Whether I think they are good or bad, these are some songs that could use the Saints Row treatment, or something similar anyway. Volition has a knack for putting the right licensed music to the right moment. My favorite parts of both Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row IV wouldn't be the same without the tracks that accompany them. This list probably isn’t complete, and I keep thinking of more to add all the time (hence the “ish” in the title). Some are obvious, some maybe less so.
They should bring back I Need a Hero by Bonnie Tyler at some point. It is too perfect. The football music too, I always welcome football music used for anything but football (this Fox Sports theme would be great). Part of me also hopes they find a way to put Safety Danceto use, which is already in IV, but not for any key moment.
And no, this post isn’t over yet, the most important song for inclusion is, drum roll please…
It’s not that I see a particular way to integrate this song into Saints Row, or that I think this better than the rest of the songs; it’s that I like making fun of Creed, and I like when other people or things make fun of Creed. I also always thought the chorus was "'CAUSE I'M A MONKEY, I'M A MONKEY." And no, that isn't the chorus to With Arms Wide Open, but the jokes on you, I know you listen to Creed.
Yeah, so this is it for this list for now... I'm really bad at good byes... Um, yeah share your own possibly better picks or thoughts or something.
Hey everyone, the clock has reached midnight and it's Tuesday... This is for me, because I am a selfish asshole who needs to find peace through writing...
I probably should have let the tears flow. I didn't, for whatever reason. I fought them, not letting a stupid single one pop out of my eyeballs, and now I'm struggling again. I've never met Ryan; he's never met me. We don't "know" each other. Why should I care so much about him? I've thought a lot about that question with that in mind. Why am I so affected his tragic and sudden passing?
I know why. Because I did "know" him. Years upon years of watching quick looks and listening to Bombcasts, watching On the Spot, reading and watching reviews I came to know Ryan and the rest of the people making giantbomb tick. I've spent the better half of today doing exactly that, watching old quick looks and laughing my ass off at Ryan with his infectious laugh. It's a real testament to his personality that he still makes me forget that something really bad has gone down, and it's been touching to see all of the love this man has received in his passing. He deserves every bit of it. He's brought a lot of joy into many, many lives.
I also do know the people of this site, even if they don't know me. They've made the internet another home for me. These people are the reason I'm interested in writing about and discussing video games. They have helped me discover my passion for the medium. As weird as it is, I'd always loved the idea of working with them, and it feels real bad to know I'll never have the chance to work with Ryan. We share a first name, and I've always found that to be neat for whatever reason. Ryan is a common name; it shouldn't mean shit, but for some reason it always did to me.
I offer my heart and sincerest condolences to those most affected by his passing, his wife and family, the giantbomb crew, and everyone else who loved Ryan. He didn't make it hard to do so and I can't imagine what you're going through.
Ryan was the best kind of asshole, so fuck Ryan Davis. Fuck that rad and bad motherfucker who left us all far too soon. I regret that I was never able to meet him. I know I would have been in for a treat. It's really hard to know just how much someone even as off as they distance they might be can mean to you. Ryan Fucking Davis will be missed, but he can and should Rest in however he damn well pleases.
Thank you Ryan Davis
*This has been tagged with Fuck Quest 2: Romancing the Bone because I typed "fuck" and didn't know that was a thing and its stupidly dumb*
Let's get this out of the way. Sony has pretty much won the next console war already. The announcement of no used game restrictions was Sony stabbing Microsoft. The no DRM announcement was Sony twisting the knife. When the price was announced Sony finished Microsoft, cutting their throat.
Or so it would seem.
People are sometimes smarter than we give them credit for, but they are also sometimes dumber. That isn't to say all future Xbox One consumers are dumb. However, a good chunk of those consumers could be.
$499 vs. $399 seems like a no brainer, right? But what about the people who want to have the top tier machine? Microsoft's machine is more expensive, therefore it's better or more powerful. The Xbox One is the weaker machine, even if it's not by much, but the price seems to suggest it's the stronger one, and more ignorant consumers might make that leap, thinking they might as well invest in that extra $100.
A lot of people still associate Call of Duty with Xbox. It was better on Xbox 360, so it'll be better on Xbox One too, right? Microsoft still has the timed exclusive map packs and has even elevated Battlefield map packs to that status. The only place to get Titanfall on console is Xbox. Halo is still a big deal. The Xbox One is still looking like the Multiplayer First Person Shooter machine. Sony could do even more damage to Microsoft by really marketing the PS4 versions of Call of Duty and Battlefield. Killzone looks solid, and Destiny is a good pickup to help negate some of Microsoft's advantages here, but Microsoft is still way ahead.
We all know there are the diehards for every system. They will continue to exist even if their numbers dwindle. Some people have only had Xboxes, and won't feel comfortable jumping to Playstation. It's as simple as that. We live in a world where people buy every iteration of the iPhone every year, because, because. Given all these points, the Xbox One might not be dead on arrival after all.
The Xbox One is very much a console caught between two worlds. The Playstation 4 is great right now, but as gamers move towards the digital future in the coming years will Sony's console keep up? No doubt Sony will have the games going forward. They have the household names like Naughty Dog holding down the fort. Microsoft on the other hand finally seems to be making strides to win back gamers with exclusives beyond Halo and Gears of War. Will it last? Who knows? Because Xbox One ships with a Kinect, developers will be able to better capitalize on its capabilities. Somehow, some way tens of millions of people have purchased Kinects. That could be important as the we get deeper into the next generation. The Xbox One will have a wider feature set as an entertainment system than PS4 no matter how you look at it. Twitch support is beyond huge. I don't know about you, but all I see on my Xbox friends list is people using Netflix and other apps. The possibilities have only grown with the Kinect for what can be done with those apps. There is a wealth of potential for Xbox One and if apps remain as important as they are now, and even becoming more important, Microsoft could gain a huge advantage. What Microsoft's doing with the internet could payoff in the long run too if Sony doesn't end up offering similarly robust cloud features. And as intimidating as no used games and DRM sounds. Steam does all of that, yet it is the premier service on which to play games on PC. Microsoft could follow Valve's example and offer huge sales, and cheaper games to make up for the less appealing policies they are looking to have in place.
Kicked in the Ass
Microsoft needed what they got. Microsoft got penisy, and it looks like they're going to be paying for it. Sony's press conference could be just what Microsoft needed to treat its consumers like people over profit. People aren't buying what Microsoft has to say about anything if the looking around on the internets is anything go by. The venom towards Microsoft existed before any of this was known, and Microsoft probably couldn't have won even if from the start, they said there will be no DRM, no used game restrictions, no always online, you don't need to hook in your Kinect. People would still be trashing Microsoft, and Microsoft has only justified that venom. All of the policies we hate that Microsoft is doing can be undone. Will they undo them? Probably not, but through firmware or just a revamp of how the system works online or offline could change a lot about how we perceive the Xbox One and is still in the realm of possibility. Microsoft will be forced to keep up the first party support and get the exclusives to get gamers to see why they have to buy a Xbox One. They're going to have to win back indie developers. They're going to have to re-earn the faith and trust of the consumer, because as it stands right now the Xbox One looks pretty shitty when you look at it next to a PS4, but that could be just the thing for Microsoft to turn things around. Will they work with ISPs and offer subsidized consoles? Will they offer free games similar to Playstation Plus? Will they offer free Gold subscriptions? Microsoft still has options and Sony has all but forced them to make use of them.
There isn't really a clear advantage for either console going either way. The exclusive lineups for both seem pretty weak and expected at the moment, so it's really anyone's game at this point. Indie games aren't as big of an advantage, you'll probably be able to get every console indie game on PC at some point down the road. In the Sony conference they threw around the term "console debut" and showed off a bunch of games that are already available on PC. Microsoft has also proved that they allow developers to release their games on PC too, with such games like Mark of the Ninja. While the indie front is important to some extent, PC dominates it. What's really important is the games that will only be on their respective consoles, the games we literally won't be able to get anywhere else.
Right now, PS4 seems like the only way to go for consoles. I'm with you, but there is still something to the Xbox One, even if its future looks bleak right now.
When we look back to this generation from the next From Software's Demon's Souls and Dark Souls will be two of the revolutionary games we put on a pedestal. Their online innovations, their return to the punishing days of yore, their atmosphere, their refined and precise gameplay. Those things, and that in a time when the "games as art" is being pushed harder and harder, and story is becoming more and more important, they reminded us that it doesn't have to be.
Demon's Souls managed to get gamers' and critics' attention alike, but it wasn't always as positive. Dark Souls got more people's attention, and while it wasn't always positive, the positive stuff seemed to be a lot louder compared to Demon's Souls. Both games sold well and found their audiences, albeit Dark Souls sold better and reached a larger audiences. Why though, does Dark Souls seem to be so much more loved than Demon's Souls? What does it do better?
This debate won't be unlike a Super Castlevania IV vs. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night dispute, which is fitting, because the Souls series isn't unlike how I envision what a 3D Castlevania should be. Dark Souls features the Metroidvania style of Symphony of the Night with its open world, while Demon's Souls features more linearity akin to the original Castlevania and a Mega Man-like hub world. Both styles have their advantages and disadvantages. It would seem the interconnected world of Dark Souls is preferred. It's odd to me that in a time when time is of the essence to everyone, that the slower open world treks from one end to the other are the preferred route. Of course the type of gamers that are going to enjoy the Souls games are sure to have time on their hands. Still, in order to decide to pursue a different angle on advancing through Dark Souls or even just to find a shop owner, I have to go back the way I came, and fight through the hordes of baddies I had just struggled to make it past. Dark Souls does do a good job with the shortcuts, but even so, these journeys can be treacherous and time consuming.
In Demon's Souls I merely have to hit an archstone at the beginning of each area to be brought to the nexus, where I can buy, sell and store items, level up, as well as pick a level to tackle next. It's convenient and fast. Load times may break the immersion and it also loses the popular metroidvania gameplay element. However, I believe Demon's Souls to offer the best of both worlds. It has the linearity of Super Castlevania IV, but each level once completed in a world is connected to the other until the end of that world. There are also several secret areas and world tendency events that beg you to return to those worlds even after their completion, giving Demon's Souls that reason to go back motif that defines a lot of metroidvania.
Demon's Souls and Dark Souls' level and world design feel very well thought out. Both have thoughtful shortcuts, hidden paths, and nooks for loot as well as nooks for hiding. There is an atmosphere in the air of these games, and everything comes together to make it so. The artistic direction is quite similar in both games, but it's easy to see why Dark Souls has its name and Demon's Souls has its name. Dark Souls is more often than not, really dark. The color palette is darker, the places you go are darker, and even the brightest of areas are often dark. Demon's Souls is deceptively bright in some areas. It has plenty of its own dark spots, but the brighter areas bring hope, however false it may be. For third person games the everything works to immerse the players into their experiences. The haunting and epic music, the ambient noises, and disturbing sounds of a blade cutting through flesh, bone and armor all just ramp up the immersion. Suffice it to say that both games feature great, distinct and often disgusting senses of style and atmosphere, but as you may have guessed I like Demon's Souls' warped senses a bit more.
Boss battles are another big part of the Souls games. Those classic fights you remember against Bowser, Metal Man, Dracula, they don't readily exist in modern games much anymore. The Souls games do their best to change that and reinvigorate the ideas of boss battles. In Demon's Souls every boss plays quite differently. The tutorial boss welcomes you to the game with a giant ax in what is a supposed to lose fight, that can be won, and I won't spoil the surprise of that. The first major boss is features dozens of enemies grouped tightly together. Minibosses litter levels, such as dragons and black phantoms. The several towering bosses each have their own weaknesses and strengths. One boss uses its hearing to find you since it is blind, and another comes at you relentlessly often with area of effect attacks. There is a boss that will be fought over and over until a certain deed is done in the level preceding it, so it can truly be defeated. Some bosses fly around, one regenerates health, another can cause you to lose a level, and there is even one boss battle that you can even be for somebody else. Demon's Souls bosses set a new standard for what can be expected and done with boss battles. A lot of games may have a handful of great, memorable bosses, but for Demon's Souls to make each and every one just as memorable as the next, is quite the achievement.
Dark Souls boss battles often approach the brilliance of Demon's Souls' boss battles, but also come up short. While it's probably cool to a lot of people, I find that encountering bosses as common enemies later in the game to be discrediting to that boss battle, and in Dark Souls there are several boss battles like this. Many of these boss fights were great too. However when you took away the confined spaces of boss arenas, many of these "bosses" were revealed to be not much different from any other standard enemy. Some bosses can be pretty thrilling, the bosses in the abyss, an invisible boss, and a twin boss fight that becomes harder when one of the bosses goes down. And just when you think the boss front is looking up, you fight the same boss for a third time, and its just reskinned. Boss battles in Dark Souls are still leagues ahead of just about any other game this generation, but it's hard to compare them to Demon's Souls' fights and not feel a little underwhelmed.
The online features of both games are outstanding precedents for gaming. The seamless online integration in what is an otherwise singleplayer experience make the Souls games stand out. Demon's Souls started it with messages that can be read for hints and tips, or laid anywhere to guide or mislead players in alternate worlds. Other players show up in your world as white apparitions, showing that someone is in the same boat as you. Bloodstains litter the ground like the messages, and serve a similar purpose, recapping the last moments of someone in another world, which you could see as a warning or perhaps as a symbol of your triumph over an area where others have failed. Then of course there are the black, blue and red eye stones. When in soul form a player can lay any of these stones to enter another world as a phantom. The blue eye stone is the most commonly used. When in human form, you have the ability to see blue eye stones, and when activated the stone drags the person that laid it in their world to your world, so that you can work together to conquer an area, a cooperative element. When the black eye stone is laid the stone searches for a world to invade. Invading a world initiates the games PvP element, and it lends itself to many great duels, or if the person invaded had already summoned some blue phantoms, the black phantom may have drawn the short straw. The red eye stone operates as cross between the other two stones. Like the blue stone, it shows up in other peoples' worlds and must be activated by them, however the terms of the summoning are for PvP like the black stone. The idea that all of these "game modes" and gameplay elements are seamlessly integrated into the singleplayer game is a striking proposition, and Dark Souls took it further conceptually, but stumbled along the way.
Dark Souls' online features the same bloodstains, white apparitions, and messages. The message system however, took a step backwards. In Demon's Souls with a few presses of a button you could lay and recommend messages. In Dark Souls you need to cycle through your inventory and actually use an item to lay and recommend messages. It's a hassle, and it has lead to less activity on the message front of the online element in Dark Souls. The invasions and cooperative play are still present and work better because of the limited number of healing players can do, which also lends itself to less tedious item management, on the fly at least. The new faction system, really adds some depth to the whole online scheme of things. It provides additional stake and makes things more interesting. However, it's a very complex and convoluted system that requires a wiki (or some serious in game research) to fully understand it.
The magic systems are slightly different, and for multiplayer purposes Dark Souls is better, though there is something about having a blue mana bar I like. Dark Souls also ditches the grass healing system in favor of a better for multiplayer alternative, a limited number of heals flask system, but for singleplayer purposes I go for Demon's Souls and grinding for all the healing items I can carry should I so choose. Dark Souls also ditches item burden, which in Demon's Souls limited the weight of items you could carry. In Dark Souls you can carry everything you want. It certainly makes up for the tedium that is the bottomless box that Dark Souls has, but again, for singleplayer purposes I like having to decide what loot I'm to bring to where.
Perhaps the biggest thing that can be said in favor of Demon's Souls is that someone tells me I have a heart of gold all the time, that and he stores and keeps all your stuff organized neatly.
I'm not sure how most people feel about the Souls games, but from what I've observed in my time on the internets, it would appear that Dark Souls is the better of the two. I offered my perspective on them both, and I prefer Demon's Souls. Either way, both are outstanding examples of game design, and if you consider yourself a gamer and haven't given either a shot, you should strongly consider doing so.
The timing of this post is not inconsequential. The Demon's Souls servers have managed to stay afloat for longer than anyone expected, but it would appear that all good things must come to an end. May 31st marks that end. It's time to send a game that redefined my expectations of what games can be off in style. Demon's Souls' online will be missed, but not forgotten. For now though, I embark on my last Demon's Souls online quest, to get that monk hat.
As you might have guessed from the crossed out paragraph above, I wrote this in response to the Demon's Souls servers shutting down. The day after I wrote this however, the servers were said to be staying up. A lot has happened since then too. The PC rallied and got its version of Dark Souls with new content that today comes to consoles, and I've been assured that a new patch makes the online a much better experience. So while I never got to explore the realm of the giants in Boletaria, I will get to explore more of Lordran. And for now, I think that is enough.
From Software, a friend has something to say to you. His name is Stockpile Thomas. "You have a heart of gold. Don't let them take it from you."
I think you're probably in one of two camps, and I think I have an idea of what you're thinking. Well, three camps with the camp, "I have no idea what you're talking about," but let's just ignore that camp's existence.
There is camp "I've played Bioshock or I know about Bioshock being awesome or whatever." Those of you in this camp might recall that Bioshock is a spiritual successor to System Shock 2, but you haven't played it because its old and gross. Well, you wouldn't be wrong, because it is old, and parts of it are gross, but that doesn't mean it's not worth your time. Yes, the game is ugly by today's standards, but that doesn't stop you from playing Ocarina of Time for the bazillionth time does it? Also while you may have thought I was referring to the graphics as gross, that was only partially what I was referring to. System Shock 2 is a horrifying game to this day, more horrifying than almost anything that has come after it. If nothing else, play it for its villain, but more on that later. Obvious sales pitch aside, you're probably thinking, "do I really need to read about how awesome System Shock 2 is again? I thought this was great unsung games, and I've heard enough good things for to be a sung game..."
And there's camp "I've played Bioshock and System Shock 2." Good on you for playing System Shock 2. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I get the feeling you're thinking, "do I really need to read about how awesome System Shock 2 is again? I thought this was great unsung games, and I've heard enough good things for to be a sung game..."
Well that's all well and good, because we're not talking about System Shock 2. We're talking about System Shock... ONE! (mostly)
It's amazing really, two cult hits, one franchise, games that grew to inspire one of the biggest names in gaming today, Bioshock. It's amazing, because no one seems to even acknowledge that the first System Shock even exists, like the series that started and ended with one game that had a "2" after its title because it was cool and edgy. I see it all the time on the top 100 greatest games lists, System Shock 2 and Bioshock generally make appearances (deservedly so), but the original System Shock is almost always absent. Even Ken Levine (the mastermind of System Shock 2 and Bioshock) regularly cites the first System Shock game as one of his top 5 favorite games of all time, like he too has noticed that nobody even remembers that the game exists.
It being forgotten might have something to do with so few people having played it, the lack of multiplayer or maybe the rights currently being in limbo has something to do with it. Maybe it was just too ahead of its time to be remembered in 1994 when id Software ruled the first person shooter market, and mindless (still awesome) romps like Doom II were all the rage.
System Shock was the first smart first person shooter. Some people don't like calling it a FPS, but rather a RPG. By today's standards it's probably more shooter than RPG, and it's certainly more shooter than System Shock 2. However, it should be noted that it was among the first games to blend multiple genres together seamlessly. I suppose in 1994 it might have also been considered horror in the same way Doom or Quake was, but probably to a little bit larger extent because of its antagonist. As if that weren't enough, the game has level/world design similar to that of Metroid. So, what does that make this game, a FPS/RPG Horror Action Adventure game? It probably doesn't matter how its classified, just that these things are noted.
You play as the H-h-h-h-hacker, a pathetic creature of meat and bone. After you were caught hacking into a corporate network, you unleash S.H.O.D.A.N. the A.I. of Citadel Station for you're freedom and an implant. You wake up six months after recovering from your implant surgery on Citadel Station to see that it is corrupt and under, the now rogue, S.H.O.D.A.N.'s control, and you must escape.
Already there is more story to System Shock than Doom. The rest of the story unfolds in what should be familiar to you should you have played System Shock 2 or Bioshock. You can find log discs and you receive e-mails and transmissions. Log discs function in the same way that audio diaries from Bioshock do. They aren't key to advancing the story, but they provide interesting insights as to what has happened and what is going on to Citadel Station and can be found throughout the game. Transmissions operate in the same way the radio does in Bioshock. S.H.O.D.A.N. or other characters will contact you similarly to the way Andrew Ryan or Atlas from Bioshock would radio you.
When the game was first released on floppy discs, there was no voice acting, but for the CD version released a few months later voice acting was added. Some of the people behind the game believe that releasing the floppy version was a mistake and part of the reason it wasn't that successful.
The core FPS gameplay is similar to that of Doom, but with additional features like leaning, crouching, and crawling. You can also look, up and down as well as left and right which wasn't a feature id implemented in their games until Quake. You might think that these features might make the game a little more playable today as opposed to Doom, but one look at the HUD will tell you different. It's certainly playable, but there is so much going on with that HUD that it's not that accessible these days, which is probably another reason it is ignored.
Most unlike Doom however, there is an inventory, and more weapon options than anyone could have needed in 1994. There are land mines, and several kinds of grenades and bombs. There are a couple of melee weapons, one being a laser rapier. Then there are several different kinds of guns all with different kinds of ammo. As if that weren't enough there are drugs you can take, for increased strength, better sight, other things, or just the standard health pack. There is so much stuff that it's hard to keep track of it all, but if you ever wanted to use an absurdly high rate of fire flechette loaded with splinter rounds while hopped up on the reflex drug that slows down time, System Shock can make that happen.
What's also quite different from its other first person shooter contemporaries is the level design. You're not just racing from entrance to exit slaying baddies along the way. You're exploring a space station with multiple floors that can be accessed by various elevators. In a way similar to Metroid you'll find things that will grant you access to new areas on floors you've already visited. The levels aren't themselves aren't as well designed as something like Super Metroid, and it can be easy to get lost, but there is a map that helps. This style of level design meant no checkpoints beyond going to different floors, but there was a remedy for that too. Within each level a medical station could be turned on, and when you died you were reconstructed there. It's the same idea as the Bioshock Vita-Chambers. Death meant game over until they were activated and they weren't always easy to find, so the game is challenging. However, once you find those stations, most of the game becomes trivial.
There are also cyberspace sections that make use of your hacker background. These sections have you traveling through a vector style grid space with a look reminiscent of older games like BattleZone. It plays sort of like a more confined Wing Commander, where you collect things and destroy various objects to complete side objectives or gain new access to areas on the station.
Speaking of objectives, there are some more meaningful than the standard finding the exits and slaying cyberdemons. Most of them aren't important to advancement, such as destroying cameras diminishes S.H.O.D.A.N.'s presence. Others like destroying mainframes are more important. In one case I had to turn on a switch, but I forgot to do something before turning on that switch. What might be one of the most brilliant things to ever happen in video games ensued.
I got a game over screen, but that wasn't it. I destroyed Earth. Because of my haste and negligence billions of people died, and throughout this happening, the rogue A.I. I was trying to stop from doing the same thing, S.H.O.D.A.N., taunted me.
Despite all of these things, the most memorable aspect of System Shock isn't that it was arguably the most groundbreaking first person shooter of all time. It's its antagonist, the rogue A.I. S.H.O.D.A.N. Her distorted tones and voice induces chills of the body. She belittles you at every turn. She is out to destroy her creators after being unleashed. She manipulates everything and everyone she can, turning humans into cyber warriors for her bidding. She wants nothing more than to be a God, not only a creator, but a ruler and destroyer. It's because of her, that the game I want most is System Shock 3, and it's a shame, because some insurance company owns the rights and isn't selling them at a reasonable price. Who knows, maybe something better is in pipeline, or maybe my dreams will come true.
"In my talons, I shape clay, crafting life forms as I please. If I wish, I can smash it all. Around me is a burgeoning empire of steel. From my throne room, lines of power careen into the skies of Earth. My whims will become lightning bolts that raze the mounds of humanity. Out of the chaos, they will run and whimper, praying for me to end their tedious anarchy. I am drunk with this vision. God: the title suits me well."
Over the past week, big things have happened in the industry, and if anything is to be learned from it, it is that we should never say never.
First, it was learned that Tim Schafer of Double Fine Studios had pitched a sequel to the cult-hit platformer Psychonauts to several publishers, but none would take him up on it.
Regarding a Psychonauts sequel, Tim Schafer said, "I'd love to do that game, but I'd have to convince someone to just give me a few million dollars, that's all."
A short while after the Digital Spy article circulated, Markus "Notch" Persson of Mojang shot Tim Schafer a tweet, saying "Let's make Psychonauts 2 happen." Notch later added ... "I'm serious"
What does this prove? Besides Notch being awesome, it shows that just because the big publishers say that our deepest desires aren't Tim Schafer giving us Psychonauts 2, doesn't mean that no one is going to be willing to make it happen. It also very well may have led to the next big thing of the week.
Tim Schafer wants to return to his roots and make a new game in the genre that put him on the map; the adventure genre. Tim Schafer cut his teeth working for LucasArts making adventure games like The Secret of Monkey Island series and Maniac Mansion 2: Day of the Tentacle. His last major adventure game strayed a bit from the standard point-click format in the form of Grim Fandango, a game considered by many to be a swan song of the genre. The problem then comes from the genre generally being considered to be dead. Publishers wouldn't take the risk on a Tim Schafer game busting, especially in a dead genre, which really, given his track record isn't surprising.
However, Tim Schafer came up with a plan. This plan might have been inspired by Notch's actions; it might not have, but it looks more likely that it was. Tim Schafer decided to do a kickstarter for his new adventure game. Basically this means the new adventure game will be public funded by anyone willing to contribute. Double Fine initially asked for $400,000 and hoped to acquire that over the course of 33 days. In the first 24 hours, the kickstarter raised over 1 million.
This is huge, and means a lot for the industry. First it means we're getting a new adventure game from Tim Schafer, YAY! Will it point-click like Monkey Island, or will it be 3D like Grim Fandango? Does it matter? We're getting a new adventure game from Tim Schafer! Secondly, it means people are more willing to give up money than publishers realize. Piracy is a big issue in the gaming world, and it is almost assumed everyone does it. When something like this happens, it shows that people are willing to pay for what they want, and even pay top dollar to get it. Tim and Company have opened the door for a whole world of possibilities, one being we can fund the games we want and bring back genres that have many have thought to be long dead. It's also dangerous for the middle man, the publishers. Publishers probably aren't going to be completely cut out in the foreseeable future, but things like this could change the way they do business. They just might take the backseat role they're supposed to.
Chris Avellone of Obsidian likes the idea of player-supported funding and said, "The idea of player-supported funding is… well, it’s proof certain genres aren’t dead and sequels may have more legs than they seem. And the idea of not having to argue that with a publisher is appealing." Avellone also added, "Out of curiosity, if Obsidian did Kickstart a project, what would you want to see funded?"
It's amazing to think of the possibilities that could come from what happened last week. I think Avellone said it perfectly. Genres aren't dead, and there's always a chance for a sequel.
The first thing that comes to mind is what's basically happened now. We're reviving "dead" genres and games that didn't receive the sequel treatment they deserved. It's strange to think that WE, the gamers are doing this, but it's the truth. So what genres could be revived? With Double Fine bring back adventure games, and Obsidian looking into bringing back the isometric WRPG, I'd say the possibilities are pretty open. Space sims is a genre that comes to mind. Maybe we could propel sequels to Freespace or TIE Fighter forward, or more sandbox style games like Freelancer, and if not maybe spiritual successors to these games. Maybe genres that are considered to be in decline like JRPGs could be saved before ever reaching the point of declared death.
What if instead of looking to get sequels, we look to get rights of games out of hands that aren't going to use them? Star Insurance owns half of the System Shock rights, and EA owns the other half. What if we raised enough money to bring the rights together again, not necessarily to get a sequel made, but at least to allow for rereleases of the System Shock 1 and 2 on something like GOG.
What if we looked at localization? Xenoblade coming over to America was a victory in and of itself, but more could be done. We could show Nintendo that we truly do want localized versions of their games, without them feeling like they have to gamble. Do you want localized versions of Mother/Earthbound, The Last Story, and the Fire Emblem and Shining Force games that never made it stateside to make it stateside? Maybe we could make it happen.
What if we looked at server funding? We could keep games like Demon's Souls' servers running for longer, and we could even bring back long-dead servers for games like Chromehounds (something my friend would no doubt lose his shit over).
It's not easy to figure out how exactly to go about kickstarting these kickstarter ideas, but there is a whole range of possibilities. I probably can't even think of them all. Are there any of these games or genres you think deserve another chance?
"If there's one thing I've learned it's this; nobody knows what's gonna happen at the end of the line, so you might as well enjoy the trip" - Manny Calavera
I'm glad you asked me that question. You didn't? Well, I think it's only fair that we, and by that I mean I, discuss it.
Obviously, they are hard at work on Defense of the Ancients 2 (DotA 2), a sequel to the popular WarCraft III mod. Now, you're probably wondering what the hell WarCraft III is. Well, believe it or not, there were games in the WarCraft series before World of WarCraft. And they were big scary strategy games, not RPGs. Damned good ones too, generally considered some of the greatest the genre has to offer. Defense of the Ancients 1 first released sometime in 2003, and quickly gained recognition and popularity. It's popularity as a mod may have even surpassed that of Half-Life mod Counter-Strike. It is indeed what they're working on this moment, and is still currently scheduled for release this year. That's great and all, but Valve's got to be working on something else, right?
Now I'm sure some of you have noticed Valve's been having some trouble with the number 3. They got their Half-Life 1 and 2, Portal 1 and 2, Left 4 Dead 1 and 2, and this DotA 2, but no games with a 3 stuck at the end. Half-Life 2 even got sequels that were still titled Half-Life 2: Episode 1 and 2, and it was a planned trilogy, but we all see how that worked out. If you look to the image below, you can see most of the games Valve has ever released. It's almost a conspiracy. What are they trying to do, clean the slate so every game they've ever released is at 2, and then proceed? If that's the case we're in for a long wait, because I get the feeling the Source games don't really count as "2" games. But do I think they are working on Counter-Strike 2, Day of Defeat 2, Alien Swarm 2 and Garry's mod 2? Nope. I don't. I think Valve is up to something a little more sly. Honestly, this is probably more wishful thinking than anything, but wild speculation never hurt anybody, right? So while I like the proposition of them being hard at work on Half-Life 2: Episode 3 or Half-Life 3, I don't think that is what's up.
"I can guarantee you people are going to be surprised at stuff we do," Newell said. "That isn't going to stop anytime soon. I'm just laughing because…people will be shocked again."
I like that word choice Gabe, I like it a lot. I grabbed that from a Gabe Newell interview with PC Gamer. There are also "three" big surprises are in store for us between now and September, so yeah, I figured I'd get my piece in while I still could. I imagine two of the surprises have already come and gone, because this interview took place last September. Of course Valve does have a problem with 3, so maybe they lied about the third surprise.
I should note that on June 15 of this year, there seemed to be a some news of Half-Life 3 being official, but alas here we are with nothing to show for it.
And, back to speculating. I present to one of the newer members of the Valve team, Doug Church.
Now, let's see what games' he's made, and why I bring him up. He played a big role in the development of Deus Ex, one of the most celebrated PC games of all time. However, we're receiving Human Revolution later this year, and Square Enix owns the property, so no it isn't Deus Ex. Another big game here, Thief: The Dark Project, but again Square Enix owns that property, and Eidos Montreal is to shift to developing Thief 4 after Deus Ex: Human Revolution's release. It is interesting though that neither game has a 3 in the title, but I digress.
Let's take a look at a couple of other games quick. Ultima Underworld 1 and 2. Doubtful, since Ultima seems to have been completed and buried by EA. What's more is with that adding insult to injury "Origin" launching, EA and Valve seem to be parting ways.
Ooo!!! Ooo!!! I think I found the one!
That's okay I think I have another picture that you still probably won't recognize.
"That isn't going to stop anytime soon. I'm just laughing because…people will be shocked again."
SYSTEM SHOCK 3!!!
Yeah, I'm probably reaching, but can you blame me? While you Half-Life fanboys have gotten a few releases in the past decade, System Shock hasn't seen a sequel since 1999. Yeah, it got a spiritual successor which kind of spawned its own franchise, but that little lady up there, S.H.O.D.A.N., is just begging for another chance to show you how self-serving and manipulative she is. Why? Because no one cared to notice the first two goes around, and now that gamers have matured enough to know that games like System Shock have their rightful place after experiencing the strikingly similar spiritual successor to System Shock 2, BioShock, I think it's time System Shock gets revisited. The rights to the series are currently up in the air, but since Valve and EA still seem to be at least a little bit friendly, it seems possible.
I know what you're going to say. "System Shock 3 has a 3 in the title, that disproves your lame-ass theory." Why yes, yes it does, but what better way for Valve to "shock" us than to release the original Half-Life's biggest rival when talking about the birth of the smart shooter. Not only that but the first third game Valve makes is not originally their own? It would be a shock in more ways than one. I'd probably poo everywhere if my wild theory comes true. Obviously Valve loves them some System Shock, otherwise GLaDOS probably wouldn't exist. I mean if someone were to revive System Shock, I think I'd trust Valve more than any other developer outside Irrational Games, and they seem to be preoccupied with BioShock stuff. I'm excited about that, but really, I just want S.H.O.D.A.N. to send shivers down my spine once more.
If it's not System Shock 3 and it is Half-Life 3, then I ask you Valve, please, don't market it at all and just release it one day on Steam out of nowhere, not even putting it on the front page, because if anyone can do it, it's you.
Let's get the obvious out of the way, it sucks. Okay, that's probably an exaggeration, but given how good the two-dimensional installments are and always have been... mostly (looking at you Simon's Quest), one can't help but feel underwhelmed by the series' transition into the third dimension.
Before I go any further I think I should talk about what it means to be a Castlevania game in the two-dimensional form.
The original on the NES was a linear affair where players assumed the role of Simon Belmont and were tasked with vanquishing Dracula. It was all about haunting atmosphere, catchy tunes, and whipping monsters. It featured excruciating levels and ruthless bosses. It was all about putting you to the test, and making sure you were worthy of the whip and title, "Vampire Killer".
Simon's Quest was a bit of a deviation. It featured the same great atmosphere and some great tunes, but a lot of the rest of the game feels lazy. It's the precursor to the Metroid style 2D Castlevania has adopted since the success of Symphony of the Night. It was more an RPG adventure than a 2D action game this time around. Though the core gameplay was basically the same as the original, the level design, enemy design, and most disappointingly the boss design were all at a level so far below that of the original. I'd like to bring up the conversation aspect of the game for a point I'd like to make later on. Technically it was about as developed as other games at the time, but the characters spoke in riddles. There wasn't anything clear about what they'd say, and sometimes the NPCs would just straight up lie. Simon's Quest did however bring some notable additions to series. The exploration, shops, item collection, upgrades, and light leveling system all make their first appearance with this one, and it certainly can be praised for that.
Dracula's Curse was a return to the linear style and the same punishing difficulty of the original. It's generally considered the best of the NES trilogy. The most notable addition to the series was being able to play as different characters.
Super Castlevania IV was a remake of the original game with more levels, better graphics, and even more epic music and boss battles.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was the next major departure of the series and the blueprint of what the 2D side of the series has followed since. It borrowed the exploration, shops, item collection, upgrades, and a similar RPG leveling system from Simon's Quest, and added to it elements borrowed from Super Metroid, like the map and level/world design. The popular term for this exploration style gameplay is Metroidvania, on account of both Super Metroid and Symphony of the Night being excellent games featuring similar gameplay. And coupled with this style was the great Castlevania atmosphere, monster slaying, wonderful music, and epic bosses.
So, what does it mean to be Castlevania? With the games like the original, III, and IV being defining games of the series, challenging and satisfying gameplay is obvious. Symphony of the Night and to a lesser extent Simon's Quest, suggest that exploration, item management, and having a RPG leveling system are also important. And obviously the setting would ideally be consistent with that of medieval-fantasy.
The 3D games haven't necessarily been bad as far as games go, but as far as Castlevania games go, something is always off. The recent Lords of Shadow for instance, is an example of a decent game. However, it feels less like Castlevania and more like God of War. It has boss battles that could be described as epic, like the few that you must climb on top of a find weak spots similarly to Shadow of the Colossus. The problem with both of these characteristics is, that it simply doesn't play as well as the games it tries to emulate. Something always seems to get lost in translation with Castlevania's transition into 3D, and Lords of Shadow is just the most recent culprit.
It may seem like it'll never happen, like "the one" will never be released, but I have something to share with you. It's already here.
And it's been here since 2009 and it even has a spiritual successor that will be released later this year.
My friends look no further than Demon's Souls for your 3D Castlevania fix. Actually you probably should, because Dark Souls comes out in a few months as well.
Now I know you're probably thinking, "What does Demon's Souls have to do with anything? It's not even a Castlevania game, and it doesn't even have Dracula or his castle". I'd be inclined to agree with you on those points, but those points alone.
I'll ease you into it.
This is probably the most obvious similarity between both games. Both series' cast you as warriors that use weapons like swords or magic spells. Both are rooted in more Western Mythology, but neither series finds themselves restricted to those confines. Both have magic systems, and both dip into Holy magic while also having some traditional magic. In Castlevania III there is a character that utilizes magic. In most Castlevania games there are magic weapons such as holy water and holy crosses. Demon's Souls feels like it evolved what Castlevania had with its own use of miracles that were separate from the more traditional "magic" spells like a fireball spell.
It's more of a subtle choice, but important all the same. It's not necessarily as memorable or catchy as Castlevania's classic tunes, but it certainly feels appropriately epic and haunting, which leads me to my next point.
Haunting, Dark, and Chilling Atmosphere
In the 8-bit and even 16-bit days Castlevania was all about atmosphere. Actually 2D Castlevania has always been about atmosphere, and it is amazing that it could pull it off so well within the confines of two dimensions. One of Demon's Souls' biggest strengths is also its atmosphere. It features dungeons, dark, dank corridors, dirty mines, and the ambient noise just ramps up the immersion. The aforementioned music also plays its role at all the right moments. Even the gameplay adds to the atmosphere, but that'll be discussed later on. All of it adds up to make Demon's Souls one of the most atmospheric games of not only this generation, but of all time.
Punishing Difficulty and Epic Boss Fights
The Castlevania series has always been known for the relentless challenge it offers, and why don't you ask yourself what Demon's Souls is known for? Its difficulty, of course. Once again Demon's Souls feels like the natural evolution Castlevania's challenge. It forces player's into abiding by the rules of the game and isn't very lenient about mistakes and doesn't hold your hand, very similarly to the classic Castlevania games.The boss battles in Castlevania no doubt contributed to a lot of its difficulty and that is also the case with Demon's Souls. Death, Frankenstein and Igor, Dracula, all of them are some of the most intense and challenging boss battles from the original game. Demon's Souls does more than just provide a challenge with its boss fights though. Each and every one is creative and offers a new challenge, but this time it doesn't feel like the evolution of just Castlevania boss battles, but boss battles as a whole. And just to toot Demon's Souls horn a little bit more, there is even a boss battle in which you must engage another player, and you could even be that player. You can actually be a boss in Demon's Souls.
Story Takes a Backseat
The post-Symphony of the Night Castlevanias seem to be developing more and more of a story, but like most older franchises, the story is generally little more than something to keep the game moving. The same can be said of Demon's Souls.
Multiple Characters and RPG Elements
Some Castlevania games allow for players to play as different characters, and an easy comparison Demon's Souls class system can be made. Eventually players in Demon's Souls can gain all the abilities and strength and weaknesses of any other class, but for a one time playthrough people are going to play the game differently. Some people liked playing through Dracula's Curse as Alucard, some will play as Trevor, and the same goes for Demon's Souls with some people liking to play as a Mage, while others like being a Knight. Now, Demon's Souls goes deeper with its RPG aspects more than Castlevania ever has, but once again it feels like a logical evolution the series could have made, rather than keeping the basically fixed stat increases of level ups from Symphony of the Night. Then of course Demon's Souls has shops like Symphony of the Night and Simon's Quest, and like Simon's Quest you don't buy equipment with money, but with souls which are fairly similar to hearts, no? Demon's Souls goes deeper with its shops and adds a pretty deep weapon upgrade system. It all seems like stuff Castlevania could have eventually done.
This is arguably the most important part of my argument. To the casual fan of Demon's Souls this might seem a little out of place, but I assure you Demon's Souls has all the ingredients of Metroidvania. What's most interesting about it though is that it strikes a balance in being a straight up linear game, but also giving you the option to go back and play any level in search of better loot. It is almost as if they catered to both sets of Castlevania fans at the same time, the Super Castlevania IV linear style fans and the non-linear Symphony of the Night fans. You can do what most players probably did, which is just work your way through each of the worlds in a straight line, but there was always the option to explore. There are all sorts of paths you can take to reach the end of each level, and each path has its own branching paths to undiscovered secret areas and powerful weapons, rings, armor, or challenges. The messages on the ground from veterans will help newcomers understand what is needed to even be able to access certain areas of a level, and the message system as a whole is reminiscent of Simon's Quest's NPCs (or even old school NPCs in general, since a message will never say something new). You don't really ever know if a message is truthful or not until you find out for yourself, and they can be easily misinterpreted, vague, or even just a simple message put there to be fun. There are actual characters you meet in the game that are liars like there were in Simon's Quest as well. There are also some that aren't, and meeting all of the characters requires quite a bit of backtracking and puzzle solving. There is so much depth to Demon's Souls that so many players barely scratched the surface of and missed out on, and it's mostly regarding this, ever so praised when used in other games, Metroidvania gameplay.
It's probably unfair to call Demon's Souls "Castlevania 3D", because it is a game that can easily stand on its own. I just believe many of Demon's Souls better qualities to be overlooked, and by making these comparisons, perhaps they'll be easier to see. It's already forever made its mark with its innovative online features, such as invading others' worlds and the messages, which dare I say again, could have (but probably not) been something the Castlevania franchise contributed to gaming in order to stay relevant. Obviously Demon's Souls isn't a Castlevania game. It is much more an RPG than Castlevania ever has been, and because the story is irrelevant to Castlevania without Dracula or his Castle (though after Lords of Shadow who knows?) it is clearly not Castlevania 3D. Once again, From Software brought us gamers something truly magical, maybe even mystical, in Demon's Souls, and because it is strong enough to stand on its own two feet, it should. Still, Demon's Souls is very much what Konami should be looking at considering the future of its own famous franchise, not God of War.