What counts as cheating?

A few days ago, the Washington Post ran a short article on cheating in video games. Because people tend to prefer things to be simplified rather than made more complex, the piece doesn’t attempt to define cheating. But because people also tend to prefer exciting hyperbole, the article proclaims, “Here’s the ugly, sometimes dirty, often-overlooked truth in games: Everyone cheats.”

The guy the Post interviews says things like, “I don’t play games to necessarily play the game, I play it for the story line. I play it for the mechanics. I play it for the graphics.” Profound. I don’t listen to music to listen to the music, I listen to hear the melody, the harmony, the rhythm, and the timbre. The article also reports that games of yore are easier to beat than modern games. →  Sounds mildly entertaining, I guess.

Howard Stringer and the Sony Machine

So Wired.com has an article discussing Sony and how much they are betting on the Playstation 3 and it really got me thinking. The press, as well as gamers themselves, love to fling insults at Kaz Hirai, Phil Harrison, and Ken Kutaragi (many well deserved). However, there’s one name that is rarely dropped, though this man is arguably even more detrimental to Sony. I’m talking about Howard Stringer.

If you don’t know, Stringer is the current head honcho over at Sony. He also happens to come from the content side of the company. This is dangerous. Sony made their name on great hardware made by talented, motivated engineers. That same spirit is what led Kutaragi to make the Playstation in the first place. With Stringer at the helm, we’ve got a PS3 that insists on Blu Ray and insists on being an even bigger all-in-one media machine. →  Destroy All Articles! 2

Games that shed a tear

The issue of whether or not a video game can make us cry has been tackled several times in the past, but the issue has still not been given its due. Can video games truly impact a player with a fury of emotion, causing them to cry? Depending on the game, I say yes.

Many people say that games are wholly incapable of causing emotion in people, as seen in Margaret Robertson’s speech at this year’s Edinburgh Interactive Entertainment Festival. She cites games that made her feel a lot of emotion, but states that video games as a whole are not emotional. They’re just ones and zeroes. The players are the source of the emotion, and that you have to tap into their emotion to get a response. She seems to paint a picture that designers are not adept at doing this just yet. →  Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty article.

Bugs!!!

However horrendous they may be, bugs and glitches are generally accepted in PC games. This is both because computers vary so drastically that consumers understand making everything work properly with all hardware configurations would be a Herculean task, and also because we have learned to bend over and take it. “Here’s my $50, can I have a game that won’t work for a month until you patch it? Thanks.” So I may still be slightly bitter about bugs in PC games, but nothing prepared me for game breaking bugs in current console games.

I read that Champions of Norrath was rushed and that it was slightly buggy but I didn’t foresee game ending problems. When my roommate and I somehow managed to allow a solid wall to come between us (by my teleportation through rock), the game seemed lost. →  What is word? Baby don’t read me.

The Propaganda Project: Reggie Fils Aime

Reggie Fils Aime – President Nintendo of America

Nintendo’s American President does not come from a gaming background. He was hired to compete with the bullshit artists at the other companies. Iwata is too Japanese and not in our faces enough to handle an American audience that seems to enjoy being lied to. Enter Reggie. For each new entry, I seem to invent new categories of quotes. Reggie should be honored to know that in reading transcripts of his I couldn’t help but create the “Marketing vomit” category specifically for him. Although Allard was pretty vomitty, too.

(For an explanation of what this article is, please read this.)
___________________________________
Bitchy comments
Microsoft has made the comment that people can buy an Xbox 360 and Wii for about the same price as a PlayStation 3. →  The gamers have only interpreted the games, in various ways. The point, however, is to change them.

Review – Nanostray

While somewhat unpopular with the general populace, shooters seem to be a favorite genre of a few of us here at Videolamer. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that shooters are more old school than just about any other genre out there. The qualities that make up a good shooter really have not changed over the past couple decades. You control one ship against a horde of enemies, and only your guns and manual dexterity can save you. Good shooters differentiate themselves from mediocre shooters through subtle gameplay differences such as finely tuned balance and difficulty. Power-ups are often included, but are non-essential (as Ikaruga has demonstrated). All that is really required are impossible odds and a screen crowded with lasers.

Pipes in a shooter haven’t looked this great since Axelay.

 →  You lost me.

Weekly News We Care About Wrap Up – 8.25.06

Game testing company founded by ex-Lionhead guy
The outsourcing of game testing has the potential to prevent computer games (and some console games) from shipping despite being riddled with bugs. I doubt this new company will have a facility like I described in this article — a huge building with a thousand computers each with varying graphics cards, processors, operating systems and viruses caught from downloading porn. Even so, Testology is a good step forward.

It is slightly depressing on at least one level, though. Think of your favorite tiny developer. Now, imagine a world where all testing is outsourced. Realize you can never get a job at this tiny developer you love oh so much. Now weep.

You are not individual enough for the light blue DSL.

Pink and black DSLites coming to America
Says the press release,

“…the new colors just add another element of fun, allowing people to ‘personalize’ who they are by the color, or colors they pick.” →  All you need is read.

Best Game Ever – Xevious

A blaring chorus of trumpets signifies the launch of your Solvalou fighter, followed by an endless loop of piano keys. And so begins Xevious, one of the best and most important shoot ’em ups of all time.

Take this you mother…ship!

Xevious is actually quite different from some of its predecessors. Previous efforts from Namco, such as Galaxian and Galaga, were similar to Space Invaders. They gave the player very limited freedom of movement and a slow ass little laser, a put them against wall after wall of foes. Xevious is a very early example of the modern ‘schmup. You can fly in any direction on the bottom half of the screen (albeit slowly). Enemies also begin to use more modern tactics. Rather than relying on sheer numbers to overpower you, they use speed and firepower. →  May God smite me if I stop reading here!

Logitech Wireless controllers eat it

Logitech wireless controllers may look cool, but my experience with them has been quite disappointing. Hoping to make all my gaming as convenient as Game Cube sessions, I spent $40 a pop on three Logitech controllers, two PS2 and one Xbox. Before spending money I check out a product’s reviews and this purchase was no exception. Everyone seemed quite satisfied with the wireless controllers and people touted the merits of the Logitech brand; they were no Mad Katz.

It turns out they’re no Nintendo, either. The Logitech controllers lose their connection significantly more frequently than the Nintendo made Wavebird controllers. Often this amounts to a mild annoyance but sometimes, depending on what I’m playing, it can lead to near instant death. It’s hard to gauge, but I think the PS2 controllers crap out a lot more than the Xbox one, but that may just be because I play my PS2 much more than my Xbox. →  Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing memory cards.

Life as a Game Tester: Episode 1

Hello everyone! I’m here to introduce to you to a new segment on videolamer that delves into a part of the industry that is rather unknown: Quality Assurance. It’s no picnic, I can assure you, but I wanted to spill the beans on what it takes to be a game tester, seeing how I am one. Through these articles, I’m going to try to open your eyes to how the games industry operates, and maybe let you decide if it really is something to pursue as a career. Not many companies actually detail how they go about day-to-day business, so I’m here to help you out a little. I don’t know how long this will go for, as I’m not sure if it’s entirely legal to talk about some of this stuff, but I really don’t care. →  Just read it.

Games as Art II

A vast majority of game reviews are done methodically. Games have been broken down into a handful of components and each of these is generally given a numeral rating. The bare set of qualities examined is typically gameplay, graphics, sound, and control but more elaborate reviews may include music and sound effects separately as well as longevity, difficulty, and tilt or slant. Some reviews even attempt to quantify fun.

Keeps nerds clean.

Other art is generally not torn apart in such a mechanical way. Aspects of a painting, novel or film that are particularly good or bad are usually mentioned but very few movie critics give individual ratings to screen play, dialog, acting, camera work, sets, lighting, editing, costume, stunt choreography, etc. So why do we review games the way we do? →  There is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is games.

Review – Phoenix Wright

Phoenix Wright has turned into somewhat of a cult classic in the past few months. I remember hearing about Phoenix Wright in Japan (named the Gyakuten Saiban series) for the GBA back in the day. The games (there are three in total) were immensely popular, going straight to the top of the charts. I really didn’t understand why, though. I just thought it was a Japanese thing, like those pachinko and horse betting games they have there. I mean, how fun can it be to play as a lawyer? Apparently, pretty damn fun.

On the outset, Phoenix Wright is merely a point-and-click text adventure. It’s heavily based on its storyline, well, because pointing and clicking is as fun as milking a cow (not to make fun of Harvest Moon fans). If the story wasn’t solid, the game would fall flat on its face, and thankfully, Phoenix Wright doesn’t disappoint. →  Beyond Read & Evil

Weekly News We Care About Wrap Up – 8.18.06

World Games is another awesome/terrible Epyx title.

Classic Epyx games coming to current consoles
Impossible Mission and California Games remakes coming to the Wii, DS and PSP and they’ll be in 2d. Now I can finally finish Impossible Mission, let’s just hope it doesn’t have a bug in it like the Atari version (the bug made the game unbeatable). California Games should be very interesting because it’s debatable that the original was actually a piece of shit. Through the glasses of nostalgia I remember the game quite fondly but it’s true that the actual gameplay is similar to Wario Wares, only minus the creativity, humor and instead of 105 there are 5 games to play.

“Classic” Electronic Arts compilation coming to the PSP
What’s this, another compilation featuring games from my beloved C64? →  Readout 3: Takedown

Review – Perfect Dark Zero

If you, or anyone else you know, still needs proof that Rare has become irrelevant, then I suggest you find a way to play Perfect Dark Zero. There is no doubt in my mind that any and all talent that may have existed at the company left a long time ago. All that is left are either old relics who have failed to change with the times (which can happen when your games take half a decade to complete), or perhaps new faces that are too afraid to do anything but imitate those that came before them. Forget the fact that this debuted on a next generation console; Perfect Dark Zero is a design that was irrelevant before even Halo came along. I can only imagine the meetings that may have gone on in Microsoft’s secret lair. →  You think about everything.

Review – Civilization IV: Warlords

Is that the Great Wall of China surrounding your civilization or are you just happy to see me?

Because I (and most other gamers) am incredibly weak willed, the expansion for the fantastic Civilization 4 was something I was going to buy regardless of reviews, and regardless of quality. Although it won’t win any awards, the Warlord expansion gets the job done and is a worthy buy. And worse, because of fundamental changes to the game setup (much for the better), if you’re a Civ player, you undoubtedly have already shelled out the money to buy the expansion by now (once again making one of my reviews irrelevant within the first paragraph, I’m batting 0 for 2 here these days). But, for this site’s sake, I suppose I’ll write a review anyway. →  Get lame or get out.

The Power of Music

Music is the one power that the majority of developers never seem to grasp and implement correctly. Music in a game can enhance every aspect, be it story, setting, mood, or even gameplay, but for some reason, it always takes a back seat to everything else in a game, especially the graphics.

Kondo: the Japanese French Stewart?

Let me give you an example of how music, implemented to its fullest, can be beneficial to a game’s overall feeling. Shadow of the Colossus. How epic and strong did you feel when that music kicked in, when you finally started climbing the back of one of those monstrous Colossi? You felt something, didn’t you? It wasn’t visual feedback that created that feeling, or the fact that you overcame a puzzle. It was the pounding musical score that drove adrenaline through you. →  SaGa Frontier Readmastered

The Propaganda Project: J Allard

J Allard — Corporate Vice Presient, Microsoft

Empowerment to the next level, Allard is a PR guy who really loves clichés that push the envelope. Luckily, he seems to be grounded in what makes games good as he has said many times that graphics are a single component and not necessarily important. He also frequently says he wants to expand the market, mirroring Nintendo’s stated goal. Because dirt on Allard was significantly harder to find than on Harrison, some of the quote categories have been left out and I even added a new one: Inspirational.

(For an explanation of what this article is, please read this.)
___________________________________
Bitchy Comments
Some people say the Xbox 360 looks the same as other systems. That it is just more of the same, just more powerful than the other systems. →  Read Dead Redemption

Weekly News We Care About Wrap Up – 8.11.06

Handheld gaming devices are now terrorist weapons
Now I’ll need to build a steam powered gaming device for my trip to England. I was really looking forward to playing Al Qaeda’s Touch Terror and the Taliban’s Death to Americhat on my DS, too. Apparently, US Flights are also banning liquids. I think I’ll debate the flight attendant on how glass can be considered a liquid and therefore the windows must be removed until he decides to ignore me.

If most gamers were nerds who got beaten up as kids, wouldn’t they want to play a game where you beat up bullies instead of a game where you are a bully?

Kotaku talks to anti-bullying guy
In the interview, the anti-bully group guy says that some games shouldn’t be made. George Carlin has said that everything is open to humor and I completely agree with him, only I include more than humor. →  The King of Articles 2002: Unlimited Match

Review – Dragon Quest 8

Dragon Quest 8 is a big game. Big in terms of how much content has been pressed onto the disc, in terms of how popular/hyped (insert appropriate word for your region) it was during release, and in terms of how much of a leap forward it is for the entire series. All in all, this is a frank and clear picture of everything that is right and wrong with this genre 20 years after Dragon Quest helped create it. There’s a lot of ground to cover here, so let’s cut the introductory B.S. and get right to it.

Sometimes, when feeling contemplative, I like to stand high up on this mountain overlooking the forest and think about all of the deep issues this game’s plot doesn’t try to touch.

My knowledge of Dragon Quest is more than a bit rusty, but as far as I know this is the first game in the genre to feature a large, fully realized overworld similar to ones found in MMO’s and games like Morrowind. →  Hey, hey, hey, it’s time to make some crazy reading!

Best Game Ever – Miracle Warriors

I hope you enjoyed that commercial, now on to the article.

In the last Best Game Ever, Pat covered Suikoden, his first RPG. I grew up watching my brother play games like Ys and Phantasy Star on the Master System and Times of Lore and Moebius (both by Origin) for the C64. Because of this, I never really had a “Eureka!” moment when it came to RPGs; they just always sort of existed. After racking my brain for memories, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I played Phantasy Star 2 in ’89 and Dragon Quest in ’90 but still neither of them were my firsts. As far as I can tell, the slightly obscure Miracle Warriors for the Sega Master System has that honor.

For its time, Miracle Warriors had quality presentation. →  Article Hominid