Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Game of the Year and Predictions for 2016

Biggest game of 2016? Probably not.
It’s natural to reflect on the past as the year rolls over and at the same time, as is becoming a blog tradition, I like to predict what the future holds. Without much surprise, none of my big predictions from last year came to fruition; World of Warcraft hasn’t been killed, Call of Duty is as brainless as ever, and the Kinect has faded further into obscurity. That said, I did make one prediction that had a fighting chance and I didn’t seem to be too far off base. The space sim is on the cusp of a full resurgence with games like Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen garnering serious attention and budgets through crowd-funding. So with my 25% success rate in mind, let’s see which of these four comes true next year! As an added bonus, I’ll also name my 2015 game of the year!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Passion for Pixels: Ep 32 - JRPGs - Why don't we still love them?

Japanese Role Playing Games (Japanese RPGs or JRPGs for short) used to be one of our favourite genres, but playing a JRPG today is a little like meeting that friend from 20 years ago who still lives at home with his parents. Is the JRPG dead?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Passion for Pixels: Ep 31 - Star Wars Games

Photo: Kristina Alexanderson / CC BY
The holiday season is upon us, and spearheading the charge of AAA titles vying for your gift-giving money is Star Wars: Battlefront. While reviews are suggesting that Battlefront may be a bit weak in the force, the Star Wars franchise has done pretty well over the years and has spawned some most impressive classics, like Star Wars for the NES, Super Star Wars for the SNES and Tie Fighter and Knights of the Old Republic for the PC.

On this episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels, Stian and Danny delve into the treasure trove of Star Wars games and pick their favourites. Did Yoda Stories make the list? No. No it did not.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Passion for Pixels: Ep 30 - Prodigious Platformers

From Mario to Mirror's Edge, platformers are one of gaming's oldest genres. Why have platform games enjoyed such longevity and what does the future hold for them? How did the prevalence of 3D graphics affect the genre? Mario 3 or Super Mario World?

In this episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels, Stian and Danny try to answer all of these questions and more on the an episode dedicated entirely to the Def Leppard of gaming... what?!?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pay to Compete: The growing gap between free and pay in Hearthstone

The Hearthstone world championship was held at Blizzcon this year and featured a ton of thrilling matches kicked off by the launch announcement of the next adventure set - The League of Explorers. Blizzard couldn't have hoped for better with most matches showcasing a variety of decks and strategic play winning over luck. Unfortunately, the Hearthstone I saw at the world championship is pretty much the opposite of the Hearthstone I get to play at home. Increasingly the game is becoming pay to compete and the upcoming adventure is just adding fuel to the fire.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Passion for Pixels: Ep 29 - Superhero Games

This used to be considered buff.
There are more superhero movies coming out than you can shake a stick at these days, but your best bet for seeing superheroes outside of the comics back in the day was to pop in a video game (or stare at Adam West in spandex).

Superheroes are overpowered, so how do you make a game that is both challenging and fun to play, while keeping it true to the source material? Superman games are notoriously bad, and this is because nothing hurts Superman, and that makes for a bad game. So what is it that makes some superhero games work, while others don't?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Passion for Pixels: Ep 28 - Casual Games

Photo: Tywan Photographie / CC BY

Casual games have become huge in the last few years with Candy Crush Saga alone boasting more than a billion daily plays. But casual games aren't just an invention of the mobile phone age. On this episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels, we look at casual gaming through our retro tinted lenses.

Listen to Passion for Pixels Retro Gaming Podcast Episode 28: Casual Gaming!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Returning to Nexus: Is WildStar free-to-play worth your time?

WildStar launched last year to generally positive reviews lauding it's artistic style and refinement of MMO mechanics. Despite the critical praise, subscriber numbers steadily declined and ultimately forced developer Carbine to merge all of the players onto a megaserver to ensure population levels high enough to complete content. Megaservers addressed the needs of the existing player base but offered little incentive to attract those on the outside. Finally, after months of rumours and rumblings WildStar took the plunge and switched from a subscriber to a free-to-play model. A lot has changed in the last year and with no barrier to entry, it may be the time for the masses to finally check out WildStar.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Star Wars: Battlefront Beta Impressions

EA has opened the final phase of beta testing for Star Wars: Battlefront to the masses and gamers around the world are getting a chance to play a limited selection of the final product. As a huge Star Wars fan, I was elated when EA announced they would be resurrecting the Battlefront series for the modern generation and set time aside so that I could play the beta as soon as the servers went live. After several hours of killing rebel scum, I'm a bit on the fence about whether or not the final product will be worth a purchase; my fan status makes me an easy sale but I wonder if gamers who aren't Star Wars fans will sense the force in this one. If the beta test is anything to go on, I don't think Star Wars: Battlefront will have enough depth to attract hardcore FPS fans though EA shouldn't have any problem mind-tricking their way to hefty sales on the back of a top tier license, upcoming movie release, and looming holiday season.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Passion for Pixels: Ep 27 - Buying Games

Photo: John Morrison / CC BY

On this episode we cover our vivid memories of buying games when brick and mortar stores were the only option and games didn't have a release date so you had no idea when a title would be in stock.

Also, Tyma reveals why purchasing a Japanese copy of Final Fantasy VIII was a bad idea, Danny tells of how he got ripped off purchasing his first ever game, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 for the Sega Genesis, and Stian is crowned winner of first time video game purchases with his tale of buying a bundle of sweet classics second hand. All this and more, in episode 27 of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Toxic Salt: Is raging ever justified in Heroes of the Storm?

The hate is real.
The internet is full of rage. Visit any forum, message board, or public social media that isn't strictly regulated and within a few minutes of browsing you're certain to stumble on a heated argument over something inconsequential. While it's difficult to find an accurate metric, it sometimes feels that video games attract an abnormally high level of vitriol; maybe it's because of the demographics or that games inherently spark a competitive instinct that translates to internet flame wars. Recently, I've been playing a lot of Heroes of the Storm which is a relatively new MOBA (a genre infamous for it's high levels of player toxicity) and have witnessed abuse lobbied over every facet of the game. I don't know why the Heroes of the Storm community is so salty but, with a few hundred hours of play time, I've noticed some patterns to the rage and wanted to explore if this anger is ever justified.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Passion for Pixels: Ep 26 - Expanding Your Entertainment

Expansion packs - the DLC of the 1990's. Danny, Stian and Tyma talk about their favourite expansion packs from back when games came in huge cardboard boxes. Topics include Blizzard's brilliant expansions, the horrible way of making expansions work on disc based consoles (with the worst one being Grand Theft Auto London for the Playstation) and the very first expansion pack. Also, Tyma gets to host (kind of), in this episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Passion for Pixels: Ep 25 - Finally Returning to Final Fantasy VII

Is this the scene we all want in HD?

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/passion-for-pixels/id850407896?mt=2We're hot off the heels of Square Enix' announcement at E3 2015 that they are remaking Final Fantasy VII, and in this episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels, we get into what we expect, hope and dread regarding the new version of one of the most beloved games of all time.

How will the Honeybee Inn sequence play in HD, will Cloud still fight a jumping house and ride a dolphin and how will the combat system look? This and much more in this spoiler filled episode of Passion for Pixels (and clunky polygons).

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Passion for Pixels: Ep 24 - Winning is not an option

Photo: Jason Devaun / CC BY

Some games just can't be beat. No matter how frantically you try to clear the lines, those Tetris blocks WILL fill your screen. Your Sim City city will be struck by an earthquake. And your Lawnmover simulator... well, listen and find out.

On this episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels, Danny, Tyma and Stian talk about games with no end, games that can't be won and the nature of what makes a game a game. Is playing the lottery a game? At least one of our hosts think so (and one absolutely disagrees)!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Passion for Pixels: Ep 23 - What happened to shoot 'em ups?

Photo: Antonio Campoy / CC BY

Danny, Stian and Tyma try to figure out what happened to the beloved 80's genre of the shoot 'em up. What has taken it's place, and is there a possibility of seeing a shmup resurgence in the future? Even though it has no space ships, is Ikari Warrior's a shmup? Why can you not take bathroom breaks if you want to become the world champion at Life Force? This and more in episode 23 of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Pieced Together: Broken Age (review)

The main criticisms I raised in my review of the first act of Broken Age were the ease of the puzzles and the short length. By definition, the length issue would be resolved when the rest of the game was released. As for the difficulty curve, I surmised that the second half would kick it up a notch in true genre fashion. While the second half (or more accurately later two-thirds) of Broken Age mostly makes good on the puzzles, a slightly rushed and muddled plot doesn't pay off on the potential sewn in the first act.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Passion for Pixels: Ep 22 - Retro Collecting

Photo: Tatton Partington / CC BY

Is retro collecting all about reliving your childhood, is it a way to invest in stuff that's going to be worth a fortune down the line or is it hoarding mania? Tyma joins Danny and Stian to tell their stories of retro collecting, battered Nintendo's that still work, the feeling of finding a mint Castlevania Symphony of the Night at a yard sale and how awesome discovering a Legend of Mana US import in a Scandinavian store was before the advent of online shopping.

We give our thoughts on where collecting is going to be in a future of all digital downloads, and lastly Tyma realises that his passion for collecting music games has been explained in a poop related psychological theory by Sigmund Freud. All this and more, on this episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels.

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Have an opinion? Leave a comment below, tweet us @passion_pixels or send us an e-mail at passionforpixels@thesofaiswaiting.com.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Passion for Pixels: Ep 21 - The Fame Game

Photo: Kazamatsuri / CC BY

Why do we celebrate film directors but can only name a handful of game developers? How does player agency shape character development in games? Why is Ben Affleck our paradigm celebrity? Stian and Danny try to answer these questions and more as we discuss the notion of fame in gaming, with a special focus on Hideo Kojima, on this episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tremendous Tactics: Running with Rifles (review)

I keep a list of games that have been released that I'm interested in playing but, for whatever reason, just haven't had the chance to. These games usually occupy my play sessions between major AAA blockbusters and regular binges on staple games like Team Fortress. When it comes time to pick a game from the list, I usually have an idea of a genre or style I’m in the mood to play but every now and then I find myself uninspired by my queue. When this indecisive mood hits me I invariably end up perusing Steam for a hidden gem and, occasionally, find something incredibly shiny. When I bought Running with Rifles I expected an afternoon of something novel but nothing else. Several days later and I'm approaching 50 hours of gameplay – definitely a shiny gem.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Passion for Pixels: Ep 20 - Tapping in Time

Photo: Elan Ruskin / CC BY

The music game genre has been around for almost 30 years, and in this episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels, we trace the genre from it's birth until today, along with our special guest Tyma.

It all started with the NES title Dance Aeorobics and the obscure Famicom Disk System release Otocky, which we take some time to talk about. Following this was a hiatus of a few years before Parappa The Rapper became a huge success when it was released in 1997, and we talk about our memories of playing the game and the waves it made in the videogame press at the time. As Tyma puts it: "Parappa is the music game that every music game strives to be."

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Passion for Pixels: Ep 19 - Buying Bad

Photo: Sparky / CC BY

Have you ever bought a game because the box art looks awesome? Hopefully not, but if you only use box art as your buying criteria you've probably played some pretty awful games. On this episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels, Stian and Danny try to dissect the phenomenon of bad games that sell well. Also, we try to see why some amazing games never made bank. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Perfect Harmony: Four notes that Rock Band 4 should hit

Yesterday at GDC in San Francisco, Harmonix officially announced Rock Band 4 is in development for next-gen consoles. Although Rock Band 3 hit shelves nearly five years ago, an epic string of DLC releases and spin-off titles ensured would be rock stars weren’t letting their plastic instruments gather dust. Sorting the span of reactions with some claiming the franchise should stay dead and others hailing it as the second coming isn't easy but I think, on balance, interest is strong. Still, the music rhythm genre isn’t the cash cow it once was and I think Harmonix should be wary of a few things if they want to rebuild their empire.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Passion for Pixels: Ep 18 - A Neo Geo Knowledge Bomb

Photo: Jared Lindsay / CC BY

On this special episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels, Danny and Stian welcome their first guest to the podcast! Tyma, a Neo Geo guru, covers everything from why the system has enjoyed such longevity to how to get into collecting and playing. Did you know that, despite its popularity, Metal Slug is actually one of the rarest titles to find? Also, Tyma counts down his top ten non-fighting Neo Geo games mixing some lesser known titles with outright classics.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

TKO: Punch-Out!! Wii (mini-review)

Not owning a Nintendo console since the N64, I haven't managed to play every major Nintendo release in the past few years. The new (well not so new anymore) Punch-Out!! for Wii is one of those games that passed me by until recently. As such, this mini-review is neither timely nor likely to inform any purchase decisions but does benefit from not being caught up in launch hype. Ultimately, Punch-Out!! is a fantastic addition to the franchise proving that some gameplay mechanics never grow old.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Passion for Pixels: Ep 17 - Breaking out the Homebrew

Photo: William Warby / CC BY

Retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels is back after a couple months off. We're happy you guys are still with us, and we're excited to get back to talking retro games again!

This time we're delving into an area that a lot of us don't know much about: the homebrewing scene. The homebrew scene contains everything from remakes and demakes of popular games, ports of old games from one system to another to brand new games for all consoles imaginable. Imagine getting your hands on a brand new NES game in 2015 - that's homebrewing for you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Good Game: Gearing up for Diablo 3 Season 2

Early last week, Tim Kae reporting on Yahoo finance unleashed a bevy of Blizzard insider information citing a reliable source. Following Activision-Blizzard's financial report earlier this week, it seems likely that the leaked information is indeed reliable or, at least, not pure fabrication. While most of the news was unsurprising (Hearthstone is making a ton of money), I was disappointed to learn that the Diablo team has been gutted with key developers moved to other projects. I interpret this to mean that another expansion for Diablo 3 isn't coming any time soon and that the current state of the game is, more or less, how it's going to be. With this in mind, I thought I would go through the most recent patch and give a general blurb on the viability of each of the classes and list a few features I think a reduced team of a few developers could still add in.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Called it! - Gaming Predictions for 2015

The future of gaming?
As I took down the non-denominational festive ornaments scattered around my home the stark realization that another year had entered the history books was ever-present. It’s a natural time to reflect and I took the opportunity to revisit my tepid predictions from the end of 2013. Given my goal to be unambitious, it's unsurprising that most of my predictions were vindicated. In fact, all but my overzealous exceptions for Titanfall came true. This year, I've decided to swing in the opposite direction and elaborate my boldest gaming desires that, while within the realm of possibility, are virtually guaranteed to miss. For interest's sake, I’ll also elaborate why I don't think these predictions are in danger of coming to light any time soon.