Thursday, February 3, 2011

Anybody got a spare Phoenix Down?

When Square Enix (formerly Square) launched their first Final Fantasy game on the NES back in 1990 in America, it was supposed to be their last title.  The company didn't take off as expected and so they decided to put their skills to the maximum to produce the best possible game that they could.  What they didn't expect, however, was the complete 360 degree turn that ended up launching their most successful franchise to date.  Now, with the recent installment of Final Fantasy XIII and multiple spin-off titles, Square Enix has hit a rather large speed bump in the gaming industry, one which could prove to be fatal.

Square has made two large mistakes with the Final Fantasy franchise in the recent year.  Their first was with Final Fantasy XIII, which was several years in development, but was released to disappointed fans.  Yet perhaps the bigger failure was with the MMO Final Fantasy XIV released on the PC.  The game was such a catastrophe in beta that they ended up having serious issues with the development team responsible.  Another side reason is the fact that Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a sequel to the popular original, has been delayed for quite some time as well.

Because of this, Square Enix has lowered their projected profits for the 2011 fiscal year by more than 90%, going so far as to say that they will earn $11.9 million from the original $148.2 million by March 31st.

This is bigger than just the future of Square Enix as a company.  With so many FPS and sports games being released, is this the beginning of the end for JRPGs in general?  I believe so.  Face it, the generation there have been too little JRPGs released in American markets, at least, compared to the enormous library that the PS1/2 and Gamecube had.  I may even go so far as to predict that we will see the death of the JRPG in the next 5 years.  People are just too caught up with motion controlled games and shooters to give a damn about stories and character development.  It's quite a shame that Square Enix is having these difficulties, but my only hope is that this will pave the way for a new, bigger company to take its place.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gaming after Thanksgiving

Ahhhh Black Friday.  For most people, this is the day that they give in to impulse shopping and empty their wallets on things they've wanted for a long time.  Others use this day as a Christmas shopping gateway.  But what about for us gamers?  Are there too, amazing one-day deals for us to obtain that one game that Johnny down the street has been bragging about for the past month?  Don't fret, dear gamers.  I've got links to all the gaming and electronic deals that you could ever hope for.


If you don't already know about this site, then I declare you a noob.  Cheap Ass Gamer is the number one stop for getting the best price on any game you could ask for.  With extensive forums, contests/giveaways, game tracking and trading...this place has it all.  And thankfully, every year, they gather all of the different Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals from retailers and put them all together in one neat spot.

Shameless disclaimer note: I take no credit for that list.  All credit goes to user Jodou and

General Electronics

Our next list of deals comes from gaming news site Kotaku. I personally check Kotaku daily due to the sheer awesomeness of their stories and updates on the games and topics that I care about. This year, they've outdone themselves and put together a list of deals on not only games, but consoles, HDTVs, and other electronics. Check this one out if you didn't find what you were looking for above.

Shameless disclaimer note 2: I also take no credit for this list.  All credit goes to

So there you go people.  A short post yes, and only two links.  But I think those two combined give out the majority of the deals taking place on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  At the very least, I hope you learned about a killer deal on a game you've wanted for a while.  

With Respect,

The Venerable Gamer

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Addicting games are addicting

For today's class, I'd like to explore how some games succeed in one of their main goals: pulling you in and never letting you go.  Let's face it, during the days of the original Mario and Zelda, there was little reason to replay the game once you had beaten it.  You finished the main "story", found all the cool little side quests and hidden items, and had basically completed the game 100%.  Yet there was always that pull, that odd sense of, "I really want to play more 'insert game here'".  I'm going to go through some examples of "addicting" games, how some of them fail to accomplish doing so, and generally ponder at how the hell these games pull this off.

Probably the main reason I decided to blog about this subject is because I've been playing a lot of League of Legends recently.  Basically, if you don't know what League of Legends (LoL for short) is, take a peek at the below video.

The main objective of the game is pretty simple.  Destroy the enemy's base before they destroy yours.  Each player chooses a "champion" to play as, each with their own style of gameplay, and push lanes filled with AI enemies (creeps/minions).  Players play against each other, and can build different items for their champion giving them boosted attack, mana, armor, etc...  Now, with the game having such a simple objective and relatively simple gameplay, I wonder why I spend so much time playing it.  So let's take a look at this.  First off, it's a competitive multiplayer game.  As much as I wish there was more of a focus on single player games these days, I can't deny that having multiplayer brings a lot of replay value to any game.  I mean, when I get back from class, do I want to sit down and grind for levels in an RPG?  Hell no.  I want to take my daily rage out on some poor noob in Idaho who made the sorry mistake of getting matched up against me (No offense to Idahoans...wait, that's a word?).  Another reason is that there's so much freedom and unpredictability in LoL.  I can enter a game expecting to dominate the enemy team in twenty minutes and wind up having an epic hour long battle instead.  I can also choose from several different champions based on how I feel like playing. So if I want to run into the middle of the enemy team and tank damage while my team unleashes their fury, I can.  Or if I'd prefer to stealth around the map and backdoor the enemy's base right when they think they've defeated us, I can.  So that's another key element to replay value:  Allowing the player to choose how they want to play and keep the predictability low enough so that it's a fresh experience every time.

So obviously, where some games succeed, some fail.  I'm going to take Fable II as an example here.  While Fable II was a good game, there was just no reason to play it again when I finished it.  Once you complete the relatively short campaign and experience most of what the game has to offer (Sidequests, profiteering, getting married) there's not much else you can do.  There was also less and less of a drawback feeling to the game every time I played it.  As the story grew on, I had decreasing motivation to keep playing, and when it was beaten, I had no desire to go back and play through the game a second time.  This has less to do with the quality of the game, but more of the content.  If you take Mass Effect as a second example, there are many different classes to choose from, as well as a New Game+ feature that helped give the game more life.

So what I'm really wondering is how some games can be so simple in basic concept, yet stay so addicting.  Even with the older games such as the original Zelda, people kept replaying the game over and over again.  Now, granted, back then there wasn't much multiplayer and a lower amount of games you could play, but they still had the ability to pull people in for seconds, thirds, on so on.  Perhaps games today should return to their roots and take a look at how they accomplished keeping gamers interested in their games.  Not only would this cut down on the "stale" games, but it would help support something I really enjoy, which is DLC.  Games that bring out constant DLC can keep their original game and 'update' it with new content and expansions.  This is a great way to experiment with different ideas, and can also give devs hints at what worked and didn't work for their possible sequels.  All in all, I'd like to see more games today focus on replay value, as that really makes or breaks the selling point in many games.

This has nothing to do with my post, but I saw this image last night on Kotaku, and I really wanted to find an excuse to post it somewhere.  Space Giraffe ftw!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Fall of Gaming

Now before you get all bunched up and upset, this isn't about the decline of the gaming industry.  Well, not entirely.  As a matter of fact, the industry is doing quite well with the Supreme Court case this morning and the slew of AAA titles coming out in the past month or so.  But besides the point, I'm talking about the "Fall" season of gaming.  It was a time for many things, including new beginnings, final endings, and some questionable things on the side.  So let's see what's been going on this Fall, and why it was so important.

First off, as I'm sure many of you were aware, Halo: Reach launched in October as Bungie's final Halo title.  As a prequel to the first game, Reach brought about a very in-depth and story driven single player, while keeping the same old Shoot-Melee-Grenade formula that the franchise is famous for.  With the multiplayer, they added on matchmaking to the Firefight mode introduced in Halo: ODST, as well as releasing a slew of different maps and gametypes, such as Headhunter and so forth.  Personally, I think Bungie did a fantastic job giving the fans what they deserved, and I'm excited for whatever new IP they come out with in the future.  Also, a good luck to 343 Industries, who will be picking up the franchise in the near future.

Next, we had a variety of new releases hit the shelves for all types of gamers to get their hands on.  For FPS fans, Medal of Honor was released mid-October and, while it flew under the radar, got some decent reviews.  Many people gave it a chance while waiting for Call of Duty: Black Ops, which will hit shelves next Tuesday, but I have a feeling those who did purchase the game will put it down and hop on the CoD train.

RPG fans saw the release of Fallout: New Vegas, which took the formula of Fallout 3 and gave it a fresh coat of paint.  While there is quite a bit of content in New Vegas, there are also multitudes of bugs and glitches that appeared in Fallout 3 as well.  I cannot forgive Bethesda for not fixing these errors, so I will definitely not pick that one up.  Perhaps a rental in the future, but for now, I'm still happy playing my copy of Fallout 3.

For music gamers, there was Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, Rock Band 3, and DJ Hero 2.  After trying the demo for GH, I have declared the franchise dead, and were the cost of Rock Band 3 a little (or a lot) lower, I would purchase it for sure.  GH just tries too hard to compete with other music games, and ends up coming off stale and unwanted.  Retro gamers had some fun with Sonic 4, and that game received very good reviews as it returned mostly to it's roots and gave Sega fans what they've been wanting for ages.

So as you can see, there have been several top-notch games released recently, and I haven't even mentioned them all (Fable 3, Castelvania, etc).  So, as it happens, I find myself not having the money nor the time to devote to so many games at one time.  Hence the other side of the "Fall" of gaming.  I can blame this on many things (Lack of a job, Classes, Life in general) but I haven't really ever felt this overwhelmed by the releasing of so many games.

Hell, I still need to play through Mass Effect 2 and FFXIII, something I've been wanting to do since the summer!  At times, I wish that the industry would slow it down a notch.  However, that would be a horrendous move, as profits would plummet and the industry would pretty much keel over and die.  But still, it's difficult to really sit down and enjoy a game for what it's worth when a new major title comes around the next week that I'm excited for.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

How long can we evolve?

I keep hearing about everything looking to evolve in the near future.  With new releases such as Web 3.0, people are excited about the changes being made, but even with new technology on the horizon, people still look for more.  I'm kinda worried about how much things can actually evolve in this scenario.  Why can't things just stay the way they are for a few years?

Let's take gaming consoles as an example.  People enjoy the current systems and games if what I'm hearing is correct.  Yet, just with computer technology, new consoles are just around the corner.  Now, hey, I'm all for getting new and innovative games that look and play swimmingly.  But why is there always a necessity for something "better"?  Even when people buy a new console, there's already talk about the next generation.  But this can't continue, can it?  Eventually, we cannot evolve any further.  I'm just concerned about when we will hit that point.  What will happen, to let's say the gaming industry, when developers run out of ideas for consoles, or they just try too hard to be innovative and flop.  The thing is, even as an aspiring game developer myself, I'm constantly worried about the stability of these types of things.  We keep looking for "better" games and "better" graphics and never seem to be satisfied.

Well I'm just here to say that I AM satisfied.  I still take a moment when playing a game such as Tales of Vesperia or NBA 2K11 and marvel at the graphics and color schemes, especially when I decide to turn on the old NES and go into nostalgia mode.  Anyways, I'm not sure where this thought came from or why I'm blogging about it.  Maybe it stems from my dislike of where gaming companies are going these days (i.e. Kinect, the obsession with 3D gaming, and the clusterfuck of motion control) or perhaps it's just a random thought, who knows.  All I know is that I won't be surprised when the day that evolution fails arrives.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mobile gaming needs to go

Alright, first off, I'm going to say that I do understand the appeal of having access to games on a mobile phone.  Yes it is entertaining and convenient, as well as a great pathway for indie developers to get their hands wet.


I seriously cannot stand the support they're getting.  Take this recent article from Mashable for instance:
A game that thousands if not millions of people play on their PCs now have access to it via the new Windows 7 Phone.  This sounds good to many of you I'm sure.  But let's be much time will you spend playing this on your phone when you could be getting a much richer experience on the PC version?  That's the main issue I have with mobile games.  For me personally, I only play games on my iTouch when I'm waiting for a class or on a car ride.  But even then it's only for roughly ten minutes before I get bored.  There's just not enough motivation for me to play a game on a mobile phone when I could be getting so much more out of playing on my 360 or PC.

That's what I associate gaming with though.  Console/PC gaming is what I believe to be true gaming.  Handhelds such as the Nintendo DS and PSP count as well, as they produce AAA titles such as Dissidia and Pokemon.  But in my eyes, using mobile devices such as the iPad, iPhone, Android, and now the Windows 7 Phone just seems like a fake.  These games are the off-brand food that you buy in the store, and while some off-brand food is tasty, you get much more enjoyment out of the real thing.  It irritates me to see so much money, time, and effort put into the mobile games when, quite honestly, nobody is going to pay much attention to them in the first place.  Quite honestly, I don't think I will ever have the desire to purchase a game for a mobile device.  There's nothing impressive or innovative about them, and they're pretty much akin to the random flash games you played when the internet was young and Yahoo! Games was your main timesink (don't deny it, we've all played them).

Perhaps I'm missing out on what could be an awesome gaming experience.  Or maybe I'm right.  Who knows.  But what I do know is that all of that talent and innovative-ness could be focused on "true gaming", but instead, is wasted on this "imitation gaming".  So if you walk up to me and tell me, "Play this awesome game on my iPhone it's better than sliced bread!!!1!!!1!111", don't expect me to give a shit.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Phoenix Down: MAGD style!

Ah, the phoenix down.  An RPG player's favorite item to have in handy during boss fights.  If you're not familiar with the term, a "Phoenix Down" revives a fallen character/ally/whatever.  So for our project in SMO, it was a goal of mine to help revive the MAGD page on Facebook and give it some new life.  And I think I did a pretty nice job.

First off, I shared numerous stories on the page's wall.  From gaming news to articles on Mashable, I would immediately throw the link on MAGD's wall for other people to see if I thought it was interesting, as well as putting it on my own status.  I also typed some well-thought out responses to the various stories the MAGD admins shared on their status, and gave as much feedback as I could.  Another contribution was simply suggesting the page to friends.  I got about 10 people out of my friends list that were interested in MAGD to "like" the page, boosting page awareness.  Finally, I helped establish some user-created content by submitting a simple photo I created in Photoshop using the progression of Mario combined with the MAGD logo.  It wasn't meant to be anything spectacular, but I believe that any user-created content really helps to boost activity.

There were also a few things I was dissapointed with during the beginning of this project.  I don't think we did a great job promoting our event, "Friday game days", as even I was confused as to what, where, and when the event even was.  To fix this, I think we can all promote it better as well as setting up a more informative event page.  Secondly, there wasn't too much of a group effort.  I noticed that there was little communication amongst ourselves which may have held us back.  Simple solution: more communication.

Other than that, I think we did a great job in spreading the word and getting more activity on the page.  We had a few flaws in our group work but overall, this is a great start to getting more people involved with MAGD!