Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wait, Haven't I Played This Already?

"Thank you sir, may I have another?" by Micheal Abbot, The Brainy Gamer

So, for the past few days, I've been mesmerized by all those sweet, sweet trailers and gameplay footages of exciting and adrenaline pumping action filled games shown at E3 2009. I guess this is precisely why I failed to really understand why I responded to each of big press conferences in the way I did. When I read the post I've linked above, it hit me: Everything shown here at E3 is pretty much the same thing I've enjoyed so far.

As Micheal puts, "[i]t's pretty much one male power fantasy game after another (featuring, by the way, powerful white guys presented on stage by loquacious white guys to an audience of mostly white guys.) Awe-inspiring technology aside, it's hard to see where the progress is." High-powered action FPS? Check. Brutal stealth game? Check. Cool cars? Check. How about meaningful, touching, and deep drama that reveals something about ourselves? Um.... not check.

As you can see, the line up of titles at the conferences tell what kind of audience they had in each hall: as Micheal quotes Heather Chaplin's rant at GDC, "[they] aren’t men. [They] are stunted adolescents." And thus, each companies showcased toys that'd make them go awe and yay about.

When I finished Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, I was truly satisfied; it was the pinnacle of what today's video game experience can bring about. However, it was released already two year ago, and I moved on. I want to see something different now. But Moden Warfare 2 demo, while intriguing, didn't seem like a full sequel; with same gameplay mechanics, it was more of an expansion pack.

The change I want is not here.. ..yet, I hope.

Sony... Well...?

So, E3 is officially underway, and Microsoft, Sony, and the Big N have had their two-hour-long press conferences. Nintendo held the same old presser with numbers, show-and-tell's, and some announcements; nothing that exciting for me here, not that I expected much out of it. Microsoft--my console creator, and thus, where my obligatory alligence lies (I kid)--pumped my adrenaline and left me happy and excited for contributing a chunk of my money to its big, fat bank account for it to get fatter. But Sony? For someone who wanted to be blown away by their vision, see a crazy dogfight between it and other companies with new and exciting titles, I must say I came out very disturbed. Disturbed because I wasn't excited at all.

Sure, they did announce next next Final Fantasy title, Final Fantasy XIV, but as soon as the word "Online" was shown, I stopped caring. (I am not about to start caring for any other MMOG than upcoming The Secret World.) They also showed many huge titles, like Assassin's Creed 2, God of War III, Final Fantasy XIII, and so on, but nothing really blew my mind away. Well, except The Last Guardian.

But none of these were new, nor that intriguing.

AC2's gameplay was marginally better than the first. Sure they showed various things to do, but I think guys at Ubisoft Montreal got a wrong idea of what players actually want: variety of quests to do, not more gimicks and tricks.

God of War III also showed pretty much the same gameplay as the two previous games: chained blade action, check. Brutal finishers, check. Huge and action filled backgroud, check. So, what's new? Just better graphics, I guess.

And Final Fantasy XIII? SquareEnix has been teasing the game for like eternity that I feel like I've already played that game.

I guess I consider Sony to be the one to evolve the industry with its support to artistic games, more innovative narrative games, and so on. If they had shown Heavy Rain, or some more titles like that, I'd probably have rated this presser much, much higher than Microsoft's. But well, Sony thought they needed to mimic others, and so, they failed to impress me.

My score for Sony: C-.

Games shown at Sony's E3 2009 Press Conference that I care about:

  • God of War III
  • The Last Guardian
  • Final Fantasy XIII
  • Final Fantasy XIV Online
  • MAG
  • Assassin's Creed 2
  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
  • Gran Tourismo 5

Monday, June 1, 2009

Aaaaaaand Microsoft Hits BIG!!!

Image from Kotaku

And just like that, Microsoft Press Conference has come and gone. (You can view the full video here.)

Thanks to the conference and ever so thankful live streaming services (especially, today's productivity at work has been utterly pathetic--The whole thing was two-full-hours long!

The conference had Splinter Cell: Conviction, Modern Warfare 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Forza Motorsport 3, working demo of Final Fantasy XIII (and it's surprisingly early release window, Spring 2010), and... Hideo Kojima's appearance and the introduction of a brand new title, Metal Gear Rising! (If you thought Raiden looked awesome in MGS 4, you're gonna love this--it's a whole seperate title with him as the main character!)

There were many, many more announcements and videos and demos, and my head's just mesmerized with all those goodies right now. My response to the conference is basically written out at Gamasutra.

PS. Today isn't exactly E3; it's pre-E3 conferences with E3 starting on Wednesday. Still, I can already tell, it's going to be a hell of a fun week. Now, I have to make sure I do get some work done...

EDIT: Games shown at Microsoft Press Conference @ E3 2009 (that I care about):

  • Modern Warfare 2
  • Final Fantasy XIII
  • Shadow Complex
  • Crackdown 2
  • Left 4 Dead 2
  • Splinter Cell: Conviction (!!!)
  • Forza Motorsport 3
  • Halo 3: ODST
  • Halo Reach
  • Alan Wake
  • Metal Gear Solid: Rising
  • Possible future title by Steven Spielberg...?

Non-Game features shown at the conference that I care about:

  • Project Natal (mo-cap feature add-on for Xbox360)
  • Nilo (Lionhead's Virtual Intelligence boy)
  • Netflix sharing
  • Facebook extension
  • Tweeter(!)

E3 2009 Is Here!

E3 2009 has finally arrived at LA Convention Center, and in about 2 hours, the highly anticipated Microsoft Press Conference will begin. (You can watch web streaming via Gamespot HERE.)

With two years (or was it just one year?) of scaled-down, or rather, dumbed-down show, this year's E3 is said to be the return to the former, glorious show with large show floors, extravagant booths, and, of course, booth babes.

E3 is the time when big players in vido game industry make numerous announcements of coming products and services, it is an exciting event.

And as a Xbox360 owner, I am psyched about Microsoft's press conference and what they have up in their sleeve!

How about you? Are you excited??

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Finally, An Emotionally Attachable Game

Game developers have long been, and still are, cracking their head to come up with a game that will have a big emotional impact on players, something that will make your heart pump a bit faster, sweat a little, and.. oh, bring tears to your eyes. But if you think a bit harder, there are some titles that have already achieved all this, and the next title from Japan's acclaimed developer of ICO looks like it's going to be the next to do this.

And the game is Project Trico, which is probably a temporary name. The game features a little boy and a mythical, giant animal who seems to be fond of the boy, and follows around and helps the boy navigating in ancient looking platforms and structures.

Watch the trailer HERE.

While watching the trailer, I immediately realized that these people hit the nail on the head of the whole "emotional game" thing. By creating a meaningful interaction between the player character and the adorable friend (san the tail... ew), the developer can pretty much embew the game with any emotional effect it wants using these two characters.

The key, I think, is to create a believable animal, a sentient being outside the player's control, that player can become attached to. Surely, this is easier said than done, however, there has been some games(?) that were able to achieve this: Tamagotchi and, more appropriately, Nintendogs. These titles brought about relevant emotional attachments from players to these virtual beings very strongly. (While I make this sound like I know it all, I haven't played the latter title, nor spent too much time on the earlier. So, take my words with a grain of salt.)

I've long thought that the next step for games to become a relevant artistic medium is to somehow involve one or more animals and create a chain of interactions between player and the animal that would result in a story-like experience. Project Trico seems like it's geared to achieve just that.* It is very heartwarming to finally see a game that has potential to advance the medium as a whole, and show the world games' hidden potential.

But then again, I may be setting myself up for a huge disappointment. But we'll see.

*Fable II and its dog could have been the title to achieve this. However, it failed miserably because the game simply isn't about the relationship between the dog and player. So, they completely missed the perfect opportunity to exploit and become a hallmark of modern gaming.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Descend. Or.. Ascend?

One of the grudges I have against probably-hated-by-me Elder Scroll IV: Oblivion is that it tricks you to believe that you can make meaningful choices which you absolutely cannot. I believe Bethesda studio could have built an entirely seperate path for the player to follow: the true evil path where player joins the cult that tries to bring apocalypse upon the world, and work with them.

This may sound like the old trick in today's RPGs where they have multiple endings for players to see, but I beg you to think differently. What I'm talking about is to keep the same story, but introduce a different perspective to it. The player can become the antagonist who ultimately loses to the protaganist at the very end, resulting in the world that survives to make another Elder Scroll game.

Anyways, while these two paragraphs may seem like the point of this post, I meant them as a lead to something I thought of after reading the preview of upcoming Dante's Inferno by EA Redwood.

The setting they chose to work with in the said title is, in fact, very interesting and even stimulating. Intellectually, I mean. Think about diving deep into Hell as described in the first part of the epic poem Divine Comedy, trying to save your dear love. To do that--and this is me musing--you have to defeat numerous devilish creatures, and descend into yet another, deeper and more gruesome circle of Hell. Because it's a journey that has no helping hand or even a rest, your character grows tired, unkempt, bloody, agressive, and starts to lose the human-side. In short, he grows more evil. If he stays on that path, he'd have become the Devil himself at the end of the journey, although he would've saved the love from being damned.

Now, what if, from time to time, the game shows what's above--the glorifying view of the heaven that keeps growing farther as Dante descends down to Hell? What if the game has a hidden path where the player could, instead of marching towards Satan, turn around and find a way to reach Heaven? This may let Dante's love be damned for eternity, but the player would've saved themselves in the end.

Unlike Oblivion idea, this may seem like an alternate ending that creates two versions of a same lore. But I believe that is not the case; there's only one small difference--Dante in Heaven and Beatrice in Hell, or vice versa--but everything else is the same.

I believe the true power of interactive entertainment as videogame is to let players have a real effect in the way story is delivered (rather than having a impact on the story itself). I think ideas such as above, could be one correct way to exploit such uniqueness of the medium.

But well, that's me musing in the slow day at non-game-related work...

Monday, March 16, 2009


Whenever I see another Wii game, or any other casual game, trying to make more sales by featuring a picture of mom or grandma playing the game, I'm constantly reminded of how powerful the casual audience has become; there are just too many to ignore. And this is inevitably shaping today's game industry, and I don't like the way it's going.

To make more money off of this massive audience, more and more developers are trying to make more (and not necessarily better) casual games that can appeal to the normal, non-gamer audience. And by doing so, the quality of games is lowered. For a longest time, people relied on market's competitiveness to advance the market forward, resulting better and better games. But if there's just so many not-so-well-informed consumers eating up any trash games devs put out, who'd try hard to create a triple-A, high-quality title costing them a pile of gold in developing it?

Game has been nothing more than toy as long as humanity existed. Now that we've developed technology to finally thrust game forward and turn it into something more meaningful, we're suddenly struck with this very distracting second renaissance of casual games. I just hope the troubling situation of today's Japanese game development doesn't become a global trend.

Friday, March 13, 2009

My Library of Games - 03/13/2009

Below is the list of all the game systems and titles I own. I'll be updating this list as I acquire new titles, and also link any of my own reviews if and when I write them.

  • Microsoft Xbox 360:

    1. Armored Core 4
    2. Armored Core: For Answer
    3. Assassin's Creed
    4. Blue Dragon
    5. Braid
    6. Call of Duty 4
    7. Castle Crashers
    8. Chromehounds
    9. Clive Barker's Jericho
    10. Dead Space
    11. Fable 2 Limited Edition
    12. Forza Motorsport 2
    13. Gears of War
    14. Gears of War 2
    15. Hail To The Chimp
    16. Hexic
    17. The Last Remnant
    18. Lost Odyssey
    19. Mass Effect
    20. Mirror's Edge
    21. Project Sylpheed
    22. Rez HD
    23. Soul Calibur 4
    24. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent
    25. Tom Clancy's EndWar
    26. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2
    27. Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise
  • Sony PlayStation 2:

    1. Ace Combat 5
    2. Final Fantasy XII
    3. Guitar Hero 3: Legend of Rock
    4. Killzone
    5. Odin Sphere
    6. Okami
    7. Musashi Samurai Legend
    8. Persona 3: FES
    9. Persona 4
    10. Prince of Persia: Sand of Time
    11. Shadow of Colossus
    12. Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria
  • PC:

    1. Diablo II
    2. Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
    3. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
    4. The Longest Journey
    5. Starcraft
    6. Starcraft: Brood War
    7. World of Warcraft
    8. World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade

Hmm, I thought I had more games than this. Am I missing any games that I should play or own?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Comparison Videos. Nothing More Than Flame Bait

I was one of them who were really interested in these videos that compare graphics of each system when a multi-platform game is released. But that quickly grew old, as there isn't really a notable difference to be found--developers quickly mastered working on each platforms, and most multi-platform games are pretty non-differentiable. Here's what I had to say to GameTrailer's Street Fighter IV PS3/360 Comparison Video:

I strongly doubt these videos will do anything more than starting yet another fanboyism war.

The difference between the consoles will be drawn not by 3rd party, multi-platform games, but by exclusive titles like inFamous. Because those are the ones that will really try to take advantage of a given platform.

That said, I think there will be more PS3 exclusives in the future, given that their hardware spec and architecture can provide some extra juice. 360 being easy to work on, any 3rd party game on 360 will also come out on PS3, unless Gabe Newell's behind it. :PTo MS's credit, since they have price advantage, they can retire their machine earlier and introduce another, more powerful system that can top PS3's power, and go ahead in the race while Sony's still tied to that system since they need to make up for the dev cost and all.

So,, you can stop making these pointless video.

Leave Those Long Lasting Games in the Past.

Here's a comment I left on an article on EA Games Europe senior VP Patrick Söderlund's response to EA's last year-end's underperformed quarterly result. This article, where he talks about his positive view of the result, wasn't what triggered my comment. It was another comment that basically blamed EA's new IPs' having short playtime for the disappointing result.

I am with a lot of people who backs Dead Space, and that length of a game does not define its quality.

While we would love never-ending stream of content with great gameplay to occupy our time, the audience of today's games is growing up. More and more are getting jobs and starting families. And thus, shorter games that packs tight and deep content are thriving over ridiculously (in my opinion) long games of the past.

For instance, I used to love playing RPG games like FF series that took above 40~50 hours to finish. But now, with a job, I just don't have time for games like that. It's taking me months to finish Lost Odyssey right now. And do I think that drawn-out-to-death playtime necessary? Absolutely not. They could've cut so many parts and end up with much much tighter and cohesive story, and ultimately, overall fun.

I think Dead Space got it right. It's pace, playtime, everything was right on the target, and I hope more games like that comes out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

PC Better Than Console?

With the release of highly-anticipated installment of overly-popular Halo franchise, Halo Wars, a heated discussion has been resumed: "Is PC's control of keyboard and mouse superior to that of the console systems', and are they necessary to enjoy games?" Well, I think that's an obnoxious hardheadedness to hold on to the way it is and has been in the past. Thinking everything is flowing and evolving, and that we should evolve with it, I've posted the following comment on Wired magazine's review of Halo Wars.

Of course, there is a sense of achievement for those who has time, energy and money to invest on a decent PC to enjoy games on it. But not everyone has that kind of free resources. No, MOST people don't. Shifting of games' preferred platform from PC to consoles is just another step of this industry's evolution. It does so to expand and flourish.

That said, I think RTS genre will also evolve to accomodate console systems' (somewhat limited) controls to provide as fun and rich experience as PC games with mouse and keyboard controls. I think EndWar shows it pretty well. I think it was a great first step towards this. No economy, more tactic.

And let's stop to kid ourselves. We call RTS games RTS just because we've been calling it that, not because they truly involve "strategy" in any meaningful way. Every game is tactic with mechanically glued-on microeconomy. So, don't start arguing EndWar-like RTS games without "real" economy system are not TRUE RTS games.

So, my point is, today's RTS games on console is just a start. If you want to hold onto your dear PC and your futile stubborness, brace yourself. You'll see a flood of games like that in future.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Say Yes to Console RTS!

Here is a comment I left on Giant Bomb's Quick Look video feature of Halo Wars. Below the video, numerous users has expressed their negative thoughts about RTS games being developed for console systems, and that they must stay on PC where the complex controls enable gamers to battle with precision and fast-response. Seeing this as a mere resistance to change, I expressed my thought against them.

Wow, anybody who bashes console's capability to house decent RTS games fail big time, in my view.

You seem to forget that historically, there were hardcore fans of specific portion of games that clung to the traditional style of gaming, trying to resist change. And what happened? Things kept changing and they had to move on. Adapt.

Today's no-RTS-on-console argument is just the same, I think. As hardcore games evolved to become (in hardcore gamer's point of view) easier to accomodate not-so-hardcore gamers to enjoy, RTS games will also do the same to survive. I think EndWar is a great example (not sure how well it's doing. Haven't pop that thing in 360 in a while). It enables gamers to show skill in managing troops, yet it perfectly utilizes consoles unique control scheme. And it is very enjoyable, too.

The notion that a RTS game has to be based on economy, base-building, and unit control is just about to become passe. Just as "having to retry 100 times or more to finish a game" became a thing of the past.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Wii-Fit != Game

NPD charts are unavoidable. They're released monthly, and when it does, each and every news outlet out there, be it a magazine, a news website, or even a blog, seems to write it up as if it's an obligation. So, failing to avoid the unavoidable, I took a look at this month's chart and found it very un-surprising; Wii-whatever is on the top! Just like last month, and few dozen months before it.

Then, I thought:

Maybe, just maybe, the reason Nintendo's flagship titles* sell like crazy is because their games are not really "games" at all.
*I mean Wii-Fit, Wii-Play, Wii-Music and stuff like that, not their traditional major titles like Zelda.

This theory comes from my belief that gamers who're in gaming for epic experiences are still a minority in this stinking world, that even with stellar technological and artistic achievements numerous titles contributed, the term "video game" is still mentioned as a degrading, childish play-thing ..thing. So, whatever that will go beyond the usual nerdy audience and reach out to the "normal," busy people with real lives will inevitably float to the top of the charts. And this is where Nintendo seems to excel.

Of course, I don't have a Wii and only had some playtime with it prior to the release of the balance board. So, you can and probably should take whatever I say here with a grain of salt.

But just look at that damn thing. It's a board you stand on and some simple instructions on the screen for exercising. Yes, excercising! It's not really something where a "player" "plays" it to enjoy the experience (by this I mean characters, stories, and interaction between players and characters). And besides this instructional program, the only thing that can be considered "game" are some extras that can barely be called games.

Let's think about the majority of people who buys Wii and Wii-Fit. Without any scientific data to back my theory, I say they are some average Joe who enjoys drinking beer, going out to movies, watch television, and only when friends come over does he fire this Wii up for maybe an hour of laughs and happy happy time. Is this what I consider a gamer? They are as much a gamer as bleak a game Wii-Fit is, if you ask me.

This is why I think NPD should not include Wii-Fit, Wii-Play, or any other so-called "casual" games in the same chart as games that traditional gamers, who enjoy games for game's sake, plays.

And when we do that, and start counting casual games seprately from traditional games, I bet there isn't as much expansion in the market as there is heralded to be.

Now, please sit back and enjoy this promotional video of the popular *tiny pause for dramatic effect* Wii-Fit: