Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The West Fall From Grace With Japanese Imports

At some point in the past, we at the west were having a blast with Japanese imports. Most games had their version for the west be it with subs, dubs or even the all powerful multi-language feature that has become basically extinct in these days and the only games that were kept in Japan where the ones that were extremely strange in nature and had no market over here. It was an era where censors and marketing people were a little looser they are now. At the time, the market was more open in terms of risk taking and companies were all into been the most "bad-ass" rather than the extra profits and austerity that they show at our present time. At that point in gaming history we used to be showered with cool Japanese games that complemented our own locally made games.

So...What Happened?
Well, if you grew up with the previous scenario you may have noticed that we have become kind of secluded in terms of imported video games. Yeah, we have a local video game market that is quite strong, but that doesn't mean that we are not going to support games from the other side of the world. On this day and age, any Japanese publisher thinks about it like 1,000.000.000 times before making a simple localization that on the past would had been a no brainer. Just to give you an example, approximately 10 years ago, we got 3 Fatal Frame games, while today as of October 2014, people at Koei Tecmo said that they think that the new Fatal Frame game (Wii U) will be a Japan only release. All of this while survival horror is making a big comeback into the west market which makes this all to be painfully ironic.

Sega Yakuza
If we talk about Japanese franchises that vanished from the west, Yakuza is a big one.

The problem with all this situation is that we are been starved of a lot of awesome games and nice things because of some really dumb misconceptions like:

1) Japanese games wont sell well in the west.
Answer to that: Nonsense! Just because one game of the series flopped in the past (for a plethora of other reasons) it doesn't mean that all of them will do so too. Most of the time some imports fail in the west because of bad marketing and the lack of advertising efforts. That notion that the west generally see Japanese games as weird is a dumb generalization that must stop. The really weird aspect of this misconception is that some Japanese games have a great chance of success because they resemble games that are popular on our side of the planet, but many publishers still refuse to localize them.

2) Japanese cultural references will not fit with the west.
Answer to that: Are you kidding me? I think that Japanese marketers need to take a look on how popular anime has become in the west, especially within North American and Latin American Audiences. Many series are huge in the west and many aspects of the Japanese/Korean cultures are revered on this side of the world, not only as video games, but television series, music and movies. You don't need to "predict" how are we going to react. If the game is fun or at least interesting then we will be able to handle it.

3) Their business models don't fit with the west.
Answer to that: This one looks as if it is enough reason to keep a game out of our turf, but if you see it from a deeper point of view you will notice that the whole gaming market presents different types of opportunities that are not limited to one type of consumer. There are several business practices available including platform exclusivity, extra deals favorable to the players or even the creation of extra content and/or game elements. It is understandable that their business model may differ with the popular ones on our side, but they can re-shape their current ones into something that can help them profit from releasing the game overseas instead of succumbing to their lack of faith in the occidental gamer.

So you want to play PS VITA games on your TV set? Nope, only in Japan.
O.k, but who's to blame then?
If we are going to point fingers the first ones to blame would be Japanese publishers themselves. In the last 10 years, many Japanese gaming companies began to radically change their games instead of evolving them into modern versions of their winning formula. This gave the false impression that we were just not interested in Japanese games anymore while the truth was that those erratic experiments they made were the ones that pushed the fans off some franchises that used to be quite popular. All of this just because they wanted their games to have an American feeling which is a complete betrayal of their original style and the wrong thing to do, as imitation meets failure more often that you may think.

Other ones that are to blame are the marketing people for these Japanese companies that have the mistaken notion that the west hate their games and the third and final piece of the blame game belongs to us, the western gamers. Why? because when one of the few Japanese imports actually reaches our shores, we cheer and all but still ignore it or just wait too much time to get it. Its like we like the game, but don't want to put our money where our mouths are and then we complain when they don't want to release games over here anymore.

Fatal Frame Wii U
This is one of the currently missing imports that saddens me the most.
Wrapping it up
We can once again be what we used to be for Japanese developers, but in order for that to happen we have to show our love for the games, rather than just speak about it and moan when the games fail to be released. It sounds harsh, but it is the truth because many of us old school gamers and Japanese game fans have become too complacent and haven't realized that we are not in the 90's anymore and that in the world we live in today, if there is no solid demand for a product, it wont happen. So we need to sober up from all the good times reminiscing and keep up with what is happening today if we want some good imports to come our way.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Final Fantasy XV Has The Old School Vibe Going

Since the new Final Fantasy XV trailer was released, there have been mixed reactions especially coming from long time fans. Some of these fans (myself included) go for an optimistic approach, looking forward to this game bringing back the lost feeling that Final Fantasy games used to have for us while on the other hand there are those who state that the game looks like it will be something too far off what a Final Fantasy game is supposed to be. When Final Fantasy XIII was released it was not a bad game, but we quickly spotted how different it was from the original Final Fantasy style and far off from turn based combat or leveling systems the real difference was in the game's atmosphere itself. Today we are going to see why Final Fantasy XV looks like it will give the late 90's early 00's fans some loving in its own way.

Final Fantasy XV Characters

Combining both the 2013 trailer and the recent one, we can begin to see some of the old school vibe piling up with this game. We have to take into account that Square Enix has been little by little giving us classic Final Fantasy material since they released Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn and the trend isn't showing any signs of stopping. Based on this fact let's see some aspects that support this point of view.

Final Fantasy XV City

  • Many fans are complaining about the game world looking "too modern" for a Final Fantasy game, but if you take a moment to remember some places in Final Fantasy VI, VII, VIII, IX, X and XII, it basically looks the same with a modern setting that features an architectonic style that crosses between modern and medieval with places taking shapes that range from cathedrals and temples to contemporary buildings you could see in any city on the world. The same thing happens with the strange characters with heavy pieces of armor that appear on the 2013 trailer. They look like knights and not robots as the "ultra-modern" approach may suggest.
  • There is a nice and interesting contrast in clothing between several characters. Some of them are wearing ceremonial robes while others go for the modern style. This is very noticeable in the 2013 trailer where a faction of "priests" are confronted by a group of agents wearing modern business suits who kind of look like the Turks in Final Fantasy VII. It is also worth noting with the characters that appear on the recent trailer as they are all dressed in modern attires except the main character who has the over the top clothing that is classic on any Final Fantasy main character. The clothing in this game seems similar to the fans but fresh at the same time which is a good thing.

Final Fantasy XV Swords

  • Another aspect that shows that the game hasn't gone all the way into a modern environment are the weapons we see on both trailers. We have the classic big sword, smaller blades, fist weapons with the occasional use of guns. In fact the big sword that the main character uses looks like a cross between Cloud's buster sword and Squall's gun blade, so this character was most probably made with those two guys in mind so there's some nostalgia points right there.
  • Giant creatures in both trailers gives the same vibe that we had on Final Fantasy IX when the summons took the center stage in the game. After that entry in the series, summons began to get smaller, but with XV it seems like  the giant being approach is back in style so who knows what we will see when the game is finally released. This time even normal fauna and flora in the game can look huge depending on the place you are in.

Final Fantasy XV Car

  • The use of the car is something that has been talked about in both negative and positive ways. The curious aspect of this feature in the game is that if you look at it from a practical perspective it is the same as using a car on Final Fantasy VIII, only that this time you will really drive it around while in the classic game it was just used to move around the world map. This means that the open world structure that the new game will have is kind of a modern version of the giant world maps we used to have on classic Final Fantasy games.
  • The Final Fantasy arpeggio at the end of the trailer says a lot to the fans. It is sort of a reassurance that all the classic nooks and crannies of the old games will make a comeback on this one. It shouldn't surprise you if the final game includes the classic fan fare (which was absent in XIII) and even some of the menu sounds effects that accompanied the classic games.
  • This may not be something that is cast in stone, but the purpose the characters show in the second trailer, and the impression that is going to be a long trip in order to do what they plan to do is quite similar to the pilgrimage that Yuna takes in Final Fantasy X. The only difference between the two journeys is that on FFX it was a linear path, while in XV it will be an open world approach which will give players the freedom to explore the world at their own pace. 

Final Fantasy XV Heroes

Wrapping it up
The long awaited Final Fantasy game is the best bet we have at having a current generation Final Fantasy game that still caters to the fans of the series. The game is not the classic style turn based Final Fantasy game that some fans want, but if we open our minds a little and embrace some of the modern aspects that this game will feature there is a great chance that we will enjoy this game as much as we did with the classics and later on with Crisis Core. Let's just hope that the final product lives to our expectations and it becomes the success that Square Enix needs in order to feel confident enough to keep up with the jrpg effort.

Bonus Stage
In case you haven't seen the trailers, here you have both of them so you can get a sense of how the game will be.
E3 2013 Trailer

2014 TGS Trailer

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Real Makings of A Bad Game

When we talk about a bad game we often mention some obvious things like bad controls, bad graphics and sound or even about broken game mechanics. It is a well known fact that judging a game can be something that is quite attached to your own taste for gaming, but there are some aspects that can be the definite tell tale signs of a poorly made game and today we are going to see some of them.

Recycle Keyboard Key
Sometimes it does feel like they did had a recycle key on their keyboard.
1) Excessive Recycling of resources
Let's start this one by stating that it is not possible to develop a game in which every thing is completely hand made and different and that is because of technical and financial reasons. The type of recycling that is considered bad and the one that gives the first sign that a game is not that good is when developers actually abuse of the material they use and have us gamers seen the same things over and over again. This includes different buildings with similar materials (in walls, floor, etc), repetitive characters/enemies (with a slight shameful change like color or name) flora and fauna on a game level (nobody wants to see countless patches of the same bush or animals repeated) and similar things like that. This type of recycling makes the game look generic, boring and uninspired. If they are going to recycle something they should at least not make it obvious.

Exceptions: Games that a growth based (mmorpg, online games) or puzzle games.  

Good vs Bad Game Design
Which one would you prefer?.
2) Generic Game Design
Game design is something that can be quite hard to do (a little harder than just scribbling a stage layout on a piece of paper), but if a game is announced and advertised as a AAA experience, it should NOT have a design that looks and feels generic in nature. Examples of this include the "corridors and small rooms" design in some first person shooters, redundant game content that has the player doing the same thing several times with no clear objective, story lines that are separated into pointless sequences and game material that is so simplistic that it becomes insulting to our intelligence. These kind of crappy design faults reflect very deep faults in the development process of the game like designers been forced to make dumbed down versions of otherwise good ideas, the team rushing the game to meet an unfair deadline or just plain laziness by everybody involved.

Exceptions: Dungeon crawler rpg games, growth based games, sandbox games

Final Fantasy VII Fort Condor
Final Fantasy VII is an example of a GOOD linear game. The place in this picture is Fort Condor and
it didn't have anything to do with the main storyline, but it was awesome and it showed how
a linear game can be fun when done well. 
3) Bad Linearity
This one was briefly referenced in the previous bad game characteristic, but it is in within itself a very bad thing on many levels. Nowadays there seems to be a war against linear games, but what most people are not realizing is that linearity itself is not bad. The really bad thing is linearity gone bad and that is a whole other concept that should not be generalized. Back in the 90's and before the advent of "open worlds" in gaming, most games were linear in nature and up to this day we have some legendary titles that are still considered to be masterpieces. Those games were a good kind of linear experience that was so well designed that it did not felt linear at all. On the other hand, there are AAA games that feel as if they were designed by an poor amateur at best. We have scenarios in which the players find themselves going from point A to point B without doing anything significant other than getting to the next cutscene or game worlds that try to lie to us gamers by trying to look big and well made while the sad truth is that we are running through the same stuff without any purpose at all. Bad linearity is not acceptable and gamers should make notice of this and let it be known, half baked ideas will not be tolerated.

Exceptions: Games with randomly generated material.

Bad Game Meme
Wrapping it up
Basically, the bottom line is that a bad game is not necessarily bad because of technical aspects. A bad game is one that becomes boring because we are doing stuff that is not fun and we are doing it for no significant reason. Some games can get away with this because they are addicting and we don't mind grinding for hours just to get what we want, but the moment we feel like we are are just pressing buttons for nothing is the moment when our attentiveness towards the game begins to shrink and sooner than later we will find ourselves playing something else. Mediocrity in games is something that should never be accepted and it is up to us to stop it where ever it appears, let's just vote with our wallets and make sure that game companies get the idea.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Couple Reasons Why Destiny Suceeds Amid All The Chaos

September 9th was the day when Destiny launched worldwide and up until now we have been reading and hearing the same thing: bland story, repetitive enemies, repeating missions,etc. At first it seemed as if that backlash would hurt the game, but now after the dust starts to clear, the game still stands on its own as a great experience regardless of lukewarm reviews and heavy criticism. The reason why a game like Destiny is still strong even after the bad press it had on launch is that most of the bad mouthing is thrown in the wrong direction and for the wrong reasons. This gives the backlash a lesser importance so little by little players are just enjoying the game regardless of what they read or heard. Wanna know the reasons why most of the backlash is bogus? Let's mention a few.

Destiny FPS
Gotta love the environments, they really outdid themselves making those.
The game is not your typical first person shooter.
The first thing that detractors need to know that Destiny is not your average shooter. If you expected to simply choose a stage (or play a linear campaign), run and shoot your way through this isn't your game. Destiny is all about exploration and absorbing the world in which you are playing which is a very fun thing, especially if you explore it with some friends. The planets are huge, you have lots of treasures to find (most hidden in really clever places) you have quests to do and story missions to accomplish, not to mention the random events. This means that this is a game that requires a little more of your patience so if you don't have that, its o.k to pass, but not to say the game is bad because of it.

Destiny Gunslinger Skills
There are lots of skills between the two job classes featured per each type of character.
The game is not fully a full RPG.
Destiny is one of those games that have pretty neat RPG elements like character progression (by leveling, equipment and skills) including the use of stats, looting, battle rolls (as in damage/defense calculation), element based weapons and so on, but it is not a full fledged RPG. Many people were expecting to walk in the middle of Mars and find a caravan with an old man that tells them a story over a campfire and hot dogs sending them to a cave where they find some plot twist in the end of it or something and that is yet another wrong expectation. Destiny is not Final Fantasy or The Elder Scrolls, it is an online FPS with strong RPG elements and growth based game play. If we really have to compare it to some other game, let's mention other growth/action based ones like Phantasy Star Online or any action rpg game with similar characteristics. You will have a story, but don't really expect something like the ones you would find on an single player RPG, because that is not the main emphasis in this game, see it for what it is.

Destiny Mars Enemies
These guys look big, but their size makes them easy targets.
Many other famous online games have repetitive content.
The "repetitive enemies/quests" outcry is something that is a little hard to understand if you have been playing online games (especially RPG) since long ago. This is something that happens all the time, yet now many people seem to be blaming this game for something that has been there since the very beginning. If something can't be stressed enough is that Destiny is a growth based game. The hook it has is to make you fight enemies/players and get treasures so you can enhance your character and become better. This has been successful so many times, yet people chose to complain about it now. What makes this so curious is that most people had a chance to test the game before it launched so even when they knew what the game was about, they decided to nitpick on a characteristic that almost all online games have.

Destiny Online
Epic moments are common when you play with your friends.
Detractors are not trying the game as they should.
This one is a mix of the previous reasons and then some more. If you got the game, you should try it with the right mindset, not only because of the previously mentioned reasons, but because you can't judge a game just by looking at it from only one angle. If you are a game reviewer, you have to loosen up a little and throw your gaming bias through the window. If you are not, then just try everything that the game has to offer before passing judgement. Pass some missions, explore the various planets with some friends, team up for difficult parts, go into exploring trips in order to find the golden chests (don't cheat by looking for their location on the net) and also while you're at it, give the crucible (player vs player) a chance. If you still don't like it its totally o.k, but it doesn't mean that it is a bad game.

Destiny Giant Frog
I know this is just a concept art, but... Giant frogs with medieval style goblins and druids? Yes please!
Wrapping it up

To get everything into perspective. The game is a mix between a first person shooter and an online rpg and it shouldn't be looked upon like it is supposed to be the holy grail of any of the two genres, because no hybrid is ever perfect. This time around we have to look at it like we should look at life itself, enjoying the small things, having fun and transcending the so called standards for a change. I am NOT implying that we should ignore the game's faults because the game does have some things that still need some work, but that doesn't mean that should count this one out.

To tell you the truth, this game seems to be running on some interesting loop within the gaming community. First the player has a bad impression about it, but out of curiosity they try it anyway. After that, most of them get hooked  or at least go into the "the game is not perfect, but it is fun" sort of thinking. This is something that has been happening over and over again since the game launched and that alone proves the point of this article really well. So bottom line, the game is doing well, Bungie is working hard on new stuff to keep us busy with it so things went on to a bumpy, but good start. Just try it and you will see.

Friday, September 12, 2014

How Can Twisted Metal Be Made Relevant Again

There are some games that unfortunately fall under the radar now and then and Twisted Metal is one of them. In case you didn't know, Twisted Metal is a franchise that started on the first PlayStation console and it was all about participating in a deathmatch tournament created by a strange being called Calypso. You chose a character to play with and if you won you could see that character's dream come true (or so Calypso said). Today, I am going to share some personal ideas about how can such a dark and twisted game come back to life on this generation. It would be a reboot that mixes both old and new ideas so here it goes.

Twisted Metal Calypso

The Story
I am really not a fan of super "realism" in games, but in the case of Twisted Metal it could make for an interesting approach. This time the story would have to be a little more believable in order for the game to look different. The setting would still be our world, but instead of a fictional post-apocalyptic version, let's have a very close contemporary one. On this story line, an all new Calypso, seen the sad state of affairs that the world is in, opens the Twisted Metal tournament as a mean for people to get their desires or fulfill their dreams in a world that isn't fair anymore. People all around the world sign themselves in through a special and bizarre social network and build their own cars as they get ready for the carnage that awaits them. At first it would seem like Calypso is in complete control, but halfway through the game Minion (a boss in the previous games) comes back from hell and makes him to be the final contestant (or final boss).  

Twisted Metal Destruction

The Environment
The battlegrounds on the game would be real life cities that will more or less resemble a mini sand box game. Each contestant is placed on one place of the map and they would have to look for resources in order to for them to be able to battle the others. This means that some "realistic" things will happen like running low on gas, getting a flat tire or even a malfunctioning engine. If any of these things happen to you, you would have to go to certain places in order to fix them before your opponent blows you up or else the performance of your vehicle is affected and that will make you an easy target.

While all this happens and as the battle heats up, the government begins to try to stop the battle by force. They will release waves of extra foes, ranging from cops, to the army and even special weapons of their own that will make the battle a little more interesting and challenging. To top things off, if your car is destroyed you would have the chance to jump out of it and make a final stand with a weapon of your own. The battles can also feature elemental hazards like deep water, fires or even natural disasters coming at random. All of these details make for a very active and action packed battle where the winner is the one who can use everything around him/her and an advantage.

Twisted Metal Sweetooth

We can have a cast of original characters to choose from in case we just want to pick the game and play, but there should be an emphasis on customization. This time the player should be able to make their own cars and characters. Starting with the car, customization begins to look like a really fun feature, so let's look at an example. Let's say you build a battle vehicle that has the chassis of a military hummer which will be the main body of your vehicle including stats like armor, weight, etc. Then you choose the kind of tires you want (could be dirt oriented, slick, monster truck like, etc). After that you choose one basic weapon (like machine gun, rail gun,etc) and set it where ever you want on the vehicle, a special weapon (missiles, laser, etc) and an ultimate weapon (nuclear bomb, satellite laser, etc). These weapons can either be ranged or melee and the variety would depend on the type of chassis you chose.

After that you get to choose perks/weaknesses based on a point system. Perks would be little extra goodies like special armor, keeping your speed underwater and cool stuff like that. Weaknesses on the other hand would be like small sacrifices you make in order to have more perks. Let's say that you choose that your vehicle runs low on gasoline quickly, but that gives you some extra points to get the "Ram damage" perk. A system like this would make building a battle vehicle to feel like making a character build on an rpg game, but a lot simpler.

Your Own Character
Customization of your vehicle is interesting, but it shouldn't stop there. You should also have to be able to make your own character. First you can choose a stock picture for it, or just put one of your own. Then, you would have to choose character traits. Character traits would be certain characteristics that will give your character a personality and will serve as information that the game would take to generate a story line and ending for you. These traits would be classified into 5 categories that would be:
  • Type of person: Who would you be.
  • Personality: How would you behave.
  • Setbacks: Bad stuff about you.
  • Virtues: Good stuff about you.
  • Desires: Things you want in life.
You would have the opportunity to choose 2 types of person, 1 personality, 3 set backs, 3 virtues and 3 desires and each of these categories would have tons of options to choose from. Let's say you chose to be a retired soldier who is also a cab driver and your personality is gloomy

For setbacks: You are an orphan, you are addicted to betting in casinos and were involved in a scientific experiment accident. 

For virtues: you are physically strong, immune to most diseases and have a good reputation.

For desires: You want for a dead friend to still be alive, you want to be rich and you want to have a family.

When you finish making your character the game generates a story line for you. You were a cab driver that decided to enlist in the army for some time. When you came back after a big conflict in the middle east you came back with PTSD because of the death of your best friend on one of your missions. You decide to enter the tournament in order to get the riches necessary to get back on with your life the way you want to, so you can re-build everything you lost.

As for the ending, you would enter the tournament with those desires in mind and after winning, Calypso would trick you. He makes you rich and lets you fix your life and live comfortably with your new family, but one day your dead friend comes back from the dead as a zombie and eats you.

Twisted Metal Sweetooth's Vehicle

Wrapping it up

As you can see, this is a concept that could make this franchise interesting to gamers again. The whole customization feature lets the players to live their own version of the Twisted Metal tournament and could also serve as the character used on an online mode. Mix this up with cleverly designed stages, mechanics that feel a little more realistic and the chance to develop your character for both offline and online modes and I think that you have a new version of Twisted Metal that can be very appealing to both the old and new schools in gaming.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Videogame Generation Without Consoles, A Curious but Unlikely Scenario.

Videogame generations have always been characterized by the existence of game consoles. The PC has always been there as a gaming platform, but what really brought the games closer to the common household were and still are stand alone gaming machines. Nowadays, some analysts have predicted that consoles will cease to exist very soon, some of them stating that the current home console generation will most likely be the last. Arguments supporting their point of view include the advent of mobile gaming and increasing production costs in a fragile economy. Most gamers just take those analysis as doom and gloom nonsense, but let's make a small analysis of our own and see what would it take for a console-less generation to happen and see how feasible or unfeasible it really is.

Xbox Playstation Wii
There are lots of gaming companies, but the focus is on the big 3 of the console market.
A Matter of Competition.
First of all, for a console-less generation to sucessfully happen companies will need to beef up competition to very intense levels because they would no longer have any hardware to support them. One way to do this is to increase the rate of platform exclusive games up to a point in which we receive no less than 5-8 exclusives per year. If this is not done, then we will have different first party cloud based game services featuring the same games. Another option they have is to get creative and give their cloud platform an edge by giving the players some out of the ordinary incentives to play their games. One example of this would be to feature special points with each unlocked achievement or trophy and let the player use those points to buy more games. Another good idea would be to have monthly competitions with real prizes, encouraging games to play on their platform, polish their skills and compete, be it directly (fighting games, first person shooters) or indirectly (game records, score, speed runs, etc). 

These are just two ideas that could make an interesting first party cloud gaming market and while it sounds like tons of fun for us as consumers, it is a nightmare for gaming companies if we see it from a financial point of view. In reality, exclusive game development is getting slower while multi-platforms are thriving and getting faster. On the other hand giving real and direct incentives to the players is something that is almost non-existent as companies are looking to spend less and earn more in a market that is not custom tailored for us players anymore. 

Businessman Nightmare
A pro-player environment is something they have been running from for a long time.
Features We Love, But Nightmares They Fear. 
Let's imagine for a while that consoles have already vanished and that every first party company has its own cloud gaming service. Would they implement pro-player features that would make their networks a lot friendlier or will they go the dictator's path and keep player convenience out of the loop? If everything is cloud based we as players will need things like an offline mode, game sharing, game trading and lending between users, remote play, etc. Some of these features are to be implemented in consoles (with offline play currently existing on Steam) but if we were talking about a completely cloud based environment then companies would get nervous about what freedoms they give us. Will they go ahead and implement compulsory DRM even though everybody hates it? Will they fear people tricking the system so much that they will force countless limitations on us? Even if they go the opposite way and give us a gaming paradise, will the publishers be o.k with this?

If these feared features are something that has been very controversial on consoles, imagine how would it be if everything were to be cloud based. The probabilities of a giant backlash/fiasco are enormous, especially if you take into account what happened to Microsoft at the beginning of the current generation. Remember this?  

Shut up and take my money meme

Console-less Markets And Their Customer Friendly Ways
This one is all about game prices. Console-less markets like Steam, Origin, Humble Bundle thrive of the idea of low prices or even give whatever you want type of systems. On some occasions we see new games getting price cuts that would seem barbaric for the console market investors. Steam is a great example of this as on Valve's little gold mine, sometimes we can find gaming deals on big name games that are quite recent, especially on seasonal sales. This is because on a console-less market, the price of games is a little more tied to demand than on the traditional game selling environment. 

Many publishers would cringe on the idea of everybody getting their game for cheap so it is either this or (once again) give the players a strong incentive to buy your game at full price (something that doesn't involve X set of armor, a "special" vehicle or an extra weapon). They need to make people really want the game quick or else they will wait for a price drop and that would hurt their profits more than the Red Wedding (spoiler alert!) episode did to Game of Thrones viewers. 

Cloud gaming

Wrapping it up:

A console-less generation of games can happen and that is a truth that can't be denied, but just because something can be done it doesn't mean that it is a good idea for everybody. From the point of view of us the consumers, it can be quite nice and convenient, but from a business stand point it is a quite difficult task to do. Gamers are getting smarter in deciding how will they spend their money, so one little mistake can spell disaster and first party companies/publishers know this very well. So, to wrap things up let's say that a console-less gaming generation is NOT feasible unless we (the players) are the ones who dominate the market. If the men in business suits are good with that, then we could be having this as soon as the next generation comes, but if not, then we are not ready for this and will have to wait at least another 20 years to get it. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Can The "Hate" Issue in The Gaming Community Be Controlled?

The topic of toxic and hateful attitudes on the gaming community has been hot for a couple of days now, even spawning a letter made by several game development companies asking the public to stop the hate train. The real mind exercise regarding this problem we are facing is asking ourselves how do we control it. I've read a lot of different opinions on several websites in the past days that go from been optimistic to been a gloomy defeatist and it all shows that this problem is not as simple as it seems. This is not a good guys vs bad guys scenario, but a theater of opinions that has gone out of hand and the only chance we have to alleviate this situation is to analyze it and act accordingly. There are a few of those comments I read that still roam my mind so I'm gonna be paraphrasing some of those to explain my point of view on this issue.

Caution Angry Gamer

Comment #1:
Censoring hateful attitudes looks like part of the solution, but it is violating our freedom of speech.

I read this one a lot and all I have to say about it is that freedom is speech is not absolute. This right ends when your "speech" only purpose is to damage the other person and doesn't have any facts to support it. Personally, I do not believe in political correctness and I think that people should say what needs to be said without euphemisms or sugar coating, but on the other hand I consider that criticism must be supported by facts and not by the sick desire of pissing people off or worse. So content makers (especially video game journalists) need to able to recognize these undesirable expressions and get them out of the equation without making the mistake of censoring valid opinions just because the person does not agree with what they are saying.

Kirby Sleeping

Comment #2:
A campaign against bad attitudes on the net is a pipe dream that will never work.

If the campaign is done in a passive way, this comment is true. So in order for it to work we need to be pro-active about it. We need to rally the troops and weed out unproductive trolls and haters from our community in a smart way. The main problem that often happens is that people cannot hold their impulses and start battles with these picturesque users who just doesn't care about your arguments. If you care about the gaming community as a whole, just report these kind of people and move on. Games are supposed to be about fun and not about flame wars on gaming media websites as there is a very thin line between fun arguments and plain stupid discussions. After all, by arguing you are giving these undesirables the attention they crave and that defeats the purpose.

Don't feed them and they will starve.
Comment #3:
Ignoring the trolls won't work because they will just keep getting worse and worse.

The first thing that must be said about this is that trolls and haters don't make arguments about anything, they make sarcastic remarks (be them directly or not) and use them to piss people off or throw you off your argument through insults.This means that it is useless to go to war with them and once again the best course of action is to observe and then report them if keep it up for too long. Nothing will piss off a troll or hater more than denying them their "fun" while kicking them out of the place. Do this enough times and he/she will get tired of trying or at least go somewhere else. At first they will get frantic and will throw everything they have in a last attempt to get people to respond, but you just have to hold your ground.

Greedy Guy
Greed is there, but we must know how to attack it.
Comment #4:
If the companies stop been greedy maybe the hating will stop.

This one definitely has to be a joint effort. We can't deny the fact that companies often do some nasty stuff that piss off the entire gaming community. Sometimes it does feel as if they can't stand direct criticism because they are always wearing their business hat and that is also a problem. On the other hand, the community itself needs to understand that nothing ever gives anybody the right to threaten or harass anybody just because you dislike their product or decisions and even if they messed up some aspect of their personal life we should not be reacting about it as if we were an angry mob of inquisitors in the dark ages. If the person or company has indeed done something that harms the gaming industry or our overall gaming experience in any way, we should heavily criticize them and make our voices known, but not by the way of harassment and threats because that kind of attitude doesn't solve anything and makes us all look like immature kids, giving gamers a bad name. So if anybody does go ahead and resort to that kind of fear techniques, people should just report them and let the authorities deal with them, sort of like what happened to this guy and that case wasn't even about a developer or company.

Dumb Anti Drug PSA
How many people this guy have kept off drugs?  That's a good question.
Comment #5:
This "stop the hate" campaign by itself is an empty thing. 

This one is the only one I can completely agree with. This campaign is empty if we just use the general term "hate" instead of focusing on each of the undesirable actions that we want to eradicate. Notice how on the description for this article I typed the word hate in quotes, that was because we don't need an ambiguous term, but the specific things that cause the problem. The other 4 previous comments deal with some details, but this one sums it all up into one.

On the gamer's side we need to identify the "boss" we want to fight before starting the fight and that can be done by enumerating the different things that need to stop and the things we need to do to. Let's also empathize that we need to give more attention to the games themselves as the awesome entertainment they represent and stop the nitpicking or "meh this game sucks because I say so" attitude.

On the companies side they need to look for ways to be tactful with the gaming community and accept the criticism if it has a solid foundation based on facts. They need to stop acting like this emotionless robot that tries to print money and start acting a little more like what they really are, artists. I am not implying that they should just make whatever the public says regardless of what it is (that would be chaotic), but they should at least keep an open mind and get out of their corporate cocoon and into the gamer mindset from time to time.

Wrapping it up

We can conclude that the "hate" issue CAN be controlled, but the chances of doing that will rely on changing many things that we are currently doing wrong. This applies to both the community and the gaming companies as both try to find a happy medium where the backlash and negative outcomes are minimal. I admit that this really sounds like some sort of utopia, but it isn't. In fact it is quite possible to accomplish because the problems we are having now are very recent, meaning that there was a time when we were doing things the right way, so we just have to search for that sweet spot again.