Video game plots must evolve

The importance of video games to human development cannot be overstated. I believe there have been three major inventions that have radically shifted the creative horizons of the human species and the reality we continue to shape for ourselves. The first would be movable type and the advent of the printed word, the second would be motion pictures, and the latest revolutionary intellectual force would be interactivity. Video games and the internet that many of them run on have irreversibly transformed the human race and set our consciousness on an exciting new course of development.

I marvel at the advancements this medium has made in my lifetime. From photo realistic graphics to complex game mechanics to real world physics we are seeing video games mature and match sophistication with the other, older mediums in a relatively short period of time. →  Ba da bam ba baa I’m readin’ it.

Review – Professor Layton and the Curious Village

As the perpetually annoying sidekick Luke’s cockney accent will quickly inform you at the start of the game, Professor Layton and the Curious Village tells the story of the eponymous Professor Layton, renowned puzzle solver, and his apprentice Luke as they investigate the death of the Baron Reinhold in the curious village of St. Mystere (I hear that’s heavy-handed-plot-device-ese for “mystery”). More specifically, Layton is tasked with settling the Baron’s will and finding the enigmatic “golden apple” it references.

Getting to the bottom of this riddle will require interacting with the various townsfolk of St. Mystere– sounds easy, right? Only one one little problem, the people of St. Mystere just love puzzles, and if you want to get anyone to do anything for you chances are you’re going to have to solve a puzzle for them first. →  Do a barrel read!

2008 Game Predictions part 1

2008 promises to be an excellent year for gaming. The 360’s software lineup should remain strong and the Wii and PS3 are coming into their own. From Spore to Metal Gear Solid 4, there will be some huge titles coming out soon, but will they actually live up to the hype?

Based on released information, knowledge of development history and gut feeling, we have chosen some of the games we most look forward to this year and predicted how they will turn out. These should be about as likely to be accurate as any analysts predictions and we charge less.

Golden Jew’s predictions

Civilization Revolution
I’ve written about this already, so this feels cheap and easy (like your… sister?). I stand by my prediction that this will be a good, if not great game. →  Keep it warm.

DS games on the go!

So you have a DS but you don’t have the time to sink into long playing sessions. Or in my case, you have the attention span of a seven year old on crack. The whole concept of the aging process bringing patience is a lie and I’m living proof. When I was ten I could sit for hours and rock Final Fantasy 2 on the SNES, now I can barely sit through a thirty minute session of Phantom Hourglass. I think I am turning into more of a casual gamer and I know for sure that my mind is usually elsewhere when I flip the switch on my black-as-my-soul DS.

This does not mean that I don’t enjoy games anymore; I just don’t get overly involved in most of the games I play. →  Now with fewer vowels.

Review – Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations

I recently went through some effort to prove that most games are entirely about play mechanics and that story and characters are mere dressing. This concept is echoed by some great designers. In On Game Design, Chris Crawford describes interaction as the key to all games — more, deeper interactions make for a better game. Judging by his designs, Miyamoto agrees.

Don’t look at this picture. Too many spoilers.

With this in mind I face a problem. The Phoenix Wright trilogy stands among my favorite games despite their being little more than books on DS carts. And not even Choose Your Own Adventure books that create the illusion of control; there is only one correct thing to do at all points in Ace Attorney, and often you will be forced to run through all items in your inventory in hopes of showing the right someone the right something. →  READ3R

Retrospectives – Metroid Prime

I don’t know about you guys, but with all these Metroid videos popping up all over the place, coupled with the release of three Metroid titles in a three week span (Metroid, Super Metroid on the VC, and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption on the Wii), I have developed full-blown Metroid-fever. GameTrailers has an awesome video retrospective on the entire Metroid series, while Nintendo has been so kind as to relay eight preview videos for the soon-to-be Wii masterpiece, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, right to our very own Wiis.

But then I became a little sad. Corruption is going to end the Prime trilogy as we know it. What happens next, no one knows. Would the series return to 2D adventure like SNES’s opus, Super Metroid? Would it continue the First-Person-Adventure legacy? →  They’re reading her… and then they’re going to read me!

Review – Mr. Robot

I entered into the futuristic world of Mr. Robot with some apprehension. The game is based on a lot of stuff I am not overly fond of; puzzle games, platformers, and robots. I was not too keen on the title of the game, either, because other than Mr. T, who was the last good Mr. Anything you can think of? And so help me, if you dis Mr. T, I do indeed pity you, fool.

The one thing this game had going for it is that it is one of my friend’s all time favorite games and he has very good taste. Mr. Robot sits among legends such as Fallout 2, X-Com, and Katamari Damacy if you were to see the list entitled, “Jim’s All-Time Favorite Games”. So when it was suggested that I take a look at the game and review it I jumped at the chance. →  The only thing we have to read is read itself.

Little things that make a big difference: Visible enemies in RPGs

Playing Chrono Trigger today, I noticed what a nice change of pace being able to see enemies on the screen was. The Saga games may be another RPG that shows bad guys, but that series does it in a way that makes wandering maps akin to a running play in 10 Yard Fight. Chrono’s enemies are different.

Sure, you can avoid many of them, but the little animation they run through pre-battle goes a long way to immerse us in their world. These aren’t invisible baddies who materialize randomly – they’re always out there, even if they’re hiding in the bushes.

Shining the Holy Ark modified this concept of stumbling upon villains in their native environment. Enemies don’t frolic like they do in Chrono Trigger, but rather make an entrance unto the battlefield worthy of a celebrity. →  Now with fewer vowels.

Make my RPG

The RPG Maker XP community can be harsh. Members tend to look down on any game developed using RPG Maker XP that contains the default graphics and music. Not wanting to play a 50th game that uses the exact same character graphics and boss music makes sense.

But then there don’t seem to be 50 finished games. Much of the community expertly ignores a new game if it looks old hat, but games rarely see completion. It doesn’t make much sense why people are so sick of character art they have only seen used in five finished titles, but not wanting to use that character art in their own games is what leads to so few finished products.

I’m afraid their way of thinking is affecting me, too. My RPG Maker game was supposed to be small and contain no original assets. →  You reading at me?

Retrospectives – Suikoden series, part 3

Suikoden IV

The fourth game in the Suikoden series, putting it kindly, is the “black sheep.” It features more realistic graphics, nicer portraits, good voice acting, and a good translation. It takes place in a vast, thalassic island chain, which you roam on impressive Exploration Era-esque warships complete with rune-based cannon.

The sad part is that nearly everything else has jumped ship, so to speak. Though the game is quite pretty on the surface and has all the requisites to be a Suikoden game, it is highly regressive. Konami realized they had struck a “too complex” chord with its audience and took a few too many steps backward in an attempt to make things right.

Take the battle system of Suikoden 1. Remove two characters. Next, remove the row system (so all characters are in a row). →  Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘Game Over.’

Console logos throughout the ages

This year, 2007, marks the 30th anniversary of the Atari 2600 release, which is what many consider to be the very first commercial video game console. And since then, the gaming populace has been privy to 21 major home consoles. To celebrate this momentous year, I have painstakingly researched and categorized each of the 18 home consoles’ logos. Yes, I have nothing else better to do with my time. So, with that in mind, let’s take a quick stroll through history, shall we?

Atari 2600: Here we have the granddaddy of them all: the Atari 2600. I don’t really understand what this logo stands for, but it must mean something cool, as it can still be seen on t-shirts and stickers everywhere. If you’re trying to convey the fact that you’re a retro gamer, you probably have the Atari logo somewhere in your gaming bordello. →  Read Dead Redemption

The current state of fighting games

At the time of this writing, Dead or Alive and Virtua Fighter have released new entries on next generation consoles. Tekken 6 was just announced, and I’m sure it is only a matter of time before we hear something about Soul Calibur 4. It seems that fighting games are doing A-okay on the next gen systems. And yet I still get a sinking feeling about one of my favorite genres. I’m not going to go and make an assertion about fighters being doomed to become as niche as the schmup, but I still can’t shake a feeling of worry. Let’s break it down by companies and see why:

Namco/Sega: These two are responsible for the three (Tekken, VF, and Soul Calibur) most popular and powerful 3d fighting franchises. All three have dedicated fanbases that will ensure they do well enough in terms of sales. →  Now with fewer vowels.

The Electronic Arts I remember

A long, long time ago, back when Electronic Arts went by the abbreviation ECA, the company was not clearly evil. It turns out that they screwed Chris Crawford in the 80’s and undoubtedly weren’t the pinnacle of business ethics, but they also published good games. Every now and then, usually after reading a review of some terrible EA published game or news that they bought and destroyed a small developer, I reminisce about the good old days when the ECA logo didn’t make me cringe, but was actually a sign of quality. What’s that, you ask? You’re a snobby gamer who dislikes EA, too, but you wonder why they were once a respectable publisher? Like all good questions, this one can be answered with a list.

Archon II: Adept — 1984
The first Archon is a bonafide classic, but I still prefer the sequel. →  Do a barrel read!

Review – Ico

Barely noticed when it was first released, Ico has now become the #1 game to reference when bringing up the issue of art in games. But is it really all that and a bag of potato chips?

Developed by SCEI (Parappa the Rapper, Shadow of the Colossus) and directed by Fumito Ueda, Ico is a third-person adventure game, set in a derelict castle that is situated on top of an island just a few hundred yards off the coast of some unknown continent. Cut-off by ocean on each of its sides, the castle becomes the player’s prison, so to speak.

Ico is a young boy (his name is never referenced, so I’m only guessing it’s his name) that has been shunned by his village and sent to an empty castle to distance himself from society. →  Tokyo Xtreme Reader: Drift 2

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. →  It was the best of games, it was the worst of games

Street Fighter Alpha: Warrior’s Dreams

The first truly new Street Fighter post-SF2, Alpha 1 had quite a legacy to live up to. I remember the commercials for the game, which made it look a hundred times more intense than SF2 with its dazzling array of special effects and super combos. It even had Guy from Final Fight! Unfortunately, the actual product was a huge disappointment for many die hard fans, as it was rushed to release and is obviously an unfinished game. Yet I’ve also seen players reminisce about Alpha’s simple, straightforward gameplay.

So which side is right? I’ll have to agree with the naysayers. Alpha 1 is just too archaic and unpolished to be of much worth these days, especially considering how vastly improved its sequels are. Yet there is one redeeming quality that has, ironically, made me play it more than any other game in the Anthology. →  While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not gaming.

The Videolamer game

Last night I took a 20 minute break from my busy work day and designed a Videolamer video game. It’s going to star the lamer guy (look at the top of the page, that stunning svelte green man is the lamer guy) in a Zelda-esque adventure.

The plot is something along the lines of the lamer guy jumps out of a monitor, leaves your bedroom (YES, YOUR BEDROOM!) and ends up in a randomly thrown together fantasy world full with Porn Hell (you’ll have to wait and see). I really can’t reveal too much because I don’t know how many rival designers are reading (according to my stat counter, four people have been here in the last week, but I assume the hundreds of designers who visit don’t use cookies).

And when I say I designed a game, I mean I drew a map. →  You’re tearing me apart lamers!

Oblivion, breasts, the ESRB and you

Another video game character with average proportions.

 

As I write this article, I am playing a few bouts of King of Fighters ’99. Oh how simple it was back then. Just a collection of sprites, no nude codes or hacking or anything profane, aside from the odd Mai animation.

These days things are a bit different. We have PC’s for modding, and a larger fanbase of gamers and developers who don’t know when to quit. In case you’re wondering, I am referring to the changing of Oblivion’s rating from Teen to Mature due to the discovery of topless female models (and also due to more violence and gore than previously thought, but I call BS on that). If you are to read all of the opinions and news posts about this, then all of the following are true:

– The “mod” uses data that Bethesda already put in the game. →  Readalations: Persona