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***To note, this is a rant, not one of my normal articles, so I did very little proof reading. Sue me. 

I’m not sure if it could be considered ADD, but I spend a lot more time staring at my video game collection, wondering what I want to play than actually playing them. I usually fiddle around on my computer doing nothing of any sort of importance instead of playing one of the hundreds and hundreds of Steam games that are literally a couple of clicks away. And it got me thinking: what exactly is keeping me from actually playing those games? Well, the main reason is that maybe the game just isn’t interesting me. I bought a lot of those games I own on a whim, and if they ever get played, it’ll be a miracle. However, another thought came to mind.

But first, a story. Don’t worry, it’s important.

I am one that loves to keep track of time spent in games. Steam’s feature of counting every minute you spend in a game is very addicting to me, and I pride myself in not artificially enlarging my time spent; running through my Steam game list of the games I’ve actually played, the majority of games will have accurate times to how long it took me to beat the game. It’s just something I do. Probably a little OCD. And because of it, I never let games run in the background of my PC. I always close them out, even if I plan on returning in mere minutes.

However, I was unlucky enough to get Assassin’s Creed III on Ubisoft’s proprietary software, uPlay, which doesn’t keep track of playtime. So, as I slogged through the terribleness that was Assassin’s Creed III, whenever I went to dinner or needed to use the bathroom, I just alt-tabbed out of the game and brought it back up whenever I was ready to play again.

That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew why, or at least knew another reason why I don’t play games as much as I have time for. They won’t let me play them.

Let me explain.

When you turn on a game, you’re not instantly playing the game. There is a LOT of things that have to happen before you’re in control of the game that you’re wanting to play. You usually have to sit through at least two or three company names of those who developed and published the game, and it’s not unheard of for there to be five or six names that slowly fade in and out of your screen. I understand having the gamer “enjoy” sitting there and learning about who made the game and what engine it is on the first time they load up the game, but why in God’s green world do we have to watch it every single time? I know that Crytek made the game, I understand that EA published it, yeah, I figured out that it was running on the Cryengine 3, and YES, I know it uses Dolby Digital sound! Quit telling me! I’ve been playing your game for ten hours, you really think at this point that I either care or don’t know? Just let me go to the menu!

Then, you finally do get to the menu, which isn’t usually a problem in some games. Others, however, have painfully slow menus that load with every button press and lag when you switch options. Those are a hassle, and waste time. Menus should be the gateway to the game, not a [bad] game in itself. Just let us click once, twice, maybe three times and be on our way to the game.

So ok, we’ve gotten past forty minutes of learning all about who created the game and have loaded through the menus, and finally, the “game” is loading. Yay! But wait! Cut scene ahoy! Ok, totally nothing wrong with a cut scene. Games pride themselves in their story. I think that’s awesome. But you know, I’m not really in the mood to sit and watch a cutscene right now, let me just hit start and ski-

Oh. Oh, cool. Yeah, cool, you can’t skip the cutscenes in this game. Awesome. Super.

I honestly cannot think of a single good reason that a game won’t allow you to skip a cutscene. Look, I know the developers might have put a lot of time into creating this story, but I just spent however much money on this game because you showed me some sweet looking action scenes in the trailer, and darn it, I want to do those! Just let me skip them if I want to! And then there are the games that don’t let you skip the cutscenes even after you’ve beaten the game. How sick and twisted is that?

And finally, the biggest and probably the worst thing any developer can do to get me to not play their games.

Tutorials.

Tutorials are the spawn of Satan. They are what’s wrong with the majority of the gaming industry today. I haven’t played through a tutorial in recent memory and said “Yeah, that was fun! I’m glad they had me do that” after it was over. Believe it or not, there is a way to teach a player about your game without holding their freaking hand the entire time. It might take a little more work, a little more thought, but levels can teach through their design. It’s not fun to have giant dialogs every second telling you where to go, it’s not fun being on a guided path that is making you watch something that you need to learn and it certainly isn’t fun trying to learn the controls super quickly on a damned loading screen! Games are fun things! Tutorials are not! They have no place in games.

Ok, not quite true. Some games are incredibly complicated, on purpose, and I can see something like that needing a tutorial. Fine. Whatever. But there are still ways to create a tutorial that doesn’t make the user feel like they are a retarded child trying to figure out why the square block won’t go into the round hole. It’s bloody possible, yet developers just assume that their general audience is daft!

Fine, fine, maybe you like the tutorials. Maybe you’re a bit slower when it comes to games and the tutorials help you get into what you need to do better. I suppose I can understand that, especially looking through the glass as a non-gamer. But, there is no reason in Hell that tutorials shouldn’t be skippable. And don’t you dare integrate the tutorial into your story because not only are players not even going to be paying attention to the story because they’ll be too busy trying to mash the button that’s flashing in front of their face, but they’re more likely to dislike the story because they’ll already be grumpy with having to deal with a freaking stupid tutorial. So if the tutorial isn’t integrated with the story, MAKE THEM SKIPPABLE. Just do it. Please, for the love of the great and mighty Smooze, make them skippable.

If you are a game, or happen to know a game, that doesn’t have any of these problems, bravo! I applaude you. However, my main point here is that I don’t play games nearly as much because they just don’t let me. There are so many things between putting the game into the disc drive and me having full control of my character on screen, and that saddens me. I dream of a world where I press play on Steam and after a breif loading screen, I’m brought back right where I left off the last time I left the game.

Alas, I’m just going to go watch this stupid video of a cat on the internet.

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UPDATED after spending more time with the console: 3/28/11 (Updated sections are marked with a red ***)

***Fighting a broken bike, freezing rain and a dark city, at 11:30pm on Saturday the 26th, I rode myself down to my local Walmart to pick myself up Nintendo’s newest console, the 3DS. I’ve had my eye on the console for quite a while now, and after hearing of the games coming soon for the little device, I knew I had to have it. And boy, am I glad I do have it.

WHAT I LIKED:

The. 3D. Works: No, seriously. This is not a gimmick. The Nintendo 3DS shows 3D nearly on par with a giant IMAX theater (if an IMAX theater only had a 2 inch screen). The main menu alone is proof enough that the 3D really does work; browsing through the apps that come pre-installed, you can see little Miis and pictures that seem to magically float in and out of space itself without the help of a giant pair of two hundred dollar glasses. When you get in game, it takes a little bit of adjusting to find exactly what works best for you (I had problems focusing when the 3D slider was all the way up), but once you do, it’s just magical. The depth is pretty cool, however, it’s when things get up in your face when minds really start to blow. Flying a plane in Pilot Wings and having the jet stream slap you in your face is just an experience unlike any other. This is real 3D without glasses. Believe it. *** I’ve also, now, had the chance to try out Street Fighter IV 3D on the 3DS. The 3D is hands down better than anything in Pilot Wings. Even on full 3D, my eyes never hurt and it was a perfect combination of background images, foreground images and everything in between. If you have to get a game with your 3DS, GET STREET FIGHTER.

The Look: When I pulled the 3DS out of its packaging, I was expecting a LOT more console. What I got was a very sleek, layered look that wasn’t too big or too small. The lights everywhere feel somewhat cool, even if a little unnecessary, and the addition of a dedicated Wi-Fi button is very welcome. The analog nub is worlds above what the PSP has; it actually feels like a controller worthy of a console game instead of a dumbed down handheld version. Over all, the 3DS looks and feels incredibly nice. (However, when you’re using the 3D, you notice EVERY SINGLE LITTLE PIECE OF DUST on the top screen).

The Built In Games: The 3DS comes preloaded with all sorts of goodies. The augmented reality cards are just completely mind blowing, and the Street Pass feature sounds like it could be interesting if it catches on. There are some nice features like taking 3D photos and the same music software that was on the DSi. Basically, even without a game, a person could survive for a good, long while on just preloaded apps.

The Promises: Nintendo has promised a lot with the 3DS; Ocarina of Time, a new Mario game, Game Boy virtual console games and 3D Netflix are just a few of the bigger announcements. A lot of these promises are not in sight yet, but just the fact that they’re there makes me feel a lot better about owning this console now.

The Dock: Plop; my 3DS is charging. No plugging anything in or reaching for cables that have fallen behind the desk ever again.

***Street Pass: Walking through Target today to pick up a new game (actually, my mother was inside and I had to go in to use the restroom), I flipped open my 3DS after a couple of minutes to find that the little green Street Pass light was blinking. Excitedly, I opened the 3DS up to see that I had encountered another 3DS owner! Her name was Gabby, and her little Mii popped up on screen and said “Hi there!” While it wasn’t the most exciting thing in the world, it was pretty cool to think that as I walked through this store with the 3DS closed and in my pocket, it picked up another 3DS closed, and in someone elses pocked and communicated with it. Creepy? Maybe a little. Fun at the same time? Completely.

***The Pedometer: As dumb as this might sound, it’s interesting to see all the steps you’ve taken tallied out onto graphs that you can compare to previous days. You can see specifically when I get up in the morning and when I switch classes during the day just how far I walked (in steps). Small feature, pretty fun.

***The Friends List: While completely lacking right now, Nintendo has created the frame work for an amazing friends list feature. You can add friends just like on the 360 which are listed in a nice flowing chart. The system gives their status (whether or not they’re online and what game they’re playing) along with their favorite game. You can even access all this without leaving game (just press the home button, sending your current game into a frozen state, then you can access your entire home screen). However, right now, besides the “now playing” part, there is no interaction between friends; no messaging of any kind (besides a 16 character limit “phrase). Nintendo is sure to fix this, and when they do, it’s going to be awesome. For now though, it’s completely underwhelming.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:

Ouch: After playing for about four hours on and off again, my eyes are very soar. This may be because it’s not 8am and I haven’t slept yet, but my eyes never hurt this bad, even at this late an hour. Granted, I was playing with the 3D slider more than I would have had I not just picked the console up for the first time, but still, I don’t feel like I could play a game in 3D for very long before really feeling the pain. *** After playing with the 3D effects more and more, I’ve realized that because of how big of an area Pilot Wings has, and how much strain it caused on my eyes sliding the 3D slider back and forth, my eyes were obviously going to hurt. Playing two hours of Street Fighter didn’t hurt my eyes in the slightest, and I was playing in a moving van in the dark. I suppose it still depends on the game and on the users eyes, but so far, after that first initial eye strain, it’s not been NEARLY as bad.

The Games: Oh, the games. Quite frankly, this is one of the weaker console launches I’ve ever seen in my lifetime (No, the Gizmondo doesn’t count). No game in the entire line up is a “must have” game, period. You would think Nintendo would start off the life of this brilliant console with a Mario or Zelda or something. But no; we got Nintendogs + Cats. However, like I said, Nintendo is making promises like crazy. Fingers crossed? *** Get Super Street Fighter IV.

The Battery: I got the 3DS at midnight. It’s 8am. I’ve charged it twice already. NOT. COOL. *** However, I just spend the entire day out and about with the 3DS, playing games (both 3D and non), using Street Pass and showing people the augmented reality cards. When I sat down back at my desk this evening, it was just about dead. Think about it: how often are you going to be blasting 3D and wi-fi on your 3DS when you’re outside a place where a charger is handily available? Walking around, you’ll probably have wi-fi on, but the 3D off (it’s hard to walk and use the 3D at all), which adds hours to the battery life. The more I think about it, the more I’m realizing that the battery might not be all that bad after all.

The 3DS really has impressed me. The 3D effects are just effing amazing considering every human who’s ever seen 3D has had to wear those stupid glasses. And yet, right before our eyes, we’re seeing 3D… without looking like dorks. That, to me, is enough of a justification to own this console. Any game that takes advantage of that is just icing on the cake.

Game reviews coming in the future for both Super Street Fighter IV and Pilot Wings, so stay tuned!

***This review was written with little to no sleep at 8am. I am not responsible for weird typos or incomplete thoughts.

Apple has been known in the iPod and iPhone industry to release a new, “better” version of their devices every year. This is something that fans have grown accustom to. Year after year, Apple fans will sell their old iPod and cut up their contract for their old iPhones just to get in on the newest and best that Apple has to offer.

Nintendo, on the other hand, sees things slightly different. Back when the Game Boy was released in 1989, it was the biggest thing to happen to games for years. It basically created the idea of “portable gaming” and it stayed on the market for many years, not being replaced until the release of the Game Boy Color in 1998 (there was the Game Boy: Light and Pocket, in 1998 and 1996. They were upgrades, about two years apart, though not a replacement to the original Game Boy) . That’s almost a ten year jump! From there, the Game Boy Advanced was released in 2001, and then the “special edition” Game Boy Advanced, the SP came out in 2003. Finally, the last Game Boy, the Micro, came out in 2005. The average length between a major Game Boy release was about four or five years.

Then Nintendo released the Nintendo DS, a revolution of sorts in the hand held industry. It first came out at the end of 2004. The DS basically printed money, and it had a run of about two and a half years before Nintendo released an updated version of the device in the summer of 2006, called the DS Lite. It wasn’t a new console, per say, more of an upgrade. That was the same with the DSi, released in 2009, which was mostly a recreation of the DS Lite with more features added.

However, only one year later, mere days after the announcement of the 3DS, Nintendo released the DSi XL, a bigger version of the DSi. The fact that Nintendo released the handheld so soon after releasing  the DSi and so soon after announcing the 3DS has people worried that Nintendo is going to fall into the Apple way of doing things; a new upgrade every year.

I think that’s bogus. Nintendo, in all their years of releasing hand held consoles, on average released, their handhelds at years three or four years apart. The DSi XL was the only time that they had ever released two handhelds one year after another, and I think it was a one time thing.

The 3DS will have a better, more awesome version come out eventually; that’s a given. However, I think us early adopters are safe in thinking that we’re going to have the best of the best for at least two years, maybe even more.

This post, I ain’t going to lie, is directed mostly at a friend of mine. This certain friend has shunned me due to my love for certain first person shooter video games. These games, he thinks, are nothing more than testosterone injected, grey, bland, blood fests, and every time I even say the word “shooter” around him, it’s 20 minutes of how the first person shooter genre is killing video games and how he misses the old days of when games were good.

Then, after the ranting against shooters comes the ranting for JRPG’s, which he swears by and is currently on a very, I will admit, noble fight to get even more brought over to America.

I consider myself very varied in the games I play. Yes, I play the dark, grim Gears of War, and I bought into the Modern Warfare 2 hype. But I also play other games, such as Mursama: Demon Blade, God of War, 3D Dot Game Heroes and Super Mario Galaxy. I don’t confine myself into one genre. Sure, I like shooters a lot, but I also enjoy RPGs, music games, platformers and fighters as well. Hell, my favorite game of all time is a platformer; doesn’t that say something?

Now, I’m not pointing fingers, but it seems my friend here is not pointing out the problem, he’s becoming the problem. Games are games. Can we all agree on that at least? We all play games for different reasons, but 99% of the time, even if there is competition or prizes involved, it’s for fun, correct? So, when I’m playing my shooter and my friend is playing his RPG, why should there be any arguing? Why do people who dislike other genres feel the need to hate against those genres that other people enjoy? When my friend is playing his JRPG, you will never hear me say “Darn-blasted Japanese games are interfering with my shooter genre. Get em’ out o’ my country!”. Even if I thought that, which I don’t, I would still let my friend enjoy his game while I play mine. As gamers, have we divided ourselves into these sub-categories depending on what type of game we like? Used to be, a gamer was a gamer, and we all could relate to that. It seems now that only the shooter fans can hang out with the other shooter fans while the American RPG fans can only hang out with their own kind.

I call bull crap. We’re all gamers. ALL OF US. Sure, the shooter genre has a lot of fans, and with the large population, you’re going to get some douche bags playing the game (which is something a lot of people don’t really understand, and instead of blaming the world we live in, they’re stupid and blame the game… like the game can really control who plays it…); that’s called the world we live in. But must we hate on the popular genre? Can’t we all enjoy our favorites and accept everyone else, even if we may think badly about the certain genre?

Now, I know that most of the time my when my friend talks badly about shooters, he’s being tongue-in-cheek. But I know that he believes what he is saying, even if it’s hidden behind humor. I just hope this wall of text helps him, and maybe others, become a little more open minded.

It’s no secret that, while Nintendo’s Wii is destroying both the 360 and the PS3 in terms of sales, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is the leader in the number of exclusive hit games and is usually getting the popular vote when given a choice between the big three. The Xbox 360 was released in 2005 around the time of the Nintendo DS (which seems like forever ago) and has enjoyed many exclusive titles and numerous updates to it’s firmware, software and hardware. In 2010, with the prospect of Project Natal, it seems like the DVD wielding (and HD-DVD failing) console has at least two or three more strong years left in it.

So what about after that?

It’s no secret that the Xbox 360 chose the wrong video format when they sided with the HD-DVD. Blu-Ray and HD-DVD gave each other some good competition at the beginning of their lifespan, but Blu-ray quickly showed its dominance and the HD-DVD  is now enjoying it’s time next to the beta max and 8-track formats on the “thanks for trying” table. Meanwhile, the PS3 is currently enjoying some serious sales due to the included Blu-ray player inside of the device. It’s currently the #1 reason people buy the console (at around 60% of all total sales) and the most popular Blu-ray player used by consumers. Both Microsoft and Sony gambled on the new format and Sony certainly chose right. So where does that leave Microsoft?

The Blu-ray disks are increasing in size almost monthly. Last I checked, the bloody thing could hold almost 120 gigs, dual layered. Meanwhile, the DVD’s that the Xbox 360 uses hold about 9 gigabytes, but after Microsoft finishes chewing on them, they hold about 7.8 gigabytes. This is a problem, as I’m sure you can see. While it’s not been too big of a concern this generation, soon, as videos get more advanced and CGI takes more and more memory to store, 7.8 gigabytes is not going to cut it. And even though we’re not expecting a new console generation until into 2012 or 2013 (some even guess 2014), now is the time to figure out what to do with those tiny little DVD’s.

Sony’s got it made. With Blu-ray technology increasing all the time, there is no reason for them to switch formats any time soon; Blu-ray could, I suppose, last forever if they continue to find ways for it to hold more data. Microsoft, on the other hand, has a problem; their gamble failed. They certainly can’t work on a new console that uses DVD’s and it would be stupid to try the HD-DVD path again. So, what options does the Xbox 1080 have?

Well, I suppose the obvious thing for them to do would be to license a Blu-ray drive. This, though, would be completely embarrassing  for Microsoft as they have publicly bashed Blu-ray and the PS3 in favor of their over-priced HD-DVD drive add-on for the Xbox 360. This would also allow for Microsoft to be able to tap into the Blu-ray movie market, which is a money printing machine for Sony. But still, they would have to swallow a lot of pride to not only admit defeat but also to kiss the feet of their opponent.

Another possibility is the flash card, or even a solid state mini hard drive. Flash and solid state are both twenty times (usually more) faster than any disk in any format and, by 2014, the price of the technology to have a 50 gigabyte (or more) flash card or a solid state drive could be about equal to that of a Blu-Ray disk now. So not only would the games load incredibly fast (can you say literally no loading screens ala the Nintendo 64?) but they’d be smaller, which could quite possibly lead to a smaller game console, assuming the rest of the technology allows it.

Ironic isn’t it? If we go to flash cards, we’ve gone full circle: cartridges to CDs to DVDs to Blu-Ray and back to cartridges.

I think the last possibility is that Microsoft, being the computer geniuses they are, could come up with an entirely new format for their console. They could create a disk that holds the same amount (or more) than a Blu-Ray that’s exclusive to the Xbox console. It wouldn’t be a good idea for a new format to fight Blu-Ray for control over the movie market again because Blu-Ray is here to stay, but the console certainly could be backwards compatible with regular DVDs, assuming they’re still around by then.

Microsoft's solution to Blu-ray?

No matter what happens, it’s going to be a challenge for Microsoft. I suppose they could switch entirely over to digital distribution, but we all saw how well that worked for Sony and the PSP Go!. I think the most likely option for Microsoft is to just suck it up and put a Blu-ray drive into their console. It would make the most sense and probably bring in the most money for them.

Now, what about Nintendo…? They still haven’t quite figured out the DVD yet…

I was browsing some Kotaku articles and came across a commenter who posted a rather interesting thought. Here are my thoughts on his thoughts about someone else’s thoughts.

We, as gamers, usually favor a particular game system. We like that game system for its features, its looks, its controller, its games and, in some cases, its price. The Xbox fans have been labeled as the scums of the earth by a lot of people because they tend to be Halo and Madden loving fanboys who only play those two games and can’t even tell you what a Sony is, who Nintendo might be or what an RPG is.

But are they really Xbox fanboys?

People who drool all over the Xbox buy the console mostly for the games. They want to play Halo, Gears of War, Mass Effect and all the other exclusive games that are only available on the Microsoft console. They aren’t console fanboys, they’re just following their favorite games to the console the games live on! If Halo was on the PS3, 99.9% of the Xbox fanboys who love Halo would actually be PS3 fanboys. And it works both ways! If Metal Gear Solid 4 was a 360 exclusive, all those people who love their PS3 (those of which spent over $400 just to play the game) would have bought an Xbox instead.

We don’t have favorite consoles. We have favorite games. Consoles are just there to let us enjoy our favorite exclusive games.

Now, to address the concern that the Xbox crowd is a bunch of horrid jerks who love to curse and say things about everyones mother. It’s not something to complain about. Xbox live is obviously the biggest online service avalible for the home console. The world is full of horrible people, so when ten million people gather to play the Xbox, you have to assume that you’re going to get the scum mixed in with the good ones. If Xbox live had ten million people playing and the PSN only had five million, you’d get a whole lot less jerks on the PSN, not because the people on the PSN are nicer but because there are just less people.

So stop calling us Xbox Live’rs jerks; we’re not all that way and most of us are given a bad name.

*Un-pauses Final Fantasy XIII*

Whoa. That was a while without a post. Yeah, I’ve been rather busy. Last Friday was a half day of school, leading into spring break, and since then, today has been the only day where I’ve not been busy. Don’t be fooled, I’ve been having fun, just not the “doing nothing” sort of fun I usually have on breaks.

On Sunday, me and my friend stayed up all morning playing games and watching movies. It was about 6am before we finally crashed. We had way too much food and way too much caffeine and were incredibly hyper. Good times though.

Then on Monday, me and three of my friends had a all day Borderlands marathon. Eight strait hours (and I mean “one bathroom break” strait) of four player co-op and we only got about a third of the way through the game. I’m hoping we can get together and finished it up one of these days.

Yesterday I went to Lexington and on a impulse bought Final Fantasy XIII. Whoops, that was a good mistake; I’ve not been able to pry myself away from the game in over 8 hours. Last night I played for 6 and tonight I am still on a role; at this very moment, the game is paused and I just stopped long enough to type this. I plan on doing a review for it when I get closer to the ending, but I have a LONG ways to go. I’m shooting for 20 hours by tomorrow afternoon.

And that’s about it. I promise I won’t go so long without an update again. When my schedual goes back to normal, so will my postings.

Laters, and happy gaming!

*un-pauses FF13 and resumes the addiction*

Just a few hours ago, Kotaku, among other gaming news sites, posted a story about a team of security guards rushing the Infinity Ward, the creators of the immensely popular Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 games, headquarters. Just earlier that day, the Vince Zampella and Jason West of Infinity Ward met with Activision, but since earlier this afternoon, no-one had heard from either. At this time, no one knows what happened or what the cause of the SWAT-esq raid was.

But, just minutes after Kotaku’s story went live, we got this:

Jason West, the president of Infinity Ward, if this is to be believed, no longer has a job.

We’ve known Activision to be horrid monsters in every sense of the word, but how stupid can they be to fire a guy who brought in multi-billion dollars? Infinity Ward might have talked about going a new direction with the company, whether it was creating a new IP, or branching off from Activision entirely. Activision hates to lose, and they very well could have taken drastic measures to ensure they got what they wanted.

I will be continuing to check Kotaku and other news sites for more information in the morning.

I feel like it’s just a matter of time before we lose MW2’s servers. THAT would freak me out.

Needless to say, it’s sort of a spooky night for gamers.

[UPDATE] The news is spreading like wild fire. Many have claimed that it is a joke. This is real news people; no reason to do something like this just for publicity. I doubt we’re going to get more information tonight, so continue watching Kotaku for more information. I’m going to bed.

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