My mind is a strange but welcoming place!
Video Game, Technology and Japanese Animation Enthusiast
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Anonymous asked: If life is a box of chocolates, and candy makes everything better, then why does life suck so much?
It’s simple really. Think of life not as a box of chocolates but a box fulled of little pieces of diabetes. Each piece you ingest levels up your diabetes’ meter, and remember it can never go down. It only goes up, much like an erection. Except erections are great and diabetes kills you.
Next time you get someone chocolate, don’t forget: life sucks :D
The Disillusion of Ico?
“Ico is one of those classic games a lot of gamers missed. Whether it was because of a lack of Sony consoles, or just never hearing about it, chances are you haven’t played it. I could only welcome the initiative of re releasing two games regarded by some as the best in the world, and in HD no less! Gamers everywhere rejoiced, and so did I.
But then I played the game.
There is nothing fun about the game. It is essentially a glorified fetch quest, with a very annoying AI that does not always do what you ask her to do. The controls are clunky and inaccurate. I have so many stories of the boy deciding to jump where I did not tell him to jump, falling and dying, only to restart to the last door or worse, the last save point. The only redeemable quality would be the visuals. The game looks great, and the castle actually feels like a place where people could have inhabited before and not an excuse for puzzles.
That’s what Ico is, beautiful set pieces, but nothing to back it up. It’s not a video game, for the simple fact that it is not fun. I think this is a title that has been way over hyped to the point where we are forgetting what a video game is supposed to be about first and foremost: gameplay.”
What a blasphemous introduction. As I sit in front of my laptop, reading it over and over, I can’t help but feel a bit amused that I wrote this wholeheartedly yesterday. A lot has changed since yesterday. I am not sure what happened, and when it happened, but something clicked when I was done with the game. I realized that maybe, just maybe, the frustration I was feeling throughout the game was not because of the aforementioned issues I had with it. Maybe it was because I grew as a person. I changed, and my brain rejected that change, interpreting it as frustration. Yes, something happened, I grew alright, and I experienced so much in so little time.
I was a prince
The game opened and I was faced with rescuing this woman from a cage. The cage was suspended in the air, and she there helpless, covered in this ever glowing light. As I rush up the stairs, to her rescue, I barely had time to think about how she got there, and why I was doing it. It did not matter, I was a prince and she was my princess. I couldn’t deceive her. I couldn’t leave her there! It was my duty, it was my purpose at this exact moment. I was going to deliver her from the shackles of the game.
I was a lover
As I rescued her, the fiends that probably put here there started appearing. She held her hand in front of me, trying to caress my face but was suddenly taken away. She was my lover, and I had to free her from the hands of those evil monsters. I grabbed a stick and fought. I proved my love, I emerged victorious! I took her hand, she took mine, and our love was sealed forever. I would never let her go. Till death do us part. We sat down on a bench, our hands ever so slightly getting close to each other, like little kids and their first love: honest and pure.
I was a father
I became a father too. I looked out for her best interest. I defended her against those that thought ill of her. I helped her through obstacles she did not understand how to tackle. There were times where I was angry, shouting at her, reprimanding her. It was always with her best interest in mind though: I only wanted what was best for her. She did not always understand my actions, but I did what I did to protect her. Like a parent with his child’s best interest always at heart, I carried her through the game valiantly.
I was a captive
The game opens with this mysterious woman dressed in white. She glows and she radiates. It then tasks me with one simple objective: live for her. For the duration of this odyssey, you will only act for her, feel for her, think of her. It holds me captive, makes demands and does not let me go. This situation leads to Stockholm syndrome: I am trapped with this girl, I do not want to be with her, I do not know her and therefore do not care about her, yet I start having feelings for her.
I was our savior
This is for me, the true beauty of Ico. Those ever conflicting emotions where, as the game traps me like a hostage with this woman, I fight the game to free her, and by proxy me, from this castle that represents our captor. This duality of hate and love from and for the same person.
Ico truly is a masterpiece of a game.
As we get closer to the 17th of December, the launch date of the PS Vita in Japan, more and more information is released about the device. When the handheld formally known as the NGP (Next Generation Portable) was unveiled at E3, we were all amazed by the HD graphics and the incredible line up of games. When Sony told us it would cost $250 for the WiFi version, we couln’t believe it. The Toky Game Show rolled around and cemented the fact that there will be a lot of games available at launch, all looks prettier as ever. We also learned we could have apps like Skype or Facebook directly in our hands, and a full internet browser. A few days ago, it was announced that it would be region free. It seemed to good to be true.
That’s when the picture went from fuzzy happy feeling to murky brown reality.
Let’s talk about the games first. While the line up really is plentiful, how many of those games really are new IPs? New and fresh experiences, or at least not ports? Very few actually. With titles like Disgaea 3, Persona 4, Final Fantasy X, Little Big Planet, Mod Nation Racer, Marvel VS Capcom 3 and the Oddworld games, I’m starting to think “portable” from back when it was named the NGP actually meant “port enable”. Sony had a flash of genius when it took away the PS2 emulation from the Playstation 3, now being able to re release it’s last gen catalogue. It looks like it wants to strike gold again with the PS Vita. What other way then to make you buy games twice?
Sony announced that you could take some games with you and keep on playing them on your new shiny handheld, freeing up the television for who ever wants to watch Robocop again, and basically one upping the Wii U before it’s release. A developer working on an action RPG called Ruin showcased the feature on stage and it looked wonderful, except it is not. Ruin is the only title announced yet, where both a PS3 and a Vita copy of the game are bundled together. Would you like to keep on playing the Metal Gear Solid games in the palm of your hands? You’ll have to buy another copy of the exact same game. What about Marvel VS Capcom? Same deal. With prices looking to approach full retail console ones, it’s going to be one very expensive feature. “It’s cool” you start saying, “no one is forcing me to buy two copies of the game, I’ll just play it on my Vita”. About that…
With this new system, Sony is trying very hard to sell us on the idea of console like experiences but in our hands. Dual sticks, HD graphics, great franchises, big digital market those are just few of the arguments to try and reel us in. With that in mind, it’s absolutely unacceptable to give us 3 to 5 hours of battery life. This is not just a regular handheld, this is supposed to be the ultimate one. It’s (supposedly) changing the game. You’ve never seen anything like it, yet we’re supposed to stop every 3 hours? Games like Uncharted focus on a great and extensive single player campaign but we have to worry about saving in the case that it shuts off in the middle of a level? I guess we could just leave it plugged it, but that would defeat the purpose of a portable gaming system huh? I guess it is not spelled Next Generation Portable anymore. “But that’s not an issue” you bravely declare, “I don’t game more then 3 hours straight on a handheld anyway, and surely the price would have been more expensive with a better battery”. About that price point…
Proprietary Format and Price
Sitting at $250 for the WiFi version (or €250 because why not) the price was a shocker to say the least. It even caused the 3DS to lower it’s price from 250 to 170! A substantial drop that clearly showed the competition (namely Nintendo) feeling threatened by the device. Sony also dropped a bombshell on us: the system will use a brand new memory card (unnamed for now) priced at 9,500 yen (about $145 for a 32GB card). “Why would you need so much space” you start spouting, “The 4gb one costs around 30 dollars in Japan! And besides, those are the japanese prices”. First of all, no need to spout. Second of all, if you honestly think the prices will be drastically different you’re just naive. You can be hopeful and dream of a $100 price point but that is still expensive, raising the handheld to $350.
Third of all, you’re forgetting something crucial here: the push for a better digital marketplace. Sony is in the process of transferring its PSP catalogue on the PSN so you can pay for the same gam have even more games available. Games are heavy, a 4gb card is two PSP games at best, and that’s not even counting the Vita games that will be much heavier. Some of the launch titles are only available online! Add the cost of the memory card to the money you will probably shell out for a battery extension and you’re looking at a near PS3 price point. The Vita is not looking so cheap now is it? And about that whole digital thing…
You probably know this already, but you need a damn good internet speed to have a solid and smooth online experience. Trying to game through 3G really is laughable, especially for games that require quick reflexes like the Marvel title. The speed simply is not high enough. Add to that download limitations of 20MB, and looks like the 3G will only be used for small DLC and themes. Why do we need 3G again? Certainly not to try and make some of the money back by partnering with cellphone companies through plans. Why would you think that?
The Vita is a great piece of hardware, but don’t let the PR fool you, it is far from perfect. The announced price is nothing more then a smoke screen, most of the games shown are ports and more ports, its battery life is ridiculously short and it uses a proprietary format.
That being said mine is already pre ordered. The point of this article is not to convince you not to get one, or to try and troll anybody. It’s to bring you back down to earth. Let’s not over hype the PS Vita. Let’s approach it level headed, our minds clear, so we can enjoy it more and expect what is reasonable of it.
Let’s be smart about this.
\WARNING/ THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FOLLOWING GAMES: Splinter Cell Conviction coop mode, FEAR , and talks about the coop feature in the upcoming FEAR 3
The last mission from SC Conviction’s coop campaign had to be the hardest one of the game. After reaching some kind of hangar, my partner and I had to deactivate the security system, run to the airplane and finally escape, while at the same time fighting off waves and waves of enemies. Stealth had pretty much jumped out the window at that point. It was more of a Gears of War type kind of game, with less health and ammo.
“Throw a grenade!” I yelled at my team mate, sitting right next to me in real life.
“I threw my last one five minutes ago!” he replied hectically.
I started to think about the best way to reach the controls we had to deactivate, as I flashed back to the beginning of the game. My friend had never played a Splinter Cell game before. Granted this one is a lot less focused on stealth, but it was still a challenge for him. The only games he had ever played were platform games, and a couple of racing ones. It took a lot of convincing to finally get him to try it out, but as soon as he got the hang of the intuitive controls, he was hooked.
The game started out very slowly, showing him how to kill an enemy from behind, use him as cover, and also one of the key features of the game: mark and execute. The more stealth hand to hand kills a player racked up, the more his execution bar would fill, until he could point at two or three enemies in a room, and instantly kill them with a press of a button in a very smooth fashion. The added benefits of the coop were that the two players could combine their executions and get the job done faster. If one of the player was down, he could play dead until his team mate came and revived him, provided he did within the time limit. The game was fun and felt rewarding. You could play the solo campaign if you wanted to be alone, but here you had to have your partner’s back and vice versa.
I realized I had one grenade left. A well placed explosion later, we made our way to the security controls where we had to both push a button and finally get on the plane, our objective. We eventually did, but that’s when something interesting happened.
A cutscene played, where I was alone in the cargo section, when I got a very simple email: kill my partner. Was it part of the story? That’s when I realized he probably got the same one asking to kill me. The game turned into a very intense death match, and all of the skills I had taught him were now being redirected towards me. After what seemed like forever, he got me and I fell down to the floor.
That part of the game was really unexpected. The game turned from being cooperative to being competitive in the blink of an eye. After working hard together for so many hours, we had to finish each other off. This practice is not very common in video games, and felt really refreshing to be honest. Even if it lasted a few minutes at the end of the game, the fact that you had been helping each other since the start made it seem much more interesting, than say online death matches where you spawn, kill, repeat.
Another game that looks to be implementing cooperative and competitive gameplay at the same time is the upcoming FEAR 3. You play as either the main character with his ability to slow down time, or Fettel (who got shot by Point Man in the fist game) with his telekinetic abilities. Both players share the same health meter, and have to revive each other when one falls to the ground. The maps have also been designed to make the best use of both players, assuring gamers that it’s not just a run and kill thing. The interesting competitive feature, which has been done in some games before I believe, is that both players get points for kills, the goal being to outnumber your teammate. Quoting from MTV Multiplayer Blog:
“The gist, though, is that you’ll be scored based on your performance in a mission, and those points can be used to upgrade your character. For example, you can increase Point Man’s slow-down meter. This makes the co-op a bit of an uneasy truce between the two brothers, and it often encourages players to think for themselves rather than the group. Unfortunately, if one brother dies, so does the other (they’re psychically linked or some such ridiculousness), so you can’t be a total jackass to your partner. Just a partial jackass.”
This could lead to very interesting sessions where players feed for themselves, and only play together when they really have to: an uneasy truce. This raises concerns in other places, like can a game still be scary when playing with someone else? That’s a topic for another day, but it could be interesting to look at how this competitive aspect can be used to enhance the scary parts of the game. For example, separating the players, and making them do a actions that benefit one (One player turning the light on…) and at the same time impacting the other (…turns the light off for the other player).
There are not too many competitive coop games out there, as in games that truly blend the two, but it could be a refreshing way to tackle the multiplayer side that a lot of games come with today. Let’s not make it a thing though: after all coop means cooperative.
Video games don’t innovate very often, and when I mean innovate, I mean reach a major milestone, changing the way we play. These innovations may be good or bad depending on what you think about it, but you can’t deny they have an impact on everyone. A few examples would be going from 2D to 3D, having two joysticks on a controller, touch based gaming and obviously motion gaming.
If we take a closer look at the games we play nowadays, there has rarely been one to truly break away from the norm in terms of gameplay, graphics etc. They look better and better each year yes, but they don’t make you go “oh my god that’s awesome” like for example one would react to from playing Metal Gear Solid 1 and Metal Gear Solid 4. They obviously hail from different technological eras, but that’s my point. They look better a bit each year, until you notice the difference only when you look back and think “How the hell did I put up with that for so many hours??” (I’ll admit being able to play FFVIII again and not cringe once, I like to think good games transcend ages, but that’s a topic for another day).
To get back on topic, games get progressively better. Rare are the games that come along and shatter the way we play them in an instant. Yet they exist.
Facial animations have never been good. They never felt real (for those games that tried to emulate that), and usually have to rely on exaggerating facial traits to get emotions across, or not even trying sometimes. Heavy Rain seemed to have gotten very close, but a milestone has truly been reached with LA Noire. Not only do the faces feel real, they are so well done you can rely on them to keep on playing. They’re a key part of gameplay, and do not hinder on the overall experience. They almost feel natural, the way video games should feel, and don’t take you out of the experience like some Mass Effect ones would for example, or Fallout (which both heavily rely on talking to people). It seemed like very little to no work was being put in that part of a game, but LA Noire took it to a new level.
Another important part of a game is its story. So many games still rely exclusively on cutscenes to move along its narrative, instead of involving the player since, you know, he’s around to help. I feel obliged to talk about Half Life which may well be the most immersive FPS. As I’m sure you already know, there are absolutely no cutscenes, and you the player experience a very complex story from your point of view. It does not make sense at times, but that’s how it should feel like until the resolve. There is no reason for the character to not know what’s going on, but for the player to watch a video where the main villains discuss what to do next. There really hasn’t been a major evolution in story telling ever since Half Life came along, and it’s kind of sad that no one tried to really immerse the player the way Valve did.
We could go on and on but the purpose of this topic was to touch on one thing: the AI (Artificial Intelligence). A very essential part of a game, especially with all the shooters that come out nowadays. Yet I can’t think of a single game that had very good AI. We’re getting there with Left 4 Dead’s AI, but it really has just one objective: kill you. After so many generations of consoles, you still see the friendly AI that runs into walls or does not do anything. You still feel overpowered by the perfect AI that can see through walls, or the dumb AI that might as well stayed in bed that day, or finally the one that is so scripted (for example Homefront) it can stop you from advancing!
But even looking at a good game like Metal Gear, it’s hard to appreciate the way enemies react to what you do. You would think that after waking up, even if they did not see you, they would ring the alarm or something, especially as soon as they see ANY sort of box whatsoever. Or do they all have insomnia and just thought their medication had worn off?
Why is there nothing substantial being made on that front? Will the game with a truly groundbreaking AI come this generation, or the next? Or will it be impossible to simulate? I like to think it is entirely possible, but if the major part of budgets keeps being put in the graphics side of things, we are not going to see anything anytime soon, whether it’s the AI or a realistic portrayal of choice not limited to “I’m bad to the bone” and “I’m a saint”. I guess it’s up to us players to demand such innovations.
Who’s up for a spamming party?