Portal 2, and Three Reasons Why I Don’t Like Sequels

This isn’t about how I don’t like Portal 2. Tomorrow (or perhaps earlier?) will be a historic day in my life. Not just because I’ll be playing Portal 2, but because it will be the first time in I-don’t-know-how-many years that I’ll actually play a game on its launch date. I barely ever pay full price for games anymore, much less preorder them. With that said, I don’t think I need to go into further detail how extremely excited I am for Portal 2.

I want to emphasize that fact so that the rest of this post isn’t misinterpreted as being critical of Portal, or any specific game. The release of Portal 2 however works well as an opportunity to discuss sequels in general, and why I almost always dislike them. →  Words are the towns and cities of letters.

iPod Gaming Report

Now that I have owned an iPod Touch for several months, I figured it was time to come back and report on the iOS gaming experience. The only problem is that there hasn’t been much of an experience to speak of. I bought quite a few games, most of them highly acclaimed, and only played a handful of them. This is, in a way, a good thing. Since the games were so cheap, I didn’t waste more than a few bucks on bad purchases, and it taught me quite a bit about this brave new world of gaming.

Specifically, it is no different than the old one. Just like with the Xbox, the Wii, or the PSP, iOS devices have the potential for both great and awful games. More importantly, the same decisions which can lead to good or bad games on those “traditional” platforms are also in effect in iOS land. →  Fire Post Wrestling Returns

Weekend in Review – Weekends Happen Once a Year

Sometimes Pat and Jay hang out and play video games. These are the chronicles of Pat and Jay hanging out and playing video games. Here are some of the old chronicles of Pat and Jay hanging out playing video games: Some month a long time ago, some month less a long time ago.

Project Berkley – No obsessive Shenmue fan’s collection is complete without the Japanese release of Virtua Fighter 3tb, since it came with a disc of scenes and interviews about the making of Shenmue (codenamed Project Berkley during development). Neither of us speak Japanese, but we were lucky enough to be joined by Jay’s girlfriend, who also doesn’t speak Japanese.

Pat: Not much to say. There is some good character concept art, and the Shenmue music always makes me wistful, but without knowledge of what Yu was saying this almost felt more like something we should do than anything else. →  READ3R

Potent Portables

So both Sony and Nintendo have revealed their next generation handhelds. I suppose it is time for new hardware in the portable space, though considering I only got a PSP in 2007 (and a DS in ’08), these launches still feel premature based on my own time with them. I’ll probably treat the 3ds and PSP 2 the same way I did their predecessors — I’ll largely ignore them, and wait for the price drop, the hardware to be revised, and the software library to improve before I make any move. In the dedicated console space, hardware revisions don’t mean too much (I don’t know anyone who is embarrassed for having an original 360, and people are proud of OG PS3’s), but with portables they can make a huge difference. And considering both Sony and Nintendo are pushing the boundaries of what should be considered an acceptable price for a portable, it is getting more and more risky to beta test 1st gen hardware. →  Densha de Read! Shinkansen

Humble Bundle

Earlier this year, the head of independent developer Wolfire Games approached his friends and contacts in the games community with the idea that they should offer their games on a “pay what you want” basis. The Humble Indie Bundle, which included indie darling Gish and my beloved World of Goo, went on sale in May and, despite many people offering $0.01 for the collection, raised over $1.2 million (almost $400,000 of which went to charity). The sale was such a success they decided to try it all over again with the Humble Indie Bundle 2, which is available for the next few days.

If getting a handful of great games for well under their retail price doesn’t sell you, and you are the type who does not feel compelled to support the indie scene from which our medium sees so much of its heart and innovation, know that you can allocate your payment for the bundle to charity and screw those greedy indie devs! →  Did I do that?

iOS Gaming Thoughts, Part 1

Warning – this is a rambling rant, based on little experience. It is all speculation on my part – I’m not saying these things will happen, merely musing on what it could mean it they did. Don’t take it too seriously.

As I mentioned on the VL Twitter feed, I now have an iPod Touch. I guess that means I should take a serious look at some iOS games.

I’ve mentioned it briefly in the past, but I’ve been a supporter of iOS gaming, even if I haven’t played on it. The hardware is powerful and plentiful, and the motion control/touch screen combo can be used to great advantage by clever developers. I can’t see it ever replacing my DS or PSP, but it will definitely live along side them.

That being said, I don’t think the platform is all sunshine and rainbows. →  What is a post? A miserable little pile of secrets.

When are graphics good enough?

In an old Edge column, Mr. Biffo commented that he remembers thinking that at a certain point in console history graphics became good enough. Meaning that at whatever point he picked, the release of the 3DO, say, graphical fidelity in games ceased being an issue. Art could be better or worse, of course, but all in all games simply looked good enough.

This era of good enough began for me in 1999 with the release of the Dreamcast. Early 3D looked kind of terrible and even the PS1/Saturn/N64 games with “good” graphics make my eyes bleed today, but Sega’s early jump into the 4th generation (that’s 4th going by Japanese consoles I care about, starting with the NES/SMS) gave us mature looking 3D that still looks good today.

Compare a good looking PS1 game:

To a good looking Dreamcast game:

Trying to prove my subjective position is correct is less interesting though than the basic concept that to some people graphics become simply good enough at a certain point. →  Uncharted Waters: New Horeadin’s

The Ride of Your Life

Gran Turismo 5 is out now, after years of development time and a daunting number of delays, including a few last minute announcements which left retailers stuck with incorrect ads and preorder cards, and no reliable information for customers as to when they can expect the game .  The end result is that the biggest release in Sony’s most iconic franchise is being met with confusion and ambivalence.

After all this, the question is simple – was it worth it?  The jury’s still out, but the early reviews are coming in, and the good ones all express the same common feeling about the game, even if some of the final scores are typically inflated.  Specifically, the general sentiment seems to be that Gran Turismo 5 has made huge improvements in driver AI and cornering physics, but by trying to cram so much into a single game, the total package feels at once both overwhelming and underdeveloped.  →  An article approaches.
- Read
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Gadgets and games – when to move on?

One of the nicest things about this console generation has been the lack of concern over the next generation. At the very least it demonstrates that the industry isn’t entirely insane. Microsoft might have put the original Xbox to bed too quickly, but at least its successor, the 360, has been in it for the long haul. Game consoles are damn expensive, and it is a nice feeling to be able to go several years worrying only about what games you want to buy next, rather than how you will be able to afford another “investment” of several hundred dollars.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before some writer decided it was time to declare this generation dead, and this small essay is one of the first pieces I have seen so far. →  Game is dead. Game remains dead. And we have killed it.

Medal of Honor and Today’s Market

The new Medal of Honor game is out this week.  The reviews have been wishy washy at best, the sales will probably not reach Call of Duty levels, and once again, we should have all seen this coming.

A game like Medal of Honor is frustrating for me.  I can see what it is striving to achieve (aside from make EA money), and I know it is an impossible goal.  The most heavily hyped aspect of the project was how it was made with input from elite soldiers who took place in some of the earliest operations in the current war in Afghanistan.  There are stories to be told there, and I believe that the developers wanted to tell them. But at the same time, they had to ensure that their single player campaign was long enough to satisfy consumer desires, and flashy enough to emulate that Hollywood movie feel.  →  Read Danger!

Opinion – Final Fantasy 13

For weeks, I have been trying to write something, anything, about Final Fantasy 13, but the task has proven difficult.  One reason is that anything worth saying about the game has been stated already, and by better writers.  Another is that I continue to suffer from the longest period of writer’s block I have ever encountered.  Recently, I came to a third conclusion about my struggles; you can’t say much about a game that itself has no point. That’s the best way I can describe FF13.  It exists as multiple pieces and components, none of which work together to create a unified experience.

This problem runs throughout the entire product.  Take the environments, for example.  They serve no purpose beyond offering the player a new color palette every few hours.  →  Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘Game Over.’

Runegate – When Sales Beats Common Sense

Riot Games finally released a feature for League of Legends that has been begged for since the game’s inception: additional rune pages. For those of you who aren’t familiar, runes are one of the metagame features in League of Legends that allows you to customize your gameplay. You get a series of different slots, and can purchase runes that buff various attributes of your character: movespeed, damage, mana, health, etc. This enables additional strategy for the game, and runes can only be purchased via “Influence Points,” a currency that is only earned by playing the game (win or loss), as opposed to “Riot Points” which are only gained through real money transactions.

Up until yesterday, players only got two pre-set rune pages to choose from in a match. This is quite limiting, as many runes are only useful on certain archetypes: for example, mage oriented ability power runes vs. →  Xenosaga 2: Jenseits von Gut und Pöst

Sounds

I may have already mentioned ALREADY JESUS CHRIST ALREADY GET OFF MY BACK MOM ALREADY! That I am a big fan of video game soundtracks. Be it the official tunes, an inspired remix and very occasionally I even allow songs which have merely sampled an OT to creep onto the MP3 player. PRO TIP: Never ever, ever be tempted to listen to a video game related song which has been filed under the ‘comedy’ or ‘humorous’ genres. They are almost exclusively 11 year old boys who sound like girls on helium doing the first season Pokemon theme tune. Tetris remixes aside, of which team videolamer are veritable connoisseurs, I do like hard copy soundtracks. They are often objects of beauty as well as magically trapping the music onto a disk.

 →  All I want for Christmas is my PSP.

The New Xbox 360

The release of the newest version of the Xbox 360 came right before I prepared to move to my own apartment, where my roomate’s console would be unavailable for the first time in several years.  Perfect timing I guess, though there are always caveats with console hardware revisions, ones which make all the new features a little less exciting. Rather than research what these might be, I decided to buy the new 360 blind.  Here is what I have found:

– Microsoft continues to rip off their pals at Sony and Nintendo when convenient.   The new hardware has a touch sensor for the power button and disc eject, and it makes beeps when turned on and off.  That makes it work pretty much like a PS3, and when placed next to one, it kind of looks like a cancerous growth with a radioactive green glow to it. →  Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Bore me and I sleep.

Features for Monster Hunter 4

I try to deny it but I may have secretly been interested because it’s on the Wii and as any Wii game review on most major sites will tell you over and over again the system lacks a plethora of high-quality third-party titles. Maybe it’s just that I don’t have a PSP and the series has always somewhat appealed to me. Whatever the case, I think Pat put it best when he said, “I thought the game would be fun because we could play online together but it’s legitimately a good game.” I agree, Monster Hunter is better than I expected.

Still, there are a few things Capcom could have done better to really capture that hunting spirit (I say this from a position of absolute authority as I have never been hunting in my life). →  [left click on your mouse to open the remainder of this post in your web browser on your digital computing device]

PSP RIP

It finally happened.  After almost three years of excessive abuse and fairly steady play, my PSP-1000 has reached the point of no return.  It still runs, but not well, and at this point I don’t think I’ll ever get it to read Memory Sticks.

Rather than try to fix the damn thing, I decided to replace it whole hog with a brand new 3000.  Normally I’d be the first to smack myself for such a sudden lack of fiscal prudence, but when I have 20 games for a console, with more coming, I tend to lose the urge to shop around (at least at a certain price point).

Anyway, I’m enjoying the new 3000 quite a bit.  I can see the screen problems that gamers have reported whenever it plays a 2d game, but I haven’t played enough of them  to determine whether this will be a true detriment.  →  What can change the nature of a post?

A Lazy E3 Summary

This E3 was, in some ways, a reversal of what most gamers expected. Typically, we see everyone clamor over whether Sony or Microsoft came out on top, while we all wonder how Nintendo continues to bumble their way to success. This time around Nintendo schooled everyone, while both MS and Sony looked lost in their own ways. At least, that’s the general consensus that I have seen. From my perspective, Nintendo certainly did better, but I can’t say that anyone has lit my fire.

Breaking them down in order, Microsoft continued to slowly ape every successful feature on the Wii, while trying to find some angle with which to convince everyone that they have made it as good or better. The Kinect motion device is still in the same position as it was when it was called Project Natal: great potential that still hasn’t passed muster outside of a controlled environment. →  Four out of five dentists recommend reading more.

Quick Take – Devil May Cry 4

Recently I finished playing Devil May Cry 4. Well, not finished finished, but I got through the final boss’ first form before giving up on the bullshit that happens immediately afterward. This game got quite a lukewarm reception when it first came out, and I wanted to see whether these critics were full of shit. As it turns out, they kind of were, in the sense that the game does more than it was given credit for. At the same time, it screws up in enough important ways that the level of quality attributed to it is about right. So I guess that makes it a wash, but there are still some ideas I’d like to discuss.

My first observation while playing DMC4 is that the new character, Nero, is not simply a change made for the sake of it. →  I regret learning to read.

The Epicest Clash Ever

Scholars have argued for hundreds of years over which belief system is the best and the jury is still out on the definitive answer. Is it the system with the most money? The system with the most followers? The system that fits in with current knowledge of how the universe works or is it the belief system that advocates fiddling blind kids and Africa dying from the AIDS? Sure, we’ve had global conflicts over some of these issues and even then the winner couldn’t be definitively decided. Now, however, through the invention of the Nintendo Wii, we can create the greatest match up of all time ever and finally see who is the best*.

Introducing the competitors:

Yes ladies and gentlemen here they are, four of the most influential people of all time. →  It’s dangerous to read alone, take this.

Making Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Truly Rule

There are a whopping two arcade machine series on Earth that I can beat consistently on one purchase, regardless of sequel number or difficulty setting: Soul Caliber and Marvel vs. Capcom.

The key to Soul Caliber, you see, is Maxi and his awesome ability to start spinning his nunchuks, never pausing for a break as he beats the sweet bejeebus out of any and all opponents. Just mash the buttons, bimbo. Why didn’t you think of that?

And Marvel vs. Capcom 2? Iron Man, War Machine and Cable will destroy any and all challengers from their cozy little far corner of the screen, sending a constant and unfair barrage of projectile after projectile at those who dare to cross them.

Am I excited about the announcement of Marvel vs. Capcom 3? →  It’s time to read and chew bubblegum… and I’m all outta gum.