Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Choice in Deus Ex, is it an Illusion?

             Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a game that definitely offers a player more to think about than normal games would. The idea of desecrating our bodies for the advance of human technological advancement, the prospect of choosing whether human populations or a single human is more important, and the constant lingering idea that society is not so free as it can be are only a few of the explicit and subliminal messages that the player can receive. However, while there are a lot of ideas that exist in this game, there’s one that many players will overlook: choice. Choice is a common gameplay mechanic often bragged about in video games such as Skyrim and Mass Effect. Although at first glance those choices seem to be decisions that the player is choosing, they are only illusions. The choices that players make in games such as Skyrim and Mass Effect are dialogue or conversational choices that have no real impact on how people play the game. If players choose to punch someone in Mass Effect, they will just think bad of the character and nothing will really happen. If a player decides to assist someone out in Skyrim, all it does is to make the journey quicker. Despite “choice” being so integral to the player experience it’s really not all that different at the end of the day. Instead of it truly affecting the world in the game or affecting the trials and tribulations that the players come across, it becomes more a chore and gimmicky game mechanic. What, then, does Deus Ex: Human Revolution do that’s so different?

            Deux Ex deploys the idea of choice in two very different ways. One is explicit and the other is implicit. As the player journeys throughout the various areas of the game to finish the main story, they are handed quests with a very broad idea of how to approach it. Take for example the first mission of the game. David Sarif, the player’s employer, gives the choice of using lethal or non-lethal tactics to complete a mission. While it seems like a simple choice that the player has to make, it’s not a simple one. Why? The game explicitly offers the player the choice of how the to tackle the mission, but the possibilities of how lethal or how non-lethal is up to the player. Sarif offers another question to the player: short-range or long-range. Depending on how the player answers this question, he or she will receive one of four different types of weapons. The quest tells the player that he or she must infiltrate a warehouse and make it to the CEO’s office. While the starting point, endpoint, and the method of lethality is clear, the way to get to the end isn’t. I chose non-lethal and short range and as a result received stun gun. I made a choice in the beginning that affects how I proceed in this mission. Knowing that I have a weapon that has an effective range of only a few feet and it is non lethal means my enemies can wake up if an ally finds them. My choices have made an impact as to how the rest of the mission will proceed.

To kill or not to kill? That is the question.

            However, the first mission isn’t the only instance where explicit choice affects the gameplay drastically. Immediately after the first mission, Sarif hands the player another mission: infiltrating the police station. Sarif needs the player to examine a body in the police station but the officers are not letting him in. Due to this perhaps unfortunate precedent, Sarif offers the player a proposition, illegally enter the station using whatever methods necessary or find a more legal way to enter. While this mission doesn’t explicitly state what choices the player need to make and how that affects the gameplay like the previous mission, there are choices that the player needs to make. Take for example if the player chooses to enter the station legally. Upon entering the lobby of the police station, the player is greeted with an old disgruntled friend. Here the player can persuade the friend to be let in but he or she doesn’t necessarily need to do so. Just like Sarif said, there are various ways to approach this mission. Legally doing so is only one of many ways to handle the quest at hand. Perhaps legal isn’t something that the player has in mind and illegal actions suit him or her more. That option is definitely open to the player but how to handle that is something that the player must find out for him or herself.

            As a result, this leads to the idea of implicit choice. While the player has made the choice of entering the police station illegally, the method is entirely up to him or her. I chose to enter the building through a ventilation shaft found on the second floor of the police station after scouting around. The game doesn’t explicitly spell out how to enter the building illegally, it just states that there are illegal manners that await the player’s use. Maybe a more direct route isn’t suited for the player; that’s fine. The player can perhaps use an underground sewage system to enter the police station. The idea of giving choice implicitly to the players so that they can effectively use it to change the gameplay experience is something that’s not used at all by developers of the game industry. Take for example the first mission again. While Sarif hands the player a weapon depending on the choices made, this does not definitely dictate how he or she will proceed with the mission. If I received a pistol due to choosing lethality and short-ranged, it doesn’t mean I have to kill everyone I see. In fact, in one particular playthrough I avoided every single guard inside the warehouse and never once pulled out my pistol. Sure, I chose that I would kill my enemies to proceed with this mission but the game never forced me to. This implicit choice that Deus Ex offered me is something very unique to Deus Ex and perhaps to the game industry as a whole. The game never restricted me in how I approach my mission. I am free to choose how to tackle it. Not only this but the choices I make affect the gameplay. Because I chose to receive a pistol instead of a stun gun, I am now going to have an easier time proceeding through the warehouse if I am in a fight. The enemies will stay down instead of being woken up if other guards come across them. My choices, the player’s choices, affect how the game plays.

You can talk your way out of this. 

            Take another example, where the player infiltrates the police station illegally. The officers in the station are not made aware of the player’s presence and as a result will shoot on sight. This is a very different story if the player chose to persuade the friend to allow entry since the officers will not shoot knowing that the player has clearance. This means that the mission of examining the body inside the station becomes much easier if the player convinces the friend. The choices that the player makes impact the game. Sarif doesn’t make it clear to the player that the legal method of entering the station will be easier. Players will find out for themselves the difficulty with each choice they make. The decisions that players make will have a lasting impact on how the mission proceeds. In this case, the difficulty increases depending on what choices were made. The idea of implicit choice becomes clear because while it’s explicitly stated that there are illegal and legal methods of entering the station, it’s up to the player on how to enter legally or illegally. The player always has the option of choosing how to handle the mission.

            My last example of detailing choice and its effect on the gameplay is a mission from a downloadable content (DLC) called The Missing Link. This DLC starts the player stripped of all equipment whether it be powerups or guns. While it does state that retrieving the equipment is a mission, it never once states that it is necessary. In fact, the game implicitly offers the player a choice: proceed without equipment or with it. It’s this very idea of choice that has a lasting impact on the player and the gameplay. Players will find that the missions are much easier to handle with the equipment than without it. Enemies can be taken down with ease, different routes can be utilized, and sections can be avoided altogether. The choice that the player has made at the very beginning of this DLC has already seeped through the many gameplay aspects in this mini journey.

Go through the DLC. Without Augments this time.

            How is it that choice is such an influential and paramount idea in Deus Ex: Human Revolution? Is it because the choices are so large that the consequences are just as large? Is it because Deus Ex is such a different game compared to other games that offer choice like Skyrim and Mass Effect? The answer is no. Deus Ex is a smart and cleverly crated game and there is none like it in this generation. The developers understood from the very first moment upon creating this game that choice was an essential mechanic and aspect. This is the very reason why choice is so effectively utilized is Deus Ex compared to other games. Choices that the players make, whether it be implicit or explicit, permeates through every experience that the player encounters and builds it up to the climax of personal journey. Sure, there is a definite end result that the player will reach but how he or she gets there and by what methods are definitely up to the player. It wasn’t until I reached the end that I knew there was an achievement for finishing the entire game without killing anyone. What other game offers choice like Deus Ex? Personally, I don’t think there is any. Other developers can learn a lot from what the creators of Deus Ex in that choice is not just a gimmick in video games. It’s a way to craft a personal, engaging, and most importantly, a freeing experience. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend Review

Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend Review

            Blazblue is an excellent fighting game. Saying anything less than that is doing the game a great disservice. Arc System Works has created the 3rd and hopefully the final iteration of the Continuum Shift series for Blazblue. This 2-D sprite-based fighter finally returns to the consoles with all the updates of its arcade counterpart for a mere $40. Is it time for you to step into the ring or should you leave this out?

            The premise of Blazblue’s combat is similar to every 2-D fighter out there: two player enter the ring, bust out their moves, only one leaves victorious. What’s different about Blazblue is the level of entry that it offers with a unique fast-paced system called the Drive.  In a nutshell, the drive is a special move that separates each of the 17 characters from themselves. For example, Jin has the ability to freeze foes leaving them helpless, Ragna can steal the health, and Tager can pull enemies in using his magnetism. It’s through the Drive that the game’s dynamic combat thrives giving birth to plenty of unique combos and a certain level of flash.

            Beyond the Drive, the combat uses three other types of attack: weak, medium, and strong. By connecting these attacks in unique combinations you can dish out a long series of attacks that do a lot of damage or small sequences that keep it low. It’s all risk and reward as players can risk to pull off an insane combo that obliterates half of the opponent’s health but leaves you vulnerable as soon as they get up. On the other hand if you mix it up and do shorter combos, it leaves unsuspecting opponents much more open. It’s a satisfying psychological game where your strategy matters as much as your actual button inputs.

            Other combat mechanics include a barrier where you can deter chip damage and a Libra system that punishes you for blocking too much. It’s all about being aware of your surroundings since you take double damage when your barrier meter is used up and guarding can be tricky when your opponent is mixing up attacks. In addition there is the Burst system. At the start of the first round, each character has one burst. You have the option to use this burst offensively or defensively. When your opponent isn’t attacking you, using the burst can greatly extend your combo. On the other side of the token, the opponent is sent flying if they’re comboing you. Learning how to use the Bursts can change the tides of battle entirely and while there is a risk of losing if you use it offensively, the benefits are great.

            At the bottom of the screen is a gauge with a number by it. This is your Heat. Each action performed or against you raise your heat and this can be used to perform Distortion Drives, Rapid Cancels, and Astral Heat. Distortion Drives are special attacks that are mostly used as a finisher in the combo and dishes out a ton of damage. Astral Heats are a kill-move that can only be used when certain conditions are met. Lastly, Rapid Cancels allow you to cancel out of your current animation to extend combos. Blazblue offers a variety of systems and mechanics and no single one is left out. Each of them complement others therefore increasing the depth in Blazblue, something that not a lot of fighting games can brag about.

            The barrier to entry is non-existent due to how far you can get just from button mashing and it’s excellent Challenge Mode, teaching various combos of each character. Also, the difficulty of the AI can be changed so if the road ahead is far too harsh, you can always tone it down. However, despite it being easy to pick up and play, the learning curve is extremely steep and mastering a character will take more than a few practice sessions. Unfortunately it’s due to this that the Online Mode suffers. Many of the players will straight up decimate people if not trained and it’s a bit frustrating. It’s not the problem with the game itself but beware of those that hunt weaklings.

            Despite it being a fighting game, Blazblue is packed with content. There are tutorials for how to play the game, challenges to master characters, a score attack mode, a beefed up online mode, and more. While many of these modes are just different ways to fight, it mixes it up quite nicely allowing for varied play and it never gets stale too fast.

            Story is usually shallow and not an important aspect in fighting games but in Blazblue it’s a dedicated mode. The story mode essentially plays like a Japanese visual novel where character portraits are highlighted as they interact with others. In between conversations and dialogues, a fight can break out and you immediately play it out. It sounds all too simple but it’s good that Blazblue keeps the actual mode simple. The lore in Blazblue is filled to the brim and its simplicity makes it worth adventuring through. Each character has their one storyline to complete and act like pieces to a much larger puzzle. As you learn the history of the characters it’s easy to become invested in them. Many of the characters follow the typical anime stereotypes but for what it’s trying to accomplish, it’s a stellar job.

            The audio in Blazblue is amazing. The music varies from orchestral rock to opera rock. It’s all fast paced and really syncs with the fights to keep them going.  Along with the exhilarating soundtrack is the voice work of the characters. It comes in both Japanese and English so fans can change it to whichever track they want. Both do a great job in delivering fight dialogues to conversations in stories. Emotions are conveyed properly and even the squeaky anime girl voices match. If anything that’s at fault it would be the stereotype that Blazblue falls under. Typical anime girls with their annoying attitudes are still present and of course the voice work has to illustrate that.

            The graphics remain the same from the previous Blazblue games using anime sprites. Every character is animated very well and their moves have flair to them. Backgrounds are greatly detailed, sometimes using 3-D modeling, and it’s hard to overlook the presentation with the various symbols that Blazblue employs. It’s all artistic fun for the designers and you’ll get a thrill at looking some of the most outlandish environments and wardrobes.

            Blazblue is excellently crafted and everything it does is extremely well done. The audio is spectacular, the graphics despite being 2-D are greatly detailed, and the gameplay is tight. There’s nothing to complain about Blazblue Continuum Shift Extend unless you’re veterans of the series. There are only a few new changes and fans who hoped for more characters might be disappointed with the addition of only one. Still, if you’re ready to jump back in or if it’s your first time, Blazblue Continuum Shift Extend is a must buy fighter. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Handheld Experience

The more I think about handheld systems the more I realize how they're doomed to extinction. It's sad really because the 3DS and Vita offer experience that are unique and different from smartphone gaming. I have no doubt that things are looking grim for handheld systems and I would agree that there will most likely be no dedicated handheld systems next generation. Why? It's because the general populace see portable gaming as one huge entity rather than separate entities. We have the smartphone gaming experience and the handheld system experience. Gamers can clearly distinguish the difference between the two types. One has physical controls, higher production values, a dedicated audience, and an appeal that is similar to console gaming. The other focuses on dedicated touch controls, a series of short experiences, and a more accessible audience.

When I play the 3DS and the Vita I don't seek the same experience that I do when I play on my iPhone. In fact, these two pieces of technologies are so different I have a hard time accepting that one can possibly disappear. So what is the problem? It's not really so much a problem as it is perspectives. People see games as games rather than games offering unique experiences. Each system gives something different to offer and as a result gives its reason for existing. Unfortunately the masses won't really see it from this perspective. Games are entertaining and that's all it is.

So what do these unique experiences mean. Honestly, they don't mean anything unless the players take some of value out of it. If nothing comes from it then that's that. This is the situation that the 3DS and the Vita in. Players think they're games and that's it. They don't think about how it was different from other types of games and perhaps other types of systems. Is it our responsibility to reflect on it? No. However, as a player that enjoyed these two types of experience... I'm going to miss it, when it eventually goes away.

Friday, February 24, 2012

DLC Series Part Two: The Never-ending Cycle

In the second part of my DLC series I want to discuss something that might be somewhat offensive to people. I would like to start out by saying I mean no ill-will about what I am saying. For consoles, DLC was something that originally started last generation with the Xbox and PlayStation 2. Perhaps the most notable DLC was the Halo 2 map pack. These add-ons added much more replay value to Halo 2 as well as changing up how you play the game. It was a welcome addition and fans really enjoyed. However, with the transition into this generation we began to see a trend, something that we probably should’ve noticed earlier.

DLC this generation is getting to be noticeably more expensive. Not only this but the main game seems to be lacking content. To some this should be familiar. While not all developers do this, and I’m not accusing that any developers do this at all, you can’t help but feel like pieces of the main game are being removed and released later as DLC. This could definitely be possible when you consider that publishers want to monotize everything. DLC is something that enhances the experience, not complete it. DLC should be something that gives more of what the players originally wanted, something to increase the longevity of the game, not detract from it. Of course, beyond this we also have games that release map packs that use maps from older games rather than new ones. There is an optimistic way of looking at all this. Perhaps you’re someone who says, “DLC enhances the experience. It gives me more of what I want. They’re not taking anything out! They’re adding to it!” or maybe “I liked that map the previous game so if they charge me more for an old map, I don’t mind!” 

I would say to all the people that are optimistic or have these kind of values to reevaluate yourself. This is how I look at it right now. I think that DLC and the players that buy them are in a perpetual cycle that will never end and it’ll be impossible to break free from. What am I talking about? Poor DLC or distributing DLC in an unethical manner. We, the players, have no one else to blame except ourselves. The original purpose of DLC is to enhance and increase the experience of the original game. However by repeatedly purchasing DLC we have allowed the developers and publishers to think that we would readily buy any piece of DLC. While this is true it created a twisted form of DLC. Developers and publishers would remove content and make it DLC or create some sloppy DLC that people would buy regardless. 

A prime example of this is Call of Duty and Mass Effect. I won’t go into Mass Effect because I’ll discuss it another time but Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 sold map packs for $15 dollars each. Now previously map packs were $10 dollars and had three maps but the newer packs have five. It sounds like it’s a good deal right? You couldn’t be further from the truth. Two of those maps are from an older game that are just ported over to Modern Warfare 2. Sure you’re paying $15 dollars worth of content but you’re paying $15 dollars of loussy and poorly-executed content. Even so, millions went on to buy this map pack. What have we done? We now have a problem where developers think it’s alright to rehash old material and charge us again for it rather than deliver new content and experiences. What the heck? Who is to blame? Everyone who bought the DLC and everyone who watched as we let the developers and publishers roam free.

Another instance is the DLC unlock code. I discussed it last time so I’ll briefly go over it. We now have developers that think it’s alright to have actual completed content ON THE DISC and have it locked out to us so we have to purchase it as DLC. It wasn’t like this in the beginning. When this practice first popped up, all gamers should’ve gotten up from the couch and slapped the developers. “What were you thinking?” Gears of War 3 has content that is locked up and unless you buy the “DLC” you can’t use it. What kind of crap is this? It’s because we allowed this practice to continue AND people bought the DLC that developers and publishers think it’s alright.

My last example is with Final Fantasy XIII-2. There are costumes that you can buy as DLC, for $4. This doesn’t enhance the experience or anything. All it does is change the physical aesthetics of your character, that’s it! It’s an expensive piece of content that doesn’t even match up for what it offers to the player. Of course people are going to buy this regardless of common sense.

The players are stuck in a perpetual cycle. We want to buy DLC because it can add something more to the game. However, we’re at a point where we can’t go back. DLC is so readily accepted by gamers, uninformed gamers, and the general populace that no matter what we do, there will be an extreme amount of DLC sold. This essentially means that developers are going to keep creating crappy DLC and distribute them unethically. Maybe a few years ago, had we complained and set the developers and publishers straight, we wouldn’t be in this position. Now we’ve come along so far that no matter what we do, we screwed ourselves. If we don’t buy DLC then we miss out on the experience. However, if we do buy DLC then we’re actively saying that DLC is okay. What do we do? As we struggle against the developers and publishers, they push back stronger and of course we do too. It's a never-ending cycle of 2 groups constantly angered over the existence of DLC.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

DLC Series Part One: More like Downloadable Codes...

DLC is one the biggest innovations of the current generation and whether it be for better or worse, it seems like it’ll stay. I love video games and if developers produce downloadable content, or DLC, then I will happily buy them. This will be first part of many that describe DLC and how it affects the industry/what it does. In this part I want to discuss DLC that act more or less like codes rather than large chunks of files that you download from Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network

DLC is basically additional content that extends gameplay and when you download them they tend to be in the hundreds of MB. It’s understandable, a lot of content is in it and of course the files would be large. However, there are some companies that would practice the idea of selling DLC in a rather vile and unethical manner. One of the most common method is content that is on the disc but locked out. Allow me to use an example from Resident Evil 5. The game inside has a multiplayer mode. Everything is on the disc that would allow you to play it but it is locked therefore keeping players from accessing it. A while after the game’s release Capcom, the developer of Resident Evil, put up a DLC called Versus Mode on XBL and PSN. Now, I initially did not know that the Versus Mode was not on the disc as were many other consumers. However, when I had purchased the DLC I remember it being a fairly small file. It wasn’t until a few days later that I had found out that the content was already on disc and what I had purchased was an unlock key that would allow me to access the files on the disc. 

How insulting. While I won’t go into the issue of entitlement right now, I will discuss it another time, it is downright insulting to know that there is content completed on the disc and Capcom had the nerve to sell me something that I already own. Sure, I don’t own the access to it and I can argue on and on about what I am entitled to. The point of this is that I believe this is bad business practice and ethically wrong. Takes this analogy, if you will. I bought a basket of fruits and obviously it has various fruits like apples, oranges, and the like. Now you finish off all your fruits and the pineapple is the last bit. You reach for it but some random force of nature prevents you from eating it until you pay a bit more for it. Didn’t I pay for everything in the fruit basket? Hell yeah. So why can’t I eat the fruit? Well, the store locked out the pineapple and you can’t eat it until you pay for the unlock. This sounds like a ludicrous analogy but it’s the only one on my mind right now. Regardless, the point I’m trying to say is that this is bad business practice. Something that’s done and clearly in my possession is denied by Capcom. They say that “Technically we own the content since you can’t access it. Ha ha!” Absolutely mediocre.

Another instance of this offense is Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. Coincidentally it seems like Capcom is the problem, again. Not surprising considering they did this before so it would seem likely that they would try this again. UMvC3 is a fighter and it’s filled with content and it seems somewhat ironic that Capcom had completed content on the disc, which happened to be new voices for the fighters. Surprise surprise, you can’t access it yet! Once again a while after release Capcom puts these voices on the market for you to buy. Technically though, you’re buying a code to unlock it... Watch the video below this paragraph for more information.

Personally, there is something wrong with the way Capcom has conducted business and I don’t feel inclined to purchase their products when they pull these shenanigans. Of course, this is just how I feel. There are definitely optimistic ways to look at this and I congratulate them. However, I feel like if people buy these types of DLC then Capcom is going to think that they’re not doing anything wrong when they’re ripping off customers. They’ll keep doing it again and again until it becomes common practice. So, what do I want. I don’t want this happening in the future. DLC should be content, not a few MB codes that unlock stuff on the disc.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Emotional Trailers

Video game announcement trailers from the past seemed to focus more on gameplay footage rather than the CG animations that will never ever be in-game. As the industry grows and expands I feel like the latter will be the direction that studios will take when they announce or market a game. In all honesty, nice looking CG trailers are really captivating and make me say, "Oh my gosh, I want that game now!” However, one thing I’ve never really thought about before was how trailers are so moving and it’s usually not the ones that show gameplay but the ones that have a story to tell, a message if you will. It just happens that a lot of them are CG.

Take for example the Dead Island trailer. If you haven’t seen the trailer I highly suggest that you watch it above this paragraph but beware: it’s graphic, powerful, and emotional (unless you don’t have a heart). I won’t spoil it but this short three minute trailer tells a small narrative of a family and in the middle of zombie outbreak. The trailer is very artistic in that the video repeatedly alternates from the ending to the beginning with the trailer eventually concluding at the middle of the event. From the beginning you already know what happens but the repeatedly changes of the future and past of the family as they struggle to deal with the outbreak is emotional. The CG animation only adds to the realism and engrosses the audience. Put in the very somber duet of a piano and a violin for a kicker and you have the making of something that might make you even tear up a little. If the director for this trailer wanted to punch you in the gut or have that slight pinch in your heart then I’d say mission accomplished. Geoff, an employee from Rooster Teeth, had a strong emotional reaction to the trailer to the point where he couldn’t even finish it. The video is also below and check it out. 

What does this say? Trailers aren’t really about the game anymore. Nowhere in the trailer for Dead Island is there a footage of gameplay. In fact, the game is nothing like the trailer. It’s just a simple trailer that shows off the setting of the game. Still this doesn’t mean it’s a bad trailer. In fact, I would say for a trailer it definitely does a good job. It’s emotional and captivating feel draws in the audience and creates intrigue for the game. CG trailers feel more like a snapshot or a mini narrative that a game has to tell. It wants to pack a lot of details, characters, and emotion as it can in a few short minutes. Dead Island delivers that feeling of dread, sorrow, helplessness, and hopelessness that few movie trailers even hope to accomplish.

Another trailer, though no somber, is Meet the Spy Trailer from Team Fortress 2. This trailer trailer probably is one of the more wordy trailers in the industry but that’s because it’s quirky. The trailer is comedic and takes its self serious in the context of the situation but still manages to be easy going. The characters although have no background explanation are easy to understand as their characteristics are shown the moment they enter the screen and the plot of the trailer is easily comprehensible. Though it tends to be gory and sometimes vulgar, the cartoonish animations almost akin to Pixar makes the dire situations not so serious. Add this in with a script that’s cleverly written with short jokes and you have the making of a trailer, or perhaps a short story, that packs a lot of punch. If you’re having a bad day, it’s hard not to feel better after watching. 

If there is any trailer that has emotion more emotion, personally, is the Director’s Cut of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Ignoring the excellent CG animations for a moment, this trailer houses everything that an excellent trailer should have, whether it be a movie or a video game. From the get-go it delivers a strong message of how man can go too far through the falling of Icarus symbolism. The voice acting is gruff and adds personality as it speaks of a world that is gritty and bleak. The gold and black ambience that is resonated through the images as you watch adds to this tone and the choir singing in the background adds in that extra emphasis. Combine all of this and it delivers something powerful. Individually, it doesn’t deliver a strong emotion. However, when you watch the trailer and the short synopsis of the game is told, one that is personal, and the music constantly banging into your ears as it melds extremely well with the script involving action and drama, there’s a lot going for it. It invokes the emotion of the main character and you begin to sympathize with him as he struggles to find his path in the world. 

Now I think I’ve talked enough, and I’m sure that I was lacking a lot of detail for the most part because I didn’t want to spoil anything, but you cannot deny that there is something powerful here. Whether you want to believe it or not, trailers have become sort of art in a way that is very separate from video games. Even so, they are to pique the audience’s interest. The emotional messages that it’s trying to send is only one aspect. Still, if a trailer made me cry, I would want to check it out.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Buy 2 Get 1 Free Vita Game?

Playstation Vita seems to be a hot topic right now mostly because it’s a new gaming hardware, and of course people get excited about gaming hardware all the time. Well, apparently it wasn’t such a hot product considering it only sold a mere 300,000+ units after its initial launch in Japan during Christmas 2011 . You would think that more units would be sold, right? Well, despite this little hurdle, it seems like the Vita might be a bit more welcome with the US release, or maybe not...

What seemed like just one retailer offering an incentive to buy a Vita has spread quickly like wildfire. Before it’s launch, Target had offered consumers a few compelling reason to buy a Vita. You get a $20 gift card with the purchase of a system and you can buy 2 games and get 1 free. It’s a really nice deal and if I had the money, and time, I would totally go out and get one. Sadly, I have neither. Going back to the point though, Target isn’t the only one doing this though. According to a thread from NeoGAF, a large gaming forum, other retailers are also offering some really nice deals. Full Details at the link below. Best Buy is offering trade-in offers, Toys-R-Us are marking down games, and even the Sony Store is giving out a free game for its first 200 costumers. Is this perhaps a sign? 

Let’s compare this to a recent portable system launch, the Nintendo 3DS. This hunk of technology launched at $250 dollars. That’s a lot of money. It had a steady sale but Nintendo didn’t think the base was large enough so it dropped the price to $170. People who bought it at its initial price received free games and it was a nice trade for what it was. Now, there were no incentives offered by retailers or anything of the sort, at least to the Vita’s magnitude. Does this speak something to Vita’s future? Perhaps. I think that the Vita is a very nice piece of technology and to be honest, the launch lineup is pretty good. Still, I believe that the system is doomed to fail and this is only the start of it. I’ve never seen, or at least to my memory, where an initial system launch offered so much goodies. It’s almost as if Sony is desperate to get the Vita out to the people. Maybe this is a marketing trick from Sony so that the install base is huge initially at launch. Still, this is very fishie. 

Heck, even Amazon has joined in offering a screen protector with the purchase of a 3G model of the Vita. You also get to buy 2 games and get 1 free but from a larger selection than Target. Marketing, sales, and pre-orders speak a lot about the future of a product and I think while this aggressive stance that Sony has taken could work to their advantage, I can’t help but feel that perhaps this is a lack of faith that Sony has in their new handheld. 

The Japanese have had the Vita for a while and many gamers and press have imported to test it out. There have been articles floating around gaming websites to Yahoo! about the Vita and while reception has been mostly positive, there have been some common gripes. Things such as a poor UI and the inability to multi-task and some unfriendly controls are something of problems that people faced. Perhaps Sony found out that the populace  now knows a few of the Vita’s flaws and wanted to change their minds about buying the Vita. If I read that my $250 portable system was going to perhaps not work as nice as I’d like it to, it would change my mind. Still, if someone gave me free games and free stuff, I’m more inclined to buy it. 

So, what does this all mean? Honestly, the pre-order incentives and the mass mayhem revolving around the Vita is something that seemed common. However, the magnitude of so many goodies before launch is unprecedented to me and it shocked me a little. Am I going to buy a Vita because of all these things? No. Are the general populace going to buy it? Maybe. The future looks a little uncertain for the Vita and to be honest, the incentives are a bit telling. To me, I read it as a lack of faith from Sony in trying to sell their product without a little handicap. After all, Sony thinks that its new kid needs training wheels to go forward.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Top 10 Games I’m looking forward to in 2012

Top 10 Games I’m looking forward to in 2012

10.) Tales of Graces f

It’s hard not to get excited for a new Tales game when you’re a Tales fan. Even if you’re not, this is one game that I’ve been looking forward to most, not because I want to play it but because I want everyone else to play it. When I first got my hands on it in Korea, I was dying to play it’s amazing battle system. For those that were burned by dumbed down combat in RPGs, play this. I’d be glad to go through this game’s amazing fights again and again, and you should be excited to do the same (though it’ll be for the first time).

9.) The Last Guardian

Sometimes I go to bed wondering if this game will ever see the light of day. With Fumito Ueda’s recent departure from Sony, it’s hard not to think why. It was supposed to have come out last year in Japan but slowly it’s getting put in the back burner. Still, I’m hyped that this game might possibly come out this year. I’m a big sucker for atmosphere, emotion, and mood and I’m sure that this game will not disappoint. 

8.) Prototype 2

Boy, how time flies. It’s been years since I played the first Prototype and despite its flaws, it was extremely fun to play through. The visceral combat, the insane travel mechanics, and the crazy amount of mayhem only drew me in more. If this game is the exact same thing as Prototype but with a few minor changes, I’m fine with that. However, the fact that this game is shaping up to be something more and exciting has blood boiling. It’s time to cause some chaos.

7.) Xenoblade Chronicles

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Nearly a decade ago people were praising JRPGs for delivering stellar experiences but now it has nothing become a second rate game. The US finally gets a chance to play this gamechanger that critics have praised and I am excited. I don’t know much about Xenoblade, other than listening to its stellar soundtrack, and this has me even more eager to pop it into a Wii. I haven’t had a JRPG experience deliver on all fronts but with the amount of hype that’s built around Xenoblade, I’m sure I won’t be disappointed. 

6.) Resident Evil 6

I have no doubt that this game will be delayed and will probably end up coming out next year. Even so, by some chance that this doesn’t get delayed I want to put my greedy little fingers on the next installment of the Resident Evil franchise. What has me excited is that RE5 left the main antagonist dead, permanently. What has happened to the world since then? How is RE6’s shooting different from RE5? Is Jill in the game? I want all of these questions answered and that’s why this game is number 6 on my list, as it rightly deserves.

5.) Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm

I thought this game would end up being higher on my list because I’m Korean. Although Blizzard has already announced that only two games from them will be releasing in 2012 I want to believe that HotS will come out this year instead of Pandaria and Diablo 3. WoL was an amazing game and I love playing it as much as I love watching the Pro gamers go at it. The community for Starcraft II has be unprecedented and the movement for E-Sports has grown substantially. I’m sure that with the release of HotS we’ll see bigger things to come in both the community and in the franchise. Plus, I main Zerg and I want more units for them!

4.) Assassin’s Creed III

Brotherhood was good and Revelations was okay but I think everyone knows that it’s about time Ubisoft release a proper sequel to the Assassin’s Creed franchise. The company’s already announced that Assassin’s Creed III will be coming out in October but beyond that, not much is known. With each installment more questions pop up than answers necessary to understand the story and Revelations ending propelled the series into even more confusing territory. What are these civilizations? Who is Desmond? What is the meaning of the world that is coming to an end? So many questions that I can’t even list them all. However, beyond that how is III going to be different from Revelations in terms of gameplay. The series is stagnating and I’m feeling a bit of fatigue. Will III be the transition from I and II? I can hardly wait.

3.) The Witcher 2

So there’s this rumor going around that The Witcher 2 should’ve won best RPG last year and it’s coming out for the Xbox 360 early this year. I’m not sure if both are fact but I’m pretty sure the latter is. The Witcher 2 was overlooked by a lot of people and it was pirated a lot. I couldn’t even play it even if I wanted to because my computer can’t run it but now I have the opportunity to play it. I really want to hear what all the buzz is about and I love me some RPGs so it’s about high time I kick it and keel over for this game!

2.) Bioshock Infinite

So remember earlier how I said I’m a sucker for atmosphere. Well, you can probably assume that Bioshock Infinite was going to be somewhere on this list then. The first Bioshock was amazing and truly gripped me with its audio logs, philosophies, and amazing characters. Ken Levine is back and I know this is going to be a masterpiece. Sure it’s not set under the ocean but that doesn’t matter. Being able to change time and space with Elizabeth, traveling across town using hooks, and graphics more artistic than ever. Talk about video game artwork of the year! There’s no way that I can’t be excited for this. What game is going to top this? 

1.) Guild Wars 2

I’ve been waiting for this game since high school. I remember I was one of the first few people to play Guild Wars and convinced all of my friends to buy it and play with me. We struggled through the Prophecies, Factions, Nightfall, and Eye of the North campaigns. However, when we heard that Arenanet were pursuing a true sequel I couldn’t have been any more psyched, as were my friends. Time passed by and no information came out. Still even entering college we dreamed of how Guild Wars 2 would consume our lives. That day is finally here and I am so excited that it’s coming out this year. Nostalgia shot this game up to #1 but it’s what it does that makes it own this spot. Guild Wars 2 has dynamic quest systems, amazing PvP, awesome character customization, artistic design, great music, phenomenal gameplay, personalized story, and the lack of tank/dps/healers. This game has so much going for it that I can go on and on and on. If you’re not a fan of an MMO then you need to get this game because it will change your mind. The fact that this game could possibly be a genre changer and possibly reinvent the stagnating MMO market has shivering from excitement. It’s time to go back to Tyria!