By vidiot 14 Comments
Warning: The following blog might not make sense. It's also very quite long. The opinions expressed here are mine alone, and thus, shouldn't be taken seriously at all. Or listened at all in general. If you can "listen" to the opinions, as if there is an audible sound being produced by this text: Go get medical help, because you are hearing voices.
I KNOW! I'M LATE! *Runs*
Not to be a depressant, but every-time at new years the sense of commendatory at parties is usual a mixture of:
- How much can I get drunk?
- No seriously, I bought one of those personal breathalyzer's. I did good last quarter, and I want a blood alcohol level that matches my GPA.
- This year is going to be soooo much better than last year.
Strange how number #3 on that list, never really seems to happen that much.
So now were officially in 2011, and that means one thing: We all only got one year left on this planet.
Beside that, it's been time for pause and reflection over the past year. I began writing up an annual blog, but current personal issues, and of course my relentless indecision, stopped this from being released on-time.
This year wasn't that bad.
I did some pretty cool video work at PAX. Got a Sega Saturn.
In all...not seriousness...I didn't want to do a simple retrospect either like last year. I wanted to also formally hand out unrelenting, and absolute judgment,on a series of subjects and games that happened this year. It's time to hand out these very ugly golden..."award"...things.
2010 began with Mass Effect 2, and ended with me still hoping something would come close to topping the experience that was laid-down in January. This year was filled with fantastic releases like Red Dead Redemption, but was also seemed plagued by a long laundry-list of titles that simply couldn’t top the legitimate hype from BioWare. Starcraft 2, maybe ? It felt like it sucked the wind out of everybody. The Halo franchise usually comes packing with an army of ridiculous advertising pomp and circumstance, but even the last Halo game being made by the series creators, seemed to be muted. Live-action advertisement? Yeah, it's been done. The critical collective hype-train seemed very selective this year, as if everyone was strangely winded. Red Dead Redemption seemed to grab a foothold, but it seemed like a lot of peoples minds were made-up after January.
The best part about it is that it's well-deserved praise. For years I have wondered how a non-linear sequel for a game could be done. Something more than the usual cop-out, being vague and non-specific about events. Or, doing the Deus Ex approach and mashing multiple different endings into one giant confusing smorgasbord. Mass Effect 2 simply attacks the problem head-on, with every little choice thread carrying over one way or the other. That endeavor itself deserves attention and praise, but the real moment of amazement is how effortless such a feat is accomplished.
To be fair, one could legitimately analyze these said choices and question their quality in both depth and implementation, which I did, but it's the illusion that what I decided mattered in the last game.
Fantastic production values coupled with shooting mechanics that, while sadly strip a lot of the RPG out of the game, still feels leaps better than the strange marrying of design that was attempted in the first game.
I would like to point out that all three of these individuals are people that I highly respect. Which makes this fun, because each comes packaged with a quote that seems to be grounded in the context...of another planet. Each dealing and detailing with their respective craft: The RPG.
During the beginning of the year, Square's bizarre-interview-quote-o-meter was already on some end of the spectrum, that didn’t exactly mesh with reality. With the release of Final Fantasy XIII, the meter went into over-drive, with a flurry of completely nonsensical jargon that blinded the most zealous of fans.
Kitase was involved of some of my favorite entries in the Final Fantasy series, but his explanations for what Final Fantasy XIII was bewildered me. Even his own declaration that it wasn’t an RPG could top this list, although it was his combined quote he had with another producer, Motomu Toriyama, that sent the internet into a confused stupor:
“Considering the amount of work to make graphics that deserve HD, it is hard to make towns in the conventional style,” said Toriyama.
Kitase agreed, stating “it is very hard to make games on PlayStation 3 in the same style the games in that era had. Making graphics will take enormous time.”
You had over half-a-decade!
You released games, this generation, that were in HD, and had towns.
Bro! Kitase my man! What are you smoking?!
I do not deny that higher production values have no change to the amount of work that must be put into a project like this, they do, especially for developers that don't have big budgets. But to state that both time, and effort, is the de-facto reasoning behind not including them in your product makes little to no sense. Especially given the context of the actual game. Lack of towns make sense with the design of the game, not the actual technical constraints for at least what's on display here.
There are towns in Final Fantasy XIII, just not exploited in a manner properly at all. Geometry for the two locations of Nautilus and PalumPolum, seem to be there, just inaccessible to the player. So what's the problem? Is it a design issue? Is it a technical issue? Should I be packing my bags and making a trip to Rockstar, and proclaim that towns are too hard to make in HD and they should stop?
"Well, before I address the main point I just want to take a slightly more controversial route: You can put a 'J' in front of it, but it's not an RPG. You don't make any choices, you don't create a character, you don't live your character... I don't know what those are - adventure games maybe? But they're not RPG's." - Daniel Erickson (Bioware)
Oh, give me a break. Let's just set another forum on fire while were at it?
You already have written my choices between two stark paths (good and evil), and even consequences for me. You produce phenomenal writing, that gives me the illusion that I am in control, but we are still emulating the table-top experience. We are not directly translating the Player vs. “Pissed-off dungeon master who is trying in vain to keep up with my madness”. Which is a good thing!
I was under the impression in the last two decades, that we were defining the RPG genre, like all gaming genre's, based on relating design and mechanics. To pick and choose mechanics in such an ironically short-sighted manner, that in this case works against your own projects!
For example: I could easily state that the lack of traditional RPG combat and mechanics in Mass Effect 2, means your game is not an RPG.
But to state the all encompassing, absolute definition, of an RPG, hinges on dialog trees that shoot the plot in another direction?
I've seen that in adventure games...oh...wait... I can make choices in other games too.
Is GTA IV, or Red Dead Redemption an RPG by this goofy definition?
I "lived" out a character far more in either game in comparison to Dragon Age, Fallout 3 and Mass Effect combined. How about Heavy Rain? If choosing the direction of where the narrative is going to go is such a major factor in the RPG definition, why isn't that an RPG? Am I not "Role-Playing" a single dad while looking after my kid?
So the definitive connection to being an "RPG", are character stats, and growth and abilities associated with those stats.
Well, the quote states you don't create a character in JRPGs right? There are no systems or mechanics in play, that define what the character can become right?
Wait?! There are? When did that happen? It's always been that way?! Well it's still crap! Because while I can create a character to be a magic user in this JRPG, I still can't empower him with a talent-tree of useless abilities!
Yes! Five points to Farting! That helps my lock-picking skill, THAT I WILL NEVER USE!
While not equally as ridiculous, It's almost as if someone is complaining about how all modern First Person Shooters, aren’t real FPS, because we don't only collect card-key's anymore.
How about the actual plot of these JRPG's? Are there no legitimate concerns there? Anything we can improve? No? How about game balancing? No? Nothing we can do better? No?!
The problem is the design fundamentals?!
How hard would it to be to come to a consensus that both sub-genres overlap each other enough, to be part of the same genre? Instead of focusing what divides both spectrum’s, is it too hard to celebrate how diverse and awesome the RPG genre is? Styles might become popular, change, mutate and mature, but to pick and choose certain mechanics and design to solidify the absolute definition of what deems to be "worthy" of being part of a genre seems...Stupid.
It also makes less sense, when you start applying similar logic to other genre's.
As far as the silly deceleration “You can't just put a 'J' in front of the genre!” Well, crap Erickson.
We've only been collectively doing that for about a decade. Before that, we were just calling them RPG's for the previous two decades. It wasn’t until the two genre’s shared the same spotlight on the same hardware platform, that this "debate" really heated-up.
What I find really funny though, is that no matter how much we bitch and complain about the proper use of the term “RPG”, no matter how much we write for pages that go on seemingly forever (and in some cases in certain threads those pages eat each-other) our bizarrely polarized negative opinions are not going to change how Japanese developers define their own freaking games!
Nothing I write here will properly convey anything productive in trying to illustrate what happened at Konami's E3 Press Conference this year. Let's all stop and remember, that something like this actually happened.
So the Kinect launched this year.
I’ve been waiting for the moment I begin caring. That hasn’t happened yet. I don't think it's going to happen this year either.
Kinect's best offerings so far have been hacked demonstrations. The term “It's not for you”, really holds true regarding Kinect for me. It's depressing because I had a lot of
interest, up to the now dreadfully remembered E3 press conference. I knew “mass casual appeal” is a hallmark of these motion devices, and nothing would solidify that concept more than the disturbing Skittles sequence.
Kinect is probably going to be stranger in the long-run, because even other games that require motion control support can't really be ported to Kinect. Well, they could, but the development costs and attention would require more effort. Take the upcoming HD port of No More Heroes for example. It's getting release outside of Japan, only on the PS3, and only for the Move. The Move got a lot of complaints for not being as “creative” as the Move, and being a glorified Wii knock-off. Yet in a strange ironic twist, the Move might have a fantastic opportunity to exploit a small market that the Kinect cant.
HD Wii ports anyone?
*Takes off uncalibrated prediction cap*
What I do know, is that Microsoft has spent a ton of money for this thing's advertising. I walked into one of the new local "Microsoft Store" and the place was wall-to-wall Kinect's, filled with equally confused customers wandering around in a stupor. and making the press wear...giant...white glowing baby bibs... Have to do with Kinect? Hell would I know.
Whatever comes out of the Kinect in the long-run has yet to be seen. It's neat tech, but like most motion controls, it hasn’t shown what I already do with a controller better. Also, is there anything on the horizon for Kinect? After pumping this much money into it, outside of the immediate games and that neat project being done by ex-Panzer Dragoon creator...Is there anything big in the pipe for this thing?
Without diving too much into spoiler territory: At one point during Sam and Max Season 3, you are digested by a large monster that looks like a cross between Godzilla and Cthulhu. The insides of the monster resembles that of a home, with the stomach being a kitchen and it's legs represented by a weight room. In order to take control of the monsters legs, one of your companions needs to run on a treadmill. An easy task, if it wasn’t for the fact that the ally in question was pregnant, which isn’t the problem impeding your progress.
That is a simple puzzle in Sam and Max: The Devils Playhouse, easily the best offering TellTale has done so-far. Their recent work on Back to the Future has been quite well received by fans for a reason. I feel like these guys have single-handed brought back this genre from obscurity. I don't think it will never return to the mid-90's boom during the Lucas Arts/Sierra days, but Telltale has proven with their success that this genre has not died. That players have been waiting to return to the genre, and that a combination of digital distribution, cheap costs, and my unwavering belief that there is no substitute for great writing.
If you haven’t had the opportunity of checking out the revival of Monkey Island, Sam and Max, and now Back to the Future, I implore you to do so. They’re hilarious and phenomenally respectful to the source material of their adaptations. I am phenomenally excited about their future take on Jurassic Park.
Last year, I stated that I thought Modern Warfare 2 was my favorite FPS for 2009. In the same breath I also stated that the single-player plot was abysmal, and in a later blog this year, wrote that it was written by...*ahem*
“Infinity-Ward, Head-Writer“Chimps” The Frat-Monkey.”
As an aspiring young individual who wishes one day to join the game developer work-force, I've been trying to follow the terrifying...very unfunny...legal battle between Infinity Ward and Activision.
It's disturbing, and slowly turning into a dense complex web of legal “He said”/”She said”. Modern Warfare 2 was one of the highest selling pieces of entertainment media of all time, the legal repercussions shows this.
Normally I would take a side, but my own jaded personal bias has skewed my perspective. Don't get me wrong, I trust Activison about as much as Glenn Beck crying nonsense because he's off his drugs...again. Recent Activision legal filings states that there was a conspiracy within Infinity Ward to damage Activision, and expanded on the growing hostile divide between Treyarch and Infinityward that we already kinda knew existed.
In retrospect, that situation seems like crap: You create a series, that another developer has it's hands in, and once-in-a-while produces another product with the series name, that you made . Just think about that for a second. That kinda sucks doesn’t it? That's kinda like sharing homework with someone. I can't imagine that in the long-run no form of legitimate animosity between both parties wouldn’t take root.
While I hope they get the money they deserve, I'm not really concerned for their long-term situation. I think EA will treat them phenomenally well. For god-sake: They made Modern Warfare 2! That sold a bagillion units or something. Besides, EA seems to have something tangible to a soul...now.
As for Activision, their public statements and overall image appeal right now is in the toilet. Looking back, I wouldn’t be surprised if no dedicated servers for MW2 PC was some bureaucratic suit who wanted to appeal to Lord Ughumenthal- Who's name translates as “The Dark One that sleeps in the bloody tears of ill children”.
One thing for sure, this thing is going to get uglier and more disturbing in 2010.
On the same subject...
... Black Ops is a good game!
I don't have the same feeling of mind-numbing pain when I reiterate that statement, in the same manner I had last year with Modern Warfare 2.
Last year I stated that Modern Warfare 2 was my favorite FPS, beating out Killzone 2. In the same breath, and for a large majority of this year, I have come back to this game over-and-over again. It might have had fantastic visuals and production values, but Modern Warfare 2's single-player is still, without a doubt, the dumbest experience I have ever had the “pleasure” of playing.
So much so, that a year later, people are running editorials trying to match MW2's single-player short-comings as some form of conspiracy to their current legal situation. A far cry from getting GOTY awards on all console platforms. Black Ops single-player campaign is silly, but focused. There is a beginning, middle, and end. There are character's, with what appears to be tangible persona's that go beyond: “This is the dude with a ski-mask.”
Call of Duty doesn’t need fantastic narrative, but it at least needs something that's beyond a bunch of set-pieces and a script that sounds like someones paranoid fever-
dream. I know that's an ironic statement given the subject matter of Black Ops, which is one huge conspiracy theory after the other. The ending and big plot-twist comes at you a mile away, but it does enough that doesn’t have your head spinning in circles afterward. Many players just skip right into multiplayer, but for those of us who like a standard solitary experience, in conjunction with a neat multiplayer: There's a lot to like.
Treyarch has had a good year, and I feel like they deserve it. Their previous work pre-Call of Duty 3 for me is now a distant memory. They have proven themselves that not only can they match the work of IW, but I feel like they have surpassed them in many ways. Stepping out of a giant shadow in the middle of this circus with little scratches to show for it. Good job.
Hopefully Ughumenthal will leave them be.
Fable 3 has a fantastic first impression, that begins to deteriorate almost immediately.
Peter Molyneux stated that Fable 3 is not an RPG, although that didn’t stop people nominating it for “Best RPG” award. Peter is kinda right, Fable 3 isn't really an RPG: Even though you create a character and make choices.
See? I just made this shit topical to what I previously wrote! Bwhahaha!
Fable 3 is a design nightmare, wanting to simplify mechanics that are already, pretty damn simplified.
In it's mainstream approach, it also then throws you in a loop regarding the ridiculously unnecessary monotonous approach regarding real-estate. The ending, and it's outcomes, are about as painfully convoluted as it get's. Why focus on a design to simplifies everything, yet contain some of the most convoluted elements to appear in the series so far?
How many days do I have left?
I also am defiantly in the camp of not liking the new Pause screen. It's great for putting on new clothing, but outside of that seems to have not much functionality in regards of basic item management. I found the map a mess in terms of judging where things were in relation to elevation levels, and to reiterate Brad's review: “Where are my freaking potions?!”
How hard it is to make a good in-game menu?
Places are reused from the previous game, instead now with the strangest slowdown I've ever seen. (YOU ARE ON THE MOOOOON!) The game also seems host to technical problems from the last game, as I once again, had a glitch in which my family disappeared.
The thing is though is that Fable 3 isn’t a bad game, just not the solidified "aware" entry in the series it seems it wants to be. Instead, overtime Fable 3 seems pretty underwhelming in retrospect. It's too confused to be terrible, and what it does right, it does right. Fable 3 is probably the funniest of the series, and it's game-within-a-game quest is something that's going to be remembered for years. It hits this bizarre middle-ground that any real passionate opinion on either end of the spectrum...well...seems unnecessary.
It's harmless, and thus, is kinda...
Whoever you heard about that story, with me playing this, and crying in fear is a liar! Liar!
Let's just put it this way: The last time a game really freaked me out was the original Fatal Frame. Amnesia returned me to that fateful night I rented that game from Blockbuster and went to bed later, listening intently at every creak in the house, prepared to be attacked by some otherworldly visage.
Scary game is freaking scary.
Is is possible to frown while playing Costume Quest? Possibly.You would have to rip out your soul to do so.
Easily one of my favorite downloadable game this year, Costume Quests fantastic writing and style encompasses an entire the sense of feeling of the Halloween holiday into a single game. It's fantastic. The very traditional RPG elements work fantastically. It might have quick moments of spiked difficulty, especially during the beginning, but a few blemishes don't deter from the experience.
While many people equate Tim Shaffer as the mind behind everything Double Fine, it's Tasha Harris who deserves credit of the fantastic design and concept that's probably one of the most original offerings in games for the last few years.
Fallout: New Vegas was a runner-up for this, but in the end of the day nothing can beat the quick cash-in before Christmas that the Oddbox apparently turned into. This went under the radar for a lot of people, but for those interested in playing the likes of Munch (eh.) or Strangers Wrath on the PC (yay) this has been a fantastic train-wreck to stare at. It's not broken or buggy, it literally isn’t finished with everything from custom resolutions still being worked on in an upcoming patch.
It would be hilarious on it's own right, if it wasn’t for the fact that people paid money for this:
It's upsetting that I was actually torn over what game should win this “category”. When Fallout: New Vegas crashed and burned, I saw a bunch of positive feedback from fans, proclaiming that nothing was wrong because “it would be patched.”
I struggle to find words to describe how bad an idea that is.
To set a precedent like that scares me. I think back on all the really great, low-sales games I played this year each completely playable from beginning to end without problem. Then I look at something like Fallout: New Vegas, or the Oddbox, and it infuriates me. All fantastic games, yet held back this year because someone decided to hit a deadline over making sure the damn thing didn't fall apart.
Don't kid yourself. Bugs like this don't appear, out of thin air, when given to consumers. New Vegas was held out from many reviewers initially for a reason. At the end of the day it's not just bad for consumers but the developers reputation as well. To see a trend like this scares me.
There was a bunch of really great games that were released this year that didn't perhaps get the commercial attention they deserve. I've talked quite a bit about both games this year.
Enslaved feels like a dying breed of melee linear action adventure games, that combat is defiantly more simple than what is usually released these days. Pretty upset that
there's no Enslaved 2 idea's kicking around. The simplicity of Enslaved concerns me about their future projects. Their upcoming DmC looks like a horrifyingly poor adaptation, that has sent the internet into a understandable negative frenzy. If I had a “Back to the drawing board award”, New Dante's unpleasant emo-homeless drug-fueled anorexic design, would get top billing.
For better or worse, Resonance of Fate is Final Fantasy XIII's antithesis. It's flawed, but given how barren finding good JRPG's for HD consoles are these days, it's refreshing and worth your time if you are into the genre. The battle system at times is a convoluted mess, but it's about as refreshing as you can get from the traditional static turn-based affair that's apart of the genre. It's story is as equally refreshing, more focusing on a small band of mercenaries with the traditional “end of the world” scenario playing out as a religious conspiracy, disconnected from the immediate story. When both plot threads meet near the end of the game, the result isn’t as fluid and organic as it could be, but it's far more memorable that the usual: “YOU ARE BAD!” cookie-cutter scenario that plagues the genre.
Oh, and this totally happened.
A magazine is a collection of printed works, usually articles that run the gambit of editorial and news, combined together in an issue that is usually about a particular subject... It's kinda like a website, but you can carry it! But you can't post stuff on it. Unless you physically write in it, but then other people can't see what you write.
...Yeah, it's easy to make fun of.
I saw a bunch of people crying foul about Alan Wake getting Time Magazine's Game of the Year. I don't know why.
Who cares what the hell Time freaking Magazine has to say about videogames in general? Seriously?
That being said, I loved Alan Wake. I was not keeping track of it's very long development, that I think ticked off a few people, or the fact it's ending was in DLC form.
Regardless, Alan Wake is a surprisingly solid action game, worthy of previous Remedy efforts with Max Payne. The game's focus on a disgruntled writer and his story coming to life, makes sense within the context of a magazine's selection. Mass Effect 2 deserves it's praise and awards, but sometimes in the context of people, and in this case a publication: It's far more interesting to select something that is contextually more personal.
Will Alan Wake be remembered as everyone’s 2010 Game of the Year? No, but it's going to be remembered as, hopefully, an excellent start for a new IP. The connection between such an underrated game, and this publication doesn’t reek of the usual: “We need a Game of the Year award, quick do a videogame search on Google!”
On the subject of grounding a Game of the Year choice in context...
Getting the platinum trophy in Yakuza 3 was an experience this year that was both...”insane”, and yet deeply gratifying. Yakuza 3 has a plethora of flaws, and is even missing a large portion of it's actual game thanks to a really...strange...localization decision.
At the same time: Yakuza 3 was probably the most fun I had all year. It has it's slow moments, but the payout is probably the most fun I've had all year. The combat is simple, but hilariously brutal. The quest design is all over-the-place, and the locations vary from painfully underdeveloped to a very convincing visual rendition of Tokyo.
Without the random people on the street fighting you.
I was really taken aback by the game, and wrote a huge review for it. The process of writing that review, coupled with my terrible decision to get every trophy in that game, was an experience that stuck and stayed with me all year.
There's a lot of stereotypes of Japanese games these days, like how they all deal with saving the world with a band of angst ridden teenagers. Yakuza's contemporary setting is refreshingly fascinating, the lack of an English voice track increases the enjoyment one would have watching a foreign film.
But the real connection for me was my road to get the platinum trophy. Mini-games one would gloss over initially are brought out in full-force for those who want this. The realization the game had a full-blown golf game, versus some mini-game knock-off freaked me out.
Then there was the Hanafuda card games. The hell is Hanafuda you might ask? Had no idea, until Yakuza 3, in which you are required to play the different card games with the specific deck of cards. Looking up the cards online and figuring out how to play the games, it went over the simple compulsive need to challenge myself.
I was learning about stuff!
Wait, is that a good thing?!
For me, looking back on 2010 the strangeness of Yakuza 3 is front-and-center in my mind. Mass Effect 2 might be the GOTY for everybody, including me, but the experience that stuck with me this year, the experience that I personally will equate 2010 with: Is Yakuza 3.
In closing, bring on 2011! You guys are always awesome, and I got a feeling this year is actually going to be great.