The Return Of 2D

With Sony and Microsoft introducing the newest eighth generation consoles – the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, respectively – some of the highest graphic potential games are imminently poised to enter the market. Video game technology is one of the fastest moving industries, and in order to compete studios are consistently testing the confines and boundaries of what that technology is capable of producing.

Some of the hottest games slated for 2014 include Titanfall and Destiny that immerse a player in a hyper-realistic setting with incredibly detailed character and in-game design. The sheer size of some of these virtual environments is amazing. Additionally, the freedom to be able to create entire worlds has allowed developers to take full advantage of the human imagination, inhabiting these other universes with anything from monsters and mech-robots to protolithic deities and cartoon characters.

But sometimes it’s easy to forget about the precursors to these next generation gaming experiences. The beauty of consoles like the Super Nintendo was that the limitations on their technology, what they were able to display, did not hamper the creative process – quite the contrary, it fostered it. Some of the first role-playing games (RPG) to grace the video-game industry like the initial Final Fantasy and the time-shifting Chrono Trigger were (and are) just as expansive and imaginative as games coming out today, both in terms of their innovation in actual gameplay, their focus on story and character development, and their playability even decades after their release.

That seems to be where a lot of modern games lose their steam – press releases for new games tend to emphasize how many hours of gameplay are to be expected, and this notion of setting a quota often makes the games quite interesting to play, but don’t really imprint any lasting effect. Arcade-style and strategy games, like the original RPGs for the SNES, are iconic not only in their capacity to draw us, but also in their tendency to keep us coming back for more.

Some studios have picked up on this latent nostalgia for simpler formatted games which emphasize 2D interfaces, most notably Klei which brought out Mark of the Ninja for Xbox and continues to release updates to its survival game Don’t Starve. But the beauty inherent in coming back to an older format of video game is being able to look at it through a contemporary lens, and develop novel ways of approaching the gameplay.
Independent studios, which often lack the same sort of funding and manpower, are the guiding forces behind this 2D re-emergence, as well as other businesses that are picking up on the accessibility of gaming. Online casinos and developers of applications for mobile phones and devices are consistently using the 2D style to display their applications and services – think of any Online Poker or Slot Game, or the craze that Angry Birds experienced.

It’s proof that advanced and complex graphics don’t necessarily make for a good game (consider all the heat that subsequent installations in the CoD saga have experienced). What makes a good game is a good idea, and the ability to tell a story in a fun, interesting, or controversial way – the release of Reus from Abbey games is an excellent example, where you take on the role of a god by creating entire eco-systems. The dimension-shifting 2D game Fez takes a meta-approach t by allowing the player to shift the environment 180 degrees on its axis.

Although there is something exciting in the course of video-game evolution, and its endeavour to supply an interactive form of entertainment and adventure, it’s important for developers to recognize that technology is a tool, not a crux. A game can be as flashy and loud as an ambulance, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s appealing. The rise of independent game developers, by virtue of the resources available to them, are beginning to represent a shift in video game culture as more and more people pick up on the creativity afforded by a simple 8 bit graphics card.

Simon is a writer and content specialist who is addicted to being on the front page of anything. A graduate of Dalhousie University, he specializes in using the em dash too often. Currently, Simon rests his typing hands in Vancouver, Canada. Check out his recent thoughts on online gaming.


Top Infinity Ward execs part ways with Activision

Modern Warfare 2.I’ve heard in the past that Infinity Ward has a less than cordial relationship with Activision. The shit finally hit the fan this morning, though, when two of IW’s top guys took a hike after meeting with the publisher.

At some point yesterday, Vince Zampella and Jason West met with Activision, after which they didn’t return to IW offices. Instead, a bunch of “bouncer-types” came around, presumably to ensure that neither exec would come back to work. By noon today both Zampella and West had updated their LinkedIn profiles to include Infinity Ward as previous experience.

Kotaku also dug up an SEC filing from yesterday that showed Activision had launched an investigation at IW for “insubordination” and “breaches of contract” regarding “two senior employees.” Activision has since confirmed both departures and announced the formation of a special division dedicated to churning out one Call of Duty game every year. Looks like the company will continue to bank on that franchise as a major source of revenue for as long as it can.


Activision gets almost 70% of its revenue from three franchises

Tauren dance, baby.Activision’s fiscal report for 2009 contained some seriously juicy news. First, there’s the scandal at Infinity Ward. Second, there’s this. The report included statistics regarding the company’s revenue sources, revealing that a large majority, like 68%, come from just three franchises: World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and Guitar Hero. The report also noted that WoW accounts for a whopping 98% of Blizzard’s revenue.

The obvious concern is for one of those franchises to flop. One bad Call of Duty and suddenly Activision doesn’t look so stable. As the company puts things, “Due to this dependence on a limited number of franchises, the failure to achieve anticipated results by one or more products based on these franchises may significantly harm our business and financial results.” I would say so, fellas.

We already know that rhythm games are on the decline and WoW hasn’t grown in more than a year. No wonder Blizzard’s trying to push Starcraft 2 out the door by mid-year.

Source: Kotaku


Waldo is this week’s top-grossing iPhone game

Where's Waldo: The Fantastic Journey.If the success of Virtual Console titles tells us anything, it’s that gamers love their nerdy past. Classic titles sell like mad, and I know I practically flip when I find out something I loved is coming to a new console. One developer’s been paying attention to the classic game frenzy, and it’s turned a childhood classic into a serious moneymaker.

To find the game, you only have to look at this weeks’ top-grossing iPhone OS games. At the top of the charts, yes all the way at number one, is Where’s Waldo: The Fantastic Journey. This isn’t just a fluke, either. The game beat out Call of Duty: World at War Zombies and Dragon Lair to take the top spot.

Among other games Waldo has pushed out this week are Super Monkey Ball 2, The Sims 3, and Tetris. It’s quite an achievement, really, and something developer Ludia has got to be happy with.


Infinity Ward Is Too Committed To Call Of Duty

Infinity Ward Logo.As the release date for Modern Warfare 2 creeps ever closer, gamers and game journalists (mostly the latter) are starting to wonder what Infinity Ward’s next game will be. The developer has made a killing out of killing in the Call of Duty franchise, and it doesn’t look like it’s ready to change.

When we feel like we can’t innovate any further in the Call of Duty franchise, then we’ll do something else. A lot of that mentality went into Modern Warfare 2. That’s why it’s Modern Warfare 2. It is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, but you’ll never see that in game. We never call it that. It’s because we think of this as a new IP. This is our Modern Warfare 2 game. So we are constantly doing new stuff.

That’s according to community manager Robert Bowling. I find the company’s stance pretty disappointing, especially considering the quality products it has turned out so far. Yes, Call of Duty is a lot of fun, but why not some new IP? Obviously the answer is in the numbers; as long as people keep buying the product, why change?

Loyalty to the consumer, that’s why. Consumers obviously buy franchise material, but the industry is mature enough to support growth for new IPs. The real reason behind these perpetual franchises is loyalty to the investor, a business model I wish someone in the industry were willing to abandon. I’m not saying developers shouldn’t make money, but that they should be willing to take more risks to make that money because the risk is actually fairly small.

And yes, I realize this is all very unrealistic. It doesn’t hurt to dream, though.


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