you need all eight to travel through Victory Road to reach the Elite Four anyway? However, I do realize there are a few problems this could lead too.

First off, storytelling could be harder, but it doesnít mean it canít happen. For example, in Mass Effect, you could take on three planets in any order, but itís not like the story suffered from it. KOTOR does something similar as well. Plots are developed with the game in mind and since most RPGs are designed to be linear, plots are developed as such. So therefore, if the game is open-ended, the developers can make the plot in such a way that doesnít break or isnít horrible because you can choose more than one path. Even if itís just a single ending, there could be multiple ways to reach it.

Back to this Pokťmon example, these games have never been groundbreaking for their storyline. Youíre basically a kid who wants to become the region champion by defeating eight gym leaders, the Elite Four, and the regionís current champion. Along the way you end up defeating a villain team and in the later generations, saving everyone from a legendary gone wild. Often the villain teams are fought numerous times and their plans have numerous phases. This works out very well due to the linear progress. However, if you could freely explode the region as soon as you got your first Pokťmon, the plot would have to be set up differently to take into factor you possibly visiting almost anywhere at any time.

Due to the nature of you getting stronger as you progress in RPGs, this could lead to various problems if the world were open-ended. Itís quite easy for the difficulty to become too easy or hard at times. Locations can be designed based off of enemy level, which can effectively lock out lower level characters. This would be almost like forced linear progress. Some RPGs do sometimes allow you to visit locations where the enemies are much stronger than you at the time, but itís still pretty linear and the story wonít lead you to those locations till youíre supposed to be on par with the enemies there.

Bringing up the Pokťmon example, think of one of the main games, but remove the barriers that normally block you like those that require the use of HMs or people simply blocking your way. Keeping the levels the same otherwise could still force linear progress, as heading out into an area when your too weak can still spell doom. Now you could get lucky and catch a level 42 Pokťmon while still having a team full of Ďmons no higher than level 10. This could easily break the balance and have you using that level 42 Ďmon to easily OHKO Ďmons in the lower level areas. They could also just put a forced trainer battle in front of the routes to determine that youíre not too weak for the area, but that would be a barrier itself, which my idea would be to remove.

Open ended RPGs tend to use something called level-scaling to overcome this problem. This basically means the levels of the enemies you face is adjusted to your own level(s). Two games that come to mind the most are Final Fantasy VIII and Oblivion. FFVIII is pretty linear in progress, yet in an attempt to remove level grinding and focus more on the GF system, they made most of the enemies scale with your party level average, including non-active party members. The power growth from levels alone between party members and enemies isnít 1:1, but tips a lot more in the enemyís favor. So simply leveling will give the enemies a bigger power gap than you and effectively make things more difficult. The GF system is how youíre supposed to gain an edge, but you donít need to be a high level to do that, so staying at lower levels can be more effective.

Well, do I really need to go into detail of Oblivionís level-scaling system when it has already been ripped apart by countless people now? Well, I better put my own spin on it so what I say isnít just a repeat of whatís been said many, many times before. Itís like the game wants to be a RPG, but at the same time, it wants to be an action game where the enemies get stronger while you usually donít to make it more difficult. The previous game in the series, Morrowind, had this to an extent, but not as crazy and getting stronger meant you could still easily crush weaker enemies. On the other hand, due to the open-world, being a low level could effectively lock out certain areas where high level enemies roam. Fallout 3 designed a level range for areas and would lock the enemies in a given area at whatever level you were at when you first entered. KOTOR and Mass Effect seem to make enemies more powerful in the ďchoose your orderĒ areas by how late you visit them or simply level-scaling. Someone might know about that more than I do.

So now, applying level-scaling within this fictional Pokťmon game, you could go wherever you wanted and not worry about fighting something 20 levels above you. However, to what extent would this apply to; wild Pokťmon, trainers, or even gym leaders? They donít have to match the level average of your team, but could say, be levels below or above your team average. Even then, that could pose a problem, because for example, if gym leaders were five levels above your average, that would make a big difference. Level 15 is a lot higher than level 10 compared to 45 to 40. I donít mean that level 15 is 50% stronger than level 10, but the strength gap between levels still are higher early on. I think the Elite Four would be better off remaining untouched, since their meant to be the final test before getting into the Hall of Fame and is supposed to be beaten as the result of your entire journey up to that point. Scaling them based off your level could easily ruin.

Ultimately, an open-world RPG could either still be linear due to your levels being too low in certain areas or level-scaling could be use which can lead one to questioning the point of leveling up in the first place. I think the only real way this could work is if the combat system depends more on skill and strategy than pure power, but thatís something I plan to discuss in a future My RPG Musings. Can a truly open-ended RPG work out without power barriers or broken level-scaling?

Thereís no increased chance of seeing this happen at all because some random guy on a lesser known video game website would like to see this happen more often. Developers wonít look here, see this, and be like ďokay, letís spend at least a year or more changing our game around to be less linear and more open-ended because random Internet guy #193,546,623,284 thought it would be nice to seeĒ. One can dream right?   read

12:18 PM on 10.13.2009

In defense of sexy video game women.

This is by far my longest c-blog yet and also a bunch of pictures to spice up the lengthy word count.

So, there have been a lot of complaints from a lot of women and even quite a bit of men that many female video game characters are merely sex objects. There are largely two extremes here at work, one being what I just mention and the other being mostly the stereotypical horny teenage male that indeed do view and treat women merely as sex objects and not people. Most people that regularly talk about stuff in gaming industry tend to of course, be on the first end like Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation fame. I had it with the two extremes at work here and Iím sick and tired of the same arguments coming up over and over without any counter-arguments that I see are valid. Are some of these complaints valid or are most of them just overblown from America society that has a very love-hate relationship with sexual content? For the most part, I felt like I only read and seen stuff from a few people like Moviebob of Game Over Thinker fame that isnít like ďsex appeal is horrible, periodĒ like what I mostly see from the gaming community. However, since this is coming from the view point of a heterosexual male, that could be a big factor in how people react to this c-blog. Maybe if I were female this would be yet another rant against such aspects, but not all women are against the mere concept of sex appeal woman. Even way, it would certainly be a big difference in reaction. The standard viewpoint is that if a woman in gaming has sex appeal, sheís automatic being objectify, a bad role model, has horrible character design, and more. In this view point, the people designing them are nothing more than misogyny pigs. Now there are examples of women that basically have little character beyond being sex symbols, but it seems like thatís all thatís being focused on. Maybe itís not so much that women are being designed with sex appeal, but how itís done. Iím also not quite able to use the argument that ďthese women are in control of their sexualityĒ since these are fictional characters developed in most cases by heterosexual men and itís not like these characters act on their own. Since those people who view women merely as sex objects are already pretty much debunked, Iíll focus my attention more on ďsex appeal is bad!Ē thatís quite common. There are various arguments related to this and Iíll organize them in such a way that should make it much easier to read than simply by paragraph after paragraph.

ďThose women look unrealistic.Ē

Letís make this clear right away that people tend to complain about women being unrealistic only if they look unrealistic and not if they can perform unrealistic feats. Nevermind if they can perform inhuman feats or even have superpowers, how realistic a woman is in this case depends solely on how she looks. Even then, there wouldnít be complaints about them looking unrealistic attractive if they are done in a clearly unrealistic style, like anime, but only if its unrealistic sex appeal. Why is it that women have to look realistic anyway to be considered good characters? The actual reason for the complaint is that the person believes the woman to be objectified, but instead of directly addressing that, they indirectly address it with arguments like this which when used by themselves, I see quite flawed and invalid. I can see this argument only being valid if the characters are supposed to look realistic, but the females have Barbie figures while the males much more closely match real men. Even then, many ďrealisticĒ settings are only semi-realistic. Even in games where the characters are supposed to be everyday people, they will still realistic be attractive to an extent.

Video games, much like other media, tend to be fantasy and idealized. Now granted that video games tend to be largely male fantasies, but they are fantasies nonetheless. Sure women tend to wear revealing outfits in settings that logically wouldnít be logical, but this is why itís fantasy and not reality. Itís almost like the factor of the males being idealized is almost completely forgotten about. There are still male video game characters here and there that donít quite look realistic. I know there is a clear difference between how males and females are designed and marketed, which Iíll get to that.

ďMen donít get objectify.Ē/ďMen donít commonly run around half naked.Ē

There are different standards for what people find attractive and sexy between men and women. Men also tend to be much more horny then women. Itís not like you can have a guy run around wearing little more than underwear and expect the majority of women to like him the way it is vice versa. Men tend to like to see bare skin more for what they find attractive then women. Itís also much easier and acceptable to show off womenís breasts then a guyís penis, which is not quite as easy to imply like it is to show some cleavage. Women tend to have more complex standards for what they find attractive than merely showing skin. In lists made by women of most attractive male video game characters, I see more variety in those and actual appearance plays a much smaller role compared to their personality. Thatís not to say Iím gonna stereotype myself and act like men only care about how a woman looks. How exactly would you objectify a man anyway? I donít mean that question in an ďitís not possibleĒ way, but would that work out? If men would put in the same sexual roles as women, would female gamers take much of an interest? Thus far, I only saw sex-crazed female fans in yaoi fandoms that do easily get on if a guy looks attractive and is shirtless or less.

ďThere needs to be more balance.Ē

What if women were in charge of developing games instead of men? While there would be far less women designed to be sexual appealing, they would still be attractive and designed to look beautiful and cute. People as a whole tend to want to feel like better people than they are and looking that way is one of those aspects. If people can put themselves into a fantasy setting, how many would intentional make themselves ugly? Even if women were to go wild with their sexual desires like how men tend to do now when developing games and such, there would likely be a lot less sexual content. How many women get on from the following image?

While it would be pretty rare, they may be a character or two every now and then that does look like the same fantasy woman that a man would have designed. On the other hand, I wonder what the results would be like if gay males were put in charge of developing some games.

ďFemale gamers are unable to relate to these characters.Ē

One of the most common complaints is that female gamers are unable to relate to the women in gaming, which is mostly solely on how they look. Even if we move past appearance, most male gamers are unable to relate to the men in gaming as well, at least directly. In the average game, youíre often a guy performing feats that you would be hard pressed to do in real life. How many men can kill hundreds of people, run and jump without getting tired, keep on going regardless of how injured they are, and more? I donít know about you people, but I donít want to be able to relate to a video game character in most cases. If I could relate to them, they wouldnít be able to even remotely perform cool feats at all. Unless my whole argument is invalid if people are talking about relating to the personality of a game, but even then, these complaints are still largely based on a characterís appearance. Even in games that allow you to create a character and even import your face in, youíll still likely be doing stuff thatís far beyond what you could do outside the game. Itís not like there isnít quite a bit of male power fantasy male characters whose personality basically comes down to ďRIP AND TEAR!Ē even if developers try to hide it better these days.

Now Iíll get to men in games that are idealized. Look at the majority of the games out there these days with male lead characters. Characters like Kratos and Marcus Fenix may not look handsome, but they are still idealized and are very built. How many men are built like them? How many people are complaining that they look unrealistic or are expected to be like them? Even for male characters not designed to be male power fantasies who are pumping muscles throughout their body, they are still idealized. If you were to go outside and look around or check out the Average Joe on TV, how many are slim and fit like various video game characters? How many lead characters are just Average Joes in appearance? The rule and not the exception is that men are idealized as powerful while women are idealized as attractive. How many games do you play as men who are not empowered in some kind of way? Other than some exceptions like many survival horror games, not so much. Now Iím not in any way saying that being designed to be powerful is even remotely similar to being designed to be merely sexy, but I could spent awhile going on about that, which I wonít go any further about that here to still focus on the sex appeal of female video game characters. However, outside of empowerment, I like to make a quick mention about how Japanese games and anime tend to feature pretty boys as their idealized males, especially since itís rare for a male lead character to not be a pretty boy.

ďFemale gamers lack good role models.Ē

Finally, people have complained about the lack of female role models in gaming, but do they really think many modern male ďheroesĒ in gaming are role models? Can you only have a role model of someone of the same sex as you? Are there no male characters that females can view as role models and vice versa? If an anti-gamer complained that video game characters are bad role models for children, how many characters can we show them to prove them wrong for higher rated games? Considering the nature of games, many games are not focused on moral lessons and such are possible not the best media to look for role models.

ďAlyx Vance and Jade from Beyond Good & Evil are positive role models.Ē

These two ladies are given so much praise because they look realistic. Now Iím not denying that they very well indeed may have strong character, but this mostly only gets brought up because of how they look. If they were designed with more sex appeal, but otherwise had the same personality, they would not be considered good role models. How many female characters that are considered sexual appealing have ever been considered a role model from the same people that consider Alyx and Jade role models? Now Iím not gonna invalid my own argument and do the opposite by acting like a female character canít be ďgoodĒ if they donít have sex appeal, but itís just that a lot of it still comes down to judging by appearance. There have been people that even blamed the poor sales of Beyond Good & Evil due to Jade not being a sex symbol.

ďPeople focus too much on the sex appeal of female video game characters.Ē

Itís a common complaint that those that like the sex appeal of female characters focus too much on appearance, when those complaining about it are doing the same thing. It may be for different reasons, but they are still judging if a female character is good or not based on how much sex appeal she has. Am I the only one seeing a double standard here or is my argument invalid for one reason or another?

Itís like if a woman is designed with sex appeal, sheís ultimately a bad character who solely appeals to horny heterosexual males. Itís like sex appeal is always a negative trait and if a woman has it, anything positive about her is thrown out the window. Itís like it comes down to the two extremes of ďstrong and little to no sex appealĒ or ďsexy bimbo with no character otherwiseĒ. Even from what I gathered on say, the Rev Rant on Sexy Heroines, itís just one or the other. Itís like thereís this black and white thinking that applies to a lot of subjects with little to no room for gray middle ground and sex appeal is largely one of those.

ďWomen are under pressure to look like these fantasies.Ē

So once again, I know, Iím a heterosexual male, so what do I understand about this? There is no way I can deny that far greater pressure is put on women than men to look attractive. On the other hand, itís almost like itís being ignored that men donít have pressures put on them too when it comes to appearance, although to a lesser extent. Men and women are pressured to not appear fat, for example. Is it really worth being with or making an attempt to impress someone that judges what people should look like based on fantasy? Men who expect their women to look like perfect models are mistaken and so are women who expect themselves to look like that. Seriously, do there not exist women who realize that they donít have to crater to rare or impossible body types? Are we saying that women are too weak to not try to crater to idealized standards and spend thousands of dollars in the process? Itís almost like peer pressure in a way. While Iím not quite able to relate to the peer pressure of appearance, I can when it comes to other things, like when I was in high school and decided to not want to be a part of the stupidly of most of the students there. I much rather be an outcast than crater to such narrow standards. Life story aside, maybe itís long overdue for many women to do the same for impossible body standards.

For you ladies, if a guy doesnít want to be with you because you donít look like a supermodel, he just did you a favor. I say that because is it really worth wanting to be with someone that judges you that much by impossible standards? All those stereotypical teenage boys online who act like real life women should look like those in the media is just saving you time in not trying to become friends with them. They basically show how narrow they are in a pretty quick way.

ďSex appeal can rule a manís judgment.Ē

I am fully aware that males can easily focus on sex appeal to the point of losing focus on other things. I do know that simply appealing to sexual desires is enough to sell a product and otherwise hardly put any effort into it. However, just because a game with sex appeal and horrible game play is panned by critics doesnít always mean the developers focused more on sex appeal then game play. It also doesnít mean that developers canít make a good game with a sexy heroine.

Itís easy to say a game like X-Blades has horrible game play simply because of the sex object that is the heroine and that the developers may have focused more on that then anything else. This same argument has been used for games with high production values in graphics as well that get panned. Not that Iím here to defend that game, especially since it sounds like a case of ďsex object with little characterĒ and not ďstrong character with sex appealĒ. It also doesnít help that action games with strong focus on sex appeal tend to do have horrible game play and the opposite is the exception.

The developers of Bayonetta are certainly not trying to hide the fact that the lead character has sex appeal, but at the same time, it also appears that they actually care about making the game play remarkable. They appear to be going by game play before sex appeal instead of vice versa. This is just going by impressions and not a review of final product itself, a subject I covered in one of my previous c-blogs.

So to quickly touch on something else related to this before this c-blog becomes long enough to publish a book on, thereís games designed mostly to sexual appeal to men like Dead or Alive and the concept of breast physics. Breast physics in general can be a quick way to turn a female character into a sex bimbo. With the two beach spinoffs, especially since they only feature the female characters from the series as playable, itís no secret that the real stars are just a pair of breasts attached to a womanís body, along with the sport they play so the breasts have an excuse to move. Even in this highly sexualize male fantasy; there are some women out there who enjoy playing the games for the dress up factor. I canít deny that the main focus here is the sex appeal and it may very well turn off many female gamers, but this is another aspect of people designing what they like. Just like games designed around shooting because people like that, these games exist because of the people that like sex appeal.

So to wrap this up, there may be a case for women in gaming merely being sex objects and hardly more, but itís almost like a woman canít be sexy and still have strong character. However, if women in gaming being sex objects first and characters second is the main issue, then why not directly mention that instead of using some of these other arguments to indirectly address it? As long as we are sexual beings, this will never stop. However, there is a fine line between controlling it and letting it control us. Somewhere within a subject as complex as human sexuality, I must have completely missed the point somewhere. Even this c-blog can barely touch the surface on a subject this complex and if I keep going, would easily be triple the length or more. It gets longer anytime I go back through it and have more thoughts on the matter. So letís hear the agreements, disagreements, and whatnot.   read

10:50 AM on 10.11.2009

My RPG Musings: The Beginning

I played a lot of games over the years and out of the many kinds of games I played, RPGs were included. I used to love these games and could play them for hours on end. However, as I got older and less OCD about gaming, I started to get really bored of many RPGs out there and for the most part, I donít touch them that much these days. However, I havenít completely given up on RPGs, but it will take a lot for me to get into one nowadays. Iím not here to say ďRPGs suck and should go die in a fire!Ē, but instead, ďhow I think RPGs could be improved because I want to like more of themĒ. Thereís much I could talk about when it comes to these games and how I think they could be better, although Iím hardly the only one. Assuming I donít get too lazy (which is likely), I could talk about tons of subjects like level grinding, drop rates, missable items, linear progress, ultimate weapons, element based weaknesses, and more. I think Iíll just start off from the beginning, as in the beginning of the games. I donít think this has been talked about as much as many other aspects of RPGs.

RPGs can have a bunch of weapons, spells, various party members, and more. However, at the start of the game, you may be stuck with one or two party members and limited to just attack and using potions every now and then. Often, I tend to dread the beginning of a RPG the most, at least if I play it for the second time, because there tends to be little strategy thatís made up of mashing attack and using a healing item every now and then. Sure it usually gets more complex later, but at the start, not so much. Now, since Iím not here to hate on RPGs, I wonít single them out for this. Oldskool style shooting games where you progressively get better weapons tend to have a bunch of fancy weapons (with limited ammo), but youíll only start off with a pea shooter which I often find boring to use. Racing games will advertise a bunch of fancy cars that can go over 200 MPH, but at the start of the game, youíll end up driving an used car that looked like it survived a couple of whacks and can barely go faster than an interstateís speed limit.

Anyway, Iím the kind of person that likes depth and strategy to ultimately be the deciding factor in battles, not just sheer overpowering through higher numbers. Iíll get to that sooner or later, proven I donít get too lazy. I find it very dull when your entire strategy is just to mash attack over and over and win simply because youíre stronger than what you face. I think a perfect example of this are the Pokťmon games. They have hundreds of Pokťmon and hundreds of moves that can lead to really in-depth strategy thatís more than just winning by sheer power alone (at least in the metagame), but this depth doesnít come till later. At the beginning, you have a level 5 Pokťmon that can only use Tackle (or something very similar) and a basic attack or defensive raising or lowering move. Along the first couple of routes or so, you tend to fight Normal types and Flying types, at which point, are also stuck using Tackle and tend to be level 2 or 3. Basically, the beginning of the game boils down to just a Tackle-fest and you only coming out on top because your Pokťmon is higher level.

Another game I feel that suffers greatly from this is Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. So the series is considered an Action RPG, but a RPG nonetheless. In this game, actions like attacking and casting spells is done through the use of cards. These cards can also be used two or three at a time to combine into more powerful moves (called sleights) then just using these cards by themselves. There are many of these sleights and the game is designed in such a way that you should use these more than the cards by themselves, especially later on. By the end of the game, you can have quite a bit of cards and quite a bit of sleights to mix and match. However, at the start of the game, you have very little options. It basically comes down to just mashing attack and spamming attack cards before you get access to more depth and strategy, even if that strategy is spamming the same sleights over and over. So when I decided to play the game again on Proud (hard) mode, I was thinking that ďoh boy, Iím gonna make these unique decks and sleights so I can do more than spam attack for most of the gameĒ, yet it turns out such options were almost non-existence at the beginning of the game.

I feel that you should have access to a lot more depth and strategy right from the start of the game instead of later on. I donít like having to play about half way or so through the game before I can feel like I have a variety in how I can battle. Just because the story progressive may be linear doesnít mean the battle system has to be too before they decide you can do more than attack. At best, you may be able to cast a basic elemental spell as well aside attack and using a potion. When I talk about variety, Iím also talking more than just ďshould I use Fire I or Fire II that only has a power and MP cost difference?Ē, but thatís another in-depth subject for down the road. When I say more options, I mean starting off with more weapons, spells, and techniques to play off weaknesses and more status effect options.

Of course, there has to be a reason why the developers decided that you hardly have access to most of the techniques at the start of the game. I have a couple of theories on that. My first theory is that they may do this to ease you into the game and not overwhelm you too much, so you may hardly be required to think much at all besides the attack or potion options. From here, they can slowly add more options before suddenly, you have many ways you can win. This can be a way of keeping the difficulty down by not having to worry as much about what you can do. My other theory is that they want to hook you into the game by giving you access to new stuff as you progress. A game tends to be more interesting if thereís new stuff to discover over the span of the game isnít it? The developers figure that aside from story and setting changes, youíll want to keep going to see what new weapon or spell you may discover next that can change how you play, even if slightly. So in a way, itís like ďI know I barely have any options right now, but later, Iíll be able to do all kinds of cool stuffĒ. I feel that this is a long standing trope that I would like a game to break from the norm and give you far more options from the beginning, so even if you replay the game over and over, youíll be able to play it differently by using different strategies.

So how do you feel about this? Do you think the start of a RPG is fine the way it is when you start with very limited combat options or should you start off with more? Know any RPGs out there which give you a greater variety and actual strategy right from the get go?   read

10:43 AM on 10.02.2009

Controllers are NOT too complex. Also Wiimote elitists.

One of the things that I been hearing about a lot, especially with the existence of the Wii, is that game controllers have became too complex. I heard this argument from non-gamers and gamers alike. Iím also aware that most modern games usually throw in a function on every single button just for the sake of doing so as not to have that one odd button that doesnít do anything. However, I think this ďtoo complexĒ thing may be just an excuse, as hardcore elitist as that may sound, especially with such a bold statement as the c-blog title. Sure I may have grown up back in simpler times when controllers had far less buttons on them, but I say a couple of generations ago with the likes of the PSOne and N64, along with 3D gaming in general, controllers didnít get much more complex from there. After all, itís not like controllers look like this (yet)Ö

I think we have gotten a lot better in fact. Remember some of the old controllers back when games were a lot less complex, yet some developers decided to throw in a keypad for some reason?

This is compared to controllers back in the day that had a big joystick and a button or two at most. It got so confusing that many games would come with an overlay for the controller. However, looking at the screen and trying to look at the controller doesnít seem like it would do well for surviving in the game. AnywayÖ

Modern controllers may sound confusing when broken down into a d-pad, four face buttons, two triggers, two shoulder buttons, two analog sticks which also acts as two buttons, two menu buttons, and a home button that this generation added. However, itís about 12 buttons overall, although the d-pad tends to act as four extra buttons in many modern games. The back/select and start buttons are not really used as part of normal game play controls, but usually to open up menus. The left and right analog sticks have largely universe use, like how the right stick tends to move the camera. A/X usually jumps in many games. A/X goes ahead in menus, while B/Square tends to go back in menus. The shoulder buttons on the right tend to shoot in most 3rd and 1st person shooters. Pressing down the left analog stick in many FPSs will duck while pressing down the right stick tends to zoom in. Basically, there are many standards across games and itís not like the buttons act completely different across any given game.

Many modern games tend to start off with some sort of controller tutorial which is often done through showing you what buttons do what. Itís also a standard to often show you what button to press like when in front of a weapon to pick up or something to press. They donít completely throw you in the dark about how to control the game. Not to mention the manual explains it and even if the manual isnít on hand, there may be a controls menu in the game itself, although itís not too common to see these days. Either way, we donít need this kind of controllerÖ

My point of bringing this up is that ultimately itís something that will take some getting used to. Of course someone isnít gonna get far if they quit within the first five minutes if they even get far enough to hold a controller. Iíll argue that the keyboard is a lot more complex to master, since there are many keys and the letters are scattered around in a way that would be pretty confusing at first. I know I didnít start off not looking at the keyboard and being able to use muscle memory to know where the keys are at. PC games that are not designed with consoles in mind will usually have many keys do something. If someone can use a keyboard, surely they can easily master a game controller. Now I am fully aware of the difference in that knowing how to use a keyboard is basically a required skill in this computer age unlike using a game controller. Itís not like youíre really gonna run into any setbacks if you donít know how to use the DualShock 3, compared to the many you can run into if you donít know how to use a keyboard.

Another comparison that may or may not be so good is comparing game controllers to musical tools. Both of them (especially the latter) can take time to learn, but can prove to be fun once you know what youíre doing. Now granted that guitars and such are much more mainstream and far more likely to earn you money and become famous than a 360 controller, they both take time to learn in one way or another.

Time to shift gears to another topic about controllers since Iím currently going on about them. One of the things that Iím tired of hearing about is people complaining that people use the Classic or GameCube controller in Wii games that allow them. Brawl and Mario Kart Wii are among two big examples of Wii games that allow a wide range of controllers to be used. Itís like according to these people, youíre supposed to use the Wiimote or youíre missing the point of the console. When I say Wiimote, I also mean the Nunchuk, Zapper, Wii Wheel, or any other attachment that isnít the Classic Controller. Itís like youíre a better person if you have a golden wheel in MKW for mostly using the wheel compared to those that use more standard controllers. Itís like everything can be better with the Wiimote. Now Iím not here to bash the Wiimote, but I am tired of its fanboys that act like itís either their way or the highway.

I think one factor these people overlooked is that the developers offer this as a choice. If the developers didnít want people playing their games with standard controllers, they wouldnít allow the option to do so, simple as that. For one reason or another, they allowed standard controllers to be used in the games that itís possible to do so for. If they really thought that the Wiimote should be the only way to play their game, than they would have made it so. Maybe they think that not every game needs to use the Wiimote to the full extent just because the game is on the Wii. It would be like complaining that every DS game doesnít make heavy use of the touch screen or the mic. Whatís the point in raging against players that choose to use an option enabled by the developers? In complaining that those who use the GameCube controllers are hardcore elitists, these people have become hardcore elitists in their own way by acting like the Wiimote is the only proper way to play a Wii game. The hypocrisy of this is pretty painful to me.

So to sum up everything, people that complain controllers are too complex should give them a chance first instead of just dismissing them altogether. Also the Wiimote-only elitists are just fighting a pointless battle as far as I can see it.   read

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