The PSVita is currently my favorite console. Say what you will about Sony, but when it comes to hardware, they produce some of the best. Yet despite solid the Vita is itself, its sales have been… less than stellar, earning a spot on a 24/7 Wall St. list of Worst Product Flops of 2012.
With such poor performance, it’s only natural for Sony to take a lesson from Nintendo and perhaps cut the price of its beloved handheld just a little bit. Unfortunately, Sony’s behavior in regards to the Vita has been anything but logical, to put it nicely. This has culminated in Sony’s newest attempt to sell Vitas, get the people who have one to sell them! Just like used car salesmen desperately trying to make commission, Sony is hoping to use the allure $20 of PSN credit and 1000 Sony Reward Points to entice Vita owners into referring their friends to buy one. What’s more, the reward also extends to the referee as well as the referrer, a win-win situation.
Video games and gaming culture have long permeated through American society, and the fear of the dangerous unknown is finally starting to subside. With some of today’s politicians having grown up playing the likes of Grand Theft Auto or Mortal Kombat, it’s good to see the fear increasingly being replaced by levelheadedness and understanding. However, it appears that congressmen and video games still don’t always see eye to eye.
Violent video games have come back under fire – due in part to recent tragic events – in the form of two new legislative bills. The first comes from Representative Diane Franklin, who is proposing to put in place a one percent tax on all violent video games in the state of Missouri. What defines a violent video game? According to Franklin, it would be any game with a T or above rating by the ESRB. While most M-rated games would certainly fall under the violent spectrum, T-rated games that are taxed for “violence” could include Guitar Hero, The Sims, and even The Legend of Zelda. Even M-rated games aren’t always violent.
In the past, I’ve discussed ways to integrate branching narrative and its importance, yet that only skims the surface of truly understanding how to properly implement choice. In order to do that, we need a better understanding of the concept from both design and mathematical approaches. While I’ve already tackled the design methodology, this week, with the help of my colleague Nicholas Petela, I was able to gain some insight on the relationships between numbers and player decisions.
When approaching the math behind psychology, game theory can be an indispensable tool. It’s mainly used in economics to turn data into insight on potential marketing strategies and consumer behaviour. Even though game theory was created for other purposes, it can still be applied to video games. By using game theory to predict the decisions of our audience, it allows us to objectively measure the probability of each outcome.
A year ago, I stumbled across an interesting little title known as Dinner Date. It was a mere three dollars and promised to cast players as the subconscious of Julian Luxemburg. I was jazzed at the idea of a game exploring character growth and development from a psychological perspective, and looked forward to seeing Julian’s story play out. Fast forward to now, and Dinner Date stands out in my memory as one of the worst games I’ve ever played.
At the time, I excused the underwhelming performance of the game, thinking I had simply missed the point. I moved on. But every time I saw the game in my Steam list I was torn between thoughts of vile hatred and the nagging feeling that some wonderful experiment had eluded me. As such, I decided to finally put the conflicted feelings at rest, playing the game one last time to see whether I did indeed miss its genius, or am vindicated in my vitriol. It wasn’t pretty.
[With 2013 looming before us, it's the time of year that the AWESOMEoutof10 office gets a touch of nostalgia. Join us every day this week for a look back at the defining aspects of 2012.]
I love seeing the evolution of our industry. Video games were once associated with Mario and children, then Doom and violent crazies (and children), until most recently, Call of Duty and deadbeat boyfriends (who behave like children). 2012’s been a fascinating year because we’ve been able to glimpse the beginnings of yet another step in our medium’s growth, one characterized by a change in the way we handle publishing and an audience that’s much more broad than once thought. It was a year in which adventure games broke their Kickstarter goals, indie games found new storefronts to call home, and triple-A games dared to take chances — this is what made it special for me.
The reasons behind this shift in consumer perspective are equally enthralling, and can be traced back to Kickstarter. While crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter and Rockethub have been around for a while, it wasn’t until this year that they really caught the public’s eye, primarily thanks to the massive success of Double Fine Adventure’s campaign. We’ve seen projects ranging from FTL to Ouya given a chance at life thanks to the power of Kickstarter, and when we look at the nature of crowdfunding it only makes sense that it’s picked up so much momentum.
I find SpikeTV’s Video Game Awards to be mindless and irritating, all flash and fireworks with little substance. Despite this, I did happen to catch the trailer to Moby Dick Studios’ debut title, The Phantom Pain. It was horribly edited and cryptic, yet strange enough to grab my attention, featuring a hospital being attacked by nameless soldiers, an amputee with a mullet crawling down a hallway and a giant flaming whale devouring a helicopter whole. I honestly had no clue what was going on, but it seemed like a wild ride. What caught my attention most was the fact that it all felt like a very familiar strain of batshit insanity. The main character’s signature hair-do and covered eye reminded me of Snake, one of the guys emerging from the fire was a dead ringer for my favorite sadist, Colonel Volgin and- wait- was that… The Sorrow?
Thankfully, it seems that I wasn’t alone in these thoughts, as many other Metal Gear Solid fans were making connections of their own over at Neogaf. What started out as a discussion thread for The Phantom Pain has since turned into a Metal Gear Solid 5 speculation board. Less than a day since the release of the trailer, the thread has already piled together tons of evidence connecting Hideo Kojima to this “new game”. One of the most substantial pieces of evidence being that “Metal Gear Solid V” fits perfectly into the logo’s gaps. A logo which was designed by Kyle Cooper, title sequence designer for Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, who was seen hanging out in the Konami VIP area wearing a Phantom Pain shirt.
Dynasty Warriors started out as a Romance of the Three Kingdoms fighter spin-off, but has since gained the cult following and success needed to eclipse its slower paced big brother, forming a franchise of its own. From Three Kingdoms China, to Sengoku Japan, Ancient Geece, and even Gundam’s Universal Century, the “Musou” or “Warriors” franchise has spanned countless battlefields, both fictional and non-fictional. However, the true testament to the strength of the Warriors franchise lay in Warriors Orochi, combining a majority of the characters and settings from not only the Warriors games, but other Tecmo Koei franchises as well. The result is Oda Nobunaga, Ryu Hayabusa and Joan of Arc cleaving through thousands of demons in twisted versions of their homeworlds.
Games can’t stand alone on crazy premises though, and the Warriors games have also developed a notoriety for lackluster and tedious gameplay. Warriors Orochi as one may guess, doesn’t attempt any drastic overhauls of the series’ tried and tested roots. Any changes made to the foundations of the franchise are miniscule, and practically invisible to those who aren’t already well versed in the series. Yet despite all of this, the fine tuning present means the game is a combination of not only Koei’s greatest characters, but also mechanics.
Designing choice in games is a challenging task. It’s a topic that’s been thoroughly discussed by practically every industry pundit and enthusiast, yet I feel that there’s still plenty of room for discussion; mainly because it’s a core part of our medium. I’ve talked about game choice before, but not much about narrative choice. I’m sure we can all agree that shallow “red and blue” choices aren’t the right way to handle it, pointing out what’s wrong is only half the answer. When thinking about the fundamentals of decision and the practical opportunities available, I happened to stumble across an idea which I believe solves the second half of our choice problem: how to actually implement it correctly.
Video games rely on a constant symbiosis of player and game, utilizing an almost Newtonian system of action and reaction between operator and machine. Most games could be viewed like a tabletop roleplaying system with the game’s programming and scripts acting as the Dungeon Master. Good game design is like creating a good DM.
Video games, like life, are full of disappointment. We’ve all been there at least once. The trailers were awesome, the previews praised them, and the ideas were great, but the game fell far below expectations. Even worse is when you brace yourself for a bad game, keeping your expectations low as possible, and somehow still get disappointed. Unfortunately, that’s been my experience with Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3.
I’m a huge fan of Gundam – I build model kits, watch the shows, and read the books. I also have a soft spot for Dynasty Warriors, a series which I won’t pretend is good at all, but has its own charm and fun. After the original desire to run in the other direction, I was pleasantly surprised with the original Dynasty Warriors Gundam. I found a subtly elegant and complex system hidden behind all of the robot explosions. I didn’t ask much from Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3. If it were the original with slightly more polish, cel shading, and more mobile suits, I would’ve been happy. Instead, the game actually attempted to shake up the formula, and the result is a step backward.
Since the release of Fallout 3, a bit of a schism has erupted between Fallout fans. So-called purists – who dislike the series’ shedding of its isometric, turn-based RPG roots – versus new and old fans who prefer the more accessible, free-roaming adventures of the most recent installments. While the gap between the original games and their 3D, first-person sequels seems as wide as the day is long, there was a a game that bridged the gap. Almost.
There was a version of Fallout 3 that came in between Fallout 2 and the Bethesda game that we all know. Back in 2003, Interplay announced with much excitement the newest sequel to its lauded franchise. Internally, the game was known as Project Van Buren, and was set to follow in the footsteps of its 2D predecessors, albeit with a few ambitious changes. Instead of using only animated 2D sprites, Van Buren was to utilize full 3D graphics – though still from an isometric viewpoint – and optional, real-time, action-oriented combat. Sounds familiar.