Hey guys and gals and transgendered people out there. I am a ghost from the mighty past of the here website. I used to roam these halls back in the heyday of the 2008-2009 era then disappeared for reasons which aren't clearly explained. I am back now.
I'm from Scotland which is that funny little country about England that is as obese as the US but with a heck of a lot more heart disease. I study. I play guitar, bass, mandolin and write songs. I take pictures but hasten to call myself a photographer.
So am I real or am I some figment of your deranged imagination? Well that's for you to decide if you so choose. I personally like the whole haunting business, it's almost like being an evil voyuer!
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.
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‚Äôt grown up on the same games that you have, don‚Äôt claim they have relations with your dog because they can‚Äôt 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôt 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.
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.
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!"!
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!
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 :)!