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9:59 AM on 06.20.2008

ATTN Toronto Area: Free VGL Show Saturday!!



Hey guys, just wanted to give a heads up to all the GTA DToiders (Not THAT GTA... the Greater Toronto Area!)

Tomorrow (Saturday, June 21st), FutureShop is holding a gaming event at Dundas Square. From the sounds of it, it's just an all-day Guitar Hero competition with a FREE Video Games Live show at 8:30pm.

If you like game music, and don't know what VGL is, check it out!!! You don't know what you're missing!

Quick and dirty:
What: All-day gaming event hosted by FutureShop
Where: Dundas Square in Toronto
When: All day, VGL show at 8:30
Who: The VGL guys, FutureShop gaming exerts (I lol'd), Microsoft, Nintendo,

Full details from the VGL website here.   read


12:31 PM on 11.23.2007

PS3 Has No Games! No More!

I want to start this post off by saying that I'm not the biggest Sony fan. They were arrogant, banking on the strength of their brand. They never seem to speak the truth, and jerk the consumer around with all their press releases and SKUs. Don't get me wrong, the Playstation 3 is a great machine. Not only is it arguably the most powerful current-gen system, but it also has a memory card reader, Blu-Ray player and 1080p video. It works well as a media player when it's connected to the network, you can easily install your own OS on it, easily swap hard drives, and to top it all off, it has a great library of games! Wait.. what?

Ok let me put this a different way... The Playstation 3 finally has a few quality games!

I'm guessing you're either sitting there thinking one of two things:
A) PS3 is teh best system EVAR! It has the best gfx and is sooooo much better than XBox.
B) OMG PS3 doesn't have games. Ur so stoopid, what a shitty system man. PS3 has Resistance and that's it. XBOX 4 LIFE!

Or maybe I'm overestimating your stupidity ;) (iJoke)

What I truly mean though, is that at this point, I think the PS3 is finally worth buying. There's enough quality games out, and the price is lower than ever (if you're ok with a feature-stripped PS3)

With all that aside, let's just get to the games...

Exclusives

Title: Resistance: Fall of Man
Release Date: Nov 14, 2006
Developer: Insomiac Games
Publisher: SCEA
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

Synopsis: The game takes place in a WWII era (in an alternate reality when WWII never happened). A race of weird-looking humanoids appears to destroy the planet. Asia and Europe are a write-off already, and the race of creatures, called the Chimaera, have the UK in their sights. You play as Nathan Hale, an American soldier sent over to help with UK’s reinforcements.

+Great weapons
+Good graphics
+Solid gameplay

-Fight same monsters 95% of the time



Title: Warhawk
Release Date: August 28, 2007
Developer: Incognito Entertainment
Publisher: SCEA
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

About the game: Warhawk, a remake of the game PSX launch title of the same name, is a multiplayer-only futuristic combat game, in the style of the Battlefield or Tribes series. Combat focuses on up to 32 players piloting Warhawks (the game's Harrier-jet-like aircraft) in large-scale acrobatic dogfights using the motion-sensing features of the SIXAXIS controller. However, at any time, players can park their aircraft and continue the fight on foot (using firearms, grenades, knives and surface-to-air missile launchers) or in a ground-based vehicle (jeeps, tanks and a variety of turrets).

+Solid Gameplay
+Sixaxis support optional
+Best multiplayer support seen on PS3

-Multilpayer only



Title: Heavenly Sword
Release Date: September 12, 2007
Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: SCEA
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

Synopsis: Nariko is the main character of the game, a young warrior who belongs to a clan headed by her father, Shen. A prophecy once foretold that a son would be born who would act as a saviour to the clan; with the birth of Nariko, a daughter, the clan have come to shun her, and even go so far as to blame their misfortunes on her. After King Bohan launches his destructive tirade to find the Heavenly Sword that the clan protect, Nariko decides to wield it herself as a final act to avenge the people who sacrificed themselves fighting to defend it.

+Solid Gameplay
+Great graphics, facial animations, voice acting and motion capture
+Interesting Sixaxis implementation
+Amazing Cinematic experience

-Particularly short



Title: Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
Release Date: October 23, 2007
Developer: Insomiac Games
Publisher: SCEA
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10 and Older)

Synopsis: It's no coincidence that Insomniac Games has both of their games for PS3 on this list. They are great developers, and consistently deliver high-quality titles. Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is no exception. It's the best in the series to date, and one of the best PS3 titles available, AND has some of the best graphical capabilities seen in a video game to date.

+Solid Gameplay
+Amazing Graphics
+Interesting Sixaxis implementation
+Lots of fun weapons

-Taking advantage of pickups and upgrades makes the title a little easy



Title: Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
Release Date: November 19, 2007
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: SCEA
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

Synopsis: A 400-year-old clue in the coffin of Sir Francis Drake sets a modern-day fortune hunter on an exploration for the fabled treasure of El Dorado, leading to the discovery of a forgotten island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The search turns deadly when Nathan Drake becomes stranded on the island and hunted by mercenaries. Outnumbered and outgunned, Drake and his companions must fight to survive as they begin to unravel the terrible secrets hidden on the Island.

Uncharted is a mix between a 3rd person shooter, adventure, and 3D platformer. Some people say the controls don't feel right, but I disagree. They are tighter than your 13-year-old sister. The only problem I had was switching from Gears of War to this, very similar (yet completely different) control scheme. The graphics are great, and the AI is the best I have seen to date. The voice acting, once again, is superb. This is the first game in a long long time that had me playing in anticipation of the next cutscene.

+Solid gameplay
+Great graphics
+Interesting Sixaxis implementation (this seems to come up a lot)
+Amazing cinematic experience
+Great AI
+Exciting, engaging story

Keep in mind that these are just exlcusives for PS3. If PS3 is your only system, there is still plenty of cross-platform goodness to try out.

Well that about wraps up my list. It may not rival the XBox 360 library yet, but there's already a great variety in the titles on the PS3. From cartoon platformer, to realistic adventure, to shooter and back. Sure, I may have left a couple games off, and maybe you don't think a game deserves to be up there, but it's up to you to deal with that :P

Some (not all) of the synopsis' were copied directly from either Moby Games or Wikipedia   read


8:15 AM on 11.13.2007

Hurry Up And Wait (in the cold)



Bad news for all of us Canadian wanna-be rock stars. Rock Band is going to be delayed in Canada until December 17th.

"MTV Games, which owns Rock Band developer Harmonix, has confirmed to Shacknews that Canadian stores will not receive any version of the musical supergroup simulator until December 17."

There's a little speculation over the reasons for the delay. While speaking with a PR Rep from Harmonix, The BBPS uncovered that the Canadian version may take a little longer, because of special packaging regulations.

Americans need not worry but Canadian gamers might want to look out for this one. Currently the dollar value in Canada is nearly equal to the penny as the American dollar, but the Canadian price point is still in the air for Rock Band. While we’re hoping it will be around the $170 mark, Canadians may need to pony up more– but we couldn’t get a definite answer to support that. However, because of packaging regulations in Canada the release of Rock Band may see some small delays to go north of the border. Canadian standards force all packaging to come in both English and French-Canadian, and this issue- coupled with shipping quantities to Canada- may delay the release in the Great White North. Our advice? Drive south until you see a sign that says GameStop.

Whether or not this is the real reason for the delay, I'm sure Harmonix would love to split up the releases a bit, supplying this demand might be a tough one.

The game is still scheduled for release on November 20th in the United States.

Shacknews   read


8:15 AM on 10.19.2007

Are you getting the most out of your DS?



The Nintendo DS is a sweet little machine. It can handle 2D and 3D graphics, has 2 screens; one which is touch-sensitive. The Lite version of the handheld fits easily into your pockets (unless you're emo, in which case your pants are probably too tight to even fit your hands in your pockets). All this potential, and what do 95% of us do? Play commercial games on the bus, and then put it away. What if you could use the sexy little funbox as a video player, audio player, SNES and NES emulator, and play commercial ROMs on it, as well as much, much more? What if you could do all this without ever opening, flashing, soldering etc. . . your DS? It's as simple as inserting a special cartrige into the Slot-1 cartrige slot! Read on to find out all about how to go about turning your Nintendo DS into a very versatile tool! I'll list some information about what it is, how it works, and what my favorite programs are for it!

So what is this IT we're talking about?
The R4DS is a special cartrige that will allow you to load files off of a microSD memory card. It comes with a popular media player called Moonshell which will allow you to watch videos, view images, and play music files. (There are several other similar cartriges out there, the R4 is simply the one I picked up, and so it is the one I will mention here)

R4DS Homepage | DS Flash Cart Reviews
- Runs clean ROMs from the MicroSD directly, so there's no need to patch any ROMs first
- Supports trimmed ROMs to save space on the MicroSD card
- Supports multiple ROMs
- Uses MicroSD cards which allows up to 4gb of storage
- Exactly the same size as an original DS cart
- The R4 doesn't require the DS to be flashed
- R4 operating system and firmware are easily updateable via files on the MicroSD card
- Built in moonshell to play music
- Supports homebrew support without any patching
- Allows booting to slot 2


Moonshell: Homepage | Tutorial



Moonshell is a simple OS-like application that handles several forms of media. When you first boot into moonshell, you will see a directory listing, showing the contents of the memory card that is currently inserted in the R4 cartridge. You can open text files, view images, watch videos, and play audio files. Here are the supported file types:

Video: DPG video files.
Audio: MP3 / OGG / MOD / SPC / MDX(no PCM)/ GBS / HES / NSF / XM / MIDI / low bit rate AAC
Images: non-progressive JPEG / BMP / GIF / PNG images

To view videos, you're going to have to convert the video file you want to watch into a DPG (DS MPEG). It's kind of a pain in the ass, but if you want to watch videos on your DS, this is how you have to do it. Moonshell comes with a set of tools that will allow you to convert your files into DPG. Once that is done, just drop 'em on your memory card. The moonshell tutorial contains a section on how to convert and watch videos.

ROMS
Once your R4 is set up, not only can you launch Moonshell to do all that neat stuff with your media files, you can also load Nintendo DS ROMs. The R4 has an impressive compatibility with commercial ROMs, and will even run WiFi multiplayer. It can play almost any game perfectly, but there is an issue in certain games with download play (Mario Kart DS, Super Mario 64, New Super Mario Bros.)
I think I need to add a little note here: Don't pirate DS games! Although if you do pirate DS games, all Nintendo will say is: "Oh, that's ok, we don't need your money anymore, WE'RE RICH BITCH!"

With that aside, you might be thinking: "Why have an R4 if you're not going to pirate games for it?" There are tons of other features I will list that the R4 can handle, but in terms of playing commercial ROMs, there is the benefit of not having to bring multiple game cartriges with you when you go out with your DS. Just load up the flash cart with the games you want to bring! You can download imports, or games you simply cannot seem to find at retail (or at an online store). Another great thing we can do is play homebrew software!

What's Homebrew? Wikipedia: Homebrew (video games)
Homebrew is basically user-created software. All homebrew for the DS will come with a .nds file. This is the file that you need to launch from the R4DS(kind of like a .exe file on a PC) There is plenty of homebrew software for the DS out there. Everything from games, to email clients, to emulators. Read on to find out about the stuff I am currently running, or am planning on checking out very soon.

SNEmulDS Homepage
SNES Emulator for the DS. The emulator isn't perfect, but the newest release fixed my major problem: the option to scale the SNES image to fit the DS screen. (it uised to clip the top & bottom) All there is to it is dropping SNEmulDS.nds and your SNES ROMs onto the memory card and launch SNEmulDS. I have had limited problems with my game freezing, but I have just upgraded to the new 0.6a version, so we will see if that continues.

nesDS Homepage
This is a port of the PocketNES emulator for the GBA. It seems to work perfectly for me. Not much else to say: it's a NES emulator that runs on your DS. Simply drop the nesDS.nds file and some ROMs onto your memory card and launch nesDS.

ScummVM DS: Homepage
So you like those old school point-and-clicks eh? Well you are going to LOVE this.



"ScummVM is an interpreter that allows you to play many point and click adventure games from the 80s and 90s on modern computers. I didn't write ScummVM, that honour goes to the ScummVM team. ScummVM runs games from Lucasarts that were created using the SCUMM system (hence the name) but it has also been expanded to run games from many other developers too. ScummVM is written in portable C++ and has been ported to many differnet platforms, and I have made a port of it to the DS. This means that you can play all these classic games on the DS with full sound."

AmplituDS Homepage



If you have never played Amplitude for PS2, then just go do it. Harmonix made it, it had sweet music, and took the rhythm game to a whole new level. (Harmonix: creators of Guitar Hero and now Rock Band). AmplituDS is a project that is currently in it's third release, and still being developped. It is basically a recreation of the original Amplitude, but for the DS! It has completely original graphics and music, but everything in the game is based off Amplitude. If it was a commercial game I would criticise it more, but for a homebrew game it is pretty damn sweet. Check it out!

Stuff I have yet to try out:
Here is a list of stuff that I have either not tried, or haven't used enough to make a good judgement on. Everything on this list comes from "Best of DS Homebrew" lists around the web, so it is very likely good software.

DSOrganize Homepage
An organizer for your DS! Create to-do lists, set events in your calendar, use the file browser to launch other apps, use the calculator, day planner, address book, IRC and web browser!

NDSMail Homepage



This is an eMail client for your DS. It supports the following features:
POP3/SMTP mail server support
RSS/ATOM feed support
simple HTML viewer
multiple account support
SSL support
Settings and Mails are saved to XML files

So do you have an R4? Well you should! There is just so much cool stuff out there for it! This isn't even a complete list, just a few things that I found that were interesting. How do you get one? Order online, find one on Craigslist, or find a "guy who knows a guy". I got mine for $40 CAD, and a 2GB microSD card for $35 CAD. Great investment for what I got. If you have any favorite homebrew apps, leave a note in the comments!   read


9:51 AM on 10.05.2007

Baby, please don't do this to me

Baby, I love you so. Why did you have to do this to me.

I remember the day we met. It wasn't long ago actually, September 25th to be exact. I remember because of all the hype surrounding that fateful day. I went in and there you were. It was as if you were just waiting for me to walk through that door. I got you home and unwrapped you, and ran my hands along your spartan green outer shell, such fine detail, such beauty. It actually sent shivers down my spine. I bought you nice things like Geometery Wars and Bomberman Live. I even got you your very own copy of Halo 3. Yesterday, I came home, and was so excited to see you. I could not wait to turn you on and get into some heavy action. Of course you're always up for some foreplay with the Live Arcade, but every time I try to get you into the mood for some real action, you simply moan and groan and make wierd noises, rejecting anything I try and put inside you. It's reminiscent of my ex-girlfriend's 'headaches' she would always have at the most inopportune of times. I can't really be upset at this point, because I knew the risks of getting involved with a console like you. I've heard countless stories from your past, going through life, breaking hearts at every turn. I just wonder, why me? I treated you so good, baby. Why me?   read


10:13 AM on 10.03.2007

Slow Day? Read A Comic!

Yeah, I guess this isn't the most game-related thing I could post, but I absolutely love Explosm.net's 'Cyanide and Happiness' webcomic. Today I checked and there was a tiny video game reference, so I'm gonna post it for you!



Here's some of my favorites from the past couple months.
http://www.explosm.net/comics/1018/
http://www.explosm.net/comics/995/
http://www.explosm.net/comics/993/
http://www.explosm.net/comics/984/

And the best ever:
http://www.explosm.net/comics/982/   read


2:03 PM on 09.28.2007

To Jack Thompson: Awwwwwwww SUCKIT!

So I'm sure all of you have heard about Jack Thompson, and I'm sure at least a few of you have heard about his 'sting' operations. If you haven't the idea is that he is sending his 15 year old son into stores to buy M-rated games. I'm assuming that he is doing this to prove that stores don't and will not ID customers buying games, and therefore the system does not work and video games should all be burned in the streets.

Well, I went into Best Buy last night and happened to see a copy of God Hand for $25. I have heard about how unique and challenging it was, which means I will likely love it. So we browsed a bit and when we were ready to leave I went up to the cash to pay for my new game. There's an older lady at the counter, she asked me if I found everything ok then scanned my game, and this is what followed:

Cashier: "Are you 17?"

Me: (thinking she was joking) "Yeah"

Cashier: "I'm sorry but I can't sell you this game unless you're 17 years old"

Me: (even more sure that she was joking) "Heh, yah don't worry I'm 23"

Cashier: "Do you have any ID on you? I'm sorry but you don't look 17"

I then proceeded to hand her my driver's license. She checked it, apologized, and sold me the game. I'm not knocking her, because honestly, she's just doing her job. I did think it was pretty hilarious getting carded at the age of 23 for a video game, though.

So anyways, back to the main point. I feel like people will read about JT's 'sting' operations and think that no retailers enforce the age restrictions based on the game's ratings. I figured I would post this to demonstrate that just because you managed to get your kid to buy an M-Rated game, it doesn't mean no one is enforcing anything. (even though I know I will not reach that group of people from here)   read


10:36 AM on 09.14.2007

MMO PVP Whores: Have You Checked Out Fury?

[embed]44298:2343[/embed]
Videos don't play where I work, so I randomly picked one from Gametrailers :S

Well, I somehow completely missed this title, and I noticed that it is being released next month! I'm a little apprehensive to get excited about a game I have heard so little about so close to it's release date, but after reading up on it, I can't help but get a little excited. The game is hard to describe. It has the mechanics of an MMORPG, mixed with the speed of an FPS. Picture WoWs Battlegrounds and Arenas, on speed, then mix in some Unreal Tournament.

Everything in this game was designed around the idea of PVP. There is no huge world to go questing about, collecting items and experience. Instead, you level up to the maximum level (10) by participating in PVP matches. Experience, gold and items are won through PVP matches, even the 'questing' is done during a match. There is a sanctuary, which you can think of as a town. This is where you can interact with other players and NPCs between rounds, buy and sell items, work on your character builds etc. . .

Something neat that they will be doing is working to create competition between servers. You can practice against people on your own server, but if you want the rewards from battle, you will need to do some cross-server fighting. Rewards are given to the winning and losing team at the end of the match, so you won't have to feel like you are leaving empty handed if you lose. Also, they will be using a matchmaking system to try and pit people against equally matched enemies. Rewards will be given to the best players, guilds, and servers on a weekly, as well as seasonal basis, which should help further promote cross-server competition.

There are currently 4 different game modes, or "Warzones":

Vortex
Two teams of 16 players - players must collect crystals from NPC creatures moving in the map and bring them to their base. The Enemy team can steal crystals from your base. The team that has most crystals after a certain amount of time wins.

Elimination
A group vs. group situation, it is a team based version of the Bloodbath where two groups must fight each other to the last man.

Fortress
This game has more in common with titles like Battlefield. Two teams of 32 face off in an epic control point capture mode. Requires team based strategic manoeuvres to conquer the enemy.

Bloodbath
This is a free for all mode with thirty-two players in one arena. Kill more than anyone else and stand victorious at the end.

Next up: Incarnations. Basically this is a character build and item set. You can save up to 255 incarnations, and swap them out between matches. The game limits you to one character per account, but with the ability to save and swap builds at any point it shouldn't be an issue at all. The game also does not have strict 'classes'. If you want to be a healer, you can use your points on healing spells. Here is where the player development gets a bit deeper than usual; you can still add any of the other skills you want to, your selection isn't now limited because you chose 'class: Priest'. Basically, you define your class by choosing your skills, as opposed to defining your class and choosing from a subset of skills.

Business Model
Fury is 49.99, and will be completely free to play. There is an optional $10 monthly fee that will bump you up from 'Hero' to 'Immortal' status. Heroes and Immortals will not have any content-related differences. Every Hero and Immortal will be able to use all items, skills, powerups etc... Immortals simply get some perks. What kind of perks? Enough to make me consider paying the fee (and supporting the developper and future content)

Quick travel in the Sanctuaries and Schools

VoIP talk privileges

One additional Item Roll Slot

Extended “rested gold bonus”

Selling privileges on the Auction House

Priority log-in queuing

Entry into weekly and seasonal Ladders

Personal player battle statistics

In-game Customer Service access

Elite access to the test server to preview new content

In the future, additional features will be added for Immortals such as crafting, player housing, special Clan functionality and lots more.


And for the skimmer, here's a quick rundown of some features of Fury:
PvP combat focused - Every development decision focuses on providing players the ultimate in Player vs. Player experience.

Combat with the visceral thrill of an FPS game, and the strategy and depth of an RPG.

A robust matchmaking system that ensures players always fight opponents of equal skill and experience

Classless advancement system for ultimate flexibility - No more gimping your character or being constrained to a specific set of abilities. In Fury you don't choose a class - you define your own!

A game that provides instant action to catch your attention, and the meaningful depth to hold it.

Realm vs. Realm system with literally dozens of other Realms to fight against!

Ladders and tournaments for clans or solo players to prove their worth.

Over 400 abilities, each with 10 unlockable ranks providing near endless possibilities for character advancement and achievement.

No boring PvE grind - go straight into thrilling PvP combat against human-controlled opponents.

An MMO that you can actually achieve things in during your lunchtime.

Next-generation game built on Unreal Engine 3.

Challenge system for fighting with friends, groupmates or clans, for practice or bragging rights.

Final Thoughts
I used to play a lot of Arenas when I played WoW, and the strategic element was huge. The commitment, however, was equally huge. I had to spend so much time in-game, and I was also raiding at the time, and it was just too time-consuming. The mix of this playstyle, with the idea of timed matches, and a little bit of FPS style and speed is really cool. What is even more exciting is how it looks like it's incorporated a lot of neat things to add tons of depth to the game. At this point, I can only hope th game will turn out as good as it could.

As per my usual disclaimer, this is not comprehensive. I only talked about a few of the things I am excited about, and thought that maybe some other people that may have missed it might have their interest piqued.

MOAR!MOAR!MOAR!!!
Fury Preview: The First MMOPvP(OCMODSHOP)
Developer Friday: Fury Hands-on (IGN AU)
Fury Preview - E3 2007 (Ten Ton Hammer)
New impressions on this massive PVP online game. (1Up)   read


11:46 AM on 09.12.2007

Why Are Games So Easy? Pt. 2



When I wrote Pt.1 to this series, I was talking about how games have evolved from small skill-based games with high scores to more story-driven games with lush worlds and believable characters. Today I will be discussing the difference between the difficulty of a game and the difficulty to complete a game.

What makes a game difficult?
In the early days, sometimes it was actually just bad programming or design that made games difficult. I'm sorry, but I honestly can't think of any examples. I will instead refer to Game Design Essentials: 20 Difficult Games. Here is an example of how bad game design can make a game difficult (not to mention frustrating). In The Adventures of Lolo, a puzzle game, a gameplay mechanic is never introduced to the player before it is needed. The move allowed a player to respawn an enemy to a new location, which would allow the player to continue to the next level.

"It's another example of a puzzle game cheating, when theoretically they should play fair and introduce all the essential elements before they become important. To perform the trick: use two shots to destroy a Snakey, or other shootable monster, then push a block over its original space. Most levels this causes the monster to die permanently when it regenerates, but on a few boards it will instead appear elsewhere, usually in a place it would be impossible to put it otherwise."

Not every hard game was a victim of poor design, however. So I go back to some of my favorite challenging games; when I think of what made Contra a difficult game, there are two things that stand out in my mind: reflexes and chaos. Enemies constantly spawned and charged across the screen, sometimes shooting at you along the way. You couldn't just jump a bullet without first checking your jumps trajectory, as well as your landing area. You couldn't just duck under the bullet either; you might get trampled by a newly spawned enemy right behind you. Then again, get the spread gun and you're golden. Probably a better example of this is the notoriously difficult Ikaruga. The amount of onscreen action that you have to pay attention to is enormous. There are hundreds of bullets flying across the screen (half of which can be absorbed, half of which will kill you. You can change your polarity at any point), and it is really distracting from the rest of the level. You need to be able to focus not only on the bullet placement and colour, but while you do this, you also have to watch out for the environment. Lose track of one or the other and you're toast. Oh, and don't forget to shoot ;)



Another thing that will affect the difficulty of a game is limiting the player's resources. Items, weapons, and time are a few things that come immediately to mind. The fewer resources a player has, the more trouble they will have. A situation where a player has an easy time sitting back and waiting for the right time to strike, picking off enemies one by one can be made much more difficult by simply adding (for example) a time constraint, or by limiting the weapons that can be used. While we're on the topic of limited resources, I feel like I need to say something about regenerating health in games. The mechanic that Halo introduced has invaded the FPS genre to the point that it has almost become standard. I personally love this mechanic and I don't think it makes a game easy by default. Just because you can regenerate health in Gears of War, it does not make you invincible. Rush an enemy on Insane difficulty and watch how fast you die.

My last point about what makes a game difficult, and somewhat of a sidenote, is probably the thing I've missed most in the current age of gaming. A well-designed boss battle. You don't seem to see too many of these around any more, but a good boss battle should contain multiple stages, and each stage should have a different 'trick' to figure out. It seems more and more that we are getting boss fights that are just suped-up enemies. (ps, please post your favorite boss battle in the comments if you have one)

What makes a game difficult to complete?

I'm going to use Adventure Island as my example here. It is a fairly basic platform game. You face very static enemies (always in the same location, generally stationary), and on a per-level basis it isn't overly complex, or even difficult. Add a bit of a twist to the game, and it's a bit harder: stay fed. In Adventure Island, as time goes by, your life slowly depletes. You need to collect fruit to stay healthy. This means that you are now racing through the levels to finish before you die.



Now, a couple very common elements that the game included, that make the game insanely difficult to beat:
No saves. Well, to be honest, this was fairly commonplace at the time. You have to play through the entire game to beat it. Once the power is off, you lose all progress, along with all high scores.

Limited Lives. Once again, fairly commonplace at the time, specifically for games with no saves. In Adventure Island, you start the game with 3 lives. Every 50,000 points will net you another life. This comes out to a little less than one extra life per world.

Limited Continues. Now, most games at least have one to three continues. Adventure Island, however, doesn't allow a single continue. You get your 3 lives at the start of the game, and when you have none left, the game is over. Better luck next time, friend.

So, once again we can see that video games have evolved quite a bit. Games were very short, and relied on the difficulty of the game to keep you playing. Modern games aren't all particularly easy, but overall they are much more easy to complete.

This article isn't intended as a comprehensive resource. The comments are there for a reason, if I missed something, or if you disagree with anything I've said (or if you agree), or even if you want to elaborate, feel free! I'm always open to civil discussion.   read


10:14 AM on 09.06.2007

Why Are Games So Easy? Pt.1



I hear plenty of people talking about how much easier games are these days. Is it true? Well, it's not really that simple of a question. Games have changed so much since they first popped up, it's hard to even compare their difficulty. I think there are many different topics and questions related to the change in difficulty of games.

How have games evolved?
What makes a game difficult?
The state of the video games industry
Casual vs. Hardcore (don't worry, what I mean here is accessibility, and it is tied in with the state of the industry)
Can a game be difficult, yet accessible?
Why aren't there any new retro games?
...maybe more will come to mind as I write

I may or may not come back and write about each of these topics, but for now I'm going to talk about how video games have evolved, and how that has affected the difficulty in games.

When video games first emerged, they were small, skill-based games. There was usually very few game mechanics, and each level simply added something to the same base 'level', whether it be more enemies, upgraded enemies, new movement patterns, 'environmental' obstacles, or any combination of these (and others). I'll use Tetris as example, simly because it's a pretty universally known game. The game barely changes at all from when you first start at level 1. The only change that happens when you get to the next level, from a gamelpay perspective, is that the blocks now fall faster. Often times, games didn't even have an 'end', theu just kept getting harder. The whole point of these games wasn't to 'beat the game' or to play through the story, it was simply to get the highest score you could, and if you were really good, to get on the high scores list.

If you look back at early games, if they even had a backstory it was generally one or two sentences long, just to give the player some sort of context. A shift seemed to take place during the 8-bit era, fewer and fewer games had a score, and more and more games started to take on a more modern approach: You play as the protagonist in a story, and have to fight your way to the final boss to beat the game. As technology improved, video games became more and more viable as a form of storytelling then they had ever been. Today, with the power of the XBox 360 and the PS3, developers are able to create huge, immersive worlds, with lifelike characters. This really allows us a much more in-depth and immersive, and sometimes even emotional experience. Games like Half-Life and Bioshock really set the bar in this regard.

So now we aren't aiming for scores, we want to play through a story and that's all well and good. But just because a game is story-based, it doesn't necessarily mean it must be easy, right? No, it doesn't have to be. This discussion leads to even more questions and topics, specifically accessibility in games, and the state of the video games industry. Will I come back and write about that on another day? Maybe, maybe not. You'll have to wait and see.

Whether you agree or disagree, or have something extra to add that I have completely overlooked, leave a comment!   read


9:15 AM on 09.05.2007

Don't Miss These Games (GC,PS2,Xbox)



I have been making an effort to gather games from the last generation that I never got a chance to experience. You know, the games that stand out in peoples minds as truly amazing games. So I decided I would enlist the Dtoid Army to help my cause. I don't know about every game ever made, so let me know what games I (or anyone else) should make a point not to miss. Feel free to include a game for any reason; from pure fun, to amazing story, to beautiful style. I'll start by listing a couple.

Okami (PS2)
Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)
Killer7 (GC, PS2)
Ninja Gaiden (Xbox)
Metroid Prime (GC)
Viewtiful Joe (GC, PS2)
Eternal Darkness (GC)
ICO (PS2)
Beyond Good & Evil (PC, GC, XBox, PS2)
Psychonauts (PS2, XBox)
Indigo Prophecy aka Fahrenheit (PS2, XBox, PC)
Skies of Arcadia (*Legends) (DC, *GC)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (XBox)   read


12:13 PM on 08.21.2007

BioShock Limited Edition (with pic goodness)

I just skipped out of work for a few minutes and grabbed my copy of BioShock. Good thing I pre-ordered, because not only was the Limited Edition pre-sold-out, so was the regular copy. I put in my pre-order on Friday for the Limited Edition, just in hopes of actually getting one, and lucky me, I did! My copy is still sealed, so I'm just going to go with what's on the rather large box. Included are:

[i]6" Big Daddy Figurine
Behind the Scenes DVD
Original Moby CD: The BioShock EP
Contest-winning cover art by Cult of Rapture Member Adam Meyer[/i]

The only gripe I have is that the game doesn't come in a tin. Still though, one of my favorite Limited Editions so far. (fuck that stupid Halo 3 helmet, but still <3 Halo)

Like I said, she's still sealed, so only box shots for you!

Welcome to Rapture!


Big Daddy wants to screw you


So... should I keep this thing sealed and play my roommates copy? But then I can't put a Big Daddy on my desk :(

Oh noes, life is hard.   read





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