Cryptic Studio Has Moved On But Have Their Games?: Star Trek Edition


For those of you eagerly waiting for this review after the sudden ending of the previous portion of this two-part article, I apologize. I wasn’t having problems with time or just pure laziness. No, I had problems with how to word my feelings towards Star Trek Online and how best to give an honest review without completely belittling the game. I know, I know. You’re used to that kind of response from me but I decided to be a bit more delicate with how I explain the faults and pluses of STO.

So here goes…

It is laughable to think that Cryptic Studios thinks of STO as an MMORPG. While all the big boys in the room strut their stuff with content, gameplay, character growth, and easily defined instructions, Star Trek Online stumbles and fumbles around the room like a drunk teenage girl at a frat party. At the end of the night, the only ones with a grin on their faces are the real MMOs while STO is dabbing off semen from its face with wet naps.


Wow… I feel uncomfortable reading this. I’m going to just-

What could possess me to attack Star Trek Online in such an unrelenting manner? Is it because I could barely give the game a shot beyond level 4? Yes, it is! I got to level 11 in FF XIV and that game is the equivalent of dining on Indian food , beautiful to look at but horrible to digest. I have never been unable to hit at least level 10 in an MMORPG but Star Trek Online managed to prove me wrong.

That sounds horrible, Mr. Khan! Why was it so god awful?

That’s an easy question to answer, Little Timmy. The game’s initial tutorial manages to be not only fast paced but slow at the same time. There’s a ton of jargon thrown around that doesn’t make sense to begin with and there isn’t much of an explanation as to what any of it means. All I got from the tutorial was that I could shoot lasers and photon torpedoes when I’m in my ship and when I’m on a ground mission I can shoot laser beams and “backstab” the enemy when I attack from their blindside. There really isn’t a clear definition in the beginning what role your class plays or what kind of ships you are able to command. I was certain I was limited to Science Ships since I chose the Scientist profession but I later found out from a friend that I could pilot any ship. Oh, that’s fucking fantastic to know.


For those of you who enjoy looking at your character and face stomping the enemy while adoring how badass you made your Vulcan or Custom Alien, sorry to disappoint but the game is lacking in ground missions and you are spending most of your time viewing the ass tail of your ship. How engrossing! Yes, you can customize your ship but the differences aren’t that vast aside from size. The ship customization is as in-depth as the shape variations presented in a Lego Kit. Everything is a block except some are half a blocks! Whoop-dee-fucking-doo!

From a game with such an absorbing avatar customization, it’s a shame that you spend your time running slow naval circles around enemy space bandits. As far as I could grasp the tactic was to go half speed and adjust your acceleration and deceleration to complete this amazingly slow circle strafe around your enemy to knock out their shields and ass fuck them with photon torpedoes. Combat got repetitive quickly.

The game’s missions were probably the most bland I’ve ever seen in an MMO post 2006. “What was that, Ensign? There’s no one in the quadrant? I guess everything is… Oh my god! Space Bandits out of fucking nowhere!” That was as in depth as the missions got at level 4. They didn’t want to showcase more early on maybe because there wasn’t anything left to show.

The ground missions were probably the worst part about leveling. I should be excited to see my captain running about shooting bitches in the face and parachuting off planet sized drills like in the movie, right? Too bad! I was limited to picking up resources on a planet and randomly getting jumped by “Unknown villain #3” and then transporting back to the ship. Oh wait, I forgot. There were more options. I was able to go to a mining site to speak with a couple of diggers to see how they felt about their jobs and report back to their manager. Yup! They called in the space fleets special forces to settle a dispute about a broken holodeck in the break room.

"Come on, Team! Lets pick up some rocks!"

Now, I understand I have been harsh on the game and there is a reason for that. If STO were a free to play MMORPG, I would dress it with every accolade known in the universe. A free to play space RPG? Sign me up! Let me have fleeting moments of fun!

Unfortunately, the game isn’t F2P. It’s Pay to Play and it’s $15 a fucking month. This game has a huge pair of balls to even consider charging people. Cryptic was fortunate enough that people even purchased fucking the game. It has the depth of a game developed for a smart phone.

STO lacks the environment, quests, gameplay, and depth of games like World of Warcraft, Everquest 2, and even City of Heroes. Quite a bold statement coming from a level 4 Lieutenant, right? That’s why I’m not saying for people to keep away from this game. Play it if you like, it’s your money. I personally don’t see the justification of this game being $15 a month. You’d probably find more fun in Runescape for a cheaper price.

Perfect Worlds purchased this title when they acquired Cryptic Studios. What potential they see in this hunk of shit I will never know. The game is an MMO-abomination and is better served on a free to play model or simply a box sale model like Guild Wars. Then and maybe then it would be worth the time it takes to patch and login. Until that unlikely day comes about, STO will remain uninstalled and far, far away from my computer.

Cryptic Studios Has Moved On But Have Their Games?


For those of you in the dark about the current state of Cryptic Studios, the group that created mega super hero sensation titles like City of Heroes and… that’s it, their sugar daddy decided it was time for a split. Apparently MMO’s cost a lot of money to produce and maintain and ones that fail to meet an expected revenue end up emptying the wallets of publishers. Cryptic Studios made two games that fell short of those expectations. One, Champions Online, fell flat on its face while another, Star Trek Online, didn’t have the staying power to hold subscriptions before another mass MMO exodus ate the expensive IP dry. Sure they have a healthy population for the amount of content they offer but it is not enough to earn back the losses suffered by Atari, the previously mentioned sugar daddy.

What does Atari do now? They decided continue to maintain Cryptic Studios projects while they put up a professional Craigslist ad for someone to buy them. Who went to grab them? Perfect Worlds did! Yes, Perfect Fucking Worlds! Not knocking the company that released amazing games like Torchlight and… that’s it, but this move shows how the company is beginning to make strides into the US online gaming market.

So, did Perfect Worlds make a worthwhile purchase? I decided to suffer the pain of what could possibly be the equivalent of removing my arm with a blunt saw to find out so you don’t have to!

First up, I decided to try out Champions Online. Awhile back I did play Champions Online when it was in Beta and then during release and I wasn’t exactly satisfied with the flow of the game and the cluster fuck of their free form power system. Was I going to suffer the same kind of fate?

No, I did not! Champions Online has made some great improvements to help with the disaster of their free form system. First of all, with their free to play model you can’t go with the free form system and are limited with a couple of premade archetypes that have to fill out a certain role. Why is this a positive thing? Before, everyone just made whatever they wanted and just blew everything up. There were barely any real tanks or healers and it promoted uber recommended builds rather than true individuality. With its current archetype system, you get some diversity but not full free reign.

As for content, the game originally released by throwing you into a city wide disaster during a Qularr invasion, handing you a key to the city, and then shipping you the fuck off to a desert or to the Canadian Wilderness. Nothing makes a hero feel more welcomed to the world than being kicked out of the city and immediately transported off to regions they have no interest in. Now after 3(?) content packs and a revamped quest line where you start your adventures in the city for a good amount of time before being sent away, the game has everything you might want to find in a super hero MMO.

With so many costume customization options for your characters, a decent trade skill system, and powers and goods that can be purchased from the C-Store, the game really excels when it comes to being free and a pay to play.

Is it really worth it as a viable free to play model? Definitely! With heavy customization, a decent amount of content that can be expanded through the C-Store marketplace it runs on a great free to play model with an amazing community that will keep you there for a decent month or two.

Now is the game worth $15 a month? I would say yes! With all the features previously mentioned topped with a great community, someone who is active with the players they game with will find Champions Online engrossing enough to stick around for a month or two as well.

End of part 1. Part 2 to conclude with Star Trek Online.

Some movie studios to skip Comic-Con

Comic_Con

You ever get the feeling that some companies just want you to show up, clap and then shut up and go home? The New York Times reported recently that movie studios Warner Bros., Disney, Dreamworks and The Weinstein Company are call skipping Comic-Con this year. Why might you ask, well some of the reasons include cost and time, but one of the main reasons is they are afraid of bad press.

We all know the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons. Well it seems many of these studios see us all just like that. They worry that a bad review or buzz could sink their ship before it even launches. Even Marvel Studios is on the fence about coming to Comic-Con even though The Avengers is set to launch next year.

Many in the industry describe Comic-Con as “treacherous” and movies like, The Dark Knight did well even without a panel at the show so the thinking is they can get away with it. In addition, they hope some of us will do the buzzing for them.

This makes me think about my recent trip to E3. We were asked to be in the audience for the Jimmy Kimmel show. I found it strange that someone for that show would approach us on the street, but we went and it was legit. However, it was a glorified clip show with no guest and even Jimmy looked disinterested, but they sure made the point to make sure we clapped and screamed like we were having the time of our lives. They baited us with the chance to win money, but I knew we would not win and when we did not we were given potatoes and asked to clap and cheer as if we won the lottery. It was quite sad and embarrassing, but all that mattered to them was that on television it looked and sounded like we were happy.

It is true some of us can be hard on movies or dump on them because it is the cool thing to do. However, if you expect us to shell out our hard-earned cash you could at least do the same. We do not want potatoes or a half-assed showing. Give us something to cheer and write about and if there is criticism to be had then so be it. Simply put, if you feel you do not have to show up for the fans then we feel we should not have to show up for you.

 

EQ2 Has The Worst Players On Erf!


Everquest 2, you know I love you girl, but these fools that be playin’ you… damn girl. You are littered with them! Horrible, atrocious, vomit inducing players run amok on the fair lands of Norrath like ticks sucking on, well, their own suck!

Oh boy, here we go! Another biased opinion about a game and the one isolated event that brands an entire community. Go back to WoW, fag! Lolololololol

Shut up, baby doll. Daddy’s talking.

I have played many, many MMORPGs. The kind of person who would rather play solo than mingle with the masses is not how one would describe this guy right here, the Great Umar Khan. Nope. I like to get involved with the community. I like to remember names, experiences, and how well I match with certain people in a team based environment. 1999, fellas! No yearlong breaks from the genre. I’ve slutted my way into many a community with my impeccable social and gaming skills.

You come off as an asshole!

Bollocks, I say!

Back on topic, of all the games I’ve played, loved, and also “hit it and quit it”; Everquest 2 has some of the worst players in any MMORPG. Despite my feelings for EQ2, her only flaw in my eyes are the ones who entertain themselves on a daily basis with her company.

Warcraft has the worst players, you homo!

Quiet, you anti-Semite!

That doesn’t even-

Someone mentioned my name!

I’m not saying that all players in EQ2 are bad. Every game has bad players but EQ2’s players are in a league of their own. Bertoxxulous really outdid himself with his latest plague of stupid and unskillfulness that has infected the playerbase.

 

As a troubadour, should I be out DPSing the wizards? If your answer is a yes with a hint of implied inquiry in the tone then you should understand the absurd level of shock I had leveling my flamboyant bard on the Permafrost server. More often than none was I the top DPS of the group or only outdone by a Shadow Knight tank. Very few came close to my numbers unless I was in the rare group where someone wasn’t busy watching their kids.

House wives, why are they even allowed to be playing EQ2? Shouldn’t they be busy playing Sims and Farmville? They have no place in trying to understand parses and pie charts from ACT. They can barely grasp how a Chocolate Cow in Farmville produces Chocolate Milk. Here’s a hint. IT’S A FUCKING CHOCOLATE COW!

The skillfulness to push buttons in a certain order isn’t even as mind blowing as the level of stupidity that sums up the vastly growing amount of total shit tanks in the level 70 range. How stupid can they be? One occasion I remember better than the others would be of the tank I kept asking to repair. We were at The Estate of Unrest and this gallivanting Berserker of worldly renown (/sarcasm off) had destroyed armor. I don’t know if its because he tried to tank while using a 2handed weapon despite our pleads for mercy or his claims that he could tank Bugaboo notwithstanding numerous attempts ending with the monstrous haunt face planting our tank into an early grave but this underdeveloped Neanderthal stood out like a golden ring at the bottom of a clear riverbed. We were all in the voice chat channel and finally his slack jawed Midwest accent began to wear thin on my patience. Stupidity spewed forth from his mouth like shit from my asshole after eating at Chipotle. How he managed to even understand how to set up his headset astounds me to this day.

“Hey dude, your armor is broken. Go repair. We’ll wait for you.”

“WAH!”

“Multiple pieces are 0%. You can’t tank like that especially when you’re using a two-hander.”

“WAH!”

“Because your durability has gone down the drain. Just go repair. I’ll go with you. I can teleport us back.”

“WAH can’t I tank with a Two-Hander if my armor is broken? I don’t get WAH!”

“Are you fucking with me right now?”

I’m cutting the reiterated blabbering short but to sum it up, I eventually convinced him to go repair after 5-6 minutes.

God, this editorial is getting long and I hope you’re still with me because there is more!

The community in EQ2 believes it to be okay for people to go AFK during a dungeon crawl. I can’t even count with the fingers on my hands and toes on my feet how many times we had an AFK leecher in our group. If it’s a guy, there might be someone bringing up the occasional “lol is this guy coming back?” But Lord forbid if it’s a fucking woman, though! She will AFK the entire session or return right before the boss. She’ll join the fucking group and then say “Hey guys, I’m cooking dinner at the same time. Give me a second.” That second turns to minutes, minutes into hours, hours into days, and days into eons! An exaggeration? Perhaps! But a bitch shouldn’t join a fucking group if she has something else to do! “Oh hey guys! What are we doing? Crushbone? Okay I’ll be the healer. By the way, I gotta drive to the corner market for a second! Don’t kick me :)”

Fuck! There are just so many other instances where this category of shit has happened to me in only EQ2 but I don’t think I can get into all of them with my trademark long winded bantering! Fuck it all to hell!

I know I could easily deny myself of these experiences if I only made my own group and wrote off some of these people with my own iron fist ruling. Trust me, I have! I don’t take shit when I’m group leader. I don’t like having my time wasted while someone is eating shit in real life. This is my break before real life kicks in and you’re ruining those precious few hours I have. There are just sometimes where it’s easier to join an already forming group than taking the reins into your own hands.

Some of you may not agree. You might feel that my little experiences are biased and that I must hate women, that I’m a fat virgin. Maybe you’re right. Maybe you’re wrong. And maybe, just maybe, you’re a cum dumpster too! If that’s the case, EQ2 is the game for you.

Lorin Jameson: The World’s Worst Bullshitter


In this world there are a special group of individuals who are hired to spit bullshit into the faces of others. These people are normally hired into public relations or in some dire situations they even ascend to an executive ranking. This is the case for Lorin Jameson, the executive producer of DCUO.

What has this personality done to earn the honor of the “World’s Worst Bullshitter”? If you’ve read the recent newsletters that have been put out for DCUO, you’d wholeheartedly understand. Oh don’t worry, I won’t leave you in the dark. Here’s the Producer’s Letter for May 16th.

As RadarX previously announced, we will soon introduce new technology into DC Universe Online which will allow us to combine our current servers into huge MegaServers. I wanted to answer some of the questions that have popped up on the forums and Facebook to better explain what these MegaServers will mean to the game.

Why are you creating MegaServers?

We have a very large and active population in DCUO. As players achieve higher levels, a lot more of the game involves participating in Raids, Arenas, Duos, Alerts, and other queued instances. After examining how the queues were working in detail, we saw our players were spending far too much time waiting and not enough time playing. This just would not do. We wanted an approach that would not only help players waiting for queued content, but ensured that no matter when you play, there are a maximum number of people in the cities as well. MegaServers offers a way to have an incredible experience no matter what your play habits are.

I am on a PvP server. Will I still be with other PvP players when I get to a MegaServer?

Yes! MegaServers use “phasing” technology, meaning there is more than one version, or phase, of Metropolis and Gotham on the server. Players who selected PvP servers when they created their characters will always be in a PvP phase of the shared world with other PvP players. The same goes for PvE players; They will always be placed in PvE phases. However, since the queues will be shared, PvE and PvP players will be able to group up for Alerts, Raids, Duos, etc. greatly increasing the pool of available players for matchmaking. It is a very cool system that really maximizes the people online, and nearby, for you to play with.

Will I still be able to play with my friends?

Yes! We have algorithms that will attempt to place you in the same phase as your friends and League members. Even if you you end up in a different phase, you can almost always phase to your friends. Using the UI, or a command like /phase SooperBFF you will be relocated to SooperBFF’s phase in the same location that you phased from. There will be some limitations on when you can phase based on whether you are in combat, in an Alert or Duo, etc. but I think you will find it is easy to get together with the folks you want to play with.

MegaServers? Why that name?

It just felt big. Putting hundreds of thousands of folks on the same server felt Mega! We considered ‘UberServers’ and ‘MonsterServers’ as well.

We will be rolling out more information in the days ahead. Have a great time playing DCUO!

Lorin ‘DeadMeat’ Jameson

Executive Producer

DC Universe Online

If you read through the whole newsletter, you’re probably disgusted. I’m sure, though, there is a select group of readers who can’t help but breathe from their mouths and not understand why I feel an ulcer building up after reading this letter. Let me break it down for you as easily as I can.

Lorin Jameson thinks you’re an ignoramus, a dimwit, and a nincompoop.

Harsh words, I know, but I didn’t say it. Lorin said it all with this smoothie of diarrhea he calls a Producer’s Letter.

I know it’s a company’s job to always think positively and on the bright side. No doom and gloom here! Always a happy go lucky, we’re still striving kind of attitude. That’s commendable but when you lie to cover up the shortcomings of your product that’s just disgusting when contradictions come into play.

DCUO has a very large and active population? Don’t fucking lie. Everyone I know that is still playing says it’s a ghost town and I was stilling playing two months after release and things were already getting dramatically scarce. If you don’t want people to think you’re a fucking liar, don’t even mention the population! No one asked how big the population was! How can there be a very active and large population when Lorin later states people are spending too much time waiting and not enough time playing? It contradicts itself!

That horrible method of delivering his bullshit isn’t even the worst part. It’s how he brands these consolidated servers as MegaServers. Every MMORPG in the history of MMORPGs that has had a dwindling population have consolidated their dying servers by merging them together. Everything Lorin Jameson said after “very large and active population” opposes that very statement.

Another small peeve I had was when he answered the question as to whether people will be able to play with their friends still. He answers with “algorithms”. That’s fucking swell, Lorin. They don’t give a fuck about your “phasing” technology and algorithms. You’re throwing around terms like they’re fascinating and new; as if gamers have no fucking idea what you’re talking about. Just say “Yeah you’ll be able to play with your friends! We have it set up so everything works just as it should!” Don’t act like you’re the first MMO to merge servers and you’re light years ahead of the rest of the world with your fucking algorithms.

Oh, wait I’m not done with this fucking letter. At the fucking end he then responds to the question pondering why they chose to name it MegaServers. He mentions how it felt Mega putting hundreds of thousands of folks on the same server. The only Mega thing I can think of when I read his description for MegaServers were Mega pellets of brown hail pelting me to death from the bullshit storm he is spewing all over the place.

Sony has had some really shitty people speak for them but Lorin Jameson just takes the fucking cake. Go eat a dick, Lorin Jameson.

Oh by the way, what happened to those monthly content updates and that Green Lantern content? Not making it in time for the movie? That just shows how incompetent SOE is to gain back some subscribers following this summer’s super hero movie craze.

Did Smallville’s series finale deliver?

Lex-Luthor-Smallville

In my opinion Smallville’s series finale did not deliver. Don’t get me wrong, I am not going to go off on a tangent about how I wasted years of my life watching the program (however, there were those Lana episodes). Like the series finale of Lost, I felt it did not deliver, but overall I still liked watching the show.

What was wrong in my opinion, well first off the wedding story was just flat. We first were led to believe a wedding was going to be part of the final episodes then Clark calls it off, then he reconsiders, then she calls it off then reconsiders and then they decide to go ahead with it only to have it interrupted and then postponed seven years and we still see no wedding in the end.

Forget cannon for a moment, that just was a waste to me. We have seen the on again, off again wedding story way to many times just as we have seen the wedding interrupted by a bad guy to many times to count. I just got the feeling that, like the Lost finale, they were killing time.

Second, we were once again treaded to possession of human’s stead of seeing a real villain. Yes, I understand on a television budget they would have a hard time making Darkseid look good, but to have him take over Lionel’s body was just bad. I could understand maybe if it was just a season finale, but the series finale, no, unacceptable. I almost rather have my Doomsday fight back than what we saw.

Speaking of which, another fight in Clarks barn and the way he was able to beat Lionel-seid was to fly into him? I just don’t understand why you can’t tailor the fights better to the budget, we have seen good T.V. fights before, but even his flying attack did not look good. Hell, the fight between Clark and Dark Oliver was better.

Yet another travesty was Green Arrow one-shotting all of Darkseid’s lieutenants. I understand Green Arrow is a badass and that he had the special arrows, but my God, you could not have cut out some of the Lois and Clark banter to give us a bit more of Green Arrow versus the terrible three?

Then we have Lex, again we suffer from the mind wipe problem that has plagued Smallville for quite some time. I knew they would have to find a way to make Lex forget everything, but the mind wiping gel smear job could have been done better. In fact even the Lex, Clark meet in the castle could have gone better and that was most likely the best part of the episode, well, besides Mercy kicking ass and killing alter-Lionel.

Last but not least was the reveal. I just felt as if everyone on the show was so exacted that they were playing the Superman theme that they forgot to actually make the visuals good. We see more of the suit with Clark’s father is holding it then when Superman is wearing it. We could have done without all the super close up headshots of Clark and see some of the suit without it being panned out and blurry. Then the big “treat” to the fans is Clark running on the roof of the Daily Planet and ripping his shirt open to see the “S” shield, no, not good enough.

If I had to rate the show I would give it a D+ and that is only because Lex was back and Mercy kicked ass, but besides that I am afraid Smallville will soon be forgotten. Overall, the series was decent and if people learn from their mistakes they can build on it for a future superhero show or pass on them all like Wonder Woman.

 

The 30 Plus Gamer

Team Red-Eye

There are a lot of us gamers that either have just past the thirty mark or will be soon enough. I thought back on my earlier days of gaming and the difference between then and now on a variety of subjects, but for this one let us explore what we use to do or tolerate that we no longer can in our advancing age.

24 Hour + Gaming Sessions

In my twenties, I could go to a LAN party and game all night. The truth was I was just as tired then, but somehow I got a gamers second wind allowing me to plow through those nights of Action Half-Life and Quake 2 Rail Arena. When the Everquest days came, the crack head mentality took over and though I was dead in my seat, I could perform the necessary tasks to play the game.

Now, I find myself laughing at the idea of losing good sleep over a game. It does not mean that a good gaming session won’t kept me up, but I would prefer going to bed at a reasonable hour and starting again the next morning than burning the midnight oil. I have also become immune to coffee and sugar free Red Bull.

Stupid Gamers

I never tolerated stupidity, but I would deal with it because I wanted to keep playing. In games like Counter Strike and Rainbow Six we would come across a ton of ass hats, but unless they were really detrimental to the team we would let them stay.

Today I can’t stand them. Everyone acts as if at any moment they will become the next internet sensation and so you have the people trying to be funny in Ventrilo constantly. You have the internet pimp who hits on anything with a female sounding voice. My favorite is the fake drunk or high gamer who pretends their lack of game is due to intoxication. This is where having the ability to kick someone comes into play. I have banned so many people I have a mastery skill in it. Gaming may not be serious business, but if you act like a five year old in my group you get a time out.

Bad Food

Sadly, I was a big guy long before video games, but at least I use to split my time between the NES and baseball, football and basketball. Once I hit my twenties all the activity outside went out the window except trips to fast food restaurants and the door for the delivery guy.

It was so easy back then. Even though we could see each other getting larger, it did not matter. I mean what beats Smothered Cheese Fries and an all nighter of Shogo? FPS and RTS games were made for pizza and finger food and if you could get your hand on some Jolt Cola you were ahead of the game like a low ping bastard.

Today your doctor shows you your stats and you’re encumbered with a D.O.T. that could kill you in ten years. Most of us will not give up games, but if we want to continue to play, we have to replace that Hot Pocket with a grilled chicken breast and a sweet potato. The Mountain Dew has to be replaced with water and say goodbye to smoke breaks of the wacky and non-wacky variety. In addition, you might need to use that treadmill for something besides a clothes rack, but you can play Angry Birds while working out the doctor says.

Aging Gracefully

There are a ton of more things we’ve had to change or give up and we will cover this and more in the next edition. For now, what have you changed or given up from your early days of gaming to now?

 

The Unsurprising Incompetence of Sony


We all know what’s going on with Sony. For those of you who don’t know, you either don’t game or you live under a rock. The greatest hacking escapade of 2011 has left the company’s loyal consumers hanging on the sideline while they hope to the heavens that their credit card info hasn’t been sold to the highest bidder. If you haven’t cancelled your credit card, asked for a new number, or put out a fraud alert by now it’s best advised you do so now.

What I really wanted to get into with this article isn’t Sony’s time and time again ability to completely fuck up everything they touch. I want to know why anyone would even remain loyal to this colossal abortion of a company?

Because Microsoft is the devil, Umar!

Microsoft can be whatever you want to call it but Xbox Live has provided some of the best online multiplayer entertainment compared to their other console rivals. True, the Xbox live community is immature at best. Again, it is true, most of the games that come out for Xbox are also available on the PC but this isn’t just about comparing PSN to Xbox Live.

I don’t care about the other consoles. Disregard the Wii, Xbox, or the PC in this decision. Why should someone remain devoted to Sony games or devices? If you can’t get past that, you’re missing the point entirely.

What is the point then, you fat asshole?

The point is, as a customer, why should you remain with a company that can’t protect your CC information? Why remain with a company who has been so crippled by the attack they have yet to restart their service? Why remain with a company that markets with an asshat like Kevin Butler? Why remain with a company that barely has anything to show at E3 time and time again and when they do manage to reveal something it becomes an internet meme?

And this is just with their Playstation portion of the company. They recently announced and moved forward with the shutting down of all Sony Online Entertainment games due to this “intrusion”. That means games like Everquest 2, Everquest… and what other games would be affected by this? Didn’t they seize operations on a huge plethora of their games? I know they have DCUO but how many customers can you upset by bringing that game down? Their ten remaining customers? Big deal. If this assault doesn’t put the nail in the coffin for DCUO then its loyal subscribers are used to be being screwed over and over again.

For a company that is already struggling to breathe in the MMO market, this setback is going to draw more players to WoW, LOTRO, and/or Rift. How can they recoup their losses? Offer a free month for the month they’re already going to lose? Give away 700 Station Points?
Thanks for the piece of mind, Sony. I’ll enjoy these small tokens of your appreciation for my loyalty while some criminal abuses the shit out of my credit.

Face it, loyal Sony fanboys. You’re on the Titantic and you can get off the ship and survive or freeze to death in the piercing icy waters of Hell. You aren’t Rose. No one wants to draw you naked. You won’t live through this.

I know a couple of people who are still riding on Sony’s cock. To them I say you’re a complete moron. Enjoy lubing up your ass with olive oil while this company and its attackers continue to fuck you from behind.

Now I want to hear from you, the reader. I want to know why on God’s green and polluted Earth would you want to stay with Sony?

Top Five PlayStation: Racing Games

I’ve always been of the opinion that fancy graphics are far less important than a well-designed game. I think my continued love or retro games and enduring disdain for modern gaming is evidence enough of this, but there’s always been one exception – driving/racing games. Try as they might, developers in the 80’s and early 90’s were rarely able to fashion both a playable and convincing into-the-screen racer outside of the arcades, and I can probably count on the fingers of one hand how many I personally liked. That is until the CD-ROM-based consoles appeared. The Need For Speed on the 3DO was perhaps the first indication of what this medium could do for the genre but it took the release of the Saturn and PlayStation for it to reach full bloom, with the latter system producing both the most numerous and most impressive examples yet seen.

I personally got into PlayStation gaming late, sticking loyally with my good old Saturn for as long as there were games made for it, but eventually I had to join the ranks of the competition. When I did, a majority of the time I spent on it was spent playing driving games. I certainly didn’t play all of the ones on offer but of the ones I did play, here are in my opinion the Top Five:

Special Note: A big thanks to Martyn Carroll, Facebook friend and editor of the original version of Retro Gamer magazine (and contributor to the current incarnation) for providing me with a working PlayStation emulator for this piece. Yes, I own the originals of the games featured here, but I needed the emulator to get the screenshots, so… thanks Martyn, I owe you one!

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I’ve traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven’t played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

 

If I review any PS1 driving games in my upcoming feature that get really high scores, they don’t appear in this Top Five because I hadn’t played them before! (a.k.a covering my arse!)

5. Total Drivin’ (1997)

Total Drivin

I bought this game cheap with no prior knowledge of it on the off-chance it might be worth the risk. Luckily it paid off! Whilst far from the pinnacle of the PlayStation’s graphical achievements, it is pretty innovative in other ways. The championship mode, for example, features races in various locations around the world and consequently on a variety of surfaces. To this end, there’s not just one type of racing here but five – Rally, Sports, Indy, Buggies, and Dakar Rally! One of my favourite things about this game is that your opponents aren’t just bunched up behind you waiting for a mistake – the better you race, the further ahead you’ll get. You can even lap them if you’re fast enough! This is a great and underrated racing game with a lot more variety than even Gran Turismo.

4. Porsche Challenge (1997)

Porsche Challenge

This was the first game I ever got for my PlayStation when I finally gave up hope for my beloved Saturn, and I was very pleased with it. Admittedly, looking back, the graphics are a little ropier than I remember – the car models are nice (as you would expect from a game with an official license) but the draw distance isn’t great and there’s a fair bit of pop-up, but luckily it still plays very nicely. The only car available to drive is the Boxster but there are six different coloured ones to choose from, each driven by its own character, some of whom exchange banter between races. There’s only four courses to race over but they’re pretty long and there’s many variations of each (mirrored, reversed, extra sections, with shortcuts, etc), and all are very enjoyable to drive around. A not-too-hectic racer that provides a really pleasant driving experience.

3. Ridge Racer Type 4 (1998)

Ridge Racer Type 4

I don’t care what anyone says, Ridge Racer sucks big floppy donkey dicks and so does its ‘sequel’, Revolution. Rage Racer, however, was where Namco started rectifying this situation and RR4 (complete with ridiculous and unnecessary Type in its title) is arguably where the series peaked. Featuring a huge number of courses (for RR standards) and billions of car variations, it’s already infinitely better than the stupid original, but it also vastly improves the horrifying handling problems that blighted earlier efforts too. It has a number of play modes including an excellent career mode, and in my opinion is one of the best looking racing games to appear on Sony’s debut console with races taking place at various times of day meaning some lovely lighting effects. Ridge Racer finally becomes a must-play!

2. Colin McRae Rally (1998)

Colin McRae Rally

Yes, the second game in the series (also on PS1) is technically more impressive but I’ve always preferring playing this original. It pretty much kickstarted the whole rally game craze by itself, and with good reason – driving Mr. McRae’s iconic blue Impreza around the world’s rally courses was a fantastically enjoyable experience. Near enough any kind of driving surface (and weather condition) you can think of is catered for here and the attention to detail is amazing – watch your car get progressively dirtier throughout the race (and damaged if you keep hitting trees!). There’s no in-game music, no opponents to race against (on-screen, anyway), just precision driving, and it had arguably never been done better.

1. Gran Turismo (1998)

Gran Turismo

I’m sure a majority of PlayStation gamers would opt for the second game in the series as the peak of the genre on their favourite console but I’m not sure any driving game had as much of an impact on me as this original. It pretty much rewrote the rule book on what could be achieved in a driving videogame with its license tests forcing you to earn the right to race in the game’s various classes, huge range or real cars to buy, race in, and customise, near-photo-realistic replays, and hugely intricate championship mode. It’s amazingly playable and addictive too – I had great fun gradually building up my Honda Prelude to an all-conquering rice-rocket! There was more to this game than most racing fans could dream of at the time and it still impresses today.

Indie Game Reviews: x3

Mr Smoozles Goes Nutso
Mr Smoozles Goes Nutso

Mr Smoozles is an anthropomorphic cat. Nothing to shout about, I know, except he’s an anthropomorphic cat starring in his very own web cartoon and a creation of Broken Sword and Beneath a Steel Sky writer/artist Steve Ince, meaning he’s a pretty smart cat indeed. Mr Smoozles goes Nutso, on the other hand, is quite obviously the game of said smart cat, which also happens to be a rather brilliant, humorous and particularly cartoony arcade adventure by -again- Steve Ince, sporting a preposterous plot about alien invaders, parallel realities, more anthropomorphic cats and mind control.

The game plays like a simplified adventure with some light arcade elements and mostly demands that the player solves simple puzzles, embarks on a few fetch-quests, avoids the rampaging Mr Smoozles and a few other enemies, explores the impressively detailed game world and generally stays alive. Nothing too demanding really, but excellent -if a tiny bit repetitive- fun dressed up with some lovely graphics and a suitably retro soundtrack. Oh, and do expect some brilliant and at times elaborate easter eggs, as well as more than a few references and nods to Revolution games.

You can (should, really) buy a copy and/or download the demo over here.

Galcon Fusion

Galcon Fusion

Deep yet incredibly simple strategy games have been a firm favourite of mine ever since I spent eight hours waiting for a ship and playing Advance Wars. Happily Galcon Fusion doesn’t have to be played under dire circumstances to be enjoyed and is probably one of the best games of this sort the PC has to offer. It really is simple to learn, incredibly addictive and an absolute bastard to master. All the player has to do, you see, is click on a planet and then click on another planet, and a fleet will leave the first and attack or strengthen the second. That’s the basic gameplay mechanic and it only gets marginally more complex, as you learn that fleets can also be clicked on and that the mouse-wheel is a most lethal space war weapon.

Getting to grips with the whole thing and taking on multiple opponents in a variety of scenarios is -initially- a simple and extremely enjoyable experience. Try going for the game’s challenging bits and online multiplayer masters though, and you’ll discover the huge difference between simply enjoying and actually mastering Galcon Fusion. Can’t find fault with it really, though truth be said it’s not a game for everyone. Smart retro-visuals are quite nice too, though what should really impress retro lovers is the text-only mode of the thing.

Find out more, look at the iPhone version and give it a try here.

Grid Runner Revolution

Grid Runner Revolution
When Grid Runner first appeared on the VIC-20 it was nothing more than a great but a simple and quite unassuming little budget game. Now, over 20 years later, Jeff Minter, the game’s original creator, has evolved it into the absolute shmup extravaganza, complete with tons of levels, fluffy sheepies, amazing pyrotechnics, eye-melting visuals, an ear-melting soundtrack, many extras and that quirky Llamasoft humour. Oh, and some finely tuned shmup gameplay with some brilliant touches, that even manages to subtly innovate. Losing a life, for a example, can be mitigated by picking up a nice sheep, whereas each life is represented by a different ship (not sheep, mind) with unique features.

 

What’s more, the (almost) original VIC-20 and C64 versions of the game have also been included, as well as an excellent Thrust-like game mode, online leaderbards and a wealth of other features, that make it an essential purchase. Yes, even people that don’t really like shoot-’em-ups will enjoy this one. It really is excellent, and the free demo will easily convinve you.

To get a copy of Grid Runner Revolution (and of course the equally brilliant Space Giraffe) and all of Llamasoft‘s now freely available classic games just follow this woolly link.

The MMO Separation of Church and State

It’s been awhile, loyal readers. Yes, I know I’ve been away from awhile and even though some may not care, I am here. I will allow you a moment to shuffle towards your nearest box of tissues to clean up the mess your mayonnaise blaster just shot off.

Ready now? Good.

With that embarrassing mishap behind us, let me indulge with you a story of days past. Yes, the story will again involve MMORPGs as the major focus point but do not worry; I will stray from this tired path in the future.

Years ago, back in 2006 when some of our readers were still teething and dropping goat pebbles in their diapers, there was an archaic game known as World of Warcraft. I’m not sure if many of you have heard of it. The game is incredibly underground with a miniscule population.

In those golden days, PvP wasn’t about fighting another player for hours. It wasn’t about outlasting foes. It was like how PvP was in almost every other game in existence, including FPS. Fights were quick and fast paced. It wasn’t about every player being Batman and trying to pull off as much bullshit as possible. It was about an Enhancement Shaman with Windfury WTF raping their way to victory. It was about the Mage hiding in the back charging up a Pyroblast combo. It was about a rogue hiding and doing what rogues do best, assassinate.

For some reason or another, they decided that fights shouldn’t be so quick and involve such a maelstrom of destruction. Thus, resilence was born; a stat aside from PvE defenses where player damage could be mitigated. What were the reasons for this? Was it the ocean of tears from people that were getting taken out by one person? Could it have been the advantages a raid gear character had against hardcore PvPers? Was it so that Arenas weren’t filled with full DPS team ready to leave craters in the wake of their wrath?

All of those reasons are sound and legit. The one that I felt holds the most truth is the fact that raid geared PvE’ers were capable of casually going to PvP and whirlwinding their way to victory. It is for this reason alone that I believe there was a separation between PvE and PvP.

What is the purpose of this division? Why is that PvP’ers and PvE’ers must separate from one another? Why couldn’t there be one stat system that to keep things united?

I understand that PvE’ers are able to acquire gear through a lot of coordination and time and I also understand that PvP matches tend be much shorter than a raid encounter. It wouldn’t be just in rewarding them with equal gear as that would anger the carebear community.

Resilence only seemed to make sense for Arenas since you generally wanted to last longer in that kind of scenario and it is because of that where I believe Arena gear is the only stat difference that should be available. Mass PvP shouldn’t have this kind of separation.

Raiders can still raid to get their gear but there could’ve been a more inventive way to reward PvP players. Battlegrounds could have been divided by tiers of difficulty and/or objectives rather than how they are now. The first tier battleground could be the PvP mirror of a heroic where during the battle, mediocre gear drops off of fallen enemy players and whenever a tower was taken down or whichever of the multiple objectives in that match is achieved, a loot roll comes up for players with random loot and of course whenever each objective is completed they are rewarded tokens to use as currency to purchase gear as well. Essentially, it the same mechanic as a heroic instead it is applied to a PvP scenario.

The next tier could have a much more difficult objective to complete which would take a bit more coordination on the player’s part and so on. This style of loot progression would allow both PvE and PvP gear to be interchangeable. How come dungeons with new mechanics and situations are constantly added but battlegrounds have remained the same?

What’s sad about this situation is that since World of Warcraft is the staple of a success in the MMO genre, every game is coinciding with this stat system in their games even when it doesn’t make sense. Resilence always appeared to be an arena stat but was quickly pushed into every PvP scenario. Now games like DCUO have toughness instead of defense and Rift has whatever the hell they use. I think it’s toughness versus defense as well but I don’t give a shit. Games where these mechanics are applied don’t even make sense yet they seem to be adopting the format regardless. It causes the PvP experience to force someone in the PvE realm to start from the beginning again and vice versa.

Don’t these companies think player’s have already enough of this whole “starting over” situation every time a new expansion comes out and they have to grind new factions and gear? This shit isn’t needed. Stop pitting people into these situations and allow PvP and PvE to be interchangeable and not some form of morbid segregation.

That’s end of that rant but…

A quick note to other MMORPG companies out there,

Stop copying World of Warcraft and start being creative. This genre is becoming like the FPS genre where 90% of the games out there want to be Call of Duty and all we get are the same fucking things over and over again. Stop sticking to this format and start getting a creative team together. One day, Blizzard is going to become like Apple and sue you for copying their shit over and over again.

And before one of you asshole readers say, “WoW isn’t original. It copied EQ, and EQ copied UO, and UO copied Meridian, and Meridian copied—“ Just shut the fuck up. I don’t give a fuck who copied who. Each of those games was vastly different from one another and even the mechanics that were taken from either of those games have evolved from each generation and iteration. Fuck!

Mario’s complete Gameography: Almost

Mario. Had a friend named Mario. Quite a weird bloke, mind you, but that’s not the point. Besides, this post is neither about my friends, nor Marios in general. It’s all about Nintendo’s Mario, and his appearances (in cameo, supporting or starring roles) on video games of all kinds. Quite a few as you should have guessed, and what follows are the ones I managed to find. The list -I am sure- is not a 100% complete, and even though I feel that almost every important game and most Mario appearances have been covered, there must be some obscure and/or well-known omissions. Please, let me know… Anyway, on to the…

Mario List (TM):

Arcade: Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Mario Bros, Vs. Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros., Mushroom World Pinball (an actual pinball machine!), Super Mario Bros 2., Super Mario Bros. 3., Super Mario World, Mario Kart Arcade GP.
Super Mario Bros 3 - Arcade Cabinet

Super Mario Bros. 3 cabinet

Atari 2600, 7800: Donkey Kong, Mario Bros.Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES (or even Famicom if you prefer): Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Classics, Donkey Kong Jr., Donkey Kong Junior Math, Donkey Kong 3, Dr. Mario, Golf, Mario is Missing, Mario’s Time Machine, Mike Tyson’s Punchout, NES Open Tournament Golf, Nintendo World Championships, Return of Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels, Super Mario Bros. 3, Tennis, Wario’s Woods, Wrecking Crew, Yoshi, Yoshi’s Cookie.Super Mario Bros- NES

 

Super Mario Bros. (apparently)
Gameboy and Gameboy color: Alleyway, Donkey Kong, Dr. Mario, F1-Race, Qix, Game & Watch Gallery, Game & Watch Gallery 2, Game & Watch Gallery 3, Mario’s Picross, Mario’s Picross 2, Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, Super Mario Land, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, Tetris Attack, Mario Tennis, Wario Blast featuring Bomberman!, Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, Wario Land 2, Yoshi, Yoshi’s Cookie, Mario Golf.

 

Super Mario Land - Gameboy
Super Mario Land

 

Super NES (SNES, Super Famicom): Excitebike: Bun Bun Mario Battle Stadium, Mario and Wario, Mario is Missing, Mario’s Time Machine, Mario Paint, Mario’s Super Picross, Mario’s Early Years: Fun with numbers, Mario’s Early Years: Fun with letters, Mario’s Early Years: Pre-School, Nintendo Power Dr. Mario, Picross Nintendo Power, Super Mario All-Stars, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, Super Mario Kart, Super Mario World, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, Tetris and Dr. Mario, Tetris Attack, Wario’s Woods, Wrecking Crew ’98, Yoshi’s Cookie, Yoshi’s Cookie: Kuruppon Oven De Cookie, Yoshi’s Safari, Zelda 3.

 

Super Mario World - SNES
Super Mario World

Virtual Boy: Mario Clash, Virtual Boy Wario Land, Mario’s Tennis.

Mario Clash - Virtual Boy
Mario Clash

CDi: Hotel Mario, Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds (unreleased).

Hotel Mario

 

Nintendo 64: Dr. Mario 64, Paper Mario, Super Mario 64, Mario Tennis, Mario Golf, Mario Party, Mario Party 2, Mario Party 3, Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart 64, Yoshi’s Story.

 

Super Mario 64 - Mario 64
Super Mario 64

 

PC and Apple: Mario Teaches Typing, Mario Teaches Typing 2, Mario’s Fun with Numbers, Mario’s Fun with Letters, Mario’s Pre-School fun, Mario’s FUNdamental, Mario’s Games Gallery.
mario-teaches-typing

 

Gameboy Advance: (excluding the Classic NES series) Game and Watch Gallery 4, Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, Mario Bros., Mario Party Advance, Mario Party e, Mario Tennis Advance, Mario Pinball Land (a.k.a. Super Mario Ball), Mario vs. Donkey Kong, Super Mario Advance, Super Mario Advance 2: Super Mario World, Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi’s Island, Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario Advance 6: Mario is Missing, Wario Land 4, WarioWare Inc: Mega Microgames, WarioWare Twisted!, Famicom Mini: Wrecking Crew, Yoshi Topsy Turvy, Mario Kart Super Circuit.

 

Mario vs Donkey Kong
Mario vs. Donkey Kong

 

GameCube: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, Luigi’s Mansion, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Nintendo Puzzle Collection, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Super Mario Sunshine, Mario Superstar Baseball, Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour, Mario Power Tennis, Mario Party 4, Mario Party 5, Mario Party 6, Mario Party 7, Super Smash Bros. Melee, WarioWare Inc.: Mega Party Game$, NBA Street v3, Super Mario Strikers (a.k.a. Mario Smash Football), Dance-Dance Revolution: Mario Mix.

 

Super Mario Sunshine
Super Mario Sunshine

 

Nintendo DS: Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time, Mario Basket: 3 on 3, Mario Kart DS, New Super Mario Bros., Super Mario 64 DS, Super Princess Peach, Tetris DS, WarioWare: Touched!, Yoshi Touch and Go.

 

Super Mario 64 - Nintendo DS
Super Mario 64 DS

 

 

Your very first experience with a 3D game and its hits you

Back in 1990s when games were mainly popular on arcades in India,some of the many popular arcade games here were – Cadillacs‑Dinosaurs,Super Mario Bros,Street Fighter 2,King of Fighters,Sonic and some more.

It was the year 1998 when I witnessed the very first 3D game right in front of my retinas.For a complete first 10 minutes of focusing hard on the visuals, I was awestruck. That piece of innovation hit all the right wavelengths in my head to an extent that I could not play it at all(What??You can see that environment in a 360 degree rotation)during my first several attempts.I was fascinated.I loved it! I felt a sudden emergence of an entirely new exuberance in me.The information was too much for the young brain of mine and I shivered in great excitement when I saw what I saw at that time.I am short on words here.

The game I am talking about here was Mortal Combat 4,arcade edition.

The finishing moves were obviously for a 18+ gamer but I suppose that at that time the ratings system was not in place.Even if it was then I must say that it’s still pending implementation in my country and thank goodness for that.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwkMMmLHD7s

All that gore and ruthless killing in the game, which otherwise, would have hurt my tiny little brain soon transformed to super cool fun.I,with my couple more friends,started to enjoy the game and the new revolutionary “3D-graphics” took our experience of gaming to a whole new level.

For us at that time,even those 500 Tris character models were the most super realistic digital form of moving art ever witnessed in a game before.The ending moves were the parts for what we were playing the game.Soon the two player versus gaming mode took a similar shape as of the previous arcade fighter games offered and it elevated how we used to enjoy digital gaming earlier even more. And then no one wanted to finish a game again and again for fun or for scores.We all just wanted to kick and slam each other’s digital asses for good in 3D.

The impact of this one 3D game was so successful to have put some serious impact on my head at that time and I instantly found ,in my 8th standard of junior schooling, that I wanted to make games in the future as a career. I am pretty sure I wasn’t alone with such an uprising feeling of doing something which was totally fresh as a career option at that time and most of the people didn’t even know how to generalize it with a term.

With time I realized the diversity in this one field and hence I choose to be a 3D designer.I still have to get my hands on my first game design project,but I have been pretty content with what I have done so far.However I am happy with the fact I am doing something which I loved at first glanced.

So let me ask you,which was the first 3D game you played and what impact/change/effect did it have on your brain in terms of gaming experience.

Top Five SNES Two-Player Games

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I’ve traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven’t played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

5. Rock n’ Roll Racing (1993)

Rock n Roll Racing

This game may have been more famous for its soundtrack when it first appeared but that’s far from its only positive attribute. After choosing one of the six racers available, you then get to race their ‘rock car’ around the simple, undulating circuits trying to blow everyone else up! It’s possible to upgrade your car between races with all the usual stuff – engines, tyres, shocks, shields, etc, as well as equip it with various weapons such as missiles and mines. It’s great fun with one player but even better with two, and I’m also pleased to say it doesn’t use the annoying ‘catch-up’ feature here, instead opting for the split-screen view which makes proceedings far more enjoyable if you ask me. And yes, the soundtrack is good too, featuring instrumental renditions of various hard rock classics. Probably the best overhead racer on the SNES.

4. Street Fighter 2 (1991)

Street Fighter 2

Yes, this original has dated a lot now – it was inevitable given the amount of ‘fine-tuning’ Capcom has done to the series since it came out – but it was for a long time the only version of this great game I played. I’m still not particularly good at it either – the only character I can regularly beat friends with is Ryu, and even then I can’t execute Dragon Punches reliably! But I don’t think I need to extol its virtues too much – everyone’s played it, at least when it first came out, and I’m sure all of you, like me, spent a lot of time beating your friends (or trying to!). Pretty much any of the updates released for this game would be a better option to play today, but I have very happy memories of countless two-player fights on this pricey original.

3. Super Mario Kart (1992)

Super Mario Kart

Like Street Fighter 2, this was a revelation when it was originally released and soon became a permanent occupant of the SNES when friends visited. I’ve always thought it a little overrated personally, at least as far as one player games go, due to the rage-inducing AI which gives overwhelming preference to the CPU-controlled karts, but with two players racing, at least you’re both equally disadvantaged with regards to this! Plus, if you get fed up with being smacked-up by the computer-controlled racers in the standard grand prix mode, you and a friend can retreat to the confines of the ‘Battle Game’ – a one-on-one fight to the death within the confines of an enclosed arena, which is arguably more enjoyable than the main game anyway!

2. Super Bomberman (1993)

Super Bomberman

It can’t be a list of the best two-player games without a Bomberman game included! Well, except for the Master System list as that console doesn’t have a Bomberman game. Poor old Master System. This was the first game in this great series that I played and it’s still one of my favourites. Although they’re not to everyone’s tastes, I personally really enjoy playing the single player modes on Bomberman games but not even I could claim they’re as much fun as the frantic, multi-player battles that can develop with more than one participant, and this game was actually playable with up to four players! Even with two though, it’s close to perfection as far as multi-player action goes. Just make sure you don’t end up blowing yourself up – there’s no honour in an accidental suicide!

1. Super Smash TV (1991)

Super Smash TV

This arcade classic draws its inspiration from a number of sources, notably a combination of Eugene Jarvis’ Robotron 2084 and late 80’s sci-fi action films such as The Running Man and Robocop, but it mixes the concoction to perfection. It was released on most consoles and home computers of the time, and most of them were at least pretty good, but the best conversion of Smash TV was without question the one the SNES received, with the system’s standard title prefix. The near-arcade perfect graphics and splendid music offered by Nintendo’s powerhouse certainly helped matters, and created a superb atmosphere, but it was the layout of the control pad that clinched the title of Best Conversion – the diamond button formation was a perfect substitute for the twin-stick controls of the original, allowing you to run in one direction and shoot in another with ease. Featuring dozens of sprites on screen without any slowdown means this game can get as claustrophobic as Robotron, but with two-players blasting the non-stop enemies it’s never anything less than thrilling. You can work together with your friend to progress as far as possible, or you can compete against him by stealing the money, prizes, and extra lives to get the best score! A frantic, exciting, non-stop adrenaline rush of a game which was made to be played by two.

Top Five 3DO Games

Top Five 3DO Games

The poor old 3DO was hardly a run away success, was it? It was released during a difficult period. Change was coming, but not quite ready to be embraced by the gaming public. The fact that it cost as much as a car didn’t help matters either, of course! Consequently it doesn’t have the biggest of software libraries. With this in mind, instead of doing a genre-based Top Five for some of its games, I have little choice but to simply select the five best games on the system from all genres. Behold:

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I’ve traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven’t played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

5. Return Fire (1995)

Return Fire

Released somewhat belatedly as a sequel to the popular Amiga strategy shooter, Fire Power, this fiendishly addictive game was among the best the 3DO could offer for two-player thrills. The move from Fire Power’s overhead viewpoint to a slightly angled 3D perspective was slight but Return Fire looks a lot prettier, and it retained and expanded upon its prequel’s enemy-flag-capturing fun. There are four vehicles you can employ to capture your enemy’s flag – tank, jeep, helicopter, and an armoured missile launcher – and each is accompanied by it’s own classical music! There are a good few stages, or ‘maps’, to battle through here, but the game was also later supplemented by a ‘data disc’ called Maps O’ Death which contained 100 new stages too. Return Fire is good fun for the solo-gamer, and I’ve spent a lot of time playing it by myself, but it was always intended as a two-player game, and in this capacity it’s one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played.

4. Gex (1994)

Gex

Poor old Crystal Dynamics. They clearly put a lot of effort into this game but it went virtually ignored by most gamers who were presumably awaiting all the ‘next generation’ games they’d been promised. I suppose most weren’t really looking for yet another 2D platformer after the deluge the MD and SNES received, but if they’d actually played Gex, they’d have discovered a superb game. Starring Gex, a lazy, television-obsessed Gecko who gets sucked into his TV, the game consists of five TV-themed levels, each split into several stages, through which Gex must travel before he can defeat Rez (no, not the Dreamcast game) and escape. Featuring sumptuous, varied graphics, some great music (although the frequent quips uttered by Gex can soon grate), a huge game world, and a perfect difficulty curve, Gex really is one of the most enjoyable 2D platformers around. Forget the fact that there’s no FMV or polygons and give it a go!

3. The Need For Speed (1994)

Need For Speed

There’s a good chance that around 9 out of 10 gamers have played at least one of the Need For Speed games, but how many know that the series started here on the 3DO? Not only that, but many fans still consider this the best game to bear the name too! Most of the many NFS games have been unrealistic, arcade-style games, but this original was designed to be as realistic as possible right down to the vehicles sounds and dashboards, and it worked too. Rarely has a driving game made it so enjoyable to simply drive. Nevermind the racing, the admittedly superb crashes, or anything else, cruising along the coast in a Supra or Ferrari, or any of the other real cars depicted here is a hypnotic experience. The Saturn and PlayStation conversions added more courses and a two-player mode amongst other things, but never has the series matched the enjoyment of the driving in this original.

2. Star Fighter (1996)

Starfighter

The previous three games, whilst all going on to appear on other systems, all debuted on the 3DO. This game did not, but it’s by far the best version of it. Converted to the 3DO after first appearing on the Acorn Archimedes of all systems, it was subsequently ported to the Saturn and PlayStation, but both these versions are horrifying, which is a mystery considering their superior power. So, this version remains the best, and what a game it is! It was my first experience of a free-roaming, 3D game world and still one of my favourites. Set on a variety of planets, and even in space, it’s a mission-based strategic shooter which sees you up against a sizable enemy military, largely on your own! Yes, it looks a bit ropey today, but it’s a game with enormous scope and creativity, not to mention a fantastic soundtrack, which I still love to play today. Just make sure you avoid discovering the atmosphere-destroying story!

1. Star Control 2 (1994)

Star Control 2

The winnah! Could it be anything else? Anyone who knows me would be expecting this – not only is it my favourite 3DO game, but my favourite videogame of all-time! It doesn’t look like much from screenshots, nor from watching someone play it, but this epic space-exploration adventure drew me into its world, captivated me, kept me playing, like nothing else ever had, and it continues to do so. The story really is enthralling, with details revealed, clues released, little by little as you play through the game. With a huge game universe to explore featuring 25+ races, each with their own territory, mannerisms, and hours of speech, this is a game that literally lasts for years. And that’s before you’ve even tried the Super Melee, two-player battle mode! A stunning game that still enjoys a strong following, and it’s free to download now too!

So, that’s my personal 3DO Top Five. It was hard to leave out some other great games such as Road Rash and Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo (the best versions of both games in my opinion), but the games I did select are not only superb, but also mostly not so well-known. If you agree or disagree with the list, let me know!

Top Five MegaDrive Shmups

Fire Shark Screenshot

5. Fire Shark (1990)

Flying Shark, in my view, is among the finest vertical scrollers of all-time so it’s a shame it never saw a release on a system able to do it justice, such as the MD. I guess we’ll have to settle for the game considered its unofficial sequel – Fire Shark! Still, it’s not much of a sacrifice as this game retains many of the distinctive features from its forebear and adds a few more of its own for good measure!

4. Super Fantasy Zone (1992)

Super Fantasy Zone Screenshot

After the three Fantasy Zone games on the Master System, many fans feared the end of the series was nigh. But these fears were unfounded, for this apparent final swan song on the MD is fully deserving of its ‘Super’ prefix! Instantly familiar to fans of the series, but bigger and better than ever before, this tough blaster had lovely graphics, a fantastic soundtrack, lots of new weapons, creative bosses, and the same ultra-addictive gameplay we had come to know and love!

3. Battle Squadron (1990)

Battle Squadron Screenshot

Arguably the MD’s best vertical scroller (that I’ve played, anyway), this offering from EA is really tough going, but don’t let that put you off. With no traditional level structure to speak of and a few nice ideas such as the ‘Chameleon’ ships which employ cloaking devices, and some fantastic music, it’s well worth persevering with. Plus, it has a card up its sleeve – it’s a simultaneous two-player game! A real rarity in this genre…

2. Hellfire (1990)

Hellfire Screenshot

This underrated gem was a pretty early release for the MD but still ranks among its best coin-op conversions. It doesn’t have the graphical tricks of some games (see below!), but it is one of the most polished, balanced shooters I’ve ever played. It’s true that it’s somewhat unforgiving (it’s basically a one-life game) and doesn’t really have much in the way of power-ups, but it’s hard to complain when the game is still so good! Varied levels, a rocking soundtrack, a well-graded dificulty curve, and perfect collision detection make this one of the best!

1. Thunder Force 3 (1990)

Thunder Force 3 Screenshot

Yes, yes, I know many of you prefer TFIV. I personally like all of the Thunder Force games, but I’m really struggling to remember any shooter I’ve enjoyed as consistently as this one on any system. It’s pretty easy (although maybe that’s just because I’ve played it so much!) but how could you not be impressed with this game? At the time of release it was among the best-looking games on any system, rife with fancy graphics effects, and features one of the best shmup soundtracks ever. Couple that with the huge variety between levels, impressive multitude of weapons, and immense enemies, and you’ve got a game that screams quality from every pore…

 

Remake and Reboot

Video Game Remakes

Hollywood is going through a phase at the moment. The “reboot” of films such as Batman Begins, or the remake of titles including “The Taking of Pelham 123”, demonstrates a lack of original ideas and voices. And the games industry seems to be following suit, relying on summer blockbusters and sequels as much as the cinema.

Prince of Persia is a good example. Jordan Mechner’s classic had already undergone an ill-advised leap into 3D before Ubi Soft’s Sands of Time rebooted the story and added the amazing time rewinding feature. The two sequels added little, even with a Wii remake of the Two Thrones giving motion control. And so it was rebooted again, adding a controversial new game mechanic and dividing opinion.

Tomb Raider has also had its share of remaking and rebooting, with Legend and the 10th Anniversary editions. By handing the series over to Crystal Dynamics, Legend got closer to a true 3D world and Anniversary revisited the old locations with new polish.

The Wii is also seeing several of these new “interpretations”, as evidenced by Klonoa. The original game of the series appeared nearly ten years ago on the original Playstation, and was a 2.5D platformer with the player’s movement controlled along set paths. Fast forward and the graphical makeover is very good (the dreadful Americanised character voices less so), but the movement restrictions remain. The old-school game mechanics may feel uncomfortable to the new audience drawn to Wii, but there is a real challenge in there.

Other titles such as Resident Evil Files have had little done to improve them for the new hardware. The Play Control range has featured some gems brought up to date with Wii controls – Pikmin, for example – but Nintendo would be advised to cherry-pick the best titles to update.

Perhaps the most successful reboot has to be Call of Duty. Arriving first on PC, the console-specific versions (Big Red One) were followed by the unusual idea of two developers alternating work on the franchise. But the biggest surprise was waiting for Call of Duty 4. The subtitle Modern Warfare gave it all away – the franchise moved from its World War II setting (and its competitors Medal of Honour and Brothers In Arms) to the present day. However, despite plans to call the 2009 sequel Modern Warfare 2, Activision has gone back and put the Call of Duty tag in front to avoid losing sales.

So rebooting is not all bad news. In the end it would be nice to be swamped with new and original ideas every time we looked at the shelves in our local game store, but the companies cannot be blamed for the fact that the familiar titles (and gameplay styles) will sell more.

Whatever happened to Video Game Pornography

What you are about to read, oh precious reader, is an edited and updated version of an article that appeared a few years back on the now defunct blog. It also is slightly NSFW, but only if you work at some sort of weird ultra-conservative place where nobody has ever been to a demonstration for the past five years.

Let”s get one thing out of the way first. I don”t believe porn, or pornography as people in weird grey-ish clothing tend to call it, is evil. Or inappropriate. Or even inherently sexist. What I actually do believe is that -in all its varied guises- porn is both interesting and a frankly under-explored medium; or is that genre? Also, I quite love the idea behind it, and if you don”t or have anything against mankind, sex, having fun and/or life in general, and thus feel offended, well, that”s not my fault. I”m a bloody misanthrope too, you know (especially on Mondays).

So, what is porn really? Or, to rephrase the question, is every depiction of sex pornographic? Well, no, though admittedly the answer could change depending on the society within which the matter is discussed. 18th and 19th century Europeans for example were so shocked by the perceived obscenity of ancient Greek Alphabet and Roman nude statues, that literally went on and chopped their dicks off (the statues”, not theirs unfortunately), whereas pornographic depictions of sex were pretty standard in the practice of a variety of more humane religions. Personally -obviously influenced by contemporary society, too- and while cunningly avoiding narrow puritan definitions, I do tend to define any attempt at intentionally, sexually stimulating ones audience as pornographic.

Whether I (or anyone else) is actually stimulated is another matter altogether. It”s the creator”s -perceived or actual- intention I care about, in a way not dissimilar to what I would use to classify a horror movie. Or game.

Were I actually discussing cinema, I would definitely not consider any uncensored sex scene as reason enough to classify a film as porn. Baise-moi for example does sport quite a few sexually graphic scenes that are definitely not meant to arouse. The contrary rather. Then, there are films like Novecento where one or two sex scenes are merely added as just another story element or for purely realistic/artistic/whatever reasons. Wouldn”t call that porn either.

Proper porn movies, on the other hand, the garden variety of dirty flicks if you wish, usually fail on everything else besides the sex scenes, and one could even argue that most of them aren”t that good or varied to begin with. It was Clive Barker I believe who actually tried to define quality porn, as something that manages to captivate its audience even after said audience has climaxed and, sad as this sounds, the only porn movie I think managed to achieve such a lofty goal was Deep Throat with its -at times- brilliant humour (mind you, humour and porn do work quite well together it seems).

Thankfully though, quality porn is more than a theoretical construct or merely a wish. It can be found -among other places I”m sure- in literature, and as most should be familiar with Marquis/Citoyen De Sade”s works, indulge me while I go on and briefly focus on Andreas Embirikos. Embirikos, you see, besides being my favorite surrealist poet, a pioneer in Greek psychoanalysis, a photographer of beautiful girls, an excellent writer and, when in the mood, a socialist, was also a great pornographer. And an immensely proud one too. His greatest contribution to porn, Megas Anatolikos (The Great Eastern), was an epic novel spanning one hundred chapters, taking place on the titular cruise ship and eloquently showcasing the glory of almost every imaginable perversion.

Frankly, absolutely nothing was considered taboo or perverted enough to be left out and, were the book released in our dark and ultra-conservative era, the censors would be having an editing party. What”s more, the sex scenes were at once poetic, funny, arousing, plot advancing and brilliantly complemented with giant penises rising from the ocean or extensive descriptions of the ship”s library. Oddly, it was quite a publishing success too.
Lula 3d

Let us now move from literature to video games (a humongous leap indeed), where the story so far is rather sad. Pathetic even. To begin with, sex, let alone pure gratuitous porn, is virtually absent in the mainstream and to such a degree that a semi-naked woman is easily considered scandalous, whereas -say- a mutilated corpse goes largely unnoticed. Standard puritanic medium-wide ethics aside, even when sex is present, it usually is presented in a ridiculously sexist/immature way and lazily treated as a reward for gamers. Interactive sex, truly arousing scenes playing on the medium”s strengths and thus proper video game porn is, for the time, nigh-on unthinkable.

Cataloging every attempt at sexy games is of course beyond this article”s scope, but briefly discussing a few of the niches in porn games most definitely is not. First of all, we have the virtual dollhouse games a la 3D SexVilla or the less germanic Virtually Jenna, that besides their grotesque attempt at realistic graphics don”t offer much of a gaming experience either. Pathetic and marginally more fun than undressing your children”s dolls or something is what they are. Then, we have more or less proper games that tend to vaguely stick to a genre or another, while cunningly introducing an erotic theme and a few sex scenes, just like the that eventually spawned the atrocious Lula 3D, or a variety of Tetris-clones and chess games that sort of reward the player with the odd video of a tit being all titty.

Slightly better are the Japanese choose-your-own story offerings, which aren”t totally unlike watching a hentai porn DVD with a marginally less than obvious chapter selection feature. Finally, and after ignoring such bizarre masterpieces as the wonderfully nonsensical Sex Station 7, we do have games (in name only) that are nothing more than glorified adult chatrooms. Oh, yes, and a myriad of games like Leisure Suit Larry that never claimed to be pornographic, never tried to, but were still horribly misunderstood by the sex-starved gaming audience (and this of course does not include our readers; male or female). In a nutshell: video gaming porn is and has always been in dire straits. At best.

Leisure Suit Larry

The only exception that springs to mind is the 2010 release , but the question remains: Could it work? Could there actually be a video game that manages to be arousing? Well, I”d say yes, but only in theory and in the realm of the indie scene, as I just can”t see anything interesting happening in the world of children focused consoles or mainstream PC gaming. Quite obviously an erotic text-adventure/piece of interactive-fiction would be a nice start, and a rather easy one too, especially if one were to follow -as is rather typical for this kind of games- classic literally rules while adding a touch of interactivity. Interestingly, and that could be a positive sign indeed, women have been -up to now- more interested in the sexier side of gaming (have a look at the )… This could probably spare us the sexist bits.

Oh, and on an absolutely unrelated and definitively closing note, let me remind everyone that Woody Allen (I think) was correct: being punctual is a very lonely experience indeed. On the other hand, I”m absolutely positive Mr. Allen was the one to also insightfully notice that sex between two people is a beautiful thing. Between five, it”s fantastic.

Dear Video Game Manuals, I’m Just Writing To Say I Miss You

Video game manuals. If you’re over the age of 19 you know what they are and what they used to be like. For those younglings who are reading this who have yet to have had their balls drop, video game manuals consisted of more than “THIS BUTTON SHOOTS AND THIS BUTTON JUMPS!” and the repetitive warnings of “Hey just to let you know, you could have a seizure playing this game.”Read More

Retaining

deadliest-warrior

Bravo’s series Deadliest Warrior got me thinking about all the great games over the years featuring ninjas, from the classic System 3 game The Last Ninja to various beat ‘em ups. But there is one series I am not a fan of – Ninja Gaiden. It’s just one of several similar games on the way.

I am not a fan of the “dojo game”, the genre typified by Devil May Cry and the God of War series (which is making its way to PS3, along with HD versions of the first two games). However, let me make it clear from the start I am not saying that they are “bad” games – I’m saying that they are not my cup of tea. That’s down to two main factors – the difficulty level and the button combos.

I do not see the challenge in mastering 100-button combos and posting a video on YouTube about it. One of the biggest problems seems to be balance. There is a fine line between rewarding high levels of skill and letting the player get through the game. Too often it seems easier to button bash than to time and execute moves, particularly when the combos rely on exacting timing. And hacking your way through wave after wave of the same enemy soon loses its appeal.

Then there are the puzzles – they rarely progress between simple switches or moving something from A to B. A sequence from the original God of War highlights why Nintendo’s new Demo-play feature (designed to give tips as you play) could work. And if you have not played God of War, consider this next piece a spoiler. A room with a gate can only be left by activating the large pressure pad in the middle of the room, which opens the gate for a short time when Kratos stands on it. But there is no way to get past the gate before it closes again (since you have moved off the pad). The answer is hidden in your inventory – the head of Medusa can be used to turn an enemy to stone, making it easier to kill. Freezing an enemy on the pad lets you get past the gate, but it wasn’t immediately apparent to me and I spent several minutes before the idea dawned on me. If Demo-play can highlight an area of screen or give a clue by suggesting you look in your inventory, it could help guide players through such a puzzle rather than relying on an online guide.

The most promising of this new wave of dojo games looks to be Bayonetta from Platinum Games. The team were responsible for bonkers PS2 beat ‘em up God Hand and the more recent Madworld on Wii, and with a heroine whose hair is a weapon it seems they are trying something different again. But will it get good reviews and sales to match? It seems unlikely, given the competition, and that could be disappointing and discouraging for a team that dares to be different.

 

Top Ten Platforming Cliches

Coinworld Gameplay

It’s no joke being the hero in a platform game. Once you’ve died a few thousand times you know there are still so many clichés standing between you and success. Here then are the top ten…

No matter how carefully you tread, that bit of platform/bridge is going to drop away as soon as you step on it.

No matter what the scenario, the evildoer’s comedy sidekick will try, several times, in vain to stop our hero with a mechanical device that backfires.

No matter how big the hill or tower, your character is going to have to climb that, all the while risking being knocked off the platforms by the enemy sending you plummeting back down to repeat a section.

No matter what the power-up, it will run out just before the end of the stage.

No matter where the game is set, the designers will find a way to incorporate a stage full of snow and ice.

No matter how many enemies you kill, there’s always more of them in the next stage.

No matter how powerful your character, a small spike is deadly.

No matter how safe you think you are, fire will kill you too.

No matter how good you are, there will always be one jump in the game that you cannot master and fail repeatedly at.

No matter how far you fall, gravity always wins in the end…

 

Exploring the Commodore 64: Part 1

Commodore 64

As retro gamers, we, by our very definition, have been playing games a long time. During this time, only the most privileged of us had the luxury of access to most or all of the systems available. Most of us had to make do with just one at a time, and often not even the system of our choice either. I didn’t really know much about home computers when my parents bought me a ZX Spectrum for Christmas but luckily it turned out they had made a good choice.

I soon discovered that some of my friends also owned Spectrums, including one of my best friends, Stu. A couple of my other friends owned Amstrad CPC’s, including my other best mate, Luke. I did not, however, know anyone who owned a Commodore 64 which, looking back, is pretty strange! Not long after becoming a Speccy owner I also somewhat predictably became a Speccy fanboy and began looking upon the C64 as an inferior rival machine, something which the lack of any C64-owning friends made worse. As a result of this, I have to this day not played any C64 games! As you might imagine, as a self-professed retro gamer, this is an entirely unacceptable state of affairs! To this end, I have decided that I must immerse myself in the world of all the computers and consoles I missed the first time around due to having a rival machine, or for some other reason, and I will start with the much-loved Commodore 64.

My original idea was to ask my fellow Retro Gamer Forum members to vote for a single game that they felt best represented the old beige breadbin, and then do a detailed report on that, but I was soon besieged by many suggestions covering a great variety of genres. So, instead I will have a quick play of some of these titles and present my first impressions of both the games themselves, and the system generally, here in this series of features.

The first game I tried (and, historically for me, the first C64 game ever played) is:

Buggy Boy (1987)

Buggy Boy - Commodore 64 - Gameplay Screenshot

This is one I’ve heard about ever since it first came out but never got around to playing on any system. I’ve long heard, however, that the C64 version is the best. So… the best version of a previously unplayed but highly regarded game… Seems like as good a place to start as any! In my experience, into-the-screen racers are rarely enjoyable on older systems so to find that this is an instantly accessible and playable game is all the more pleasing. As most of you will no doubt know, the game involves racing around each of the five courses to a fairly strict time limit. Driving through gates and collecting flags earns you points, whilst hitting any of the many objects that litter each course (such as rock, walls, barriers, etc) costs you valuable time. I’ve really enjoyed playing this highly-regarded classic. The graphics are a bit blocky (one of the things I used to use in my anti-C64 arguments!) but there’s nice use of colours and it’s great fun and very addictive. I’ll definitely be returning to this one at some point. So, we’re off to a good start!

Uridium (1986)

Uridium- Commodore 64 - Gameplay Screenshot

I think I played this very briefly on my Speccy but this represents my first go on it proper. It’s a fairly unique game in that it’s both a horizontal and vertical scrolling shooter! In other words, it’s viewed from above but scrolls horizontally, and it’s a little disorientating to start with. To be honest I found it really tough going – in addition to the odd viewpoint, it seems to be something of a trial and error game with seemingly unassuming ground objects causing death but others not. After quite a bit of practise however, I made some progress, as you can see from the screenshot! Graphically I found it a bit drab and I don’t like the sprite for the ship you control (the ‘Manta’), but the music and sound effects are pretty good. It’s very addictive too – it’s one of those shmups that’s tough but one that you’re determined to do well at. Another good one then, and one I’ll be playing again. Having said that, I can’t imagine I’ll be seeing all fifteen levels any time soon!

Impossible Mission (1984)

Impossible Mission- Commodore 64 - Gameplay Screenshot

I actually had (and still have) this on my good old Master System, so this version is actually a slight step down for me. However, it and its sequel are most famous as C64 games so I thought I’d give this version a go too. Running and jumping around the multi-platformed complex of Professor Elvin Atombender remains as playable and addictive as it ever was and I can see why this version was so popular. Control over your athletic avatar is as precise as you would expect and, after some practise, some pretty lengthy sessions can be enjoyed. However, the problem that I experienced in the MS version is also a problem here – those bloody puzzles! I was never much cop at them and I’m still flummoxed! A timeless classic though, to be sure.

Rescue On Fractalus! (1985)

Rescue On Fractalus- Commodore 64 - Gameplay Screenshot

Whilst I had heard of this game, I really didn’t have a clue what to expect, so after loading it and flying aimlessly around the jagged landscape for a while, I figured I’d better try to find out how to play it. A brief period of research later and I actually made some progress! Apparently the goal is to fly around looking for downed pilots and rescue them. Of course, there’s more to it than that – you have to actually land your craft near the pilots, cut the power, wait until they run over, then let them in before they die in the poisonous atmosphere whilst lots of mountain-top guns try to stop you! I enjoyed getting the hang of this one and was particularly proud of myself when I rescued my first pilot, but I still found it to be a bit aimless – I was flying around for about 10 minutes without finding a pilot at one point. Still, perseverance will no doubt pay dividends and persevere I will.

Enforcer (1992)

Enforcer- Commodore 64 - Gameplay Screenshot
After having this one recommended I was surprised to see how late it was released. I was well into blasting away on my MegaDrive by this point so it’s little wonder I’ve never heard of it. If I had played it during that period though, I’m not sure it would’ve been a huge step down – this is impressive stuff! Clearly taking its inspiration from other classic shmups, notably R-Type, this game really shows what the C64 is capable of. Featuring fast, numerous sprites, both decent in-game music and sound effects (even the Amiga rarely had this!), silky smooth scrolling, and plenty of challenging, addictive shooting action. On first impressions at least, this is the best shmup I’ve played on any 8-bit computer.

So, after playing my first five C64 games, I’m now starting to get a good idea of what the system was like. First impressions are excellent but I’m not finished yet! I’ll play a few more yet before giving my final verdict on the classic micro, so look out for the next five!

A Swipe At Charlie Brooker’s Gameswipe

Gameswipe logoFor those of us on this side of the pond you can learn more about Gameswipe here.

Charlie Brooker used to review games, and in his BBC4 programme Gameswipe (part of the BBC’s Electric Revolution season) he took his usual acerbic and satirical view at the games industry – and in particular how the media has represented games over the years. And while it was good, there were a few things that could have been better.

Let’s start off with the good things. It was great to see the genre definitions with their silly mimes, and the Consolevania segment dealing with retro games (complete with a glimpse of Jeff Minter’s classic Hover Bovver and the Mario imitating Great Giana Sisters). It was also good to see footage from Micro Live, which represents some of the BBC’s best content dealing with video games. But since that is over twenty years old, it does show one of the central tenets of Gameswipe – that the mainstream media does not take gaming seriously.

The Screenwipe and Newswipe programmes made good use of guests to provide short segments of the show, and Gameswipe followed that trend with some interesting names. Dara O’Brian described his ineptitude at Gears of War and Rock Band, Graham Linehan bemoaned the quality of writing in games and Rebecca Hayes from The Escapist appeared with her singing review of Madworld.

The recreation of Charlie as an Xbox avatar was also cleverly handled, and in particular the sequence showing him flying in a Super Mario Galaxy style. And yet it felt very hollow (and shallow) when the show presented fake footage of a “neighbourhood simulation” game. The title sequence was superb however, a clever combination of a retro-sounding version of the Screenwipe theme tune and pixellated visuals culminating in the descending boot inspired by Jet Set Willy (itself inspired by Monty Python).

For me, the worst sequence was the piece on games that caused outrage. While it gained brownie points for mentioning Turbo Esprit as an inspiration for Grand Theft Auto, it didn’t push home the point adequately. Many of the scandals, such as Night Trap, have been fabricated or exaggerated. It should have highlighted the fact that games have voluntarily had age ratings for many years, and it was irresponsible parenting that let children play unsuitable material. The selection of barely articulate vox pops undermined the message too. Archive footage of Gamesmaster and Games World was shoehorned in with little appreciation for what worked in those shows. The fact that we still lack a regular show dealing with gaming on a mainstream channel could have been hammered home.

There is no doubt I am sat squarely in the target market of such a show, as a fan of Brooker’s writing, a fan of his previous series and a gamer. But paradoxically, because it did exactly what I was expecting – a review of Wolfenstein with strong language, the self-deprecating humour about gamers being losers – it left me feeling slightly disappointed at the missed opportunity to go beyond the obvious.

So, as a one-off Gameswipe managed to hit some targets and miss others. Could it be commissioned for a full series? Based on the overnight ratings of 361,000 – higher than for any individual episode of Brooker’s previous Wipes – people were watching. There is scope there for a series, but ultimately it would need a forward-thinking editor to do so.

 

The Whine List

whine motivational poster

Gaming forums are not a good place for the faint-hearted, but just recently there seems to have been a lot of whining and misplaced angst. While there are easy targets – Sony’s poor handling of the PSP Go – there have been some misguided campaigns of hate that deserve to be shot down in flames, ridiculed and dispatched to the darkest corners of the Internet.

Nintendo have regularly been updating the system firmware of the Wii, most notably to include SD card support (a feature the gaming community was calling for, no less). But when the most recent update was found to “brick” a small number of consoles, even rabid Nintendo fans were up in arms. “How can they do this to us?” came the protests, as the update designed to prevent homebrew and such esoteric mods as the USB loader working took hold. While I applaud the ingenuity of the hackers, the fact remains – modifying a console like this is illegal and opens up the possibility of piracy. Obviously Nintendo cannot allow that, and are well within their rights to stop modified machines working in a way they were never intended to. This was a cheap whine.

Similarly, I read a plea to get rid of software licensing agreements and to stop people having to click/push buttons to get past them “because no-one ever reads them”. Again, the companies would be within their rights to prosecute someone modifying their software or making illegal copies. More fool you if you fail to read the small print. (It does remind of a bizarre paragraph in a standardised licensing agreement that told me not to use graphics editing software for the Commodore 64 in the running of a nuclear power station, but I digress…)  This is a low-quality whine, blended from different varieties of gamer.

When Valve announced a sequel to the best-selling Left 4 Dead, you would imagine that the fans would be ecstatic. But no, a developer once renowned for being slow was putting out a sequel too quickly, and worst of all was the perception it would be “abandoning” the original and plans to release new content for it. Signing a virtual petition against Left 4 Dead 2 was a daft idea. But the campaign hit new lows when two leading objectors were given the chance to see the game at Valve’s headquarters – suddenly the two in question were “traitors” and Valve was brainwashing them into liking the game. This is vintage whine, distilled from the finest sour grapes and labelled fact-free.

For those who do not keep up with gaming forums, for a long time EA were the baddies. Now it seems the focus has switched to Activision, thanks in no small measure to the press statements of Bobby Kotich. After the rumoured pull-out from PS3 development (which never happened, given the recent PS3 price cut, and was unlikely anyway), further statements about what fans would buy and the future for the company after its merger with Blizzard did little to quell the online flames. Another bizarre boycott, asking fans to only buy Activision’s games second-hand, would seem to do more harm to the gamers themselves than to the company.

Sure, the price point for certain peripheral-based titles may seem high. The bizarre Modern Warfare 2 bundle with night vision goggles comes across as a company expecting fans to buy anything because of the name on the box (and the game it contains… hopefully). But, like EA before them, Activision are a company that have given a lot more than they take. Few could argue that the Guitar Hero games do not give hours and hours of gameplay for the money. And while it may seem strange to launch more expensive games in the midst of a recession, that money is going back to a company that works well with developers. So, this is another vintage whine, one that should be put on the shelf and left until there is genuinely something to complain about.

 

Portable problems

PSP - Playstation Portable

Sony had the chance to shake up the portable console market and to maintain its grip on gaming. Somewhere along the line things went wrong after such initial promise. The latest iteration, the PSP Go, has boosted sales but does it have a long-term future?

When Sony announced a portable Playstation the specs were interesting, promising PS2-quality games in the palm of your hand, wireless multiplayer and much more on a clear, wide screen. Many experts did see a potential flaw in the plan, Sony’s new UMD format. The much-maligned optical disk brought technical problems and slow access, and the film companies did not fall in line to support it.

Sony also fought a running battle with the hackers and the homebrew specialists. The processing power gave the chance for great emulation, and the use of memory sticks opened the door to illegal downloads. Firmware updates were met with fast responses from the hackers, the process aided by replacement batteries and other hardware hacks.

Giving the console a make-over quickly proved both a good idea and a drawback for Sony. The PSP Slim models (the 2000 and 3000) both gave a brief increase in sales but made very little real change to the hardware. Sales of games slowed whatever the model, with many stores discounting them and UMD movies soon after release.

More problems hit Sony as its marketing plans backfired. Graffiti ads in America caused controversy, ads for the white PSP were considered racist and the “All I Want for Christmas is a PSP” campaign was embarrassing. The ad company started blogs and put up supposedly amateur videos of kids who wanted the machine for Christmas – only for the gaming community to pour scorn on the whole thing.

One of the biggest problems for Sony was tailoring games to the handheld console. Too often developers tried to shoe-horn a large game more suited to playing at home into a UMD. Gems such as Loco Roco and Patapon were hard to find among the predictable movie licenses and multi-format failures. The Monster Hunter series did wonders in Japan but was slow to propagate worldwide. Gamers bemoaned the lack of a second analogue stick, but did appreciate the ability to download old PS1 games.

The PSP Go was a badly guarded secret that was finally given substance at E3 in 2009. Gone was the UMD drive and in came a new wave of games. The likes of Rock Band Unplugged and LittleBigPlanet showed some ambition. There was still no second stick, the screen was smaller and the sliding mechanism (to hide the controls) seemed like a gimmick too far. Another nail in the coffin came from retailers who refused to stock it due to the lack of additional game sales – since all the games have to be downloaded from the PSN. Room (the PSP equivalent of Home) may just be another bad move. Will existing owners upgrade? Sony threw another spanner in the works by announcing plans for users to trade in UMDs, only to cancel the idea and generate a lot more bad press.

So does the PSP have a future? It will be up to gamers to provide it, but Sony needs to look carefully at its strategy.

 

Points Make Prizes

Nintendo ClubWhen Microsoft launched the Live Arcade, I was very sceptical about the Points system. While in theory it makes transactions easier, being forced to buy in set amounts puts the purchaser at a disadvantage. It saves them money on organising small credit card transfers, and lets them keep your money for longer. Nintendo then adopted a similar scheme for the Wii, which did not amuse the hardcore Nintendo fans.

Like a lot of Nintendo users, I am a Club Nintendo member and have been frustrated by the service for a long time. First there was the short length of time the good stuff was available. But then, did I really need a Zelda statue or a storage rack shaped like Mario’s cap? (Ignore that small voice from inside me; I call him the Collector and often have to over-rule him). Then came the announcement that points earned from visiting the website (a massive five per day) and adding games to your collection would expire.

I lost a fair few points at the end of that fateful first month, but when I purchased a Wii I had enough left to trade in for some Wii Points. I had even been lucky to pick up some extra points from second-hand purchases. Fair enough, Nintendo set the exchange rate quite high and in its favour – 4 Club points to 1 Wii Point. That makes each first-party game with the little silver panel to scratch off worth a staggering 62.5 Wii Points. But then came the trials and tribulations of actually purchasing the Wii Points, with only a limited number of “cards” available each day.

So it’s scratch, type, print out, point and press to fill out the form with that little string of numbers that represents virtual cash. And what did I do with my new-found wealth? Invested in two of the Art Style titles, Cubello and Rotohex. With the Wii’s rapid start-up time I can be playing them in seconds, enjoying the style and the pure gameplay. Getting them for “free” does not change my opinion – this is the sort of pick up & play title that Wii Ware is made for.

Wii Points Card

The scheme is undergoing a re-design, with the cards now branded Nintendo Points and available in different amounts. But once again, the corporate decision is to make life more difficult for the user. Yes, the Points can now be used on DSi or Wii – but once they are allocated to one machine they cannot be transferred. The region locking had already put me off the DSi to some extent, anyway. Of course, that small voice is back to tell me that I will miss out on DSi exclusives such as Wario Ware Snapped (announced at GDC 2009 and making use of the built-in camera) and the next wave of Art Style games. The other big announcement at GDC – the system update allowing games and channels to run from the SD card – is very welcome. It makes me more likely to invest in Virtual Console titles.

Why oh why haven’t Nintendo released a new Duck Hunt title for Wii? If ever there was a title crying out for an update, it’s that one. Or at least find a way to make a Virtual Console version work!

 

Memories of Gaming: II

Hayling Island Beach 2
Soon after my encounter with OutRun in Devon had seen in the birth of my passion for arcade games, I had developed a keen interest in the previously ignored amusement arcades in which they dwelt. Coincidentally, it wasn’t much longer before some good fortune befell me. My good friend Stu and his family had started taking family trips to nearby Hayling Island every Sunday so his dad could practise his windsurfing (indeed, Hayling is supposedly where the sport was invented), and he had kindly invited me to join them.

Hayling Island itself is a fairly small, roughly ‘upside-down T’ shaped island located next to Portsea Island on which the city of Portsmouth is located. Whilst mostly a residential island, it’s also home to some nice beaches (including a nice sandy one, unlike Portsmouth!) as well as some other facilities mostly used in the summer months such as cafes, beach huts, sand dunes, and the Beachlands funfair and arcade as well as several more arcades.

Hayling Island Beach

Although we spent some time watching Stu’s dad impress us with his windsurfing skills as well as generally larking about on the beach, and some more testing the structural integrity of the sand dunes, it was in the various arcades that we spent most of our time. Here, Stu would mostly restrict his gaming to the plethora of fruit machines on which he was highly skilled, but my attention was directly firmly toward the games.

It was here that my gaming heritage really took off, what with the amazing variety of top-quality games available in the arcades of Hayling from all the major manufacturers, and it’s this age of gaming that I miss the most. Arcades today are a depressing place most of the time. I haven’t been to Hayling for a good while but the arcades here in Portsmouth now contain mostly fruit machines, coin-pusher machines, fluffy-toy-grabbing machines, etc. The only game of note here is After Burner Climax, which admittedly is a fantastic game worthy of the great name, but it seems lonely amidst all the crappy novelty machines. Anyway, from the sad present back to happy memories while I remember some of my favourite arcades games (aside from the already-covered-OutRun) from those awesome trips to Hayling with Stu and his family (and a belated thanks to you, mate!) …

Chase HQ - Gameplay Screenshot

Chase HQ (1988)

What do you get if you combine OutRun with a late 70’s / early 80’s style buddy cop film? That’s right – this classic cops ‘n’ robbers racing game from Taito! Taking a graphical cue from Sega’s classic and combining it such a popular movie genre was a masterstroke, and it runs them both close for pure enjoyment. Chase HQ is super-fast, exciting, and, perhaps most importantly, remains one of the few arcade games I can actually finish!

Operation Wolf - Gameplay Screenshot

Operation Wolf (1987)

Another one from the splendid Taito, Op Wolf drew in all who saw it with its cabinet-mounted Uzi machine gun! Whilst rendering it almost impossible to play properly in the subsequent home conversions (except the excellent Master System version), the gun was obviously the main draw of this machine, and it was worth it! Spraying soldiers, armoured cars, helicopters, gunboats, and Lord knows what else with bullets and grenades had never been this much fun before!

Shinobi - Gameplay Screenshot

Shinobi (1987)

I had already given the Master System version of this a good thrashing before I found the arcade version, and the skills I gained doing so were invaluable as this arcade original is a lot tougher! Run ‘n’ gunners are rarely as playable as this one, and with a near-perfect difficulty curve, it’s also worryingly addictive! Nice graphics, authentic-sounding music, and varied enemies only help matters too. Plus, let’s face
facts – ninja’s are just cool, full stop!

Splatterhouse - Gameplay Screenshot

Splatterhouse (1988)

This fantastically-named game from Namco was controversial in its day and it’s easy to see why. As Rick, a student under the influence of an evil mask, you must you battle your way through a mansion filled with unimaginable horrors to rescue your girlfriend! If you take away all the gruesome creatures here, all you’re left with is a pretty basic beat ’em up, but that didn’t matter to most teenagers – the opportunity to slice up zombies and demons with a meat-cleaver was not one to be passed up!

Stun Runner - Gameplay Screenshot

S.T.U.N. Runner (1989)

Probably the first polygon-based game I ever really got into, this was, and still is in my opinion (on the rare occasion a machine can be found), one of the most exciting arcade experiences to be found anywhere! Sitting astride a S.T.U.N. Bike racing down tunnels at hundreds of miles per hours shooting other craft… What more could you ask?!

Gauntlet - Gameplay Screenshot

Gauntlet (1985)

The immortal Gauntlet was already a couple of years old by the time I discovered it but time had not dulled its splendour! Yes, it’s primarily a multi-player game but I still loved ploughing through the endless dungeons, even if it was on my own. It was always exciting to see if I could break my records, and if I could get someone to join me – even better. As long as they weren’t Thyra the Valkyrie. This was superbly converted to almost every system imaginable but nothing beats playing it in an arcade.

Saint Dragon - Gameplay Screenshot

Saint Dragon (1989)

It is just me who likes this one? Perpetually an under-appreciated gem in my view, this horizontal-scroller from Jaleco is among my favourite on any system. I’m not sure about the story as I’ve never owned a home version, but you take control of some sort of metallic dragon creature and must blast the crap out of various other metallic creatures. The dragon’s tale can be positioned to protect its head from enemy fire too. Plus, he just looks awesome! Decent story or not, this is a top game full of non-stop blasting action, and is nicely rounded off with lovely graphics. It also reminds me of the mighty Thunder Force 3 somewhat too.

Golden Axe - Gameplay Screenshot

Golden Axe (1989)

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve played this through to the end, but it never gets boring! I still haven’t played a better hack ‘n’ slasher and I’ve been looking, believe me! Everyone know the best character is Gilius Thunderhead and rampaging through the game, slicing up all the stupid Buffalo’s and Grandad’s with his axe is immensely satisfying! I know it’s a bit of a love/hate game, but I’m definitely in the camp
of the former.

Metal Hawk - Gameplay Screenshot

Metal Hawk (1988)

Now this is a more curious one. I used to play it every time I went to Hayling but I’ve never seen it anywhere else, and no one I’ve spoken to has even heard of it! Subsequent research has revealed that it was apparently only released on Japan so quite how one managed to end up in a Hayling arcade remains a mystery! Nonetheless, for those who didn’t live near Hayling (or Japan), Metal Hawk is an overhead-viewed shmup by Namco. You control a pretty mean attack chopper, and it’s free-roaming so you can fly wherever you like shooting planes, other choppers, etc. But there’s something different about this one – the cab also features an altitude control enabling you to descend to near-ground level to shoot up enemy installations and ground-based weapons before returning to the clouds to take out more airborne targets. It’s a novel twist on the genre and features some nice Mode 7-esque graphical effects. Lost oddity or not, I loved playing the unique game!

Flying Shark - Gameplay Screenshot

Flying Shark (1987)

More than twenty years old and still the lord of the vertical scrollers to many! It may not have invented everything that it contains, but it popularised a lot of it – super-powered biplane, formation-flying squadrons of bad guys, ground-based enemies such as tanks, gun turrets, some of whom sneakily hide under the trees, etc. It’s such an iconic shooter and despite some cracking conversions, the arcade was, and still is the best place to play Flying Shark. You can always use the home versions for practise though, this is a pretty tough game! I still can’t finish it!

So… there are a few of the games I most enjoyed in the arcades during pretty much the only period I’ve had to regularly visit them. There were a lot more games there of course, including some of the all-time greats like Bubble Bobble, After Burner, Star Wars, etc, and I remember watching people play Time Traveller, the 3D hologram game by Sega (never really fancied playing it myself. though). Finding all these great games there, spending my paper round money on them, running out of money, waiting for the home conversions, getting some of the games for Christmas for my Speccy… It was a great time to be a gamer and I miss it.

Top Five SNES Shoot em ups

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I’ve traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven’t played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

If I review any SNES shmups in my upcoming features that get really high scores, they don’t appear in this Top Five because I hadn’t played them before! (a.k.a covering my arse!)

Macross Scrambled Valkyrie - gameplay screenshot

5. Macross: Scrambled Valkyrie (1993)

I didn’t discover this one until fairly recently as it was only released in Japan but I was certainly glad I did find it! It’s based on an older anime and as such you can choose between three characters, each of whom has their own variation of the ‘Valkyrie’ fighter with unique weapons, all of which can be upgraded. The ships have an energy meter rather than lives and they can also switch between three different forms at will too, each of which is more useful in certain situations than others, as you might expect. There’s a good few other nice features here too (including enemies with tractor beams – grrr!) and that, combined with the superb graphics and decent soundtrack, makes this a pretty damn fine shmup. It would be higher on the list if only it wasn’t so bloody difficult though!

Pop n Twin Bee - Gameplay Screenshot

4. Pop’n’ TwinBee (1993)

There had to be a ‘cute em up’ on the list somewhere and this is surely the finest on the SNES! Indeed, although there had already been numerous games in the TwinBee series, this was the first one to be deemed worthy of a release outside of Japan. It’s the easiest game in this list by far too, which makes it a nice break for one thing, and it’s certainly a rather unique game too. Either one or two players can play at once piloting the strange creatures, TwinBee and WinBee, through the unusual stages filled with both airborne and ground-based enemies including all sorts of oddities. It’s probably not the most technically proficient game here but the backgrounds and sprites are beautifully drawn making it the nicest to look at anyway, in my opinion, and the music is fantastic too. This definitely won’t be your thing if you dislike cute games but for everyone else it’s a superbly entertaining and original game.

R-Type 3 - Gameplay Screenshot

3. R-Type 3 (1994)

Despite its name, this is actually the sixth game in the great R-Type series and for many people the best. It would be nearly impossible for it to have anywhere near the impact of the first title but it adds a lot to the existing games. Not least is the ability to choose from three different Forces, each with its own weapons, and it must also surely rank as the finest shmup on the SNES, graphically. It features none of the slowdown that blighted the otherwise awesome Super R-Type but adds bigger sprites, some fantastic backgrounds, and superb bosses. The levels, too, are pretty creative with not only the usual kinds of enemies but also all manner of moving scenery which actually causes more problems than the enemies do. Indeed, this is a notoriously tough game and one that I’ve never managed to finish but I’ve sure enjoyed trying!

Axelay - Gameplay Screenshot

2. Axelay (1992)

Konami unleashed this amazing game pretty much out of the blue and it took SNES owners by storm, myself included! There could be many reasons for this including the graphics which are at worst good, and at best jaw-dropping, or the fantastic soundtrack, but it must surely be the innovative and varied stage design that clinched it – there’s a few new ideas here which work really well. For starters the game alternates between vertically and horizontally-scrolling stages. The former makes use of a pseudo-3D viewpoint combined with Mode 7 graphics to create an amazing scrolling landscape effect and the latter is packed full of moving scenery, barriers, and lots of crafty enemies that try to halt your advance in any way possible! Axelay hasn’t aged at all and remains a superb and varied shmup that still commands a strong following today. Just one question… Why no sequel?

Super Aleste - Gameplay Screenshot

1. Super Aleste (1992)

Some may disagree with me but I still think this is one of the best vertical-scrollers of all time, and certainly the best shmup for the SNES generally, and the reason for this is simple – there’s pretty much nothing about it that isn’t awesome! The graphics may not be quite as flashy as some other shmups but they’re still superb, detailed, and varied. The second stage in particular is noteworthy, featuring a distant enemy base that gradually gets closer and closer (using some splendid Mode 7, of course), all the while firing missiles at you from afar, until if finally gets close enough for you to shoot up! The sound is also fantastic too, with some great music, speech, and some very bassy explosions. There’s also eight varied and customisable weapons which can all be powered-up, twelve long, well-designed stages, but best of all it has the most perfectly-pitched difficulty curve of any shmup I’ve played. A truly awesome shooter.

Top Five Spectrum Compilations

Spectrum Compilations

Anyone who grew up in the 80’s and had a classic 8-bit micro would have worshipped the game compilations that appeared regularly throughout the latter half of that decade, and with good reason – a single new game would cost us upwards of £8, so who could say no to a collection of five, sometimes even more, games for a pound or two more? Whoever thought them up was a hero to all of us Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, and Commodore 64 owners! I was a proud Spectrum owner and of all the years I enjoyed gaming on it, a large percentage of this time was spent with compilations and the treasures contained therein. Here are my favourites:

Spectrum Compilations - The In Crowd 2

5. The In Crowd (1989)

I remember for many years my favourite Spectrum mags were going on and on about this one but it was one of the few ‘big name’ compilations I didn’t own. It wasn’t until the 8-bit era was coming to an end that I finally managed to get hold of a copy. Was it worth the wait? Well, it has some decent games that’s for sure: Karnov, Gryzor, Barbarian, Crazy Cars, Predator, Combat School, Platoon, and Target Renegade. While it’s true there’s not many classics on here, this compilation still proved amazing value for money by sheer weight of numbers!

Spectrum Compilations - Arcade Muscle

4. Arcade Muscle (1989)

This is another one I got quite late on, but given my love of arcade games and conversions of them, it was inevitable it would make an appearance here! There’s a bit of everything too. Platform fans get the rock-hard Bionic Commando to vex them, car (and shooting) fans get the never-ending Road Blasters, shmup fans get one offering of each type with the fantastic Side Arms and 1943, and lastly fighting fans are also catered for by the original (and oft-forgotten) Street Fighter! Quite amusing to see after playing the later games in the series, but it’s a decent enough Speccy brawler all the same. A nice variety of highly playable games from US Gold.

Spectrum Compilations - Giants

3. Giants (1988)

Say what you want about the OutRun conversions, but I still enjoyed the Speccy effort included here, monochrome graphics and all! The only game here I didn’t play much was 720 and that’s just because I didn’t really ‘get’ it. California Games is here and as much fun as ever (I particularly enjoyed the BMX event on this version) and Gauntlet 2 and Rolling Thunder are both fantastic games, and great conversions too. The latter is rather hard but very playable, and Gauntlet 2 is… more of the same old Gauntlet action really, but who’s complaining?

Spectrum Compilations - Magnificent 7

2. Magnificent Seven (1988)
A bit of a stupid name considering it had eight games on it (although one them was ‘free’ to enable Ocean to still use the catchy moniker). I had this one for near enough the entire time I had a Speccy. I remember my sister and I having great fun trying to work out what to do in Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s minigames thanks to this one, and it also led to my lasting affection for Arkanoid and Head Over Heels. The other games weren’t bad either – The Great Escape, Yie ArKung Fu, Wizball, Cobra (by the late, great Jonathan ‘Joffa’ Smith – RIP), and the slightly wiffy Short Circuit. Cracking compilation and nice variety too!

Spectrum Compilations - Taito Coin-On Hits 2

1. Taito Coin-Op Hits (1989)

Yeah, good old Taito! A compilation featuring eight games is good enough, but eight Taito games? They have long been one of my favourite games developers and this is one big reason why (or eight). I was already a big Arkanoid fan by the time I got this, so to find Arkanoid 2 included alongside the first game here was great news, and there’s some equally great news if you’re a vertical scrolling shmup fan with the amusingly-named Slapfight as well as the blinding Flying Shark included, both receiving great conversions, particularly the latter. Fans of close-quarters combat are accounted for with Rastan, Renegade, and Legend of Kage providing many hours of violence. Lastly, we have the immortal Bubble Bobble. The only thing that could’ve made this collection even better is the inclusion of The New Zealand Story! Taito Coin-Op Hits is, in my opinion, the Spectrum compilation with the consistently highest quality of games on it. I’d certainly be impressed if there’s any better!

Could Blizzard’s Next MMO Titan really be a Halo MMO?

Let me preface this article with a warning.  Everything I am about to post could be considered rumor or coincidence but that doesn’t mean it is not true.  Ever since Blizzard’s Product Slate was leaked and showed the name “Titan” with an anticipated release in Q4 of 2013, people have been speculating about this new game.  We already know that Blizzard is officially working on a new “secret MMO” project.

Blizzard Game List

First, let me give you some insider information that I received over a year ago from someone inside the gaming industry.  This person does not work for Blizzard but does have a career position at a major gaming company.  This person told me three things that he knew about the game that he learned from friends inside Blizzard.

1.  It will be an FPS based MMO (at minimum in part).

2.  It will most likely be set in space.

3.  The design has a “cyber-punkish” feel.

First, I know what you are thinking.  WTF is “cyber-punkish?”  I know, I thought the same thing and honestly it could mean an infinite number of things.  However, this information could be useful in the conspiracy theory which I will explain below.  Let me also point out that this information is definitely second hand to me so take the above with a grain of salt.

The Conspiracy!  Is Blizzard’s new MMO ‘Titan’ really Halo MMO?

 

Ok, let me go through the slew of coincidences that we have.

1.  The original Halo MMO that was being designed by Ensemble Studios was code named ‘Titan.’  Also, Ghostcrawler (Blizzard Game Developer) happened to be a former employee of said company.  Blizzard’s secret MMO is titled ‘Titan.’  Coincidence? Maybe.

2.  In February 2007, an episode of 30 Rock entitled Hardball aired and in the credits it said, “Promotional Consideration Furnished by Blizzard Entertainment.”  What makes this interesting is that no Blizzard products were featured.  No Warcraft.  No Starcraft.  No Diablo.  No World of Warcraft.  However, Halo was featured in the show!  So Blizzard was advertising for Halo in 2007?  This was right before word got out that Blizzard was working on a brand new MMO and they started hiring “Science-Fiction Texture Artists.”  Coincidence? Maybe.

3.  As we know Bungie and Activision (now Activision-Blizzard) are in a 10 year partnership and some terms of the agreement were not disclosed.  Coincidence? Maybe.

4.  Jeff Kaplan, a Blizzard employee was quoted as saying “All of those combined” to the following question in an MTV Multiplayer Interview:  Will the next Blizzard MMO be “sci-fi, near-future, post-apocalyptic, or historical?”  Now, all of the above would definitely apply to Halo.  Coincidence? Maybe

 

Taken one at a time, these are just mere coincidences.  However, combine them all and you have a legitimate conspiracy on your hands!  So?  Are all of these mere coincidences? Is Blizzard planting these seeds to troll everyone?  Or maybe, just maybe, the secret is out and Blizzard’s new MMO is a Halo MMO!  All I know is, what my insider friend told me matches all the conspiracies listed and goes hand in hand with a potential Halo MMO.  For now, only those in Activision-Blizzard (and maybe Bungie) know the truth, but we are free to speculate.

Titan Halo

I want to give credit to GBTV and CrossEyedGamer for their investigative reporting which I made use of in this article.  Keep up the good work guys.

Cataclysm: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

World of Warcraft Cataclysm Logo

Without a doubt, Cataclysm was another home run hit for the power gaming company Blizzard.  Selling a stunning 3.3 million copies (including pre-sales) on the first day and 4.7 million by the end of the first month (including pre-sales) was not as shocking as some seemed to say it was.  The most popular and played MMORPG of all time is going to have extremely high sales figures especially since Blizzard added in pre-sale digital downloads for the first time ever.  The apparent controversy surrounding these numbers is unwarranted.  Pre-sales are part of any game release and Blizzard is fully entitled to count them towards first day sales in my opinion.  And let’s be honest, does it matter? No, over 5 million people have already purchased Cataclysm and that number is sure to grow.  A better question would be, Will Cataclysm peak over 12 million subscriptions like its predecessors? or has the game peaked overall? and how long until it fades into gaming oblivion?  Sorry, that won’t be covered in this article but expect me to tackle the topic in the future.

The Good.

As you know, Blizzard has been catering to the casual gamer more and more.  Why? Simple, money.  Blizzard does not want to lose clients because they feel the game is too hard or too time consuming.  Just go to through the account cancellation process and you will see many different prompts that seem to ask why you are quitting and many are tailored towards the casual gamer.  Now, I know we are in “The Good” category but let me say that this “casual” policy has both positive and negative effects on the game and it’s players as I will discuss throughout the whole article.

Blizzard wanted to make raiding simpler and thus they have designed everything so that you don’t need a full 25 man raid to compete.  You can gather 9 friends and compete on an equal plain with everyone else in the world.  I personally love this move because it allows you to play with more of your close friends if you so choose.  This reduces the amount of pugs you have to get and usually reduces the severity of the headache you will suffer during a failing raid.  Of course, Blizzard is not naive and to appease the more hardcore gamers, they designed it so you get more loot proportionate to your raid size in 25mans compared to 10mans.  Even though that feels like a “lame” fix, it was probably the best Blizzard could do considering they put 10 and 25 mans on the same pedestal.  Either way, the casual gamers rejoiced in this change and overall, it has had a positive impact.  As for the “pride”  factor between major guilds competing at the top level for world firsts, 25mans still seem to be the cream of the crop but even the best of the best have been switching to 10mans for certain encounters!  All the major content has been completed and here is how it played out among the world’s elite.

Top 10 PvE WoW Guilds

Leveling is finally enjoyable!  You heard me right.  I for one am not a fan of leveling and never have been especially in World of Warcraft but the leveling redesign has even changed my mind.  Don’t get me wrong,  I am not going out and leveling alts for the hell of it but I am also not dreading the boring, monotonous grind that was leveling.  The overhaul to the zones and quests has streamlined the process.  Moreover, the changes to spells have given you diversity at the lower levels.  I did not enjoy spamming just one or two buttons to level as it felt like I could fall asleep while doing it.  Now, it feels like I can actually take some pleasure in leveling.  While this was something that wasn’t necessary to change, it was a very positive overhaul.  Of course, you could say that the change was specifically designed to help the casual gamer level easier, faster and with more joy!  Blizzard is sneakier than you might imagine.

Finally, let us talk about the servers.  They were great.  Illidan, one of the most popular WoW servers, where I leveled to 85 was completely stable.  No major lag spikes, no crashes and no downtime.  Moreover, the servers came up on time.  Blizzard wanted to ensure that Cataclysm was launched without a hitch and they nailed it home.  As for server queues, they were terrible early on but everyone expected that so I don’t need to harp on it very much.

The Bad.

With great power comes great responsibility.  Oh wait, this isn’t Spiderman, its WoW: Cataclysm.  How about…With great homogenization, comes great laziness.  I am definitely not one to favor the complete homogenization of classes that seems to be happening with more and more frequency.  While I like the idea that buffs are being spread around to more classes on paper, I hate it in reality.  I know Blizzard would like 5man and 10man dungeons and raids to have a majority of the game buffs but I think that is a bad idea.  One of the inevitable drawbacks of having less people in a group or raid is the reduction of potential buffs.  Thus, players need to design their groups accordingly.  At the rate Blizzard is going, in two expansions, my 10man is just going to be 10 paladins with every buff in the game dominating every encounter.  Yes, I am laying it on a little thick but it is for good reason.  Let us look at some of the homogenization we have seen with Cataclysm.

First, buffs are being spread around to more classes.  Second,  bloodlust/heroism is now usable by three classes.  Honestly, having bloodlust/heroism on just one class was probably not the greatest idea but I don’t think that bloodlust/heroism is a well-designed mechanic anyway.  I know that it is a great part of Warcraft lore but I think it could have been implemented differently because it has been insanely powerful since it went live.  On a good note, Blizzard did finally decide to remove it from arenas.  Third, it seems that every melee has a spammable interrupt.  Why do I dislike this?  Mainly because the classes that didn’t have them before didn’t have them for a reason and now that they do, they seem overly useful in both PvE and PvP.  Either way, I think that Blizzard could use some of that infinite pool of money they have to diversify the game more instead of homogenize it.  Once again, it all comes back to the positive and negative effects of the “casual” gamer syndrome.

For me, five man dungeons and heroics on my main were extremely simple.  I almost always ran with a pre-made 5man so we just queued up and destroyed whatever we got.  However, this was not the case for many people, especially those trying to gear alts.  First, if you are not a tank or a healer, have fun waiting in a 30minute queue to do one heroic.  Second, if you are a tank or a healer, make sure you abuse the system by selling queue pops all day in trade chat.  While this is now fixed, it was way too late.  Third, how is it that if you solo queue you always seem to get the absolute worst players in the world in your group?  Not only do they have gear that is terrible but they have no idea how to do any of the fights.  I can’t really blame Blizzard on that one but I sure can vent some minor frustration.  Overall, I like the simplicity in the fact that you can just queue from anywhere in the world at anytime, but if you are running solo, there is a strong change that you will just be wasting an hour of your time.

World of Warcraft Dungeon Queue Time

I will keep my dislike of the PvP situation short as I plan on doing a full write-up of it in the near future but it has to be mentioned briefly.  I don’t know if I would say that arenas have hit a low point because I thought they were pretty bad when you could kill someone inside of one GCD in WotLK but they are not prospering by any means.  Of course, you will always have people complaining that their class is too underpowered but when top players are re-rolling because they just know their class it too weak to compete at the top level, then something is probably wrong.  For the first time ever, mages seem to be underpowered unless you like jumping around spamming ice lance all day!  Maybe underpowered isn’t the write word, but they do seem to have a nice big target on their back.  Melee teams seem to run a train on them all day and since all the healers have dispel and frost armor is not nearly as useful as it was, they appear to be in a dire situation.

While I think they might deserve it considering how strong they have been in the past, their situation just highlights the fact that with Blizzard’s homogenized design is leading to negative impacts in PvP.  Now, I don’t think Blizzard cares much about the PvP scene anyway but that doesn’t mean that it should be the way it is now.  I personally think that HP is actually too high in many cases but it may be a result of the new completely underpowered healing debuffs.  I always thought 50% healing reduction was too much but with classes having this much HP, I think 10% is too low.  Blizzard really needs to overhaul the whole PvP system if they ever want to truly fix it.  HPS and self-healing (DK, Ret Pally, etc) are also way to high for my taste.  Anyway, more on this in a future article.  For now, just know that PvP, specifically arenas appear to be in a not so good state.

The Ugly.

I am still not a fan of the games graphics even after this overhaul.  While I know that the original game platform is getting older, it doesn’t change my opinion.  I don’t think the graphics are bad enough to hurt anything in the game but I don’t find them particularly breath taking either.  Will Blizzard create a completely new engine for their cash cow?  Unlikely but they could if they really wanted to.  However, it is more likely that instead of creating a new engine for WoW, they would just put a new project together to start design WoW 2 (if they haven’t already).

Looks like the same game to me.

It also feels like the identity of some of the old servers has been lost.  With all the new players coming in over the years and all the transfers, something about the old nostalgia seems to have faded.  While this is not a result of Cataclysm, I feel that is something that can be mentioned in this section.  If you played vanilla and are still playing today, you probably know what I mean.  It was nice early on when you thought you knew a lot of people and possibly had some clout on the server but now, the game seems to be moving at a pace that removes this.  The best way to put it is to say that the identity of the servers seem to have faded into a blur of inconsequence.

Finally, I will end on another topic that Blizzard has no control over.  The Elitist Jerks (EJ) forums also have a negative impact on the game, specifically, on new players.  When you are in a pug or just see “go to EJ” spammed in trade chat when someone asks a question, you have to get annoyed.  Instead of actually learning something in the game or asking someone who might know, you are directed to a website that tells you how to play and spec your class.  So much for the subtleties that you notice after playing your main for a long time.  So much for actually learning a class and enjoying that process.   Long gone are the days where there was some mystery or secrecy to playing WoW.  To clarify, EJ can work wonders for those who have been playing the game for a long time and understand it’s nuances.  However, if you are new to the game or a class, you skip the basic learning process and just learn the “perfect rotation” instead.  Who cares that you died in fire or didn’t shield or didn’t misdirect or didn’t do 1 of 100 different things that are more useful than just spamming damage.  The sad fact is, WoW has turned into a numbers games on many levels and I understand why it has, but that doesn’t mean I like it.

Conclusion

Cataclysm is fun at first but the sheen of a new game is quickly replaced by the same old car smell from before.  What made WoW good in the past is the same that makes WoW good now.  The social atmosphere and friends you make along the way still entrap players.  For many people, the time you log in game is controlled by the social structures: when you do your dailies, when you are raiding, etc.  The bonds of friendship people form which result in teams and guilds being formed push the never ending cycle that is a beast  of game known as World of Warcraft.  If you enjoyed the repetitive cycle that WoW presented in past whether it be through raiding, PvP or any one of the other things Blizzard created, then you will surely find joy in Cataclysm and play it as you had played all the other WoW expansions in the past.  However, if you were looking for something brand new that would make your eyes pop and your pearly white teeth show,  then unfortunately, you will have to keep looking as Cataclysm is simply a new name, not a new face.

Top Five Saturn Fighting Games

After revitalising the fighting game genre with Street Fighter 2, the mid-90’s saw a huge influx of titles. The 16-bit consoles got a lot of good (and not so good) ones and this continued with the 32-bit systems with the added bonus of some fancy new 3D ones too. Many franchises popular today were born during this period, with the Saturn as well as the PlayStation getting some top titles. Given the unfortunate lack of success for the Saturn outside its native territory, many of its best games never left Japan including a lot of fighting games. Consequently there’s still a lot I haven’t played, but of the ones I have played, these are my favourites:

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I’ve traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven’t played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

5. Vampire Saviour (1998)

This third (and so far, final) entry in the Darkstalkers series from the awesome Capcom was only released in Japan so I wasn’t really able to play it until I finally got my lovely Skeleton Saturn. My copy of the game unfortunately came without any instructions too, so I had to try and work out most of the moves myself, but it was worth the effort! This highly creative series never really seems to get the plaudits that Capcom’s other franchises do which is strange as its horror/monster themed character roster gives it huge potential which is largely realised with some outrageous combatants and special moves. The graphics and music are also of the usual Capcom high quality and there’s really no bad points to be found here. Another one please, Capcom!

Vampire Saviour

4. Marvel Super Heroes (1997)

Capcom and SNK were both great supporters of the Saturn but it was releases by the former that dominated mine. X-Men Children of the Atom was good but the game suffered somewhat during the PAL conversion process, as was often the case. Marvel Super Heroes, however, was also a fantastic game but also received a top-notch port too. Despite featuring some typically flawless play-mechanics, let’s face it – there’s one reason why this game has such appeal and that’s the opportunity to smack people up as Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, Magneto, and all the rest! It’s a pretty short game, and pretty easy for Capcom standards, but the graphics and music are awesome and the moves given to these famous characters are supremely satisfying to execute.

Marvel Super Heroes

3. Last Bronx (1997)

Not many people seem to know about this one for some reason which is a bit odd considering it kicks arse! Converted from the arcade game of the previous year, Last Bronx is a weapon-based fighting game set in a alternate Tokyo run by vicious street gangs. There are eight selectable characters battling for supremacy as well as a final boss, and each uses his or her own weapon. Graphically this is among the Saturn’s best – it runs in high-res mode and with 60fps and the backgrounds are in full 3D. There’s even motion-blur on the weapon attacks! Yes, you could say it’s Virtua Fighter 2 with weapons but I much prefer this to the more well known game. Featuring a nice selection of characters, some superb moves, and a decent challenge, this violent brawler is well worth your time.

Last Bronx

2. Fighters Megamix (1997)

Virtua Fighter 2 or Fighting Vipers. Which do you prefer? For me it’s the latter, hands down. To be honest, I just can’t be arsed to spend months learning all the intricacies of the characters in VF2. Vipers is far more accessible for me with its amour-cracking, wall-smashing mayhem. Then again, Sega, if you’re going to give me both in the same game I certainly won’t complain! Celebrated upon its release as a possible saviour for the Saturn and still sited as one of its ‘killer apps’, Megamix truly was a treat for Sega’s loyal and long-suffering fans. It featured, what was at the time, a staggering array of characters, play modes, and secrets and remains without question one of the system’s most entertaining titles.

Fighters Megamix

1. Street Fighter Alpha 2 (1996)

Sorry, maybe it’s predictable and not terribly daring but the simple fact is, I’ve played this more than all the previous four games combined! I just love the Street Fighter ‘universe’ with all the distinctive characters and their back-stories and this is one of my favourites. The graphics are top-notch too with superbly drawn sprites and backgrounds and the energetic soundtrack really adds to the atmosphere. As is usually the case, I’m not sufficiently skilled to make the most of the highly intricate gameplay that is typical of the series but that doesn’t stop me from getting a lot of enjoyment from repeatedly playing through the game as Ryu, or even being daring and trying another character! A near-flawless fighting game, and probably my second favourite ever!

Street Fighter Alpha 2

Special Note: Apologies for the quality of the screenshots here, I haven’t yet worked out how to grab my own for Saturn games so I’ve had to rely on alternative techniques! P.S. if you’re one of the ones I borrowed a screen shot from, thanks for not being one of dicks who tags theirs!

My Favourite Games – Part 5

It’s been a pretty busy last week or so here in RKS Land, so sorry for no posts for a while. I have decided in the intervening days that I should expand my Top 30 Favourite Games to a Top 50. I’ve simply thought of too many great games that would have to be left out of a Top 30! So, as the five games I’m posting here bring the total so far to 25, I think I’ll take a break from the favourite game list for a while and try to establish some of my other planned types of posts. So, tomorrow (hopefully!), will be the first of my silly Top Five lists! In the meantime, here’s the next five of my Favourite Games…

Gradius – PC Engine (1991)

Gradius – PC Engine

Or Nemesis, to use its correct UK title, but I always preferred the Japanese name. Regardless of what you call it, no one can deny the effect it has had on the genre it helped to define. Some say it was the first shoot ’em up to feature power-ups; others claim it was the first to feature end-of-level-bosses. It certainly had unique and creative stages for such an early game. The PC Engine version is my favourite and is almost arcade-perfect. In fact, it even has a whole extra level and an awesome remixed soundtrack! For a while, the Speccy version was the only one that I’d played, and, based on that version, I steered clear of others. However, when I got it for free with my PC Engine, I figured I’d give it another try, and I’m pleased I did! Whilst very tough going, and suffering from a bit of slow-down when things get busy, it’s a supremely playable shooter and features lovely crisp graphics, great music, and enough variety and hectic shooting action to keep any fan happy for a good while!

Bubble Bobble – Saturn (1996)

Bubble Bobble – Saturn

What more can be said about this classic? I first enjoyed this game when I received the excellent Spectrum version as a gift many moons ago. I found it really tough going but loved every minute all the same. Then, a good few years later, I got the Sega Master System version which, for one reason or another, seemed to be quite a bit easier, and I got right to the end of the game. Maybe it was easier, maybe I was just better – it had been so long since I’d played the Speccy version it’s hard to say! Then came the arcade-perfect Saturn version, bundled with Rainbow Islands, which gave me plenty of oppotunity for practice again. Since then, I’ve played through the game on MAME, grabbing a screenshot of each of the 100 stages in the process. Now THAT was hard! Still, it never seems to matter how hard this game is, it’s always super-playable. That could be down to the highly intricate secrets, which sees bonuses and collectibles change depending on how you play, but it’s most likely because it’s simply such a great game. And that damn music!

Streets of Rage 2 – Mega Drive (1992)

Streets of Rage 2 – Mega Drive

It’s testament to this game’s greatness that countless Sega fans and fighting game fans alike still pine for another game in the series after all these years! It’s little wonder too. I remember when the first SOR game came out – it was a revelation, intended to rival Capcoms Final Fight on the recently released SNES, but in the mind of many it was superior. After such a groundbreaking first game, I for one wasn’t expecting a great deal from the sequel. But, as we all now know, it was amazing! Bigger, better graphics, another fantastic soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro, more playable characters (including the lovely Blaze once again!), and an even larger game to play though. SOR2 is still counted among the greatest games of its type, and universally revered, and it’s easy to see why.

Street Fighter 3: Third Strike – Dreamcast (1999)

Street Fighter 3 Third Strike – Dreamcast

Capcom sure took their sweet time with this! A lot of years, and countless variations of SF2 passed before it finally arrived. I haven’t played either of the previous versions of SF3, but if this DC version is anything to go by, they’ll certainly be passable! The character roster in this game is arguably less appealing (though also less sterotyped) than the fighters in the great SF2, but their nuances also take longer to learn, not to mention master, and be mastered they must, for this is a pretty tough game! I can just about finish it on default difficulty using the ever-reliable Ryu (now complete with a ruling new side-kick), although the final boss character, Gill, is a right bunghole! Various intricate new features also arrived with this sequel of the kind that I have trouble mastering, such as the much-praised ‘parrying’ system, but even if you’re as crap as me, you’ll still find a lot of hyper-fighting action here!

The New Zealand Story – Mega Drive (1990)

The New Zealand Story – Mega Drive

This is another one I first played on the Speccy. I still recall the time I was having a really good session one morning before school, so I paused it (using my fancy Multiface 3) so I could resume when I got home, only there was a big storm which caused a powercut! Grrrr! Anyway, a few years later, I was lucky enough to obtain this awesome Japan-only MD version from my friend Stu and his brother Darren. The first thing that struck me about it was that the levels were different! I’m still not sure why, actually, but I’ve played this version so many times now, I almost can’t remember what the original level designs were! Anyway, I guess it doesn’t matter too much. The key ingredient with games like this is the gameplay and addictiveness, and NZS has both in abundance! As Stu will testify, it can be a damn tough game, but it’s also among Taito’s most playable.

Yeay! 🙂 I finally finished the next post! It’s taken me a while due to certain unforeseen circumstances, but hopefully a more regular posting service will resume now! Next time, I’ll try something a bit different and resume the Top 30 (now the Top 50!) another time…

My Favourite Games – Part 4

Wow, these things take longer to write than I thought they would. And to think I was going to post all thirty in one go for my first post! I’m glad I decided to write just five a day (yes I know it hasn’t been every day!), hope you’re enjoying them (if anyone’s even reading this!)…

Galaga ’88 – PC Engine (1987)

Galaga 88 - PC Engine

I’ve always preferred this series of shooters to other games of the type such as Space Invaders. There are countless versions of Galaxians/Galaga/Gaplus, but few could argue that this PC Engine update isn’t the best. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say this is the Engine game I’ve spent most time playing ever! The fact that my good friend, Luke, gave me the HuCard for free certainly didn’t help matters – it’s addictive as hell! The graphics are hardly pushing the Engine hardware to its limits, but they are very appealing nonetheless. The sprites are well-defined and colourful, and there are now nice backgrounds too. The Challenging Stages from the original Galaga return here, beginning with an announcement of “That’s Galactic Dancin'”, and accompanied by some nice music! Anyway, nice presentation aside, it’s Galaga, you know what you’re getting. Simple, addictive fun. Right up my street!

Pang 3 – Playstation (1997)

Pang 3 – Playstation

I still find it pretty amazing that the Pang games weren’t more popular here in the UK. This third offering, released here on the PS1 as part of the Super Pang Collection, is my favourite of the series. The same basic gameplay is prevalent – that is, destroy the bouncing balloons by shooting them with a harpoon gun, splitting them into ever smaller pairs until they’re gone – but this time they’ve managed to tack on a story mode! You can choose between four characters – Don Tacos, Pink Leopard (my favourite), Captain Hog, and Sheila the Thief, each of whom fires a different type of harpoon, and also has an additional skill. Pink Leopard, for example, is able to go unhindered by the various enemies on each stage. It is then your job to journey around the world collecting various works of art by popping balloons! It’s a crazy game but it’s addictive and great fun!

LocoRoco – PSP (2006)

LocoRoco – PSP

I knew from the first moment I saw a screenshot of LocoRoco that I wanted to play it! I had no idea what sort of game it was, of course, but that didn’t matter. Just look at it! It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I finally got a PSP, having convinced a guy at work that his one wasn’t really worth much and I’d help him out by taking it off his hands! Hee hee! Anyway, the next thing I did was to trade in all the EA Sports crap that came with it, for LocoRoco. Finally it was mine! It was worth the wait too, what a crazy game! It’s basically just a collect ’em up set in the happiest, most colourful game world of all-time, but instead of controlling any characters, you simply tilt the landscape back or forth, rolling the spherical, singing LocoRoco’s around. It’s great fun, features some very imaginitive levels, including more secrets than I can count, and a highly amusing soundtrack is the cherry on the cake! If you want to play a funny, happy game for a change, instead of all the violent nonsense around these days, give it a try!

Tee Off – Dreamcast (2000)

Tee Off – Dreamcast

Yep, it’s another golf game! I do really enjoy these Japanese cartoony style ones, and this is one of my favourites. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find them very relaxing and enjoyable, and perfect for the times when I don’t feel like dodging millions of bullets or making pixel-perfect jumps whilst fighting some evil monster. This one, by Bottom Up, is clearly based on Everybody’s Golf for the Playstation, but that’s no bad thing, and features five courses of varying difficulty – Japan, USA, Australia, Scotland, and South Africa. Each course has it’s own look too, and there are several characters to choose from, and various game modes to play through. Granted, there’s nothing terribly spectacular about this game but it suits me down to the ground!

Desert Strike – Mega Drive (1992)

Released a short while after the first Gulf War, it doesn’t take a genius to see where the inspiration for Desert Strike arose! However, regardless of its dubious genesis, surely even those most critical of its origins couldn’t fail to be impressed by such a splendid game! Far from being an all-out shooter, Desert Strike is a free-roaming isometric-viewed game with more than a smattering of strategy tucked into it’s rapid-fire cannons. Controlling a shiny new Apache Gunship chopper, you must complete a set number of missions per level. Some serve military ends, some political, but all must be completed before you have an opportunity to shove a Hellfire missile up “The Madman’s” bunghole (clearly based on Saddam). The sequels added a lot to the formula, not least more vehicles to control, but it’s this first game in the ‘Strike’ series that most gamers, myself included, still hold most dear.

That’s it for now! RKS is tired and will have some dinner before retiring for a while. Next five will be here soon, as well as the first in my ‘Top Five’ series that I’ve been ‘researching’ today… 😉

My Favourite Games – Part 3

Hello, I’m back a day late! I was too tired to post anything yesterday, I had a nice looong sleep for the first time in a while instead! And that means I’ve just worked, slept, and worked again since last posting, so I don’t have anything interesting to say! So, to resume with my favourite games:

Thunder Force 3 – Mega Drive (1990)

Thunder Force 3 Mega Drive

Back in my Sega fanboy days, I used to love it when a game like this came along. It would give me more ammunition to use against those who would seek to besmirch the good Sega name, and would almost always overshadow similar efforts on other machines (at least until the SNES came along!). I can fondly recall many arguments with my Amiga fanboy friend at college. Try as he might, he could never convince me that Project X was a patch on this game! I didn’t have to argue hard either. Featuring lush graphics, an awesome rocking soundtrack, kick-ass weaponry, big bosses, and eight varied levels (including the awesome lava stage, pictured), there’s not really much more a shoot ’em up fan could ask for here. Many people prefer the fourth game in the series, but it’s the third title all the way for me. Perhaps my fondness for this game comes from the fact that I rule at it, but there can be no doubting its quality. After all, how many other shooters are so good they have an arcade version made after they come out?

Datastorm – Amiga (1989)

Datastorm Amiga

There aren’t too many Defender clones as blatant as Datastorm, but it is without question my favourite, even including Defender and Dropzone. In fact, when I started playing it, I hadn’t even played Defender yet! A friend’s Amiga was the setting of many of these early sessions, and when I finally got my own Amiga, this was one of the first games I sought out for it. I remember buying it in a second hand store and the guy in the shop accidentally put two copies of the game in the case. Hee hee! Anyway, it’s similar in style to those aforementioned great games. The object is to collect at least one of eight pods drifting along the ground of each ‘wave’ and deliver it to the portal, then destroy the many and varied aliens. That’s about it. It’s not as insanely difficult as Defender but does have a few extras such as power-ups, bosses, etc, and it’s addictive as hell.

Head Over Heels – Spectrum (1987)

Head Over Heels Spectrum

There can’t be many Speccy owners who didn’t play this celebrated classic by Jon Ritman and Bernie Drummond, it’s almost as famous as the Speccy itself! I have always been absolutely useless at it, but that never stopped me from loving it! Controlling, first either Head or Heels, then later on both at once, you are tasked with the liberation of the five planets of the Blacktooth Empire. The story doesn’t really matter a great deal though, it’s the gameplay that counts, and Head Over Heels has it in bucketloads! The stages are creatively designed and full of imaginitive touches and the graphics, though monocrome, are nicely defined and full of character. It is a bit tricky though, I can’t even finish the first planet! It’s amazing that I like it so much and I’ve not even seen 1/5th of its 300 screens! Maybe some day, huh?

Everybody’s Golf – PSP (2005)

Everybodys Golf PSP

Until recently, this ‘slot’ was filled by Neo Turf Masters on the NeoGeo Pocket Color, a fine game by any standards, and probably my favourite golf game too. That is, until I got this little gem for my PSP! Generally speaking, there are two types of golf games. The serious, take-an-hour-to-prepare-each-shot type game (eg, Tiger Woods series), and then there’s this kind. The arcadey, fun, not-so-serious cartoony sort that come from Japan. And it is this kind which is by far my favourite. The series debuted, of course, on the PS1 some years before, but this effort, which was a launch title for the PSP, is a significant improvement over that already fun effort. It’s a lot more forgiving for one thing, but, perhaps more importantly, it has a lot more longevity. Many, many tournaments are available to play though, and there’s more unlockable items than seems possible to begin with. New characters are among these items, but they mostly consist of often nonsensical things to customise your chosen character with. Nonetheless, they are a lot of fun to collect, and give an excuse to keep playing! Just need to find a bikini costume for my favourite, Yumeri now!

Worms Armageddon – Dreamcast (1999)

Worms Armageddon Dreamcast

It’s almost impossible that no-one has played at least one game in this classic, not to mention sizeable series of strategy games from Team 17. It’s also likely that there are better offerings than this one, such as one of the online play versions, but this is the version I’ve spent the most time playing, and therefore, at time of writing at least, my favourite. I’ve most often played this in two-player with my good buddy, Luke, but it can be played by up to four people at once, which can lead to some chaotic but entertaining battles! Admirably, Team 17 have also tried to improve the single player game by including a mission-based game mode, but it is the main game you’ll return to most often, even if you’re on your own! Nothing beats creeping up on a lairy CPU-controlled worm, dropping a bundle of dynamite next to him, and sneaking off again! Hee hee hee!

Back with the next five tomorrow…

 

My Favourite Games – Part 2

Well, much of today has been spent in the fruitless pursuit of an obscure Japanese game and an emulator to run it on. I’m starting to think it’s impossible to find the combination of desired game rom and the relevant emulator, despite the help of couple of good chaps from Retro Gamer forum. Anyone know how to emulate the Sharp X-1, or the NEC PC-98, or goodness know which other previously unknown 25-year old Japanese computers?! Oh well, I’m sure I’ll figure something out!

And so, to continue with the fairly unremarkable list of my favourite games, numbers 6 -10… Behold!

Super Mario World – SNES (1992)

Super Mario World

Proclaimed by many to be the greatest platform game of all-time, who am I to argue? After spending all of the preceding generation as a Sega fan-boy, I really didn’t want to like this game, but I finally relented and got myself a SNES along with this game, and I was soon converted! Despite looking far less flashy than a certain blue hedgehog’s debut on the rival Mega Drive, this game soon proved to me that looks aren’t everything! I can still remember the first time I completed it, I was so proud of myself but my parents didn’t even care about my achievement! Consisting of a sprawling 96 levels (many of which are secret), I felt justified in being proud of myself too! Despite its size, it never failed to consistently introduce new and creative features either, not least of which was Yoshi, now almost as famous as Mario himself, but the game was just so enjoyable to play through, and has so many nice touches. Has it ever been bettered? Not in my opinion…

Star Fighter – 3DO (1996)

Star Fighter 3DO

Now here’s one that most people haven’t even heard of, nevermind played! I bought this from the 3DO clearance bin in my local second-hand games store towards the end of the 3DO’s brief life for a mere £5, or something like that. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I loaded it, but then came one of just a few genuine ‘wow’ moments in my gaming life! It was the first free-roaming 3D flying game I had ever played, and it was amazing! Sure, visually it’s looking pretty ropey nowadays, as all early polygon games are, but back then it was a revelation! Originally an Acorn Achimedes game, this spruced up version is, at its core, a mission-based 3D combat game, but it’s not just an out-and-out blaster, no siree! Strategy plays a big part too, especially during later missions, and there’s so much to do. Star Fighter was way ahead of its time; I’ve still not played anything else quite like this, and I’d dearly love to! If you want to try it out though, just steer clear of the horrifying Sega Saturn and Playstation versions!

F-Zero X – Nintendo 64 (1998)

F-Zero X N64

Along with Burnout 2, this is easily my favourite racing game of all-time. Nintendo took the controversial decision of reducing the graphical detail in the game (especially backgrounds) in order to keep it running smoothly at 60fps. Was it worth it? You’re damn straight it was! This could be the most exciting, edge-of-the-seat, sweaty palms, racing game ever made! Racing at speeds of up to 1500kph over courses that often look more like rollercoasters, I’m sure you can imagine why too! There are over 20 varied courses, each race is contested by 30 distinctive racers, and there’s even a four-player battle mode, so there’s no danger of getting bored anytime soon either. Simply the fastest, most exciting racing action to be found anywhere!

Space Station Silicon Valley – Nintendo 64 (1998)

Space Station Silicon Valley N64

This is another under-appreciated classic which I discovered thanks to the short-lived magazine, Total Control. I can’t even find any reference to that magazine with a quick Google search, but I’m glad it did exist or I may never have played this game! It’s a 3D platform/puzzle game in which you control the microchip of a malfunctioning robot called Evo, damaged when the ship he was on crashed into the titular space station it was meant to be landing on! Populating this space station are many robotic animals, which you can take over by leaping into them. Each animal has unique (and often very strange) abilities and, using them, you must perform set mission objectives (also often very strange) before you can move onto the next. It’s a highly original, creative, and funny game in which you never know what’s around the next corner!

The Revenge of Shinobi – Mega Drive (1989)

The Revenge of Shinobi Mega Drive

Or Super Shinobi, as it’s known in Japan, and this was the version I first played. When visiting my good friend, Stu’s, house one day after school I was excited to see that his brother had a gleaming new imported Japanese Mega Drive sitting in his room. It wasn’t long before Stu and his brother, Darren, were demonstrating the power of this new console, and this was the game they used to do it. And it worked! The awesome intro sequence, the breathtaking graphics, the now legendary music… I was still used to my Sega Master System and trusty Speccy at this time, so the effect this game had on me was profound, and it still holds a lot of good memories for me. And after all these years, it’s clearer than ever that this wasn’t all window dressing either, it still plays like a dream. Still the best game in the Shinobi series if you ask me!

Next five to follow tomorrow…

Exploring the NES – Part 1

As I briefly mentioned in my ‘Exploring the Commodore 64‘ feature, the computers or consoles we look back upon with most affection are usually the first ones we got, and these are usually gifts from our parents for Christmas or something similar. Just as I missed out on C64 gaming by virtue of receiving the splendid gift of a ZX Spectrum, I also completely missed out on Famicom / NES gaming by becoming a Master System owner. Although it wasn’t a gift this time (the details surrounding the purchase can be found here), the enjoyment my MS provided soon turned me into a Sega fanboy who looked upon the ‘inferior’ NES with scorn.

Of course, the fact that the NES was a bit of a flop here in the UK just reinforced my belief that I had chosen wisely, it was irrelevant that it was crushing all before it in Japan and the US, and in a coincidental parallel of my Speccy situation, I didn’t know a single person who owned an NES. This meant I missed out on Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda, Mega Man, Castlevania, and all the other classic franchises born on this famous console, but I didn’t care at the time – it took the SNES to break my disdain for Nintendo and by then the NES was old news. Fortunately however, it turned out my evolution as a gamer meant that once I’d reached the Dreamcast and my beloved Sega had gone down (well, as a hardware manufacturer), I fell out of love with modern gaming and instead sought refuge in gaming’s past.

Before starting Red Parsley I had, somewhat startlingly never played an NES game. I have since played a few here and there for the odd review or feature, but the console remains largely unknown to me. It was mainly for this reason that I asked Eric, Facebook friend and purveyor of fine NES reviews and features website, Nintendo Legend, to recommend five games that he felt would give me a well-rounded experience of his favourite console. Though there will be a follow-up to this feature at some point, here I present my first impressions of the games Eric chose and of the console generally.

Super Mario Bros 3 (1988)

Okay, yes, I’ve played this one before, albeit as part of Super Mario All-Stars on my SNES, so I already know how frickin’ awesome it is! Having said that, the ‘Best Mario Game’ argument often comes down to this or Super Mario World, and I have to confess, I prefer the latter. But that’s like trying to decide what’s best between two Ferrari’s – neither is exactly a pile of crap! Like most Mario games, it’s possible to just casually pootle through each of the many stages that make up the eight worlds here and then play something else but just as much fun comes from trying to uncover all the many secrets the game holds too. In my opinion, as a Master System owner I had access to a game as equally fantastic as this in Wonder Boy 3, but it’s possible I may change that viewpoint after a long-overdue delve into this amazing game.

Maniac Mansion (1987)

I confess, there’s not many game genre’s I don’t really get on with but ‘point and click’ adventures are one of them. I know how well regarded this game is though, so I approached it with an open mind and… it’s not bad! It’s set in an evil professor’s large mansion of some sort from which you must help Dave rescue his girlfriend. Joining him are two friends who you can choose yourself from six who all have unique abilities. I’m sure I’m just preaching to the converted here though! It’s easy to see why this game was so popular in its day – it and its sequel still command a loyal following today, as well as many other LucasArts games. The graphics and music are pretty nice but the most fun comes from exploring the mansion which has a lot of replay value thanks to the multiple characters. I may not finish this game, being something of a genre beginner, but I’ll certainly give it a go! Much more fun than I thought it would be!

Dragon Warrior (1986)

Long have I known of the immense popularity of the Dragon Quest series in Japan but I haven’t actually played any… until now! I was a bit nervous too. I love action RPG’s like Zelda, Grandia, and the Shining series, for example, but this is a proper RPG, you have to actually learn how to play these things! My first 30 minutes or so playing this was great though. I generally like games with fantasy settings and it’s no exception. The graphics and music are rather basic, even for a NES game, but everything is neat and tidy and it’s an enjoyable game world to explore. Well, until I left the first town that is, where I encountered the infamous ‘random battles’ syndrome whereby monsters appear every five seconds or so! Luckily it’s not mandatory to fight each of them (although I initially tried and was soon defeated!). It will of course take me much longer to make any significant progress into this game but I like it a lot so far.

Tecmo Super Bowl (1991)

Hooray, an American Football game, thanks Eric! It was actually thanks to gaming that I became interested in this sport and I remain a loyal 49ers fan to this day (for my sins). The first thing that struck me about this offering from Tecmo, which is notable for being the first sports game to be officially licensed and therefore able to use all the correct team and player names, was its superb presentation. I’ve played US Football games older than this before but Tecmo really put a sheen of polish on it to show up all competitors. As with most complicated sports games, it took a while to get the hang on this one, but once I did I couldn’t stop playing it! Witness my 80-odd yard touchdown run against the stupid Packers to the right! It’s not been hard to see why this game is still popular today.

Contra (1988)

It’s rather ridiculous that I’ve never played a Contra game quite frankly, especially given my appreciation of other run ‘n’ gun games such as the Shinobi series. Nonetheless, I guess it’s fitting my first one is the first one and it was immediately obvious to me why this series has always been held in such high regard. It’s not a very complicated game and mere seconds after starting it I was running, jumping, and shooting through the first stage as though I’d been doing so for years. That’s not to say it was easy though, far from it. I’ve heard many complaints from gamers over the years about how tough these games are and they appear to be well founded! I feel sure though, that if I’d had an NES in my youth rather than an MS, this game would’ve occupied a lot of my time. The graphics are pretty good, the music is fantastic, but it really is superbly playable, not to mention addictive. Top stuff!

That’s it for now! These first five games have all been great fun to discover. Although I’ve played similar games to Dragon Warrior and Tecmo Super Bowl on my Master System, the others were not really something for which MS fans were catered. I’m not finished yet though. Given the rather extensive back-catalogue that NES owners enjoyed (and something the poor old Master System could certainly have done with), I’ll be covering five more games in the next part of this post along with a final verdict of the much-loved NES. Perhaps my fellow blogger, and Famicom collector, Sean, will be kind enough to suggest the next five? 😉

Top Five Sega Master System Two-Player Games

Sega Master System console

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I’ve traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven’t played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

5. Super Off Road (1992)Super Off-Road Screenshot 1

Unlike the arcade version (and NES version), the MS port of this spiritual successor to Super Sprint does only support two players simultaneously (as opposed to three and four respectively), but that doesn’t massively detract from the enjoyment of racing around these bumpy, pot-hole-ridden courses. Exciting, fast-paced fun for beginners and experts alike.

4. Gauntlet (1990)Gauntlet Screenshot 1

Some say that Gauntlet was never meant as a one-player game and is no fun when played alone. I don’t agree, I’ve always loved playing it, by myself or not. There can be little doubt, however, that it’s much more fun with a friend in tow, even if the age-old problem of deciding who gets to choose their favourite character never seems to go away! The MS version of this arcade classic was a revelation when it came out and still holds up fantastically well today.

3. Double Dragon (1988)Double Dragon Screenshot 1

The arcade version of this one was much loved, but the home conversions have been a real opinion-divider! I can still remember the arguments about which ones were good and which weren’t. This MS version, renowned for horrifying levels of sprite-flicker, it may be (so much so, even getting a usable screenshot is a challenge!), remains one of the best. Two-player scrolling fighters are few and far between, but ones this slick and playable are to be treasured!

2. Spy vs Spy (1986)

As much fun as a two-player co-operative game is, I think most people will agree that outwitting (no to mention beating the crap out of) a friend is even more fun! And what better way to do it than the fantastic MS version of this classic? Of course, you’re supposed to be rushing around the rooms looking for the items you need to escape, but most people end of spending their time setting booby-traps to catch your friend out, then cackling as they get fried/blown-
up. And with random room and
item placement, you’ll never get
bored of doing it!

1. Fantasy Zone the Maze (1987)Fantasy Zone The Maze Screenshot

Unusual choice? Maybe, but my good friend Luke and I have spent so much time playing this under-appreciated gem, I just had to put it in the number one spot! I must admit, a Pac-Man-inspired collect-the-dots game wouldn’t have been the most obvious use of the Fantasy Zone name, but it works really well. Collect the coins, use them to buy weapons to get further in the game. It’s simple, addictive, and awesome fun. Plus, it’s too hard in one-player mode, I need some help!

Alliance versus Horde: The PVP Debate

Alliance_vs__Horde_by_Dawnchaser

Being a long time player of MMO’s since the Ultima days I pretty much grew up through my late teens playing these types of games. I can easily tell the different in not only my playstyle, but also my dedication to games, as I got older. While there was talk of kids versus adults in Everquest, it was nothing compared to the debate that rages on in World of Warcraft. This may be new to no one, but there really is little difference between the horde and the alliance when it comes to Player versus Player.

I for a very long time played Alliance and I have played in a ton of battlegrounds and have heard the calls from angry players about how bad the alliance is and that it is full of children. By now, we know that calling people children is like calling someone Hitler; it has been over used and really does not mean anything anymore. However, in all the screaming and nerd rage there is truth to many of the complaints, but the problem is on both sides.

I admit when I began playing on the horde side I expected to win many more BG’s and truth be told I do win more, but that does not mean the same mistakes happen on both sides. Let us look at some of the complaints and break them down.

Alliance does not follow instructions

Not following instructions

Alliance: Sadly, this is true, but the reasons go far beyond it being that they are kids. While it is true that more kids began playing alliance it is just as true that older people and people new to MMO’s also play alliance. Much of the time the reason instructions are not followed is many of the people are new to the BG and really do not know how to ask for help. The second reason is when someone screams calling you a noob and that you should die in a fire you really do not want to ask for instructions.

Horde: On the horde side you have children who believe the horde are bad and bad to them equals bad ass so you have just as many kids wanting to be the “pretty alliance” as you do that want to be the “evil” horde. Second players that are more experienced will go horde, this can be good and bad because sometimes they think they are too good or they think they should lead. What happens is everyone has an opinion and the fight over it and because of that instructions are never fully followed, but in the end more people tend to follow than on the ally side and so that is one reason for more wins.

Alliance gives up

Surrendering_kahjiit_vampire_by_katuysha

Alliance: I have found this to be true in some cases. Most of the time if the alliance really gave a strong push, say in Arathi Basin and the horde pushed back taking the lead from them I have found many will give up. Again, I think this is because of people who do not know the game and mixed in are some who just want easy wins. Age does play into this because often a child wants everything handed to him or her and if they try and look like they will fail, they give up. The result is everyone else suffers including those who are not experienced in BG’s.

Horde: I see less giving up on the horde side and a lot of the time it is due to the fact that the horde are used to winning and believe they can pull victory from the jaws of defeat. This can also work against them because some are so used to winning that if they think they will lose they want to quit and lose quickly so they can move on to another BG. In addition, many horde players almost border on role-play with how they believe the horde should not ever give up just because they are horde.

Alliance cares about HK’s and KB’s

Honor kills in World of Warcraft

Alliance: If the battle group loses a lot and they are used to it many alliance players admit they go for honor kills and killing blows over the win. Alliance will also work on getting achievements that do not require a win. When the allies are used to losing they just go for “fun” and sometimes that just keeps a losing streak going.

Horde: The horde weakness comes in when a player takes a kill seriously. Most of the complaints I hear are about a specific player who is either hard to kill, over powered or killing the same person over and over. I have also found if you offend a horde by doing a gesture when you kill them or heaven forbid using that flag of ownership, you can goat the horde player and sometimes even fellow team members into forgetting the goal of winning the game in order to get payback on a player.

Alliance do not gear properly

PVE gear in PVP

Alliance: Unfortunately, I have found this to be true especially in the lower levels. Many alliance players see PVP as an option where horde sees it as important as PVE. When you add in the younger and inexperienced players, you end up with many alliance players going into BG’s with PVE gear and finding themselves going up against a PVP geared opponent.

Horde: You will always find some people who do not gear up, but many of the horde know that since they win more BG’s then they lose they have extra honor points to spend and they do gear themselves. In the end, this helps the horde more adding to more wins and more gear.

The Turning Point

World of Warcraft PVP motivational poster

There is much more I could go into, but let us hit the key point. Many of the horde players are experienced in MMO’s and specifically PVP, once it was established that horde wins PVP the PVP’ers went horde and so it made them stronger. The point about kids versus adults does not come into play however because horde can be just as vulgar and obnoxious as any alliance, but these guys even if not children are man-children ranging from age 15 to 35. The bottom line is experience and if a young, older or inexperienced alliance player does not really care about PVP, they already start off at a disadvantage.

The horde side fights in the roads in AB, rush Van in AV with towers still up. The horde also ignores healers and tries to kill the tank and they care about the flag more than the bases in EOTS. The horde can leave the flag carrier along in WG and kill players instead of DEMO’s in SOTA and so on and so on. I have just found I end up with those who need to win more on the horde than the alliance side and that’s why I have more honor points than I can spend.

My Favourite Games: 1

Hello.  I’m RetroKingSimon (or RKS to my friends).

Some of my many interests include retro videogames, movies, and anime, but I have been complacent in the pursuit of these interests for quite some time now, espically since I’ve been married. This is my attempt to make amends, and will offer the opportunity/excuse to sample some of the best, and no doubt worst, these subjects have to offer, including some that I’ve been meaning to try for many years, and will also allow me to re-evaluate some old favourites that should perhaps be better consigned to fondly-recalled memories.

In addition, I have a curious fondness for making random, and often nonsensical ‘Top Five’ lists, often with the help of Luke. These will also form part of my tomfoolery here, and are just for fun. Any of you that read these musings, I encourage you to make comments or let me know what you think, good or bad, but trolls and other hateful rapscallions can direct your bilge elsewhere. 🙂

Anyway, to mark my first post here, I thought it might be prudent to list my favourite games. There are 30 here, though I like many more of course, and with the exception of the first one, they are in no particular order.

Star Control 2 – 3DO (1994)

Star Control 2 Screenshot I

My favourite videogame of all-time? Without question! Not many sci-fi TV shows or films even have a story as engrossing as this game! It’s an epic space adventure game where, controlling a large, but weak starship, you must wander the galaxy searching for artefacts, forging alliances with or fighting against the many alien races, gathering resources, and building a fleet with which to take on the evil Ur-Quan Heirachy who have enslaved Earth and several other worlds. Featuring hectic real-time battles, hours of speech, and countless things to do, it’s a sci-fi game that has everything. You even get to score with a green-skinned alien girly for goodness sake! The best thing of all about this game is that you can download a conversion of the 3DO game for nothing and play it on any modern PC. Get it here (the game has had a name change though, it’s now called Ur-Quan Masters).

Burnout 2: Point of Impact – Gamecube (2002)

Burnout 2 - Point of Impact Screenshot I

Granted, there’s a lot of games I haven’t played, but right now this is the finest arcade-style racing game I’ve ever played. You have three opponents and racing takes place on long stretches of road also populated by civilian drivers ranging from cars right up to coaches and juggernauts. There are a few cars to choose from when you start the game and successful racing unlocks many more. It’s all fairly standard stuff, it’s just done so well. Control over the cars is precise, the courses are busy and superbly designed, and opponent AI is pretty good too. This all combines to make some pretty awesome, hi-octane racing! In my humble opinion, this was and remains the pinnacle of the Burnout series (and marks the final installment before Electronic bloody Arts bought the franchise and ruined it), and the arcade racing genre in general.

Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon’s Trap – Master System (1989)

Wonder Boy 3 - The Dragon’s Trap Screenshot I

Introduced to me by my good friend Luke, this game blew me away when I first played it in the late 80’s, and has remained a firm favourite. Despite its name, this is actually the fourth game in the convoluted Wonder Boy/Monster World series of games and almost certainly universally considered the best. The game, which takes the form of a sprawling arcade adventure, carries on directly from Wonder Boy in Monster Land, and sees Wonder Boy cursed by a dragon and turned into Lizard Man! And so Wonder Boy’s latest quest begins. He must brave many strange and distant lands in his bid to return himself to Human form, but not before he takes various other forms too! A top game when it was first released and it remains a top game today, arguably the best game of the Master System.

Gauntlet 4 – Mega Drive (1993)

Gauntlet 4 Screenshot I

Not strictly speaking a sequel, Gauntlet 4, released on the Mega Drive/Genesis exclusively, was more a tarted-up conversion of the original and features four different modes. The Arcade Mode is a near-arcade perfect port of the orignal Gauntlet arcade game from 1985, but with the addition of an all-new soundtrack, the Record Mode, which is a variation on the arcade mode tailored to achieving high scores, the Battle Mode is a multi-player fight to the death, and best of all is the Quest Mode, which is an all-new Gauntlet game where the player must battle through the ten floors of each of an ancient castle’s four towers before tackling the dragon dwelling therein. Including some RPG-style features, this is a whole game in itself. Overall, for any Gauntlet fan, this is the complete package.

OutRun – Arcade (1985)

Outrun screenshot I

Until the Burnout series came along, this was still my favourite driving game ever, and in many ways is responsible for my love of videogames to begin with. Everyone knows all about this classic by Yu Suzuki which is still as enjoyable today as the day it was made, in my view. Sure, OutRun 2 and Coast 2 Coast superceded it in many ways, not least graphically, but do they contain the spirit and atmosphere of the 1985 original? I can’t think of many driving games that don’t even have any opponents which are still as enjoyable as this! Simply cruising along listening to Magical Sound Shower is a treat matched by only a small number of other gaming experiences. It’s a shame so few people will ever get to play the arcade behemoth now!

That’s it for now, more to come.

The Magic of a Good Game Trailer – Prince of Persia

I still remember the time when I was still struggling to fiddle with my 2+ years old PS1 when all of a sudden through random surfing the net I came across the trailer of Prince of Persia: Warrior Within. The game I think had just launched and I knew that PS2 is widely available across my neighborhood too. When I saw the trailer for the very first time it literally made me go high with such strong adrenaline rush that that way old feeling is still survived to sustain in me for all these years and I can still start the game from scratch despite of the fact that I rarely repeat a game once when I have finished it. The Godsmack soundtrack – I stand alone being played in the background, the awesome-most art which one could witness at that time of gaming era, the wonderful composites of HD and real-time rendered game play, plus the story which was so intriguing even for a gamer who had no idea of the first installment of the game, was so damn good collectively that I couldn’t sleep for days!

Prince of Persia
Prince of Persia

The trailer kept looping in my head again and again and I kept talking to my friends about it who had no idea of what am I talking about. I was so madly in love with the overall feel of the trailer alone that I really couldn’t wait to get my hands on the game. So I kept pushing and asking my dad to please buy me the PS2 now that is the most advance and that it is going to help me in my future studies (as a 3D-Artist). But deep inside I knew that I have found a something to love for so long that I cannot resist it for more days. So finally under a couple of weeks I was able to game my dad for getting me a brand new PS2 and the first game that I plugged it in was POP: Warrior Within only. And the game didn’t disappoint me at all. It matched my expectations quite perfectly and as a gamer I was so overwhelmed by the overall thrill a title alone could provide. This game alone initiated my curiosity for the first installment of POP, also known as Sands of Time.

Prince of Persia
Prince of Persia

So what all did a good game trailer accomplished here? I know I am only one of those other million gamers who get motivated to go and buy a game console after seeing something which is as short as under 3 minutes of duration. Here lies the art of making a good trailer. All the factors mentioned before contributes collectively in the marketing and promotion of any good game. And I think I have seen many games go down just because they didn’t have a good video trailer but has a good game play and all the other factors which actually makes a game “fun”.

Prince of Persia
Prince of Persia

A good trailer automatically gets shared. People love it and share it with their friends. Word of mouth publicity comes into play and the developer team gets a good response even before the game is launched. The studio hits its target, the sales rise but the gamer will eventually get disappointed if the game fails to score in terms of fun. But that is something totally off-stream of what I really want to put out here. So my plea to all game developing studios out there is to focus on the trailer too if they feel that they have made a game with 50+ artists who have dedicatedly put their hearts and mind into the project and they understand that the success of the project is not only of studio but is of them too. Don’t rush things in the end. Don’t put up a crappy edited walk-through trailers on web. Take your time. Categorize the art direction for a trailer as something of top most priority. Direct and stream it well and make sure those 120+ seconds count as we really don’t want to miss that awesome game you develop next just because you weren’t able to find time to make a good trailer of it.

Oh and I almost forgot to mention how beautiful Kaileena looked with the voice-over of beautiful Monica Bellucci.

Prince of Persia Kaileena
Prince of Persia Kaileena

Check out the trailer I’m talking about here:

What game would you teach your child?

Little Kid Gamers

Often people ask what values would you teach your children, it is a good question. Perhaps there is something you were taught that helped you as your grew and you wanted to pass that on you to children. As gamers, many of us who decide to have children may end up getting them into games or at least supporting their own love of games. So the question is, if you could teach your child one game which would it be?

The Legend of Zelda

The original NES game for me is the perfect starting game for a child. Zelda had the elements of an RPG and an action adventure game. The game itself was not that hard to play, but it was difficult enough to keep you interested while invoking real thought. Some of the bosses took pattern recognition and some of the dungeons required some puzzle solving. The game also had humor and sadness and the “death” was not serious enough to harm any child in my opinion. It was the kind of game that could prepare you for many other games including some of today’s MMO’s. Zelda may not have been perfect, but I think it is a great choice as a jumping off point for a future gamer.

We asked our panel of industry insiders the same question.

Jacob Stevens from Riverman Media wrote:

Most definitely the original Legend of Zelda. The vast, mysterious, world represented by small, abstract, graphics stimulates your mind almost like reading a novel. While you are playing, you imagine much more than what you can actually see. This is especially important for children to learn, and on top of that the sense of adventure and exploration is unparalleled.

John Williamson, Producer from Zombie Studios wrote:

Rail Road Tycoon

I have an 8-year-old daughter and we play lots of games together.  Our favorite all time game has to be Mario Kart Double Dash.  It has the perfect bimodal learning curve.  She could contribute to the game when she was just tossing banana peels while I drove, then learned to aim and lean into turns, then she learned to drive on her own, then she learned to drive and throw on her own.  It is THE greatest game I have ever played for teaching someone the joys of gaming as it allows for so much grown and skill development, all while having fun.  But I’m going to go on a slightly different tack for this question, if I could only pick one game for my daughter, it would be Rail Road Tycoon.

Rail Road Tycoon is an amazing simulation game, no matter which version you play.  It supports multiplayer, single player, and has endless re-playability.  And not to get all touchy feely here, but it would help my daughter learn some basics skills that society frankly frowns upon girls (and even women) learning.  Railroad Tycoon helps teach how the stock market is supposed to work, and how  it can be  manipulated.  How to buy low and sell high, how to cut off the competition at the knees, when to cooperate and when not to, the value of risk, the drawbacks of being over extended, when to take out a loan, when not to.

They value of expedited services and the value of slow and steady income growth.  Everything necessary to survive and thrive in our society.  On top of all that, Rail Road Tycoon was the first game I couldn’t stop playing.   It was the game that made me say “I  know what I want to do with my life”  It is the reason I have been able to make games for a living for almost 2 decades now.  I can’t wait to find out what game, book, movie, class, instrument, experiment, photograph that will lead my daughter down the path to what she loves to do.

Aaron Hunter from Playtechtonics Inc wrote:

Maybe something like Ultima 4, that was a good one.

So what game would you choose?

DCUO: Qualms With The Game And A Plea For Fixes

Bat Family DCUO screenshot
Bat Family DCUO screenshot

DCUO: Qualms With The Game And A Plea For Fixes

This is a copy/pasta of a post I made on the DCUO official forums.

I am writing this in hopes that SOE sees this and takes the time to actually start some sort of plan to save their latest MMO DC Universe Online. I am not calling in the apocalypse of this game but I am simply stating that right now it has been poisoned by bugs. I have played many MMORPGs and since World of Warcraft’s release there haven’t been many AAA MMO launches. Many games falter in their idea to cash in on the WoW craze and create clones and other games try mechanics that just seem to fall flat because they failed to fix game breaking bugs before release. I don’t have much faith in many of the MMO’s coming out in 2011 but I did feel and still do feel that DCUO was going to be the one to stand with the greatest potential.

Lawl? Did u not hear of Star Wars TOR, newb?

Okay, fellow forum readers. Yes I’ve heard of Star Wars but I do not have high hopes for that game as I generally don’t see things with rose tinted glasses. But this is besides the point. I don’t want to banter SOE with “IM GUNNA QUIT AND GO TO ” bull. I don’t want to put out an angry, unproductive statement out that does nothing but sound like another QQ fest. I want to state what I think they need to fix in order to prevent this game to going into a crippling decline.

People in my guild r already leaving, newb! Dis gaem is a failure.

I understand that people are leaving but people always leave MMO’s in their first month. It’s a common thing to see a mass exodus of people leave one game, talk highly of the new toy, and then pinch a loaf all over that toy, and go back to another game that presents the same grind or what not. That isn’t a great argument at this point as it is a common thing amongst MMO gamers.

Now that I have the generic forum responses out of the way, let me get into my issues with the game and why they are stunting to its growth.

League Chat Breaking

Never have I played a game where a chat is broken. Shout is never broken, yet somehow, some way, League chat breaks. How are groups of people supposed to connect to enjoy the game together? No one plays an MMO to play it in solidarity for everlasting months. The thing that keeps people playing is 1) Yes, content, but we’ll get into that later and 2) the ability to form bonds with fellow server mates for an enjoyable experience.

Those of you who have spent time with guildies or leaguers and just goofed off racing around cities, griefing someone as a group, or just doing something pointless can attest to the good times that can be had with friends and clansmen. Even without additional content, good friends can make a game last awhile, probably not as long as a game with constant content, but they’ll last longer than the average solo king player.

League Chat breaking over and over seems like an easy bug to fix as most MMO’s don’t seem to screw up their chat systems. This is the first time I’ve ever witnessed this kind of issue in anything ever. Without League chat, what’s the point of a League? How can people communicate or introduce themselves to one another? No bonds are made thus no establishment is set into the game’s community causing a rift of players to either leave to where they came from or hold out until the next MMO that will save them.

Queues Breaking

I can see how this is an issue that can take awhile to resolve but it should have been resolved early on towards the end of beta. Some sort of contingency plan should have been brought up to fix the issue if queuing loads being too dramatically hectic is causing them to shatter. If it isn’t the load of players using the queuing system that is breaking it, then what is it? What is so difficult to fix that it has taken two weeks for someone to still not figure out?

A lot of games have a ton of levels for you to grind through so it takes awhile for major sums of their player base to hit the endgame cap. DCUO makes you super right away by making hitting 30  a quick and easy thing to do. This is mostly because most of the content is for level 30 characters. That is great but when most of this content is governed by the queue system, well that is where the main focal point of the game’s design seems to get blinded.

How is a game that promotes fast leveling and quick end game experience supposed to last when their main method of entering these adventures is blocked by a queue system that breaks too often. PvP queues, Duo queues, Alert queues, all broken. The only queue that seems to work is The Vault and that is completely aside from anything else as it just teleports you to a single player map.

But OP! You can run to Arkham, Containment Facilities, and many more!

That’s true, poster. You could run to those instances. I, for one, have been. I refuse to allow a broken queue to stop me but when I can’t do my duos or get into certain instances, I feel like I’m being cheated. I’m not saying that SOE owes me Marks of Triumph (though, that’d be pretty nice.) but I do feel like I’m paying $15 a month to be blocked out of content I was able to play earlier in the week.

Watchtower Crashes

This bug personally hasn’t affected me but I can see where the issue can bother some people. In WoW, when Eastern Kingdoms or Kalimdor crashed, you couldn’t get on your character in that continent. However, there was another continent always available for both factions.

When Watchtower is down, you’re locking out a good chunk of one faction while the other isn’t hindered at all. This is an increasingly difficult issue because if queues aren’t working, and Watchtower is down, so goes your cross city travel system.

Bugs I Can Deal WIth For Now

There are certain bugs I can handle right now because there are work arounds for them, but that doesn’t mean to ignore them.

I can deal with the platform in Star Labs arena being exploited by flying enemies contesting the node from underneath since I’m a pro and took grounding abilities.

I can deal with the loot bug at the end of an alert where if I hit L before seeing the “overall data” chart  I won’t get to roll on the item. I already know to wait but I can see where a ton of people would be having an issue over this. (Protip: Leave the instance and you can still hit need out of the alert and the item will go to you and show up in your bag.)

You Sound Mad, Bro! Do You Like Anything About This Game?

Yes, I like this game and unlike many people I have faith in SOE. I know EQ2 was a pile of garbage but they really turned that game around. If it released maybe 2-3 years ago instead of 6 it could have been a contender, it could have been a somebody! They dish out content in that game constantly and it’s great to see a company throwing resources into a dying game like that (though they probably wouldn’t admit EQ2 is suffering.).

Of the MMO’s I’ve played at release, this game is pretty solid and enjoyable. I know they’ll keep pushing out content because they understand how big DC is right now with Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, the upcoming Green Lantern,  the role DC heroes play in children’s media, the announcement of the new Superman flick, and the success of Smallville.

The combat system isn’t something you find in any MMORPG to date and it works out for the action packed fluidity of the comic book genre. I never thought the class system in this game would work because class systems tend to fail in most Super Hero MMO attempts but I think this is probably one of the best implementations out there and I have no issues with the balance of paper, rock, scissors. I enjoy the three class trinity synergy and the ability for anyone to DPS.

The excitement of being able to fight side by side with notable characters, heroes and villains alike, adds to the feel of the game. The voice work is grand and I hope they can keep it up, unlike in EQ2 where they stopped their voice acting in newer installments of content. With Time Warner having some role over the development of this game, though, and their ability to profit from it as well, I can see the voice acting remaining relevant  if the game remains a standing contender in the current 2011 MMO battle.

So as you can see, I am satisfied with the game. I am still hyped up and enjoying everything I possibly can right now with DCUO. It’s fresh, different, and exciting especially with friends. I would like to keep it that way.

I know that SOE is planning a huge update of content in February but please do try to fix the bugs as well first or simultaneously. Additional content is useless with a dwindling player base.

 

Breaking down the Video Game addiction debate

video game addiction
video game addiction

A new study was recently conducted that talked about the link between mental health issues and video game addiction. I for one would first start by saying that if it has already been established that you are addicted to video games then you already have a mental issue. The study looked at three thousand 4th through 8th grade children and found that nine percent of them had “pathological gaming” problems.

The study showed that mental health issues including depression, anxiety and poor grades led these children to access video game playing. The study stated that children who are socially awkward with a high tendency toward impulsive behavior and who had played a great amount of video games are at higher risk to become addicted to them.

Many people with some stating that they used “flawed methodology” have attacked the research study. There definitely are some issues I have found with the study, but first let us look at the CNN report.

Age Defined

The first issue I have with the study is the age range. Perhaps once you reach the junior high age video game addiction can become more of a concern due to the different social structures you will find yourself in. However, parenting is still paramount and if your 4th grader is becoming addicted to video games then it is solely the fault of the parent.

While issues before a child is born can cause different mental issues in children it is how you are raised that will determine when and how those issues will come about. Even if your child becomes a video game addict once he or she beings college it can be prevent by parenting or general supervision long before then.

If a parent cannot, does not or will not take the real time it takes to raise a child then that child will cling onto the first stimuli that it finds be it games, television or even positive activities such as reading. An active parent who is in control can allow the child to experience games, books, and television in the proper moderation without becoming overbearing causing the child to rebel just because.

Social Structure

When it comes to social awkwardness, the lines can become blurry mainly because the idea of what is socially acceptable changes from week to week. At one time, anyone who used a computer or played video games was looked down upon yet today it is much more accepted and mainstream. Again we return to the issue of age because as you develop and grow you are discovering what kind of person you will become socially. Just because a child may choose to remain quiet and listen to a conversation as opposed to talking the lead and running it does not necessarily mean your child has an issue or will develop one.

When we talk about social awkwardness the problem comes about when we compare how the person acts in different to other children, mainstream concepts of social acceptance or even the parents own social history. Often if we do not understand the ever-changing social structure, we will find fault where there is none. On the other hand, many parents are in denial and will misdiagnose why a child is not fitting in.

It is far too easy to point to a gamer that spends a lot of time playing video games and state that his lack of “face time” with other human beings is a result of that gaming time. For many gamers the act of gaming is their social time especially in games where you play in team or guilds or with thousands of other players. In addition, many gamers have tried to find common ground with other children in the outlets they have access to such as school, the neighborhood and other activities and found they relate to other gamers.

This is where many studies fail in my opinion because they refuse to adequately study the social dynamic of gamers. While it can be a generally true statement that a gamer is less socially mainstream than a non-gamer it is not true that being socially mainstream is the best course for every child. If a gamer has a strong core of good friends, who can provide positive reinforcement then it should not matter as much where that common ground was found, as long as the act of gaming does not hurt the child physically or mentally then choosing to ally his or herself with other gamers can be socially healthy.

Moderation

In the end, it again comes down to parenting and control. If a parent takes an active role and is willing to learn instead of just reacting then it is much easier to distinguish if your child is finding friends within the gaming community or is turning to gaming because of an inability to make friends in the real world. If you monitor your child’s game play just as you would their television time or even food intake it will become easier to discover the truth.

There is a balance that all parents must maintain between keeping a watchful eye and smothering and it varies from child to child. I personally was the type of child that needed an over-viewer, someone who watched from a distance to make sure I was okay, but not directly involved in my minute-to-minute activities. However, children are different and each parent must find out on their own what type of monitoring style works best.

Variety is still the spice of life and as a child, it is important to expose your children to different stimuli while they are young. Even someone who becomes an avid gamer to the point that it becomes a career path can benefit from having experienced many different things as a child. I have personally been exposed to many different social and cultural events, sometimes kicking and screaming and through in the end my love was for computers and video games I know I am a better person for having had those experiences.

Being a gamer does not mean that is all you do. Today’s gamers can go to a sports event, watch a movie, listen to concert and then go home and play hours of World of Warcraft. In order to get to the point where one outlet does not control your entire free time one must be exposed to new things and the things they enjoy the most must be in moderation.

Home Study

The main problem with a study on video games and its effect on someone socially is that the study often does not research the full home life of subject(s) in question. Take for instance weight as an issue. If a child was overweight and then tuned to gaming did the study take that into account? How about the parent, was enough research done into the parenting style? Many parents would be on guard when their child is under study, how does one find out what effect their parenting had on them before they even had a social life to examine?

This was not an endeavor to discount the effects of excessive gaming; it was more to show that linking social or even mental issues to one cause is flawed science in itself. Even if a study was to take into account that many other factors could have led to social or mental problems if video game addiction is in the forefront then many readers of the study will stop there and not dig further.

Real gaming addiction should be studied and the people who are trapped need to be saved and this will not happen with the way we currently look at it. It will take real steps and a lot of background and extensive research to discover why anyone turns to any one thing to be their everything.

MMO’s Coming Out In 2011 Are Already Behind The Curve

2011 sure seemed like a year that would be promising us some exciting upcoming titles in the MMORPG world. With Star Wars: The Old Republic, Rifts of Telara, and DC Universe Online it appeared at first glance that there finally would be some promising games out there which fought back against the monster known as World of Warcraft. I, for one, was in this crowd of believers looking forward to something fresh and a chance to move onto to greener fields.

Rift MMO plant
Rift MMO plant

Unfortunately, from my time playing the beta for some of these games and then also playing World of Warcraft’s latest expansion Cataclysm, I have to say that World of Warcraft has trumped the genre yet again.

But Umar, how can you say that? Those games are in beta and things always change!

Yeah, okay. People said that about Final Fantasy XIV, Age Of Conan, Warhammer Online, and Champions Online. Where are they now? Age of Conan is struggling to show some respectable numbers while being considered another tally of fuck ups by Funcom, discussions about putting FFXIV on a free to play model are on the table with Square-Enix already boasting a whopping 2 million active characters (look closely at the bolded word), Mythic is essentially dissolving with employee blogs ranting about the horribly typical EA experience they are suffering from (WAR really needs a F2P model if it’s going to stand up ever again), and Champions is already on a F2P market and is shitting bricks from the upcoming DC title.

Beta did not change those games. They have remained garbage and will never be something worth a purchase.

It’s time to take off those rosy glasses of hope and look at reality for a minute. Nothing has come to close to taking a slice of this market no matter how much you whine.
For the longest time, you’d hear me complaining about World of Warcraft and its flaws and its lack of this and that, but those were the days of Burning Crusade. The game has progressed leaps and bounds from release. I honestly have no qualms about it. What were the typical issues people had with WoW?
It’s too easy, Umar!

Okay, you nerdy Sephiroth cosplaying queer. Have you played Cataclysm? A PUG can barely clear a heroic now if most of the people you group with have downs. Oh, and don’t say “The WoW community is filled with bad players.” That’s easy to say. Most people I know that say that and then either play WoW or another MMO with me are usually just as bad as any other idiot I could PUG with.

WoW’s graphics are out of date!

Yeah, they are but it works with their art style. You need things to look pretty to have fun? Plants VS Zombies wasn’t enjoyable? Mario Kart isn’t fun? Let’s go play something pretty like Final Fantasy XIV. I’m sure that’ll be a great experience. Or let’s play Age of Conan where even the most high end computers at the time were struggling to display some of the graphics. Graphics shouldn’t be on the top of your list for playability as opposed to the actual style of the game.

I think you’re stupid and gay, Umar! Star Wars is going to be awesome!

Thanks, asshole. Enjoy Star Wars then. I’m not telling people to not play it as much as I’m saying that future upcoming MMORPGs are already behind what Cataclysm has presented. Star Wars will have what? Epic dialogue and a story? That is fantastic. Cataclysm already makes your character feel like they were part of a story, maybe not on the scale of Star Wars with all the cinematics, camera angles, and voice acting, but they did make your character more involved in the storyline.

Bioware already claimed that they won’t have much endgame and that they encourage people to roll alts to see the story from a different perspective. This is a “Choose your destiny” book in virtual form. All you’re getting is a story and not many innovative mechanics. They barely ever talk about actual gameplay and mechanics as much as they talk about the story portion of the game and the classes. “Hey guys we’ve got spaceships and Jedi! Cool shit, huh?” This is a niche game and once your story is over that’s it. Bioware isn’t known for making difficult games that require strategy and skill. Putting Mass Effect 2 on harder difficulties just meant you took more damage. Wowzers!

Rifts of Telara has already thrown in the towel by conceding the fact their game is more like Vanilla WoW than WoW in its current state. Vanilla WoW was one of the most raw and broken starts to an MMO. Gamers today are crying for innovation and polish. Not a throwback to olden times. Rifts is going to be what Vanguard was to Everquest 1. An old school reincarnation that will fall flat in the present.

The only game I think that can even grab a slice of the MMO market is DCUO. I’m not talking about a game that will take subs from World of Warcraft but a game that can fill that super hero niche that Champions failed to quench. City of Heroes is already too old school and bland even with all their amazing patches. DCUO has that opportunity to grab the market from those games and even pull in more people who cream to “Smallville” and “The Dark Knight”. It isn’t competing against the elephant in the room but against the carrion dogs roaming about.

If you don’t agree with me, that’s fine. You can think what you want and I can still think you’re a bag of dicks. What am I saying is going to come to true because my word is not only correct but absolute. These MMOs will fall flat with the exception of DCUO if Sony actually markets a game this time. Time will allow you to see the truth and your bottled-up, unbridled nerd pride will nourish me when you fail to accept my prophecy.

Why Do I Game?

gamer dog tag
gamer dog tag

Over the past ten years…okay much longer than that, close to 25 years really, I’ve been asked why do I like video games?  Video games aren’t for girls.

I remember my first response, to my brother who had the Atari in the house “Cuz they look like fun.”  Admittedly I was five years old at the time and the only game I remember us having then was Pac-Man.  He, of course, refused to show  me how to play and I had to figure it out on my own. To his surprise, I had no problems with it.  I was hooked.

Unfortunately, later that year, my brother decided to take apart the Atari.  Please note:  DO NOT DO THIS.  EVER…unless you are a professional.

Fast forward three years to when I was 8 years old.  The Nintendo was out and had been out for two years.  I kept asking for it for birthday, for Christmas, even for Easter I was so desperately wanting it.  I kept being told no, I didn’t need to play video games.  However, Santa didn’t listen to my parents and I got a Nintendo. (thank you santa!)

I played anything I could get my hands on then.  I still have the first three Super Mario Bro. games, three of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle games, Legend of Zelda, Link, Tetris, Dr. Mario, Faxanadu, Lemmings and a handful of other games.  I remember renting some from the video rental store too.  Unfortunately, my mom didn’t quite realize that video games were good for me to be playing and would either limit my time severely, or grounded me from them when I did something wrong.

Eventually, I got into competitive artistic rollerskating and ironically, this got me deeper into gaming.  Roller skating rinks have arcade games.  I’d take breaks and challenge folks to Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.  I didn’t know the combos.  I didn’t know all the stuff that all the boys were saying.  I just pressed buttons and won, which frustrated them to no end.  I could play with one quarter to their 10 or more and not lose. Unfortunately, I doubt that would still be the case today.  Just not as quick as I used to be.

But I was hooked on games for fun from a very young age.  When I got a computer, I had a few very basic games on it.  When we got a better one, we got a few better games. Then when I was in college, I was introduced to Ultima Online, Everquest, Star Wars Galaxies, etc. And unlike  many girls (or guys who were acting like girls), I didn’t advertise the fact that I was a female behidn my characters . I played to play the game, not to get free stuff from gullible men.

But the question remains, why do I play video games? And the answer is similar to what it was when I was 5: Video games are fun.  They provide an escape from the real world.

Now, I admit, fun is the most important part behind playing games now.  Add in the fact I have written for game sites for the past five years or so, have worked with gaming communities and have helped, most recently, with the International Video Game Hall of Fame, video games are becoming more than just a hobby.  It’s a part of my life.   Something I hope continues to be a part of my life, and my family’s life for years to come.

So why do I game?  Why not?

What is your favorite flash game?

anti farmville
anti farmville

When you have to stare at a computer screen all day there are a number of things you can do you alleviate the boredom and one of those things is to play a flash game. Perhaps originally flash games was just something you did when you couldn’t play another game that requiring installation or a higher end PC, but now-a-days flash games have become a part of the gamers vocabulary. With social media, specifically Facebook, flash games have spawned their own gamers and fans. Some people only play flash games and nothing else.

Personally, my flash game play only happens when I’m not on a gaming system or have a handheld nearby. Honestly, with the games one can find on their own phones you would think flash games would either need to be ported to phones or would slowly die out.

So let’s take a look at a few flash games. We’ll start with one of my favorites.

The Falling Sand Game

Like many flash games the premise is simple. You have various types of “sand” that fall from above and you can interact with it using various other elements and items such as water, oil, fire. You can build pipes and walls to capture the sand or you can create a fireball by igniting oil or grow moss by adding water. Pretty much that is it, but trust me, it get addictive and is great fun.

Portal: The Flash Version

If you don’t know what portal is get off my website, seriously, go. If you are still here this is a pretty awesome portal flash game, too bad it is not made by Value Software. Pretty much it is just a scaled down version of the real portal and I found it puzzles not as hard to solve, but it was a fun and well put together game.

So those are a few of my favorites, let’s see what the panel thinks.

Danielle Davis from Zombie Studios wrote:

Robot Unicorn Attack

There have been many flash games over the years that have sucked up endless minutes of my time, but the one that immediately pops into mind has to be the level 11 glitter-fabulous cotton-candy-licious monstrosity Robot Unicorn Attack. Extremely simple and addictive gameplay, pink dolphins, butterfly fairies, rainbows, sparkly giant stars, Erasure soundtrack, and of course, a majestic magical robotic unicorn… now if you’ll excuse me I need to take my diabetes medication…

Juan Gril from JoJu Games wrote:

Space Disposal


Seppo Helava from Self Aware Games wrote:

Fleck

Fleck zombies flash game
Fleck zombies flash game

A Gamer Girls Experience

GAMER GIRL
GAMER GIRL

I’m not sure why being a gamer and a girl is such a strange concept for so many people, but being a female gamer, I’ve been met with a lot of different reactions. Especially from other women who think I’m either a cheap floozie trying to get laid or an inept social outcast nerd who couldn’t get a paid date. That would at least explain why I would spend time trying to accomplish a goal (albeit in a game) instead of brushing my hair in the mirror 100 times.

I grew up the same way as most other people have and didn’t have brothers in my house to steer me towards gaming. I’ve always had waves of wanting to play games and then putting them on the back burner. I remember begging my parents at Kmart to buy me Super Nintendo when it came out and playing for hours on end. I loved going to the Laundromat and playing Street Fighter, Pac Man, etc. If you heard the bee-like sound in Galaga, you knew you had to step your game up. I remember daydreaming about getting over 500 pounds of meat when hunting in Oregon Trail, but it would never come to fruition. I would figure these memories would be the same for most children, female and male, but I guess they’re not.

When high school hit, I focused on dating, my job, my future, and a whole mess of other things I probably shouldn’t have been focusing on. It wasn’t until I dated a gamer in my 20s that my love for gaming was rekindled. I will admit, it started small with crap like Mario Party and Super Monkey Ball. Then it moved to WoW and as much as I sucked against the people I played, I loved Dark Stalkers and Marvel vs. Capcom. I still play WoW when I have the time (and a functional computer) and the most expensive purchase that I’ve made in the past 2 years was a PS3 for which I’ve bought and played a number of games with it (mostly RPG, but whatever-at least it’s not a Wii). Even though I have moved on from the world of dating gamers, I still have a love for gaming and appreciate the medium.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if the women that criticize female gamers look to their past, I’m pretty sure they’ll find that they too enjoyed some game in their youth, even if it was something as shitty as a Polly Pocket interactive cd. That and they probably need to get laid. By a gamer.

Games for Girls?

Do you really want to see a new achievement every time your girl finds a lost black sheep? If you are one of those guys stupid enough to share your Facebook account with your girl you are gonna look like a complete and total loser.~J.A. Laraque

Games for Girls?

You might wonder why I added the question mark at the end and the reason is because I am not sure if these games are really the ones girls enjoy and play the most, but after doing some research it appears many girl games put these games on their top list.

games 4 girls

So here is how this is going to work. You will get three first takes from me. The first take is the general take on the game. The second take is the positive friendly take and finally the third take is the evil chauvinistic take. Enjoy

The Sims

General: The Sims allows gamers to control their in-game avatar and pretty much everything around them including the house and everything inside it. This game is like taking care of a pet, but the pet is human. The Sim’s offers tons of gameplay options, add-on’s and simple yet interesting fun.

The Nice: The Sims is perfect for women to show their creative side. Let’s face it, 9 times out of 10 a girls is better at creating and running a home than a guy and they have that maternal instinct and strength of will to take care of the Sim.

The Evil: This is the perfect training vessel for future domestic servitude. The only problem with the Sims is she might think you will actually buy all the crap she fills her virtual house with. Perhaps dating sites should have a built in Sim’s game because depending on how the house and the SIm she created is presented could tell you a lot about the woman and her crazy factor. This game is also good because it keeps you busy while you play manly games like Gears of War.

Farmville

General: The Facebook game where you run a farm. You can plant all types of crops and build your farm up to be pretty big. There is also a social aspect where you can trade food and supplies and there are tons of little gifts and events through the year.

The Nice: This is a pretty good intro game if your girl has never played games and strangely enough it can make your World of Warcraft quests seem a lot less stupid when she is collecting dough to bake a pie. The social aspect is great as she can share her achievements with friends and the game runs on almost any PC.

The Evil: Do you really want to see a new achievement every time your girl finds a lost black sheep? If you are one of those guys stupid enough to share your Facebook account with your girl you are gonna look like a complete and total loser. Also, think of all the real chores she could be doing around the house instead of on a virtual farm and finally, 7 out of 10 Farmville players can barely cook in real life, down home indeed!

Dance Dance Revolution

General: Before Rock Band or Guitar Hero there was DDR, the game where you have to dance (or step) to the beat to achieve points. This game is fun in a group and can serve as a good workout as well. All you need is a little room and a love for music and you’re set.

The Nice: Forget Wii Fit at least with DDR you can have some interesting music while shaking it to the beat. Just imagine the love of your life shaking it on the dance floor just for you. This is a great game to team up together and have some fun before you show off your skills to your friends.

The Evil: If you combine bad J-Pop with the lack of rhythm your girl has you are in for a world of hurt. You will be forced to watch the painful display of your woman flailing around the living room knocking things over only to have to tell her she did well. Honestly, the thing to do is bypass all this and get her that sexy stripper pole workout thing. At least with that you can YouTube it and become an internet star.

Mario Kart

General: Go Cart racing at its finest. Mario Kart puts the character of Super Mario Bros. behind the wheel where you can race across a ton of different lands from the Mario universe. The gameplay is fun and the tracks are beautifully designed. This is a great game for all ages and skill types.

The Nice: Mario Kart is the kind of game that will little practice you can become good at it and it is designed to give you friendly competition. Girls will like the Mario world and the cute characters like the princess and Yoshi and will get into the gameplay that offers a scalable challenge without being harsh on first timers.

The Evil: Remember how bad your girl played Super Mario Bros.? How she would contort her whole body when trying to turn or jump the character. Do you really want to put another woman behind the wheel and worst yet she will want you to play. Now the question is do you own her in the game and sleep on the couch or let her win and listen to her playful ribbing for the next 20 years. What if she beats you fair and square, what then, you know murder is illegal right?

World of Warcraft

General: The ultimate MMO. You can create a character from a list of races and classes and play in an immense world of fantasy. Not only will you have tons of things to do, but tons of people to do it with. World of Warcraft can be almost anything you want from a challenging experience to a social outlet where you cook and search for treasure. Seriously, everyone is playing this.

The Nice: Sure it may take some time to get her started in the World of Warcraft if she was never before a gamer, but it can be worth it. If you are a fan of the game then the best thing is to have the person you love spending time with you loving something else you like spending time with. Plus, most girls pick support classes and are notorious for finishing all the quests and events so that can come in very handy for you and maybe even your guild.

The Evil: Do you really want to be a teacher? Honestly, you are looking at three outcomes. One, she will never get the game right and make you look bad and bother you all the time to help her. Two, she will quit out of frustration and hate you for it, but she won’t dump you, oh no, she will force you to quit the game. Third, she becomes too good at the game and it takes over her life even more than it does yours. Her holy priest is picked over your hunter in the guild you helped to create and so she is turning you down for sex so she can finish all the holiday quests. See, this is why you live alone as long as humanly possible.

Do you see what I did there?

All joking aside there will always be games that appeal to one segment of the populous over the other, but is there really such a thing as a girl’s game anymore? I have seen and know many women of various ages that enjoy all games from the Farmville’s to the Call of Duties. Boys will most likely dominate gaming for the foreseeable future, but in that sea of testosterone you will find gamer girls doing the same thing we do, kicking ass and getting our asses kicked.

Games and the XX Chromosome

xx chromosomes
xx chromosomes

I’m normal, I swear. I get up every morning, have something to eat, shower, go to work, come home. However, instead of planning a new outfit, painting my nails, or going shopping; I pop in a video game. Does that make me so different?

According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) “Forty percent of all players are women and women over 18 years of age are one of the industry’s fastest growing demographics.  Today, adult women represent a greater portion of the game-playing population (33 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (20 percent).”

So why is it still such a shock to see a woman enjoying some good old fashioned interactive virtual fun? Why does the stereotype still exist? Is it because the games themselves sustain female stereotypes? Is it the social awkwardness of the typical male who chooses the video game as their media of choice? Or, is it the gaming industry that tries to paint this idyllic view of their manly models playing their games in ads?

Oh, I’ve heard it all before. “But chicks only play the cutesy and lame games.” “Girls only play for their men.” Not so, in fact, a significant number of women are out there playing MMOs, FPSs, and RTSs. And according to the ESA “the average female gamer plays games 7.4 hours per week.” So why is it that people still think that games are a male dominated arena?

It’s because the game development is still predominantly male. “Studies have shown that nearly 9 in 10 workers in the industry are men.” However, when girls are exposed to games early enough (like their male counterparts) they can see game development as a viable career option. The more we play and the more we get behind games, the more we can broaden the gamer image.

Games are everywhere now, from smart phones to Facebook. And with the Microsoft Kinect, the game world has expanded to include those who have always shied away from complicated button controllers. Sooner or later we will all become gamers as the media shifts from static entertainment to interactive. And the days of the all male gamer stereotype will fade away. And we’ll all be able to bask in the glow of our favorite electronic media!