Top 10 worst playstation ads

Sony’s PR machinery is kind of interesting. On the one end, there’s the really artistic TV commercials while the playstation division seems to be aiming more for “edgy”;

While some of their ads have certainly stayed at the right side of that edge, there are always the other ones. PS3fanboy has a list.

Posted on May 31/08 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture | No Comments »

/* */

More “Game Design Essentials”

John Harris keeps releasing the “Game Design Essentials” columns on a seemingly random schedule, this time he analyzes 20 Atari games. I think he comes off as a giddy fanboy full of nostalgia more than a couple of times, but on the whole the feature is a good read and an interesting journey through some of the really early games that pioneered concepts used in game development to this day.

Posted on May 31/08 by Saint and filed under General game development | No Comments »

/* */

It seems the Beyond Good & Evil 2 thing was indeed true

… So that’s awesome.

Posted on May 28/08 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture | No Comments »

/* */

Swedish Game Awards – a Drunken Recollection

I attended the Swedish game awards today as a Starbreeze representative, since I’m so incredibly serious (or since I wanted to get away from work), I actually played most of the games beforehand – on second thought, I probably reminded the people around me about this a little too frequently for it to still be considered a sacrifice and not a self-serving braggart move to help my goody-two-shoes claim. But on to the games.

boingo-level-concept.png

The (newly created?) execution award went to Boingo. Boingo was a really cool platform game that somehow seemed like the wall-clinging/jumping mechanic from Aquaria with the main character loosely inspired by Gish, a game where you navigated through a jungle filled with hazards by jumping from and clinging to walls. It was a really solid production  despite the short time-frame, and a really amusing little game.

kissing-couple.jpeg

Blueberry Garden took home the Design Award, and it was the only entry I hadn’t picked as a favorite beforehand since it wasn’t available publicly online. A tranquil game about exploring and collecting, both technically and aesthetically impressive.

magicka.jpeg

An XNA game called Magicka took home the “Game of the Year” – award, a really nice, diablo-style brawler for 4 players. It also had a really complex spell system that had some surprising depth to it – I enjoyed playing this by myself but playing it with three other people at the actual event really showed what a great game it was, well deserving of the prize.

I realize the pointlessness of reiterating the games that have already won, but mentioning others hardly seems fair since I was prohibited to enjoy so many of them since they either weren’t available for download, didn’t work when downloaded or was multiplayer-only. As for the event itself, it was nice and keeping with the SGA tradition of improving every year.

Posted on May 25/08 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture | No Comments »

/* */

A good day for gaming

good_day.jpg

Kotaku reports that Platinum Games, the studio made up by the ex-Clover key members, will be publishing games through Sega. As if these good news weren’t enough, Michael Ancel has apparently said that Beyond Good & Evil 2 is in pre-production, although Ubisoft hasn’t cleared the game for full production yet.

Beyond Good & Evil had a very nice setting, an entertaining blend of action and traditional adventure gameplay as well as a capturing narrative, very much deserving of being called “one of the past decade’s most underappreciated titles”. Ubisoft should still be somewhat ahead from their successes in the early days of the Wii, so hopefully they’re willing to try something a little different again.

Posted on May 15/08 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture | No Comments »

/* */

Grand Theft Auto IV

gtaiv.jpg

Some magazine – Game Informer, I believe – had a “sacred cow barbecue” a while back where they pointed out faults in some of the games considered the best there are, the Grand Theft Auto series got something like “… is the proof that if you can’t do anything well, do a bunch of things poorly”. While this was an (intended) gross overstatement it still has a ring of truth; and it is both the series’ weakest and strongest points. While all the different segments of the game have improved in the latest iteration (some more than others), there is still a lot of really frustrating gameplay moments – and the fact that the game forces you to replay large chunk on each failure isn’t helping it. On the other hand, GTA is a seamless blend of events so frequent savepoints would probably ruin the mood, and the gameplay idea is probably the most ambitious one in the games industry.

GTA is as much a toy to play with as a game where there’s a beginning and an end, but there are a lot of gameplay moments in the missions it serves. The missions are different combinations of chasing someone, fleeing from someone and shooting up dens of other gangsters, not less varied than your average action game but since it’s so very long it becomes somewhat repetitive after awhile (I clocked in at some 30 hours – not counting the time spent replaying failed missions). Since there’s only a very loose form of progression, the difficulty and relevance of individual missions is varying, but that’s part of the game I guess.

I played the first GTA way back in 1998 and have played most of them at some point, but to be honest I have never really enjoyed sandbox games. Sure, the idea that you’re able to do anything is nice, but if there’s no clear goal – no incentive to do anything I don’t feel motivated to eliminate optional paths. GTA IV counters this by having a more solid narrative – while it’s still a parody of western civilization, the story itself is much darker, more personal and intensive. Niko Bellic is a man with a past and instead of becoming rich and famous his dealings with the criminals in Liberty City puts his friends and family in danger as well as forces the player to make some hard choices of what characters to back and whom to eliminate – much like Mass Effect. As a side note, it’s interesting to see people claim that GTA IV should somehow be more morally corrupt than it’s predecessors as it shows Niko’s life of crime leading to nothing but misery in the end.

… Which is all I’m going to say about the controversy, I guess, because the game itself isn’t very controversial – only the theme is, and there’s no sense dragging the game into a discussion with people who didn’t bother playing it. In conclusion, GTA IV is – as far as I can be bothered to research – the most expensive game production so far, and it is by all means an astounding accomplishment for everyone involved. I really like the game, but the fact that it is a game that aspires to please everyone (well… beside the moralists) leaves it with some big annoyances and I still prefer games that only contain the things I want to play.

Posted on May 10/08 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »

/* */

FTC Report

… So basically, in America there is – despite some politicians’ continuing struggle to change this – no legal obligation for any retailer to refuse a minor trying to buy a game rated for adults, there’s only the voluntary ESRB system. There are many good reasons behind this, but to keep it short no causal link has been established between media violence and real-world aggression, so any laws passed would be based entirely on morality – a varying base, at best, and not enough to withhold free speech and produce the chilling effect enforced ratings would have on any media.

This being said it’s in everyone’s interest to ensure that the videogame industry can handle this responsibility and not sell games to underage buyers when their parents might object, and the failure of the retailers to do so is a very common target for the aforementioned politicians.

That’s why it’s interesting to see the new Federal Trade Commission Secret Shopper report; it sems game retailers only let underage buyers get M-rated games 20% of the times, little more than half of that of underage moviegoers being let into R-Rated movies (which, if I recall correctly, are actually enforced by law).

I’m in no position to argue about the need for ratings, but it’s always nice to have some proof that you’re working for a responsible industry since there still seems to be a lot of misconceptions about whom videogames are for.

Posted on May 08/08 by Saint and filed under Moral panic | No Comments »

/* */

The State of Indie Gaming

There have been a drought of posts about non-indie games lately, I blame it on the lack of (to me) interesting news – saying something about the GTA “controversy” at this point just seems redundant so I’ll save what little I do have to say for a later reflection. Anyway, in continuing with indie news, Gamasutra has an interesting piece about the business side of independent games right now…

¬†“… But casual games downloads are going through a crisis. There is a number of good studios cranking out a far higher number of good games than the audience can consume, creating a glut of good titles and reducing the shelf life of every title.

This crisis is accentuated by the fact that portals haven’t turned out to an Amazon or Netflix model; instead, they pushing the same top 10 to every user, regardless of the user’s tastes.

It’s written seemingly only to answer the question “how can independent games be commercially sustained?” so it might be a little on the dry side compared to design articles, but it is at the same time broad enough to have something interesting even if you aren’t planning on selling your game.

Posted on May 02/08 by Saint and filed under General game development | No Comments »