Monday, 31 October 2011

Nintendo's Near Billion Loss - What Happened and What Happens Next?

Even through its toughest times, when it was a distant third in the console race, Nintendo still always managed to stay in the green. The last few years have arguably been very kind to the company with the Wii becoming the hands down winner of this current generation in terms of sales, so why has The Big N recently posted such a staggering huge loss of profits?

Friday, 28 October 2011

The Golden Touch - Looking at Valve

At a time when most companies cite second hand gaming and piracy as major concerns and seem to be struggling to keep high profits, Valve seems to have no problems keeping themselves in the green ... Even with one of its most popular and successful franchises going free to play. So what's the secret behind its success?

Thursday, 27 October 2011

We Don't Know Jack - Looking Back on the Career of Thompson

With the recent announcement of Grand Theft Auto V having occurred a scant two days ago, it was brought to my attention that the date of said proclamation coincides with an interesting anniversary...

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Ultimate iZelda Climb - Is there a Lesson to be Learned here?

If you own an iphone or ipad or any other Apple product that you use to regularly game then odds are you might have seen an all too familiar character starring in a less than high calibre game. I'm here to ask what, if any, lessons we can take from the rearing of such a blatant rip off.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Other Side of the Coin - Naughty Dog Says No Thanks to Single Player DLC

Yesterday I blathered on about how Naughty Dog was taking a somewhat strange stance (or rather one that most players probably wouldn't like) in regards embracing the PSN Pass for multiplayer. From that same interview though there is something that I consider worthy of praise: the fact that when they release a game, they want the game to be finished, rather than need two or three DLC expansions down the line.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Greater Goods? - Naughty Dog Credits PSN Pass Making Uncharted 3 Multiplayer Possible

Uncharted 3 developer Naughty Dog has recently gone on the record saying that without the implementation of the PSN Pass that Uncharted 3 might not have an online multiplayer mode, or that the single and multiplayer components would have been released as two separate games. Playing devil's advocate I ask "is that really such a bad thing, depending?"

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Grahf Guest Stars on Top Tier Tactics

Holy crap, a post on the weekend? The world must be coming to an end! You can relax, I don't plan on making weekend posting a habit (updating five days a week is sometimes hard enough), but I thought it would be the least I could do do say that I've got a couple of guest articles on Top Tier Tactics.

The first article you might recognize as my rant on regenerating health, but the second one, just released today is a TTT exclusive, the second entry in the Grahf Dissects series talking about limited vs. unlimited arsenals.

Both are worth a read (says the guy that wrote them), and I hope that you find them informative. You can also look forward to me ranting more about Uncharted in the week ahead, as well as gamer movements and perhaps a Grahf Dissects about another feature of gaming that affects us all these days. But nothing is set in stone. See you all next week!

Friday, 21 October 2011

"No Hard Feelings" - Insomniac are Classy Gentlemen (and women)

In a day and age where publishers and gamers alike are often quick to complain about not only negative scores, but scores that are less positive than what they'd have liked Insomniac proves that it's possible to take one on the chin and stay classy. Pretty simple when you don't whine like a bitch I guess.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Damaged Goods - The Present and Future of Final Fantasy

The CEO of Square Enix, Yoichi Wada, has stated that "The Final Fantasy brand has been greatly damaged," by Final Fantasy XIV. From where I'm looking though, it really seems like XIV is just the latest problem in what has been a less than stellar moves for the powerhouse series. Can Final Fantasy be fixed, and should it be fixed at all?

Monday, 17 October 2011

Real-Money Trading Forces Mabinogi to Temporarily Shut Down

Dollars for gold. No, I'm not talking about those cheesy commercials. Rather, what I'm alluding to is the practice of players paying people real money for in game currency; something that has recently forced Nexon to take one of its most popular games offline for some retooling.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Unburning the Bridge - Animosity Between Game Makers and Game Players Needs to Stop

Why is it that when we should be going forward hand in hand, that we're instead at each other's throats. The industry and gamers need to learn to get along, and for more reasons than you might think.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

EVE Online CEO - "I was wrong and I admit it"

CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar P├ętursson takes himself to task over the direction and multiple problems that have been plaguing EVE Online. Is this an honest attempt to make amends? A PR stunt? Does it even matter? Read on to get my take on his letter to the community.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Sony Says "Want Multiplayer? There's (a Mandatory) Code for that!"

If you buy your Playstation 3 games used you'd better get used to awkward passcode inputs and shelling out ten bucks every single time you want to access to multiplayer functionality for a game.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Scroll Wars - Bethesda vs. Mojang and Copyright Hijinks

Also known as that time when a single word made a shitload of trouble for everyone and caused even more headaches. And it wasn't even a naughty one.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Long Haul - Current and Next Generation Console Cycles

With word on the street that we won't see the next Microsoft or Sony offerings hit the stores until 2014, I look at the current trend towards ever increasing console self life.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Put Your XP Where Your Mouth Is

With the upcoming release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Activision is rolling out a campaign that gives gamers double XP for set time limits for redeeming coupons from Mountain Dew and Doritos. But is this kind of tie-in going too far? Is it unfair? Read on to get my view on it.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

What's Old is New (and Slightly Improved) - Trending HD Rereleases

These days it's hard to browse around game sites and not see at least one article saying that a high definition rerelease of a game or games is coming soon. In the past few months alone we've seen announcements and releases for games like Resident Evil Code Veronica and 4, Final Fantasy 10, Shadow of Colossus and Ico, the Zone of the Enders series, the Metal Gear Solid series, and probably even more.

There's also the endless rumours of game collections getting rereleases like the Devil May Cry series, and gamers wishing and hoping for rereleases of certain series like Timesplitters and Twisted Metal being the front runners on many lists. So with the rising popularity of HD remakes in mind I'm taking some time to look at the pros and cons of slapping some polish on the past and selling it to the present.

There are a lot of upsides to this trend. First and perhaps most obviously is the fact that people that didn't get to play these games the first time around no longer have to scour for used copies that may be more expensive in some cases (Ico and Shadow of the Colossus come to mind more than anything else here). It's worth noting that perhaps some new pack-ins aside and collectors editions, that in game there's no new content, just a higher resolution than things were at before. Still, the games are often released in bundles and at reduced prices. For example you can own both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus for 40 bucks, which I'd say is well worth the price in that case. Likewise, the Zone of the Enders collection will include both games, and the Metal Gear Solid HD collection will include Metal Gear Solid 2, 3, and Peace Walker which was previously released on the PSP (I find myself wishing for a port of The Twin Snakes myself, but that's another matter). These bundles offer an attractive incentive to those that haven't played these games and want a chance to without a lot of hassle.

On the flip side of course there's the very real concern that with this many HD rereleases coming out that it's really just a trend to milk gamers out of more money without putting a lot of effort into it. I know that the rerelease of Resident Evil 4 has drawn some fire from people saying that the HD doesn't look very good, but just as many are saying that it's still the best looking version of the game hands down that you can get without modding and the like. The question of course is whether or not you care enough to put down a $20 on it or not. The cash grab factor does play, but again these are companies that are, you know, out to make money; and if people have demonstrated an interest in obtaining versions of old games, then it's really win win for the most part.

Of course one of the larger problems here is the fact that a lot of games are going to be left out in the cold. It's going to be fairly unlikely that we'll be seeing, say, Okami or the Viewtiful Joe series, because those titles didn't rank too highly on Capcom's list of priorities. That's not to say I wouldn't love to see them be rereleased for those that haven't tried them: they are very much worth it in my opinion. It's just that I don't really see it happening anytime soon. And those titles aren't even all that niche. If you're looking for really old titles or niche games like Vectorman or Bomberman 64 you're probably going to be holding your breath for quite a long time. Even fans rallying around games they want to see redone might not help depending on whether or not they can actually be counted to commit their wallets to the cause as well.

Overall, I'd say that HD rereleasing is a positive trend, of course balanced against the fact that we still like to actually play new games of course. Still, there's nothing wrong with seeing what the fuss was about in some cases, or indulging in a little trip down memory lane. The only problem is that your trips are only going to be to popular locations, so I hope you weren't really expecting any niche destinations. That's the way it goes sometimes though.

Monday, 3 October 2011

"Grahf Dissects X" Entry One - FPS Healthbars and You

Welcome to what is probably going to become an ever ongoing series for this blog. This isn't a theme week per ce, more like something that I can post about whenever something crosses my mind and I feel that I can put in a good word or two or sixty thousand about it.

Basically, in entries like this one I'm going to look at game mechanics: what they are, what they have been, what works, what doesn't and so on. So, to inaugurate this series I believe the issue of health is as good a place as any to start.

I know a lot of games rely on health bars: from platformers that have long since moved away from the one hit one life equation, to fighting games where that's really the entire bloody point of the thing. I'm going to focus on a particular genre's usage of healthbars though: the first person shooter.

There's been a lot of division recently over the two different schools of how healthbars work in FPS's. In the beginning you had a set amount of health and when you took a fireball or Nazi round to the face your health dropped. If you got into bad enough straits it was time to find a health kit which could heal you anywhere from 5 health back to full depending on the size. These games also usually Incorporated armor, which basically doubled your health but of course needed to be found first and was a decent bit harder to come by than just regular health. Still, fairly straightforward: run out of health and you died, end of story.

The more recent trend though, especially with so called cover shooters like "Gears of War" and the endless amounts of titles that have aped it, is to have health that regenerates. In cases like these you might not even know the number of your hit points; you still have indications like how beat up the character looks or perhaps how red your screen is, but there's no distinct amount for you to glance at and say "Ah, I'm this far away from being a meaty pile of crap." Likewise, when you take damage you're not going to be scrambling for a health kit, no sir; instead you just ride it out: wait until your dude looks better or your screen is a little (or a lot) less red, and then you continue on. Essentially, as long as you can find somewhere to catch your breath, you'll be fine and can continue on after a short respite.

Now, before I continue let's get one thing out of the way here, right off the cusp: neither of these methods are at all realistic, and nor will they ever be. Ever. There are some proponents of the fixed, non-regenerating health camp that like to foist this kind of bullshit argument at the regenerating health, saying "Oh man it's so unrealistic!" well, guess what, so is being able to run, jump, shoot, punch, and do whatever else it is that your character does all without penalty at all even at one health out of one hundred. There's no realism between being a fully functioning human being at one health and being a meat pile at zero, so get over it. Besides, in half these games you're fighting shit like Nazi zombie aliens or whatever. If you want realism, that's fine, but don't get all haughty over it when it's really not even close to the point that you're actually mad about.

With that little annoyance out of the way, let's carry on, shall we?

Both systems have their pros and their cons, otherwise there wouldn't be any arguments over which is better -- well, in a perfect world at least, but I digress. On the one hand, the fixed point, no regeneration system rewards smart, tactical gameplay and enforces a sense of danger, especially when you can't carry a health kit with you and don't know when or where the next one might be. Regenerating health is a bit more lenient and allows players to take bigger risks while still punishing them for stupid ones; it also means that you don't have to worry about finding health as long as you don't mind a slight interruption in the gameplay in order to top yourself off.

The downside of fixed health is that sometimes if you take an unlucky hit (and don't tell me it doesn't happen because it does) you might find yourself suddenly having entered an unwinnable situation, not to mention that if you desperately need the health you might end up backtracking to the last place you actually saw a pack -- something which can be more disrupting to the game flow than sitting and waiting to regenerate -- and that ever present number can cause players to second guess themselves, always wondering if they have enough health to survive the encounter ahead or if they need to find a kit to get that little extra boost. It's not a horrible downside, but it's there.

With regenerating health though, sometimes it really can feel like you're getting your hand held throughout the gameplay experience. Sitting and waiting -- especially if it takes a long amount of time to go from gravely injured to full -- is boring and something that games shouldn't be encouraging if they want to tout themselves as fast paced action-oriented shooters. Likewise, sometimes in the heat of things cues as to your current condition might be missed, and without an absolute number to fall back on you can never be sure if the next hit is going to be the last one you can take. More realistic, actually, but at the same time somewhat disheartening when you thought that you were maybe moderately damaged only to keel over at the next bullet.

So, is there a solution, something that incorporates the best of both worlds? Well, sort of. Games like the first Halo, the original Resistance, and a handful of others use both regenerating and fixed health. Halo had regenerating health in the form of a shield, but you also had health that you'd need to medkit back up if you lost it. Resistance took a different approach with a segmented health bar: four segments could each regenerate if given a short rest, but once you lost an entire one then you had to pick up a health kit to restore it. It's not a perfect solution, but it's a compromise that I believe ultimately benefited both games. It was indicative without leading to too many unwinnable scenarios, and helped keep the pacing right on track. There's a fine line between making something arbitrarily difficult and making it laughably easy. The different iterations of health are getting closer, but we aren't quite there yet. It will be interesting to see just what new tricks developers and designers come up with in the future when dealing with this subject.