What is a "video game"? When you hear the term what do you personally expect? And to what extent of your own pre-conceived notion of what a video game is would you allow to be challenged?
These questions and more are the main topic for this blog.
Being able to simply define something like say a book or a movie makes explaining what they are easier, but it can often lead to conservative thinking. A book for a long time was basically defined solely as "a written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers" but with the advent of E-Readers and other similar electrical devices the definition has expanded.
A "video game" is basically defined as "a game played by electronically manipulating images produced by a computer program on a monitor or other display" So basically a video game is anything played through an electrical device that requires player interaction in order to manipulate what is being displayed on screen. That sound about right? So can you think of any game that really challenges this definition? There have been a great many games that altered how we interact or manipulate what is being displayed on screen, but the vast majority of them still require player input in order to do so, and for good reason, any video game that doesn't require player input to manipulate what's being displayed isn't really a video game at all, that's what we define as a "movie" or "TV show" etc. It's simply impossible for something non-interactive to be considered a "video game" because one of the main defining aspects of a video game is player interactivity.
It is funny though, how the more advanced video games have become, the more non-interactive cutscenes have been used as a means to advance the plot/story between play, a lot of criticism has been brought down upon games such as Metal Gear Solid for it's heavy use of non-interactive story telling, although arguably these cutsceenes were often necessary to help better explain the sheer amount of plot and story contained in the MGS universe, but at the very least the actual gameplay holds up well, offering some of the best stealth based gameplay found in the genre.
As much as many non-interactive video game cutscenes may drag on, they can be very effective in helping better explain the plot/story and can offer some entertaining respite for the player between gameplay sections.
This brings me us another debate that's often brought up between gamers. "What is most important, gameplay" or story? Of course it would be best if both were done well but for a game what is the most important of the two? For me it has to be gameplay, now this doesn't mean a game has to be gameplay heavy, but it does mean that the way the player interacts with a game is very important, especially for a game that is lacking in gameplay mechanics.
This leads us to a rather controversial topic, Beyond: Two Souls. Consider what you will of this, but what follows is me giving my personal opinion and being absolutely honest regarding my feelings on the game.
Beyond: Two Souls is not the masterpiece some have come to claim, it is an interesting idea unfortunately executed very poorly. At best Beyond: Two Souls is a mediocre but entertaining enough romp with impressive visuals and boasting a talented cast, at worst it's an incredibly stupid, cliche filled interactive movie in the guise of a video game. The over reliance on bland, emotionless voice acting, tired, tried and true movie tropes and emotion driven story telling, fails miserably to make up for a severe lack of gameplay mechanics and player interactivity, leaving the player often feeling disconnected from the events that transpire, this feeling is made amplified by the repetitive use of QTE's (quick time events), and minigames that apparently if worth performing once, are worth performing the same task three or four more times in order to advance the story. The disjointed way the plot and story play out is another interesting idea, but very rarely do the "choices" you make effect much of the actual plot during play. Beyond: Two Souls is a video game but it attempts to be a movie first, the main issue I take with this is that it's not even a very good movie.
Now I know the point of Beyond: Two Souls was to focus more on the emotional connection players have with the characters, rather than gameplay which can often interfere with the story, but if the player simply doesn't care about the characters or their situation then the whole point of the game is lost to them. In the case of Beyond I honestly feel that this can hardly be the fault of the player, as it is up to the developers to create characters and situations that can be empathised with.
Beyond: Two Souls attempts to be an emotion driven, character focused story. But due to the cliche filled plot and narrative, uninteresting characters and passive gameplay mechanics, the experience often left me feeling beyond bored.
Games like Telltale's: The Walking Dead, Shenmue, To the moon and Broken Sword are all, emotional, story driven games, obviously with some having more gameplay mechanics than others, but I honestly believe each one of them to offer a better story, gameplay mechanics and experience than Beyond: Two Souls offers.
Nobody likes being told their milkshake is made out of potatoes, but well, you get what I'm saying.
If you liked Beyond: Two Souls then good for you, my dislike of it should in no way effect you still liking it, in fact I'd be very happy to see more developers attempt what David Cage is doing, one reason is because I feel that it would be a worth while endeavour but mostly because I think if done well games like Beyond: Two Souls could be fantastic experiences.
Gaming being as young as it is and being as open to interpretation as any other art form, is going to lead to a great many other attempts to either reinvent, redefine or simply just challenge pre-conceptions as to what a video game is. And personally I can't wait to see what comes next, I might not like it but at least it's something new, now that doesn't mean we should all go out and support something that attempts to different purely because it is different, but we certainly could do with more originality in the mainstream at least and that's what Beyond: Two Souls is, something new, something a different.
The same can be said for motion sensor gaming, now not everyone likes motion sensor controllers but they certainly have their place. Metroid Prime: Corruption is a great example of how the Wiimote and nunchuk actually helped improve the gameplay experience. Anyway without innovations in how we play we never would have got the analogue stick or trigger buttons, two additions that are indispensable in order to play many video games today (par the mouse and keyboard of course) and often innovations to how we play leads to innovations in the games we play.
Since how we play can often effect what we play, it's reasonable to assume that new innovations in motion sensor controllers and VR (Virtual reality) may effect the types of games we play in the future.
But regardless of what innovations come about that may change how we play, we as the player are always required. Because much like I stated above, video games are primarily an interactive medium for entertainment, as soon as you remove the need for player interaction the videogame stops being a game and becomes something more akin to a movie.
So, what is a video game? And to what extent of how we define what a video game is, should be allowed to be challenged or changed before it becomes something else entirely?
Thanks for reading my blog, if you'd like to add anything or disagree with any of my points, please feel free to leave a comment.
There's a debate that often arises amongst gamers as to whether or not console exclusive games are such a good idea anymore, seeing as how many who purchase only one console will inevitably miss out on the exclusive games only available on another. It's also reasonable to argue that (in theory) many developers may be receiving only a fraction of the profits they might have earned had their game been a multiplat title, then again, without console exclusivity what purpose do multiple platforms like the PS4, Xbox One or Wii U hold other than being three consoles that perform slightly differently? The whole point of having a console exclusive game or franchise in the first place was to entice consumers by offering content that isn't available elsewhere, so if one console were capable of playing each and every game available then what function would the existence of multiple consoles serve?
There are certainly pros to having only one console, for one thing it would put an end to this ridiculous "console war" and may even bring gamers as a community closer together. Then again if console exclusivity were to become a thing of the past, and each and every console were capable of playing any game regardless of the publisher or developer, then consoles would become less about "content" and more about "features". In fact this is already happening to an extent due to multiplat AAA titles being the "driving force" of the industry right now, now more than ever we're seeing console developers attempting to differentiate their platform from the competitions by offering unique features, such as content sharing, access to social/media networks, the implementation of Skype and TV functionality. Eventually though one console would become the dominant force, most likely through becoming a "all-in-one entertainment system" if that were to happen then there would be very little reason for other consoles to exist since they'd effectively be inferior products, thus the dominant console developer would gain complete and total monopoly over the distribution of any and all videogames released on console. But is that really healthy for the industry? Remember when Microsoft tried to implement draconian DRM, attempting to block the sales of used games and dictate when and how we play our games? Well if a console company were to have complete control over what content is available and how we access it then what stops such disastrous policies from actually being forced upon us? I'm in no way trying to demonize Microsoft, it's just that most gamers know about the Xbox One policy debacle so that helps better illustrate my point.
The Xbox One debacle taught us that a console made with a focus on restrictive policies and paywalls will never succeed while consumers still have a choice in what console they purchase
The quality of multiplat titles is also something that needs to taken into consideration because they are often held back from being quite as good as they could have been in order to perform well on each console. We know that certain exclusives like Uncharted or The Last Of Us wouldn't have been possible on a console with architecture inferior to that of the PS3, if these games were developed as multplat titles it's reasonable to assume they wouldn't have looked quite so good or played quite so well. It's the games that are developed with a single consoles architecture in mind that often perform better than those created to be multiplat titles.
When Sega first set about challenging Nintendo it was through their exclusive Sonic franchise that they were able to compete, but had Nintendo also had access to Sonic there would have been little reason if any for consumers to purchase a Sega genesis console. Games like The Last Of Us, Halo and Mario exist as proof that exclusive games are still viable in the current industry and can be incredibly successful if done well, but are these so called "system sellers" as necessary as they once were? for games like Mario or The Legend of Zelda is it even possible for them to remain unchanged if they were to appear on a non Nintendo system? Given the current industries obsession with mass appeal it's very likely that these franchises and many like them would undergo a drastic overhauls in order to make them more "appealing" and "accessible" this would probably be enough to bring a few newcomers to the franchise, but it would inevitably alienate many long time fans.
With the announcement of Valve'sSteam Machine, and it's ability to play any and all games available on the Steam service through (SOS) aka the "Steam Operating System" many believe it has the potential to change the videogame console landscape, whether or not the Steam Machine will make a significant splash in the mainstream is debatable but in my opinion, due to it's PC like nature and digital content focus it's certainly worth taking notice of.
Will the Steam Machine succeed? and if so what effect would that have on the videogame console landscape?
To paraphrase a comment made by Ben (Yahtzee) Croshaw, of Zero Punctuation fame "having a game exist to support a console is akin to having the words on a page exist solely to support the pages they were printed on"
I agree with the statement above, and I'm pretty sure that if you really take the time to think about it mostly everyone would come to agree. But it is worth remembering why exclusive games became a thing in the first place. You see books and videogames do have some similarities, printed words much like games on a disc require a platform which they can be experienced through before they can be enjoyed, the pages in a book are as much a platform as a console. Although the key difference being that books are capable of displaying any text and any story, where as games require a console with compatible architecture before they can be played, the main difference being is there's no need for separate companies to develop multiple versions of books as a platform because printed text is compatible with every kind of book, where as certain games can't be played on certain consoles due to incompatibility architecture.
Personally I'm not completely apposed to having a single console that can play any game, there really isn't so much need for exclusionary exclusivity anymore, but is the industry really ready for that yet? I mean if there was such a console would there be any need for competitors to release their own seeing as how their console would perform practically the same with the only real differences being the features they offer? Also if there was to be only one console then who would the developer be? Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Valve? Heck it could even be from a completely new developer. But then who's to stop the company that develops the only console required to play games from implementing restrictive policies due to there being no direct competition?
Would a "one console to rule them all" approach actually work, or would such power inevitably lead to corruption?
So after all that being said, I'm honestly no closer to deciding whether not console exclusivity is so necessary any more. But what do you think? do we still need multiple consoles with exclusive content? or is it time now to do away with all that and just have one console capable of playing all games regardless of the publisher or developer?
"Innovation", innovation is a word you hear thrown around quite a lot in the videogames industry, either coming from publishers and developers who claim to be striving for it, or from gamers who complain about the growing lack of it. But what exactly do we mean when we talk about innovation in regards to videogames? The fact of the matter is, the term itself is capable of covering a broad spectrum of possibilities so it's meaning can vary drastically from one persons usage of it to another.
It's a difficult term to contextualise, but what I think most gamers expect when we hear the term "innovation" is either new methods of play, be that either how we interact within the virtual world as the player character or how we control the player character by way of the UI (user interface) which may even offer us new ways to play besides the classic controller/keyboard & mouse approach. Or even a new genre, maybe one that either expands upon the foundation of a pre-existing genre, or focuses more heavily on a specific element of another and builds a game around that, these examples are only few amongst many others of course. Where as from a publisher or developer standpoint, innovation could be anything from a new and/or improved game engine to integrating social media aps. Needless to say, not all innovations in gaming come about in order to actually improve gaming as a whole, as we've already seen with many services such as DLC, DRM and online subscriptions, these "innovations" can exist sometimes as more of a barrier to additional content, imposed more in order to help line publisher pockets instead of offering consumers a service which actually improves their gaming experience without holding content to ransom, or attaching other needless strings. This of course may not have been the case when such services were first implemented but I wouldn't blame any of you for assuming that was the case.
As I've said before I'm not against DLC, the option to purchase additional content to help extend one's enjoyment of a game is a welcome feature. My problem is when the content being sold to us as DLC was originally meant to be released on the disc, but is instead deliberately being held back to then be sold to is in piece meals.
Most of us don't expect to get any additional content for free, we understand that people need to to get paid for the work they do after all, but what upsets many gamers is the feeling as if we are being charged for content that should have been made available on the disc at retail. These optional features can often feel as if they are simply ways for companies to piece meal their content instead of making it available on disc at launch, obviously no one would argue about additional content being made available later down the line, but the practice of holding back content to sell as DLC later must stop.
The problem is that the current system in place for the purchase of content via online is one that seems tailor made for such "services" to become more lucrative than the games we've purchased. For example, the fact that many games we buy today offer microtransactions in the form of day one DLC. Now I'm not personally against the option to purchase additional content but too often it feels as if certain parts of a game were held back to then be fed to us piece meal style after the games official release. Monthly subscriptions are of course are an option but sadly more often than not much of the DLC you receive is hardly ever worth the cost of subscribing.
Xbox live, still a paid service... Something that baffles me to this day, but more so now that the many advertisements present on the Xbox dashboard should create more than enough revenue to cover server fees, an issue made worse by the fact that many game servers have a hard time maintaining the heavy load placed on them, one would think that given the sheer amount of profits made by these companies that they would invest in additional servers to help meet the inevitable demand made by many popular games, especially with such a heavy focus being made to online gaming.
Microsoft should implement a free online feature, if they want to create their own version of PS+ then fair enough but basic access to online gaming should be free. Now I don't expect everyone to agree with me here, but at the very least think about this. You pay for Xbox Live in order to use the Internet, the same Internet service that you already pay your Internet provider for, to then access a feature in a game you paid full price for that is freely available on the PS3, Wii and Wii U.
The trouble with innovation in any industry is that it's not guaranteed to improve a product or service, in fact it can often lead to the detriment of a product if implemented solely for the benefit of a company and without the intended consumer demographic being taken into consideration. For example look at the sorry state of the current Resident Evil franchise, all the innovations (changes if you will) were made so as to increase the overall appeal of the IP, not in order to make the franchise "better" but purely so that Capcom could increase their profits. In this games industry, why is it that lately the term "innovation" seems so synonymous with words like generic, cookie-cutter and accessible? Is it because from a company standpoint, innovation is considered to be whatever helps to increases a companies profits? Although to be fair, if you look at a lot of innovations to come about in the games industry as of late, they are often game mechanics and elements taken from other, more popular games and/or franchises, and re-worked into a pre-existing game/franchise such as Resident Evil or Final Fantasy in hopes that these companies will see similar profits being made.
The issue we as gamers are faced with today is, what innovations are required in order to actually further advance gaming as a whole? And what innovations are purely being put in place as an additional avenue for companies to further profit off of us the consumers? The alteration of pre-existing game genres or gameplay mechanics, making the experience more streamlined and/or offering the player a deeper level of interactivity and/or control are innovations I feel are worth striving for. But too often now we see companies trying to replicate the success of another by trying to force certain gameplay mechanics in where they do not belong. Some would call the current Final Fantasy series the evolution of the JRPG, but to me it seems more like a glorified mishmash of gameplay mechanics that simply do not gel, once again it is this apparent need for "mass appeal" brought about due to bloated development budgets that has invited such a needless change to a franchise that was once the epitome of the JRPG genre. Even the new focus on social media aps and sharing feels more like a way for companies to control how their games are viewed instead of a way for consumers to freely share and enjoy each others content.
There are few innovations in gameplay to come about in recent years that equal those made 10 years ago, but innovations in the way we play games are still being made, whether or not motion sensor gaming or VR (virtual reality) is the future of play is yet be seen but the odds are good we'll be seeing more of it.
How, I ask you, in such an industry that seems totally focused on pleasing everyone, is it possible to see such genre defining IPs come about like we did in the past? Games like GTA-III, Resident Evil 4, Shenmue and Assassins Creed, these games all broke the mold and earned critical acclaim because of it. But because of the current business model employed by most big name publishers today the next big industry defining change will most likely come about from either the mobile or indie scene, were innovation and originality are still vital in order to succeed. If that is to be the case where does this leave console gaming? It may well still be at the forefront of the games industry but due to the the current industries structure it seems as if there is simply no room for such innovations to equal those seen in the past. Many of the innovations in the console gaming scene being made today are mostly companies just playing catch up with one another, trying to replicate the success of the competition or altering their games to increase accessibility and appeal, It may even be the case that the industry is at the point where technology needs to advance further before the next "industry defining" innovations can come about.
Personally, I feel that if the current business model for AAA game development were to remain in place, then even the advent of new game changing technology would mean very little, in an industry seemingly content to constantly try to replicate the success of the competition or rehash whatever IPs have brought them success in the past.
Thanks for reading my blog, if you'd like to add anything or disagree with any of my points, please feel free to leave a comment.
Way back in the late 80's early 90, when videogames were first becoming popular as a entertainment medium, who would ever have guessed that the videogames industry would come as far as it has today? It is after all arguably the greatest, most popular and profitable entertainment medium around right now.
My reason for writing this blog is in order to discuss the high points of the videogame industry's history, and why I personally believe videogames to be the best form of entertainment available to us today. I'll start by saying that I am primarily a console gamer, so I'll be focusing more on that aspect of gaming, mostly due to the fact that I'm more familiar with home consoles and console games and also because I don't wish to spread any misinformation.
Pong. Widely regarded as the precursor to modern gaming, how odd to think that our gaming hobby started out as two oblong shapes bouncing a square ball back and forth against a barren background.
As many of you may already know, videogames have been around for well over 25 years and have offered us many old-school PC and arcade classics such as Pong, Tetris, Space-Invaders and Pacman, and although the advent of console gaming and modern day innovations have helped push the medium further, allowing it to gain mainstream acclaim, the roots of our hobby are still deeply intertwined in the games we play even today. Gaming has come so far as to reach the point where films are now not only being adapted into videogames to help further popularise a movie, but videogames are being adapted into movies to help popularise a game!. Think about that for a second, videogames have gained such a huge following in the mainstream that they are now actively affecting another medium of entertainment, one that has been around for centuries before hand. Who would have thought that games like Tomb Raider, Resident Evil and Prince of Persia would ever get movie adaptations? (I am aware of the live action Super Mario Bro's movie and Mortal Kombat but it's undeniable that game to movie adaptations are a much more common occurrence today) It just goes to show how far gaming as an entertainment medium has come after a relatively short amount of time.
There are of course many reasons as to why I feel videogames are a better form of entertainment than any other, but one such reason is because videogames have the unique ability to combine the cinematic and story telling elements seen in movies, along with music which enables us to feel a myriad of emotions beyond those conveyable through words, all while offering us unprecedented interactivity with a virtual world for us to loose ourselves in. It is this combination of cinema, music and interactivity that I believe contributes greatly to giving videogames the edge over the competition. This isn't to say however that all videogames are required to incorporate cinema style story telling in order to be considered "good games" there are still many popular games and franchises today that do very well by sticking with the old-school non cinematic model of videogame storytelling, such as Super Mario. Speaking of Mario where would videogaming be today without our mushroom loving moustachioed hero? It's honestly hard to imagine gaming ever having become quite so popular as it is today without the involvement of Nintendo and the Mario franchise
Super Mario Bros. Mario has been a core Nintendo franchise way back since his first outing in the 1985 classic Super Mario Bros, the moustachioed hero has continued to gain in popularity with young and old gamers alike for generations
But long before Nintendo laid the foundation for console gaming with the NES, and went about setting the standard for console videogames everywhere with their "Nintendo gold seal of quality" there were quite a number of home consoles that came about such as the Magnavox Odysse, Atari 2600 and the Commodore 64 Games System, but most failed largely due to either insane pricing or the extreme difference in quality between many of the games available on their respective platforms (amongst a variety of other reasons of course) It is arguably due largely to Nintendo's strict quality control that they were able to to rise above the competition, although taking into consideration the fact that Nintendo also had such talent on board the likes of Shigeru Miyamoto, Eiji Aonuma and Yoshio Sakamoto, the developers responsible for such Nintendo classics as Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda and Metroid, is it really any wonder how Nintendo found such worldwide success in the videogames industry?
Nintendo eventually found a worthy rival in Sega and for a long time they did battle (I suppose you could even call this the very first console war) there were a great many fantastic games to be released by both parties but it wasn't until the release of the Super Nes and Sega Saturn that we'd see the console videogame landscape transform with the advent of 3D gaming. Now PC gamers naturally had the privilege of experiencing 3D gaming for a number of years beforehand thanks to popular PC games such as Wolfenstein 3D, and the more popular and widely known Doom (although console gamers were later treated to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, highly disputed by many as one of single greatest console games ever created) The ability to now control your character on a 3D plain gave rise to a previously unprecedented freedom of exploration, as well as new types of genres and gameplay elements, although some early 3D character models looked reminiscent of paper mache rejects there really aren't many who would disagree that the advent of 3D gaming was truly a landmark moment for the videogames industry.
The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. This N-64 classic is praised by many as one of the greatest adventure games ever created, the games continued popularity earned it a 3D rebuild (as seen above) for the Nintendo 3DS in June 2011.
But who was to know that the next landmark moment for videogaming would come about thanks to a completely new challenger? (That's right I'm talking about Sony) Sony'sfirst foray into console gaming with their "Playstation" ushered in with it a focus on the mainstream, you see before the Playstation, videogaming was still considered by the vast majority of society as a children's past time, but thankfully Sony was having none of that and heavily promoted the Playstation as the console for "cool kids" It paid off too, the Sony Playstation was a monumental success and helped to further popularise gaming as a entertainment pass-time. However Sony's smart decision making wasn't the only reason the Playstation became a success, for those of you not in the know Nintendo actually approached Sony asking them to create a disc based console, I'm not entirely aware of the specifics myself, but it seems that the deal fell through and Nintendo instead went on to develop the Nintendo 64, another cartridge based system like the Snes and NES before it, leaving Sony with a disc based console and scratching their heads. Sony eventually decided to put the console out on the market as direct competition to Nintendo's N-64 and called it the "Playstation" and with what I'd arguably call "Poetic justice" Sony went on to gain many exclusives such as Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Ridge Racer-Type 4 and Tekken, including some titles that once belonged to Nintendo, this of course was primarily due to the Playstation being a disc based system, discs being a newer, superior format in comparison to the aging cartridge system. Where as Nintendo went on to loose many of their exclusive IP's such as Final Fantasy and missed out on many exclusives, primarily due to the N-64 only supporting cartridge based games, which do allow for games to be saved directly on the cartridge eliminating the need for memory cards but are otherwise a very limited format when compared to discs.
The Sony Playstation (aka the PSX) Sony's Playstation opened up gaming to the masses, it is the consel that defined a generation and made gaming populer in the mainstream.
Sony have gone from strength to strength after the release of the Playstation, where as many believe the Nintendo 64 to be the beginning of Nintendo's gradual decline in the industry.
Of course no list about landmark videogame achievements would be complete without mentioning GTA-III (aka Grand Theft auto 3) the originator of the "sandbox genre" Long before the British, Edinburgh based developer DMA Design Ltd were taken on by Rockstar Games, GTA was still around upsetting parents and causing controversy, but instead in a 2D, top down view setting. It wasn't until GTA-III was released in all it's 3D, open-world glory that the franchise really hit it big. There are a great many reasons as to why GTA-III is truly a landmark in gaming history, it offered a previously unprecedented level of freedom and exploration, mature content and story telling, as well as the ability to cause absolute mayhem, but honestly there are far too many reasons for GTA-III's success for me to list here. Though fortunately if you are interested you needn't look much further than the games recent successor GTA-V, to help you understand exactly why the move into a 3D open-world setting caused such a stir way back in the early 2000's.
GTA-III (aka Grand Thenf Auto 3) The game that single handedly popularised the "sandbox genre" whlile setting a new precident for videogames everywhere.
So, we've covered a little on how the early popularity of console gaming came about, the advent of 3D gaming, the industry's gradual move into the mainstream, and it's acceptance as a entertainment pass-time for the young as well as the mature, next I'm going to discuss online gaming.
Now not many people may know this, but there were a few early consoles that actually did offer online functionality in one form or another, such as the Japanese NES (aka the Famicom) by way of the Famicom Modem, as well as the Super-NES and Sega Genesis which offered online gaming by way of the XBANDmodem in the USA. But these early attempts at online connectivity were extremely lacking, even archaic in comparison to more well known and modern attempts. It wasn't until the Sega Dreamcast was released however that online console gaming began to truly take form. Unknown by many today primarily due to it's short time in the sun, the Sega Dreamcast was quite revolutionary and far ahead of it's time (making it's early bow out of the industry all the more of a shame) as well as offering VMU's (Visual memory card Units) unique portable memory cards that let you save and store game data as well play mini games, it was also in fact the first home console to include a built-in modem and Internet support for online play, a feature that would become the standard for pretty much all consoles to follow.
The Sega Dreamcast. Both forgotten and mourned by many, the Sega Dreamcast holds a special place in many gamers hearts as the last true "arcade console".
The next milestone to come about for console gaming was arguably thanks to Microsoft's "Xbox" and it's contribution to the further advancement of online gaming "Halo: Combat Evolved" was a fantastic FPS (First person shooter) but it wasn't until it's sequel "Halo 2" that Microsoft really began to push online gaming forward, for many Halo 2 was "the game to play" if you had an Xbox and an online connection, and in many ways it was responsible for laying the foundation that many future console online FPS's set about building their success upon, games such as Call of Duty for example. The next generation of consoles to follow, the PS3, Xbox 360 (even the Wii but to a lesser extent) respectively, were each built with online gaming in mind, the majority of core titles and AAA games to be released almost always came with a online mode such as online multiplayer which usually offered competitive and/or cooperative play. Due to the growing complexity of many modern day videogames, certain bugs or errors are naturally accepted as a given now since they are more likely to be overlooked before a game hits store shelve, however standardised online connectivity has brought with it the ability fix broken/buggy games via online patches (another thing PC gamers have been enjoying for a number of years before hand) also companies were now able to offer consumers additional content long after they had purchased the game by way of DLC (Downloadable content. As much as many companies may get a bad rep for their misuse of DLC, it's undeniable that the ability to offer additional content to consumers via online download in order to help prolong the enjoyment of a particular game, is a feature that has gone on to define (for better or worse) the current generation of videogames.
As the old generation begins to bow out, let us remember the innovations brought about by the PS3, Xbox 360 and the Wii, such as motion sensor gaming, standardised online connectivity enabling for online patches, DLC and the mass popularity of online gaming.
So, what new generation defining features can we expect to see next gen? will new features such as the integration of social media websites and content sharing spark a new trend in the industry? Personally I can't wait to see what the "next big thing" will be. But if there's one thing that intarests me most of all, it's what brand new gaming experiance lay waiting around the corner.
Thanks for sticking with me to the end and I hope you enjoyed reading about some of the history and high points of the videogames industry, as always if you have anything to add or disagree with any of my points made then please feel free to leave a comment.
Mighty No.9: a new breed of Japanese sidescrolling action shooter!
Mighty No.9 (touted as the spiritual successor to Megaman) is the first project currently in development by indie videogame company "Comcept" founded by the legendary and highly influential videogame developer "Keiji Inafune" best known for having created such popular titles as Megaman, Megaman X, Onimusha, Dead Rising and has also had his hand in many other popular games to come out of Capcom.
Following Inafune-san's break away from Capcom in October 2010, shortly after the cancellation of Megaman Legends 3 which led to a great many fans being disappointed, he set about founding his own videogame development company in order to make sure that his future projects would not suffer the same fate. Eventually gaining support from the likes of "Naoya Tomita" who helped in the development of the original Megaman game as well as Megaman 2, 5, 6 and Megaman Legends, "Kimo.Kimo" a talented character designer known for his unique and memorable characters in such popular titles as Street Fighter Alpha 3, Darkstalkers, Red Earth and The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap, as well as Manami Matsui, who was responsible for bringing us the entire original Megaman soundtrack, and has contributed to other popular games such as Megaman 10, shovel knight and many more. These are just a small handful of the talent that has assembled together to help contribute to the development of Mighty No.9.
In the hope of making the companies first project a success they have turned to the popular crowdfunding website Kickstarter, and as of today they are mere hours away from successfully kickstarting their project into the full on development stage with a whopping Kickstarter backing of $3,412,319 and rising. They have also plowed through the majority of their stretch goals leading to a multitude of extra content being added to the final product, including new stages, a bonus: Boss rush mode and a making of documentary to name a few, Mighty No.9 will also be getting current gen console ports, next gen ports to the PS4 and Xbox One and Wii U, and to the delight of many (including myself) Mighty No.9 will now also be getting ported to the PS-Vita and Nintendo 3DS!. Congratulations everyone who contributed to the push.
I bring this news to your attention not only in hopes of helping the project gain further backing, but also because I believe the glowing success of Comcept's Mighty No.9 kickstarter project is testament to the popularity and appeal of a genre that frankly many in the mainstream (Capcom most notably) have seemingly decided is no longer worth developing for. So I urge you, fans of Megaman, fans of Keiji Inafune, heck even those of you who have yet to experience or appreciate the talent that any of these videogame veterans have to offer, back this project not only so that Mighty No.9 may be a success but also to support a new talented development company, one which is aiming to not only offer us a new take on a popular genre many of us know and love, but who are devoted to innovation, and who are striving to bring us the best game they can with the help of fan input.
Let's all do our best to help make Mighty No.9 a success!
Thanks for reading my blog, if you are interested in backing Mighty No.9 then click on this link to head over to the Mighty No.9 Kickstarter page http://www.kickstarter.com/... Also you can check out the vid below to see the Mighty No.9 Kickstarter pitch.
Every one of us has our preferences when it comes to certain videogame genres, sub genres and artistic styles, but it seems these days many gamers out there are under the mistaken delusion, that certain games (especially games that they dislike) are somehow inferior to popular AAA releases and/or games that they happen to find enjoyment in playing. This mistaken perception can end up causing many gamers to miss out on a great many fantastic but lesser known titles, the attitude many have towards videogames developed with a lower budget only helps lend to further stagnate the industry. Far too many gamers are narrow minded and unwilling to try out new and different types of videogame genres, leading to the the publishers themselves not being prepared to risk development on games that they feel consumers aren't interested in.
In the age of huge western AAA franchises that offer us Hollywood style storytelling, giant set-pieces, earth shattering explosions and the like, it's easy to see why more humble videogames end up getting over looked or ignored, but are these seemingly "lesser games" actually inferior? or is the only thing that's really holding them back simply that they are lacking in all that glitz and glimmer, that many seem to think is a prerequisite in order for game to be considered "worth playing"? Take a look at your videogame library for a moment, now ask yourself this; How many of those games aren't big budget, AAA releases that have received huge ad campaigns and/or scored over 8/10 from mainstream reviewers? And how many of them have gone on to spawn two or three sequels or a couple of spin offs? Chances are the majority of games you find yourself playing regularly are from big "dependable" publishers, who have spent a huge amount of time and money moulding their major IPs into AAA franchise material. The thing is, there are some games out there that have the potential to be just as good, if not better than any current AAA developed game, but they simply don't have a chance due to gamers passing them over for their more pretty, big budget counter-parts.
Now sticking with a genre or franchise you enjoy is a smart move, especially if you lack the funds to do otherwise, but what about all the great lesser known games you may be missing out on? Believe me when I tell you that there are a great many games that may even have the potential to rival current AAA franchises, even games that you consider to be the best of the best this gen, but are being held back, because gamers today refuse to step outside of their comfort zone by playing a game that looks to be below their standards.
These days too many gamers tend to play a handful of choice franchises all year round, completely ignoring anything else unless it causes a big enough stir in the mainstream to be considered a "must play" title. Personally I just couldn't do that, first of all I don't believe that many current mainstream videogame journalist and reviewers have a better idea than actual gamers as to what's worth playing, and secondly there are far too many fantastic games from big companies and small companies alike, that sticking to just one franchise, heck just one genre for that matter, would mean that I'd have missed out on a great many of my all time favourite games, games I still own today and refuse to sell or trade in because they are simply too good to let go.
Take for example Japanese developed games, many Japanese games (especially JRPG's) are often over looked or out right avoided, by the majority of mainstream gamers due to them having certain recurring tropes and themes that some people find off putting, such as the representation of female characters, the story being too convoluted, the sometimes overly used childish, idealistic notion that love, friendship and hope will see the protagonists through safely to the end, even the anime-esque art style is enough to put some people off almost immediately. Personally I happen to find most of these predictable tropes and themes quite charming, if implemented well and not just used to follow a tired, predictable, tried and true formula.
Atelier Rorona, a wonderful turn based JRPG that I'm sure has been passed over by many
due primarily to it's anime themed art style and female protagonist.
Of course this is not to say that only Japanese games rely on a tried and true formula, in fact many western games have a formulaic structure to them , AAA games especially. The formulaic brand of Hollywood-esque story telling, style over substance gameplay, the childish gratuitous use of explosive cutscenes, profanity, gore, sex, violence and a black and white approach to good and evil to name a few. That's not to say this is a bad thing though, many of these themes are recurring purely because they have significant entertainment value. Obviously it's not the case for all western AAA videogames, but I'm sure you can understand where I'm coming from when I say that western games have their own tried and true formulas, which appeal to most of us because they are developed with a western audience in mind, there's no culture barrier needed to be overcome unlike with certain Japanese games.
The Call Of Duty franchise relies heavaly on high octane shoot-outs, huge set pieces, explosive cutscenes and fast paced gameplay. You may not be a fan but it's easy to see where the appeal stems from.
Unfortunately it's not just gamers who seem to refuse to acknowledge certain "lesser" genres and sub genres, it seems the videogames industry itself refuses to develop for less popular genres these days. This gen many big publishers severely limited their output (apart from sequels to their already popular IP's) to focus primarily on FPS's, TPS's and open world games. Sure those are some fun genres which have brought us many popular games/franchises, such as COD, Gears of War and GTA to name just a few, but don't we already have more than enough games currently covering these genres? I mean aren't we always hearing how the market is "over oversaturated" with shooters and open world games right now? Sadly, as it stands now next gen seems like it may be more of the same... I suppose it wouldn't really be such an issue if a great many games from these genres weren't severely lacking in comparison to those they are trying to replicate. It's just that, well to me anyway, many of them feel as if they've been pushed out the door half backed in an attempt to capitalise on the past success of the games that helped popularise these genres to begin with.
Honestly, if I've learnt anything from purchasing both AAA games and lesser known games, it's that the AAA label is certainly no longer a mark of a games quality, in fact it's really just a reminder to us all of the insane amount of cash that's gone into developing a AAA game, making the fact that so many of them tend to lead to flop or lead to disappointment, or perform poorly in regards to sales (if you consider a game earning a company upwards of $7,million, performing poorly) that much more depressing.
The Tomb Raider reboot was a fantastic game selling far better than many other reboots (Team Ninja's DmC: Devil May Cry for example) but according to Square Enix the company suffered an "extraordinary loss" due to lower than expected sales.
There's another thing I hear a lot of gamers say these days, and that's "I don't buy second hand games" well that's all well and good I suppose, I mean if you want to support a company, then the best way to do so is to purchase their games new if you can afford to. But refusing to buy "any" game second hand means you've very likely missed out on some truly great gems, games that probably got over shadowed during the release of more popular AAA games, and seeing as most "less popular" games tend to get a smaller number of units sent out compared to their popular AAA counterparts, it means that the chances of finding any great lesser known games on the shelf brand new, is highly unlikely. So, if you consider yourself a "gamer" then you really owe it to yourself to purchase a lesser known game second hand, there's probably some game you've heard about, either from a friend or reliable reviewer, that you've considered picking up, so if you happen to see that game second hand somewhere, why not pick it up there? It'll probably be pretty cheap too, and if you enjoy it then you may go on to purchase it's sequel new if the game sold well enough for it to be sequalised.
It's safe to say that many of us have grown increasingly weary of the constant slew of generic, cookie-cuter, made for the masses releases that have saturated this current console generation. How fortunate for us then, that Indie gaming have taken the industry by storm, and have proven what many, many gamers have been saying for years now, and that is; A game needn't have a bloated AAA budget, fancy graphics and mass appeal behind it, to be entertaining and sell well. In fact a smaller budget often means that indie games are required to be innovative and original in order to stick out from the competition.
Journey proved that offering consumers immersive gameplay and gorgeous graphics
needn't cost the developers an arm and a leg.
We can only hope now, given the success of Indie games, that more original and innovative IPs will be announced from mainstream developers and publishers in the near future. But the thing I feel must be mentioned here is, there have already been plenty of original and innovative IPs to released throughout this gen, but sadly a lot of then have been ignored in favour of the more popular AAA franchises many of us have become accustomed too, but continue to complain about. It does the industry no good if we continue to support companies we feel are only further stagnating the industry, and go about ignoring those companies who are trying to make the next step forward. However I can't say that we gamers are entirely to blame for this, the mainstream media and videogame journalist play a part in this too, by constantly shoving popular AAA franchises in our faces and announcing how "mind blowing" and "must have" they are, without ever mentioning smaller more modest IPs that are also worth checking out.
If we ever want the videogames industry to get out of it's current rut, then we as consumers we need to be more vigilant in regards to our purchases. Obviously we need to support the companies we know and trust, but we should also make the effort to support innovative lesser know titles. The more consumer focus is turned away from games that are stagnating the industry by creating generic, made for the masses, cookie cutter content, and turned towards those games that offer originality and innovation, then naturally the industry will have to change it's approach in order to keep in line with consumer demand.
Gamers have a lot more pull than I honestly think we realise, but our continued ignorance has only helped maintane the status quo, helping line publisher pockets while depriving the industry of growth and diversity. It's not the publishers or the mainstream media who dictate industry trends, it's all of us, and right now we need to be putting this pull to a positive use by supporting companies who place the further advancement and betterment of videogaming in general, above that of personal gain, satisfying their investors and maintaining the publisher imposed status quo.
Thanks for reading my blog, if you'd like to add anything or disagree with any of my points, please feel free to leave a comment.