Category Archives: Opinion

Alphas, Betas and Pre-Orders – The Deeper Problem

I recently watched a Vlog by TotalBiscuit (aka. Cyncial Brit). The Vlog was titled, “Should you pre-order videogames?”. At first I did not know what to expect, as the image of the woman in kitty ears in the Video’s “Title” made me wonder just what was I about to face but what followed was an accurate criticism of pre-orders. The Vlog did not only point out countless flaws in pre-orders, from the point of view of the consumer and developer, but also brought one very important thing to our attention, the marketing practice of the publishers. This is something that TotalBiscuit stressed when giving the example of Aliens: Colonial Marines. I liked some of the Aliens games, but I was by no stretch a fan of the series, not the sort that would pre-order the game. I believe some time last year I watched a trailer and thought, “This is gonna be awesome.” but I was never even close to buying the game without seeing a review first. Up to the very point of the release it seemed that this would be the next big Aliens game. It was one of the best selling games on Steam, thanks to its marketing and the fan base that was anxious to get it. All of this through pre-orders. The opposite happened. I waited for a review by Angry Joe and when it came it was brutal. Throughout the board critiques pointed out the overwhelming number of flaws in the game, and I imagine the hearts of countless fans were broken when they got to play their preordered game.

Aliens: Colonial Marines

On the left, you. On the right, the Developer/Publisher.

Strategy Games: Quality vs Quantity

I am certain you heard of this before. More or Better? Better or More? Quality vs Quantity. It is a legitimate concern in real-life terms and in strategy games of different types and sorts. Do you want more of something worse, or less of something better? Rather than telling you how to do your shopping, or what sort of holiday decisions you should undertake let us focus on Strategy Games alone. We immediately stand at a problem however. How do we define Quality and Quantity? The easiest way to differentiate between the two is Cost. Typically in Strategy games something that is more expensive to produce, maintain or purchase is of higher quality. Meanwhile the Quantity approach has a relatively low cost per unit. The best quick example that comes to my mind is from Shogun 2. For 800 Koku (points) you can purchase two Matchlock Kachi Units, or a single White-Bear Infantry Unit. Who would win, the two Matchlock Kachis Units, or the Single White-Bear Unit? We might be more prone to pick the White-Bear Unit but the truth is, “All depends on the circumstances.”. A lot depends on your opponent, on the territory you are playing on, reserves, production, etc.

Quality vs Quantity

Perhaps not the best example, but the Defence of Rorke’s Drift showed how a more disciplined and technologically superior force could defeat a much bigger army.

“All those high level …”

After reading John’s article on the Lifecycle of MMORPGs one section especially got me thinking, about the “Elitism” and “Xenophobia” of long-time, high-level players toward newcomers or low levels. It formed a rather ugly picture of how people behave and act once they feel they are in a higher position of power, they do not like those greensleeves, the newbies, the low-levels. As John presented his case he also showed how Developers try to counter this state of things, to allow low-levels to mix-in with the high-levels. The new with the old-timers. Does it work? It would seem not sufficiently well to keep a game afloat. However, this Opinion piece is not focusing on MMORPGs, it is looking at all the other games, which might be classified as MMOs as well. I recall how in the past I was angry, and how even now I am angry with the “Elitism” of higher rankers over newcomers or even casual gamers. This is almost a rant against, “All those high level pr*cks.”.

Turtles

The only image that summed up my thoughts. Source: I can Haz Cheeseburger.com

Halo 4: Combat Evolved or Intelligent Design?

No doubt the multitudes who live and breathe “OMG Teh Haloz!” have already pre-ordered their copies of Halo 4, bitch-slapped the single-player campaign, and quickly jumped into the frag-frenzied quagmire that is online play with nary a thought for what enriching experiences they’ve shot through at breakneck speed in their underfull skulls. Writing a review for their benefit would be well after the fact—and writing one for yours would be equally asinine in the face of gameplay which is uncannily identical to its predecessor, Halo: Reach.

So, what I’d like to do, even though I know this will not likely be popular since it seeks to evoke free thought, is to look at the story Halo 4 presents—its nuances, its tropes, its plotholes, and the simultaneously laughable and almost impressive fact that it’s composed entirely of other stories.

To critique the story and expose roots going back centuries requires that I divulge the story, and for that reason I must warn you: Abandon hope, all ye who abstain from spoilers.

Halo 4

Master Chief standing before the gates of perdition. That or the next sequel. Same difference really.

It’s a Player’s Market

Being a child of the eighties, the concept of video games evokes a very clear mental image. Either you went to an arcade with a pocket full of quarters or you were lucky enough to have a console that you played in front of the TV whenever no one else was home (There was only just the one TV, and the rest of the household had priority over you and your “silly toys”). In both cases a substantial sum of money would be expected to change hands. $60 for a new cartridge or CD has been the standard. And if you didn’t like it, your money was already in someone else’s pocket.

Player's Market

Slender: The Eight Pages versus Haunt. Who will win? Slenderman or Slenderman?

Horror is a concept which is difficult to define even among those who have written or presented horror their entire lives. John Carpenter said there are two types of horror stories. In one, a group of people are sitting around a campfire at night. A wiseman looks up from the flames and explains to them all that there is a great beast in the wilds. To survive, to be safe, they must best it. In the other, that same group of people are sitting at that same campfire. That same wiseman looks up from the flames and explains to them all that there is a great beast within themselves. To survive, to be safe, they must look within and best it.

Clive Barker also has two horror stories. In the first, the monster which everyone fears is alone. This is an objective universe which man rules, and that one monster is the aberration, the deviation from the status quo. It must be destroyed for man to re-establish supremacy over his domain. In the second horror story, the monster is a gateway. In discovering it, learning about it in detail, we learn that the world is not as it seems. What we know about the world is the merest fraction of a truth which extends into the darkness forever, and as we learn more we are pulled into that darkness. This is subjective horror.

Slenderman

Objective horror says this guy is all you get. Subjective horror says he’s not the first and certainly won’t be the last. His world is coming with him.

The Power of Music

Music in Video Games appears in many different forms. A lot depended on the game genre, the set tempo and of course the context. A lot of the time it seems that a Video Game cannot exist without music, but is that always the case? Sometimes, especially when playing Stealth-style video games you prefer to switch off the music. This is not because the music is bad, but because you prefer to hear every sound around you, and music might distort that. However at the same time the very same games that are easier to play without music can lose a bit of their charm. In the end, how big is the role of Music in Video Games? I would go so far as to say that without music the vast majority of Video Games would not be as popular as they are now. I would like to name a few cases where music really pulled some emotional cords for me, while also stating a few examples of games that did not have music, or were more fun without it.

Happiness is a Warm Mod

If game developers have a brain fart, take it upon yourself to clear the air!

Since in the distant future they’ve lost the technology necessary to manufacture duct tape, if you have ever played Doom 3 without a mod you know you spend a lot of your time bumping into things in the dark. But spend five minutes downloading a free program and BOOM, flashlight duct-taped to your weapons!

Mods for PC games have been popular for some time. A quick definition of a mod would be any program which when run alters one or more aspects of gameplay. It’s no surprise then to know that mods are freely available for download and use online. The surprise would be in that there is now in excess of one million mods in existence.

Why are there so many? The means of learning that are complicated but the answer is simple.

Mods contribute to happiness.

The problem with Loot

How often does this happen to you? After a lengthy firefight against bandits you stroll over to their bodies, hoping to find some bullets for your guns. As you search all of their pockets you discover that all they have is somewhere between zero to a single clip of ammo. “Wait a moment.”, you might think to yourself, “Didn’t this guy just fire off over three clips worth of bullets? I killed his buddies much earlier on, and they do not have anything either!”. You see, Video Games do not like spoiling us, even if it is counter to logic and common sense. In some games a downed foe will only have a supply of ammo equal to the weapons full clip size. When you gaze down at all that nice looking armor the enemy still has on his corpse you might not have the opportunity to collect it. This does create certain abstract situations, such as in S.T.A.L.K.E.R., where you cannot grab an Exo-Skeleton off another guy and repair it. Instead, you have to spend plenty of cash on a brand new (?) suit. In Metro 2033 when you play on higher difficulty ratings you will notice that despite emptying out ten freshly killed foes you might not even have a full clip’s worth of ammo, because each gun and ammo pack will offer only one or two bullets at a time. Fantasy games are not saved from this “Logic” either. In some games you can collect armor and weapons just fine, but the “Gold” logic is absent. You enter a bandit lair, pick the lock to the “Big Loot Chest” and find 50 gold coins. Unless those coins are the size of my palm, why would they be kept in a locked chest? Perhaps a better question is, why do bandits have so little coin if, according to the quest giver, they were a band harassing them for months?

This problem comes from one very silly concept in gaming, which has to be kept to maintain a challenge, balance. My question, is there no other way to keep “balance” while maintaining logic?

Oblivion

What wondrous secrets could this chest hold? … Most likely five coins and a bolt of cloth.

WriterX’s Top 10 Weapons of Gaming

What makes a good weapon? The size of its muzzle flash? It’s murderous efficiency? Maybe just its looks? Some weapons become icons of the video game they are associated with. Other times they simply become popular because of their “feel”. Sometimes, we can’t tell why we like a weapon! We enjoy using it, and there is no secret behind it. In this article I would wish to present my list of Top 10 weapons from different Video Games, including (when possible) the reasons for their distinction on my list.