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2:23 PM on 12.21.2012

The Rise of CSR Racing

Iíve been ignoring mobile gaming for a while now. After testing it out last year when I first got my IPhone I had dismissed it out of hand. With the exception of a few games, mostly made by traditional game makers like Epic and SquareEnix; everything I played felt derivative. I dismissed mobile gaming because I felt that it would never rise to the level of quality that we see in console and pc gaming; that weíve longed for and only rarely saw in handheld games like The World Ends with You for the DS. With the barest of exceptions mobile games have always felt like businesses first with a secondary, far smaller concern that they be fun. Enter CSR Racing.

CSR Racing was a game I hadnít even heard about until my younger brother talked about playing it. As with most things, I tucked it into the back of my mind, and turned to other things. Then last week I was reading an article about mobile gaming from; it was talking about how CSR Racing had made 12 million dollars its first month. I wasnít exactly pleased that the most important idea the panel was taking was how much money the game had made, but it was a panel about the monetization of digital games. To be fair, the article did mention that CSR was a new kind of game, and that it was necessary for it to make money, and a lot of it, unless mobile gamers wanted a return of me-too word games and copy cats.

From the moment I pressed the tab for CSR Racing, I was taken aback. CSR racing is prettier, better made, and cleaner than 95% of the games on the mobile market. Itís akin to playing Epicís Infinity Blade for the first time. The game is impressive any way you cut it. It plays well, it sounds good, and for a person such as myself who traditionally stays away from racing games it was fun, kinda. NaturalMotion Games and Boss Alien the companies behind CSR Racing, made sure that the money side of the game was akin to putting more quarters in the arcade machine. Much like the arcade days of old, if youíre good enough and patient enough you can play the whole game without spending a dime, but if you want things to go quicker and smoother you pay a little money. And there lies the rub.

I cannot deny that what NM Games did with CSR is amazing, and worthy of praise, that they are also making boatloads of money is good for mobile gaming as a whole. But I was left thinking after playing the game for a few days that it never really felt like a game. I was playing it and getting into it; but was it a game or was it a business? Itís unfair to believe that mobile gaming is going to catch up in a few years what took console and pc gaming decades, but I wonder if the fact that making money is the primary focus of mobile gaming is hurting the industry.

Whatever happens, mobile gamingís success or failure is unlikely to adversely affect the gaming industry as a whole. Yet its failure is not likely to bring about good things for the gaming industry either. Mobile gaming needs to succeed as a business, but unless it bothers to make sure that at the end of the day people are enjoying its products as games, I canít believe that the industry has long-term viability. CSR Racing is a better mousetrap; all of the features that rose to prominence in the Facebook era of gaming are here. Fundamentally there is very little difference between this game and one like Mafia Wars. Like a man once told me, Ďmy job is to make the most money while keeping the customer happy and their job is to get what they want for the least amount of moneyí. CSR Racing does it better than most, but itís still not there yet.[url][/url][img]   read

12:10 PM on 12.15.2012

The Old is New Again

Iíve been really enjoying the videos of FFXIV: ARRís alpha testing. I enjoy the old school feel to the game. Itís pretty like only a Final Fantasy game can be, itís also enormous and I canít wait to explore the world that SquareEnix is building. All they need to do is tap into the joy I had playing FFXI and they'd be golden, as least for me. I loved the old Everquest vibe FFXI and FFXIV had. More than anything what I'd really want is a slightly, very slightly modernized take on FFXI. Eleven did so many things well; I hope they stick to their guns on how they wish to make a game. So many times I see games with mashups of the "best" feature of other games, but in trying to collect the best of the best, the game lost its soul; I don't want FFXIV to do that.

Part of what made FFXI great was the challenge and that there were no simple tasks. Solo play was nigh impossible past level 15 or so. Party play was required to get the most gains/time. You had to party because it was embedded deep into every facet of the game. The world was difficult to travel; even at endgame a lot of places were hazardous to your health. Every achievement was a struggle; every gain was magnified by the difficulty in achieving it.

But that was the stick to the carrot, every level felt important, every equipment drop was weighty; it was more than the sum of its parts. All the pieces fit together and the whole made sense, but take them apart and try to combine the best parts of other games and it would have failed miserably. Would we have slogged through those huge dangerous areas, if not for the calm and tranquility of the enormous cities; spaced out just far enough to make each one feel meaningful and relevant rather than a simple waypoint to get to the next one?

As I look forward to FFXIV, I wonder if Iíll miss the story quests of The Old Republic, or the world-building of The Secret World, will I miss the ease of play with regards to Guild Wars 2 or Teraís combat? Often times I hear people talking about old games. They will often complain that games are too easy now, or about questing, grinding, lack of world pvp, three factions, etc.; in my mind it misses the point entirely, if we want to blame someone for the disappearing old days we need only look to ourselves.

The soul of the game has changed. We wanted faster travel, we wanted mounts, and we wanted easier leveling. We wanted rested experience, we wanted faster updates, more gear choices, more appearance choices, and better graphics. We wanted too many things, and when we got what we wanted we couldnít stand the old ways.

Quests became the standard otherwise a game became too much of an ďAsian grindfestĒ. PVP worlds became too much of a ďgankfestĒ because it interrupted our leveling efficiency. We stopped trying to solve puzzles or find hidden treasures; instead we looked everything up on the internet and then cried out about the loss of the magic and charm of the yesteryears.

We threw away the old values because we felt they were redundant and old fashioned without realizing that they served a purpose, without replacing them or covering for them with new ideas, we lost more than we gained in the end. We have become like the mythical Tantalus, made to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree, with the fruit just out of our grasp, and the water always receding before we can take a drink. No game satisfies our hunger, no world is big enough and no combat is good enough, no picture is pretty enough; our hunger for the new is never ending.

Now the old is new again. We have come full circle, FFXIV looks to bring back much of what we have forgotten. In all likelihood, this game will not be spectacularly popular. Gamers have changed and the industry has changed with them. Change happens for a reason; often times it is necessary for survival. Change often happens because the underlying turmoil has been ignored. Instead of a few hundred thousands, millions upon millions play MMOís; and there is even more untapped potential sitting on the sidelines. In six months or so, the game will launch people will be happy about the impressive graphics, just as they wonít be impressed by the refusal to totally modernize. Theyíll talk about a plethora of features from other games and how FFXIV doesnít have them and so has been passed by. And they may even be right for a majority of gamers. Not every gamer wants the fight to be difficult and the battle to be hard won. I for one will be looking at the soul of the game and hoping to see an old friend. Perhaps a rebirth of the old is just the kind of change the industry needs.[img][/img]   read

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