When I was 10, all I wanted was a Dreamcast. It was the first system launch that I was intimately aware of, having just begun to absorb myself in the industry enough to be convinced at the time that it would be, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the absolute greatest system quite possibly in the history of ever.
However, as luck and the family finances would have it, I unfortunately did not get a Dreamcast that year, or any other. Don’t feel sorry for 10 year old me though, because the following Christmas I was gifted with a PS2, which was not only the hottest item of the year, but would go on to have a long and healthy life span full of classic all time games. It was, by all logical regards, a win.
Still a question enters my mind from time to time. If I could go back and tell 10 year old me to calm down, and not freak out about not getting a Dreamcast because it wasn’t going to last long anyway, would 10 year old me have listened? There’s a part of me that hates being wrong that believes it wouldn’t have mattered and my thoughts regarding the Dreamcast wouldn’t have changed overnight, despite the recently acquired knowledge of its eventual fate.
Pragmatically, however, that wouldn’t be the case. Had I known, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Sega Dreamcast despite being an incredible system in its own right, would only have a viable shelf-life of just over a year, I probably would have calmed down and transferred my hype to the pending PS2 release. After all, no matter what your age you never want to spend a substantial amount of money on a product that simply won’t last, and doesn’t fit your needs. As such, at the time I would have wished, and even craved, for that person to come along.
To Buy…Or Not to Buy?
Of course, the above scenario is just fantasy theorizing that’s impossible barring the acquirement of some sort of 80′s sports car time traveling device, but it is, nonetheless, representative of a very real issue facing gamers as we approach another multiple system console launch.
Specifically its in regards to the recent incident where Adam Sessler took a stance on the “Resolutiongate” fiasco that the Xbox One found itself the center of, by saying that at this time its difficult to make the resolution of games the ultimate factor in deciding which system will be best, and that in the long run it’s ultimately meaningless when weighed against the value of good game design. Though it’s a pretty modest argument, and the only people really attacked in it are Microsoft and game developers for not making this information more well known, don’t try telling that to the hordes of people who lashed out at Adam Sessler for downplaying what is in the minds of many a very important aspect in terms of making a decision of which next gen console to invest in.
In an issue that has spun out of control as quickly and amazingly as this one has, it’s extremely important when trying to analyze it, to have the ability to step away from the melee of internet discussion boards and the like, and simply view the issue in and of itself, and really attempt to dissect just what this is and why it is happening.
Do that, and the first word you’ll probably take away from the whole thing is “fanboy.” There are many out there who are writing this off as a fanboy led argument and nothing more. While it’s true that there are certainly elements of fanboyism prevalent here, as with any discussion, fanboys in the accepted sense of the word are meaningless. Fanboys, or trolls, or whatever you want to call them are horrible creatures who live to spread madness and generally speaking make the world a worse place in any way they can. They are devoid of logic, and since logic is the thing needed most to really determine what’s at the heart of this issue, we will not factor the thoughts and actions of those groups in as much as possible.
After All, Is This a Person Whose Opinions You Want to Validate?
Instead this is really just another in a long line of incidents that show the growing resentment many people have towards gaming jounalism. Many of the people upset at this are actually perfectly rational consumers and gamers, who see this as another example of gaming journalists becoming more and more out of touch with the common gamer, and more and more comfortable with the gaming industry. Citing a prior comment Sessler once made on how 1080p should be the standard in the next generation, many of those same people are saying that his most recent stance on the subject is a hypocritical cop-out and, an indication that he is unwilling or unable to make a definitive decision on the next generation at this time.
Of course the answer to that is, no shit he isn’t able or willing. Adam Sessler is not a prophet from the future who is able to tell us what the fate of either system will be, or which one we would be better off buying. People who are expecting him to be that, however, are in fact the same 10 year old boy I once was who wants a Dreamcast at launch really, really badly and are desperate for someone to come along and give them a compelling reason to either justify those feelings, or banish them from their minds.
Buy into that, and you’ll begin to see that the problem is that the majority of the people on both sides of this issue are either otherwise perfectly rational people who have momentarily turned themselves into 10 year olds again as another system draws near, or are fanboys. Those are, of course, two groups not known for their ability to participate in a reasonable discussion on any matter without things turning messy.
Again ignoring the thoughts and whims of fanboys, and turning instead to solely address those who’ve momentarily lost their grasp of sanity in this issue, I say to you what I wish I could really go back and say to a young, fanatical, Dreamcast desiring me, which is grow up, and calm the hell down. It’s highly unlikely that you are in a situation where your life depends on purchasing an Xbox One or PS4 as quickly as possible, and its even more unlikely that it depends on you selecting the “right” one.
Sony is a company with a checkered history of controller innovation. Sure they hit a sweet spot with the basic original PS1 controller which just felt right in your hands, but the biggest tech additions to that model (analog sticks and vibration) were lifted from the successful innovations of the N64. Even then they were so unsure regarding the whole “Analog” thing, that the original model of that controller had a button that allowed you to disable it, and the first game to require the sticks didn’t come to the PS1 until 1999.
Also, as the SixAxis proved, when it comes to home brewed innovations the folks at Sony lag behind. It would seem they are really vested in changing that image with the PS4 controller, which may maintain the timeless structure of the Dual Shock model, but introduces a miniature touch area, a share button of somewhat ambiguous specific functionality, and LED lights on top similar to those on the PS Move.
While the true test of these features won’t really be applicable until developers have had a year or so to play around with it and explore their full benefits, the folks behind “Thief 4” have provided a small preview of what we can expect from this new controller, specifically as it relates to the LED bar which in the case of “Thief” will remain dark when your character is hidden, and light gradually as you become more and more exposed. They’ve also noted that the touchpad will be used for enhanced menu navigation, and the more accurate motion sensors allow them to incorporate bow aiming mechanics into it, as well as a motion controlled dash option.
They also spoke of incorporating a mechanic that would allow you to blow onto a controller to blow out candles, but that it might be removed if it is “too gimmicky.”
Granted this isn’t game changing stuff, but it does remind me of the first time I played “Tiger Woods” on the PS2, and noticed how the enhanced graphics actually allowed me to better read the course at a glance, thus improving the gameplay through a cosmetic upgrade. It’s a little touch to be sure, but its an interesting first step towards what appears to be a new day for Sony controller integration and innovation.
Though the full details are still unknown, the basic way the system appears to work is that up to 10 authorized friends can request to access your Steam account and download and play, through the cloud, most games you have available, and vice versa. To prevent abusing the system, if the user whose account you are borrowing from accesses their own account while you are using it, even if they are playing a different game than you are, you will be given a prompt that you have a few minutes to buy the game, or you will be kicked out.
Further details reveal that not every game will be available for sharing, though the specific games are unknown, and that purchased in-game items will not carry over to sharing, though it appears that DLC will. Also actions that can affect reputation in a game that are done by the player borrowing said game will carry over to the lender.
Though a few concerns and questions remain (Can a lender access his account when a game is installing to the borrower? If you’ve installed the game over the cloud and choose to buy it, does it have to be re-installed?) this is a tremendous idea that has been rumored for some time, but is still a welcome and exciting addition to Steam that provides a great opportunity to try out games that don’t usually have demos, as well as revive the borrowing concept, albeit in a slightly limited fashion.
Even though I recognize the superiority of e-books, I’m still hesitant to commit to the switch from the physical format, mostly because amidst all the discarded Snickers wrappers and empty beer bottles, my bookshelf of partially read literary classics is pretty much the only part of my apartment décor that identifies me as a an adult.
I never really though about it, but I suppose you can’t say the same about my game collection, as it kind of gives off that Gamestop-y vibe that isn’t usually associated with ideal interior decorating. Though I think my game collection reeks of class, looking at it from visitor eyes it does possibly makes me lose the adult cred I gained from that book shelf.
Thankfully etsy user JamesBit came up with a solution to this conundrum that will restore balance to your living room classiness, with his custom made game covers that are designed to look like Penguin Publishing books.
Even though you are only sent a PDF of the covers to print yourself, the price of the idea is right ($6 for three, or $1.49 per for larger orders), and you get to pick your own games to receive covers for. Designs are also available for every major system, as well as PC games, Mac games, DVD’s and Blu-Rays, with new cover designs promised to be on the way soon.
So whether your looking to turn your extensive gaming collection into something that classes up the joint a bit, or you just need to disguise all of those imported Japanese “dating” sims, this is an extremely cool concept that will no doubt be welcome in the homes of sophisticated gamers everywhere.
The popular theory that no press is bad press was put to the test for Microsoft when their unveiling of the Xbox One was met with a series of very humorous memes, and a stunningly low approval rating, that many would have a hard time calling good press.
As bad as it was though, it’s not exactly the worst tragedy in the history of mankind, the video game industry or, for that matter, even Microsoft’s gaming division.
So while the controversial Xbox One may prove to be their biggest bust of all, for now let’s all keep things in perspective by revisiting the top five biggest mistakes Microsoft has ever made.
5. The Duke
A controller is one of the most important parts of launching a video game system, and when that system is your first one ever, may even come to define part of your image for all time.
If that is true, then unfortunately part of Microsoft’s image will always be that of a big fat failure.
“The Duke” as it would commonly be referred to, was a gargantuan gaming controller recognized by Guiness as one of the largest of all time, and by everyone else as one of the worst. Awkward for most, and impossible for some, “The Duke” would later be phased out in favor of the Japanese model “Controller S.”
Though it would lead to one of best controller designs of all time in the “360 Wireless,” few will ever forget the pain and hand aches associated with “The Duke.”
Though Blu-Ray hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in the way that DVD’s did, Toshiba’s similar “HD-DVD” format didn’t even make a spark.
Yet when it came time to support a next-gen disc format, which one do you think Microsoft chose?
In a way it’s difficult to fault them for doing so, since at that time the format wars were far fom resolved, and Sony was a big backer of Blu-Ray, but try telling that to everyone that jumped the gun and bought a 360 HD-DVD player, only to have it collecting dust along with a small stack of HD-DVD titles less than a year later.
3. Acquiring Rare
When Microsoft acquired developer Rare for a cool $375 million, it looked like they had pulled off one of the great gaming coups of all time. After all, Rare was only one of the most storied developers ever, and had produced the greatest N64 games this side of Nintendo.
Much like a brilliant assistant coach leaving Bill Belichick though, once Rare was free from the umbrella of Nintendo’s influence, they would flounder in the spotlight.
While the re-make of “Conker” for Xbox was fun, and the 360 launch game “Kameo: Elements of Power” was decent enough, it was that other 360 launch title “Perfect Dark Zero” that would define their future with Microsoft.
It’s a future that includes titles ranging from boring to broken, with hardly a commercial or critical hit to be found. While some gamers hold out hope for the glorious return of one of gaming’s most famed developers, or maybe just a new “Killer Instinct,” it’s looking less and less likely the 11 year old mega deal will ever pan out.
2. Lack of Support for the Japanese Market
As one of the first U.S. grown gaming systems to make it, Microsoft has always had a strained relationship with gamers from the land of the rising sun.
You could argue that they are up against a cultural barrier that isn’t entirely their fault, but from soft system launches in Japan to serious issues in successively seeking out major Japanese developer’s support, Microsoft has done no favors for themselves when trying to gain the support of the creatively, and financially, lucrative Japanese market.
In many ways it feels like they’ve completely written off the idea of ever really selling in Japan and, as a result, guarantee they will never be able to make a serious impact on their biggest rivals until they do.
1. The Red Rings of Death
Really, what else could it be?
The Xbox 360 did a lot of great things for gaming, but instead of being remembered for the brilliance of Xbox Live, or an assortment of classic titles, the lasting image of the 360 will always be blinking red lights indicating a massive system failure that almost every 360 owner has had to experience at some point, or at the least fear forever.
Though a return and re-furbish option became available, once you got the red rings, you never really escaped them, just as Microsoft would never be able to escape the issue, even late into the system’s life span when the lights would become far less prevalent.
Instead the red lights of death are Microsoft’s version of herpes, in that they dealt with it once, and it’s now with them forever.
To view the extent of this problem, try typing “best Superman game” into Google. Soon you’ll be met with the equivalent of a shrug, as the only results are people asking if there ever has been a good Superman game. Specify that search to read “top 10 best Superman games,” and the most relevant result is the “top 10 worst Superman games.”
That’s right. The Superman problem is so great that it even breaks Google.
While it’s impossible to attribute the problem to any single issue, the biggest one has to be Superman himself. Simply put, Superman is too powerful, and doesn’t make an effective video game character because there are only so many things that can cause him harm, or scenarios where he is in actual danger. So unless you’re going to equip every thug with kryptonite gloves (which you shouldn’t because it’s a terrible idea), there is a very limited rouge gallery that can even contain the god-man. On the other hand, the entire reason you want to play Superman is to use those very powers that makes him an issue in the first place.
That last part got me thinking. Maybe the solution to the Superman problem lies somewhere in the fact that so many Superman games have been 3D action titles. While that would seem the most likely home for the man of steel, it’s beginning to look like a truly great Superman game will not emerge until a developer is willing to chart some unconventional territory.
Specifically, that territory may be an adventure game, and that developer Telltale Games.
Ok, so it’s not the first thing you think of when you think Superman, but that’s the point. It’s something outside of the Superman comfort zone, that has turned into the rut the character’s games are in. For instance it would be interesting to see “Walking Dead’s” choice system make a return, and force gamers to actually grapple with the decisions that come with essentially being God on Earth, rather than just wail on baddies level after level. Hell, Clark Kent could even be made useable, courtesy of some journalistic investigation sequences
Best of all, they wouldn’t even have to trim down on the few highlights that do exist in Superman games. You could still have flying, you’d still have the epic feel of playing as Superman, and the powers issue is addressed as you would still be able to use all of Superman’s abilities, but with the emphasis now on plot and progression, there would be no need to trim them down, as the developers could instead have greater control over the action sequences where you get to use them.
It’s not the only Superman idea out there, and it’s certainly not one that is guaranteed to work, however it is an example of how the Superman problem doesn’t have to be one without resolution, and that there are still ideas for the series that haven’t been explored which could potentially turn the games from running joke, into a franchise that is as anticipated as the next “Batman” game.
As a rule I try not to get excited about movies based on video games for reasons that should be painfully (very painfully) obvious.
But for those of you that may not know, John Carpenter is one of the greatest horror film directors of all time, and during a streak in the late 70′s and into the 80′s directed some truly immortal movies, including the greatest sci-fi horror flick ever made, “The Thing.”
So when that man says he’s interested in making a video game into a movie, you pay attention. When that move is an adaptation of “Dead Space,” you have permission to shed your cynicism towards the whole idea.
Even in that spirit though, it’s hard to not start imagining that Carpenter would in fact knock this out of the park. “Dead Space” the game is an elaborate haunted house type horror story, with some psychologically intense elements and an incredibly interesting plot that doesn’t interrupt the scares. Carpenter made his name directing films like that, and, when you consider the fact this is a case of a big name director who is genuinely excited about adapting a video game, it’s easy to forget that Carpenter hasn’t done a truly noteworthy film in about 20 years, and to start considering the possibility that this could just work in a big way.
Plus, are you going to tell me you’re not going to give the man who directed “The Thing” the benefit of the doubt when it comes to making one more truly great film?
Chris Rock once said on monogamy that a man is “basically as faithful as his options.” In other words, if they have the ability to cheat, they are much more likely.
The same can easily be said when it comes to videogames and piracy. Everyone knows how much of a problem piracy is, yet many still succumb to the allure. After all, it’s easy, it’s free, and you don’t even have to see the victims if you don’t look hard.
However, the victims are very real, and the numbers to support it are staggering. Take for instance the recently released indie game “Game Dev Tycoon,” where you are tasked with running a video game development studio. It’s been announced by the game’s developer that figures seem to show that of the roughly 3300 copies of the game being played so far, a whopping 93.6% are pirated copies. Naturally for a small studio like Greenheart Games, or anyone really, those are crippling.
While cases like this are all too common, this one does have a silver, and very humorous, lining.
The problem becomes so great, that sooner or later you eventually will lose your studio as you usually can’t profit enough to get ahead, making those copies of “Game Dev Tycoon” essentially unwinnable.
While that’s humorous enough as is, the best part of this story has to be the befuddled reactions from the users of these pirated copies, as they just can’t understand why this is happening in their game, and are pleading with other players for a way to resolve the issue. One even remarks that the whole thing is “not fair,” while another asks is DRM can fix the problem.
While the irony there is seemingly only lost on the people affected, the real irony is that the people who pirated the game about running a video game development studio seem to have gotten the most realistic version of that process. Gaming needs an indie scene to challenge the perceptions of the industry and test the waters of what works and what is accepted at large. Piracy kills that creative market, and unfortunately a viable solution on a massive scale has not been presented yet, and quite possibly never will.
Still though, it’s nice to know that pending financial and creative doom hasn’t deterred the better spirits of at least one developer, and it’s hard to not applaud them in their efforts to make a small, but very clear, stand against the matter the best way they know how.
I used to love getting a video game magazine in the mail, whether it be Nintendo Power, Expert Gamer, Electronic Gaming Monthly, or Game Informer. It was a once a month mind blow where I got pages of information, galleries of photos, and sweet, sweet reviews regarding my favorite pastime in every issue.
That was once a month. Once a year though, there was an event that was like getting a year’s worth of magazines at one time. They called it E3, and to any gamer who grew up in the 90’s, it was this mythical ceremony beyond comprehension.
However, it’s no exaggeration to say that over the last 10 years or so, the event has been slowly dying. What was a mark your calendar and anticipate sleepless nights in anticipation extravaganza, now resembles more of a begrudging necessity where companies do their best to budget as much flash as possible to blind people to the fact they are mostly seeing the exact titles that they’ve known would be there for months due to leaks, or worse retreads of previously released information to fill time.
The writing is on the wall for the event, and has been for some time. Instead of just bleeding the spectacle though, it is time for E3 to die.
Understand that E3, much like the gaming magazine, was only as big as it once was because video games were not. There was no video game channel, there was no segment on the news concerning them (with few exceptions), and there certainly was no internet in the way there is today. Having a singular large event like E3 that didn’t just acknowledge video games, but glorified them, was not only justified in a different time, it was required.
That of course isn’t the case anymore. Instead E3 is an unfortunate lingering relic of a different time that is being unnecessarily worshiped due to the misguided value placed in nostalgia, and is dragging down the potential growth of the entire industry. The larger companies don’t need it, yet they still feel obligated to put on a big spectacle, and completely drown out the noise that smaller companies could use the time for in the process. Meanwhile the growing numbers of embarrassing presentations have their ridicule magnified much larger than necessary by the inherit spectacle E3 still carries, and the rare previously unannounced great game that can emerge (say like “Watch Dogs”) then spends the next few weeks making rounds on every facet of the internet watering down the initial moment until it might as well have not existed at all.
It’s time for gaming companies to take the cue from Nintendo and 2K and move on. Whether that means companies hold their own shows, or provide more services like Nintendo Direct that allow them a forum for their own exclusive major announcements, it doesn’t matter so long as they are no longer dependent on a few days in Los Angeles to define the course of their next year.
It was as long ago as 2008 when representatives from EA, Ubisoft, and others, were quoted lamenting that E3 wasn’t the profitable gala spectacle it once was, and were contemplating ways to bring it back to prominence. The truth is that if the day ever did exist when that resurgence was still possible, it has now passed. If the gaming industry is still truly fiscally dependent on E3, then it has only itself to blame for not making use of the considerable resources available to forge a new path to greener pastures.
Nintendo has been criticized for living in the past, and being behind the times, but in this move they are truly ahead of the game. It’s hard to say goodbye to something that still manages to entertain, but there has never been a case where relying on the glory days was a benefit to anyone, and it certainly isn’t the case with E3.
If you haven’t been following, the oculus rift is an amazing new virtual reality device that will allow the gamer to achieve a sort of free look effect while playing a game. It’s not quite the vision of virtual reality that we pictured from sci-fi, but it does represent the most realistic step towards that vision that video gaming has ever seen.
Now that early units have begun shipping to early kickstarter backers, we’re starting to get some pretty interesting footage of the device showing everyone exactly why that is.
The first comes to us from a gamer playing the free running “Mirror’s Edge.”
“Mirror’s Edge” is the exact type of game that people dreamed about when they heard of the oculus rift, and also the type they worried if the device was capable of handling. From that video, I’m going to say that concern has been addressed triumphantly
In fact, I pretty much just have to say “wow.” While we don’t know how much time was invested in learning to play the game, it doesn’t appear that the user in that video misses much of a step with the rift, and instead the only times he seems disoriented are when he’s in a particularly narrow movement space, admiring the rift’s ability to put a new perspective on the game, or when participating in an awe inspiring free fall which serves as the definitive climax to the video.
While it’s difficult to gain the same sensation that the rift supposedly inspires just by watching a video, it doesn’t take much imagination when viewing that video to see that it has potential to lend a truly unprecedented interactive experience to select titles. Of course when you’re talking creative and imaginative experiences, nothing tops the next video.
In what has to be the most incredible demonstration of interactive gaming ever filmed, the person in that video is using an omni-directional treadmill, which can read and feed your movements to a video game character, and pairs it with the oculus rift to play “Team Fortress 2″ in a manner more in line with the virtual reality experience we’ve all dreamed of, albeit in a much more exhausting manner than previously considered.
The other thing that video shows is that there is a possible future for VR gaming, which is an idea that has never really been given an honest attempt or chance. Whether or not the oculus rift is the device we all look back to when identifying the true turning point of the concept, even the earliest and roughest footage shows a VR device that does something no other has truly managed to do yet.