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8:01 PM on 01.13.2009

The Wii: A Successful Failure



Ahh, the Wii... Current market leader, widening the market immensely with its minimalist charm and motion controls. But, yet, for those who are deeply passionate about interactive entertainment are quite apathetic, nay, disappointed in Nintendo's current console. No, it's not the "casual craze" that the Wii and it's portable brother, the DS, has spurred; it is much deeper than that. I know that Wii "bashing" is as popular in "hardcore" gaming circles as gender-bending is to shopping centre-lurkers, but I wish to give a reasoned argument why this is so.

A Revolution It Is Not (The Way We Intended)



Yes, we all know that the Wii was called the Revolution during its development. We also know about the actual gaming revolution such a devise would bring. For once, Nintendo seemed like they weren't talking out of their arses: They were right.

We weren't the intended audience, however.



The revolution I envisioned (and I'm sure many of you did too) was to be one of a Renaissance in gameplay, storytelling and game design. The "Revolution" was meant to be the art house cinema to the Xbox 360 and PS3's Hollywood blockbuster, where our very perceptions and ideals were to be challenged and questioned. Instead, the Wii turned out to be the Martha Stewart of video games: getting impulsive, sheepish soccer Mums to shell out $AU400 just on 5 tech demos that they would only play for 20 minutes.

Anger aside, the actual "revolution" was needed. In order for this medium to be widely accepted as a true art form, the appeal of it had to reach outside the box. In a way, it changed our perception of what is a video game, and our industry is better for it. As for the Renaissance, it's happening - the explosion of indie games on XBLA, PSN and Steam, the gradual advances in emotive storytelling, and the growing respect for IP rights.

It just would have been nice if the Renaissance included changing the way we interact with games...

Bad Infrastructure! BAD



The main offender for deterring the Game Renaissance from the Wii is its creator: Nintendo. Despite what Iwata or Reggie try to make you believe, Nintendo hasn't changed a bit. They are still arrogant, close-minded and extremely paranoid. The Wii is what it is only because the GameCube wasn't a big enough success. Sure, they made profit, but not as much as they would have liked.

Nintendo are the radicals of closed-platform ideology. They love control, and they want it to stay that way. For such a different machine like the Wii, the only way to keep it "safe" was to implement poor infrastructure. A insufficient flash drive, a storage solution that is cumbersome, an online "service" that borders on inanity. Why bother putting stuff like that when you can retain profitability? Sadly, Nintendo are right in this regard. However, this does not bode well when one wants to develop for the Wii, especially third-parties.

What if Sony or Microsoft came up with the Wii? Would their approach be radically different to Nintendo's?

LTTP: Third-Parties



Third party support for the Wii leaves a lot to be desired. With barely any solid exclusives and woeful ports, one must think "What the fuck, guys?!" Sure, Nintendo make good games, but that doesn't mean you can't make some of your own! There is a reason why third parties are so neglectful when it comes to the Wii:

It caught them with their pants down.



All the big players put their money on a bloody duel between the 360 and the PS3. No one wanted (or expected) Nintendo to bother after the mediocre life of the GameCube. Yet, Nintendo won a new market with a device leveling the playing field. Publishers don't understand it, developers are conflicted to try something new on weak hardware. Only the likes of SEGA, Capcom and EA have actually given the Wii some respect. Still, the majority of developers want to push visual, audio and online over "gimmicky waggle", and shovelware seems to keep most of the publisher's shareholders happy (which is a shame).

Leaving Them Half-Way



Nintendo's software efforts on the Wii have been solid, if a bit shallow. They have opened the eyes of millions to a new form of entertainment with the likes of Wii Sports, Wii Play and Mario Kart Wii. But, with any medium, tastes mature. Once a kid becomes a teenager, they want to pick up a skateboard instead of an action figure. Nintendo are showing people the door, not the path.



No, I'm not saying that Wii Sports is childish (Wii Bowling is fun on wheels). What I am saying is that there isn't much choice for expanding one's gaming taste and skill once the Wii Sports training wheels have been lifted. Yes, there is Metroid Prime 3, No More Heroes, Okämi and Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Nintendo (or, better still, the third party developers) have to expand the experience, or Nintendo will lose another audience, just like they did when the Playstation hit the world stage.


The Wii has so much potential, and that's its problem. Sad to say, it will never reach it, unless Nintendo start to LEGITIMATELY embrace change and quality third party developers start treating the system with the respect it deserves.   read


5:51 AM on 11.17.2008

Have a Dtoid stencil!

I know my last post was about my graffiti exploits at college, but since getting the actual stencil was such a bitch to get up (thank you Apple!), I have decided to make another post solely for the purpose of posting the JPEG of the stencil...



If you want the original Illustrator file that I composed this stencil from, give me an email at [email protected]

Again, I am sorry about this screw up.

My next blog post will definately be about my criticism on the Wii.   read


4:54 AM on 11.12.2008

UPDATE: Tagging it Dtoid Style (plus a shout-out to my QANTM comrades!)



Note: This blog has been delayed somewhat, due to my neglect. My apologies - Mitch

Around a month or two ago, I was commissioned by my Design lecturer at college to design a stencil using Illustrator (was fun! *cough*). So I decided to do what was the only natural choice: the Dtoid logo!!



Yes, I am pushing our message around! So if you're walking through the stairwell of SAE Sydney Campus, look for my mark!

There were a variety of others made, but seeing as this is a video game community (and I don't want to swap this page of graffiti), here's two other gaming-related stencils:



This fine work of art was made by fellow Dtoider M3RCUR1. As you can see, it is full of win... but not as much as the next one...



Created by another college mate of mine (whom, as far as I know, DOESN'T go on Dtoid... Lame, I know), this captures what was awesome about Newgrounds when they still advertised Hentai to 13 year old boys.

ALSO, is anyone here a student (or former student) of QANTM College? If so, give me a yell! It would be grand if we can share our QANTM stories!

Next time: Mitch bitches about the Wii (in a reasoned and well-versed manner)


UPDATE!!! Here is the original stencil as requested by Niero (converted to JPEG for convenience)

UPDATE #2: Gah, I just realised the file is much too big, and I cannot save the resized version for some bizarre reason. I will try to fix this when I get home from work tonight. My humblest apologies.

UPDATE #3: I HAS IT! Below is the down scaled, Internet-friendly copy of the original stencil. Enjoy!



Sorry about the hassle when it came to this, I should never use a Mac and Illustrator together to get such a thing done, it's a shitty combo.

Email me at [email protected] if you want the Illustrator file (for better quality)   read


6:36 AM on 09.08.2008

The Shortcomings of Narrative-Driven Games (And What Can Be Done About It)




Ever since interactive entertainment became reality, game developers and publishers have, mostly, tried to reason the existence of the game experience through story and plot. Yes, many of these plots never made any sense (as plenty of these games came from Japan, and localisation has never been a forte of this industry), and many of these games didn't NEED a story to begin with. However, through the flood of melodrama and broken English, there have been games with a strong focus on story and character.


These are the games that manage to stand tall above all others (to the hardcore and game critics, mostly). Their ability to send the player on a trip of immersion and narrative has been steadily increasing over the years, as consoles and PC rigs became more powerful and developers became more skilled with telling a story through their art. However, we do not have ANY great works that can rival the pinnacles of film, literature, stage and composition (yes, I said it). There are four main areas that prevent narrative-driven games from being recognised by the artistic community and the general population as true works of art.


1. All action, all the time





Many of the great examples of the potential of our medium has can be found in the First Person Shooter genre. Say what you will, however it is hard to come by another genre in gaming that comes close to the immersion and ability to convey narrative that the FPS genre provides (and has proven). However, a pit fall of most games in the genre (and the expectations on every game that fits the genre) is of constant action. For some, this works beautifully, and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is a remarkable example of that. CoD4 captures the break-neck pace of war, and it even shows a glimpse of the suffering that war provides to those involved.





This steady-flow of action can do harm to the plot. In a civilised, peaceful setting (well, on the surface anyway), carrying a gun around constantly or always walking in an action pose does break the authenticity of the game world and the aura it conveys. Starbreeze realised this when developing The Darkness, breaking up the action sequences with completely interactive "assertive" gameplay. The scene in which the main character, Jackie, watches television with his girlfriend by his side is a brilliant example of how games can convey the human experience without throwing a gun in for the sake of "gameplay". While not perfect, The Darkness needs to be scrutinised by fellow game developers. They could learn a bit from Starbreeze's ability to make the ordinary so natural.


2. Violence "solves" everything





The action genre has always had conflict as part of its core, along with dealing with it through violence, no matter the form. Yet, as we all know, violence doesn't solve everything in the real world (it solves barely anything for that matter). One of the biggest flaws with GTA4 was Niko's craving for redemption, a new life. At the beginning of the game, you really feel for Niko's entrapment in his petty surroundings and circumstance. You know he doesn't want to kill, to steal anymore. But, as the game progresses, he somehow forgot his agony and became amoral and cold.


Perhaps if Rockstar North followed the idea of the free-roaming game, players could of had the choice of redeeming Niko, of bettering himself. Rather than killing his way to rid Roman's debts, Niko could have tried to find a honest living. Most players would still go with the "kill everything until my eyes go red" route, but giving players a choice with how they deal with problems makes a better game.


3. The Separation of Story & Gameplay





A big problem with many games and their developers is the execution of the story. Many look to Hollywood for advice, embracing the method of cutscenes to engage in their story. But you know what most people do with these cutscenes? SKIP THEM! And, as most devs do not even bother trying to put story into the gameplay, the player loses a major component of the game experience. Many have missed out of the gold of the story from the Metal Gear Solid series, and all because of a cutscene.





Rather than make the player a spectator in the story, LET THEM BE THE PLAYER! Bioshock is so gratifying and moving because it emotionally engages the player into the story, making the player feel the rage and sense of betrayal the avatar would feel after being asked "Would you kindly....?" A game becomes more memorable and more powerful if you allow the player to become emotionally invested in the game world and the player they control. No other medium has had this much power in this regard.


4. Are We Not Men?





Drama is one overlooked aspect in the execution of a game's story. Many would comment (and critique) on a game's voice acting, but not on the motion capture/animation.... the body acting. A game character could have the most convincing voice behind it, but if it looks like a limp fish when belting out such powerful prose, you've lost its power. Quality facial animations (Valve have been highlighting this for years with Half-Life 2 and its Source engine), hiring the same person for voice acting and motion capture (GTA4 got this right) and setting out the motion capture as if one was preparing a play (Heavenly Sword used Andy Serkis' theatre troupe for this) helps the believability of a game character. If you treat them like a silly idea, everyone else will too.


So, fellow Dtoids, what do you think? How can the delivery of narrative in games improve? What else is wrong with game narrative? Or, how completely off the mark am I?

Discuss!   read


5:50 AM on 08.04.2008

Follow-Up: Tom Crago Speaks Up About The R Rating Issue and The Horror That Was The Q&A Gaming Discussion



Some might recall my last blog post about my disgust about the lack of knowledge and respect towards the gaming industry, especially on the lack of an R18+ rating (which many of you shared my outrage). I made special mention of the deafening silence of both the Game Developer Association of Australia and the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia, which gave the impression that they aren't doing enough to educate our politicians and law makers about our beloved medium.

Then, Tom Crago, CEO of Tantalus and president of the GDAA, spoke up about the issue.

Say what you will about Crago's company (I don't think highly of it), but his words are a good sign. I'm glad he is willing to fight for acceptance and justice for our freedom of expression. However, having the president of one of Australia's top game industry bodies post a blog on the ABC website isn't the solution. What I pose onto Crago and the rest of the gaming industry is to educate the general public of the issue, of the inconsistencies in classifications (drugs are bad in Fallout 3, but fine in Medal of Honour: Pacific Assault and Max Payne) and the sheer ignorance their elected officials have on the medium.

The GDAA and IEAA must work together with our game publishers, distributors and retailers to have a national advertising campaign breaching all forms of advertisement. The Attorney Generals of both State and Federal level are working on a method to get a public decision on the inclusion of the R18+ rating, so there has never been a better time to get people enlightened on the ridicule that our games industry has faced from the apathetic and ignorant attitudes of conservative politicians.

So, fellow Dtoiders, do you agree with my proposal? If so, is there anything you would like to add to it? If not, what would be a better way to get the wheels turning?

Links:

GDAA: http://www.gdaa.com.au/
IEAA: http://www.ieaa.com.au/
Office of Film and Literature Classification (Australia): http://www.oflc.gov.au/   read


7:20 PM on 07.25.2008

It's worse than we thought (or how Australian politicians have no F*$#ing idea about the importance of an R 18+ rating)

[embed]96918:13472[/embed]

Above is a snippet from the latest episode from a new show on ABC1 called Q & A, where the audience ask questions to politicians and journalists about issues that concern them for Australia and its interests.

Joab Gilroy, audience member and staffer at Gamearena, puts the subject of games classification to the panel, specifically mentioning the recent refusual of classifying Fallout 3 due to using morphine to heal oneself, despite similar functions used in the previous classified Fallouts and other successful games like Half Life, The Chronicles of Riddick and BioShock.

What comes next is nothing short of horrifying.

There was the typical "mother of three finds this stuff horrifying for my children, so NO ONE should have it" courtesy of Heather Ridout, Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group. I love it how she thinks that the likes of Rockstar North must be deranged for making an interactive work of art with carjacking involved, yet neglects to mention the likes of the Godfather and the Goodfellas, which both influence GTA, but are considered highly respected works of art. Annoying, but expected from Heather.

We also had our "interactivity in art equals replication in the real world" viewpoint from incoming independent senator Nick Xenaphon, stating that "I think we have to listen to the psychologists who've looked at these sorts of things, and this is different in the sense that its interactive, people get immersed in these type of games, and I think that there is a real risk, I think as a society we can live without it." Ironic that in 1995, an Australian government-commissioned report found little evidence that in-game violence breeds real-life violence.

The most shocking thing from this is as follows: Most of the panel DIDN'T EVEN KNOW WE HAD A RATING SYSTEM FOR VIDEO GAMES!!

Yeah, I'm pissed that those with even remote power about freeing the juvenile shackles on our beloved art form are clearly clueless and have no respect for a billion dollar industry. But, they aren't all to blame.

We have industry bodies such as the GDAA and IEAA to represent the industry and its interests, yet through the panel's ignorance, these bodies are clearly failing at getting their message across to those who can make the decision. What is need is education about the rating system, about why games such as Fallout 3 get banned for such trival things yet it is OK to sell something like Gears of War or GTA4 to people below the age of 18, and to strengthen the industry's standing on the Australian stage.

Someone needs to tell the likes of Ridout, Xenaphon and Barnaby Joyce that video games aren't just for children anymore; they're a universal medium not unlike music, film and literature.

At least we can take comfort from the words of incoming Labor Party Senator Mark Arbib: "an R-rating, over the age of 18 is fine,....if you are want to play the game, you are going to get it somehow."



Some links out of interest:

http://www.kotaku.com.au/games/2008/07/watch_how_misinformed_australia_is_about_video_games.html (Yes, it's Kotaku, but it has a letter from a viewer who was as disgusted as I was)

http://palgn.com.au/article.php?id=12305&sid=342ce5ce2c1bb73696a0f62707e42bb9


So, what do you think, fellow Dtoiders? Outrage? Sympathy? A revelation?   read


2:17 AM on 07.02.2008

I do not understand the PS3's success of late...



Note: Mitch makes blog for the first time in a bajillion years (7 months really)

Ever since my mind has been exposed to the Internet, my views towards console gaming has been agnostic. Apart from the Dreamcast (which I couldn't find), I owned all the consoles last gen. I enjoyed them all for their merits and their games. So, when this current generation came up, I tried to go about it with the same open mentality...

But, the PlayStation 3.... there's just something that makes me feel some sort of disdain towards it....

Yes, it had a terrible launch. It was overpriced. Ken Kutaragi and Kaz Hirai sounded like raving lunatics whenever they spoke of the machine. It had no exclusives that made it worth buying a $1000 media centre. Ports were horrible. But, all these things have been addressed (Price cuts, developers are more comfortable with the hardware, Kutaragi has been silenced, etc).

Then, why do I still feel that it's success is somewhat undeserved?

I can see why the other two are where they are. Microsoft were first, so their install base and game library is quite significant. The Wii is something refreshing, allowing many whom were intimidated, for whatever reason, by the medium to actively play games (though the amount of shit on the Wii is unacceptable, but that's for another blog...).

But as for the PS3, there isn't any apparent reason (to me anyway) to buy it over the other two. There's the Blu Ray capabilities, but the HD market is still a niche. Games are generally more expensive than the other two formats (usual RRP in Australia for PS3 games is around $120; the same for the Wii is generally $100, Xbox 360 $100-110) As superb as Metal Gear Solid 4 is (and this is coming from a guy who steers clear from MGS generally), it's only one superb exclusive out of a few OK ones and a couple of duds (Lair and Haze say hai!). In Australia (and probably world wide too), the PS3 is still the most expensive SKU on the market. PS1 and PS2 backwards compatibility is gone from the newer 40 GB models.

Has Microsoft and the whole RRoD fiasco (even though the new Falcon and Jasper chipsets eliminate this problem) pushed heaps of people towards Sony (a.k.a. Jim's Exodus)? Is the whole "Free Online" with the PSN attracting would-be fraggers? Or is it pure brand loyalty, as many would recognise ("I've always been a Sony boy" is used a lot)?

Please, D'toiders, help me understand. Because this baffles me. The PS3 doesn't feel like a console to me, just some hi-def multimedia centre with games capabilites. I really just don't get it why people are buying this over the much cheaper and more varied Xbox 360.

Help!   read


9:14 PM on 11.05.2007

The Rape of Australia (or, the Price of Gaming Down Under)



Ahh, Australia. The Lucky Country. We seem to have the best beaches, cities, animals and obnoxious personalities. However, we aren't lucky with every thing...

Especially when it comes to games.

Sure, we're the annoying niece of the world that has a knack of getting every important people's attention, so we can't have everything that the States, Japan and Europe get with games (fuck, they develop them all, what have Australia contributed? Wow, Fury and a ton of shitty platformers, bravo!) But, lately, we've been gaining from the plight of America's doomed economy.

Yet, we still pay the same old Australian price for games.

Now, this is bullshit. The last time I checked (yesterday, actually), our dollar bought 0.9205 American, yet we are still getting charged up to $AU120 for a brand new game. Ok, so the GST and the rest of Costello's legion of taxes that have plagued Australians for the past 12 years contribute to the higher price. But, that is a small percentage.

The point is: WE ARE PAYING DOUBLE OF WHAT WE SHOULD BE ENTITLED TO! Some might say "Oh, Mitch, stop being a bitch and import like every rad dude like me!". Sure, that's fine for the 2 people who own a PlayStation 3 for more than a cheap Blu Ray DVD player. But what about those who own Xbox 360s? Not every game released is region free, so people are not going to risk buying a game from Europe or the US to find that it doesn't work on their Australian 360.

Then there is Nintendo. Yes, the DS is region-free, but most people who have a DS don't know that. Paying $AU70 retail for a new DS game is a rip and a half, not to mention a pain in this day and age of portability symbolised by the iPod. The Wii is the biggest pain for budget. For a console being marketed as "the el cheapo choice", they sure like to exploit consumers with the outdated game prices, absurd game delays and the criminal (yes, CRIMINAL) region-locking. Oh, and there's the expense of getting 3 extra controllers with all their add ons (and the WiiFit mat and the WiiZapper aren't even out yet!)

I am aware that the avid gaming community is very alert (and furious) about Nintendo's neglect. However, it's not just them, it is everyone. However, I doubt we'll be seeing a gaming equivalent of actions taken by the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead. I just hope that I can make the international community (especially those Canadians! I hear you guys are in a similar position, and your dollar is STRONGER than the greenback!). No wonder people steal games.   read


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