Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Ok sequels are pretty good


fish[4]So I may have been know to have a moan about the lack of creativity in gaming, in particular the vast number of sequels that have been released in the last couple of years. However not wishing to be a hypocrite (you can call me one if you want), I recently got to thinking that most of my favourite games of the last couple of years have been sequels.

When I thought about the list of excellent games I have played and loved in the last bs2titlecouple of years, two thirds of them were a sequel of some sort. Bioshock 2, Dawn of War 2, Uncharted 2, God of War 3, Mass Effect 2, even Red Dead Redemption was a sequel (kind of). Hell I even loved Assassin's Creed 2, which was a sequel to a game that wasn’t actually very good.

This is whenslaved-20100325110402459ere I get to my point. Sequels to games seem to be getting as good as the original, and quite often better (always exceptions, Call of Duty seems to be getting worse not better). Now in movies this is often the opposite way round, and you usually get diminishing returns. I think the reason for this is that with games it is a lot easier for developers and publishers to get feedback on what went wrong and right with their games.

There are forums, and review sites, and blogs, and communities, and people playing there game day and night, constantly telling them what is good and bad. So we end up with essentially perfected (or nearly) versions of the earlier games. So I end up buying and playing loads of sequels because they are really great games, despite me moaning that I want more originality. Heh, I think this in part is why I brought both Enslaved and Vanquish, because they are great titles without a number after them.killzone

So should I shut up about creativity and enjoy the great games, that seems unlikely. I will say this though, i am looking forward to Killzone 3.

Better than Human? Champions for free.


hexChampions online is a game that i have mixed feeling about. On one hand its a really well designed comic book adventure and on the other hand its an overly arcade driven MMO. When i first played it i said that it would have been better as a free to play game.

Now, it appears that Cryptic and Atari gave my advice some thought and have acted accordingly and made the game free to play.

On the up side the game is free to play, as far as i can tell you can play a the core game totally for free but some of the abilities are now charged for.

What I find odd is that as someone who brought the game back when it was a subscription title i received no special unlocks as i did when LotRO made the switch. this is forgivable of course but an interesting observation regarding company policy.

Another gripe i have is that i was not given any clear guide to what’s free and what’s not, again something that was clear with LotRO.

Downloading the game through the very basic download program was simple and reasonably quick, once installing there was about a100mb of patching and i was in the game.

Upon logging into the game i found that the three characters i had when i was a subscriber where locked for me as a free player and i was forced to create a new one. This, i did find irritating.

All in all i think the game will do well as a free to play game but I’m not sure i will spend any substantial time with it as an MMO. As an arcade super hero game however i may spend quite a bit of time in it.

The game even now leave me confused, its a great superhero romp but i just don’t understand why they felt the need to make it an MMO

Friday, 21 January 2011

humm this seems familiar, have I played it before?



fishI have recently been playing two classics of gaming, Half-Life 2 and the first God of War (from the recently re-release HD package for PS3). And you know what, they are both still really really good, and better than pretty much everything in their genre (despite God of War practically inventing the genre).  And it got me a little bit worried that two games that are 7 and 6 years old respectively are still better than pretty much anything that has come since (possible GoW 2 and 3 are on par, not played 2 yet).

f5ae16cedcad978402a73c4139d91aea_content_largeIt occurs to me that the games we play now are all, especially the big titles, just variations on games that have come before. Take mmo’s for instance, all mmo’s are essentially variations of Everquest. This was particularly brought home when I played the Rift beta, which is the same mmo as Everquest, WoW, LOTRO etc, only with an interesting class building structure.

Are we now at the point where every big title is basically going to be the same game we have played dozens of times but with a few new/novel ideas. For Christmas I got 256px-421px-HL2boxVanquish and Enslaved and thoroughly enjoyed both, however they are prime examples. Vanquish is a crazy Gears of War with slomo and sliding and Enslaved is a god of War/tomb raider mix in a post apocolyptic world. I enjoyed both of them greatly, but neither offered any major new ideas.

I thGowboxink this is why in the next couple of years we are really going to see the indie games scene explode. It has already started with the massive success of Minecraft and I think that there will be more games to follow.

So should we be happy being offered gaming experiences that merely tweak what has gone before, or should we be happy with what we have. Personally I hope for both but I am a gaming obsessive who will try anything.

By the way if you haven’t played Half-life 2 you should be ashamed of yourself it is, in my humble opinion, the best game ever made.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Mr Fish in a lightbulb



fishI have just read Hex’s blog about creativity and I couldn’t help but give my opinions.See I am pretty much the worst for what he describes, I am very easily distracted and I am so overloaded by content that it is ridiculous. It is so easy to get entertainment now that we end up with so much. To give to an example I have brought games off the Steam Sale this year (and in previous years) that I have yet to actually even load.

Now I think one of the difference between me and Hex is that I love gaming and like writing, Hex is the other way around. Now if we were back in the good old days before decent amounts of disposable income and easy supply of content would I have churned out 3 novels by now? Oh damn I would love to say yes, but no I wouldn’t have.

I think ultimately Hex argument about the raw amount of entertainment ruining creatively is spurious. People do what they love and they always will. People become doctors because they love medicine, not because it pays well (I think this explains why some doctors are nice and some are assholes). I game because I love it, and Hex writes because he loves and Einstein did physics because that’s was his passion.

Now the really lucky people out there are the ones that there passions can also be jobs. Now I am not that lucky so I work in insurance and game every spare second I have.

Doctor Who adventure games, Finally done.

Capture (2)

It has been quite a long road for the doctor who adventure series. The games, as I am sure you know are free to UK residents. there are a total of four parts that are now all available. I have written a brief review/thoughts post on each that can be found on this site. The final part if called Shadows of the Vashta Nerada and was released a few weeks ago, this morning however my daughter and i played it to completion.


The game is set in an underwater station (city) that you don;t get to explore very much of at all, however you do get to see the majority of it out of a window at one point, it looks very large and even though its a very basic rendering you do get the impression of depth and scale that was intended.

ep4_grab2The plot was strong though thin and with the help of a giant shark and some skull faced divers it had the sense of urgency that the previous episode was drastically missing. there was very little repetition of mechanics and the game was consistently interesting.

Even though the second episode was still the best by far but this one was at least in the same league.with two bad and one good the BBC have lacked any consistency in this endeavour, i am looking forwards to seeing what we see from them in the future.

Shadows of the Vashta Neradastrangely the game is set around Christmas, an obsession the BBC have developed with this franchise that i will be glad to see the back of. the fact that this was set at the most festive of times bore absolutely no relevance to the plot at all, it was just a pointless addition to the game.

The game its self takes place across a small section of this sea base you have about five rooms that you can visit, this is about right for the episodic nature of these games.

there are some nice ‘connect the wire’ type puzzles that we have seen before in these games but this time the story and the puzzle match, there is a sense of purpose to the task that was missing from some of the other episodes.

shadow1The other gameplay element that is reused it the ‘escape the baddie’ mechanic where you are expected to avoid detection by your enemy, its been something of an irritation in pervious episodes but this time you have to use the enemy by luring it into a specific place, making the mechanic work in a new way that we have not seen before.

the game took about the same time to complete as the first and second episodes but felt shorted because there was less ‘adventure grind’ than others, a good thing.

The game engine is solid and its graphically pleasant, i hope we see them invest in this concept some more in the future, lets just hope that they eventually improve the quality of story's.

Cataclysm should have rocked the entire world



fishSo I have managed to get my Dwarf Paladin to 74 and we are now well and truly in Northrend (the 70-80 area from Wrath of the Lich King for the 2 people who didn’t know). And As I have already been through Northrend quest area’s at least twice I am deliberately avoiding area’s I have done recently/a lot.

And I have to confess a lot of the quests in Northrend are great, funny and interesting. However there are still some horrible grind ones, for instance we had a quest to get bear flanks from grizzly bears. Now as it turns out a lot of these bears were assless, and between me and Lady Fleata we must have kill about 50 bears.

I have said in the podcast that getting through outlands was a far to much of a grind and I nearly gave up. So I think Blizzard should have gone back and tweaked and changed all the quests in Outland and, to a lesser extent, Northrend. I know some would say that would be too time consuming and expensive for them, I reply I don’t imagesgive a rat’s ass about that. This is a company making $100 million a month profit, I expect to get the best.

Especially when it is so much fun getting to level 58 and then you go to Outland, and heavy grinding. I have said it before, I am not an mmo player, I am a gamer and as such my tolerance for the standard mmo crap seems to be a lot lower.

It is weird that I can’t wait to get through Northrend so I can get back to all the good new quests at 80-85 back in Azeroth. It puts me off having to repeat old content to get to the new stuff and I would imagine it would put other people off as well. It is like world-of-warcraft-cataclysm-20100612061541004_640whaving a sumptuous 5 course meal, only to find that the 3rd and 4th course are a portion of MacDonald's fries and a ham sandwich. Still edible but compared to the 1st and 2nd course it put you off having the dessert regardless of how nice it looks (I know I am fond of food similes, sorry).

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Be Creative, put a fish in a light bulb


hexIt has been said may times through the ages that true genius can be measured by a fish in a light bulb. No, that’s not true. Creative urges are something i have had throughout my life and even though i am not an artist or performer these creative urges have manifested in the form of maybe decorating a room or (like now) writing a blog.

With the Joy that can be found within our video games, the sense of satisfaction from a new character level to a completed challenge in paradise city i wonder how many potentially world changing ideas are not being manifested because of the high quality entertainment that we have access to.

I know this sounds like a random and strange idea but while playing video games or even watching a really great movie any creative urges (for me its writing) are simply lulled into silence for the duration.

G_{\mu \nu} + \Lambda g_{\mu \nu}= {8\pi G\over c^4} T_{\mu \nu}Imagine if Einstein had not had that free time to think up the theory of general relativity because he was pwning n00bs in Halo. Does the world benefit from the quality of entertainment available to it? Buy maybe Hitler would have chilled the hell out had he been able to play SimCity 3000.

The amount of my free time i spend being creative vs enjoying entertainment is something that i am very aware of. i some times listen to audio such as gaming podcasts or Red-Ice-Radio speakers while playing Lord of the Rings Online to offset education/creative thinking vs mindless play. but what being said i sometimes stop a session of writing because its making me over focussed and just play  Air Control HD for an hour.

I Wonder how many things would have been accomplished if people where simply bored more and had more time to think. All this said there is the idea behind the sand mandala, the idea that sometimes just creative thought and play are the best things for your mind and soul. some times its okay to just play.

I urge you to think about how much time you spend tapping your creativity.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Grinding the craft



fishAs promised here I am blogging, about something that has always kind of bugged me, crafting. As I have been playing a paladin in WoW I figured the perfect crafting option for this is mining and blacksmithing, enabling me to create my own armour and weapons.

As mentioned in previous blogs the revised levelling is now very smooth, unfortunately they don’t seemed to have put the effort into revising the crafting levelling. On more than one occasion I had to run around getting ore/having to buy it off the auction.

Now I understand that people like to be able to create in their games, however from what I have seen in WoW and in other games there is no real act of creation, merely following instructions. Now I play games to have fun, not as a job (I have been inv_hammer_20addicted to WoW and it became practically a job, no intention of getting back to that), so why  would I want to do something that gives me very little enjoyment just to push my crafting levelling up?

Because everyone else does it, you pretty much have to have professions as it is difficult to progress or make money. So I have two suggestions, either make levelling a profession really easy, or make it fun. Throw in a couple dozen little mini games and something that used to be a chore is suddenly something fun to do for a evening.

Because ultimately that is my beef, games should be fun, and anything that isn’t fun should be made fun or cut out. I know way to many gamers who put up with these little nuances in mmo’s because they are expected, I say anything that tarnishes a game puts me off paying for it on a monthly basis.


Saturday, 8 January 2011

Quest Hard Audio #12–Months Later


This episode we talk in depth about the Rift and DCUO Beta’s as well as the state of WoW, some disappointing thoughts on The Old Republic and the state of WoW. we also talk Mobile gaming of the future and Vavle’s opinions.

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Friday, 7 January 2011

The Pac-man Theorem


hexOne of the games i have cone back to over the years time and time again is Shining force. I know, i am always banging on about this game but its one of those that i truly think is a master work of imagination and creativity. Shining Force is a massive role-play game with a sweeping plot as good as any novel and there is a real time strategy element to battle. its in many ways one of the best games i have ever played however, and here is the strange thing, its a game that i first played on the Sega megadrive (Genesis).

I have said all this in my posts before, so do I have a new point? well, I kind of do. Recently I have purchased two emulators for my Android device. A Game Boy Advance emulator (Gameboid) and a Megadrive/Genesis Emulator (Gensoid) there is also another application called RomGripper that lets you download Roms directly to your device. The legality of this is dubious at best but i am not here to debate morale implications of abandoned software copyrights. 

I found it strange that as I have been experiencing the older games that there are some that are simply excellent. not just my fondness for Shining Force but games that even now (other than Graphical limitations) stand up and shine as examples of fun and entertaining games. To list of few…
Jungle Strikeshining-force-ii-phage-demotivational-poster-1227438058.
Super Mario games.
Sonic Games.
Streets of Rage.
phantasy star.
Land Stalker.
crazy taxi.
Those are just a few of the older games that even now are GREAT games, and why? because of two elements that they all have…

1) Simple controls, there is nothing complicated or strange, a good game has logical and easy to remember controls that are not in any way difficult to master.

2) Interesting concept, even if the game has an irrational setting (such as blue hedgehogs that run, or plumbers who jump on heads of mushrooms) the concept is interesting.

Those are as far as i can seethe two basic things that all the lasting games have. As an MMO player i have to see that MMO’s are not following these rules, For the most part they are set in very derivative fantasy worlds with generic characters, the few that do succeed (take WoW and LotRO as examples) have a pre-existing lore and use it to their advantage.

but ALL MMO’s have overly complicated spells that are not given to you in an easy to follow way and many more casual gamers have skills/spells and abilities in game that they are barely aware of. WSAD is not something that more casual gamers find natural to use and the success of face book games that rely ONLY on mice for controls are proof that there are gamers who want simplicity.

look at Pac-man, it makes no sense as a concept but its interesting and the controls are easy to use. therefor its a massive success even now more modern versions of this game are being played on Xbox live arcade and flash sites all over the world.

Maybe the next generation of games such as TOR or DCUO will understand this and i think that Champions online was a step in the right direction but lets bring more people into the fold by making our games more accessible and for the love of god, make them interesting!
demotivational poster Unexplainable
i have added this picture because its awesome, not because it bares any reference to the content of this post Smile with tongue out

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Betas or demo’s?



fishI have recently had the privilege (humm not sure that is the best word) of playing the beta’s of two pretty big upcoming mmo’s, DC Universe Online (on the PS3 no less) and Rift. Now my question is, are they really beta’s or more game demo’s for games that have yet to be released.

The reason I say this is because, despite both being beta’s, they seemed to be pretty bug free and polished. Hell they both even seemed to run pretty lag free. All of DCUOthis makes me think that the games are essentially finished and the beta’s are 90% hype/excitement generation and 10% actual bug testing.

This is were it gets interesting because having played both these games in beta, I have pretty much made my mind up that I am not really interested in either games. Now is it unfair that I have made my mind up about games that are, apparently, unfinished? No I don’t think it is, as in the case of Rift you won’t have to go far on the internet to find people already giving their opinions.

So are mmo’s helping or hindering there release sales by having these very public beta’s. I would love to say for certain, but I know that neither DCUO or Rift will have imagesme playing at launch.

NB Rift is a attractive, polished and incredibly generic mmo with only it’s class system to set it apart. DCUO is again attractive, polished and reasonable fun to play. However it plays remarkably similarly to Champions Online (though already seems more polished than Champions).

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Diversity is the enemy



hexFor Christmas I got Fable three for my wife. she has over the last few days played until three in the morning and loved every moment of the game. this baffles me as my wife does not play MMO’s now fable three gets allot of its mechanics from the classical RPG and then a few from the modern MMO.

for instance there is no crafting system to speak of but there is a ‘Job’ system that allows you to make pies or play the Lute (or Oud, I'm not sure which it is) to earn a crust. there are other jobs that you can do but i have not seen they as yet. there is also a dynamic for owning property and receiving income from it.

The game its self is a vast landscape with cities and towns forests and mountains, it even has a fast travel system and ways to save armour sets (cosmetic system).

Like the last game, if you are connected to Xbox Live (and on a gold account) you can see other people playing (single player) as orbs that float about the area, you can talk to them and listen to them talk even trade between orbs.

The Voice acting in the game is superb and supplied by many well known British actors (Listed here)

So, i asked the obvious question to my wife “If you Love this game so much, how come you don’t like MMO’s?”  she thought about this for a moment and then answered with a list of reasons….

No ending – she can never really finish an MMO, that makes the game actually seam pointless, no ending means to target to reach, so no reason to play for her.

Forced Sociality – yes there are Orbs (representing people) in fable but she feels that she can just ignore them or even turn them off, where as in an MMO she feels that she would have to talk to people at least on occasion when she did not want to.

Scope – she feels that the sheer size of an MMO world is off putting, all that area to explore makes her think that its just too much of a commitment. 

Raiding – We have a friend who is obsessed with WoW Raiding and this has tainted her to the idea of Raids, she thinks that its a large part of MMO’s (even though its not really) and does not want to be forced to play at specific times and days.

Even though allot of her points are not valid to people who do play MMO’s i think that this proves that the perception is still that MMO’s are for the hard-core and until this changes games like Fable will still attract people that would never play MMO’s.

With the casual gameplay of so many MMO’s i think this perception is out-dated and maybe the label MMO is actually working against us.