August 24th, 2009
OK, one more brief thought on Shadow Complex while I’m on the subject: one of the most common recurring themes in game reviews for the title is that SC represents a “great value” because it includes a full-sized game in an Xbox Live release. The thought occurs to me, however, that this might not be a good thing for developers.
The basic problem, as I see it, is that if Xbox Live simply becomes an arena for discounted AAA titles, it hurts everybody. Developers will be forced into an arms race to produce cheaper but high-quality games, essentially lowering the starting price point for new games and squeezing their profitability. Gamers who, like Michael Abbott, are drawn to “bursts of [streamlined] fun,” will have a harder time finding the more casual titles they treasure, because they’ll be sandwiched in between more premium titles. And hardware manufacturers, who responded to this issue first with the Wii and Live/PSN, will find themselves in much the same predicament as they did before the current generation.
I’m hardly one to bemoan getting more for less. But I do become concerned that the more we blur the lines between the delivery of AAA or hardcore games and casual titles, the more we actually end up hurting ourselves. Definitely think of this more as a thought experiment if this trend were carried to an extreme, rather than a complaint about Shadow Complex, which I like quite a bit: is it possible that segregating our games by type and channel is actually beneficial?
Posted in Business, DLC, Geoff, Microsoft, Mobile, PSN, Wii, Xbox Live | 3 Comments »
October 8th, 2008
Attention game industry, we already have a standard for which we can purchase items: money. Let’s use it, shall we?
Obviously, we all know about Xbox Live Points, which inexplicably have a conversion rate of 80 points to every $1. There’s just no reason to have such a stupid conversion rate except to slightly obscure the true price of downloadable items.
Nintendo/Wii Points are slightly better, but only because they have a sensible conversion rate of 100 points to every $1. At least when you buy something there’s not a weird conversion that you have to pull off in your head to figure out how much it is. Now we learn, however, that instead of just using the same pool of Nintendo points for DSi downloads, you will have to keep completely separate accounts for both.
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Posted in Idiocy, Jeff, Online, PSN, Virtual Console, Wii, Xbox Live | 3 Comments »
October 3rd, 2008
So far, I’m very much enjoying Mega Man 9, but whether or not you will is dependent very much on two related but ultimately different things: how much you liked the original NES Mega Man games, how you feel about the NES aesthetic itself.
Let me elaborate. With respect to the original MM series, it probably goes without saying that if you really hated the originals, you’re not going to like #9… it imitates the originals almost to a fault. You have essentially the same basic puzzle themes - disappearing or moving blocks, instant-kill spikes, hard-hat enemies, middle-stage mini-bosses, and so on. The game does manage to come up with some unique uses for these building blocks but since the point is to reflect the earlier titles it doesn’t make the differences too obvious. And you can’t really fault it for that.
It’s on the second point that I think you need to draw some careful distinctions. In an earlier comment, Rob remarks that “we started doing much better once we started assuming that, at any given moment, the worst possible thing that could happen was going to happen.” This is a very on-target comment. A lot of people have discussed the game’s difficulty - in many respects, I don’t think that it’s actually as hard as they imply if you’re familiar with older NES games. But the game doesn’t simply attempt to replicate that aesthetic - it tries to pay tribute to it. The practical implication is that what was tough in Mega Man 1 or 2 is fetishized in Mega Man 9.
For example, if you recall the original Ice Man stage in #1, you may recall how irritating the disappearing ice blocks could be; it was simply tough to get your character to make the leaps as carefully as you desired to avoid a bottomless pit of death. The Gravity Man stage has similar pits, but puts an enemy in front of them that launches you inexorably into the pits - or in some places, spiked walls. There’s no way to know the enemies are there unless you inch forward, bit by bit (or die repeatedly), any time you come close to a pit or spike series, as Rob implies. This is a perfect example of what I think ultimately will divide the Mega Man 9 haters from the fans. If you liked Mega Man because it was hard… you will love this game. If you like it because you really love the aesthetic (art, level design, conventions) of the original NES titles, you will still like the game quite a bit. (I fall into the last category.) That’s because it takes what was difficult about the original Mega Man, puts it on a billboard, and strings it with neon so you don’t miss it; it’s retro for retro’s sake, an ironic take on all that was good and bad about NES games.
That’s why liking Mega Man itself is only partially relevant. The critical second hurdle is your feelings about that kind of take on gaming. If you like the sense of irony being displayed, that’s a good sign. If you don’t, you probably won’t play too long.
Posted in Geoff, Nintendo, PSN, Wii, Xbox Live | No Comments »
August 27th, 2008
I’ve played through the trial and downloaded the full game, and am really enjoying it so far. About 30 minutes in, and I’ve played through a handful of brawler stages, including a castle, forest, and dock, as well as a Battletoads-esque vehicle stage (albeit one that is much easier).
The good: Fun art style (reminiscent of Alien Hominid), interesting experience system, plenty of discoverable/unlockable items and weapons, relatively responsive controls, multiplayer action (although I haven’t tried much of this yet).
The bad: The difficulty almost seems too easy; I’ve died a few times, but you keep the weapons and experience you’ve accumulated, so the game becomes even easier if you happen to die on a stage. Ranged-attack enemies can be very frustrating - they tend to pile up on the screen, and will alternate slamming you with an arrow as you run from side to side trying to finish a combo. Some of the weapons and characters are difficult to understand unless you experiment; I would have liked a little more intro here as well as the ability to upgrade your character within levels instead of just at the end. You can’t discover out what many weapons do until you visit the blacksmith, so figuring out if the cool looking sword is useful or just attractive is impossible in-level. The humor, although fun, can skew very juvenile (as anyone who’s seen the deer in the forest level can attest).
The unknown: I’m not sure how well the game will stand up upon continued replay, as the game is less arcadey than Alien Hominid and thus the action may become somewhat repetitive. Achievements seem surprisingly limited. I’m also curious to see the multiplayer and how well it stacks up.
Posted in Geoff, Xbox Live | 3 Comments »
August 23rd, 2008
I’ve been trying BC as a follow-up to Braid, and the best part of the game is the way it so thoroughly recreates the aesthetic of the original. Blocky, pixelated computer dialogues, fussy bionic arm controls, it’s all there.
Likes: Beautiful recreation of the original. Full capture of the feel of the original in a way that I hope Mega Man 9 imitates. Nice graphics. Some clever takes on the old concept, like new levels designed to take advantage of the mechanic effectively. Multiple replay options, like the challenge levels which are quite difficult.
Dislikes: The controls seem overly difficult, particularly when it comes to swinging without actually releasing from the swing. The life limit makes these control problems particularly difficult to deal with. There’s a feeling that the desire to be faithful meant that some of the original’s problems were also recreated for no real good reason.
Posted in Geoff, Xbox Live | 5 Comments »
August 23rd, 2008
I finally played through Braid (my short verdict: interesting, admirable, and challenging, but also inconsistent and overbearingly pretentious), although I can’t help but feel that I missed out on the moment while overseas. Fortunately, The Brainy Gamer has sponsored a Vs. Mode-style dialogue on the game with Vs. Clu-Clu Land, which you can find the start of here.
Posted in Geoff, Xbox Live | 14 Comments »
August 13th, 2008
What’s going on this month? Within just the span of a few weeks we get:
- Geometry Wars 2 (XBLA)
- Pixeljunk Eden (PSN)
- Braid (XBLA)
- Bionic Commando: Rearmed (XBLA/PSN)
- Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty (PSN)
- Castle Crashers (XBLA)
Geometry Wars 2 and Braid are not just some of the best downloadable games I’ve played, they’re some of the best games overall that I’ve played all year. I loved the demo for Eden, but haven’t had a chance to purchase the whole game yet in the midst of the other great releases. IGN has already reviewed Bionic Commando: Rearmed, and while one review does not a game make (nor do several reviews sometimes), they say it’s the best downloadable game made so far. Certainly, Castle Crashers has been highly anticipated for quite awhile and R&C: QfB looks as high-quality as any previous title in the series.
Obviously, there are still some differences of what can really be done with a high-profile, big-budget game and the typically smaller-budget downloadable titles, but with games like Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty coming out, even that line is starting to blur. There’s no question about it, this is a great slate of games.
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Posted in Jeff, Online, PSN, Xbox Live | 2 Comments »
August 10th, 2008
With Tycho, that is, in that the real question with any game should be whether it’s worth the asking price, not what that price is per se. Indie games suffer from the inherent and unfair presumption that they’re inferior to AAA releases, and so need to be overly careful about gamer expectations regarding their price point.
That said, it’s probably worth considering the practical pricing issue at stake here: people have a limited amount of money to spend on games of any type, and well-publicized titles, whose quality is usually fairly apparent upon release, have already reserved a spot in their budgets. As a result, new, less well-known games need to slot themselves into that existing budget, and an extra $5 may very well make the difference between “impulse purchase” and no purchase at all.
In short, pricing shouldn’t matter - but it does. And getting angry at gamers who implicitly recognize this fact is probably counterproductive; not everyone has the same ability to pay, even if they express their problem poorly. Hopefully quality will win out in the end.
(By the way, who’s bought Braid? Is it everything it’s cracked up to be? I’m probably going to pick it up upon my return to the States.)
Posted in Business, Geoff, Xbox Live | 3 Comments »
August 7th, 2008
To follow up on Geoff’s Braid post, according to Braid’s developer Jonathan Blow, the reason why Braid is $15 instead of say, $10, is because he was worried that it would turn into another “Space Giraffe”. That is, a game that only sold a limited number of copies at too low of a price to be profitable (which he’s especially worried about since he says he went broke to develop the game).
This seems to be a direct reference to this Gamasutra article, which claims that because of Space Giraffe’s dedicated fanbase, Minter probably could’ve charged even $20 (instead of $5) and come out way ahead.
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Posted in Business, Jeff, Xbox 360, Xbox Live | 2 Comments »
August 7th, 2008
There’s been quite a fuss over the release of Braid this Wednesday, and it’s interesting to think about why a small-scale game is creating so much buzz. After all, but Braid is at its heart not particularly notable: there are a ton of short, inventive, puzzle-oriented games out there that haven’t gotten the press coverage that it has received. Big-scale games have imaginative, impressive art too… and more complex play mechanics. (I don’t mean to diminish the game’s accomplishments - I haven’t played it, and a lot of people who have seem to think it’s pretty good.) So what’s the deal?
Let me suggest that it’s basically because of what Braid represents. To the large development community that comprises much of the blogging landscape, and the many smaller media voices out there, Braid is essentially the realization of their indie dreams: a game that was essentially made by a handful of people in a couple of years and whose ascendance to XBLA release demonstrates conclusively that independent success just might be possible indeed. In other words, it’s a Cinderella story: it creates a ray of hope for people who are often chained to a large, soulless publisher.
Sure, Braid features a pretty interesting play mechanic - but playing with time isn’t something we haven’t really seen developed as a gameplay concept plenty of times before, and it’s not the first to be inventive. It simply uses time in a slightly different way. It’s what the game symbolizes to people that makes it so interesting to them.
Posted in Geoff, PC, Xbox Live | 6 Comments »
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