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6:10 PM on 03.14.2011

Goodbye, Dear Friend

For many moons I wandered the harsh landscape of the internet, I've seen things that would make grown men cry - and trust me I'm a grown man who's shed a few tears - but here I stand in front of you the Dtoid community once again. Now years have past since I was last here and wrote anything of substance so I doubt anyone will remember but hey I'm still going to pretend!

Now some of you internet veterans (and some newbs) may remember a little internet tv series called PurePwnage. It followed the life of a "pro gamer" called the_ownerer, known to all and sundry as Jeremy. It was originally a one off idea of the most officious, anti-social gamer you could think of but evolved over about 4 years into a long-form show that mixed humour and drama with some success. For a show on the internet at the time it was revolutionary. It predates youtube and people were streaming a 30-40 minute show en masse.

The show grew and grew in popularity to a point where each new episode, which appeared sporadically due to the amateur nature of the show and actors, was shown for the first time in a theatre in originally Toronto but eventually over several countries. They never failed to sell out these showings which is pretty impressive considered the humble beginnings of the show.

The show was the brainchild of Jarret Cale and Geoff Lapaire - two self professed Canadians - Jarret playing the role of Jeremy and Geoff playing his brother Kyle who is often a source of derision for Jeremy and his compariots. They turned something most kids do nowadays in their backyards with their friends into a cottage industry of t shirt sales and episode showings. They made enough money to comfortably live off of, for the creators only the rest of the crew got paid but not as handsomely.

Most fans of the show will know that one of the later additions to the cast, a character called T-Bag who was a pro-Halo player, was sadly killed in a horrific car crash towards the end of 2008. This seemed to the breaking point for the show as after 19 episodes, the last of which was a two parter with a very teasing cliffhanger, was going on hiatus. Now obviously we can sympathise with the cast and crew as they had lost a close friend. People need time to grieve, but after a while the wait which had always been large between episodes seemed to turn into months and months. Suddenly on this very website I saw a video which I hoped was the announcement of a return to the web series but turned out to be the start of a Canadian TV series of the show. It starred for the most part the same core crew with some minor changes.

I watched the series in hopes that it would start at the beginning but with better writing and photography then hit the last web-episode and continue on the story as it was starting to build to a climax (the web series was planned as a three-season run once ROFLMAO Productions decided to make it into a series) and the loose ends were beginning to get answered. However it turned out to be a very different entity to the original series and changed things drastically in some areas and totally left out some stuff that made the show what it was. The TV show lasted 8 episodes and was never renewed.

With the TV show's future uncertain after the original run the fans of the show dwindled till the forums were only used by a hardy bunch of. well not sad people but people with little else to do with their time. People were frustrated that they heard nothing from the producers, actors or crew who were normally very involved with the fans up till the TV series started. Many hoped that because the TV show was probably dead in the water the web series would be started up again. However many, many moons passed with nary a word from anyone involved with the series.

Now I dropped by the site a few weeks ago as I do every few weeks in the hopes that something will be in the works again and find that the writer of the series - Jarret Cale - had dropped by the forums and told everyone that wanted to know what was going on with the series. Basically the TV show was not getting renewed because the station that ordered the series originally got taken over. The web series was dead because Geoff Lapaire no longer felt like it was worthwhile due to the death of T-Bag and another person close to the production team. Geoff Lapaire's departure seems to have been the nail in the coffin for the show as he did a lot of work other than the cinematography of the show. He helped write and direct the show and edited a lot of the footage which is time consuming on a part time basis. Geoff seems no longer to be in contact with anyone on the show which is a shame because for a good few years it was the best show on the internet.

The death of such a milestone of the internet is a sad thing but this was especially sad for me. It reminded me of the times I spent watching the show and enjoying it. It also reminded me of the day I found out about the show through this very website and someone's BOOM HEADSHOT! gif. These are days to which we cannot return but without these memories we would not be the people we are today. So thanks Destructoid and thanks PurePwnage for making the internet a more awesome place!

PS. If you are looking for a similar show The Guild, while not to my tastes for the most part, is about as good a modern analogue as you will find. It also features Felicia Day so it wins pretty hard.   read

6:38 PM on 03.25.2009

Are Games Becoming Homogenous?

One of the "dirty" words in our society is "shovelware". It inspires fear in even the lead hardcore of us. For many however it is a great source of fun, but if all our games are to become the same, wouldn't that ruin the industry? We constantly complain about how the PS1/PS2/Wii has too much shovelware but do we really not notice the amount of terrible games that end up on the pc? All I know is publishers have a lot to answer for.

Many people complain that when the latest film/girl band/sports event happens there is always a tie in game, and to be perfectly honest I can't blame them as nine times out of ten these games are worth less than the plastic onto which they are printed. However there do exist a few exceptions. I do recall one of the Spiderman games being less than terrible, but on the whole these games are rushed out onto the market to coincide with the events release so that gullible fans will rush out after spending £7 on a ticket for a film then buy the game that can cost up to £50 which is going to be terrible but because it lets them "play" the film they bend over and take it. Most of these games come out as either fighting games or platformers because these games are easy to churn out and most developers have templates for tie-in games lying about and all they really need to do is take that framework and add in new content.

We in the "hardcore" (for want of a better word) community often deride these games as being below us, or off our radar because they are not really games. It has occurred to me recently that we are not without fault. You see there was a little film called "The Watchmen" that came out recently, you may have heard of it. Now, you are thinking, what is wrong with that? Well since in the Venn diagram of graphic novel readers and gamers there is huge overlap, a great number of you have been fans of the fine novel since it came out or some people later on. Since Hollywood has had a crack at an IP that is very dear to your heart you thought that you would give it a chance. Not long after the film is announced we find out that there will be a tie-in game. Wow, the collective mind thinks, a chance to play as our favourite characters. Herein lies the rub. We have been essentially hoodwinked by the evil publishers! The best part about this excellent stratagem is that we didn't just become enticed by this game, but gave it fair chance as a game when in our heart of hearts we knew it would blow. Guess what it did, like a $2 hooker.

As far as I have strayed on this tangent I do have a point. The market is getting to the point where it is being homogenised by the big publishers. Even managing to lure in gamers that should know better into the same cash cow demographic as the Madden fans and the 10 year old kids. This homogenisation is becoming almost epidemic. Rarely does a day go by where some journalist doesn't mention the fact that today's games have become to brown and grey, lacking in colour and vibrancy like in the good old days. FPS's have become ten-a-penny, with basically nothing other than special features being their USPs. So many FPS's look the same, have the same basic story, have the same 'roid pumping space-marine-GI-Joe-esque one man army lead character. Racing games are the same, it is becoming difficult to tell apart pictures of PGR, Forza, Gran Turismo these days.

We as gamers are to blame really. When an honest to goodness great, unique game comes out, who honestly buys that niche title? Who can stand up and claim to own the Viewtiful Joe games? Braid? Ico? Shadow of the Colossus? Valkyria Chronicles? Okami? The list is endless yet these all failed commercially. This means that as much as we love creativity gaming is a business and to run a business you have a RESPONSIBILITY to your shareholders to produce a profit at the end of the year. Without solid numbers then smaller publishers will be less enamoured with your quirky adventure game and instead choose your colleague's sequel to last year's best seller.

We think of "shovelware" as being a toxic grow on the face of gaming, but we lap up the latest games like CoD5 and NFS:IDon'tEvenCareAnymore as if they were the last games on earth. The truly great games often slip through our fingers. Now there are rare cases where sequels can be great games (CoD4: MW being a prime example as well as GTA3) but these really are few and far between. Sometimes I wish we could just boycott these crappy sequels until EA or Activision wake up and only put out quality games, but the mainstream gamers would never agree with this, because without their yearly Madden/FIFA fix they would surely die in a foetal position. There isn't an easy way to stem the flow of crap in the gaming world, especially now that the financial climate has taken a violent downturn, but if we stop buying terrible sequels and just buy the quality games, the quality games, heck even just the fun games then maybe we can chip away at this problem and create a brighter gaming future for our offspring.   read

8:07 PM on 11.24.2008

I Am Gamer

My itís been a long time. Some of you may know me, others may not (hi there, nice to meet you =]) but Iíve been a member of this fine community for over a year now and as of late due to a horrendous schedule, crappy university internet and various band/photography projects Iíve been absent for matters of weeks at a time. I think itís about time for a partial return as my schedule has lightened slightly and my tolerance for the universities internet has grown significantly.

Anyway enough with the boring introductions and onwards with the meat of this cblog. My daily schedule involves waking up, going to university, coming back, looking at some web sites, doing some work and sleeping. I tend to read the same websites so surprises are very rare. Destructoid gives me informative, funny and regular news, Kotaku has Brian Crescente, Engadget is pretty straight news barring one or two contributors etc. What I am getting at is the fact that most days are the same, predictable styles of conveying the same styles of stories. Every once in a while, however, I stumble across great articles and one that really intrigued me lately was one on Kotaku.

Now before you kick me off the intertubes for such heresy, hear me out. This article was an original by the ex-toider Leigh Alexander. It was about how we as ďhardcore gamersĒ think that everyone that plays ďcore gamesĒ is as informed as us. She then compares us to the cultural elitists that obsessively follow the underground music or film scenes. Reading every possible morsel of information that they can grab, talk with each other in forums about the merits of their favourite artistís new album. To be frank with you I have never realised this gulf between us, gamers and non-gamers.

There are many people I know who play games a lot, many of them WoW players, yet never know anything about the latest games, the latest PC hardware or anything. It even frustrates me at times where I have to sit and explain things that I think should be second nature to gamers. They donít know who developed the latest indie title; they havenít played some of the best games on their hardware of choice. It is scary to realise you are in a different sub culture to the people you thought were on the same level as you.

The one case that worries me though is one person, who will remain nameless, who plays Rock Band every night for many hours, to the point of breaking his drumís pad sensors. He has no idea about the new selection of band games coming out and was about to splash all his money on the new Guitar Hero: World Tour game, new instruments and all. I told him about the compatibility chart that is available for these games and he seemed totally clueless about it. There he was about to spend £160 on a whole new set where he could potentially save himself some money. I then inquired about the reviews of these games that he was considering purchasing and he said he had read none. The best part was that he was totally unaware about Rock Band 2 coming out, even though it has been out here for a few weeks. This scared me a lot, the thought of people blindly handing over cash at the counter to receive a game that is quite blatantly not for them. In my own experience I have found game store staff lacking in more areas than just personal hygiene. Some of them clearly donít want to be there, there are others who know some things about their chosen platform but precious little else so I doubt they would suggest to a customer all the available options so that they get the right game.

Reviews I know are a very contentious area; however I find them to be pretty useful in many ways. They point out to me the general idea of the game, the basic setting, the good points and the bad points. Sure they still attach an arbitrary number on the end in most cases, basically boiling a game down to a number, which can be compared with other games on an arbitrary scale. Good reviewers give you a lot of information on the game as opposed to how they enjoyed it. Sure they will point out if they liked the game or thought it was less worthy of being in their presence than a used tissue but theses are secondary things to the technical aspects. If a game is broken on any level I want to know about it, for instance last year's Pro Evolution Soccer was broken on the PS3 so i stuck with the PS2 version whereas my friend went with the PS3 version and was deeply disappointed. I would only have figured this out after I had bought the game without reading the review.

To me it is second nature to get as much information on up-coming games as is possible, so that I can buy a game that I know will be good, or at the very least interesting. To others it seems this is an alien practise. I am currently looking at the impending releases of various music games, trying to figure out which is the best course of action and even for me it is a tough decision. There is a lot of choice in song lists, the way you play the game, the quality of peripherals, the amount of songs available through DLC, the deals they have in place etc, and it is truly a daunting task but hopefully one that will bring me many months of pleasure. I suppose the old saying is true, ignorance is bliss. This lifestyle is a burden, one of constantly trying to find out the most you can about games you want, trying to find latest screenshots and even the art of broken street dates.

Being a game aficionado, if you will, is a poison chalice in many ways yet at the same time is defines who I am and how I go about researching new games. I would never for a second trade my burden of knowledge for an ignorant gaming lifestyle as it would totally change the way in which I choose games, how I arrange my day, how I entertain myself amongst other things. I love being a game aficionado and I hope never to change, itís the best way for me to be, plus it brought me to Destructoid!   read

2:58 PM on 09.12.2008

Motorstorm: Pacific Rift Demo Imperssions

Motorstorm was a solid, if incomplete launch game. It was pretty much my favourite launch game, with Resistance coming a very close second. Although I loved the online matches in Resistance the game itself just wasn’t fun enough. Motorstorm on the other hand was balls-out awesome. I played it for countless hours over my other games for about 4 months then the second wave of ps3 games emerged. I still pop it in now and again for a quick blast but with my increasingly large cache of PS3 games (21 disc games at last count) these precious moments for me and my beloved are a rare thing. A few weeks ago I heard about the team behind Motorstorm were coding the sequel: pacific rift. This news was exciting as it would be more Motorstorm but with the many flaws fixed.
Anyways today I received the usual PlayStation Network newsletter which I generally browse through then delete, as it is usually rubbish. This issue however came with a code to download the demo for Motorstorm: Pacific Rift. I rushed into my room and downloaded it right away and have been happily playing away at it for an hour or so.

My first impression was that the interface has been significantly redesigned, or should I say designed. The first game was just a looping movie with the main options written on the top, nothing particularly interesting but the demo has managed to improve on this. It has a very modern graffit/urban look to it and even the vehicle select screen is in a similar vein. This is a much needed improvement as the vehicle select screen before was a rendering of the bike/car/van on top of a large rock...thing which took an unacceptable amount of time to load and even stuttered at points, hopefully this new design will address that issue.

The racing part of the game is as solid as it ever has been with the lovely addition of rumble for those of you who have DualShock 3 controllers. The vibration, as is the case with most of the rumble enabled PS3 games is never too harsh. It is enough to let you know you’ve hit something but never painful in your hand like the 360 controller is. The controls on the whole are basically the same as the originals with the addition of bunny hops and other little trick combos for the bikes. The vehicles always seem to respond well to my input which really helps the feeling your going faster than man should ever travel, which is damn exhilarating. The camera does the usual 'pan out when going fast' routine, which is done in a subtle manner so it actually does give an impression of going really fast.

There seems to be a lot of good fixes in this title over the old game. The biggest fix, one the community at large wanted, is the inclusion of split screen racing. I rarely if ever use split screen in my games, opting more for the LAN connection of consoles when my mates are round so I haven’t had chance to put this mode through it’s paces but if the rest of the demo is anything to go by it should be fairly solid.

Once again the Evolutions Studios team have delievered a demo for a game which is just amazing fun, something that modern games seem to forget is necessary. I for one will definitely pick this bad boy up when it is released on October 28th.

On a side note I did not get access to this early demo of the game through subscription to Qore or by reseving the game at Gamestop, this was just through my email newsletter. If you are thinking of plunking down some cold hard cash for a chance of playing this demo early and you normally recieve the PSN newsletter by email I suggest you wait a day or two cause you may be able to save your self some money.   read

1:55 PM on 05.12.2008

If you love it, change it: skate.

For many years we skateboard loving gamers amused ourselves with the great-yet-arcadey antics in the Tony Hawkís Pro Skater series. Sure they were fun, really fun, but the skateboarding itself and the physics just felt...wrong. There was definitely something missing from the experience that annoyed me, it probably affected me worse than most non-skateboarding gamers because of the amount of time I used to pour into the sport. Then the Tony Hawkís games took a turn for the worse and transformed into the hideous beasts of Tony Hawkís Underground 1, 2 and Tony Hawkís American Wasteland. These games offended me so much that I didnít even bother to buy them. Sure they sold well but that was due to the fact that no other half decent skateboarding games around at that time. Neversoft seemed to realise their vile mistakes and aborted the American Wasteland series in favour of the back-to-basics Project 8. I picked this one up and liked it quite a bit, it wasnít as good as the original games but it was definitely a step in the right direction. Then one warm day in spring I saw a post on the internet about EAís new skateboarding game...

I was intrigued it has to be said, Iím not the biggest EA fan out there but their subsidiaries tend to put out interesting new IPs from time to time, so I thought I would read a bit more about it. I had just finished Project 8 so I thought this could tide me over till the next TH game. It seemed like a solid concept, an open world to skate about in and more realistic physics looked to be a great combination for a great realistic skateboarding game. The one thing that worried me actually was the new control scheme, they pegged it as revolutionary but I had serious doubts about it. When I read about it, it seemed nothing short of awkward and clunky compared to the precision of the THPS scheme. Then the game came out and I bought it, I fell in love. It was the closest that a game has ever came to re-creating the realism of skateboarding. The physics were incredible; the tricks were realistic but most importantly of all the control scheme I had worried about so much was simply amazing.

However this monthís ďMonthly MusingsĒ theme isnít ďTalk about how your favourite game is amazingĒ it is ďIf you love it, change itĒ, so I will now point out the flaws that this most brilliant of games unfortunately has. First of all the game was extremely buggy, to the point of annoyance. I think this flaw existed because skate was the first game by EA Black Box on the ďnext-genĒ consoles. They did a great job with the mechanics, design and art but ultimately it has been the only game to ever freeze my PS3. One of my friends had the 360 version and it froze his console too, so I think it was bugs in the engine and not specific to the difficult coding environment of the PS3. It wasnít just the game freezing, sometimes the textures themselves would pop up and the cars would sometimes appear out of nowhere. There were times were I got stuck in walls as well which really annoyed me.

The game is technically a sandbox game and has inherited the flaws of the genre, most prevalent of all the jumps in the difficulty curve that happens due to not having a linear path for the missions. Some of the missions would be ridicolously easy and at the same point in time you could have a stupidly hard mission to do. In fact there is still 1 or 2 of the video missions I havenít completed because I got so frustrated at their difficulty and/or my incompetence. There were times where the instructions themselves were unclear and it was a case of trial and error to find out exactly what parameters needed to be met before you could complete the task. There was one particular mission where you had to nollie 360 flip over a stair set but it was worded so badly it took me 5 tries before i figured out what to aim for and suffice to say that was not my idea of fun.

Although a minor gripe, I felt that the gameís storyline itself was a bit on the short side. It could be run through in about 6-8 hours. Generally in sandbox games the storyline is at least 15 hours long and opens up the world as you complete various missions but skate had the entire city of San Vanelona open from the very beginning which took away the sense of linearity that sandbox games have and in some ways the feeling of accomplishment that accompanies this progression. The game could have used some more interesting challenges to buff up the story line, although this would probably end up with either a lot of repetitive challenges (see pro skate missions) or the horrible route of Jackass-esque challenges that the Tony Hawkís games took.

The traffic was apparently super dangerous in this game as if you even brushed a car you would bail (fall over) and the car would be unscathed. I wouldnít have been annoyed by this if it only happened when you hit the cars at speed but it happened each and every time, mostly in the middle of a very high scoring combo. The cars also had no damage which would have been a nice touch to add to the realism of the world, but then again not every racing game has damage (see Gran Turismo and Mario Kart). Somehow hitting a car at speed on your board and leaving a person sized dent in the bumper would have made this game so much more satisfying but that is probably the sadistic murder-training game player in me getting out.

The final flaw I found with this game is the ďskate.reelĒ function that the game used. EA made a huge deal of this pre- and post-launch but I could never seem to get it to work. The idea behind it was do an amazing trick in game, edit the replay, upload it to the skate.reel servers and view it online at any point in time. However in practise I have not once got this to work, I can upload it fine but as soon as I go to look for the video on their website it goes through the same three pages, asks me to register or login then back to the original page and it annoys me because I uploaded some impressive and just plain cool tricks. If the service had been a bit simpler then I would have enjoyed using it but it got me so frustrated that I just gave up on it.

As you can see although I love this game there are many things about it which I would have wanted changed before it was released. Hopefully EA Black Box has seen the problems that people had with this game and fix it before the inevitable annual update. If they do fix the problems then I think they will have created the best skateboarding game ever which will then cause a rip in the space time continuum as a game will have to actually get 11/10 and reviewers will be sucked off into the black abyss.   read

7:29 PM on 05.09.2008

The Triumvirate Of Game-To-Film Adaptations

Hot off the press this week was the news of a film adaption of the highly acclaimed ďBioshockĒ. This game was very well received by both critics and players the world over, and was lauded for its superb narrative and the way it was revealed to the player. It was set in the underwater utopia of Rapture, set up by the illustrious Andrew Ryan. The player enters the game after a plane crash in the middle of the ocean to find Rapture decimated and is left to fend for himself and find out what exactly happened to the place. The film is being handled by the Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski and is being aided by the gameís creator, Ken Levine.

Now I havenít personally played Bioshock, partly because the atmosphere of the game world freaked me the hell out, but I can tell from a mile away that this film is going to fail hard. I donít mean that it will be a bad film; I mean it will fail at being a good game film. To adapt a game of this calibre and style to celluloid will take massive compromises and obviously the removal of interactivity, arguably what makes a game a ďgameĒ. Generally when adaptations of other sources are done the film makers add something to the medium, i.e. books have visuals added to them and sound, radio has visuals etc. When film makers adapt games they take away the interactivity and are often left with a mediocre story thatís only purpose is to push the player into new tasks. Bioshock from what I have heard has a pretty good story (eh give me moral choices and doesnít afraid of anything), but still compromises will have to be made for the ďmainstreamĒ audience to swallow before they put down cash to see what will probably be a big budget film.

Film makers have the choice of one of three routes (or four if you count Uwe Bollís film making as a route) when adapting a game to the big screen. The first of these routes is the literal translation of the gameís story; this can give the film a very real sense of being the game as it clings as close as is possible to the gameís world. It can however cause major headaches as the core audience of these films have already played the game and know what to expect as the story progresses. This can sometimes work for other mediums (such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy) but I think that is only because of the strength of their narratives and the lack of tangible visual information. If a literal adaptation is created then the broader appeal of the work is often diluted because they donít know what Bioshock is, or even worse they may be turned off by the fact that it is based on a game.

The second route is the oft-used ďwe have the rights to the IP and we will do whatever the hell we want to do with itĒ (see the Resident Evil films). They often bare only a passing resemblance to the original titles and have been severely re-written into something non-canon so that the dreaded mainstream audience will want to see it. These films tend to come out as action films although Silent Hill was borderline horror. These films can often turn off the core audience of the games because they bastardise the original story and place characters in unfamiliar territory which they know shouldnít be happening which makes the whole film hard to swallow. Amazingly these types of adaptations generally gross well in the box office and so spur production companies to create more mindless drivel to shovel to the masses.

The third and final route is something that I personally would like to see happen a lot more. This route I feel is the best compromise between games and films, one that works for both parties. An adaptation of a game IP that is handled in tandem with the film makers and the game makers but one that is totally separate from the actual storyline. This kind of adaption can have the trademark writing of the games creators in a whole new storyline that can appeal to both the core and mainstream audience with help from the film makers to point out what could be changed and what is feasible with current technology. A game-to-film of this kind would work well in a franchise that has a well established and well rounded universe of many threads. The best game I can think of to suit this brief has to be the Metal Gear Solid series. The game has so much back-story left untouched, scenarios that are awesome but never explored in any of the games, or better yet a new tale based in the same universe. Imagine how amazing a Metal Gear Solid film would be that is set in Outer Heaven. Unfortunately these kinds of films have yet to truly happen even though they could achieve such critical acclaim given the right team behind it.

Until such a time as a successful game-to-film adaptation happens I really will not have any solid faith in game films, the last once I watched was Doom and that really put me off the whole experience. Hopefully movie executives will see the light one day and realise that gamers donít want mindless crap but something more meaty, more meaningful than Resident Evil 23: Zombies Gone Wild Party Edition. We can but dream.   read

7:43 PM on 05.02.2008

Repetitive Game Design in Sequels

Many gamers bring forth arguments about sequels; how they are a bad idea, how they are a good idea and how idiots go and buy the same game time and time again, yet they themselves go and buy the latest game in their favourite blockbuster franchise. What exactly is it that grates with the ďhardcoreĒ about the repetitive nature of sequels? Is there something written down in the holy gaming handbook about not being able to re-use ideas or have continuity of design in the games? I want to take a look at questions like these and examine the nature of sequel game design.

There are as many arguments about sequels as there are games, the arguments are usually based on the games themselves as opposed to a wholesale rule-set. It may be a defence mechanism against being a hypocrite or it may be just plain good sense to see that every game is different and that generalisations are not a good idea. Whatever the reasoning is, it is clear that there is strong resistance against games that are, at first glance, the same game with a different title. I can understand this view point because in this generation of games we routinely place down £50 or $60 for a new title and if we pay such a significant amount we expect it to blow our mind or at the very least try to. In this light it is easy to see one side of the argument, but the other side is well known too. This side belongs to the publishers and developers who need profits to keep going, they know that ďSuper Awesome Vampire Pirates 4Ē made them a good solid profit on the last consoles so the first thing they do is start to make ďSuper Awesome Vampire Pirates 5Ē for the new consoles. It just plain good business sense, if you have a large and willing audience that likes a certain game then a sequel will generally be more successful than an unknown title full of strange ideas.

This business strategy is widely adopted by the gaming industry as can be evidenced by the mind boggling amount of sequels, franchises and, to an extent, spin-offs that exist in the marketplace today. The business of sequels is so well documented that games are being designed from the ground up to be parts of trilogies or to have multiple sequels, for a modern example have a look at Assassinís Creed which has been designed to be the first in a trilogy of games. Square Enix have become masters at this business and successively bleed each one of their masterpieces dry so that they can swim in pools full of Yen notes, or possibly create new games with increasingly large budgets.

The type of sequel that gets the most abuse at the hands of gamers is the yearly update of a sport game. This I can understand to a point because at face value it is the same game with a new roster and the current year beside its title. EA are notorious at this practise, to get the sales of the rabid football fans they release their Madden games each year with the current roster of players and what appears to be little else. In truth these near-identical games are created because letís face it, what else can you do in a football game apart from play football? Sure you can have different tournaments, leagues, playoffs, Super bowls etc but you are still essentially playing football. The developers wouldnít dare screw about with the actual football itself for fear of losing the fan base (although they do try it with their XTREME labels, released in most cases to critical and commercial failure). The developers are stuck between a rock and a hard place, or rather the publishers thirst for money and the fans thirst for up-to-date rosters in sports games.

The Halo franchise is a good solid trilogy (at the time of writing anyway) of games, the original was lauded as being one of the first truly great made-for-console FPSs and as an excellent game in its own right. It went on to spawn two sequels which continue the story of the last Spartan super soldier ďMaster ChiefĒ. Now I like games that continue on their story, as that is the very reason I play games. I play not for challenging puzzles, not to ďtrainĒ my brain, not to play only online (although I have played online heavily since days of Counterstrike 1.6) but to see a story, that I have personally unravelled, develop in front of my eyes. From an excellent base Bungie made what appeared to be the same game but with more story, however if you look closely you will see many improvements and tweaks (let us not forget the online multiplayer) that make it Halo 2. I see no problem in these kinds of game that tell a continuous story, if there are problems I like them to be sorted in the sequels but if the game has the same mechanics as the game before rarely do I complain. I understand that people donít like this kind of thing but really what do you want? A story arc that in the middle chapter sees Master Chief playing mini-games on a sunny beach with the Arbiter? If there is continuity of story and themes then I would like to play sequels that bare more than a passing resemblance to each other, and if the developers tweak their formula to perfection then who am I to complain?

JRPG series also take a heavy hit from people crying out that ďitís just last game but with a different storyĒ or ďI hated this battle system in the last 5 games, and I still hate it nowĒ.
This affects me too as I love the Persona games but 3 and 4 are VERY similar and appear from the early screenshots of P4 to share many common features and assets. People however do complain about the fact that Final Fantasy games for the most part are the same game but with different art styles, stories and characters (although some remain staples of the series such as Biggs, Wedge and Cid). I find this argument, while valid, to be somewhat thin on the ground because each game is set in its on bespoke universe with its own lore, myth and art direction. The people over at Square Enix make each title as a separate game and it really shows. If they recycle a battle system because it works well then all the better because it can make a great game amazing.

Mario games such as Super Mario Bros have always baffled me. Not because I am so ridiculously stupid that I canít beat the game, but because they are all very similar yet sell through the roof. This has been brought up time and again but why is it that Mario sells, and has always sold, really well when we are basically replaying the same game each time but paying more for the privilege with each successive generation of hardware? The games may have different stories but these are never continuous and are general isolated from other games. The NES and SNES Mario games all had similar looks (I am talking about the main series games and not the spin offs) and similar goals to achieve, but no one ever complained about this series being overly-familiar. Nowadays the home console Mario games are becoming more inventive and different but the portable ones never seem to change. Mario kart and Super Smash Bros seem to have the same problem, since their inception very little has changed apart from the switch to 3D for Mario Kart 64 and online for both of the titleís latest incarnations. At times they are hard to tell apart from an infrequent playerís perspective and even reviewers are noting this in their reviews, especially Mario Kart Wii. Is it possible the real reason we donít complain about the similarity of the Mario, and come to think of it most Nintendo titles are because we loved the original adventures of a (possibly latent homosexual) plumber? Does that little guy hold enough gravitas for us to blindly and unerringly hand over cash for his latest title? What separates the mind numbing same-ness of Nintendoís titles to that of any over developer?

There are many kinds of sequels and many different viewpoints, no one will ever agree on all things. The best I can do is give you my take on these things. I feel that sports games (because everyone wants to play as their favourite teamís current star player) and titles in a series of games that tell a continuous story should be allowed to have repetitive design (so there is continuity between the games). All other games should at the very least try to innovate and avoid repeating themselves as much as possible because otherwise to me, it becomes difficult to tell the titles apart. I realise this article will probably anger more people than it pleases, but these are just my opinions. They may be right or wrong in your opinion but that is something which you are entitled to as well. If I have, however, made arguments without logic then feel free to tell me, constructive criticism is always welcome.   read

8:21 PM on 04.29.2008

The Life and Times of "A. Ngry Gamer"

To many seasoned pros of gaming and its culture the jerk-wad gamer is a common and inescapable foe, one which makes every level headed and rational gamer quiver with fear. We often get lumped together in one big sweaty pile with every other gamer/stereotype by the media these days and these kinds of gamers give us a proverbial black eye from their irrational behaviour. You know the kind I am talking about the annoying people on Xbox Live that say nothing but racist slurs, the hyper active 12 year olds (you must note that only 12 year olds and proper adults play online) that force you to mute them before they make your ears bleed and last but not least, the ranting angry gamer.

Of all these stereotypes and generalisations (both terms I hate but they are necessary evils in this world) the angry gamer causes me more chagrin than any other. This particular type of gamer, although prolific before the internet forums and/or message boards, is more prevalent in the web 2.0 world than ever before. Having more of a say should really be a positive thing but as we all know it can severely backfire into our collective faces. There will be one gamer saying things like ‚ÄúARRGHHH EVLENTY!!!111 Jack Thompson is wrong and I‚Äôm going to cut his balls off then eat them with soup OM NOM NOM NOM!!!1113453‚ÄĚon any given message board, or at least something to this effect. Now I‚Äôm not saying that I expect perfection from the gaming community, far from it, but some people could do well to find some tact before they next log on to their computer.

In recent years the gaming culture has been under fire from many different lawyers, so-called experts and what can only be described as crazy people (or a mix of several in some cases) about the increased violence and inclusion of adult themes in a still fledgling entertainment sector. One thing you must remember is that the previous generation still think of videogames as Nintendo and Mario, bright happy colours and child friendly images. Parents look to the media for advice, albeit a flawed way of parenting it still has its advantages, and see ‚ÄúSuper violent game with sex in it goes on sale soon‚ÄĚ and get horrified by the thought of their little Jack soliciting sex from a bunch of pixels, then killing the pixels afterword‚Äôs to get his money back (Jack was ever so prudent). I am not saying they are right I am trying to say that some parents lack the interest or education to actually find out for themselves that games have matured since the day-glo days of the mid-eighties.

This is the point that the angry gamer stereotype comes into play, for he is the bearer of all things true and pure, except that stash of porn he likes to call Betty, riding his high horse and dousing the uncouth peasants with hot frothy knowledge juice. Except they don‚Äôt, what they do is just start shouting at people illogically and, in the majority of cases incoherently, much like a frustrated local would do to try and get a foreigner to understand how much of a douche the local actually was. The one thing that this ‚Äėtype of gamer acheieves is cementing the tarnished view of gamers as raging sociopaths with little to no interpersonal skills and a penchant for that 12 year old girl next door(who he suspects played against him on Xbox Live the other day).

If you are going to try and combat the mainstream ignorance of any kind of speciality then please do it in a calm, cool and logical way. Never fly off the handle at people because they haven’t grown up on the same games that you have, don’t claim they have relations with your dog because they can’t see at first why games and movies are seen as completely different beasts and in the public eye can share no commonalities of themes. Think things through before you commit them to the annals of internet archives, if they even sound remotely irrational re-word it so it is not so offensive or condescending. If we all try to do this from time to time, maybe one day our image will improve.

This brings me to my final point in this already-too-long cblog: the upcoming episode of Podcastle. If you do listen to this amazing Destructoid podcast you will have heard last week’s episode and suffice to say it was pretty damn amazing, hard to top in fact. To top the last feat of podcasting they have managed to get Jack Thompson (of legendary game violence hating fame) to semi-agree to come on the show. Now I not for one second think he will turn up, and if he does he will basically ignore anything the crew say. This fills me with more dread than anything else as we all know how angry Jim can get. We all take it in good jest because we know he is kidding about but to outsiders this would be less apparent and the last thing we need is Jack Thompson running around brandishing clinching proof that we gamers are not fit to play games because the crew couldn’t control themselves. Please for the future of all gamers, do try and be considerate and as inoffensive as is possible.

P.S: In before the flames. Before anyone one says ‚Äúyour preaching to the choir‚ÄĚ think about how many members of the Destructoid community can be classed as Angry Gamers.   read

7:25 PM on 04.28.2008

The Dichotomy Of Single And Multiplayer Experiences

In this blog I want to explore the importance of single and multiplayer in both modern and ďretroĒ games. There is a strong dichotomy between the experiences of single and multiplayer parts of any game once which seems at first glance to be heavily unbalanced, to take an extreme example Unreal Tournament has at best a mediocre single player experience but this happens because the developers spent the majority of its gestation period working on the amazing multiplayer.

Throughout the years of gaming I have experienced there have been many times when my friends have came over to my house and we went in search of good multiplayer games. These games tended to either have non-existent or hollow single player experiences, at least that is what we thought. Many people resorted to playing single player games using the hot swapping technique of playing for ten minutes or so then passing on the controller to the next person. This was enjoyable but at the same time it lacked the fun that proper multi-player experiences had in heaps.

This leads me to the question are single and multiplayer experiences mutually exclusive or are they dichotomous? Can great single player games still have great multi-player components or are we always going to have games such as Bioshock for great single player fun and Counter Strike for our multiplayer jollies? Letís have a look at the games that have great examples of both kinds of gaming experiences.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Ė PC, PS3, 360 and DS

Ok maybe a slightly controversial title to start this off with but bear with me. For those that have endeavoured to drag themselves from the extremely well rounded multiplayer component of this game of the year title will no doubt have found their way to the great campaign. Normally FPS games have their campaigns added on almost as an afterthought but Infinity Ward seem to have nailed the intensity of modern warfare and it moves along at a blistering pace. From war torn Middle Eastern countries to...war torn eastern European countries the single player experience is never boring or repetitive. Even if you never touch the online modes or the split screen you will still feel satisfied by your purchase because of an excellent single player experience (with arguably the best ending of any FPS of last year). It does have some minor flaws such as itís as short as a very short thing but it has replay value in spades.

Starcraft - PC

This game is pretty well known in pro-gaming circles as a well balanced, excellent multiplayer RTS and is the national sport of Korea*. Many people would be happy to while away their days planning epic zergling rushes against people from across the globe, but beyond this lays another face of the Starcraft package. The single player campaign. The campaign has a very interesting and almost deep storyline full of twists and turns which makes full use of all three races. I wonít spoil the story for those who havenít played it but it is safe to say it has one of the best storylines of any RTS ever made, with the exception of the warhammer ones (but they cheat due to the back stories were made years before the games were).

Super Mario Bros. - NES

There is not much I can say about this title that has not been said before. It is one of Shigeru Miyamotoís first masterpieces and the birth in earnest of the 2D smooth side scrolling platform era. If you havenít played this game then you probably have been living under a rock that is in the middle of Galactic space. Everyone knows the story by now unless you are the previously mentioned intergalactic hermit, Princess Peach gets kidnapped by Bowser, King of the Koopas and you have to go save the cock-teasing bitch from said Freddy Mercury-esque monster (see leather arm bands). The game itself is a master class in 2D platforming and is hugely enjoyable but if your friends come over and want to kick back, drink some brewskis and play some games you can bring in Marioís ever present brother (wa)Luigi and save* the princess together. As the multiplayer is the same game as the single player you may bring issue with this particular title but I feel itís inclusion is fair because there can be multiple players in the game and still be as great as it is on your own

Marathon Ė Mac OS, Apple Pippin and PC

This game was one of Bungieís earlier projects (yes they existed before the Halo trilogy, or Oni but we donít like to mention that game to many people as it has been proven to strike them down with mediocre fever) and stands as a testament to the quality of gaming that can be had on Appleís nicely designed hardware and software. If you havenít had a chance to play this wonderful game because you didnít have access to a Mac back in í94 then I suggest you go download the freeware versions of all three games right freaking now. This game had an epic and grandiose sci-fi story about a human ship that was converted from Demios, one of Marsí two moons that is being attacked by aliens. It pits you as a superhuman cyborg and most of the story is revealed through crew logs accessed at the computer terminals. These terminals also give the player mission information from the ships main AI Leela and the two lesser AIís Durandal and Tycho (the relationship between the two adds another dimension to the story and rings a bell when you think of Cortana from the Halo games). This game had superb single player story mode which instead of having you run to the exit as quick as possible actually had you complete objectives (much like their Halo games, is anyone else beginning to see a pattern here). Apart from the great single player the multiplayer was amazing as well with a well balanced death match mode which could hold up to 8 people at a time. This was later modded to have co-operative play by the massive audience that it garnered on the Mac.

From these examples we can deduce that as time has went on the truly great single and multiplayer games are becoming somewhat of a rare beast but that is because budgets keep getting bigger and bigger and plunging money into a campaign for an primarily online game just doesnít make sense anymore. This begs the question; does this fledgling industry stifle creativity solely on the basis of profits? Many games that are seen as innovative rarely enjoy financial success these days; take Okami for example it's developer had to close down because it failed to light up registers around the globe. The visionaries of this industry will continue to follow their dreams I feel but will they feel the ever-present breath on the back of their necks from the corporations hungry for profit? Another interesting question this raises is what makes the smash hit innovative games perform well at retail? Is it all down to hype? Marketing? Word of mouth? Sometimes I wonder if companies decide how well a game is going to do when it is still in development and sink in the amount of marketing dollars they think will be appropriate then, instead of throwing money into a worthless project?

There have been many great games with both stellar single and multiplayer experiences. However not all games have this, some games are just not suited to multiplayer/single player experiences and they rightfully remain isolated from other players and/or deep campaigns but the ones that try and up hold this dichotomy are truly great and show us that games can excel in both arenas.

* may be innaccurate   read

7:11 PM on 04.26.2008

Mario and Luigi: Rawkstars?!

I recently returned from my jaunt to the lovely town of Glasgow, Scotland. That's a lie, it is a hellhole of the highest magnitude but has an awesome music scene, so I go there ever few weeks to see some bands. Today I went to see Mindless Self Indulgence, one of my most favourite bands!

Now your wondering why I've yet to mention games in this cblog but yes there is a game related point to this pointless post. Ironic isn't it? There was many strange and wonderful outfits at this gig but the most interesting were two men dressed as seminal Nintendo creations Mario and Luigi who were called up on stage to perform a song with Mindless Self Indulgence. Epic times were had by all, and Jimmy Urine (singer of aforementioned band) signed the Mario Bros off with "Keep it 16 bit guys!"!


7:43 PM on 04.20.2008

Confessions Of A PS3 And 360 Owner

For the uninitiated I started this blog some months ago about the games that I have been playing recently on my shiny PS3. I wrote about 6 of these blogs and then purchased a 360. Since I split my gaming time between the two, and frankly no one read my blog before I thought I would re-invent it as Confessions Of A PS3 And 360 Owner! Here is the first edition!

This week I have mostly been plotting the slow and tortuous death of all at Konami for the evil, vile monster of a mess they have made with the Konami IDís and the MGO beta. I awoke on Thursday morning turned on my PS3 and saw that the MGO beta was up for download on the newly-sexed-up PSN store. So like a good little MGS fan I downloaded it as fast as I could and then installed it. At this point I went and done some work for the horror that is university then came back to it about 2 hours later. I then went to run it and it tells me I need to update it, fair enough I thought it will need some tweaks before it goes live
and select the recommend option (Peer 2 Peer torrent style). I then realise what a nightmare this was becoming as it failed to start and told me to restart, ďfirst day server loadĒ I said to myself and restarted the game but after 10 attempts I give up and left it.

I went back to it the next day and eventually after trying several more times to get the download to work actually download the update although as my internet hates torrents takes an excruciating 4 hours to complete. It then happily informs me I have to get a Komani ID which rings a dull warning bell in my head as I remember reading on Destructoid about problems with it. Surely enough this disaster unfolds before my eyes and as of writing this blog still havenít managed to obtain one of these elusive creatures.

Apart from slowly torturing myself with that endeavour I have been putting some serious hours into the lovely Gran Turismo 5 Prolouge on my PS3. I have written a review of this a few weeks back so I will sum up my impressions of it briefly. The online racing I really like, it has been nothing but a pleasant experience with little to no lag and friendly racers. The main game itself is as solid as ever and the only major problem I have with it is the lack of damage but at this point damage would be non-canon almost and would kind of wreck my experience of it (no pun intended, IRC has put me off them for life ).

As well as that I stupidly bought myself Call of Duty 4 for the 360, now if youíve ever read the previous incarnation of this blog before then you will know pretty much everyone featured CoD4 at some point. I am up to the second last mission on the 360 now, and although I finished it on the PS3 beforehand itís still enjoyable especially the sniping mission. Iíve actually managed to level up more than I have on the PS3 version (just about to hit lvl31) and I find that the online is very similar to the PS3 version except with possibly more annoying idiots that sing into the headset. Thank god for the mute button! There is no perceivable difference between the two versions just like Infinity Ward said and I applaud them for this feat! I purchased the ďVariety Map PackĒ and found it to be very enjoyable for all the maps expect Creek which, far from being redundant and unplayable, just lacks the tightness that most of the other maps have. The map pack is a great addition to the main game and well worth the 800 points.

I have started and have managed to get to level two on Ikaruga but I have yet to get past it as it seems to like to force me into submission. It is an incredible game with very tight controls, personally I love it. The intensity of the levels and the strategy that the polarity switching mechanic brings to the game really set it apart from run of the mill shmups. If you have completed this game you truly are a better person than I. I would readily recommend this title to all who enjoy shooters and/or masochism, well worth those 800 measly points

Finally I have started the very wonderful game that is Lost Odyssey, developed partly by the lovely folks over at Mistwalker. Some of you may know that this is headed by ex-Final Fantasy producer Hironobu Sakaguchi and as such feels like a half brother to the oft-great series. If you have played Final Fantasy X you will be right at home although the battle system is quite different and the interface reminds me of Final Fantasy VIII. So far in my 4ish hours with the game I really have enjoyed my time with it and really like the characters. I donít particularly like the Picture In Picture effect they have used heavily in the cutscenes but that is just a personal thing. This grievance is more than made up by the wonderful ďThousand Years of DreamsĒ feature as each story is heartbreakingly tragic and supremely well written. This game is a must buy for any RPG fan that has a 360, truly this is itís first great JRPG. (PROTIP: if you hate grinding stay the hell away from this game!)

Anyways folks itís late over here in the land of fry ups and heart disease (Scotland) and I will bid you all adieu. Thanks for reading or commenting TL;DR it is much appreciated and hope you enjoyed this re-tooled format! Godspeed!   read

6:52 AM on 04.16.2008


Well today my monthly issue of OPM UK came through the letterbox, less than five minutes ago in fact. This month it was a bit late and now I know why, it has the first PS3 review of GTAIV as far as I'm aware. It's not the first review of the game that honour goes to OXM (I think the US verison).

For OPM it's a fairly long main review about 9 pages that is excellently written as per usual. It goes in depth into the integration of the phone into the game, the new shooting mechanics and even the mulitplayer. The review showers the new game with praise and even says "It's the best GTA game ever, for my money". As you could have guessed by now it got a 10/10.

It isn't all praise, once again the camera can be a bit dodgy and the helicopters are a pain to fly as always but it seems to have not affected their view of the game much as the positives outweigh these tiny faults. Damn I can't wait for my special edition to come through the letterbox on the 29th :)!   read

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