Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A tale of two demos

The other week, two distinctly different demos appeared on XBox Live Marketplace. Your intrepid reporter takes it upon himself to play pretty much every demo that goes up, and so it came to pass that I found myself going through Bodycount, and El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. I thought it would be quite interesting to do a compare and contrast, as these are two games that could be said to encapsulate two ends of the gaming spectrum. Some may say the good and the bad, even.

First off, then, I tried Bodycount. This is the new FPS from Codemasters that they seem really proud of. For the life of me I don't know why, because it is the new FPS from Codemasters that you will have seen enough of within 10 minutes of playing it. Everything that you are already completely and utterly sick of the sight of in FPS games raises its ugly head in this one. You want annoying swarms of enemies? Check. Strange little quirks of scenery that stop you moving? Check. Enemies you don't get to see until the bastards shoot you? Check, check, and check. Grenades, OH MY GOD SO MANY SODDING GRENADES? Check, and for the love of God please stop with them now...

Codemasters made a big deal out of the bonus system in this game, where you get to score points based on different methods of killing people. Sounds pretty good. Unfortunately, it also sound pretty much like Bulletstorm. And, Bulletstorm got to market a couple of months back now.

Such a pity, Codies. Your game is yet another in the CONSTANT AND NEVER ENDING STREAM of generic and simply DULL FPS games, and if anyone manages to complete your demo then they are a better and more patient man than I am.

Non-plussed as I now was, I was ready to rip El Shagrag a new one. What the hell kind of a pretentious mess was I about to experience?

A quite incredible one, as it happens.

Whereas Bodycount has a name that quite literally rolls off the tongue and is therefore impossible to forget, El Shaddai comes from the school of "Sounds vaguely mystical? PUT IT IN!" games naming. I mean, just say it to yourself - "Ascension of the Metatron" - and try not to giggle. How many people can even tell you what the Metatron is?

And the setting is ... ridiculous. Based on the Jewish religious tome, the Book of Enoch, describing some crap that I don't care to work out. (Seriously, Wikipedia exists purely for this reason, go look it up yourselves.) From what I could tell, you are some human going into heaven, fighting the fallen angels along the way. You do this by hitting them with your bare fists, and also by stealing their weapons from them and turning them against their former owners.

The important thing about Shabba is that it looks like THIS :

Simply stunning

Or, to put that into words, like nothing else you have ever played before. I mean, look at that. It has PINK in it! It plays a little bit like Devil May Cry and other such combat-driven games, but is quite simplified. Combat seems to be more about timing and moving than remembering complex sequences of button combinations. Further, at times it is a platformer, reminiscent of the early Crash Bandicoot titles. (You know, back when they were quite good?) And the last piece in the puzzle is the way it isn't scared to just let you work out what the hell is happening for yourself. There isn't even a hint of exposition in the demo.

So, on the one hand, we have Bodycount. A standard and generic FPS with ... who CARES how many features and modes and gimmicks? And on the other, we have something completely unlike anything else out there. One bored me to tears within 2 minutes, and the other had me enthralled before it confused me. Most importantly, one left me feeling quite angry, whereas the other one left me wanting more.

Bodycount is a cheeseburger. Don't fall for the marketing that makes it look like prime loin. El Shaddai is lobster, but won't even BE marketed, and will be dismissed by most as a single prawn. Ignore Bodycount, go out of your way to play El Shaddai. That is my advice.

What a shame that Bodycount will outsell El Shaddia by a ratio of at least 50 to 1. I tell you now; 10 years from now, when every single game is identikit bollocks for 12 year olds who think swearing makes them an adult, when all we can do is shoot yet more gruff soldiers who literally make it rain grenades on you, taking cover behind destructible terrain, and when even loading screens come on middleware that gets its own pre-game credit, DON'T SAY I DIDN'T FUCKING WARN YOU!

You can buy El Shaddai BY CLICKING THIS, and you probably should. I refuse to link to Bodycount for you.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The most shameful moment of my gaming life to date.

Minesweeper is one of those titles that we have all played, if only because it is built in to Windows and at one time or another we have all had a PC that was so old it could only play either that or Solitaire. The basic premise is that you utilise logic to find the mines in a grid, by determining from the information given the likelihood of any individual square containing a mine. Every square on the grid is covered up, and by uncovering the square you will either find a mine or a number. The number tells you how many mines are in the immediate surrounding 8 squares, so theoretically if you see a 0 you know you are safe whereas an 8 means you are GOING DOWN, SON!

The system works pretty well, apart from one quite egregious flaw. It has always frustrated me somewhat that click #1 is basically a shot in the dark; without any clues at all you have an even likelihood of getting a mine or a number.

Other than that, though, the game itself works perfectly well. Assuming you hit a free square on that first click, you are then ale to go through the rest of the grid never clicking a square until you know for certain that there isn't going to be a mine in it. Even better, squares without 0's in them are automatically cleared, so your first click might reveal half the board with a little luck.

It's the kind of puzzle that is a perfect fit for a handheld game, and even more so for a mobile phone game. It should therefore come as no surprise that Microsoft have seen fit to release a version for Windows Phone 7. If there is a surprise, it is that they didn't build the game into the phone. Surprise #2 comes in the cost - it is completely free to play. You get adverts at the top of the screen, but by now we have all developed the required skills to just not look at that shit, so they are completely unobtrusive. If you were to hold my mother at gunpoint and ask me to name any of the ads I was shown, then I'm afraid that would be all she wrote for the old girl, because I genuinely cannot recall any of them.

This is a VERY un-Microsofty way of doing things! Giving things away? It gets even better for us consumers, though, because it isn't even the standard Minesweeper that we have all only played in moments of sheer "MUST. PLAY. SOMETHING!" desperation over the years. Nope, this one also has a special speed mode added in as well. The standard tweaks can be applied in terms of how big the grid, how many mines, and ... ok, so that would actually be all the things that can be altered. It's still nice! (And there are powerups in it, as well, but I don't really know what they do because IT'S SODDING MINESWEEPER AND I HAVE BETTER THINGS TO BE PLAYING!)

But the best addition is that it is now also an XBox Live enabled version. Which means gamerscore, leaderboards, and achievements.

Sadly, this is also where the game makes its first mistake. For, one of the achievements is a nasty one indeed.

Entitled "Click click BOOM!", it is unlocked by triggering a mine with your second click.

Think about that for a moment. Your second click.

SECOND click!

Now, obviously, anyone can and eventually will trigger a mine with the first click. This is completely unavoidable as the first click is simply always going to be a guess. Sooner or later, you will hit a mine because simple law of averages tells us that. So, it was nice to put an achievement in that rewards this the first time when it happens. But, the second click is a different story. The second click is not a step into the unknown, as it were. For on the second click, there absolutely must be numbers present. Which means that you are, and even should be, able to work out exactly which square not to click on next. Or, to put it another way, if you trigger a bomb on click #2 you are either incapable of playing the game, or have chosen to mess up just for that "Ploc" sound and a measly 5 gamerscore.

Is this what the world has come to, MS? Do you think that we care so much for your arbitrary reward system that we need to be spoon-fed praise even when we just proved we were blathering idiots? "Here, player, you're a moron but have these 5 points anyway!" NO! Stop this crap, the clue is in the name ACHIEVEMENTS. We should only get them when we do something good. Who the hell wants to earn a trinket for shooting themself in the foot? I DON'T WANT REMINDING OF MY FUCKUPS, THANKYOU.

Of course, maybe there are players out there who care so much about their gamerscore that they are going to look at the numbers, see that there is a bomb right THERE, and then deliberately choose to click on it just for that PATHETIC virtual reward. Who are these people? Who the shit would choose to lose just so they have another box in another game filled in? Achievements mean NOTHING when they are just thrown at you. Gamerscore has no consistency when you get the same score for LOSING as you do for earning a Killing Spree in Halo Reach multiplayer.

I submit, then, that anyone who has this achievement is losing at life. For they are either so debilitatingly incompetent that they can't count to 8, or are so debilitatingly addicted that gamerscore has actually come to have some kind of meaning to them. That they would do such a thing to themself beggars belief.

Of course, I have the achievement. I chose it. I saw it, wondered, and then started a game with the sole intention of getting this most banal of achievements. Even if it was only to get it out of the way, I tried to kid myself into believing. When the truth is that I wanted the "Ploc" more than I wanted the pride. And for this, I hate myself.

But not as fucking much as I hate Microsoft.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The fabulous Friday Facebook fun feature .... flibble!

Facebook is massive. It is arguably one of the most important uses of communication technology ever undertaken. Sure, all it is used for is to make insane amounts of money for some snot-nosed nerd, but the technology behind it is impressive. For example, besides being the all-encompassing cradle of human drama for the Chav classes, it is also a home for a LOT of games. You probably know this already, if only because of the ruthless spam you see on your feed from those who play; "Nobby Bollocks earned 20 Poop Points, and would like to share them with you." and "Please help me to find some fish!" posts are all too prevalent, unless you block any users who post them all the time.

Surely, there have to be some good games on there as well? The sheer quantity of games released on the network every single day practically ensures entertainment can be found. But how to sort the wheat from the chaff?

Fear not, intrepid reader. Between Continues is brave, and often runs where even angels dare not tread. To this end, I plan to explore the wilderness that is Facebook gaming, and return on Fridays to report on my findings.

First up? Well, where better to start than with The Sims Social?

This one should be interesting. For a start, The Sims is no ordinary game. It is a bona fide phenomenon, with sales numbering in the multi-millions. A large part of this is because it is a very casual friendly game indeed, the kind your girlfriend will spend hours on whilst you watch Kick Ass or Scott Pilgrim. It is a point-and-click virtual person as pet simulation. If anything can translate to Facebook, maintaining its own identity and structure but lending itself to the social aspects of the site, surely this is it?

Things start out well enough. At first login, you get to create your character. You are faced with a choice like below:

It all starts out well enough

Customisation of your sim is fairly diverse, but not overwhelmingly so. There are the usual hairstyle and clothing options, as well as facial choices that basically make no difference whatsoever. You also get to set a personality type for them, choosing from rocker, romantic, introvert, tycoon, geek, athlete, creative, villain, and socialite. Villain? That's intriguing, and actually marginally amusing as your chosen sim sneers and giggles all over the game. Finally, you get to give them a name, rather than it just taking your Facebook account as you may have thought. Obviously, this is all important stuff. Whilst there is a handy 'random' option, you will want to spend time creating a sim that reflects your own style. One that matches your intellect, your wit, and your maturity. Just like Holden below:


And then the game starts properly. You are introduced to the tutorial mode, meeting...

Please don't kill me...

Oh shit, is that Bella Goth? This does not bode well. The last time we met, way back in the first game, she basically spent large chunks of her time setting my house on fire and causing me to argue with my girlfriend. Seriously, this psycho bitch is my guide? I am now almost scared to play at all.

After some clicking on boxes to 'unpack', some clicking on strawberries to 'pick', and some clicking on a box marked 'bladder' to sit on the toilet, I get the idea that there is not going to be a huge deal of involving gameplay in this title. Indeed, pretty much the entirety of my time is spent clicking on requests from various freaks on the left of the screen, which then means I have to click on other stuff. One such quest is to go and socialise, which requires visiting my sole acquaintance Bella. There are a range of options, and I choose to dance with her. I am aware of just how close to the circular saw this action may take me, but I have to soldier on. The things I do in the name of research...

Not the Bella we once knew

Perhaps Bella has spent the last few years on Prozac, because she has definitely mellowed out. Far from the dangerous and unstable creation she once was, life has been kind to her. She indulges me in a lightsabre battle, which quite sadly is the high point of my entire time in this "game" to date. Sadly, it soon becomes clear that this is yet another of the clickfests for which Facebook is rightly loathed. Click on something, click on something else, click on the crap it spits out, and click to spam the walls of all your friends. (Which will in turn allow them to click things, and spam you right back.)

The entirety of the game seems to be based on responding to a small needs meter at the bottom of the screen. It has six sections, and you need to keep them all green. This can be done by clicking things, and clicking other things. At no point will you need to think or choose or decide on anything, you just need to react. The only thought process you put into the game is "What do I buy next?"

The ENTIRE game!

In a nutshell, that is it. Click things to make a box green. Don't expect depth. Don't expect anything life-changing. Don't even expect fun. Don't be fooled by the inevitable EXPLOSION in popularity that will come with this game. Don't make the mistake of visiting even once. If you do, your feed will be an endless loop of requests and news feeds, as people post that they picked some strawberries and MUST tell you so that they get an extra few virtual coins with which to buy a footstool for a computer program. I doubt that this is what the web was designed for, to be frank, but this is very much what it is now.

Oh, and the whole "Social" part of the name? That's a lie! You can visit the houses of friends, but they are not actually present even if they are online at the same time. The computer acts as the sim on their behalf, and they have no idea of what you actually did. Which is cool enough that you can insult them without them ever knowing, apart from the resultant drop in friendship points. But not to worry, a few more clicks will fix all that.

I wanted to start off on a high, and ... yeah, that didn't happen. I promise something better for next week.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Of blocks, building, and bastards.

I had heard great things about Minecraft, and seen even greater things. Some of the things that people with far too much time on their hands have been able to build are literally staggering. Me? Well, I don't have anywhere near enough time on my hands. But, I do have an absolute boatload of enthusiasm on my side. I'm also fairly smart, so I didn't doubt that I, too, would soon be creating some slices of pure magic.

Turns out I was mistaken.

Things started out simple enough. I had the choice of singlepayer or multiplayer. Since I didn't know what I was doing, I figured it was best to start out in singleplayer. I was asked to choose a name for my world, so I went with my old Animal Crossing standby of 'Flapston'. (Yes, I am that shallow. The word 'flaps' makes me giggle.) And I appeared in a snowy place next to a lake.


All looked idyllic enough. A quick wiggle of the mouse made me realise that the big beige thing at the bottom right was my fist. With it, I could punch holes in the very ground! These holes were in turn collectable by me, and could be placed on top of each other somewhat like Lego bricks. Which is obviously how people have built such PHENOMENAL things.I mean, some guy made a copy of Rapture from Bioshock. As in, you could literally walk around and if you knew the game well enough you knew where you were going.

Of course, I had no such joy. All I had was blocks of bloody sand to play with! I did also discover that I could punch trees to collect wood, but I was seemingly unable to collect stone. Sure, I could punch it repeatedly until it eventually broke, but there was no little collectable small block if I did that.

Soon, I noticed how dark it was getting. It never occured to me that the game played out in any kind of time like this, but I did realise that building and even walking around was going to get a bit hard if I wasn't able to see anything. Suddenly, though, I spotted a person! I was sure I was playing single player, so I thought this was some NPC come to help me out. I went over to talk to him ...


AND DIED! Seriously, the bastard killed me. Yeah, some NPC he turned out to be.

Things got worse. At night, Minecraft turns from a game about blocks into a game where everything kills you. Dudes attack you, spiders attack you, and whilst you can punch them like they are so much ground, that doesn't work on everything. There was another dude that attacked me, except he had a rather nasty trick defence mechanism up his sleeve. The bastard exploded, killing me instantly.

At this point, I hit the Minecraft Wiki, to see if I could make any sense of what the hell I was witnessing. There, I learned that I needed to use my wood to make a crafting table, which would then allow me to make a pick. This pick would allow me to collect stone, and most importantly COAL, because the aforementioned exploding bastards only spawned in dark places and I needed to get light into those places. Light comes from torches, which can only be crafted on the tables, and the torches are made of sticks (from the wood) and coal. The crafting system is quite clever once you KNOW IT FUCKING EXISTS, but until that point (which, as far as I can tell can only be reached by knowing the sodding Wiki even exists) you might as well be playing with a beachball on the moon. Not a lot makes sense, it's no fun in the dark, and all your hard work can be undone if you so much as blink for a second.

Minecraft is about survival. Day is fine, but night is full of dangers. You need to create a place where you can hide, so that no exploding bastards (which I have since learned are called "Creepers") can come and kill you. I did not know this, and instead sufficed with building a tall column made of 30 sand blocks with me atop, which proved to be effective in stopping things from getting to me.

So, I am precisely one billion miles away from building my own version of Minas Tirrith, or even building my own dog kennel if I am honest. However, I am a lot more enlightened as to why so many will lose so much time to this game. I am not sure I will ever scale the heights some have, but I have a whole new level of appreciation for some of the truly incredible creations that adorn the web.

You can buy Minecraft here, and probably should do whilst it is still in beta. The full release will cost 25% more than the current price, and will also be out on the same day as Skyrim. Which means you won't be buying it that day. Despite my seeming hatred, I can see the goodness inherent, and hope to one day build SOMETHING that I am proud of. Until then, I will be wandering the world looking for coal, since Flapston seems to be completely bereft of this resource.

Friday, August 19, 2011

I want to play MY game MY way!

It would seem to me to be a fairly elementary concept to grasp, and yet it clearly isn't. I don't think that I think too differently to everyone else, because I have the ability to read, and there are a lot of people like me all over the internet who all say a lot of the same things. So, it frankly baffles me that games developers, who are supposed to rely on pleasing people with their products, fail to see the obvious and continue to make such moronic decisions.

Before I break into full-on rant mode, I should probably fill you in with some context. This morning, I put Test Drive Unlimited 2 back into the disc tray for the first time in months. I rather foolishly allowed myself to believe that the latest free DLC would go some way to fixing the many problems that the game itself has. Naturally, my hopes proved completely unfounded as usual. One day, I will learn that optimism is wasted currency when it comes to games developers in general. Sometimes, I question if they ever even play the games they spent the last few years making, such is the immenseness of the stupidity inherent in some of the decisions made.

See, Test Drive Unlimited 2 is a game that has the potential to be quite brilliant indeed. The concept of a fully-realised open-world environment with complete freedom is wonderful. Where it falls apart is in its realisation. The very thing that makes the concept sound so exciting is the very thing that holds the game back from greatness. The simple fact is that to get anywhere in TDU2, you have to go there. That might sound silly, so I shall rephrase; you are unable to fast travel to locations you have not already visited. This in itself would be no problem if you didn't have a full map of the island at your disposal, replete with locations and events, but the game rather annoyingly furnishes you with this from the start. It does not take long before you find yourself needing to make a journey of some 15 or so miles in order to progress your career. And, because there is a career progression, the car in which you are making this journey is one of the "not very good" ones that you get at the start of any game.

Even more antagonising is the layout of this early game. Everything you are told to go to is fucking miles away! Obviously, this is to give more scope to the fast-travel system, the theory being that you soon have a good selection of locations that you have already been to allowing you to get anywhere else more easily. To me, though, a better solution would have been to either just allow fast-travel to anywhere from the start, or to just put things near to each other in the first fucking place!

What all this basically means that rather than the promised car porn fantasy lifestyle, I instead have a fairly accurate simulation of driving as a job. (Great... there is a reason I don't already do that in real life.) The early part of the game is spent in chunks of up to 30 minutes at a time just trying to get to the next challenge. What makes it even worse is that the game is set on a virtual recreation of the island of Ibiza. Now, I may be mistaken, but I don't think that planet Earth had games design in mind when it shifted the relevant tectonic plates around that formed the island. Nor do I think that the Spanish government had electronic entertainment at the front of their thinking when they decided just where the roads were going to be laid. There was an opportunity to design something conducive to the players enjoyment, and the opportunity was not taken. A real island, with real roads, and no way to bypass it to get to the fun stuff. Or, to put it another way - an enforced slog through the early levels of the game in order to get to anything even remotely fun. Seriously, I did not find a single thing to enjoy about trundling along dirt tracks in the dark with no sign of any other traffic or civilisation of any kind, and I am lost when trying to understand how anyone thought I might do.

TDU2 is obviosuly not the only game guilty of this particular crime. Far from it, games are rife with this bullshit. There are times when restrcting the player makes sense. In terms of story, for example, or as an extension for players looking to get replayability from a title. That is acceptable. What is not acceptable is when a game refuses to take the training wheels off you until IT has made the decision that you can finally ride solo.

Dear games developers everywhere - Your games should not be telling me "Oh no, you can't do that, we don't trust you yet." They should not be slapping me on the wrist, and locking all the cool toys away from me. I'm not Buzz Lightyear, so don't be Lotso! Just let me go, allow me to have fun in the game that I paid for. I already can't get a Lamborghini, it is massively unfair of you to deny me a pretend one as well.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The joys of middle-age gaming.

As I write this, it is closing in on the final seconds of my 41st birthday. Not so monumental an age as some, it is nonetheless quite a milestone, and one that brings with it cause to think. A year ago, I hit one of the big ones, but felt nowhere near the way I do today. Some small part of me still held on to the decade prior, as if 40 was merely an extension of the 30's. However, 41 has a finality to it.

In this fifth decade, I can look at myself and ask a few questions that may lead to uncomfortable answers. The most glaringly obvious one is "Am I too old for this shit?" Videogames are designed primarily for the young; they are marketed quite ruthlessly to a teenage demographic. The internet, home of all things game commentary, is also almost universally aimed squarely at the libidos and prejudices of young males. It's all about tits and guns, with the occasional side helping of insecurity and macho posturing. Things that I basically outgrew a very long time ago.

So much of videogames today leaves me shaking my head in dismay. So much is devoid of merit, desperate to fit into some predesigned metric, and terrified to step out and find its own ground. Genuine innovation is held back in favour of yet more soldiers with yet more guns, only this time they are in a city near YOU!

So, why then am I still trying to be part of this scene?

Why, then, do I still join multiplayer lobbies knowing full well that all I will be hearing is the same tired insults and brags?

Why do I continue to play, when I will almost certainly never win again? These fingers don't do what I used to tell them at quite the same speed as they once did. For several years now, I have settled for "Not last" as a quite good placing.

Why, in short, do I bother at all?

Because, even at 41, I still have the luxury of finishing in "Not last" place!

Because, I can see through the blatant and sad marketing and happily ignore it all.

Because, I can listen to the insults and hear a little of my past self in them. I was once a loudmouthed and somewhat obnoxious teenager, who felt that I knew better than everyone else. That it was true in my case means nothing, because it did not stop me being at times unlikeable by any devent folk. I was once as insecure and desperate to fit in as games themselves are these days.

The thing is, I grew up. I got better. Which means that there is hope for all the other menchildren out there as well.

Growing up is a beautiful thing, and nowehere near as scary as I once thought it would be. For with maturity comes freedom. Freedom to allow yourself to enjoy whatever you like. Freedom to sail a different branch of the river to the rest of the crowd. Freedom to spend your money your way, and not just how this weeks new releases tell you to.

Freedom to indulge in fun without fear of what your peers will think. Freedom to let yourself go in colourful and cartoony locales. Freedom to just try silly and stupid things with no care for consequences.

Freedom to LOSE! And freedom to enjoy trying to improve. I know that I would much rather struggle to finish 2nd-to-last than be terrified to finish 2nd.

Despite the over-riding opinion, despite the masses that will try and show you otherwise, gaming is not a young man's ... um ... game. It is for everybody. But the young men who are the most vocal and active? They are not the ones having the most fun. No, the fun is being had by people like myself, who are basically allowed to have fun. Those of us who no longer have anything to prove, and are happy enough just doing whatever it takes to have a good time. Those of us who are equally at home in Johto, City 17, Sera, the Mushroom Kingdom, and the Arena Eternal.

Gaming is the most fun in the world, and amazingly it continues to expand as you get older. You youngins? The best is yet to come. Sooner or later, you'll let go of your preconceptions. You'll relax. You'll loosen up.

I can walk into a game shop, and buy ANY title I see on the shelf. I have no need to restrict myself to any particular type of game, or games for any age range. I have the full spectrum on the shelves available to peruse. I can pick up mature 18-rated games, or I can pick up silly-looking childrens games. I can even pick up non-games. I am not limited to just sports games, shooting games, fighting games, and driving games. AKA "Boy's games." There comes a time in every mans life when he no longer wants to associate with these childish desires any more.

That is when your true adventure will begin. On behalf of myself and all the other gamers of my age - We look forward to your joining us.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The REAL reason the 3DS is failing.

So, in just a few days from now Nintendo are going to drop the price of the 3DS by quite some distance. This has been reported everywhere, ad infinitum, and ad nauseum. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen pieces claiming to detail the free games that will be available to the early adopters, who will now be known as the 'Ambassadors', only to see the same few games that everyone else knows about mentioned. Games journalism, it seems, is about recycling existing news in as many ways as possible.

Along with  this massive news come the prophets of doom. Apparently, this move from Nintendo means that the gravy train is no longer running, and it will soon be Game Over for them. To be fair to these "jounalists", it has been such a long time since they have been able to actually post any kind of negative story about the Big N that they can't help themselves but to gorge on this particular titbit. "The 3D is the problem", say some. Others prefer to go with "The games are the problem."

They are all wrong. The real problem lies in the design of the console itself.

I own a 3DS, and absolutely adore it. I adored the DSi before this, and the DS Phat before that. (I didn't bother with the Lite, but would probably have adored it if I had.) I have played well over 200 hours on each of three different Pokemon games, and played Animal Crossing Wide World every day for a YEAR. When it comes to logging in the hours on the handheld, I must surely be up in the higher echelons of users, in terms of actual time with the console in my hands. I can safely say with hand on heart that holding a DS feels pretty much completely natural, to the point where all other hardware that isn't a DS feels less so.

Now, to give you an idea what I am talking about, I shall show you the console.


It's beautiful, isn't it? However, it is also WRONG!

My gripe is not so much in the placement of the analogue nub, which can lead to a bit of a pain in the palm when playing Ocarina of Time for any extended amount of time. Nope, whilst that isn't ideal my hands have pretty much adjusted to it now. Nor is it in the way that the two screens are in different aspect ratios. Again, I can accept that, and it is something that you quickly learn to ignore.

There is, however, one thing that is seriously out of place. And it is the Power button.

Nintendo, what the actual fuck were you thinking when you chose to put it there? Right there, where it is in the most obvious, natural, and INSTINCTIVE place in the world to just slip my thumb over to when I want to pause a game?

And WHY, FOR THE LOVE OF GON WHY, did you decide that once the power button has been pressed, that is it. The game is going off, you are not getting back to it, not a chance, deal with it. We can go into Street Pass mode, so it isn't like we have cut the power permanently. Adding insult to injury, we can even get back to the Home screen from Street Pass mode. Ordinarily, the Home screen leaves whatever was running in the background, in order to allow us to get back to it quickly. Unless it is an actual game. With a game, "Off" does not mean "Off", it means "Leave your game, HAHAHAHA."

It is a small, but infuriating oversight. I have lost count of the amount of times I have accidentally hit that STUPIDLY PLACED button when I just meant to pause, losing whatever game progress I had up until that point. I have now played the start of Gerudo Fortress 3 times! I can't help it, my thumb uses its muscle memory to just press the button before my conscious mind screams at it "YOU FUCKING MORON WHY THE HELL DID YOU DO THAT?"

I'll adapt. I'll learn. I'll live with my own stupidity for not saving constantly like some kind of paranoid. And, I'll hope that Nintendo fix this in a future firmware update. But until then, I'll wonder why nobody else sees this as a problem. (And then remember that they are all too busy telling you the stuff everyone else already told you!)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Zombies and Vampires are in every game you own!

I was trying to put some thoughts together for a review of Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon. The problem I quickly found was that I have a core belief, but it is one that I haven't really told too many people. So, I better make some steps to get this thought "out there", so to speak.

This thought is; Why are we complaining about zombies in every game, when EVERY game is either about zombies or vampires?

Seriously, your enemies in a game? They are either zombies, or vampires. If they outnumber you, but aren't as powerful as you, then they are simply zombies. Traditionally, it is sheer weight of numbers that give zombies the edge. Individually? What the hell is one zombie going to do, rot all over your garden? But, get 50 of the buggers leaning at your door, and those hinges won't hold too long.

Whereas, the other end of the scale is the vampire. Now, your standard vampire works alone. Why? Because he is BAD ASS. This is a guy who quite simply has you beat any time he wants you beat, easy as that. He doesn't need help, but frequently surrounds himself with underlings.

So, let's take Halo. Grunts are zombies, Elites are vampires.

Or perhaps we go with Mario? Easy. Koopas and Goombas are zombies, Bowser is a vampire.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "But, I beat those vampires!" Bully for you. But, that in itself does not disprove the theory.  OF COURSE you beat them! The game itself was built from the ground up so that you could beat them. Usually, you get some serious help along the way, be it in the form of an Uberweapon, or some latest and greatest superpower, or just lots of help from your own GOOD underlings. (or even just some friends.) Also, your standard vampire always loses, and then comes back from the dead. (This would be the sequel.)

My Earth Defense Force review is coming soon. I just need to give people time to ingest this theory for now.