Dear Vinny: Why Demon's Souls is The Best Game EVER

In the last bombcast, Vinny had stated some questions as to why this game is good, why he is even playing it, whether or not what he is doing is the “right” thing to do and so on.

As someone who cherishes this game above many others I feel like the following should help you on your quest of understanding the game.   Following that will be a few paragraphs of context to set my background in terms of the genre as well as where this game falls in my list of “The Best Games EVER Made”.

Reason 10 , the boss battles and some of the sub-boss battles all seem like “There is no way at all that I can take that thing down”.   A lot of this comes down to scale, some of it down to sheer visual style, but let me recall a story of my first few boss battles to show you what I mean.  

Level 1-1, the Phalanx, it is around midnight on my first day of playing, and I stood at the gate into the boss debating whether sleep or “giving it a shot” would be the best way to finish a long afternoon of struggling to understand the systems of this game.   I open the gate, destroy the boss by running around and struggling to stab things, while, eventually I understood “how” the boss battle worked.   When I played through 1-1 on a different character, I saw the signs of how to do so that I didn’t understand the last time and everything became clear.   On the second boss (Tower Knight), standing at the gate again debating the same decision, I called in someone to help me and we destroyed the boss.   On the next one (Spider Fire Thing), I stood behind a pole hiding, while the only way to actually destroy the boss was to stop being such a weakling and actually attack the beast.   Eventually I did so, cheering for what seemed like 30 minutes at my triumph.  

This leads right into Reason 9.   While the game is very difficult, it rewards the struggles instead of simply makes things hard.   Sometimes the reward is getting a full health bar, the other times it is simply discovering some trick to make the level easier, but the overall reward is having the ability to be given some challenge, and every single time (for me at least) I wanted to push on and keep giving it a shot, whether I was ready for it or not.   This is one of the few games where simply getting past a difficult spot feels so rewarding.   It is not down to memorizing a pattern, or memorizing some sort of glitch, but through experience, trial and error, and the individuals own though process the game reveals its own intricacies and as the player overcoming what was an impossible challenge through my own mind power is one of the most rewarding things any game has ever done for me.

Reason 8 , this isn’t a linear FPS tactical style game where the player must follow a set path.   While there are aspects of the game where you need a key to get past a certain spot, there is nothing in the game that says you have to start at 1-1 and end with 5-4 by going through 1-2, 1-3, then 1-4, and so on.   In my case I went to the swamp level, found an amazing weapon that helped me with every other level I went back and played.   Also, each “world” is contrasting and contains very different environments that nothing seems to lead from one into the next into the next.   Basically, this game is not laid out to be an “A to Z” boring ass straight path type of game, it does things differently than everyone else and that makes it interesting.

Reason 7 is probably the main reason why this game got any attention at all, but it does one thing that no other game has done ever before.   That would be the warning message system present within the game, the bloodstains, and what can only be described as one of the best co-op systems present in any game.   Think about it, if you want someone to help you, then you simply put a message down asking for help and anyone out there can do it.  No need to go and make friends, no need to know if they are good, the only requirement is that they are in your game to help you and not hurt you.   While not every message is helpful, and not every bloodstain is worth a watch, everything in the game has its purpose and while they might not help you, there is no way that they can harm you unless you as the player let it end up bad (by standing there and getting hit while reading).

Another reason, let us call it number 6, is that the story is interesting.   Some games have interesting stories because they actually have a story (rainbow six, splinter cell, ghost recon, etc.), while other games are interesting because the content of the story itself is unusual and becomes more about uncovering what is going on and trying to understand what is being presented (The Darkness, Heavy Rain, Metro 2033, Cryostasis, etc.).

Reason 5 is my personal reason for why this game is so good.   Many describe this game as “the single most difficult game ever made.”   I would argue that this game is not difficult at all.   This game requires the utmost attention, that everything you do be carefully slow and intentional.   It is not because the controls are twitching, monster closets, or anything like that, but simply because if you run around doing anything you want then you will fall and die, you will run into a monster that will fight you (that you might not be prepared for), or you could be surprised into one of the games puzzles, traps, or time based events where you end up some place you didn’t intend to.   Bottom line, the game wants you to be sure of what you want to do, take your time, and thing about what you are doing by pressing that button, and about where you want to end up after it happens (don’t get backed into a corner, it will result in death).   Also, if the game really was that difficult, then you would not be able to die more then once.

This is more of a subjective thing, but Reason 4 is all about the visual style.   This game has a very realistic visual style while everything in it is out of the ordinary.   All of the people seem real, the magic is not so insane that it seems impossible, but essentially, the game itself presents a world that can be easily entered and seen as a place that could actually exist.   While dragons and magic, and so on the creatures are not something we have in everyday life, it looks like a world that is not in my head, but a place that is just a ways off or from the past.

Reason 3 is all about how things work.   The combat in this game is super realistic, feels natural, and everything about it is precise and always under the players control.   The aiming in the game allows the player to face the enemy and use the shield and sword appropriately and the parry system in the game is of the “easy to learn hard to master” variety that makes the combat approachable and fun.

One of my favorite traits in this game, and something more game designers need to take into their own works is the Level design (Reason 2).   It would seem that everything in this game is meant to be there, that every item, enemy, and NPC is in just the right spot, the boss fights are designed perfectly, the dragon cliff thing in world 1 is perfectly designed along with all of the other challenges and “puzzles” in the game that are timing based.   There are very few games out there that respect the level design to the point of making sure every inch works perfectly, in this game it seems they did take the extra time and ensure that it was perfect (something borderlands needs to do, for instance).

The final reason, number 1, is best said by saying, “the more you know the better”.   As Vinny mentioned, this game has many intricacies and enemies that seem to be arbitrary but are very crucial to the experience.   The collector’s edition came with a superb guide that is not available on ebay for 2 and even 3 times its original value.   There is the demon’s souls wiki, and many podcasts out there as well that will recap what you need to know in order to survive.   For instance, there is an NPC that when you rescue him, he will kill off every other NPC unless you kill him first (that is how you lose the ability to store items).   Again, if you don’t notice it, if you don’t pay attention then the game is going to make you pay.   In short, there are games like Metroid and Castlevania where you need to know the tricks in order to enjoy the game, demon’s souls is not this type of game, but the rule is “the more you know the better.”   Also, if you do not want to have the guide and know everything, then just be sure to follow the overarching idea in demon’s souls, “Make sure that everything you do is a calculated decision, pay attention to your movements and actions, and be very aware of your surroundings”.   If you do this, then you can beat the game.

Context:  Now, keep in mind I say all of those with one very important fact missing.   Demon’s Souls was the first RPG I have ever played.   Sure I played Pokemon as a kid, and I played Earthbound, maybe an hour of Metroid, but this is the first game in my mature gaming life where I actually went to the RPG genre and decided to dive in.   I mostly play tactical FPS and TPS games, things like RS, GR, and the like, as well as shooters (arcade shooters), racing, and sports games.   I followed my play through of Demon’s Souls (3 of them, lost 3 saves, see previous blog post for why, and no I haven’t beaten it yet) with Fallout 3, Borderlands, The Witcher, Mass Effect 1 and 2, and Dragon Age: Origins.   Needless to say I appreciate the genre now, I am noticing the trends of the genre, and still, even though everyone declares it as super difficult, Demon’s Souls is by far my favorite of the genre.   In Mass Effect and others, the difficulty is based around having many enemies storm you, around being limited by ammo and limited on time, but the game itself is cheap in terms of how the difficulty challenges you.   To contrast that, Demon’s Souls is very fair about its rule (the “pay attention” rule), and everything in the game is not out to aim only at you or attack only you as a COD game does in order to make things difficult.   In short, this is a very strategic game, where everything needs to be precise and calculated, in other games you have shields and regenerating health, and yet you still die every 5 minutes in some cases because of the Enemy AI.   Demon’s Souls, is one of the few games where everything must follow the same rule, the AI must pay attention to what you are capable of, your location, weapons, and strategy, while that is the same challenge you face.  

Thanks for reading, I know it is long, apologies, but this game deserves every word.

41 Comments

Dear Sony: Change Your Policies!

 For starters, this post is not meant to get me a FREE ps3 by any means.  I have lost my saves and struggled to play my games for long enough.  This is a warning to anyone considering a purchase, or those who currently own one.  BE WARNED!

Here is an email I sent to press sites, in order to get them to share my story.  None have done so, which I understand, and will try to spread it best I can on my own.  Here is the email:

Hello everyone,
 
    I just had my house broken into and my ps3 stolen, I promply called sony as soon as I found out and asked to find out if my system was logged on, and if my password for that account could be reset/changed.  I was told no, and did so through playstation.com.
 
The next day I called again to have my ps3 account deactivated from the stolen ps3, this link is to a brief transcript of the talk I had with sony, which I typed while on the phone.
 
http://www.colonyofgamers.com/cogforums/showpost.php?p=524967&postcount=53
 
For full disclosure and believability, here is the amount of ps3's I have been through and how they all broke.
 
1.  Bought 60 GB ps3 week after launch of motorstorm, which was RMAd due to video output not working properly.
 
2.  Received RMA for first PS3 in a 32" CRT TV sized box without any padding, ps3 did not work, and was RMAd.
 
3.  RMA #2 was recieved, but after one month wifi did not work at all, which I later found out was the "NAT Issue", PS3 was RMAd.
 
4.  RMA #3 YLOD'd, ps3 out of warranty, paid $165 for Repair.

5.   PS3 Account hacked, on phone for over an hour with sony and this was confirmed.  PS3 Accounts Deactivated off of old PS3s, which took two phone calls (3 removed in one instance, and 2 in 2nd, by mailing in receipts and RMA forms with PS3 model/serial no.).
 
6.  RMA #4 after around 9 months, YLOD'd.  this happened one month after 90 day warranty had expired, and happened 12/26/09.
 
7.  Since new RMA cost was now 175 before tax (to swap 60gb model with 60gb model), 165 after tax (to swap 60gb with ps3 slim), and both of which only included a 90 day warranty, I went out and bought a new 250 gb ps3 slim mid january 2010.
 
8.  Called sony to have Account, Game and Video, removed from YLOD#2 (which sits in closet now), and was told that accounts can only be deactivated once ps3 is received by repair facility.  Video Account was deactivated from that ps3 to allow me to buy video content on new ps3, but Game was not.
 
9. House broken into 3/28/10 and ps3 stolen, above mentioned phone calls followed.
 
Thank you for taking time to listen, and if you have any free time, please take a moment to write an article on this situation and deter people from having the same issues as me, or inform them of what can happen as a result of sony's current policy.
 
-nabokovfan87


The link provided points to the following chat transcript, which breaks down the phone call I had with Sony.

On the phone with sony....

them:"ok, we cannot remove your account from a ps3 unless you send it in for repair"
me: "its ****ing stolen!"
them: "I know sir, but that is our policy, we can remove video but not game."
me: "its the same ****ing thing!"
my mom: "watch your mouth"
them: "no its not, their are different policies"
me: "OK when the stolen system is sent in for repair, and it will be because its a ****ing ps3, can you remove it then?!?"
them: "absolutely."
me: "just take the video off"

tranfer to psn services, verify info, explain it all again:

them: "well let me go ahead and see about game, it might not happen because we have done it before."
me: "if it is a policy thing then maybe the policy should change, it isn't like I am throwing them down the stairs, this is normal wear I guess."

[On Hold]

Them: “Can’t do either, send in fax for new, replacement of stolen, ps3 and they will deactivate video”



On top of having to constantly RMA my console, I have lost all of my saves at least 4 times.  I have a hard drive with them, and an external backup of them from the YLOD#2 console, but due to the anti-piracy policy and backup will only work on that console, which will no longer turn on.  Also, any hard drive once inserted into a PS3 will automatically be formatted unless it was previously in that console.  Finally, the transfer utility does me no good because I cannot turn on the YLOD#2 console and go to the transfer utility.  These "Policies" have cost me hours of work and enjoying console games has seemed futile ever since I lost them the 2nd time.  My ps3 has only been used as an internet browser, until the release of Demon's Souls and Heavy Rain.

I have been a long time customer of Sony since playing Coolboarders and Crash Bandicoot on the ps1 at a friends house.  It is a tragic misfortune that has continued to happen, but the inability to enjoy something I spent 600 dollars (before tax and games) has become unacceptable.  If anyone at Sony is reading this, I strongly urge you to improve hardware reliability on your next console and work with customer feedback to IMPROVE your online networks.  The way things work currently will not be tolerated if anyone has the unfortunate luck that I have endured.  

Thank you for reading,
-nabokovfan87
5 Comments

MW2 Discussion Audio Challenge

Hey everyone,
 

I write this as a request and a challenge.  I challenge everyone to sent this to whomever they can, to spread the discussion, and to attempt to create an ounce of change.  Below is a link to a gathering of several podcasts all of which have discussed the news, all of them having differing opinions, and all of them showing different sides of the discussion.

This isn't as simple as a game on my platform of choice having another bad port, this is a matter of my platform of choice taking one too many hits to the jugular and I'm not sure how many the good ol' PC can take.  I ask anyone who has a blog, a podcast, or just friends to take a listen to this file, and post something about it.  Please tell others about what you heard, and what you thinkof what is going on.  Thank you for your time, and here is the file...

mw2_discussion_final.mp3

-nabokovfan87

2 Comments

Console Gamers: It Isn't About Dedicated Servers (COD4:MW2)


It's been a while, but i have to speak up about this.  I can send emails to podcast and ask others to speak my thoughts, but it doesn't do much if i don't speak up as well.  Here are the facts, the things that have been said, and the things that will happen.

1.  COD4: MW2 will come out on PC without dedicated server support, meaning it will make use of a peer-to-peer online system.

2.  It will be the first PC game in a while to cost 60 retail that isn't a special edition.

3.  IWNet will be released, and won't work on launch, leading to even more "news stories" and the extension of this argument.

You might read those and think to yourself, big deal, but you have to take a step back before you decide the fate of this one.  It isn't as simple as valve releasing a new game by turning the lights on, but this is something that will have a massive effect on PC gaming as a whole.  For those who have no idea, let me explain what happens when things change on the PC.

EA in the past, with its sports titles all started out on the PC.  Including Madden and NHL everthing started on the PC.  There wouldn't be  NBA, and the rest of EA Sports' games unless they all recieved life on the pc.  Whether you agree with me or not about that, here is how things went down.  Games went to console, things were taken out of the PC version, and eventually the pc became a testbed for the console games.  NHL games would have special versions on the pc which basically were perfected a year later and released on consoles.  Online modes were stripped out of the PC version resulting in backlash and people just getting fed up with the whole situation, leading to a world now where sports games do not exist on the PC. 

One of the biggest reasons why PC gamers demand dedicated servers is because it allows older games to remain being played.  Counter-Strike, released in 1999 has over 60 thousand gamers playing it today.  I'm sure battlefield 1942, quake, and other classic games are still being played as well.  How?  Because PC gamers pay out of thier own pocket to run their own servers.  Take a look at the CS:S server list, America's Army, Rainbow Six, SWAT 4, Battlefield, and other online games, the majority if not all of those servers are run by gamers.  In 3 years when the MW2 servers are shut down to allow for the newest release, maybe you will get what I mean.  Heck, even Halo still has people playing it.

So when you take a look at this MW2 server removal, my immediate thought goes to that.  There will not be a call of duty game on the PC, which, fine.. there are better shooters anyways.  Then I get to thinking of those games, rainbow six,  ghost recon, steam games, mods, and then it hit me.  Rainbow Six Vegas is a console version of Rainbow Six, Left for Dead is a console version of a half-life mod, and Ghost Recon needs to be radically revamped to even be playable for most.  A lot of the classic PC games, and classic ways for pc gamers to get new games have been either changed, or are now becoming consolized ports.

Games for windows isn't helping either.  First off, Microsoft doesnt fix things they just want you to buy a 360.  Honestly, goes to the games for windows live site and try to find a support email address to or number to call.  It lists 100 different companies, and then when you have an issue that is GFW related, you  have to use Xbox support.  Fallout 3 on the pc was a massive mess of bugs and issues, with each released dlc making and creating worse issues.  It would take 20 minutes for the patcher to load, and another few for the patch to actually install.  Don't believe me?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es9hPPk4Oek

The plot thickens though.  When you look at the 360 and the ps3 themselves, how much of their life came from the PC.  We all joke at the Wii, but when you really take a look at the situation, the Wii is the only real console.  The ps3 and 360 all have media playback, media streaming, patches, online play, voice, text, and video chat, downloadable games, twitter, Netflix, etc.  The real difference, the pc can use the consoles' controllers, but it is too much to ask for a server to be made or an option to be created allowing pc gamers with consoles to use mouse and keyboards against other mouse and keyboards.  Not only are the ports terrible, mostly leading to controls not feeling or working correctly, but we get games months later.  Why?

Either way you look at it, this has become a big issue.  With numerous podcasts explaining that "they dont play pc games" and then asking "why is it that pc gamers demand so much" or "what is it about pc gamers that makes them so special".  Fact of the matter is, nothing.  Pc gamers have been dealing with a steady decline in the quality of their gaming experience for several years now, a decade for some.  All we want is to be able to play games and not have to deal with the issues of lazy development or 3rd world country treatment.  This isn't a respect thing for me anymore, I've accepted the fact that developers and console gamers just dont care about the world of pc, but the plain and simple truth is, things need to change.  Is it in the hands of the developer to treat their product with higher respect?  Do they want any gamer, no matter the platform to enjoy their gaming experience and become a repeat customer on expansions and sequels?  Do publishers want gamers to see them as "on their side"?  Will the PC gaming scene just become about WOW and flash games that get ported to the console?  Will solitaire be the only PC exclusive in the future.

I know many of you will just raise you hand a yell out "it's because of piracy", but let me be clear.  With the lawsuits overseas, the introduction of viruses and tracking into torrent sites, laws, and the simple difficulty in cracking a game, a lot of piracy on the pc has died off and will die off.  Where has it gone to?  The 360, the DS, and the PSP.

 

Want to hear more about how this will effect  PC gamers?  Hear it from one of our own.  The discussion starts at 43:25, be warned of explicit language. (and no it isnt F IW for 30 minutes)

[right click, save as]

http://ingamechat.net/audio/IGC20091022.mp3

-nabokovfan87    

55 Comments

Introductions and My thoughts on the big reveal!

Hey everyone,

          As you may or may not know i am one of those outspoken, loud, annoying, gets in your face with passion and love for gaming type of people.  ok, well... maybe not, but i sure as hell do like to ponder me some ridiculous stuff.

I'll give you some for instances:

1.  I Love Lair and Haze (starting to sway on Haze), and Uncharted was terrible because the story sucked about halfway through to the end.
2.  Motorstorm is the reason i own a ps3, and the only reason i play console games.
3.  The new PSP should be called the "cheaper to produce" edition, instead of Slim.

(Note:  I tried to insert an image here, but it seems to not work properly.)

Another cool thing about me is that i have a podcast.  Not that i am trying to use the site to pimp my show, but it is a cool fact that i feel is something interesting (website: http://atpshow.wordpress.com).

* * *


So the brand new giantbomb.com is up, but i am a little miffed.  I like the design, i like the features that the site offers, but i guess i am having a little bit of confusion as to how the user posts and such will be separated from the staff content.  i wish there was a way to just click on wiki and then that would be all of the user stuff, while the main content of the site would be the staff posts and it would be information i knew was correct and could trust.  Who knows, i might just get used to it and be writing a month or so down the line that the site is fantastic. 

Either way... the new batman movie is amazing.  Heath Ledger, man..... I wish he were alive.

-nabokovfan87
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