How many times will we
keep hearing the same damned thing at the GDC, E3, or whatever other
major conference? How many times will we hear that the market is
stagnant? How many times will someone say something along the lines
we need a "punk" movement in the game development world before
it either sinks in or it just becomes completely worthless and
nothing more than a waste of oxygen?
We should all know by
now that the majority of games being made are simple money makers.
In other words, the types of games that EA keeps pumping into the
marketplace. We see maybe one or two major releases that defy all
normal money making conventions each year. We might get one Katamari
style game and then one game that takes a popular genre (like rail
shooters or FPS) that defy the normal conventions of gaming in one
way or another (like Killer 7). However, in the end, despite hearing
this each and every year (or numerous times each year), we still see
a dozen sequels that are only a perfect rehash of the year
before...if not being worse and nerfed each year (Madden, I'm
looking at you).
I think reality has sunk
in a bit for me. I used to hold this idealistic view that gaming
needs to get better or the industry is doomed. However, the simple
truth is that games will continue to be poorer with each year as
long as a few conditions don't change. The first and most obvious
one being that we gamers are the guilty party in this. We are the
ones who keep buying new releases of Madden, NBA, Burnout, or
whatever else is placed in front of us...without even the slightest
hesitation or inclination to investigate if the game we're ready to
drop $60 on is actually worth that $60 price tag.
However, while that
makes gaming on a "punk" level hard to accomplish, it also falls
onto the hardware developers. The consoles on the market right now,
with a slight exception to the Wii and any portables, are becoming
way too expensive to program for without a guarantee of a financial
return. Developers cannot, literally, afford to spend millions and
millions of dollars on a game if it's not going to be a major
seller. This breeds stagnation in the market.
The other huge obstacle
in this puzzle is that too many small groups that come up with
amazing titles are now being forced into a state of non-existent
like the dot-com industry faced prior to it's collapse. I'm not
saying that the game market is doomed to a bust situation, but
rather I'm saying that indy developers and small time companies are
usually in a state of constant financial worry. A great example
would be companies like Clover, Red Octane, Harmonix (give them
time), Bullfrog, and the like. These companies are, or were, all
great sources of creativity. However, to remain financially viable,
they are joined, merged, or were devoured by the powerhouses (EA,
Capcom, Activision, Ubi, Microsoft, etc). It's this taking of a
simple and promised paycheck for all eternity that leads these
groups to either facing a slow death as they get "phased out" or
become stagnation in the very core of the definition.
So, basically, what I'm
saying in the end is this; the game industry is constantly moving in
a single direction. Some rebels (or "punks) will try to change the
course of this mighty river, but it won't work. While we are all
taught in public school that we're all special snowflakes who can
all make a difference in the world (as we get yelled at for
rebelling against conformity...forgive me if that sounded poser/goth,
since I hate that type of thinking), the truth is obvious. We are
only special in name, but in reality, it's those who conform and
play nice with the public in general who get far.
Harmonix can keep
fighting to make fun and innovative games, I can promise to only buy
good titles, and Nintendo can keep making easier and less expensive
consoles for developers, but it will not change anything. I will run
out of titles to buy, Harmonix will always be forced to jump from
one publisher to another as they release one game a year, and
Nintendo will continue to have a system that only fulfills the needs
for a couple of genres. However, the majority will still buy every
damned Madden release, groups like Bullfrog will always be devoured
by companies like EA, and the major genres will always surface
primarily on the major consoles (which are expensive to program on).
Maybe it's my daylight
savings time rattled and sleep exhausted mind speaking, but from an
entertainment perspective...we are very doomed.
I haven't downloaded a
single Virtual Console game for the Wii as of yet. That's despite
how I have 2000 points and a classic controller. The main reason is
that there are a few important games I'm expecting that I want to
wait for. Namely, something with enough content to keep me
happy...an RPG. I don't mean Sword of Vermillion, which I always
felt was the most lacking of Genesis RPG offerings. I mean something
like Super Mario RPG, any other Genesis RPG, or practically any
other SNES RPG. There's a lot of potential out there, but Nintendo's
selections seem to be skipping the games that RPG fans would want.
now another reason for me to fear the VC. While some games like
Temco Bowl are amazing offerings from the old nostalgia
perspective, I've been hearing rumors about Tecmo Bowl. While I
don't know how true it is, since I haven't downloaded the game, but
I've heard that player names have been removed/changed from the
original. If this is true, it would just make one have less reason
to enjoy the game if they want a nostalgia kick. I know I want Bo
Jackson to dominate the opposition, and not for some randomly named
Raider...errr...sorry, no team names...to do it.
I wish I could say
more today, but I've become re-obsessed with Civ 4. I spent about 10
hours last night playing Civ 4, and I have spent over 25 hours in
the last week playing through 3 different games of Civ 4. Once I
start playing, it becomes my obsession to end all obsessions. FF6
Advance? Not when the Mongolians are on my borders. Crackdown? Not
when I'm trying to subjugate George Washington.
Anyway, I will
keep things short since all I can focus on right now is how I'm
going to culture bomb Hannibal to assimilate his faltering empire
into my glorious French (an awesome country for a cultural victory)
I am beyond busy these
last few days. That basically summarizes why there was no post
yesterday. It's also why you may not see many full length posts for
a week or two...depending on the climate of my life.
Anyway, since I'm
in a bitchy mood and I, quite frankly, hate more things in my life
right now than I can tolerate or enjoy, I want to go off on
something...don't worry, it's all game related.
Shadowrun is now
a June release. In fact, the game will be one of the first to
allow Windows Live to XBox 360 Live capabilities. That's a pretty
cool idea...except for how a mouse and keyboard will always beat
twin analogue sticks in a FPS environment. I just hope the game
allows the option, on the 360 version at least, to only play 360
owners. Otherwise, 360 players will have a nice touch of stupidity
and insanely difficult battles as they try to battle their
controller, and not their opponent...or, there's auto aim. That's
the route that the 360 version seems to be heading towards, which
will not negate the challenge of mouse versus analogue. Instead, it
will just create another unbalanced environment, but for PC players.
Also, I still have
to say what I've always said about Shadowrun; it started as a pencil
and paper RPG, and the leap to FPS online only action in the theme
of CS makes about as much sense as making a kart style racing game
out of the Palladium games. Maybe another good one would be a D&D
sports game. Maybe Vampire: Card Collector Championship.
I feel the same
many die hard Shadowrun fans feel. This could be a great and fun
game. This could be an understandable title if a subtitle was added
to it (Shadowrun: Clan Battles or something like that). However, to
give a FPS online only game the Shadowrun title is just blasphemous
to the loyal Shadowrun fans who have been with this world for around
two decades. Shadowrun is RPG in every sense of the word, and FASA
Studio seems like the type of company so desperate to make a
blockbuster game that they have to rape a great franchise to do so.
Plus, the basics
of the Shadowrun world are not even making the proper transition to
the FPS world. Magic has been nerfed, the races have been mutilated,
the setting is anything but authentic...this game has as much to
deal with Shadowrun as Blitz: The League has to do with NFL
football. True, they both can be fun in their unique takes on their
genres, but it's not the real thing and no one should dupe
themselves into believe anything but the fact that Shadowrun is not
I also love that
this is the first game I can think of for any console, that is not
an MMORPG, that requires a subscription to play. It's not a unique
subscription, but rather the gold Live membership. However, there is
no reason I can think of, without tapping into the more insane or
greedy side of my thinking, that says a game "based" on a pencil and
paper RPG should require a subscription if it's not an MMO.
It's almost as
much fun to think about that as it is to ponder this fact; from all
accounts I've read of, this game handles just like CS. That is, you
have no customizing or building of a character beyond buying
equipment (spells and weapons). Thus, even the most important and
basic concept of RPGs, having your own personal character that you
work hard to make your own, is gone. At least Battlefield 2 allows
you to earn ranks to unlock new kits for your screen name's
I can assure you
that, despite having a gold Live membership, and despite knowing
people who are working on this game (I do like to support my
friends), I will be 6 feet deep in the cold and damp ground before
my 360 ever touches this abomination of a game. If I want Counter
Strike, I will play CS on my PC. If I want Shadowrun, I will always
remember (fondly) the SNES and Genesis games and dream of finding a
GM who runs a Shadowrun game. If I want a half assed rip off of
Shadowrun and CS in one neat package...well, that is not going to
happen anytime this lifetime.
While I'd love to see a
traditional RPG on the Wii, as it will probably be the most lacking
genre on the system (just look at the previous two Nintendo
consoles), I think that may be a way out. However,
Opoona is in the works. From Koei and Arte Piazza (an old school
team of FF and Dragon Quest veterans), this game will probably be an
RPG more in line with Harvest Moon and other "non-traditional" RPGs.
I'm just happy to
see that the creativity of the Wiimote is not the only creativity
being shown on the Wii. While a good traditional RPG would be great
(and the Wii will need them in the long run), a more novel of RPG
will hopefully give this genre a kick start for Nintendo's young
system. Especially, this should be true if the game sells reasonably
well, which Koei is the master of accomplishing.
The two things I
wish I could know a bit more about with Opoona is release date in
the US (if it does, hopefully, make it here) and what the game will
be like. It sounds silly, and the few art pieces shown are all
looking weird, to say the least. However, many games in the RPG
genre have fit that bill before, and too many have been nothing more
than steaming piles of crap. Hopefully some additionally information
will be coming in before too long...especially since this could be
my personal most anticipated title for the Wii that doesn't feature
Mario in one way or another.
Life has beaten me
around a fair bit this last week. Between the fact that I close on
my house next Thursday, that I'm moving all my big stuff two weeks
from tomorrow, that my lab at work is being moved at the same damned
time, and plenty of interviews for a new job (including one between
when I type this and when I post this today), it seems like the only
fun I'm allowed to have is a bit of FF6 on the GBA and maybe a hair
of Civ 4.
I'm now far enough
into FF6 Advance to form some opinions on the game. For one thing,
this is one of the more enjoyable ports of the SNES and NES era FF
games. It is smooth, it plays almost identically to the SNES version
(even with a couple fewer buttons), and the new translations make
the plot from a confusing and vague experience into one of the
deepest SNES era plots I've played through. Many plot holes have
been patched with the new translation that only people in Japan (or
who speak Japanese and imported the original) could have understood.
Also, unlike FF4
or FF5 on the GBA, the added content is more than just completionist
crap. There are four new espers (your magic source and your
summons), including a couple overlooked or old time favorites.
Cactuar (or "Cactrot") and Leviathan are now present. Also, good old
FF5 style Gilgamesh is a new esper. To round this experience out a
bit, there's even a few new spells to go with the new espers. This
includes an actual water spell for magic users (since it was
previously only Strago, via blue magic, who could use water attacks)
from Leviathan and valor (a great attack boosting buff) from
Gilgamesh. Also, most of the new espers include additional stat
boosts at level up, so there's some good fun in them for people who
like to nurture their characters at each level.
The best aspect of
these new espers is that they each require a challenging, yet fun
battle with a boss. These battles fall into a greater theme than
just fighting blindly with your best spells. Instead, you have to
use some strategy, like one would have seen in battles with Ashura
(FF4), or Magic Master (FF6). I still haven't seen the fourth new
esper, since it's in the first of two new dungeons, but I may give
that a shot.
new dungeons are more along the completionist line of things. They
are harder than the final dungeon, require a lot of power leveling
to get through, and may just not be worth my limited time. Just like
the bonus dungeons on FF4 and FF5 on the GBA.
I'm now at the
final battle with Kefka, and I'm not sure if I'll save and quit
afterwards, or if I'll save and take on the first bonus dungeon. All
I know for now is that I will need a good eight characters to take
on that nightmare of a challenge, and I only have five characters
who I could use without some grinding...ok...a lot of grinding.
Well, I'm out for
a good weekend of celebrating a friend's b-day with Lord of the
Rings, Steak, booze, and Wii. At least, no matter how stressful my
week has been, I can count on my friends to break the tension.
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