Review – Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles My Life as a King of the Jews

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King is a simulation game. When I first saw the name, I thought it would be another delightfully (?) simple RPG. Instead, here we have a delightfully simple sim; in fact, MLAK is hands-off nearly to the point of annoyance.

In MLAK, you build your city structure by structure and converse with your citizens (when they are willing to talk to you, that is). That is just about it. The city is composed of empty green glowing spaces that mark where you can place buildings when you have the resources needed for their construction. These buildings range from houses to various shops for your citizens and adventurers. You commission these adventurers to explore the surrounding wilderness to get more resources and advance the plot, and occasionally they will actually do so. →  Is that an article in your pants, or are you just happy to read me?

Review – Etrian Odyssey

There is nothing more depressing than wasted potential, and, somewhat ironically, nothing more pleasurable than wasting potential. As I lay on my couch playing Etrian Odyssey instead of washing the dishes, helping the homeless or learning to read, my mind struggled to cope with conflicting emotions. I was enjoying that I was wasting my time, but not enjoying the time wasted. Is it hypocritical to be upset that Atlus squandered this game’s potential?

F.O.E.s are rendered in stunningly accurate orange blobs.

Etrian Odyssey starts off nice and difficult. I died on the first level and there’s a good chance you will, too. This high difficulty forces the player to engage in some old school level grinding, but I’ve always welcomed work in my time wasting, as long as society doesn’t benefit in any way. →  Uncharted Waters: New Horeadin’s

Ruining A Beautiful and Complicated World: Simcity Societies and How It Will Take a Dump on a Perfectly Good Franchise

When I was twelve, my life changed. I was a chubby little kid who was obsessed with the Super Nintendo and for my birthday party my parents let me rent a few games to keep all of my little friends occupied and from ruining their house. One of the games I picked that day was something of a strange choice. Instead of running around killing things, you built a city and watched it grow. That’s it.

No mass multiplying mushrooms to eat, no princess to save, no Triforce to assemble. You simply sat down, plopped some buildings in, some roads to connect them, and then watched the whole thing grow. The game never really ended and you could devote hours to one city. When you got sick of the city, you brought down the wrath of God on it and many Sims died in a fiery…or watery death. →  Sly 3: Honor Among Reads

Fillet Mignon with a side of Pork Rinds: Awesome games and their stupid minigames

The average gamer supposedly plays 7.8 hours a week. That’s an ESA study so I think they rounded down to make gamers seem less crazy. Other studies show more like 20-30 hours a week, which makes more sense to me. For us hardcore gamers, I’m sure the number would be even higher.

So while we waste our life away playing video games, it has become painfully apparent to me that, like most products in our corner cutting capitalist society, video games have a lot of filler. A video game, especially an RPG or MMO, is graded on how much of your time it takes to beat. In most cases, a game with short playtime is over quickly and generally unsatisfying (much like sex with me). Longer games are considered better. One of the first questions people ask about a new RPG is “how long is it?” →  It’s dangerous to read alone, take this.

Mindlessness in games

I read a good article recently on the heavy use of the word “gameplay” in games journalism. Agree with it or not, the author makes a good point; there is no equivalent word in any other industry jargon. Most sentences that use the word gameplay can be rewritten in some form to create something more descriptive and authoritative. It got me thinking about another mainstay of the lingo that has been bothering me as of late – “mindless”.

The word is used all too often, so much so that I can’t even generalize about whether it is usually in a pejorative or positive sense. According to my scouring of IGN, reviewers and gamers find the following games to be “mindless”:

Tomb Raider Legend
Rainbow Six Vegas
Sonic Riders
Resident Evil 4
Trigger Man
Ninety Nine Nights
Both Half Lifes
Painkiller
Call of Duty 3
Tekken Tag Tournament

For the sake of discussion, let’s just say this (very partial) list is a mix of terrible, average, and a few Game of the Year winners. →  Start your journey now, my Lord.

A sense of accomplishment in video games

What is it that makes a game particularly memorable?

When you finish a game, you want to feel as if you’ve accomplished something. By the time you beat some games, you want to really feel you’ve made the game world a better place through your actions (or, perhaps, you have intentionally left a horrifying wake of devastation). You’ve solved all major problems, and probably a lot of minor ones as well. Maybe you’ve beaten a particularly tough platformer or shooter and you feel like you’ve done a superhuman feat or twelve. The important part is you feel like you’ve done something significant or participated in a memorable story. The main pieces used to bring about this feeling are plot and challenge.

Unfortunately, this sense of accomplishment can be out of reach when playing a game. →  Gotta get down on Friday.

Review – Metropolismania

Some games are hard to put down. Often this is because a game is great fun, but entertainment isn’t always the force that drives us to keep playing. Sometimes we continue gaming because of a lack of clearly defined beginnings and endings; we don’t know when or where to stop so we just keep on going. Oddly enough, games that break play into nearly infinite tiny rounds deliver the same psychological effect as games that have no levels nor turns.

Will Wright and Sid Meier are experts at creating addictive gameplay through this method. Both Pirates! and Sims lack any clear level progression, while Civilization cuts up play time into such minute turns that each feel too short to be considered optimal stopping points. “Just one more turn!” is a cry familiar to anyone who has fallen victim to Meier’s brilliant design. →  You had me at read more.

Ten years without a new genre

A decade is a long time.

A few days ago in the comments to “Houston, Wii have a success story“, I made a rather old-fogey remark about re-hashes of games that I’d essentially been playing since 1992 or thereabouts. This got me thinking…when I complain about developers making the same game over and over, what I’m really complaining about is the fact that they’re making games in the same genres. Do you remember the sense of anticipation when you first played Wolf3D or Dune II? It didn’t just come from what you could do within that game – it was a realization of what that particular game meant for the future…because its underlying gameplay mechanics were simple enough and yet deep enough that they moved from being differently quirky games to inspiring an entire genre of development and expansion. →  It’s not you, it’s me.

The Madden Cycle

Guess what the best selling game of 2006 was (or probably was)? Why am I even giving you guys a guess; its Madden 07 of course!

Like a lot of gamers, I guess you could say that Madden is wearing a little thin on me. I understand why it sells so well; the NFL has such a huge fanbase that even if a few disgruntled gamers decide to stop buying it, there’s an army’s worth to fill in the gap. I also understand the desire to play a good simulation of America’s most popular sport (I’m a diehard football fan myself). Despite this, I have no desire to play the game, and a lot of that has to do with what I call the “Madden Cycle”. Here’s how it goes:

1) EB/Gamestop employees remind me that Madden is coming out. →  [do not click]

Lament of a lost developer

Once upon a time, there was an innovative game design company. Though they tended to use mainly the historical as backdrops for their titles, they came out with a wide range of interesting games and managed to release them for several platforms despite fairly intense console rivalry. It was clear there were individual designers in the company with a passion and talent for game creation. Now, several years later, this company has grown stagnant. The only games that it seems to spend any money on are rehashes of the same genre. The innovation that still exists comes primarily from the company publishing the efforts of various subdivisions or studios.

Sound familiar? It could be one of several names, since it’s a common malady, but in this particular case I’m speaking of Koei. →  Ratchet & Read

Review – Sid Meier’s Railroads

It could have been legendary… instead it’s just good. That’s how I’d sum up Sid Meier’s Railroads. It’s not that the core game isn’t fun: in fact, I’d say that for the most part, the core game is what shines. Unfortunately, the game was rushed out, and it shows: the first version is buggy, a little light on content, and lacks several key gameplay features that would make things much easier. Despite all of this, the game is quite fun, and I am confident that within 2-3 patches it will be where it needs to be. And it was only $40, instead of $50, so I guess that’s why we got 80% of a game.

What I Love

The core game engine of Sid Meier’s Railroads is excellent. Cities are placed throughout the map, with their starting supply/demand determined randomly. →  I'd rather die than not read this article!

Lame Discussion: Immersion – Part 1

The Lamer staff instant messages their arguments to each other.

Welcome to the first Lame Discussion. We gathered half a dozen Lamer staff and had a rousing discussion on the concept of immersion in video games. Hopefully, we will be able to bring you discussions like these every few weeks. Because we are a bunch of nerds we had a blast analyzing one of video games more cerebral concepts and went on far too long. In the effort to keep the discussion’s points intact but keep you from falling asleep, I’ve added this long intro. Also, I edited the crap out of the actual discussion. You can bet your ass we said a ton of hilarious things you’ll never get to read. The article is in fact so long I had to chop it into two parts to make it at all palatable. →  Lords of the Read 2

Lame E3 pics 3

Click the pic for an annoying pop up window with a bigger pic.

Welcome to Wii World.

A drum simulation. Wow.

A baseball simulation. Wower.

Finally, something that looks like a real game.

Smashy smashy.

Colorful controllers.

Variety of controllers.

And finally, the system all the fuss is over:

Aborted game autopsy 2: Suspicions confirmed

Besides learning some valuable lessons while working on my game, some things I already thought to be true were reaffirmed.

Suspicions Confirmed:

Kierga
The cliched plain female archer nearing a mid life crisis.

Games take zillions of man hours to make. Any game of substantial size cannot be completed by six people. Any game using more than a few 3D models requires more than one guy who knows how to do 3D modeling from classes he took. Any game with a few hundred characters needs more than one talented conceptual artist. And any game that has a 150 page plot and also wants to have dialog should have more than two writers.

Since I already mostly understood why development teams are so big and games cost so much, we’ll say that now these facts are burned into my brain. →  Final Fantasy Mystic Post

A call for womanly arms

Any group put together by a company, whether it be New Kids on the Block or the Frag Dolls, should be highly respected.

Despite the Microsoft announcement at last E3 that women were going to be brought into the fold and the introduction of higher fines for scantily clad booth babes, women are still on the fringes of gaming. Slowly we approach equality, moving through the same motions as any fight for equality in any area.

First, there are the radical few. Small groups of women band together, screaming out that they are better than the boys. Thus the Frag Dolls and other such groups are born.

Next, comes the insistence that women are different and need games catered to them. Thus Barbie gaming is born. Barbie Fashion Designer actually outsold Mortal Kombat back in 1996 and broke every previous CD ROM sale record. →  The King of Articles 2002: Unlimited Match