I probably don’t need to say this, but these lists are entirely subjective, if only because I didn’t play every game released. But what are you gonna do?
Best of 2007
Portal – excellence in every regard, especially the writing, and an entirely original experience to boot.
Halo 3 – not the gameplay innovator that the first Halo was, but an outstanding single player, gold standard multiplayer, and some incredible utilities (saved films, forge, the bungie.net features) that I wish every game had.
Bioshock – a pinnacle of game design, no question
Crackdown – the most fun
Puzzle Quest – weird and awesome and original and addicting.
Biggest Disappointments of 2007*
Zelda: Phantom Hourglass – if it wasn’t for that damned repeating dungeon with time limits and crappy stealth, this would be up there in the best-of pile.
Mass Effect – just plain didn’t live up to previous Bioware titles.
the PS3’s games library – I want to buy a PS3, so good work on getting the price down from $7 million or whatever it was, but I wish there were more than two games on it that I want to play.
Two Worlds – there need to be more games like Oblivion, but this one failed.
Rock Band delayed in Canada – yup, disappointing. (Okay, I had trouble thinking of a fifth disappointment. I guess that’s a good thing!)
I realize that disappointments are all about expectations, and indeed these are all games I was extremely excited about. Which is probably something I should avoid. I mean, Mass Effect is a good game, no question.
Games I played the most this year
Oblivion – I’ve been meaning to write about it all year, but it’s like trying to review France. Oblivion is pointing where games need to go.
Crackdown – see above
Halo 3 – again, see above
Advance Wars: Dual Strike – easily my favourite game on the DS.
Civilization IV – just a handful of binges over the year, but it’s still like crack.
D: First off, I’m not really comfortable calling Crackdown the best game of the year. I’m not sure I can call any game Game of the Year. For one, I only have two consoles, so I’ve never played more than an hour each on the Wii, PS3 and PSP, and with no PC I can’t be considered too knowledgeable about PC games. And really only game journalists and the fabulously wealthy are remotely able to judge, or even to benefit from cross-platform Game of the Year lists. Beyond that, I’m not sure what exactly the criteria are. Is it the most moving experience? The game that most advances the art of games? The game that will be most influential?
Fuck knows. All’s I knows is: Crackdown is the most fun I had playing games this year. It’s also the most I’ve written about a single game. It’s not the most original game in the world, but what Crackdown is to the Grand Theft Auto series is what Syphon Filter was to Metal Gear Solid or Silent Hill to Resident Evil. They are derivative games that improve upon their progenitors to an extent that they are more fun to play than the more artistically compelling original experience.
Crackdown’s story and main storyline missions are some of its least interesting parts. They’re like the arms on a T-Rex, shrunken and feeble because they’re no longer needed. The meat of Crackdown is sheer adult playtime: sandbox gaming with no real rules other than the odd pissed-off copper. Let’s see if we can get up there. Let’s see what happens if we fill the highway with exploding barrels. Hell, let’s just kick some cars around. It’s exploration, experimentation and it’s Just Plain Fun, gosh darn it.
So Nadine? What say you?
Nadine: My reasoning for why Crackdown is one of the best games of the year (not the best but one of the best) is simple. When we were all waiting around for the next big game to hit we heard tell of a game called Crackdown that was supposed to be some cop clean-up, runaround shoot-em up and the collective sound heard from gamers worldwide was: “Meh”. But then the Halo Beta was coming, how could we get in easily and without much effort? Buy Crackdown! Get a Beta Pass! Easy Halo money!
So I did, and others did, many others did. What we found was a hyper-addictive-Spiderman-meets-The Punisher experience. Suddenly, walking down the street to work made the mind jump to thoughts of climbing up ledges and hurling yourself across rooftops. I couldn’t look out my apartment window without thinking in Crackdown gravity terms. It was maddening. It was seductive. It lasted for months! A good two months at least. Then the developers released that super cheat code and the fun was back again!
For me, a game that has no hype on it at all, save that there’s a free pass to a beta of a bigger game, that can take so much of my time and bend me to its playing will can only be described as one of the best games of the year. It’s one of the best because I played it the most and I had no intention of doing so. That is unexpected. That is underdog. Unexpected enjoyment, prolonged enjoyment, in a world where I traditionally wait to see if my hopes will come true. I had no expectations for this one and it blew me away and I wasn’t alone it that super fun time.
So that’s my answer to that!
D: Underdog indeed. There was a lot of resentment about the Halo 3 beta pretty much requiring you buy Crackdown, but it turned out to be a great thing. And yeah, when a game is engrossing enough to invade your dreams and your everyday perceptions (people always say this about Tetris, about envisioning everyday things as blocks that need to be rotated), you gotta give some respect.
So here’s a couple other things I wanted to mention about Crackdown that I don’t think we have yet, despite all the words we’ve expended so far.
One: the achievements. There’s an art to crafting good achievements, and Crackdown excels by awarding achievements not just for completing the game and maxing out attributes, but for pulling weird stunts that you might not have otherwise thought of doing. There are a bunch of vehicle-related achievements, awarded for flipping a certain number of times, getting a certain height, etc. and they drove me (cough) to play with the vehicle side of the game which until then I had largely ignored in favour of rooftop climbing and jumping. But the vehicle play is fun, especially once you get that dreamy maxed-out SUV that can jump and drive up walls.
Two: as you mentioned, Nadine, the downloadable content was not only a stellar example of breathing new life into a game that was starting to gather dust, it was at great value. There were new race modes. New competitive orb-gathering modes. A bunch of great new vehicles, and some insane weapons (harpoon). But most important to me and Karim (my #1 Crackdown partner in crime) was, yes, the God mode cheat, where you could instantly and repeatedly spawn any item in the game. We concentrated on the good ol’ exploding barrel, but became master painters with it, and the highway was our canvas. Picture dominoes, except with a lot of exploding, and you get the idea.
A question for you. I know we’re not calling it the game of the year, but: are we setting our sights too low? This game is a boatload of fun, but shouldn’t we be looking for something that moves us, makes us think, or (that old standby of games-as-art) makes us cry? Or is fun enough?
Nadine: If we’re talking story, then Crackdown was predictable (giant watch tower in the bay…never a positive sign…) but it was still fun. You didn’t play Crackdown for the story. Take away story from the criteria you’ve got gameplay and sound and effects yada yada yada. I think we’ve established that Crackdown was fun fun fun fun fun (I swore I just heard Winnie the Pooh…) and yet also not super stellar in any of the above mentioned areas. It’s a solid game, not groundbreaking in any way save for the way you feel jumping from building to building, thems gravity effects were mighty tasty. So if you take away all the shine and leave only the fun aspect then Crackdown is a contender for best game of the year, but it was not the most fun so it can’t win even by those standards.
If we’re talking the most fun, well, that’s so subjective and we already know where I got the biggest happy from (RATCHET! CLANK!) but Portal was sexified perfection as well…still not the most fun though. Halo 3 was the big damn of fun! Halo 3 made me feel everything so really I guess Halo 3 should be my game of the year…but like when Xena ended…I need some time to absorb that experience.
Bioshock was…intense. Was Bioshock fun? You know I don’t even know if I could classify that as fun. Isn’t that odd? Bioshock was a challenge, one simply had to master it. Bioshock fulfilled a need for…something primal and violent and beautiful. I know, I’m being a cryptic mystic about the whole thing but really Bioshock lends itself to that way of thinking.
So in terms of the most fun game of the year which could also be considered the best game of the year Crackdown is top five for sure…I just don’t know where in that five it should be placed.
D: I know what you’re saying, and I guess you pretty much answered it there. I think we know we need games that are more than just fun, and Crackdown is not that game. It’s pure fun. Whether it’s more or less fun than Halo… the Halo single player was more intense in every way, but also waaay shorter. Halo lives on still for me, though, in matchmaking and forge and so forth (see other article). Crackdown’s love was long and broad. Eugh, sorry for that sentence.
Back to the story for one last point here. Yeah, playing through this whole game, like many other before it, the left-wing gamer tends to cringe at all the half-baked fascist fantasies going on. Destroy this or that ethnic gang BY ANYMEANSNECESSARY. So what if some civilians get clipped, can’t make an omelette… So the ending made me do a bit of a turn (SPOILERPARTY!!!):
Now a minute and a half of sudden reversal doesn’t make up for a game’s worth of cliched and unmemorable characters and boring writing, and I know they added this for the sheer narrative shock value of a last-minute plot twist and not because they’re all Chavista World Bank haters with “Bush Knew” t-shirts, but still, it qualifies as at least mildly subversive. So the superman uber-agency cultivated all those gangs as an excuse for the titular crackdown? So by obeying the authoritative-sounding voice and doing good, I was actually sorta doing bad? If we crow about the oh-so-meaningful surprise twist in Bioshock and the things it says about the nature of playing games, surely we should also mention what Crackdown does as well, that it highlights the dark side of the power fantasies we engage in. I mean, my agent mostly jumped around collecting orbs, but still.
Nadine: Wait, you’re saying there’s a darkside to my power fantasizing? And wait again, are you saying that playing these games means I’m engaging in a fantasy of power? Well, damns. I never thought about it that way…God, what does that say about me…I always thought that I played these games because in the back of my mind I secretly wished to be recruited into some galactic conflict ala Starship Troopers…Seriously. If Asland came up to me and said “Come My Child and you shall lead the armies of Narnia to freedom” but then a shuttle landed and Michael Ironside stepped out and said “It’s true Nadine, I am that cool and yes – we’ve got a war to fight in space” I would totally go with Ironside. But that is besides the point. The point is Crackdown did cool things this year but not enough to be the best. And I also forgot about Rock Band…but I’m not going to include it for 2007 because it’s not even in Canada yet.
I was watching Toku play Shadow of the Colossus the other night. I’ve never played it, I wasn’t a Sony person til recently so I have alot of catching up to do. He explained to me his reasons for loving the game, the storyline, the landscapes and the vast open feeling with hidden load times, the fact that it was like a ‘almost silent opera’.
The first thing that struck me was the music. The achingly beautiful music. I was once again brought back to my thoughts of the power of game music and the sheer beauty of emotion that music can generate. Roar of the Earth, the official title of the Shadow of the Colossus soundtrack, was released in Japan in 2005.
The emotion, the action, and the passion that is included in this first minute of music is so staggering to me. It breaks my heart, invigorates me and shocks me all at the same time.
The hockey pool, aka Fantasy Hockey League, is web-based and we do ours on Yahoo, although people have been doing paper-based pools for many, many years. The gist of it is you ‘draft’ existing NHL players before the season starts onto your fantasy roster, and then play the role of GM/coach over the course of the season, choosing which players to bench and which to play, which to trade and which to pick up from free agency. The real players’ stats then count towards the fantasy team they are playing for, so the hockey pool has a sort of parasitic relationship with reality.
There are as many rule sets as leagues, and as many play styles as players (we call them ‘managers’). With our league, the thing that will most determine your success is how you draft, but a close second is your free agent pickups. You could get lucky and draft a team of champions that needs very little tweaking all year. But if you draft a shit team, you still have a chance to win the season through free agent moves, since there are always new hot players that nobody expected to do well, or old veterans suddenly clicking on new teams. But to win that way you have to be aware of what’s going on in the league, so it takes more of a time commitment.
When I think of the hockey pool in the context of video games, it seems like a cross between an RPG and a management game. Your league will track stats automatically, and you can choose the categories; some only track goals, but many track a lot of other stats, like penalty minutes, shots on goal, plus/minus, assists. So you have some players who are good in some categories and weak in others, and you want to balance your team much like you’d balance a party in a role-playing game. Ad the whole culture of the thing is like the jock correlative of Dungeons & Dragons.
There’s clearly a lot of strategy involved, and absolutely no twitch gaming at all. But my overall favourite thing about fantasy leagues is that you are rewarded for doing research. The more time you log paying attention to the sport in question, the more likely you will do well in the pool. And since the research you are doing is into real-world knowledge (i.e. sports scores, not types of pokemon), the side effect of playing the pool is that you learn quite a bit about your chosen sport, and you become more than a fan rooting for his local team, you become a sport connoisseur. (Or jock-nerd, take your pick.)
What I’m saying here dovetails nicely with Raph Koster’s GDCPrime talk. In fact, he uses Fantasy Football as an example of what he’s saying, which is that the thing we should mean when we say games is a lot broader than we usually mean, and includes a bunch of things going on on the web that we don’t normally treat as ‘games’. That includes fantasy leagues, also ARGs, web MMOs, Hot or Not, and even apparently LOLCatz. I agree. What I’d like to see (and it’s probably out there, I just don’t know about it yet) are more games of this ilk, that have what I love about the hockey pool – online or no, graphics or no, that involve minute amounts of time over a long period, that involve strategy, and that reward knowledge-gathering.
Because yeah, I need to spend more time playing games.
(Oh and no, I’m not saying my hockey pool was the game of the year, it just made for a catchy title.)
The two games I’m using here are The Simpsons and Portal. Both spoke to the highly intelligent with their scripts and were incredibly funny. Yet, The Simpsons failed to impress many with its gameplay, relying on old architecture and focusing too much on its cell-shady graphics. Yes, we all know games can look super awesome cartoony, but screw looks, make it feel real! While Portal, on the other hand, blew our skull caps off with not only smooth and sexy graphics but more physics perfection that you could boomerang a stick at. So let’s take a closer look at the humour of each game, since all other matters are irrelevant to this discussion, and you’ll see why one clearly beats the other.
First up: The Simpsons Game. The Simpsons had glitchy controls and was kinda meh in the gameplay but the one liners and achievements were oh so hilarious that it was worth some aggravation. The humour within that game is based off of years and years (and years…) of popular (North American) culture references that many in my demo have literally grown up with. We know the type of humour The Simpsons creates, we know how that show tackles religious, political and social commentary. So when the creators of that series turned their focus to video games of course they were able to take that same technique and use it on the building blocks and constants of game design. Hearing the witty lines in-game was like eating a plate of your favourite comfort food. Just good ol’fashioned and predictable funny, but ever so delightful. The game knew how to make fun of itself and the people playing it without being offensive or boring.
Then came Portal. Ah, what can be said? The completely surreal experience that is Portal not only gives the mind a physical puzzle to tackle but as you navigate each room the journey is enhanced with these completely serious in their delivery and yet so totally absurd lines from an AI. The fact that it is some sort of computer protocol talking to you is part of the reason the lines are so funny. Playing through each level gives pleasure in two ways. One, you are solving these physics puzzles and once you figure one out you feel extremely pleased and proud of yourself, both for figuring our the solution as well as correctly performing the execution. And two, while figuring out the puzzle you are treated to quirky encouragements from the AI or subtle put-downs as well as odd explanations of safety protocols. It’s sheer delight wrapped in fun painted with oddly shiny wit!
Both of these games are similar in that they make you laugh but where one makes you mentally applaud the writers, the other makes your mind stand up in amazement and start up the “slow clap”. Both are solid scripts, but the reason I think Portal blows The Simpsons away is the absurdism of it all. The things that AI says and the delivery of the lines are just so fabulously at odds with each other I could just listen to the lines over and over and not even play the game.
Portal said goodbye to convention and hello to risk. The developers were willingly to say “this is going to work, people are going to love it because we love it”. The Simpsons said hello demo here’s some multiplatform content for you. And although I verily respect all that The Simpsons represents, I would have appreciated some pushing of the envelope and really making gamers look at what they were doing with the humourous eye of the beholder.
So there you have it, Portal beats The Simpsons. The reason being Portal was made by gamers for gamers. The Simpsons was created by a large company and could only get away with so much. The Simpsons had to appeal to a broad range of players, where Portal had to cater only to those willing to experience greatness.
I spent a good couple hours messing around with Foundry yesterday and I have to say: that shit is fun. And empowering, and makes you really appreciate level designers.
I started with a low wall through the centre of the map, and a whole heapload of man cannons (men cannon?) that could fire people over the wall, thinking of a team slayer match where the teams spawn on either sides of the wall. But given my propensity for climbing and jumping gameplay, it was only a matter of time before I had added some high points on either side and then of course you need the means to get up there… But then you need some cover or the maps become snipey deathtraps. A couple hours go by, and lo and behold the map is transformed into a jumpin’ platformer. I haven’t gotten to weapon placement, and I want to liberally sprinkle exploding barrels everywhere before it’s done, but this shit is pretty time consuming.
At this point I’d wager I’ve spent more time in the Forge than in multiplayer matchmaking. I’ve two other creations to my name, a simple exploding barrel-heavy version of Guardian, and a vehicle combat version of Valhalla based on a custom game we used to play in Halo 2, “Smashy Smashy”. What’s notable is that the slightest adjustment can completely transform a map, so heaping plasma cores all over Guardian changes the gameplay from the usual run n’ gun to a situation where the overriding consideration is your proximity to one of many exploding barrels. So having the blank canvas of Foundry really blows that process up many times over. Like so many plasma cores (aaah, runaway metaphor!).
I’ve mentioned a couple times on the podcast that I didn’t consider Halo 3 “Game of the Year” material, basically because it’s a big high budget space opera, and you don’t give Star Wars the Oscar for best picture. But games are different yada yada, and a lot of the strength of Halo 3 lies not in its story but in the support materials, like Forge, the “Saved Films” feature and the new bungie.net. And their strength is in the way they give power to the player – you know, that hideous phrase “user-generated content” that has been sweeping the web. Halo 3.0 is the Web 2.0 of video games, allowing people to actually make things with it, and that has got to amount to something. Give a man a game and he plays for a day, but teach a man to spawn exploding barrels over man cannons every ten seconds… something something.
I am developing my evil laugh this week. I’ve been Practicing at home in the bath, and I am sure my neighbours think I am insane, which they may be right about.
The inclusion of Pinhead is a dedication to my friend Ken, who once carved a pumpkin into him for Halloween (he didn’t use nails, I am still impressed.) I will know doubt get some flak for naming a tetris piece “the most evil” but… screw you, that piece has gotten in my way more times then you can imagine. Curse you!!…
Oh, at the figure to the far right in the first panel is Evil Uhura from Star Trek. I love her. She’s sexy. She’s Evil. She deserves a place beside the most evil of us all.
Sorry I am a bit late. I helped some people move this week and fell a little behind. Rest assured I will be back on schedule next week… hopefully with the sketches I promised two weeks ago. Or maybe I’ll just leave you dangling for those week after week.
Then I’d have something REALLY evil to laugh about in the tub.
Yup, there’s nothing like direct brain control of videogames to get the top ten lists fired up, as we see at Popular Mechanic’s list of ‘need to know’ tech for 2008. I don’t buy it though. As if the sixaxis wasn’t causing enough control problems – what about when I think about cheese and it makes my character jump off a ledge? It’ll be used eventually, no doubt (and it’s part of the reason why I won’t mind being just a brain in a jar at some point in the future), but 2008? Hells no.
So says an NDP Group Report that from what I can tell isn’t publically available. There’s this brief press release, that’s about it. Ars mentions Nintendo, of course, but without seeing the study it’s hard to know: what are these people playing on? I’m guessing they’re counting PC Solitaire, as they usually do.
This article about boomer gamers (PDF) is impressive to say the least. It’s the results of an online survey of 40-plus gamers, and it paints a picture of a breed of gamer we hear little about. You can’t describe them as casual players – they play too frequently for that. They prefer adventure games. Women are more active than men. They overwhelmingly play on the PC. Myst and the LucasArts adventures are seminal works. “Generally, players seemed dissatisfied not only with the current offerings not only of the mainstream game industry, but of the mainstream game press as well.”
My friends, when Rock Band hits Canadian shelves all thought of being a hero of the guitar will fade away to nothingness. All previous joy derived from such a glittery and oh so jittery game will feel empty, will feel hollow, will feel…broken.
Rock Band takes the concept begun with GH 1&2 and propels it into the very now of play.
When my new Fender rests firmly in my hands once again and my own sweet copy of bliss spins indefinitely in my 360 I will tell you more. Though I won’t have to. You will no doubt experience this ushering into godhood yourself.
There are so many things…so many things…
And soon I will tell you of them all.
Until then, think on this quaint and inefficient comparison for it is all my joy drunk mind can think of:
Guitar Hero III is 1970’s Battlestar Galactica on a snowy tube tv running off a dusty VCR while you sit alone in a dark and sparse room.
Rock Band is the new Battlestar Galactica in HD on a 52 inch flat screen hanging above your bed while every inch of your body is being bombarded with Starbuck, Caprica Six, and Lt. Shaw’s sweet caresses.
Yup, it’s officially “Game of the Year” voting time. Slate’s Gaming Club convenes to discuss just that, with good ol’ Bioshock trotted out on the first page, and Tolito defending his oh-so-controversial pick Desktop Tower Defense on the second.
I popped Uncharted in knowing I was going to be getting my exploration freak on in some jungle island paradise filled with bad guys trying to kill me. What I did not know is that I would be accompanied by a sexy blonde chick with a camera, attitude and a wonderfully ‘girl-next-door’ voice. I digress! Before I get to her, let me say something about HD and the cutscenes for a moment. The world of gaming is fast moving towards an atmosphere that is less than understanding of those of us who lack the necessary means to game in HD. That being said, this game is beautiful. HD or not my wee TV was delighted with the richness and beauty Uncharted bestowed upon it. And the facial expressions! The motion capture! Surely, we live in a time of great joy for gamers. Surely, this is the beginning of a revolution! Cutscenes have always been a treat, but in recent memory sometimes the use of cutscenes (see: Heavenly Sword) has been used to distract from the deficient parts of a game. Not so in Drake’s! I’m happy to say that the game functions on its own merits without the need for lengthy cutscenes, but the fact that they are included is just, what did Nigel call it…”trans fatty inducing icing” and I agree with him. I love icing.
Before I forget: the story! In brief, the story follows the young Nathan Drake, decendant of Sir Francis Drake, as he tries to uncover a mysterious lost golden idol (the treasure of “El Dorado”, so cliche if you think about it…), but is confronted with long lost U-Boats in the middle jungle islands, rival treasure hunters, and of course, a beautiful woman who always gets herself into trouble. Ah, how like a woman. Seriously, all you need to know is golden idol gimmie, ack why are they shooting at me I should shoot back, wait why was this guy gutted like a fish, and oooh her legs are nice.
The play of the game! The controls are what you would expect from a third person action adventure. The Sixaxis rears its unusual and unnecessary head when you walk across narrow walkways and for some silly reason you have to tilt the controller so you don’t fall. A balancing act that seems…needless, to say the least.
The weapons selection is fine. You can pick up ammo and guns from dead dudes so there is never a shortage in your arsenal. Throwing grenades is a bit weird though, you use the Sixaxis for that as well and you like pull back to get range and then let go, I found I didn’t use grenades as much as I normally would. The combat is mostly about cover so you’re always ducking behind things and leaning out to aim. I only used my grenades when I was sneaking up on a group of guys and would then proceed to AK-Spray my little heart out. Hand to hand is kinda cool with these slow motion super kill moves. And when I say super kill I mean ‘why yes that’s an awfully nice vertabrae crack I hear there!’.
One thing though, and maybe I am just crazy here, but I don’t really notice a difference between shooting a guy in the face with a pistol or a shotgun. Like there were 4 guys I was shooting one time and I got an in-game achievement for like 25 headshots and the dudes weren’t even dead yet! That is stupid! I was up close with this one guy and two blank point range shotgun blasts in the stomach didn’t take him down? For shame, if it doesn’t matter what gun I’m using except for the fact that a few fire faster then what’s the point in that? If anything I would stick with the slower rate of fire to save my bullets…since plugging them into a body repeatedly and at short range obviously does not matter. Collecting these silly achievements that don’t make sense in reality as well as picking up small glinty objects (treasures) around each area give you powerups and special extras when you play the game over again. But I don’t plan on playing it again anytime soon after I finish…I may replay King Kong though…
Back to the girl. So here role in the story is to be your little companion friend that helps you solve easy “place this here and that there” puzzles, get in trouble so you have to save her and thereby leading you to some new area, and other…stuff.
Back to that less than snazzy puzzle comment. It’s not that they are lame…it’s just well…They’re kinda lame. A lot about the game is kinda lame. The mediocre-generic-pirate-mercenary dudes for one. They have no soul! How am I supposed to really want to take down these dudes when they have no soul! There are exploding barrels.
On an island.
In the middle of nowhere.
So many barrels!
But hey, I like shooting das barrels so no worries, that’s not too lame. And I know what you’re saying, ‘Nadine, why don’t you want any pizza? I ordered like 3! What the hell?’ So I say to you this: Yes, there is lameness, but also there is fun…ness. I like to play it! I don’t care about the lame things that I’m sure you will find as well included in the game because the sound, the script, the acting and the actual exploring a jungle and shooting visually defined yet personality lacking bad guys is fun! I loved Ubisoft’s King Kong game and while Uncharted isn’t as grand a foray into super awesome fun times as that title was it’s still a good time and it’s one of the reasons the PS3 makes sense this holiday season.
The fact is that there are no revelations in the game. Uncharted is simply Tomb Raider and King Kong’s gloriously beautiful love child. It’s a solid good time! Much like jello.
You know I don’t even like jello…but I know alot of people out there do.
There’s an interesting but flawed Gamasutra article here called Persuasive Games: Video Game Zen. Interesting because it examines some games that emphasize “leaning back” or relaxed play, as opposed to the usual “leaning forward” experience we associate with twitch gaming. Flawed because it cannot distinguish between relaxation and meditation, and criticizes some games according to standards they were not aiming for. It also mischaracterizes fl0w which was a flash game before coming to the PS3. Be sure to read the comments – the ones from Thomas and Celia are illuminating.
The article hits on a couple things that ring true, though. One is Solitaire. I agree it’s relaxing, or rather non-twitch, and I think that’s because it’s turn-based and not real time. One can play the game at one’s own pace, taking however long one needs to make moves. I like many a turn-based game, and it’s for this reason. What’s the rush? Life does present many a situation in which one’s quick reactions are of the essence. However, just as often it presents opportunities for reflection, where one should not make a move until one has thought it through. The former experience is well simulated by games, the latter should be moreso.
The other shoutout I could relate to was the practise of wandering in Grand Theft Auto and other open-ended games. Oh to unlock a new area in San Andreas and simply drive through it, listening to music, checking out the sights. I’d agree that a good roamabout is primo relaxation time, both in games and in life.
Alrighty. This comic pretty much wrote itself. I may be the only one cackling like a moron at the thought of Kirby going on a killing rampage, but I am still highly amused by it. The game suggestion in the last panel was going to be “Leisure Suit Locust: Gears of Love” which I thought was funnier, but was a little afraid that fewer people would get the reference to Gears of War than God of War (as the latter has been out longer with a sequel to boot.)
Does anyone know the Leisure Suit Larry games, or am I the only sad, little man here?
I also get a sick feeling of joy at drawing nintendo characters suffering, I don’t do well with “cute.” Fuck cute… cute can go get mugged in a dark alley and left for dead.
I am slowly becoming more “professional.” I have moved from knowing diddly about photoshop last week, to knowing a little bit this week… hence the fancy new (albiet, a little difficult to read) header for Eyeless Max. Maybe one day this will look down-right polished. we can only hope.
This is the first comic I’ve written in more than four panels… ever…
You better well appreciate it, or Kirby’ll be after you and your loved ones. I promised some sketches this week. I lied. Next week. Same Max time, same Max channel.
I won’t bore you with the “Great blah blah, Awesome blah blah . By now you can probably tell I can get on their jock pretty quick when I’m ready. But in reading other reviews, I have to agree that the number ratings kinda don’t work for this game. The sum of it’s parts create a strong cinematic effect.
There are so many video games that try to attain this. Why not? It’s the reason why games like Halo 3 end up making more bread than most box office blockbusters. The most obvious way for a game to create this effect is with ever present, but often misused “cutscene”. Gameplay will always be the “make or break” for a title, but if game play were a cake, cutscenes would definitely be the sugary, trans-fatty ulcer inducing, icing.
(God, I love icing)
Some developers use cut scenes as a way to sweep dead carcasses (ahem).. I mean under developed games under a rug of slick FMV sweetness. Like false advertising, there should be a be a law against this.
How many games used their cutscenes to create a whirlpool of buzz only to settle into a dead calm of horrible gameplay. . But when it’s done right a cutscence can suck you in, make you care and invest in a game. Here are few that did that for me…
Final Fantasy 7
Who can forget the time and effort spent leveling up and equiping Aeris.
Who can forget all the diolauge choices you had to make so she would be the love interest for the games protaganist Cloud. All that only to have her get the business end of Sephiroth’s sword halfway through the game. Throw in some tear jerking music and you got one crazy climatic moment.
You can never beat the first one and this is one of the reasons why. Despite its sci-fi roots, the introduction for the flood in original Halo created a suspensful thriller moment that would give any Resedent Evil game a run for its money.
Star Wars KOTOR
There are many examples why the first Knights Of The Old Republic is held in the same caliber as the better half of the movies. For me the perfect example of this was the opening. Of course I know Its hard to screw up a text crawl, but it’s what comes after that puts you in the vain of what you loved about the movies while also setting you up for something new and unknown.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance
Loki is one of my favorite comic villians so to see him and his army of troll tear into Asgard was just a guilty pleasure for me.
At ars, Jacqui Cheng debunks the Microsoft HD/DVD conspiracy theories. Or does she? She notes that there’s no proof that Microsoft wants to keep the format wars going in order to champion (Microsoft-supplied) downloads. But where’s the proof that they want to win?
If Microsoft wanted the format wars over and a clear winner decided, they would either a) not be in bed with Toshiba behind the HD DVD format, ceding the fight to Sony’s Blu-Ray or b) put everything at their disposal into HD DVD. Have they really done the latter? Microsoft still doesn’t include an HD DVD drive with the Xbox 360 – they sell an add-on drive. While the drive is cheap (now $129 in the US, $200 in Canada), it’s still $579 for the console + drive, while the entry-level PS3, with its built-in Blu-Ray drive, is $400. So if they were really trying to battle Blu-Ray, they’d be competing on price at the very least.
Microsoft makes no money from Blu-Ray, whereas they earn licensing fees from HD DVDs, and they must take a substantial cut from their own digital downloads. They clearly don’t want Blu-Ray to win, but the question of how badly they want HD DVD to win could be answered if you knew how much money they made from downloads vs. HD DVD. Since we don’t know that, we can only speculate… and from their actions, they’re not backing HD DVDthat hard.
Firstly, Gerstmann is now a rockstar games journalist, a category I never imagined could exist. It will be exciting to see where he goes, and any site that does sign him will see their profile increased. He himself could benefit greatly from the debacle, which is a good thing.
The affair has people thinking about the role of advertising in games coverage, and that is another incredibly good thing. For all the cynics who say that advertisers pay the bills and That’s How It Is, the truth is that advertisers won’t pay shit unless the site has readers, and so the eyeballs are the site’s true rulers. If all you have is ads, since your reviews are basically big ads too, why would anyone bother reading?
So Gamespot can deny all they want that advertiser pressure was behind his dismissal – their reputation is tarnished, and their traffic and thus revenue will go down. (Yes, I know the short term result is more traffic, but that will pass.) It may not only be gamespot, the other big sites could see blast damage too. Let’s think about where this affair was first covered: Kotaku and Penny Arcade. I don’t have much good to say about Kotaku’s public service, but Penny Arcade is a shining example here. Not only do they publish an excellent comic, they are probably the best game reviewers out there – and that’s not their job at all. But then they periodically fire this beam of righteousness on deserving targets. Let’s not forget their advertising policy is a beacon unto others (they won’t accept ads from games they don’t like, so the ads are a form of endorsement). It’s probably the self-interested idealist talking here, but seeing as a lot of the things being discussed right now dovetail with things we have been talking about here, I can’t help but hope that the independent sites will benefit here. I guess we’ll see.
While we’re at it, there’s an interview with Gerstmann here, although he’s still not saying much.
When the PS3 came out and people were literally killing each other to get their grubby paws on one of the black behemoths even though there was nothing, and I mean nothing, worth playing on it, people were outraged. Yet, the ones who had invested such wealth into owning one of these modern miracles of engineering poured their selves into a void of denial stating that the next game, that next release would prove their baby to be the Big Bad of the gaming realm.
Games came and went without much of a bang, ooh wow you can control your car with a tilty Sixaxis…Oh wait, no one wanted to pay $600+ to play a sharper version of Wii Excite Truck.
Lair exploded into the hearts and minds of PS3 owners and when the game did not deliver, nay it truly screamed its indifference to most gamers’ pleas for satisfaction, despondency settled over PS3 owners. And then:Nariko.
The breathtaking beauty, who like a succubus bled the essence of God of War into a vessel of her own image, and promised gamers more than just satisfaction…She promised the ultimate in gamer pleasure. Explosive graphics, epic battles, big name motion capture actors, all in all caused a great swoon to come over most of the gaming collective. The PS3 would at last be avenged. But for all her promises and sexy long legs, Heavenly Sword ultimately was a disappointment. Boring, repetitive, predictable, bland. All the things you don’t want in a hot, sexy date. The best thing there was to play for a time was Warhawk. And not everyone likes to play online multiplayer games all the time.
Then came on the horizon a hero from the past. No, not Link, someone far more…furry. Ratchet, alongside his trusty robot friend Clank made no promise, made no boast, with their first televised ad campaign all they projected was good clean Super Gun Fun. Finally, a savior, a reason to keep (and in most cases start) believing.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune also used a similar method of persuasion. A cocky, yet carefree, young man with rugged good looks in ruins saying ‘to hell with you pirates, I’m taking this treasure with me’. Exciting, sexy, alluring. And these suggestive glances to gamers paid off, the games were more than good and for the first time PS3 gamers could say they were _great-.
At the same time in the quiet moments between discs, the PSN called out to its forlorn members, ‘Come this way, I have something for you.’ New and unique games like Everyday Shooter and Pain were promised and delivered. Pain slyly hooked its “you must get more ooch power!” claws into the minds of young physics lovers everywhere and promised future theme packs, more characters, more game modes in the future. Suddenly it seemed the wait was over on both sides. The PS3 was beginning to live up to the expectations of gamers just enough to start soothing current owners into a state of happiness, while coaxing the uninitiated into thoughts of relieving their pockets of cash. Then came the nail in the indecision coffin: the price drop. That “still expensive but for what you’re getting it’s more than reasonable” $399 price point. A Blu-Ray player, more than a solid base of downloadable content, and big exclusive titles that finally used what the PS3 had to offer.
I used to despise the PS3 on principle. Now, I’m a happy convert eager to shed tears of frustration if it means that I can experience more gaming happiness like Ratchet sometime in 2008. And really that’s all I need. I don’t know about you though. It’s like, you know what’s been going on with this thing, you know the heartache, but you can also see the light at the end of this ever so long tunnel. To wait to step into the light, or simply embrace the current shadow with hope in your heart is a choice best left to one’s own inner voice of reason.
If you ask me though?
2008 will be a much better place for PS3 owners. Maybe you should consider becoming one…
Up here in the barren, snowclogged wasteland of Canadia, if you’re not slipping on poorly cleared sidewalks or getting tasered by renegade Mounties, you’re complaining about how it’s hard out here for a nerd when all the tech companies treat you like second-class assholes: no iPhone, TiVO, Kindle; no movies or TV on the iTunes Store. Well forget you, iTunes, as Microsoft announces that on December 11th, movie rentals will come to Xbox Live, for “as little as 310 Microsoft Points for Standard Definition movies and from 460 Microsoft Points for High Definition movies.” Let me quote Steve here on the translation from funny money: “Movies will cost 310 Microsoft Points ($4.34) for older films and 440 points ($6.16) for newer releases, with high-def versions going for 460 points ($6.44) and 660 points ($9.24) respectively.” Confused yet? As a comparison, $8 is what Rogers charges to stream a slightly out of sync HD movie.
And of course, no TV shows, because everyone knows Canadians hate TV and just like to watch the whale fat congeal on the wall of our igloos as we chug maple syrup. Good times.
Why do all the games come out right now? Kyle Orland’s got an article in the Escapist exploring that question. Short answer: it’s the time of year where non-gamers by games (for gamers), and publishers consider a small piece of a big pie better than a big piece of a much smaller, springtime pie.
Great editorial over at Gamasutra on the topic of the Jeff Gerstmann firing and the supremacy of numerical scores:
But many outlets have failed to stir up any reader interest in the text behind the review, or the overall atmosphere of the mag or website they’re exploring — instead, readers increasingly care exclusively about the score, so they can praise and/or whine about it online. Entire game-media outlets have been, and are defined by, the numerals they publish…instead of, you know, how fun they are to read.