Sunday, June 12, 2016

Theory: What if the Overwatch game is just the squad training in VR?

Overwatch has no in-game story mode, we all know that, but that doesn't mean that the game is bad. In fact, Overwatch is awesome in almost every aspect and it is so addicting and fun that it made me (for the first time) betray my own principle of not paying full price for a multiplayer only game. Now with that been said, I still feel like a game with such rich characters and environments (not to mention the awesome story portrayed in the trailers) deserves a lot more in-game content and the most probable explanation for what we currently have could be that...

What we are playing is the Overwatch squad training in a virtual reality environment.

Note: please take into account that at the time I am writing this, I've haven't seen any interviews or public comments made by Blizzard about this topic, so I may be talking about something that has already been explained. I apologize if that's the case, but bear with me at least for the fun of it. 

Overwatch characters

On the Overwatch trailers we can see the background story of some of the characters, the squad itself and the state of the world. In case you haven't seen the videos let me do a quick recap. Overwatch is a special squad, made by many nations in order to counter criminals and terrorists around the world. At first it was all good and well as they were considered heroes, but soon after that some evil higher power manipulated people into thinking that the Overwatch squad were also criminals.

The conspiracy that stated that the Overwatch squad were really evil got to a point where their headquarters was destroyed and all the agents scattered. Now some time into the future, Winston (the big gorilla guy) was forced to call them back into action and this is where the game begins.

Overwatch Winston

So, if Winston called them into action again after some time it means that this awesome team is going to kick some terrorist ass right?

Wrong. All we do in the game is play 2 types of missions (regardless of how fun they are) over and over again, even against themselves. Some of the villains are also there, but they also fight against themselves (depending which characters the players choose) so what is really happening here?

First of all we have to consider that in the trailers, Winston seems to be in some sort of facility that features a state of the art computer A.I. called Athena. Also when playing the game's tutorial we can see that we are in a complex facility that features stuff for the agents to train with (possibly the same one where we see Winston), including a full stage with dummy enemies and everything, so considering the limited amount of things we can do in the game, it is safe to assume that the team is training again in order to return to their old war against evil. We are basically playing a prologue of the main story.

Overwatch Tracer vs Widowmaker

But if the squad is training how can they fight against themselves?

The answer to that question is that they are training in a virtual reality environment where they can choose to be anybody they want in order to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of every person involved (heroes and villains alike). When a player chooses to be a hero, they are not really using that hero, but a virtual representation of it and when choosing to play as a villain they take the form of an A.I. bot using a data-generated version of that villain (Widowmaker, Reaper, etc) so in a sense by playing as a villain you are really playing as Athena (the computer).

Overwatch Hanzo

What about characters that are not exactly villains or heroes like Hanzo and Zenyatta?

Characters with their own agendas can be there just as easily because they are a potential part of the conflict themselves, like Zenyatta been an activist for the coexistence of humans and robots and Hanzo and the chance of him finding his brother Genji in any future operations. In both cases, they are people of interest whose information is there along with the rest in Athena's database. 

Overwatch Maps

What about the environments of Overwatch?

The missions themselves (both of them) also look like rudimentary training for routine real missions around the world, mostly the escort of people/resources and the basics of storming a base of operations and defending it. We also have to take into account that these places are completely empty and only serve as scenarios for battles to happen, thing that is almost impossible to do in a world that forced the squad to live in the shadows. This is the reason why we don't find anything that suggest that there are real people living in the environments even though they appear to be in different places all around the world, everything is intact, clean and unaltered and the training suggests that missions are designed to be done quick and efficiently because they cannot afford to attract too much attention.     

Overwatch Reaper

The lack of a big guy (boss)

The lack of a big meanie to defeat in these training exercises could mean that Athena doesn't have enough information about the hierarchy of the villains (boss, officers, etc) so it does the best it can with what she has on her database. Up until now there haven't been any announcements about new modes to be added to the game, but even if they come out with something new out of a sudden and it features a boss (sort of like in moba games) that could just mean that new intelligence information was fed into Athena. All of this means that the real battle hasn't started yet and what all that the Overwatch squad has experienced since they were reunited have been some skirmishes here and there.

Overwatch Logo

What about the future of the game itself?

If this theory is correct (in a storyline sense) it is quite possible that Blizzard could make a follow up to the current game (a complete plot oriented game to play), leaving the current one to be the competitive part of it all. I say this because I don't think Blizzard is the type of developer that would create such a rich game world only to tell us the story in little computer generated shorts. Their plan could be to make us fall in love with this franchise using the good multiplayer experience it provides + story shorts in a way that when they release the story oriented one, it becomes a sleeper hit by default with a really minimal amount of risk involved. If this is the case, then Blizzard's strategy is quite ingenious and brilliant.

Wrapping it up

Be it true or not. This simple theory is just a hopeful thought of mine about one day having a full Overwatch experience. Will this happen or not? I don't really know, but hey we can dream. At least the great support that the game is having coming from the gaming community means that Overwatch could live on and be strong enough to grow. Let's just enjoy what we have right now and see what happens in the future.

Monday, March 28, 2016

15 annoyances that gamers of the 90's still remember

Today I am going to go a little retro on the blog and make a list of those annoyances that we gamers in the 90's had to go through, but are completely unknown by anybody who is too young to remember. There is a lot of talk about how good gaming was in that decade, but not everything was sugar coated for us, so let's begin.

Anti videogames

1. Living in the years when videogames became very unpopular with parents in America. This happened in the early 90's and it meant that a lot of times we were forced to play less than we wanted to and when we did play we were heavily criticized because we were "going to do bad at school", "suffer mind problems or epileptic attacks", "playing videogames that came from the devil" or just because "those things used too much electricity".

2. Been a broke (or too young to work) gamer and having to buy cheap discarded disc based games at video clubs. It was really a gamble where we had to bet 5 to 15 dollars in favor of the game actually working when we put it on our console. Sometimes it paid off, some times it didn't (and as far as I know, there were no returns).

3. Buying a game because the cover and description looked nice (information was scarce), only to find out that it was a piece of crap. In other cases it would be a good game, but one that could be finished in just a couple hours, which also felt like wasted money (I'm looking at you D!)

4. Been unable to buy a newly released game and spend months going to the video club each week to see if that sole copy of the game was available for rent.

5. Having your parents bring you a new game as a surprise, hear them boasting about how expensive it was, only to find out that is was a crappy game. You had to pretend you were having the time of your life so you were not considered an ungrateful brat.

Gaming tip line

6. Calling a gaming tips line (because some of us didn't knew about the concept of payed calls at the time) and then been scolded when a buffed up phone bill arrived.

7. Pre-ordering a game, wait for it to release, go to the store on release day and find out that the UPS (or Fedex, I don't remember) hadn't delivered the orders yet so you would have to wait for hours or just go home (which wasn't an option if you weren't old enough to drive and depended on others). This is the only thing where the standardized Tuesday release date of these times work to our advantage.

8. Having your console's internal battery go dead and be forced to go to the clock screen each and every time you turned it on (Sega Saturn owners can relate).

9. Hearing a dumb rumor about doing something incredible with your console (like using the extension sockets on a console to play games from another) and waste hours trying to do it (don't blame us, most of us were gullible kids at the time and internet was limited if not non-existent for us).

10. Trying to surf the web on a Sega Saturn or Dreamcast browser because you didn't had a computer yet. Yep, browsing on 56k modem with a browser that had an outdated Javascript version in it, fun right?

Super Castlevania glitched

11. Been all pumped up playing a stage in a game (cartridge based), then having somebody stumble upon the gamepad's cord. Now your game graphics are all glitched and you have to hold on to dear life, hoping that when the screen changes the problem goes away and you can keep playing without having to restart the console.

12. When you had to do a lot of networking in order to borrow games so you could play them. It was sort of like bartering in ancient times because if you didn't had a game that the other person was interested in you were screwed. Also visiting a neighbor or just calling him/her out just because you wanted to borrow a game was not fun at all.

13. Been clueless about what was happening in the industry (magazines did not had it all covered) and having your hype crushed by unexpected delays, changes to the game or in the worst case scenario, the game been cancelled.

14. Renting a game that you couldn't understand (remember, most of us 90's gamers were kids at the time) and having to rely on trial and error if the video club wouldn't let you change it. (I love all rpg games now, but my first experience as a kid was Shadowgate (NES) and it was horrible to say the least).

15. Playing a disc based game that skips all over in the cinematic scenes because the disc was slightly scratched at the wrong part, you could play the game, but could not see the video cutscenes which sucked at a time where the reason you passed the stages was to see the shiny graphically polished videos.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

5 things Final Fantasy XV needs in order to equal the older games

"It's been a long time... Too long. Not much longer..."

That phrase at the end of the Final Fantasy XV trailer still gives me chills because it has indeed been too long. Up until now the game looks like it's going to be epic, but at the same time fans of the Final Fantasy games of the golden years (late 90's) are still pondering about if this one will really be the revival of the franchise we were waiting for. Up until now everything points to a resounding "yes", but there are still a few things that the game will need in order to be up to par with its older brothers, so let's see what are those "things" that are mandatory for the newest entry in the series.

garden festival ffviii
Garden Festival (FFVIII)
1) Diversity of Events
Out of every Final Fantasy game in the 90's, we got a lot more than just fighting non-stop in order to advance the storyline. For example we have events like Fort Condor in FFVII, helping Selphie do the garden festival in FFVIII and even the spooky doom train in FFIII (VI). What diversity of events mean is that the game needs to put us in all kinds of situations that add value to our experience and gives us a little more than just punching our way through the story. The protagonists in FFXV are on a cross-country road trip, so if Square Enix doesn't do this, they will miss a great opportunity.

How close is FFXV from this?
It seems real close, judging for the city parts, demo gameplay and especially from the footage that shows how the game will be while infiltrating a military base.

celes suicide ffvi
Celes thinking about ending her life (FFIII or VI)
2) Dramatic and touching situations
Drama and touching/sad/cute moments are part of what made the old Final Fantasy games so special.Tifa and Cloud talking about their childhood dreams while sitting in the park where they used to play in FFVII and the scene where Celes is singing alone at the top of the hill thinking about ending her life in FFIII (VI) are great examples of AAA story telling and Final Fantasy XV will need this in order to captivate players to a point where the game becomes unforgettable.

How close is FFXV from this?
It seems too early to tell, but at least we know that Noctis has a seemingly deep background story involving his family and the war which shows a lot of promise. Let's just hope that there are a lot more stories like that.

treno ffix
Treno: The Dark City (FFIX)
3) Towns that feel alive
Towns are a big part of what encompasses a good rpg game and as older Final Fantasy games have taught us, a good town in a FF game is one where everywhere we explore we find something cool, be it an item inside a house, a side story or just a cleverly placed dialogue. As FFXV is a next (current) generation game, fans expect it to have towns that mean a lot more than mere resting hubs (I am looking at you FFXIII!).

How close is FFXV from this?
The FFXV demo proved that this can be done in the game, as the garage had a lot of detail even though it was just a small place. They only need to keep this level of detail on the cities that Noctis and his friends will explore and this requirement will be fulfilled.

zach side quest ffvi
Zach's side quest (FFIII or VI)
4) Side quests that actually mean something
Older FF games had some side quests in them and most of them had a good purpose and reward, rather than just killing x number of enemies for experience points or fetching something for an item. We all know that the game will be open world and that this type of design makes it hard to add significance to everything, but at least they could throw some quests now and then that makes us feel that we did good when we decided to stray from the main story of the game.

How close is FFXV from this?
This one is really an unknown factor, so we will all know about it when we actually play the full game. If they manage to pull this off even when the game has an open world design, they will definitely receive a lot of appreciation for it.

sephiroth ffvii
Sephiroth (FFVII)
5) Have cool and admirable characters
From the days of old up to our present time. Rpg fans have always appreciated cool and/or admirable characters that we can feel catharsis for. Be it a brave girl with a troubled past, an iron clad military general that fights his/her rival on an epic fight or just a mercenary that redefines the term "coolness", FFXV definitely needs to have something along those lines or else it will not be as memorable as its predecessors.

How close is FFXV from this?
Well, the protagonists are cool, but we need some other characters because the heroic/evil factor can't just fall on them alone. The footage where they show the characters going through a military facility shows a mysterious lancer type character (later revealed to be a girl called Aranea Highwind) at the very end of the video so yeah, we may get some cool characters after all.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Street Fighter V shows how pessimistic we have become

Putting things straight from the very beginning I'll start this one by stating that I am not defending Capcom or any other company and because of this I am limiting myself to the human factor of this whole backlash and why I am partially against it. I will try to compress my points of view as best as I can, but I will still explain in detail why I think like I do, because otherwise my message may be mistaken, so bear with me.

Street Fighter V Cammy

In the last couple of weeks Street Fighter V has received a lot of bad press from many people on the net and while it is kind of understandable (the game was indeed sold unfinished) the battle cries have been too loud for too long up to a point in which most of us don't know if the latest criticism of the game is legit or just a strategy to get some clicks. Why do I say this? Well on the other side of the spectrum I have seen tons of videos of people just having fun with it, even on its current state (you are not getting off the hook Capcom!) and if there are people that are having fun, then this is a sign that the whole uproar is not as pristine and noble as you might believe.

Fanboys Meme

Half of the problem comes the fanboy factor. Before you throw tomatoes at me I can tell you that I am not stating that everybody who criticizes the game is a fanboy (even I have my own complaints SFV), but after surfing around the net and seen how many people have reacted, I can safely say at least half of this situation is fueled by a sense of fandom. This is actually a phenomenon that is very predominant on this generation, one that I like to call "exclusivity blues" which is when somebody trashes a game just because it wasn't released on their console of choice. It is similar to what happened to games like Bloodborne (some people still say that it isn't a legitimate "souls" game), Halo 5 (trashed by many people without even playing it) and even Driveclub which was fixed and polished over time to be a good racing game, but it is still pictured negatively, regardless of its current fixed state.

angry gamers mob

Other than fanboy-ism against exclusives (the other half of the problem) we have to admit that we as a community have turned into a very pessimistic one, with some "arguments" that are really short of not making any sense. If we take Street Fighter V as an example, we can mention the fact that some people state that the game should had been delayed until June for it to be released completely. This makes sense in some ways, but if you really think about it... Wouldn't it be the same thing? If you were raised at the same time I did, you would know that sometimes we would had given anything to have a piece of the game early in order to satisfy our hunger while the rest of it was released. We went as far as going around buying demos (Remember those playstation Jampack demo discs?) and I still remember how a group of friends and I played the heck out of the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater demo, up until the day it was finally released. It was crazy, but fun as hell even if it was just one stage and 2 skaters. A similar thing happened with Cool Boarders 2, so you can imagine.

Street Fighter V Ryu vs Bison

My overall point about this subject is that even though criticism is good (anybody who ever read this blog knows that I bash companies a lot), we still need to do it in a precise and close to surgical way. It needs to be like this because we will otherwise sound like an unorganized angry mob instead of an educated group of people pointing out flaws in the products related to our favorite hobby. The pouting attitude doesn't help at all and just unnecessarily throws dirt on top of games that can be good, but are not given the chance just because their first impression was problematic. We have to accept that technology has enabled games to have updates and this means that most of your concerns can and most probably will be fixed in a set amount of time, so have patience and wait a little.

Ready your flame throwers for companies that just plain ignore you. For the rest just give them some time and see how hey react before raining hell on them. We need a lot more patience and positivism if we want the gaming scene to be as enthusiastic and awesome as it once was. Companies are not saints, I know, but we can't afford to make a ruckus that will kill, rather than fix the games we love. Think about this the next time you want to point your pitchforks and torches against a game.