Saturday, August 31, 2013

Quality Controls - The criteria for good controls across genres

Controls are a critical element to a successful game. Bad controls can ruin otherwise good design but the reverse is seldom true. Today I am going to cover some of the major genres in gaming and try to describe some of the elements that are important to get controls right for each of them. I will also talk a bit about the preferred input devices used for these genres and why I think they have become the standard.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Super Then and Now: Perspectives on SNES games as a child and adult

In my post ‘Then and Now’, I listed some NES titles and gave my perspectives from childhood and adult life. After receiving quite a bit of positive feedback, I figured why not do a follow-up covering the SNES. As with my NES post, this list is not a “top SNES games” or anything like that and the presentation is in no particular order.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Big Talk - Types of bold speech made by industry representatives

A few days ago, Electronic Art's Sports executive, Peter Moore, made a rather bold statement that EA "no longer makes 'offline' games". Naturally, things ran out of control and everyone assumed that EA would be implementing some sort of always-on DLC in every future title. As it turns out, Moore was making a generalized statement that the core design decisions of EA games are now made with online/multiplayer superseding single player consideration. I think this is still quite a bold statement although it is much less likely to draw the universal ire of gamers. From this, I started to think about how brash statements have become fairly common-place in the gaming industry and have singled out three types of statements (bullshit, bilious, and bravado). Below I outline these three statement types and describe the reaction they generate.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Then and Now: Perspectives on NES games as a child and adult

For the first time last week, Mike Tyson played Mike Tyson’s Punchout!! for the NES and the brilliant results were captured on film. The video shows Tyson trash talking through his fight with Glass Joe and, as many comments point out, I think we finally know where Glass Joe’s lone victory came from (Tyson himself!). The whole video treads a surreal line and seeing Tyson’s clearly having a good time while playing got me thinking of some of the classic NES games that I remember. Below I give a few of the games I remember from my childhood and express my then and now reactions to them. This list is by no means a “best Nintendo games” ranking and is presented in no particular order.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Game On: The pros and cons of playing an MMO at launch

Yesterday, I covered some of the rage that has followed in the rocky launch of Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn. Today I thought I might branch out a bit and talk about some of the pros and cons of playing an MMO at launch as opposed to picking it up a few months into the cycle.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Final Flames: Dismantling the rants against 'A Realm Reborn'

Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn opened its doors to pre-purchasers last weekend to a myriad of server woes. Predictably, the internet is on fire with a rage factor exponential to the amount of downtime. Today I aim to address some of the common rants popping up against Square and preach a bit of calmness.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Profit Raider: How the Tomb Raider reboot was unprofitable

Through the blogosphere last week, it came to light that the Tomb Raider reboot has sold over 4 million copies to date. While this information isn't so surprising as most analysts had projected sales around this number, what is shocking is that Square has claimed that Tomb Raider has been unprofitable. Today I try to wrap my head around this seeming incongruity and attempt to provide some justification for how it might be possible that Tomb Raider has sold so many units but failed to turn a profit.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Exciting Expansions (part 2) - XCOM: Enemy Within

This past week, two expansion packs were announced for the recent iterations of Diablo and XCOM. I felt that both of these games fell a bit short of their potential and I believe that an expansion may be able to rectify this. In this post I cover XCOM: Enemy Within.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Exciting Expansions (Part 1) - Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls

This past week, two expansion packs were announced for the recent iterations of Diablo and XCOM. I felt that both of these games fell a bit short of their potential. Over the next two posts I will talk about where these games went off track and my thoughts on how an expansion might benefit them. So, without further ado, lets dive into Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thou Art Awesome - The failings of 'RPG-dialect'

In my post covering my impressions of Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn, one of the points I had scrawled in my notes that didn’t make it into the final text was that most of the plot is presented in faux-Elizabethan English. That is to say, the game makes liberal use of ‘thous’, ‘thees’, and ‘mi’lords’. Although I find this approach grating, I begrudgingly accept that it is more or less ubiquitous in role-playing realms (especially in the high fantasy setting). In this post I discuss some of the reasons why this 'rpg-dialect' has become pervasive and some of the failings of its use.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hard and Fast: Discussion on some of latest PS4 and XB1 news

After news on the next generation Playstation 4 (PS4) and Xbox One (XB) releases started to slow following the onslaught of the respective launch events and E3, this past week saw a flurry of relatively exciting news surrounding Gamescom (at least for those who don't find excitement in the profound technical differences between DDR3 and DDR5 ram; we get it - bigger numbers are better). In the space of a few days, the public has been privy to some interesting launch bundles for the XB, enticing PS3 to PS4 software upgrade pricing, the official release date for the PS4, and, biggest of all, the launch lineups for both systems. Today I will tackle each of these stories and provide my personal take on how I think they mix things up a bit in the months leading to launch.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Silver Lining - Exploring the positive impact of the 'worst' parts of gaming

One of my main gaming philosophies is if you are having fun, so long as it is not coming to someone else's detriment, then you can't be doing it wrong. Games are an escape and however you use them to do so is really your own business. In this post, I address three areas that are often cited as examples of 'bad' gaming and try to present my take on how, beyond just providing entertainment, they are overall beneficial to the community.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Music Mashup - Ways that music can enhance gaming

The other night, while I was waiting for a sizable download to finish, I figured I would pass the time with a bit of Peggle. After booting the game and hearing the familiar 'Morning Mood', I thought it might be a good idea to turn the sound effects to low and fire up some Debussy in the background. The experience was immensely satisfying mixing the stunning overtones of classical music with the decidedly laid back gameplay of Peggle. All together, it had me thinking about some of the ways music can influence our experience of a game. Below are my thoughts on three general ways I think music is implemented in games (static, epic, and dynamic) and some examples of each.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Respectable Remix - Impressions of Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn

The release of Final Fantasy XIV, the second MMORPG of the venerable series, was marred by harsh criticism and lack-luster sales. Whether it was the interface, the combat, or the economy, it seemed that nothing was right. In the end, Square took the dramatic decision to completely overhaul the game and relaunch it as 'A Realm Reborn'. In this post I cover my impressions of the final open beta phase of this relaunched title.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Making Mods: The pros and cons of fan created content

The recently announced Kickstarter for the Starcraft Universe mod has drawn a lot of attention. At the time of writing, with over twenty days to go, the Kickstarter has raised nearly half of its $80,000 goal and appears incredibly likely to be successfully funded. What is especially interesting, is that the project has been sanctioned by Blizzard (although they will give no direct support). In this post, I discuss some of the likely reasons for allowing this project to proceed instead of slapping it with a cease and desist order.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Reviewing Reviewers - Explaining wide discrepancies in review scores

This week’s release of Duck Tales: Remastered has been met with polarizing reviews. On one end, some sites, such as, are gushing about pretty much every aspect of the game and offering up near perfect scores. On the other end, some sites, such as, are panning the game. I think that both of these reviews are valid and make solid case for their respective scores. The question is thus raised, what is causing such a rift in the reviews?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cheesy Tactics - How AI is critical to single-player gaming

One of the areas of gaming that has always fascinated me is artificial intelligence. Whether the goal is to produce a perfect player, accurately mimic humans, or providing an escalating training aid, solid AI is integral to a satisfying offline experience. In this post, I briefly outline what makes for a successful AI and provide some examples of both good and bad implementation.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Same World - Thoughts on the latest Civilization expansion

The second Civilization 5 expansion, Brave New World, competently expands the game and manages to add more without breaking anything that wasn't already broken. That said, nothing here fixes some of the issues that have persisted since the core release and the price tag is a bit steep for what you get. Most of the features are solid refinements but nothing feels terribly innovative. In the end, if you haven't put the game down since release or you feel the hankering to shape the globe a few more times, Brave New World is worth picking up.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Beyond Blood - Maturing Mature Gaming

Recently, Saints Row 4 was denied classification (and thus could not be sold) in Australia. Reportedly, the offending content was a sexually themed melee weapon. After removing the item and some other drug related content, the game was awarded an MA15+ classification. Over the past few years Australia’s classification board has become infamous for its stringent standards and consistently refusing classification to games for sexual and drug based content. Below I consider the implications of these standards and move to a general discussion of ‘mature’ content in games.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Re-rollin' rollin' rollin' - The Desire to Start from Scratch

Re-rolling is the term used when someone scraps all the progress they have made in a game and starts from the beginning. The term holds its roots in pen and paper RPGs where you literally roll dice when you are making a character to determine starting attributes. While re-rolling is still commonly associated with RPGs, the advent of persistent progression in a multitude of genres has started to see its use applied much more broadly.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pew Pew - World of Warplanes Beta Impressions

After spending a couple days with the open beta of World of Warplanes ( below are my impressions of the game so far.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Quitting the Internet – Why Phil Fish had to cancel Fez 2

One of the recent stories that has been circulating the gaming world is that Phil Fish, creator of the insanely successful indie game ‘Fez’, has stopped work on Fez 2 and, for all intents and purposes, has ceased to maintain a public internet presence. While Fish's decision was probably the culmination of many factors, one of his stated reasons for quitting was the negativity/hate he experiences when publicly engaging on the internet. Fish is not the first person to make similarly bold decisions but some have raised the point that work on Fez 2 is independent of his public profile and ought not to be cancelled. While I find the logic of this argument to be initially compelling, I think it ignores how Fish will conduct himself privately after he has cut himself off publicly.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Party with Pirates (and ironically steal their booze)

Piracy has been a hot topic issue in gaming since the dawn of rock paper scissors. Spanning such nebulous issues as consumer rights, copyright, fair use, and ethics, it is not difficult to understand why the issue of piracy is continuously raised. Recently, the conversation has steered towards the notion that piracy may be undercutting profits sufficiently that harsh measures ought to be implemented. I feel these methods are ineffective while also harming the consumer. On the flip side, no anti-piracy measures or Digital Rights Management (DRM) at all could lead to an industry-wide downturn which is also bad for the consumer.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Value for Money: Games that just keep delivering

When tightening the monthly budget, entertainment is often one of the first things to be cut. After all, how can you have fun when they can’t afford to eat? In the lean months, gamers are at an advantage because, I contend, a lot more entertainment can be squeezed from a game than most other mediums. Certainly, when one considers a straight cost per entertainment hour, games blow other popular mediums (like movies) out of the water. Further, like a good book, some games just don’t grow old and can be replayed time and time again. Below I consider some of the games I have managed to milk an absurd amount of playing time out of and some thoughts on why I think I keep coming back to them.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Betamaxed - Paying for early access is a bad for everyone

As I have touched on in previous posts, in recent years, consumers have had increasing options for obtaining games and the pre-order system seems to exist in its present form only to line the pockets of the publisher. In an effort to incentivize pre-ordering, publishers/developers have taken to offering beta access in exchange for pre-ordering. While I feel that, in general, providing beta access to the broader community could lead to a better overall product, I suspect that the scheme will ultimately be a losing deal for all parties.