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.
As most of you are likely already well aware, recently news has come about that Capcom are in a bit of trouble financially, it's nothing too desperate right now but the news of their less than desirable situation was enough to cause many to question the companies future in the games industry. So how did Capcom, a company with a great many IPs under it's belt get into such a mess? Well hopefully by the end of this I'll have helped to answer that question.
It's public knowledge that Capcom for a while now, have been struggling to say the least. Earlier this year it was reported that Capcom's profits dropped 37%, that's rather hefty loss, apparently they stated the cause for this was the competition posed by the sheer amount of AAA games released from other companies around the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, that were supposedly over shadowing their seemingly less appealing games. As well as Capcom themselves openly admitting that their attempts at "outsourcing" popular IPs to the West (such as Resident Evil and Devil May Cry) had yielded less than satisfactory results.
But honestly, what kind of excuse is that for a company like Capcom? With all their blatant miss use of DLC, on disk DLC, microinstructions, and the milking of their popular franchises, not to mention a company that owns many, many popular games and franchises, but chooses only to either cancel them, outsource them, or just sit on them while they drive their most popular franchises like Resident Evil into the ground while nickel and diming consumers by piecemealing their content. With all this penny pinching how can Capcom honestly be doing bad financially? Or is all this penny pinching purely due to their desperate circumstances?
As far as I'm concerned part of Capcoms reason for it's current financial situation is easily explainable, and it's something that's led to the gradual degradation of many popular Japanese videogame developers, and that is this obsession with appealing to the West. Capcom was at their best back when they were developing fun, innovative and enjoyable games, instead of trying to replicate western games in order to appeal to a wider audience. Appealing to the west isn't a bad thing in and of itself, heck eastern and western video game developers could probably learn a lot from one another going by the different ways they each approach certain genres, but the problem we see all too often is that many Japanese games lose the originality that made them appealing to begin with, casting off their charm purely in order to appeal to a demographic they were never meant to appeal too.
Look at the state of Resident Evil today for example, RE was always supposed to be a survival horror game, but now it's a pure action game with Zombies (if you can even call them "Zombies" anymore) void of any genuine chills, scares or the tense atmosphere that made the franchise the huge success it once was, and what for? To appeal to a wider demographic. Well maybe that might have been worth selling the franchise out if Capcom had realistic sales expectations, instead a ridiculous figure for units sold like "7 million" Resident Evil 6 apparently sold around 4.9 million copies around may of this year, leading Capcom to believe the game was a failure... 4.9 million copies sold is a failure now? And why? Because Call of Duty sold $1 billion copies suddenly every other company expects to make similar sales?... It's madness, COD wouldn't be the best selling franchise if every company could pull of similar figures.
Now I've already done a review for DmC: Devil May Cry where I gave it an over all decent score, so I'm not about to go back on that here, but this needs to be said. It may have sounded like a smart move on paper to outsource Devil May Cry to a western studio, but honestly could Capcom have handled the decision much worse than when they decided on choosing Ninja Theory... Now look, I like Ninja Theory, I'm a huge fan of Heavenly Sword, but everything they've done since then have both been pretty average... I'm not sure if Capcom had this planned out from the start in hopes of gaining more publicity for their now Western developed game, but the controversy that came about during the early teaser trailer for DmC: Devil May Cry, and plagued the game all the way through it's extended development, due to Ninja Theory's rather outspoken and negative attitude to core fans of the original franchise, did little good for what was a niche franchise to begin with, if anything the game gained a lot of publicity due to fans voicing their anger at what Ninja Theory had done to their beloved franchise, while many argued back defending Ninja Theory and their new approach to the franchise. in the end what we ended up with was a half decent hack 'n slash which probably would have done better sales wise had it not carried the title of "Devil may Cry" What needs to be learnt from this is that outsourcing very rarely ever works out well, but if you're going to attempt it make sure the company you're outsourcing to respects the core fans and doesn't add any unnecessary weight to the inevitable controversy. But I digress.
As I stated above, one issue is that Capcom keeps attempting to appeal to the west by copying popular western games, while ignoring the fact that it was their originality that made them such a success to begin with. Another problem is the wasted potential posed by many, many IPs Capcom have chosen to just sit on for oh, over 10 years or so now collecting dust, while they continue to butcher their most popular franchise with each new iteration. How about a new Ghouls and Ghosts, Or Power Stone, Dino Crisis, Mega Man, Breath of Fire, Rival Schools or Darkstalkers? the list goes on and on... But no, instead of Capcom developing new iterations for these popular IPs (well popular at the one time) IPs that many have been asking for, for quite some time and putting them out there to make some cash, they choose instead to sit on them letting their potential waste away. I honestly can't stress this enough, if you actually look at all the great games Capcom own and could be developing on right now, it seems utterly absurd for them to be doing absolutely nothing with them.
Capcom has so many great IPs, they're why they were such a great company after all, but now it almost seems as if they're a shadow of their former selves... Capcom's brand new IP, Deep Down, while looking interesting is anything but original, seeming to blend both Assassin Creed's virtual reality story element with Dark Souls gameplay mechanics, it's certainly an interesting premise and without a doubt I'll be checking the games out ASAP, but unless Capcom can pull it off, and offer an IP that can rival both Assassins Creed and Dark Souls, then what future is there for a game that appears to be only a carbon copy of the best of both popular IPs? Saying that though, being an online only game with randomly generated dungeons and enemies, and offering cooperative play is certainly cause for intrigue, but for now we'll jut have to wait and see how it all comes together, especially considering how lackluster Capcoms recent projects have turned out to be.
I am Sorry if I'm coming off a little critical of Capcom, but understand this, the only reason I'm am being critical of them is because I know what they are capable of. Some of my favourite franchises have come from Capcom, like Resident Evil, Ace Combat, Onimusha Warlords, Rival Schools, Street Fighter, and Power Stone to name a few, and believe me I could go on and on. This is why it pains me so to see Capcom become such a mess, I don't know if it's because they've lost much of the original talent behind their games and franchises, or are just struggling to keep up in the age of AAA franchises, and everything or nothing game development, but something needs to change at Capcom or else they may well find themselves being brought out in the not so distant future.
Of course this doesn't just go for Capcom, Square Enix have been responsible for a great many similar activities. The latest Tomb Raider reboot apparently failed to meet predicted sales made evident when the company announced they had made a “extraordinary loss” on the project, leading to major reforms and restructuring efforts for the company. The Final Fantasy IIIX series of games continues to divide fans due to Square Enix's continued attempts to appeal to the West, Sleeping Dogs, (essentially GTA in a eastern setting) seemed to have come and gone without so much as a whimper. So, is this what is to be expected when eastern videogame companies try to replicate western videogames in hopes of finding similar success? I don't think so.
Attempting to replicate the success of another without fully understanding how that success came about in the first place, obviously leads to ruin eventually. To say that Japanese
companies that attempt to appeal to the west are destined to fail from the start, is overlooking the real issue. Many of these games being developed to appeal to the west are just an attempt at cashing in on the success of another. It's those who understand where the success comes from, or better yet, it's the companies who understand exactly why a consumer enjoys a game, and then develops their game to cater to the consumers interests, who will succeed in the end.
Really it's no secret as to why big companies like Activision, EA, Ubisoft, and Naughty Dog find success in the west while many big Japanese developers struggle. Western companies are just more in tune with what western consumers want, if western developers were to attempt to appeal to Japanese consumers I imagine they would have just as much of an issue appealing to them, as many Japanese developers have appealing to western consumers. Japanese devs have it a lot tougher now than they did in the past, that's why I admire any Japanese company who continues staying true to themselves and their ideals, instead of attempting to appeal to western consumers purely for financial gain. That's not to say Japanese devs shouldn't develop western styled games, not at all, what I mean is that any developer, (eastern or western) needs to create content they understand instead of trying to replicate the success of others without understanding exactly where that success came from.
Anyway, I think I'll end it here before I ramble on any further.
Thanks for reading my blog and as always if you want to add anything or disagree with any of the points I've made, please feel free to leave a comment
Enemy obstacles and player progression. Throughout videogame history, the player being required to kill enemies in order to make progress has been a popular and recurring gameplay mechanic, since videogames were first popularised sometime in the late 80's, and is still being used in the vast majority of modern day videogames till this day. Throughout this blog I will be referring to this gameplay mechanic as the (Killing in the name of progression gameplay mechanic) Basically, this a term I've created in order to reference a recurring gameplay mechanic that's purpose is to offer an obstacle between the player and their goal, in the form of an "enemy" or "boss" which must be killed/defeated before the player can progress.
Even though the morality of killing in videogames has been called into question quite a bit in recent years, and many games have come about lately that avoid having the player directly kill an enemy at all, I still believe it to be a very important and necessary gameplay mechanic for certain games/genres, so important in fact that many games we know and love would simply not have existed, or would have been vastly different without it.
Unfortunately I haven't been able to narrow down precisely which was the first videogame to require players to "kill" enemies in order to make progress, although I assume the practice first came about with the advent of early PC games and especially at videogame arcades, where the idea was to use enemies as a means to kill the player over and over again in order to extract as much of their pocket money as possible. If in fact this is the case, then it's likely that popular videogames such as Pacman and Space Invaders were the originators of the this gameplay mechanicwe see used so often throughout gaming history. "The stakes are never higher than when a life is on the line" after all (even if it's only a virtual life) so to allow the player to kill or be killed by enemies, made progressing more entertaining, tense and challenging. The increased difficulty after each level or enemy wave also lent to making progressing later levels extremely challenging and made getting that "high score" more rewarding.
PC games such as Wolfenstain and Doom, as well as arcade games such as Pacman and Space invaders, all used this "Killing in the name of progression gameplay mechanic" (which as I stated above is still in popular use well over 20 years after it was first implemented) this very simple but fun, addictive and challenging gameplay mechanic, kept gamers coming back for more. Those oldchool PC and arcade games that used enemies as a means to impede player progress by killing them off (in order siphon as much cash as they could from their player base at the arcades) all while offering unparalleled interactive entertainment for the time, laid the foundation for many games that would follow on the next popular platform, console gaming.
During the late 80's early 90's, the platformer (arguably the bread and butter of early console gaming) was the next popular stage to host the this perticuler gameplay mechanic. Platformer games typically required the player to progress from one side of the level to the other avoiding such hazards as pitfalls and/or enemies, with the enemies soul purpose being to impede player progress by moving back and forth, up and down or by remaining stationary. Even though the enemies at the time had very basic AI (if any at all) the level structure, their placements on the map and/or their numbers helped make up for their lack of tactical options and intelligence, creating some truly challenging platform games. The NES classic Super Mario Bro's happens to be the very first game that I played which utilised this "Killing in the name of progression gameplay mechanic" This simple platform popularised the platforming genre leading to the creation of Mario's direct competition (and rival at the time) Sonic the hedgehog (as well as many others) which unsurprisingly made use of very similar gameplay mechanics but was of course a much more fast paced game.
As I stated earlier, this gameplay mechanic can be found not only in early Arcade games, PC games and console platformers, but in just about every videogame genre. Such as the incredibly popular side scrolling beat 'em up & shoot 'em up genres, which brought us such classics as, Black Manta, Streets of rage, Contra, Parodius, R-Type, Gunstar Heroes, TMNT: Turtles in time, Guardian Heroes, Metal Slug and many, many more, they all utilised the "Killing in the name of progression gameplay mechanic" Of course the gameplay mechanic itself exists purely to create an enemy obstacle between the player and their goal, which must be defeated in order to progress. So the way in which this gameply mechanic is utilised can vary greatly from game to game and genre to genre. The Fighting game genre for example, which brought us some incredible games and franchises such as, Street fighter, Mortal Kombat, King of fighters, Samurai shodown, Tekken and Guilty Gear, amongst many others, all offered one on one fights and also utilised the "Killing in the name of progression gameply mechanic" requiring players to "KO" and sometimes Kill their opponent in order to progress to the next stage. The RPG Genre, which offered such classics as Chrono trigger, Final Fantasy, Grandia, Breath of fire and Secret of Mana, also all utilised this it, but instead placed you in a turn based battle system, sure you could choose to run from battles but chances are you'll need to fight in order gain Levels and defeat bosses. As you can see, the vast majority of retro games utilised the this gameply mechanic by creating enemy obstacles to impede player progress. Regardless of what the enemy was intended for, purely placing the enemy in the game for the player to defeat, creates an obstacle for the player to overcome in order to progress.
It wasn't until later on, as videogames began entering the mainstream and new genres and sub genres began appearing, that we started seeing the "Killing in the name of progression gameplay mechanic" undergoing a few changes. This is partly because technology had gotten to the point where videogames were capable of allowing for new mechanics to be implemented, but mostly because the pursuit for realism in gaming had created an unforeseen problem. You see as videogames become more representative of reality then arguably so too should the portrayal of killing and death, however as you are all most likely aware, the portrayal of violence in videogames has been cause for many heated debates for generations, with many in the mainstream media arguing that videogames are a contributing factor to violence in the real world. I'm not about to debate that here, but I will say that videogame violence on its own doesn't contribute to real world violence, or at least no more so than violence in movies and television.
So, instead of portraying violence realistically many games are forced to show a more "fantastical" side of violence, leading to videogame violence appearing to be over "glorified" this too led many to question whether or not killing in videogames should be removed from certain games completely. Eventually the ability to perform non lethal takedowns on enemies was introduced, this inclusion avoids the real issue of how videogame violence should be portrayed somewhat, but arguably it does enough to allow gamers to continue playing how they have been while offering another method for progressing when faced with enemy obstacles.
As it stands today, the "Killing in the name of progression gameplay mechanic" that helped popularise videogaming in the early days, is still very much in popular use. Just look at games like Assassins creed, Killzone, Devil May Cry, God of War, COD, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil and The Last of Us, you can see that just like the games of old, many modern videogames still use enemies as obstacles that must be defeated by the player in order to progress, the difference being now is that there are many more gameplay mechanics that allow for the player to use either non lethal takedowns, or stealth to avoid the enemy all together, at least until a boss shows up.
Personally, I find it very interesting to see how a gameplay mechanic, such as the "Killing in the name of progression gameplay mechanic" that has been in use since gaming first became popular, is still very much in popular use today. Even though the industry has been through a great many changes and offered us a myriad of additional gameplay mechanics and tactical choices, how enemies are used as obstacles for the player to overcome in order to progress, is still as popular a gameplay mechanic as ever. It really just goes to show that with all the progress videogames have made over the years, that the basic foundation for fun, engaging and most importantly, entertaining gameplay, is still present.
Anyway, I think I'll rap up here.
Thanks for reading my blog and as always if you want to add anything or disagree with any of the points I've made, please feel free to leave a comment.
So here we are again, another "next gen". I'll apologise right now if I don't seem very excited at the prospect of another decade of pointless bickering between varios factions over which is the most technologically advanced plastic box, or whose faceless company they've pledged their alleigance to is the least out of touch, monopolative and money hungry.
The thing is I guess, is that I can still remember when the videogames industry was about just that, "videogames" and not all about trying to appeal to the masses, creating cookie-cutter content that's guaranteed to sell well but further stagnates the industry, incorporating social-media applications, providing TV and other popular media services, all for the sake of having an "all in one multimedia entertainment device". So while Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have each now presented to us all their brand new "next gen consoles" the PS4, Xbox One and Wii U respectively, the devices with which we will be experiencing a brand new generation of "gaming" amongst other things I'm sure. I'm left asking the question. What's so next gen about them? Or better yet. Other than the fact I won't be able experience the next generation of watered down, casualised, made for the masses videogame entertainment, why exactly should I purchase a next gen console?
This isn't to say that I don't like videogames anymore, on the contrary, it's precisely because I like videogames so much that I'm a little disappointed with what "next gen" is offering this time around.
Maybe I should back up a little and explain exactly where I'm coming from. You see last gen saw some incredible games, there's no denying that, but each console suffered, they suffered either due to poor design resulting in a higher than acceptable failure rate, complex architecture which resulted in shoddy ports, a blatant lack of creativity and the rise cookie-cutter game design due to needlessly bloated budgets, yearly sequelisation which offered little variation and improvements over the originals, a lack of 3rd party support due to inferior architecture, shodilly implemented motion sensor gaming, and the further disconnect between the player and the game by way of hand holding and/or movie-esque cinematic gameplay. So what concerns me here is, will these issues rise up again in the 8th generation? Even though each company has aknoweldged certain issues they had last gen and rectified one or two of them for the new generation, the fact is that there is nothing to say that this new generation won't be plagued by more of the same that ailed the previous. For example, instead of acknowledging how they intend to get gaming out of it's current rut, it almost seems as if they would all rather ignore the fact that their even is a problem, and instead are carrying on as they have been into next gen.
These new features such as access to social-media websites, TV and content sharing, aren't going to make gaming any better that's for sure, and if you ask me it almost seems as if these companies are very well aware of this, and have brought about these new features purely in order to take our attention away from those issues that really do need our attention. The cost of game development for this new generation is only going to increase, with development budgets already being as blotted as they are, and with publishers being more interested in style over substance and the spectacle over palatability, things are only going to get worse before the get better. Let me be frank, many publishers and developers haven't realised yet, that constantly trying to create a cutting edge game by throwing tons of money at it is the wrong way to go about game design, at least in the sense where games function relatively bug free, they may look great but pretty much everything does these days, I'd be happy to see a game with inferior graphics if it functioned properly from day one and felt like a full game. But no, apparently these companies feel that the next obvious step forward, instead of creating content that functions properly, is to complicate matters further by implementing such features as sharing content, accessing your TV and social-media aps, along with the rest I mentioned above.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not against these additional features, Im just not convinced that gaming is ready for them. The PS4 share button, Kinect 2, watching TV and accessing social-media sites through my console. None of them interest me personally because none of them are what I buy a console for, now I don't intend to speak for everyone but who here was asking for such features to begin with? Because none of them are anything that I feel gamers have been asking for, they might be nice little features, and heck nobody dislikes convenient aps, but what about the games? What improvements are being made to gaming that aren't just a continuation of the narrow the minded, everything for everyone, design by committee mentality that plagued all of last gen?
Asking myself this question it eventually occurred to me just why the actual "games" side of the videogames industry, doesn't appear to be undergoing any new, generation defining changes. You see videogame development as it stands now is extremely expensive, or better yet, insanely expensive, but also extremely lucrative, so when we consider the fact that videogames have been around for well over 25 years and still suffer from very similar issues faced from around 10 years ago, it leads one to wonder whether or not that's all just a coincidence. The reason I feel that the approach to videogames hasn't changed much going into this new generation is because it's still very profitable in it's current form, now Microsoft did try to implement new policies in order to increase profitability going into this new and inevitably more costly next gen, but had their new policies shot down due to how damaging they would have been if they were to have become the industry norm. While both Sony and Nintendo appear to be carrying on the "status quo" so to speak, obviously they have implemented a few positive changes here and there, but nothing that I believe will greatly contribute to the betterment of gaming.
However this is not to say that there are no positive reasons to buy a next gen console, like I mentioned above the PS4, Xbox One and Wii U are going to be taking on board many well established franchises and brand new IP's, so with popular games and franchises like Assassins creed, Infamous, Metal Gear Solid, The Legend of Zelda, Mario, and interesting new IP's like Watch_Dog, Titan Fall and Deep Down, each console has something going for it in terms of videogame content. The thing that concerns me though is whether or not these new games won't just be prettier looking but hollow versions of games we've played before.
Few developers took chances last gen and it showed, never in a generation before have I seen so much wasted opportunity, we had some great games I'll give you that, but far too many companies were afraid to try something new due to just how costly game development has become, instead choosing to milk the one franchise that had offered them success for all that it's worth, I've got nothing against sequalisation, but last gen more than any other, sequels became more about creating a game that sells rather than creating a game worth playing.
So I ask to you Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and any other Triple-A publishers and developers who are reliant on such business models and practices. What will you be doing in this new generation that will address the needlessly bloated budgets that are apparently required in order to develop Triple A titles? the ever increasing cost of videogames brought on due to the insane cost of development, the continued misuse of DLC due to greedy money hungry publishers, or the industry stagnation that's occurred due to cookie-cutter game design and mass-market appeal? Are these issues really something that can be allowed to continue whilst we're all distracted with social-media aps, TV and sharing content? or are we to assume that all these issues are just going to disappear in a new generation that seems tailor made to depend on them?
Before I rap up I just want to say one last thing, to all those who are announcing why they think a particular console has won next gen already, let me just remind you all that companies change, their policies change, the content they provide changes. Basically, it's far too early in the game (pardon the pun) for anyone to decide who'll be "wearing the crown" so to speak, this coming gen. As always you're far better off getting the next gen console that you feel you will get the most enjoyment from rather than relying on others to make decisions for you
Thanks for reading my blog and as always if you want to add anything or disagree with any of the points I've made, please feel free to leave a comment.