Sunday, August 31, 2014

Remember Remember 10 Games in September

September is already here and there are a ton of things that gamers around the world should be happy about. Today I'm just going to give you people a small list of 10 games that will release this month. It is a long way from this day to the release of games that are scheduled for a 2015 release, but we are ready to begin the gaming spree that this 4th quarter 2014 will be. We have been waiting a long time for a streak of expected games to come our way so this is some of what we will have this month:

The Sims 4

September 2: The Sims 4 (PC)
For all of those Sims fans, comes the official 4th game in the franchise and it comes with a lot of improvements. Some of these are a completely new set of Sims to play with, each with its own personality and traits, the "create a sim" and "build mode" features were completely redesigned, neighborhoods now have a bigger variety of people and last but not least the addition of "The Gallery" which is a place where players will be able to get new sims and homes with the chance of sharing their own. All of these improvements and new things imply that this new Sims game will be a great one, especially if you are long time fan.


September 9: Destiny (multiplatform)
Releasing on the same month and day that the Dreamcast did 15 years ago, comes one of the most expected games this year. Destiny is a sci-fi styled first person shooter with online rpg elements. Those who play it, will embark on a epic journey as one of the warriors called "Guardians" in an effort to drive out the dark forces that linger on our solar system and threaten our existence. In this game you will have the chance to explore different planets while doing story missions, quests or just roaming around the place looking for treasure, all of this making the PVE (player vs environment) part of the game. As for the PVP (player vs player) players will have the "Crucible" where they can go toe to toe with other players in different maps based on each planet. The interesting thing about PVP in Destiny is that you can also win some loot or unlock various items such as weapons and armor by doing certain things while playing against others. So in both PVE and PVP, Destiny promises to be a really fun game.

Fairy Fencer F

September 16: Fairy Fencer F (PS3)
The PS3 has been receiving a steady flow of jrpg games and this pattern goes on in September with Fairy Fencer F. Nis America and Compile Heart come with the western version of this jrpg, featuring Yoshitaka Amano as the concept artist and Nobuo Uematsu as the music composer. The story on this game is about a set of legendary weapons called "furies" that were created by the good and evil gods of the past for their soldiers to use in their conflict. Now on moderns times, warriors that can use that sort of weapons are called "fencers" and as warriors go around the world looking for those legendary weapons, the conflict between the gods starts again. From what we can see about this game, it looks like your classic jrpg experience, but considering that part of the Hyperdimension Neptunia team was involved in the development of the game, expect to see a lot of wacky skills and over the top special moves.

September 23:

Natural Doctrine

Natural Doctrine (PS4)
This one is the first jrpg experience the PS4 owners will get and up until now it looks pretty good. Natural Doctine is a very challenging tactic rpg game that tries out tactic mechanics mixed with an exploration approach. The game hasn't sold that well in Japan, but this may had been because of the fierce competition that the game has on the PS3 and PSVITA, coupled with the poor sales that the PS4 has been having in the land of the rising son. In the west it may be another story, because the game is basically running alone in the PS4 library as no other big Japanese rpg games have been released for the platform on this part of the globe. Some people have called this game the Dark Souls of tactic rpgs, so if you like to have some challenge, try this one up.

Gauntlet Remake

Gauntlet (PC)
This game can be basically called a remake of the original 1985 Gauntlet. It will feature updated graphics and the same exciting horde style action game play that many gamers have grown to love on this game. The game will feature all the classic character classes and the big randomly generated dungeons. As we have been able to see from the pictures and video that have been shown, it is notable that the new Gauntlet will sort of feel like a simpler version of Diablo 3, with the only purpose been to survive the onslaught and dangers to be found in the dungeons. If you are fan of the original game, or you like to spend some time hacking and slashing your way through, this is your game.

Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star

Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star (PS3)
The PS3 jrpg love continues with this game coming to the PS3 this month. Ar Nosurge is a prequel to the Ar tonelico series that put you in control of one of two pairs of characters at a time, each with their own point of view in the story. The pairs are characters called Cas and Delta and later on Earthes and Ion. The story of this game goes around some evil outer space lifeform called the "Sharl" who were able to defeat space travelling humans with the use of "song magic". Thousands of years later, some ancient humans appear and they seem to have learned to use song magic so life for humanity changes and a new struggle begins. This game features some classic rpg elements like field exploration and the recruitment of new characters by following their own stories, so it is a quite interesting option for any jrpg fan that wants something closer to the classics of the 90's.  

Dark Souls II: Crown of the Ivory King

September 24: Dark Souls II: Crown of the Ivory King (DLC)
This Dark Souls II DLC promises to be even more challenging that the game itself, although not much has been shown about it. Most of the information that has been shown by the media include a winter-like place with a bonfire in it and the words Episode 3: Crown of the Ivory King. Players have been speculating this to be based on the Shrine of Winter, but nothing official has been said about it so if you are a Dark Souls II player, you definitely have to check this one out.

Hyrule Warriors

September 26: Hyrule Warriors (Wii U)
This had been a game that has been advertised a lot lately, so now we will be finally able to see if it will deliver. This cross between Dinasty Warriors and Legend of Zelda has been enjoying quite a lot of hype since they started announcing the characters that will be playable in the game. We have gone from Link and Queen Zelda to Impa and even Garuna and Ganondoft himself so the roster is quite big. Based on what has been shown, the adventure mode looks really fun, although it would had been perfect if it would had featured online cooperative play. Dinasty Warriors fans are preparing to play the heck out of this one, while the Legend of Zelda fans are holding their breaths and hoping for the game to live up to their expectations. Will the game pass the ultimate fan test? We will see when it releases.

September 30:

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (Multiplatform)
This new entry on the Hobbit/LOTR series of games is an action rpg game developed by Monolith studios. On this one you will play as a ranger that has some strange wraith powers, living through the events that happen between The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings storylines. The players will find themselves in an open world where they will have the freedom of advancing at their own pace through the many missions and quests in the game. Shadow of Mordor also features character customization and the "Nemesis System" which is basically a system that "remembers" how you have interacted with different types of characters in the game so they can react to you accordingly when you find them around the world. The game really looks like it is a nice addition not only to fans, but to action rpg players in general.

Forza Horizon 2

Forza Horizon 2 (Xbox 360 / Xbox One)
Continuing the Forza series is Horizon 2. This one takes place during the fictional Horizon festival (held all across Europe) where players will explore the region and enter various racing events in order to advance through the ranks, get better rides and above all, earn some respect. This time around, the game will feature day and night mechanics which will make the experience to be a lot more real that on previous titles and it will include over 200 cars to use or race against. There will also be a group of challenges called the "bucket list" and several types of racer to racer online interactions that will make it feel as if you were really part of the racing scene. Up until now if you are racing game fan, this is your best bet yet.

September in gaming

Wrapping it up

There is more from what that came from, but I limited my list to 10 noteworthy games that are coming on this month, so keep with the Gamertologist Zone as new game details are released and get to know a little more about what our wallets should fear.

Game Informer: 2014 Game Release Schedule

Friday, August 29, 2014

Whatever Happened With Sadness

Now that survival horror games are back in style, let's talk about one of them that was aiming to be something revolutionary in the previous generation, but ended in development hell long before it could become a complete product. Back when the Nintendo Wii was soon to launch (and still labeled as "Nintendo Revolution"), there were a lot of promises that were never fulfilled. For example, there was supposed to be a beat them up game called Project Hammer which would had the player using the Wii remote to make the robotic hero swing his giant hammer and smash enemies and objects alike, but it never happened. The one we are going to talk today was supposed to be a survival horror game that would fully use the Wii motion control features in order to give the player a really immersive horror experience. That horror game that never came was called Sadness.

Sadness game
Using a female aristocrat as the main character in an horror game was an interesting approach
as it mixes the life of the rich and powerful with the sensible approach of a woman, this time a sister.
Sadness was going to be a survival horror game developed for the Wii by a Polish company called Nibris. The first thing everybody noticed was that game's graphics were going to be entirely in black and white, sort of like one of those really old horror movies, but without the cheesy parts or silent dialogues. The main character in the game was going to be a woman called Maria Lengyel who was an aristocrat from the Victorian times. The woman finds herself in a pinch after the train he was travelling in is derailed and now she has to protect her now blinded brother and press on as they go deeper into the darkness that fills the place while her brother begins to exhibit some strange and creepy behavior.

Sadness Torch Concept
This live action concept looked very promising at the time.
In this game, the level of interaction was going to be its main focus with the player having to use full motion controls (not waggles) in order to protect Maria and her brother from harm. Examples of this were shown in live action concept videos where a woman was shown scaring off a pack of rats with a torch and protecting herself from the rain by using an umbrella. This was part of the promise of giving the player the freedom of using any object in the game to attack, defend or interact with the environment. Another part of the whole premise of Sadness was that there was going to be no HUD. The developers were aiming on giving the game a more cinematic feeling without HUD items or menus reminding you that it was just a game so, everything was supposed to feel as if it were a movie. To top things off, the game was going to feature a storyline with different branching points which would surely had led to different endings. All of this points out that as far as features go, Sadness would had been revolutionary if it were delivered as promised.

Sadness Werewolf
At first the game was been nicely treated with development updates coming at a monthly basis. A few concept art pictures and sketches were shown while the game was still in development and based on how they looked we can say that this game was going to have an environment a little similar to the one featured in The Order 1886 because of its old school European style. Enemies in this game had a mix of common and uncommon influences that could be seen in the few concepts that were shown. Some of them consisted of werewolves and even Slavic mythology creatures like Likho.

Sadness was starting to look like a game with a lot of promise, until they fell silent about it. Months went by and the Nibris website had the same pictures and videos with no updates whatsoever. Some years passed after their sudden silence and by 2010 Nibris ceased to exist as its parent company turned them into a coordinator, a decision that stopped all the projects they had been working with including Sadness. This was quite a disappointment to everybody who owned a Wii and was expecting to try this game as this was one of the very first concepts that promised to deliver the motion control revolution that Nintendo had promised.

A woman and her little brother, looking at this picture gives some sort of "The Last of Us" feeling.
I think these people were ahead of their time and could had made it big with this game.
Wrapping it up

Sadness is still nowhere to be found, but while it seems that the game is still in development hell, there are some articles like this one on Nintendo Life, that state that the game may be developed after all and released for the Wii U, so if you are still curious about how this game would had turned out, there is still hope. I personally expect it to be some kind of cross between The Last of Us, The Order 1886 and Clock Tower.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Journey Continues In Dreamfall Chapters

There are a ton of things happening in the gaming scene right now ranging from first person shooters, to hack and slash type of games all the way to rpg and driving games, all of them are promising to be good and diverse gaming experiences. The wave of games that the community is about to get is a real hype train, but today I will go a little into a soother (and more surreal) side of games to come by talking a little about Dreamfall Chapters.

Dreamfall Chapters

It is quite possible that you haven't heard about the game and that is all right because this one comes from the niche, but interesting genre of adventure games. When I say "adventure games" it is not to be confused with games like Legend of Zelda or Tomb Raider. This type of adventure game is a lot more subtle, built in a gaming environment where puzzles (as in solving problems) are more dangerous to your game progress than the enemies themselves (that is if the game has enemies to defeat, which is not that often). These kind of adventure games are not so famous right now, but they used to be in the 90's and early 00's so it has been kind of a long time since adventure game fans had a real fix with a new installment on one of the big games in the genre. Luckily for us (yes, I do love those games) one of the biggest adventure game series is roaring back to life with Dreamfall Chapters.

The Longest Journey
The Longest Journey, this is where it all began.
Dreamfall Chapters will be an episode based series of games that will serve as the sequel to The Longest Journey and Dreamfall series. Those two games were pretty popular within the adventure game fans back in the last decade, featuring a beautiful and engrossing story with clever puzzles and a surreal environment for gamers to explore. The Longest Journey was released just on the beginning of the new millennium (2000) and received many praises because of its engaging storyline, cool puzzles and situations to solve. This one was more of a point and click game, but instead of been from a first person perspective like the Myst games, TLJ worked from a third person perspective with pre-rendered background images, so wherever you clicked the character followed. The story of the game went around a girl called April Ryan and all the adventures she had when she discovered that she could travel between two worlds. One of these worlds was our own (technology based) which is called Stark and an alternative one (magic based) called Arcadia. On TLJ, April must learn how to unleash her potential as a "shifter" in order to save both worlds from collapsing.

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Dreamfall has a lot of Arcadia in it, but it still gives us a more futuristic style. 
After the success of The Longest Journey, the series took a rest and then came back with a sequel which is Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. This game was released in 2006 and it continued the story some time after the end of the first game. On this one, you play as Zoe Castillo who begins as an apathetic "whatever, my life is lame" kind of person who gets mixed up into the "Shifter" business when she ends up in Arcadia while uncovering a strange conspiracy involving her ex-boyfriend and a mega corporation. With Dreamfall, its developers tried to go for a different approach and made the game to be a little more active, meaning that you could fight enemies and play some stealth parts, all while keeping the puzzle solving mechanics intact with the use of a clever control scheme that for the most part worked pretty well. In simple terms, As compared to the first game, Dreamfall was a darker, more futuristic and active game experience and even though it wasn't as popular as its predecessor (with an ending that wasn't well received by the fans) it was a good game in its own right that paved the way to its soon to come sequel.

Now enter Dreamfall Chapters. This episode based game will be the direct sequel to Dreamfall and its been developed by Red Thread Games by using the Unity3D engine. The project began as a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 which closed with a total of more than 1.5 million dollars, an amount way over their initial $850,000 goal. Up until now, the people at Red Thread have shown some images and videos and the game is shaping up really good. The really cool thing is that based on their Kickstarter page updates, they are almost ready to release the first chapter in the series which is sub titled "Book One". The game will be a (console) timed exclusive for the PS4 while also launching on Windows, Mac and Linux, but they are also considering other platforms in the future.

Dreamfall Chapters Zoe
Zoe is back and we are itching to know how.
Based on what has been shown about the game on the net and its showcase on Gamescom, Dreamfall Chapters seems to keep most of the elements featured in Dreamfall, but this time having a polished version of the main game play mechanics. They also seem to be doing a great job in solving the problems that the previous games had while adding up some new features. Let's see some of the game's more noticeable details:

  • A more open gaming environment.
  • Three different characters with their own adventure.
  • Choices to make that will affect the whole game. 
  • A big graphic update (a bit obvious, but worth mentioning).
  • A very good improvement on voice acting.
  • A more direct interaction with objects in the game.
  • The possibility of the characters changing based on how you play.

It is also important to point out that fans of the original games will feel right at home and may even get a deep nostalgic feeling out of some of the places featured in the game as they look fresh, but at the same time are very recognizable if you played TLJ and Dreamfall. The game will also have the appearance of most of the old characters as the story of Dreamfall continues and reaches the long time conclusion that fans have been waiting for.

Dreamfall Chapters Concept
A cool concept art of Stark in Dreamfall Chapters.
Wrapping it up

Dreamfall Chapters is nearly here with the soon to be released Book One of the series. If you are a long time fan, this is something we have been waiting for years and we couldn't be any happier about it. If you haven't played the game before, I suggest you get the previous games (Steam is a good place to get them) so you can get the hang out of the story before trying the new one. The game is stated for release on Autumn 2014, but no official date has been given yet, so stay tuned and dream on.

Bonus Stage

If music is your thing, know that you can have your music featured on Dreamfall Chapters. Just go to the game's Kickstarter page and follow the instructions. It is a cool opportunity to get your music talents into a video game.

Dreamfall Chapters Kickstarter

Sunday, August 24, 2014

High Graphic Expectations and Development Limitations

Technical aspect discussion is something that has been present in almost every console generation since the 90's. At first it was the bit wars (or who's cpu was better), then came the early 3D wars in which gamers were judging the power of a console based on how blocky/blurry or not the models looked. After that came the polygon count wars with the Dreamcast vs PS2 drama and since the middle of the previous generation we have been in the resolution and frames per second war. It is nice to have a technical aspect to discuss (especially if you are a technology enthusiast), but if you over do it and turn it into a petty complaint, then you are causing the gaming community more harm than good.

Conference Room

Let's begin by having a little mental game in order to visualize how a game works inside your preferred machine. Imagine that you and 7 other contestants accepted a million dollar challenge. You are all in a special conference room that that has some kind of limitless temperature regulator built in. You are all surrounded by 100 different objects around you and each of you has a headset on. Now people that are outside the room will begin asking questions about these objects at a rapid pace. Each time any of you gives a right answer the room get a little hotter and if the answer is wrong, ambiguous or not answered fast enough it will get colder. If the temperature gets too low, you lose the challenge (and the money), but if you all try too hard, the room will get too hot and it may become hazardous. The challenge will last 4 hours so you all have to keep it steady until then in order to win.

Game Loop
"Update Game" is where all the magic happens. It is what keeps the game alive.
If we compare this example to how a game works, the room itself is the console and the challenge is the game. The people outside the room asking the questions would represent the game loop, which is programming cycle that is always "asking questions" about each and every element that's in the game at any given time. You and the other contestants who are in the challenge represent the hardware and the objects in the room represent everything that a game has like maps, characters, sounds, commands, etc. You may now be asking yourself what does this example has to do with graphic demands and the answer is simple. In technical aspects,making  a video game is a test of balance. As a developer you have to make a game that looks good, but at the same time make it balanced so it doesn't overwork the machine in which it is been played or cause unintended issues. This is a principle that some gamers need to understand before demanding to have the highest graphical output on every single game.

Evolution of Lara Croft
Graphical evolution in gaming comes with time, not complaints.
Why does these demands hurt our gaming experience?

We need to be aware that everything in computing comes with a price so always having the maximum graphical output means that developers may be sacrificing other features like the size of maps, the variety of things the player can do on the game, chunks of story line content, drawing distance (how far in the distance can you see), the implementation of some game mechanics,etc. Also add to that equation some non-technical aspects like time constraints, market demand, publisher demands, funds, competition,etc. With all these problems in place I think we now have some idea of how hard this process is. To make matters worse, if we make the mistake of giving marketing people the idea that we just want games that look pretty that is what we are going to get, but only by sacrificing game play and innovation. Do we really want that?

We also need to take into account the type of game we are talking about. There are simpler games (like some 2.5D platformers) that run in a perfect 1080p resolution at 60fps even with nice graphics. They work flawlessly, but that doesn't mean that it is an easy thing to do. They managed to do it because the game itself doesn't need that much processing power to run. Now if the game we are talking about is a current-gen open world or sandbox game there is a chance that the "perfection" some of us demand may not be there. Still that doesn't mean that the game is bad, the console is weak or that the developers are been lazy. It is like that because the game makers balanced it all out considering the time, resources and situation they had.

Tales of Xillia 2
Exhibit A: A game that doesn't need cutting edge graphics to be epic...Tales of Xillia 2.
Wrapping it up

The bottom line is that people who like to judge a game because its graphics weren't next-gen enough for them need to think again because they are not only been unrealistic, but they are also contributing to the development of shorter and less innovative games (especially if marketing people are involved). They should try to get into a new mindset and enjoy games for what they are. This way they give designers and developers a break, so they can create masterpieces instead of finding themselves forced to pop up games from a template as if it all were an assembly line. It is better to have a normal, but great game rather than a pretty one that feels uninspired and bland. I leave with you with that folks, game on.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Some Gaming Concepts That Just Didn't Work

Innovation has always been a hard endeavor in the world of technology and gaming tech is not an exception. Through the many years that have passed since the first video game was ever made, we have seen a lot of fads that have come and gone. In this world we live in there is always a person with a lot of money and all sorts of "kind of cool" ideas, but not every one of those ideas gets realized to its full potential as some concepts either fail in the process or die before they can even exist. Following that lane of thought we are going to see some of those "high end" concepts in gaming that tried to be something awesome, but couldn't.

1) The Arcade Experience at Home
Time: Late 80's - Early 90's  
Reason for failure: Was too expensive for the common customer.

Back in the late 80's and through the 90's that thing we call arcades were the pinnacle of gaming. Anybody could get a simplified port for any of the game consoles existing at the time, but nothing was as smooth, good looking and over the top as the arcade games themselves. At this time, some people thought that the best way to go was to bring the arcade experience to our homes regardless of the cost and that was a big mistake. Yeah, the economy wasn't as bad as it is now, but nobody was going to break their wallets over expensive video game hardware that came with a limited library of games that were not that easy to find.

Neo Geo AES

Take for instance the home version of the Neo Geo console or AES (Advanced Entertainment System). Releasing in 1990, it was an attempt to bring the arcade experience to our living rooms in a time where it was indeed a big thing. The performance of this console was excellent and the hottest SNK games were available for it, but it had only one problem and that problem was that in order to have the console you had to dish out $650 and an extra $100 - $300 for each game. That in today's money is the equivalent of $1,141 for the console and $175 to $526 for each game. Before becoming a home console, the AES could only be rented and it was mostly available to hotels or high profile customers. This means that SNK had no plans to re-engineer the console in order to make it cheaper and because of that it just ended been a dream machine that was too expensive for the common gamer to have.

Another example would be the Konix Multisystem. This one instead of trying to be a home console, it opted to be the arcade itself inside your living room. It was some sort of "arcade cabinet" that resembled the ones found in the arcades for games like Afterburner. It has a neat looking chair with all sorts of stuff attached to it and it promised great looking home console games with the added value of the arcade experience that was so famous at the time. This one was never released because the manufacture costs for it were so high, that the price tag would had been something almost impossible for the consumer.

Corpse Killer

2) Photo-realistic Gaming (the poor man's version)
Time: Early 90's  
Reason for failure: The "games" were in fact crappy movies with sad excuses for gameplay.

On our modern days we can see some games that show how far we have advanced in the graphics department, but while many of these games feature excellent visuals, we still have a little more time ahead of us before reaching photo-realistic graphics. Now, back at the early 90's Sega had other idea which was taking the games into the movie rather than taking the movie into the game. At the time, most of what we had seen on gaming visuals was limited to sprites and drawn backgrounds so they must have thought that changing that to movie style visuals would make such an impact that they would quickly become kings of the hill.

It all looked good in paper until you played the games and realized that you were watching a low quality B movie with certain parts where you could shoot stuff or had to press a certain button combination (quick time events). After the Sega CD was released, the first emphasis it had was on those kinds of "interactive movies" and while a small handful of those games got to a cult classic status, most of them just flopped. Taking the easy way into photo-realism in gaming was never going to work and it still wouldn't work even if we tried it with the technology of our present time.

Viktormaxx Stuntmaster

3) The First Virtual Reality Attempts on Gaming
Time: The 90's
Reason for failure: Bad implementation or devices just been cheap gimmicks.

Since the beginning of the current console generation we have been hearing a lot about virtual reality headsets. Be it the Oculus Rift or Project Morpheus, these new devices promise to give us that VR experience that others have failed in the past. In fact, half-baked attempts at creating a virtual reality were the reason why VR was basically abandoned until now. Some people may argue that the technology needed to pull this off was still not there, but if you think a little about that point in time, you can see that first person shooters already existed and were pretty popular with the hardcore crowd along with other genres that had games that could work on a virtual reality environment. They just had a bad choice for games and/or hardware and that botched their attempt on VR.

Virtual Boy Mario Tennis

The biggest example of this is the Virtual Boy. Nintendo tried to make something interesting in order to keep the fans at bay until the Nintendo 64 was ready to release, but made it all wrong and paid the price for it. At first their idea was brilliant, futuristic looking and hype inducing, but when gamers began to see what the Virtual Boy was really about the whole thing went "bomb om"! The games were in red and black instead of color, most of the game concepts were anything but virtual reality and the device itself had no ergonomics or aesthetics at all. All of this made caused the Virtual Boy to be a failure and a stain on virtual reality gaming.

Other people also tried to make similar devices like the dreaded R-Zone which was a butchered version of the Virtual Boy that consisted of a Tiger Electronics game running in red and black over a piece of plastic an inch or so away from one of your eyes. Other devices just tried to simulate VR by putting a normal game very close to your eyes like the Viktormaxx Stuntmaster or just trying some desperate old school 3D effect on an uncomfortable headset or googles like the Sega 3D Glasses.


Wrapping it up

Like it was said at the beginning of this article, Innovation is hard and it is a path that became the final resting place for many products, but these early attempts to try new things did not went in vain. Nowadays we have systems that emulate the feeling of the arcades pretty easily (even if you want to make you own cabinet, you can and it is not that expensive), gaming graphics have slowly evolved into something that almost resembles the real world (check how the Fox engine looks on the PT game demo) and virtual reality now has a fighting chance with the creation of new VR head sets that are showing lots of potential. Who knows what kinds of new crazy concepts will come at our present time. Maybe some of them will fail, but we can't rest assured that as long as we keep advancing we will always get there sooner or later.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

After Playing or Seen PT... What Can be Expected of Silent Hills?

If you have been keeping up with the newest blog entries, you know that 3 days after the Survival Horror Awakens, but Still No Silent Hill article, Sony and Kojima had this brilliant idea of using a viral technique to tell us that there is going to be a new Silent Hill game which is now called Silent Hills. That piece of news has generated a lot of hype between both the long time fans and curious gamers who haven't seen much about this horror franchise, which is very cool thing considering the lack of love that the series had been suffering since Silent Hill: Homecoming.

Silent Hills Normal Reedus

Now knowing that PT was a sort of a viral teaser for the new Silent Hill game, we got to see first hand how powerful the fox engine is. The setting of the PT game is on a small segment of a house and it looks astonishingly real also supported by a really good assortment of sound effects that were successful in giving the creeps to everybody who experienced it. Overall, the teaser was excellent, but all the questions are now directed at the final product. How will Silent Hills be?

Silent Hills trailer city
Any fan of the franchise itches at the thought of exploring the entire city.
Will it be an exclusive?

The possibilities of this title becoming a PS4 definitive exclusive are very slim, even though it was first showcased on PS4. The reasons why a definite exclusivity deal seems unlikely is that the franchise is trying to get back on its feet again and in order to do so it needs to be available to as many gamers as possible. On the other hand we have stuff like the game's profile on IGN where it shows that Sony is one of the publishers along with Konami. So if this publisher thing is true, it means that some sort of exclusivity is on the way even if it is only for a limited time. Sony recently said that they were not interested in "buying" exclusives, but if they are indeed one of the publishers we may be seen something like the thing Nintendo did with Bayonetta 2. Now been things as they are right now, the safest bet on this aspect of the game is to think of it as a timed exclusive.

PT game hallway
The power of the fox engine at work.
Graphics vs Content

A great deal of speculation has been going off regarding how this game will be, but nobody has a clear idea. There have been a lot of fan theories that try to predict how the story of the game will go, but have you ever asked yourself how will the game be displayed to you? The Fox engine did a hell of a job, grafically showcasing the interiors of a section of the house, but will it hold up to an entire town? Will this force developers to divide the game in chunks in order to maintain the visual quality? To have at least some kind of answer to these questions be aware that the final product will most likely be different than the teaser. If we take it from a business perspective we can tell that if they feature Norman Reedus in the game, it wouldn't be for him to stay hidden under a first person point of view for 90% of the game as that would be kind of a dumb thing to do if they want him to be part of the marketing efforts for the game.

So this points to the game been in a third person perspective with some first person parts that will play like PT and will serve to give the player some insights about the story of the game. Hopefully the beautiful graphic style presented in PT will not be affected.

PT game ghost upstairs
My experience of the game was so unique, I didn't even saw this guy.
The "s" in Hills

It is a fact that people that played the PT game are still looking for a definite and logical way to finish it. Up until now there are still a lot of discussions about how to beat the teaser and it seems like everybody is having a different experience. This, coupled with the "s" in "Hills", give the impression that the "everybody has his own experience" thing will also be true on the final product. Maybe this time we wont be taking a personality test before the game starts, but have other things that will lead us to all sorts of variations that will make each experience to be unique. This can be done by changing the game through the player's decisions and/or making it a free roaming experience by featuring multiple paths and mixing those paths with various choices for puzzle solving and character interactions that serve as forks in the road (explicit and implicit) up to a point that they may even change the main objective of the game somehow. All this of course will lead to the classic multiple ending feature that many Silent Hill games have had in the past.

Pyramid Head Sex Reference Silent Hill 2
This Silent Hill 2 scene is still an ongoing topic within fans.
Philosophy and Psychology

Almost all of the Silent Hill games have deep psychological and philosophical roots. There is a lot of stuff to analyze and fans have been making theories ever since the first game was released and this is especially true with the second game in the series which seems to be the richest on this sort of thing. Now with Silent Hills we may have a lot of new material to twist our minds into. Evidence of this comes in the discussions that have started on the net, with fans already making all sorts of theories based on the PT game. Some fans have tried to predict the setting and time in which the game will be set on, the appearance of classic antagonists like Pyramid Head and they have also been talking about their ideas about how the story will be. The curious thing about it is that the fan theory mill is getting bigger and bigger and we don't even have the game yet. If you want to read some of these theories check out this Reddit thread and see for yourself.

PT game close up
Been grabbed by surprise and finding this thing face to face, its no wonder there were so many screaming videos.
Wrapping it up

Silent Hills doesn't look like a reboot to the series, but some sort of side story focused on bringing an unique experience to everybody. The powers of the cursed town called Silent Hill can move to pretty much everywhere as evidenced on Silent Hill 4, so we can have an terrifying and macabre experience in any place near it as long as the main character has some sort of relation to its messed up history. It all looks good up to this point and expectations are high, so let's just wait and see what Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro have in store for us.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Different Types of Modern Fanboys

There was a time when been a "fanboy" was kind of fun. It was mostly a charade, a make believe as in reality everybody really enjoyed the "other team's" system and even when two (or three) fanboys did get into an argument, they mostly used facts up to the point when both of their arguments cancelled themselves and all was solved with a slice of pizza and a good gaming session. Unfortunately that was the past and now, we have a type of fanboyism that goes more around the toxic side and it has never been more worse than on this current generation. Reasons about why fanboyism turned from a fun mental exercise to a mindless game of empty arguments are plenty, but instead of mentioning reasons alone, we will see some of the types of fanboy that our modern times have spawned. Be aware, some of these may have existed in the past, but they were never so obvious as now.

Tunnel Vision Fanboy
Never argue with one of these, it will never end.
The "Tunnel Vision" Fanboy

This one is pretty stupid, but one of the most noticeable. Every time an exclusive game releases, we are bound to see their countless comments about how the game is "bad" and most of them clearly state that they are fans of the opposite platform. It doesn't even matter if the game goes out to become a big seller and win lots of awards, because based on the tunnel vision fanboy mindset it will always have a flaw that makes them talk trash about it. Sometimes they use nitpicking or other times try to act as if they are making an educated criticism or "sincere" statement, but we all know that it is crock from the moment we see it. We also know that there are people that can legitimately dislike a game for a number of real reasons, but if you read between the lines you can spot the real game critics and those who are throwing dirt on the game just because they are jealous.

Numerically Obsessed Fanboy
These ones make the protagonist of A Beautiful Mind look like the sanest guy on earth.
The Numerically Obsessed Fanboy

Take the word "numbers" here as everything that goes away from the games themselves and is used as a means of criticism. Things like financial numbers, resolution and frame rate values, number of copies sold and even how much time (in years) they spent making the game. The thing about this is that none of the previously mentioned things should matter. A game is all about how much fun we have with it and not how many big numbers it can crunch up. Fanboys should leave that stuff to industry analysts and focus on the things that really matters. Next time you see one of those, ask them to sell their consoles and buy a calculator and maybe some spreadsheet software instead.

Nostradamus Fanboy
If it were up to these people, we wouldn't have games anymore.
The Nostradamus Fanboy

Nostradamus was an apothecary and a seer from the 1500's who is mostly remembered for his apocalyptic predictions and prophecies. Now more than 500 years later this kind of fanboy is trying to continue his job, but from a videogame industry perspective. These are the ones that are constantly predicting doom for gaming companies based on trivial stuff that happens all the time and should be considered normal. Things like if a developer quits the company (OMG they are doomed), if the company closes one of their divisions (Yep, the company is going down), if the company loses some profit (Oh the humanity, bankruptcy is imminent!) and that sort of stuff. Most of the time it sounds as if the Nostradamus fanboy wants the company to fail, which is a pessimistic and screwed up way to think, especially when gaming is all about enjoying our games and not about creating doomsday prophecies or reflecting our own frustrations.

Quick Draw Fanboys
At the time you first read about an important gaming thing, these people already flooded the net.
The Quick Draw Fanboy

This kind of fanboy put Jesse James to shame, as they are some sort of neurotic individuals that like to jump the gun for anything, firing from the hip faster than in a glitched first person shooter. This is really noticeable when an important decision is made by a company and they just go nuts with nonsensical rants on forums and gaming pages, the creation of countless online petitions and stuff like that. This is the fanboy that goes into a temper tantrum that can only be surpassed by the ones thrown by toddlers when their parents refuse to buy them a toy while browsing through a department store. The real bad thing about these picturesque fellows is that they give a bad name to the entire gaming community, making the world believe that we are spoiled, self entitled big babies.

Michael Myers Fan Boy
These ones are the most embarrassing of all...
The Michael Myers Fanboy

For those of you that don't know, Michael Myers is the legendary villain of the slasher horror films called Halloween. He is dedicated to appear out of nowhere and stalk his victims (certain people) until he murders them in gruesome ways. Well, in the case of fanboys (and not necessarily console fanboys) these are the ones that get into the developers personal lives if they don't do what they want. This means stalking them on social networks, forums, gaming articles and everything related to that person. There have been several accounts of intense trolling and even death threats, up to the point that some developers have decided to quit the industry altogether. I am well aware that we should defend our interests as consumers and that is alright, but nothing ever gives us the right to go all personal on somebody because we can't accept the decision they made. Sometimes it isn't even about a game, but a comment or expression made by the person that manages to spark hatred among weak minded people. If this is now, I don't want to imagine what would happen if this behavior continues 20 years into the future. In what thing will it become? Public executions or developer vs developer roman coliseum styled death matches?

Wrapping it up

There you go folks, 5 different types of modern fanboys that completely spoiled what been a fanboy was all about. Competition is always good, and brand loyalty is fine to an extent because everybody has their unique taste for gaming and may feel like home in one platform ecosystem more than in the others. The problem begins when this goes out of control and we lose sight of what the essence of gaming is. We must go back to the gaming attitudes of the past, when gaming was 100% about gaming and even if competition was fierce, nobody was losing their heads over trivialities.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

3 Reasons Why the Old School Era was Not Always Perfect

It is very possible that you have heard the term "old school gaming" or are an "old school gamer" yourself. If you are one of those who were raised on previous gaming eras like the 8-16-32 bit eras, consider this one a nostalgia trip, but if you are younger than that you will learn today that old school gamers were not always the "privileged kids" that years of the nostalgia trip of others would make you believe. Sure, we had awesome games that had very high quality standards in terms of game design and content, but there were some details that from a kid or teen perspective will sound as if those times were the dark ages of gaming. Let's see some of those things that prevented those times from been perfect.

Note: Take into account that these reasons apply mostly to people that lived through the old school days from the late 80's and 90's either as a kid or a teenager.

doom annoying teacher
We still have some of that annoying anti-gaming stuff, but if you lived on the retro days, you know it was way worse.
Video games had a worst reputation than now and we got the worst part of it.

In our present day, there is a big deal of controversy surrounding some games and sometimes even getting to ridiculous lengths when narrow-minded people fail to distinguish the difference between fiction and reality. Now, back at the old school times, the controversy wasn't just about some games, but about the whole industry itself. We as kids had to endure all the anti-gaming propaganda of the late 80's and early 90's when the whole concept of video games was considered the enemy of students and electric service bills. Kids on those times had to settle with restricted gaming hours often playing just a few per week (mostly on weekends), extreme social criticism of anything that looked remotely violent in a game and the false notion that the gaming consoles of the time were power hogs that beefed up the bill. This meant that even if we had great games, many of us were not having enough time to play them all. This went on at least until we were older and our parents stopped making these draconian rules based on the bad rep that games were having at the time.

There was a flood of misleading products way worse than on these times.

There are good products, crappy products and crappy products advertised as if they were the holy grail of consumer entertainment. On our present time we have a weapon against those "holy grail" products and that weapon is the internet. Now picture those days when the net was not a common thing and all we had as kids/teens was the TV, magazines and word of mouth. We had to separate the treasures from the trash in wave after wave of presumptuous advertising (especially on the holiday season) where hardware companies were basically telling us that their product was the most revolutionary thing ever. If you don't believe it, go watch some retro 1990 game peripheral adverts on you tube. These over the top adverts put our imaginations on overload mode so we ran to our parents and begged them to waste some money in useless stuff or desperately try to save the money ourselves. We had so much self-made faith in these kinds of things that the disappointments became really bad, to the point that up to this day most of us have lost all trust in advertising which is kind of a good thing, but it was a piece of wisdom that didn't come cheap.

Broke Gamer
The truth for many old school gamers back in the day,  getting to the games dollar by dollar.
There weren't many special deals on stores.

Nowadays we have a lot of deals coming from different stores retailer and not, but back at the day if you wanted to get a new release, you had to pay the full price hands down almost without any kind of deal or compensation. Shell out the 50+ dollars and get the game. That was pretty much it, without any special bargain offer, boosted trade in value or pre-order bonus. So back then we had parents that thought that gaming was going to make us flunk all classes and no incentive for them to buy you the games or make it easier for us to get them by ourselves. This meant that many times we had to save our lunch money and/or become some sort of slave on the house in order to get the money for a new game. The other option was to wait a couple years until the game landed at a bargain bin on any game or toy store, but most of the time we preferred to go the distance instead of waiting. Specials deals and stuff came up halfway through the 32 bit era, but by that time most of us were old enough to get our own game money or we could just borrow them from a friend since that era was well known for the game borrowing networks that were made by friends, neighbors, etc. If you want a figure of how hard it was to get a game check this out. A game that costed 50 dollars on the old school era would cost 87.80 on these days. Now imagine been a jobless kid or teen shelling almost 90 bucks for each game today (or asking your parents to do so), without the advantage of special deals.

Old School Gamer
Old school certified.
Wrapping things up

These 3 reasons really wrap up the whole concept as they intertwine between each other. Don't get me wrong I was raised through the 8 to 32 bit eras and I loved any minute of it, but it is interesting to get a little insight on how difficult it was to be a gamer back then if you were not rich or at least lucky. Erroneous "social" notions about games limited our playing time, we lost precious time/money with hardware that was useless and when we wanted to get a game we had to either beg to our parents or really work (taking the word "work" quite loosely here because most of us just were kids or teens by the time) in order to get the games we wanted. How did we managed to have so much fun at those times you ask? Maybe we did the best we could with what we had and that is why we enjoyed it so much.

The Inflation Calculator

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Survival Horror Reawakens and Still No New Silent Hill.

For the delight of fans of this genre, the survival horror hiatus is no more. With games like Outlast, The Evil Within, Alien Isolation and upcoming ones like The Order 1886 and Resident Evil Remake Remastered, it seems like we are going to see a lot of horror coming to this generation. Most of the big hitters are going to have an appearance including a new Fatal Frame game for the Wii U (if it makes it to our shores), but up until now there is one that has been missing in action and hasn't shown any concrete signs of it making a come back. It was the Resident Evil direct competition back in the day and a very good survival horror game, Silent Hill.

Silent Hill 2 James
The HD version of Silent Hill 2 had some classic cutscenes removed because they were seen as "inappropriate".
The reasons why this game franchise hasn't made an appearance on this generation can only be a matter of speculation right now and even though we are not completely in the dark about it, details about the future of the franchise have been a little thin. One of them is that Hideo Kojima has set his eyes on the franchise since 2012 because he thought and commented about how good it would look on the Fox Engine. These comments were only based on Kojima's experience watching the latest Silent Hill movie at the time, so it only lifts a small speck of hope at best. Even in the best case scenario, if Kojima decided to work on the franchise it would be something that would be releasing at 2016 or something because he has been too busy finishing and promoting Metal Gear Solid V. It is most likely that even if he has any real interest on Silent Hill, the ideas must still be on paper and not even funded yet.

Silent Hill 3 Bunny
Robbie the rabbit is a staple of the series and he became really popular after Silent Hill 3.
Another piece of information is related to Climax, which are the developers that made Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. The studio CEO said in 2013 that they are working on 3 new titles, 2 for the PS4 and one for the Xbox One and even boasted about how they were the most "next-gen" experienced studio to ever work with that type of technology. The thing is that rumors state that they are working on a Prince of Persia type of game and a new horror IP. This leaves a 1 out of 3 possibility of having a new Silent Hill game coming from them and if we take into account that one of the rumored games in development is a NEW horror IP, the possibilities get even smaller. Besides, their take on the Silent Hill series was more of a strange reboot in which you did not fought any enemies at all and that wasn't so hot with fans of the franchise.

Silent Hill 4 Giant Head
Did you know that Silent Hill 4 was not going to be a Silent Hill game at all?
Some of the oldest Silent Hill fans say that the best thing to do with the franchise is to go ahead and reunite the original Team Silent. We have to admit that at the time when they were still together, they were the survival horror "dream team" with a group entirely composed of horror-oriented developers and artists. Now back to the reality, we have to accept that reuniting this once powerful team is too difficult right now as many of their former members are scattered all around and even if some of them are still working for Konami, important members of the team like Keishiro Toyama (Silent Hill director), Akira Yamaoka (Sound director for the series) and Takayoshi Sato (creator of the first 2 Silent Hill games) are too difficult to reach because they are either working for another company or on personal projects, so making a Team Silent reunion has become something a little too complicated to do right now.

Silent Hill Downpour
Silent Hill Downpour was an good game, it's only real fault was having bad battle controls.
Wrapping it up

A new Silent Hill game is not an impossible thing as the fans want it and it has been 4 years since we last played a real one and no, the HD Collection and Book of Memories doesn't count. Up until now all we have are rumors and wishful thinking, but a new entry on the franchise can happen as long as this horror trend keeps up. The best thing we can do is to vote with out wallets and support the genre so that the higher ups at Konami see that they can give the franchise another chance and decide to give it a go and make a new full scale Silent Hill project. Once again as I have said before, it is up to us.

Update (8/13/2014): Its funny how 3 days after this blog entry, we get the surprise of Silent Hills through the P.T teaser demo. I'm like super hyped about it as the demo itself was pretty neat.

GamesRadar: Hideo Kojima Expresses Interest in Silent Hill (2012).
VideoGamer: Silent Hill Shattered Memories Dev working on 2 ps4 games and 1 Xbox One game (2013).
GiantBomb: Team Silent


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Nintendo on mobile? They should, but not as you may be thinking.

There has been a lot of comments going on about the Nintendo executives and investors throwing tantrums over if the company should enter the mobile market or not. First of all let me get this out of the way. No, Nintendo should never let their franchises to go mobile because that would be the equivalent of creating a black hole in the middle of the company and it will consume it from the inside bringing a slow and painful death. As they are right now Nintendo is one of the few companies that is still (almost) pristine in their ways and unsullied from any business dirt that comes from selling out... Well, maybe except for the Mercedes-Benz thing in Mario Kart 8, but that's just one separate incident as Nintendo runs most of their business by themselves most of the time and this uniqueness is what keeps them afloat, even on tough times.

Nintendo Mobile Mock Picture
A mock picture of how a Nintendo "master app" could look like.
The thing is that Nintendo could make cool stuff for mobile without selling out their souls to mobile platforms just for a couple of extra bucks. Something like this should be no problem for the big N because mobile app development doesn't require big development teams or high budgets as it would only take a handful of resources and a relatively small development cycle. The best thing about this is that with content creators are brilliant as the ones they have, a great deal of interesting mobile applications can be created and unleashed to the public, giving Nintendo products some extra value without losing themselves in the process.

Mario Kart 8 unofficial app
So a fan had to come and do what Nintendon't.
There are many possibilities about the mobile software they could make in order to support their consoles instead of attempting to replace them. For example, they could develop a support app for Mario Kart 8, sort of like the one someone actually made and was featured in Kotaku a couple days ago. They could also make official apps that give help in some games with mini guides and/or tips or even some sort of Nintendo World App (or something like that) that syncs with the Wii U and lets the user do all sorts of things like buying games, enter the Miiverse, add friends and that kind of stuff while on the go.

Star Fox App Mock Picture
Imagine yourself using a smart phone to help a friend in the upcoming Star Fox game for the Wii U.
Other way of seen this is to go a little farther than plain game support apps. Good imaginative things like apps that lets you help or attack somebody within a game (sort of like the Watchdogs app) could make up for really fun situations if they do it with the right games. They could also make an app that features augmented reality games for the Amiibos that can generate coins or some kind of reward to be used on games or even the e-shop itself. The possibilities are endless if they take mobile approach from the sidelines and come up with interesting and fun materials that add up to the overall experience.

Pay to Win is bad
If they are planning to go "pay to win", they better reconsider before they spoil the whole thing.
Even though all this mobile approach looks interesting, there are many ways it can backfire if they do the wrong things. For example if they get too greedy with their services it will not work. If they turn their mobile environment into a "pay to win" they also run the risk of botching the whole operation. They would have to be quite sensible about the users because this is something they had never tried before so it can go bad if they give the wrong impression. This is especially true on this day and age, where the simplest of complaints spreads like wildfire through the net and can have devastating consequences for a product (ask Microsoft).

Mario Bros Mario
Relax Mario, you don't have to jump to mobile devices to be good.
Wrapping it up

Nintendo can definitely go mobile, but they have to do it in a way that adds up to what they already have without having to replace anything. What they have been doing in these past months have been great and there should be no reason to make any drastic decisions, so all they need to do is to keep on building up until they reach a point where they can convince the non-believers and become an industry powerhouse once again. If that is what their higher ups are thinking then the mobile environment is a great untapped place for them to continue their efforts.