Friday, January 29, 2010

friday gaming rant

It's been a crazy few weeks for me lately, I am in the process of moving on top of taking on full-time hours at my job so sadly I haven't yet been able to keep up with my resolution to post more often here. That doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about gaming on the regular though! Playing games is another story at the moment. It's been weeks since I've played a game other than Sims 3 and it's been days since I've played that! Bah, boo moving!
...Anyway. I have been in the car way more lately than I like to be and have been thinking a lot about the state of gaming and video game development in the last few years. I won't go too crazy ranting here... yet... but I wanted to introduce a new topic for discussion which is: What the fuck has happened to gamers' expectations?
I mean really. Maybe I just don't get the genres of games that sell in numbers today, but everything just seems so... dumbed down. The top games that get the best review scores and the widest demand just seem so... similar. All of them. You watch pretty cutscenes, you run around with one analog stick and control your camera with the other, and you hit a variety of buttons to kill stuff or blow stuff up. Different enemies, different weapons, different map textures, higher resolution... this is what is touted as depth in games today it seems like. I can be impressed by more advanced AI that games use to ramp up the challenge, but ultimately there is just nothing to video games anymore past shiny graphics, shooting control schemes and item/weapon collection. Now and then a game with a great plot comes out that manages to sell but for the most part the plotlines and story of popular games are just... not important it seems.
I've already gone farther than I meant to right now but I would be really interested in what anyone (anyone? Bueller?) might think about this topic. I know franchises like Halo and Call of Duty have hordes of followers that are happy to defend them but I'm just saddened by the way smaller, deeper, BETTER games just aren't getting made anymore. And when they are, no one buys them!
Future more specific topics on this theme will include:
  • What Ever Happened To Adventure Games?
  • Just Because I Don't Have A Dick Doesn't Mean I Want Games About Babyz and Ponyz*
  • Why Video Games Are Not A Good Replacement For Socializing With Friends In Person
  • The Lack Of Puzzles That Make You Think At All
  • Don't Make Movie-based Games, Make Movie-LIKE Games!
...and more. Don't touch that dial! But in the meantime if you read this blog and have an opinion on the matter please elaborate in the comments.

*Note: I might actually enjoy a game about Ponyz. But definitely, definitely not Babyz.

Monday, January 18, 2010

bungie and halo 3 help haiti

The digital age we live in has made fundraising for global purposes a much more efficient machine than many could have ever imagined - the money and donated goods pouring into Haiti since the earthquake there is astonishing. This cause has allowed groups not often associated with doing good to contribute in new technological ways. One of the best recent stories out of the tech realm in my opinion is Bungie's decision to donate to Haitian relief funds via a unique method: gamers who decorated their Halo 3 avatars with a red heart are participating in a donation drive where every 1,000 players equals $100 donated, up to $77,000. This is a really innovative way to let people donate indirectly through spaces they are already spending time in and by contributing only their concern. I hope to see more charitable movements like this in the video game industry - and, really, it would be nice to see efforts like this before the major disaster hits. There is a lot of need in the world and with the global reach the gaming industry has achieved, it is certainly a big opportunity to get large numbers of gamers involved.

If you're interested in other ways to donate to the relief funds helping Haitians in the aftermath, check out Google's excellent comprehensive guide to helping: Google Crisis Response: Support Disaster Relief In Haiti. Just another reason to love Google!

Friday, January 15, 2010

peta loves the sims 3

I'm still working on being on top of all the awesomeness related to video games that gets reported on the internets these days so forgive me for posting a story that's a few weeks old. However, I think this is just totally blogworthy! The Sims 3 and Electronic Arts were awarded a Proggy award from PETA this year for progressive views on vegetarian lifestyles. Apparently the bar is low enough in video games when it comes to standards of humanity/progress that having the option for Sims to lead vegetarian lives is impressive enough to win an award. It is a pretty damn cool Trait to select for your Sims - they get a whole new range of food options, avoid meat in meals and get sick if they eat meat dishes.
Rumor has it that game testers have reported that vegetarian Sims live longer and age more slowly than meat-eating Sims. Of course, that would jibe with studies showing that real-life vegans and vegetarians are less prone to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other life-threatening conditions.
The Sims 3 Gets PETA-Vegetarian Friendly Award

**disclaimer: I love all animals. I don't love PETA all the time. I do think it's rad that they can get their points across in this kind of promotion.**

Thursday, January 7, 2010

hotel dusk: last window?

If you read this blog at all you know I love point-and-click adventure games more than any other genre. I'm always on the lookout for great games that I missed in the past as some of the best adventure games are older titles. Still, occasionally new games come out that make me jump for joy because of their commitment to preserving the wonderful tradition of point-and-click. One company whose game I have really taken a liking for is Cing, who developed Trace Memory and Hotel Dusk: Room 215 for the Nintendo DS. Imagine my surprise and thrill when my boyfriend clued me into to recent development news on a Hotel Dusk sequel! Apparently titled Last Window, the DS game is not strictly a sequel but does star my favorite video game anti-hero Kyle Hyde in a plot that occurs a year after the events of the original Hotel Dusk game. Last Window will also make reference to characters from the previous game. Gameplay elements will likely be very similar with a few changes including rumble-pak support. As a huge fan of the first Hotel Dusk game I will for sure be pre-ordering this one... whenever it gets a North American release date, anyway!

finger physics

Mobile games come and go; some are crappy, some are mildly entertaining, some provide fun for a little while, but it is truly the special iPhone game that holds my attention long enough to not be deleted within a week or so. I have discovered another one of these special games in Finger Physics, a fun little game from Press OK Entertainment. The premise of the game is simply stacking blocks into stable structures, with different puzzles based on the conditions applied to the blocks. For example, there are magnetic levels where blocks interact like polar magnets with each other, there are underwater levels with floating and sinking blocks, and there are your typical blocks that explode when they touch each other. The game is very tightly programmed and animated so for the most part it stays true to its claim of using real physics to affect the blocks' movement. Occasionally here and there you'll weasel your way through a level thanks to a glitchy count or some other small bug, but it hasn't been anything really bothersome. All in all, this game is a great deal at $0.99 (and they just added 18 new levels), plus I think it is actually free today for some reason, so if you haven't tried this one on your iPhone or iPod Touch, it's worth picking up!

silent hill: shattered memories

We recently signed up for GameFly (we're a little pissed at the crappy copy of Batman: Arkham Asylum we received as one of our first games, but that's another story/Xbox360 rant..) and one of our first selections to be mailed to us was Silent Hill: Shattered Memories for the Nintendo Wii. Made by (in my opinion) the always trustworthy Konami, I had heard that this game was a retelling of the original Silent Hill title but from the perspective of Cybil the cop. This is not really the case, although the game does deal with the original Silent Hill story. Lost and scared in what seems to be an abandoned town during a snowstorm, you are looking for your daughter and things are of course not what they seem. The controls are cool - you have a flashlight in one hand which serves as your camera control, and a cellphone that opens up menus for everything else. There is no real combat; there are sequences where everything goes dark (if you know Silent Hill you'll know what I mean) and bad things come out to get you and your only choice is to run run run! These parts are actually less enjoyable to me as the environments often start looking very monotone after running through four or five rooms like this, plus I personally play games like this one for the creepy plotline and story elements. Shattered Memories does provide a good deal of this in an eerie environment with great ambient scariness. There is an element of interview with a psychologist that is a weird but cool twist and can alter the progression your game takes apparently based on how you answer questions and respond to activities. Overall I'm really enjoying this new Silent Hill title and though I am ambiguous on how I feel about the removal of combat, I am glad to have more Silent Hill lore to whet my palate. Love it!

mirror's edge for the iphone

I have not played Mirror's Edge although I watched many gameplay videos at the time of its release and it always seemed like an interesting premise with a lot of promise with regards to the control system. The acrobatic flips and tricks that your character Faith flies through the levels performing made for exciting time trial competitions and a solid replay value. This is why I think this game is an ideal candidate to be made into a mobile game, and apparently Electronic Arts thinks so as well as they are in the process of making it. The game will apparently be 14 levels long and while it will incorporate Faith's artful leaps and flips, the gameplay will change up a bit as this handheld version is a 3-D sidescroller. I would imagine there will be some incorporation of tilt controls - at least there should be! More information regarding a release date and pricing will surely follow closer to this game's release on the App Store.

new year's resolution

It's official, I am making myself get back into blogging. Much like so many other things in life, it's so easy to get out of the habit of blogging regularly when you stop doing it for even one day. I have had a ton of craziness going on in my life with major changes when it comes to work (can I get a "fuck retail"?) and with any luck I will even be moving shortly. We will see about all of that. But one thing is for sure, I will be posting here more often in 2010. The holiday season and all its insane marketing is over and there are tons of great new games on the horizon, so *raises glass* here's to 2010 in gaming being a great year! And thank you once again to anyone who reads this blog, I heart you.