Demon’s Souls, as you may have heard, is a difficult game. There is no “Easy” mode that you can play to just make it through the game. The tutorial is very brief and basic and actually doesn’t give you nearly enough information about the game before it literally ends in your death. Unlike other unforgiving games like Ninja Gaiden that ask if you want to reduce the difficulty after you die, Demon’s Souls actually takes away half your maximum life and makes the game even harder (and getting back that half of your life is not an easy task). And if that weren’t bad enough, every time you die you drop all of your experience/money (they are one and the same in the game), and can only recover them if you make it back to where you died the first time from the beginning of the level (the game auto-saves this, so no cheating your way out of death). Oh, and there’s no “pause” function in the game. Yes, really.Impressions, Jeff, PS3 | 6 Comments »
Every time I read about Dante’s Inferno I have conflicting feelings about it. Having only read about it, there are aspects of it that I both admire and question. In this way, I wonder whether Dante’s Inferno is actually a step forward or backward for the game industry as a whole. Here are some points I’ve been considering:Etc, Jeff, PS3, Xbox 360 | 4 Comments »
Mario-inspired eveningwear.Posted in Gear, Geoff | No Comments »
I saw 9 over the weekend. I’ll spare you the full review, but suffice it to say that it’s the first movie that I actually thought might be better as a game. I’ve often been critical of the idea that games should try to adapt themselves into film form, largely because they’re entirely different media with different strengths and weaknesses. I don’t know if the creators of 9 are gamers, though, because they owe an enormous debt to a whole variety of games. Just a few of the striking similaries (I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum):
- The characters: the ragdoll-esque main characters are straight out of LittleBigPlanet. The exact design, of course, isn’t identical, but it’s notably close, right up to the zippered front. Compare Sackboy with 9.
- The world: I’m not sure that I’d go so far as to say that the resemblence is as obvious on this front, but I couldn’t help but think of a cross between the LBP and Bioshock (or even Fallout 3) universes. One scene: where the characters are fighting a mechanical monstrosity in a wrecked, hollow futuristic shell of a factory while playing physics-based tricks with local scenery. The scale of the ragdoll characters’ world, coupled with the abandoned, rotting sci-fi wasteland, is enormously evocative of the games. I half-expected to see a Big Daddy.
- The plot: the plot of 9 is paper-thin, but the striking part is that it’s essentially a number of survival set-pieces. Much like a platformer, the characters careen from one dangerous action-oriented encounter to the next, without much in the way of linkage between the scenarios. I suspect that had I been controlling them, it would have been a more compelling experience.
- The story arc: Without giving too much away, 9 is about a problem that is almost self-created before being solved by the same protagonists that caused those issues in the first place. There are a ton of game-related archetypes for this type of arc, although I suppose they’re variations on the Pandora’s Box theme.
- Inventions: Crafting has always been an important element of many post-apocalyptic RPGs, and 9 doesn’t disappoint. Created items pop up regularly as key elements of the film.
There are a few other debts to be noted, but this gives you a flavor for just how much the contemporary game landscape has contributed to the game - in spirit, if not in practice. (There are also a ton of similarities with Tim Burton’s last film, Coraline, but since those aren’t game-related I’ll let you consider them on your own.) I’d bet there’s a solid game to be found inside the unremarkable movie.Posted in Etc, Geoff, Non-Gaming | 1 Comment »
Microsoft is apparently releasing its new 802.11n wireless adapter shortly, and it’s occasion for me to complain again about the fact that wireless wasn’t built automatically into the 360. It was a little shocking for me to discover that the original 360 required a LAN connection in order to go online, because almost no one I know outside of a dorm room happens to game and wire ethernet connections in the same room (particularly if they’re renting). There was no way I was paying $100 for what even then I considered to be an essential component of a gaming console, so I’ve been bridging a laptop connection ever since.
The fact that Microsoft now feels inclined to release another adapter, which is supposedly faster, irks me further. Either the addition is practically worthless (bad), or it’s actually going to provide a more competitive experience with 360 games (worse): who wants to be forced into periodic console upgrades in order to keep a level playing field with others? This is yet another symptom of the increasing PC-ization of console gaming.Posted in Gear, Geoff | 2 Comments »
3D Dot Game Heroes doesn’t so much reek of Zelda as rip it off in every way, shape, and form, from the enemies to the music to the gameplay to the style (with a little Dragon Warrior thrown in on the character design, if I’m not mistaken). I’m still interested in it, though.
I am curious, however, if the style will actually inhibit or help the gameplay. It’s one thing to design a game that kinda looks retro, but it’s another to do something useful with it. Like Chekhov’s gun, if the only point of the style is to make people feel vaguely nostalgic, I think it might actually hurt the game.Posted in Geoff, PS3 | No Comments »
I suppose I was foolish to ever think that I had dodged a bullet with my XBox 360. As countless other publications declared 100% failure rates with their XBox 360s, I thought that, perhaps, since I was not a “professional” game journalist that my well-ventilated 360 born circa April 2006 would just survive to tell its story to the next generation of consoles. How naive.Jeff, Microsoft, Xbox 360 | 4 Comments »
In light of Jeff’s comments about DJ Hero’s pricing (it’s outrageously expensive, especially for a single-player experience), I thought these recent comments by Activision’s Bobby Kotick were interesting. His interest in creating a game playable independent of a console is of course understandable, since it would presumably reduce the cost of publishing those games, but there’s an unpalatable undertone here: the more we move away from a single hardware reference point, the more likely it is that we’ll be paying a significant premium for plastic hardware that needs to be bundled with the game.
I, for one, will be passing on DJ Hero the first time around despite a strong interest in the game. A $120 price point is something I have no desire to encourage.Posted in Gear, Geoff | No Comments »
I bought Guitar Hero 1 and loved it. I got GH2 and liked it. I haven’t gotten anything since then, including Rock Band, nor have I much interest in the latest Beatles expansion. The reasons for this are numerous, but include the following:
- The songs are so mixed it can be hard to understand a game’s value. Guitar Hero 1 had, I thought, a pretty good mixture of songs, but since that point I have had a hard time finding a setlist that I thought was truly great. Rock Band has tried to fix this somewhat through DLC, but frankly, you pay so much up front that I don’t consider it worth it.
- The games are extremely uneven in terms of difficulty. Guitar Hero 1 was pretty accessible, but GH2 was shockingly difficult by the first game’s standards, and sequels in the genre fall all over the board (Rock Band has some very easy portions and some very difficult ones).
- The target audience for the games varies as well. Rock Band is best played with others, but since I don’t know a ton of people who have an interest in the genre, it doesn’t make much sense to pick it up.
- They’re expensive. Shelling out $60 - $200 for a new game - which is essentially the same game as before - is just hard to justify on a regular basis.
Rhythm game fanatics have probably enjoyed most of the entrants into the series, but I suspect more casual players have lost a lot of interest. What can be done to make these games more interesting? Lately, all the innovation has focused on changing inputs: adding devices or upgrading them to attempt to make them a closer simulation of real music. I’d suggest that we should focus a bit more on the mechanics of the game and how it’s sold. (I’m actually pretty interested in DJ Hero, mostly because it’s so different than what we’ve seen so far, both in terms of gameplay and musical style.
One idea I’d like to see: what about an iTunes-esque “build your own game” format? Games would come blank, but players could select a series of, say, 15 tracks to download that would become the standard tracklist for their game. This would ensure that players would only pay for tracks that they really liked, in a style they desired; since DLC right now seems reasonably successful, I don’t see this as being a licensing cost issue. I’d definitely pay for that.
Other thoughts?Posted in DLC, Gear, Geoff | 2 Comments »
I recently hit a point in Arkham Asylum where I just can’t go any further. I’ve beaten the game, solved all the riddles, collected all the trophies, and completed all of the stealth challenges. But I can’t even get two medals on the very first combat challenge. I just can’t figure out the combat system, which works very well, but requires an incredible amount of patience and effort to master to the point where you can string together combos and multipliers beyond the 5-8 range. I can’t even imagine what it would take to hit the 18,000 point target in the first combat challenge.
But rather than continue to slog along, making no progress, I’m probably going to give up and accept my 88% completion rate as having “beaten” the game. This realization made me wonder, though, why some gaming challenges make me play devotedly in the hopes of mastering them, while others inspire no interest whatsoever.
After thinking about it, I think there are probably three main elements to challenges that are of interest to the average player.
First, progress. There has to be some way for a player to conceive of the possibility that he or she might actually accomplish their goals, and this is often achieved by making the player feel some sort of progress towards the objective. At its most basic, this might simply be a checkpointing system; more advanced versions are trophies or medals, or a percentage counter on the screen. Interestingly, the most frustrating games - the ones that make me scream in silent rage at the television - aren’t the ones I have no hope of beating, but the ones where I come so very close and yet fail anyways.
Second, competition. This might simply be competition with yourself, such as in Bionic Commando when you play a challenge room over and over again to perfect some combination of moves. Multiplayer offers another aspect to this, where you can test yourself against other players. And leaderboards are the ultimate version, because they give you a direct, tangible, and difficult goal.
Finally, reward. Whether simply recognition (as in leaderboards or publication in a magazine or blog) or a tangible in-game reward (consider Shadow Complex’s gold guns), a player needs to feel that the goal they are working towards is worthwhile. I suspect people are motivated by different things; if I get nothing useful from a challenge and don’t particularly enjoy the challenge itself from a gameplay angle, I don’t much care about it.
I have to confess though that I am left with one big puzzle: the appeal of leaderboards. I have absolutely no interest in leaderboards, mostly because of the progress angle: there is absolutely no chance that I will ever be the top player in the world at anything… so why invest a ton of effort to be player #58,203 at Call of Duty? Yet a ton of players will play obsessively to do just that, wihtout any hope of additional progress. It’s the great unsolved mystery of challenges to me.Posted in Etc, Geoff | 1 Comment »
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