|Image by GeekTyrant.com
This blog entry is gonna be quite different than my usual ones. I'm looking for help from you guys this time around. I was recently offered a position to write for a local magazine. It has a small area of distribution, but regardless, I'm very excited about it. I get a whole page to write about gaming once each quarter. I can discuss something new, something old, board games, video games, RPGs, card games, and basically, whatever gaming related topic I want. The book will have an overall theme, and I have been asked to try and make my topic relevant to the theme for the issue.
My first article is already printed and out in public. I would like you guys to read over my article below and throw your brutal and honest feedback at me. I had very little time to put this one together, so I fully expect future articles to improve with more time to plan and revise. The theme of this issue was "Revolution." I used this broad topic as a way to introduce myself as a writer and my relevance to the subject matter. Please let me know what you think:
Continue reading Crabmaster Gets Published!
*pic from Mission17.org*
Towards the end of 2011, I had a discussion with my late friend Jesse about gaming in general, as this was typically all we ever talked about. We were talking about the age old balance of gaming versus collecting. At the time, I was all about collecting and spent way too little time actually playing games. I was persuaded and inspired by Jesse to start enjoying my collection for more than pieces of plastic that look nice on the shelf. I decided to lay down and follow some "rules" for myself for the year of 2012. I would play no more than two games at a time (this allowed me to play one console game and one handheld game concurrently). I would finish every game I started. Lastly, I would remove at least one game from my collection for every new one that came in. The last rule helped me trim a lot of fat in collection, but it's not something I strictly adhere to anymore. However, I still try to follow the first two rules to this day.
Continue reading A Year of Unfinished Games
Greetings bipedal organisms. It has come to my attention that we as human beings (or you as whatever you are) need food to live. While eating a few meals a day typically sustains us, we often crave something more: a snack! We also like to combine our snacking with doing things we love, such as playing video games. Woe is us, however, as many of us fall into bad snacking habits while playing. Since the holiday season is upon those of us in the good ol' US of A is mainly about eating (don't let anyone tell you otherwise), I figured it would be a good time to address the pressing issues about safe snacking.
Continue reading ThanksGaming: Snacking etiquette and choices while playing games
Too Many Games is a nice little Retro Video Game Expo held near Philadelphia every June. I just returned home yesterday from my 4th consecutive TMG and thought I would share my thoughts.
Continue reading Too Many Games 2016
I'm very happy to bring back (again) the People of RF Generation series. This time let's sit down with blogging staff member, and over all great guy, slackur!
Continue reading People of RF Gen: slackur
After starting 2015 off with a *BANG*, prepare yourself for the load of action and drama, that the RF Generation Playthrough Group has in store for you in February.
For the February Retro Playthrough, we return to the land of Hyrule in the timeless classic The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the SNES. In this prequel to the original two Zelda games on the NES, take control of Link as he embarks on an epic adventure to once again save Princess Zelda and restore peace to Hyrule. Join us for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and experience what is commonly regarded as one of the greatest games of all time.
Retro discussion thread: http://www.rfgeneration.c...m/index.php?topic=14980.0
Over on the modern side we will be choosing our own fates with a visual novel for the Nintendo DS. In 999: Nine Persons, Nine Hours, Nine Doors you find yourself aboard a sinking cruise ship with eight strangers. The only path to freedom is found after finishing a series of puzzles. The branching story line and six unique endings will have you replaying until you find the right answers to the "Nonary Game."
Modern discussion thread: http://www.rfgeneration.c...m/index.php?topic=14978.0
If you think you have what it takes to save the Hyrule kingdom or escape the sinking ship alive join us in February's Community Playthrough.
Continue reading Over 2 Decades of Gaming
In honor of the new 2D Generation, I'm going to explain the non-believers why 2D gaming is far superior to this 3D gaming phase we've been in for the past couple decades. Now, I know what most of you are thinking, "of course 2D is better, everyone knows that", this article is not for you then, you already know the glorious perfectness of gaming in the only good dimensions. But read it anyway, you may learn a few things that will enable you to convert the non-believers.
First off, who needs Z? Gaming was going along just fine with X and Y, there was no need for Z. Games were just fine with the character only moving left/right and up/down, that's where all the real action is. There was no need to involve the ability to move forward and back. Just think about one of the greatest games ever made, Super Mario Bros. Imagine if when Mario came across those bottomless pits, he could just walk around them? Where is the fun in that? Or perhaps you're more familiar with Pac-Man. "Oh no there's a ghost coming right at me, oh wait, I can just step to the side with this extra dimension" Yeah, that sure sounds like fun. Clearly, there was no need for this extra 3rd dimension. All it does it just make games easier as your hero can just walk around most obstacles instead of facing them head on like the old days.
This 3rd dimension also brings up another huge problem with 3D games, its too easy to get lost in them! Has anyone in the history of gaming ever started playing Super Mario Bros and not known where to go? Its simple, you go right 99% of the time. Some games mixed it up with having you to go to the left and others allowed you to travel up and down. But in 3D games, you're forced to figure out for yourself where you should go. Do you go to the right? To the left? Who the heck knows, maybe you're supposed to go back from the direction you came from.
Let's compare two games from the Donkey Kong series, Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong 64. Of course, DKC representing 2D games while DK64 represents the 3D games.
|Donkey Kong Country||Donkey Kong 64|
Notice how its quite obvious that in the first screenshot, Donkey Kong only has two options, go right or to go left. There is no confusion or wasted time backtracking because you went the wrong way. But in the second screenshot, of DK64, DK has an almost infinite number of options, he can go to any of the smaller trees, or maybe that big tree, or perhaps he's supposed to go in the water? Who knows, there could be an underwater cave or something hidden in there?
And finally, what I feel is the biggest advantage 2D games have over 3D games. The graphics are better. For this, we'll compare some extremes. A modern game that is known for "realistic" graphics and a game that is nearly 30 years old. First off, we'll look at that modern 3D game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Now, many people would (incorrectly) say that those graphics look very good. But really look at it, the foreground is fuzzy and the background just fades into an impenetrable fog. The only part of the image that is clear is the middle of the screen. But did you notice anything else about this image? That's right, there are a whole two colors, brown and splash of green. I'm pretty sure the last time I was outside there were more than those two colors. Before you accuse me of just cherry picking images that were like this, go do a Google Image search for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. They're all like this, in fact here's another one, that does a little better with an astonishing three colors, this time adding in some orange.
Now, lets look at a game from 1983, when all there was 2D games and the world was greater for it, Keystone Kapers.
Look at those colors! Every color of the rainbow is present. Well, except for violet or indigo, I never could tell the difference between them, there is definitely some purple though. But not only are there lots of colors, the lines are all sharp and clean, nothing is fuzzy or blurred or covered in some fog. Clearly, these graphics are superior to those of these current 3D games. Even with 30 years to develop ways to make 3D games look better, they still can't compare to 2D games. I guess that extra D sucks up more processing power than developers can put up with. I won't even compare a modern 2D game with an old 3D game, that might just blow the mind of too many people and cause a sudden spike in the value of the 2D games I desire for myself.
I know I've made quite a convincing argument, but the constant advertisement/brainwashing of modern game developers and publishers has it so engrained into your brain that 3D gaming is superior, many of you will simply refuse this article as the ramblings of a gamer stuck in the past. But I assure you that I speak the truth, go dig out those NES and Atari games, dust off those aging machines and play a few awesome 2-dimensional games and bask in their gloriousness that can not be achieved when three dimensions are involved.
And don't even get me started on these new 3DS games or games that use 3D effects with the glasses. These are the obvious spawn of Satan.
This month the Game Boy Player Land blog will be heavily focusing on the macabre. As a huge horror movie fan, I've always had a soft spot for horror-themed games. And though I've wanted to write about them in spurts all month, I thought it would make for a really fun October if I just saved all the posts up for this 1st annual Spooktacular. All month long I'll be bombarding the blog with posts relating to ghosts, goblins, witches and the like. This month on the Game Boy Player Land blog, everyday is Halloween.
I just posted episode 1 of the RF Generation podcast minutes ago. Give it a listen and tell us what you thought! Your feature requests, show topic ideas, and just plain comments about our initial go are also welcome!
So the Vanquish demo arrived on XBox Live. I thoroughly enjoy developer Platinum's titles (Bayonetta, Okami, Viewtiful Joe Series) but until this demo arrived, I had little interest in another third-person sci-fi shooter. Any other time of the year it might have blipped on the radar. But in the same time frame as Halo: Reach, a new take on Castlevania, and another Call of Duty (I'll be honest, I'm only getting it for the radio-controlled RC car equipped with an AV feed for spying on/playing with my kids) it had to stand out, and the screen shots didn't really sell it for me.
Then I tried the Demo.
Whee!! Fluid, stylized action that felt like a hyper Gears of War, set in a clone of a Robotech universe, with a character in Issac Clarke's armor and wielding a gun stolen from the new Transformer movies. It was fast, over the top, Sega-brand arcade-y while containing depth, and I could see how the game's presentation and control combined into a beautiful player guided ballet in the vein of the new Ninja Gaidens and Devil May Cry.
At least, I think that's how it would feel if I could play it.
You see, I'm a southpaw. No, not a feline from Mississippi, a left hander. In a 3D space, my left hand has to control the look, and my right hand the movement. This, of course, is reverse of the traditional play control. No, it's not as simple as 'just get used to it the normal way.' Try playing one of the few games that manually allow a southpaw setting on the opposite of your preference and you may get a glimpse of my pain. And to all the Lefties in the forums that say an alternate control setup is unnecessary because they can play on the default, I'm happy you don't have a problem. I literally get nauseous playing the 'normal' way for more than ten or fifteen minutes, and I refuse to take Dramamine or other dimenhydrinates or medications to play a game. I've tried off and on for years, and it still makes me motion sick. Its not a problem if I can simply have the thumb sticks swapped.
Except it is. Because developers aren't really paying attention to between 10% and 15% of their gaming population, they may offer a southpaw control option that swaps the analogue stick controls, but obviously don't play test it. Let me give you a perfect example:
Gears of War supports an internal southpaw control option. It makes the left stick the look controls, and the right stick movement. We good now? Not hardly. Because G.o.W is a 'stop and pop' shooter, the player uses the 'A' button as a context sensitive control for taking cover, rolling to cover, jumping over cover, etc. The 'A' button is probably the most important button after the shoot button. Its directly above the right stick.
And. You. Can't. Change. It.
For normal controls, not a problem. But for southpaw, I need to move that right 'movement' stick in a direction while pressing the 'A' button. The button directly to the right of the stick. Let me give you a visual example of what my hand has to do to press 'A' while moving my character to cover:
Yeah. Any game requiring me to move the right thumb stick while pressing a face button (pretty much every 3D game) requires some crazy move like that. If I just move all my fingers across the face buttons 'arcade stick' style, then I can't reach the top bumpers and triggers. For Gears, they could have just let me change the 'A' functions with one of the bumpers (the left bumber is only used to give an arrow locating AI team-mates for crying out loud! I need that more than the game-designed-around-it cover system?!?!) Obviously, someone at Epic never play tested the southpaw option much, or this GLARING oversight of the unmappable 'A' button would have been addressed.
In fact, any 3D game requiring the use of face buttons that can't be remapped to the four top-side buttons on the 360 or PS3 controller is just a slap in the face to any southpaw-required gamer like me. It gets worse; many games won't even let you swap the thumb sticks anyway. Even the 360's internal southpaw preference is unsupported in many AAA games, including Battlefield 2, Lost Planet and Lost Planet 2, Bioshock, and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, just to name a small few. I had to buy a hardwired modded controller that internally swapped the sticks just to play these games, and that still doesn't address the face button problem.
What, are we still in the '90s? Why on earth, in this day of unprecedented mainstream gaming popularity, can we not get universal control mapping options on every game? Especially the large-scale developed ones? Sure, developers have their preference on how a game should be controlled; make that the default. Why alienate even a small percentage of the gaming population over such an easily correctable issue?
Maybe it's just me. For a long time I assumed it was. Then I read this:
I'm not alone!
Every time I submit a complain about this (I even called a few companies directly) all I would hear is a standard, 'thank you for bringing this to our attention, all of our customer's feedback is important to us, and we'll consider it for future releases' reply that would be the same line if I complained that their games didn't feature enough custard filled donuts.
Us southpaws have struggled in vain over this control issue ever since the Playstation era (though strangely, the Dreamcast featured several games with Southpaw defaults.) Please, help us bug developers enough so they will listen. Everyone wants to play games with the controls set up the way they are most comfortable, and even if you aren't a southpaw, there is almost certainly a game you would change a few buttons around on. Why are we still waiting?
It has been compared favorably and otherwise to everything from Braid to Ico. In truth, Limbo is a sum of several familiar gameplay components, wrapped in a dark, morbid, and mysteriously surreal narrative. What it is not, is for the faint of heart. Or wallet.
Gameplay consists of platforming, with only a jump and a contextual interaction button adding to the standard left and right movement. The sensitivity of the left analog stick determines walking, running, or creeping along, and that's it. No ducking, looking around, or direct combat. This streamline approach, rather than confining the experience, focuses the player on the two biggest features of Limbo: the environmental puzzles and the atmosphere. Oh, the atmosphere.
Limbo's palette is black, white, and grays, and nothing else. Instead of using this refined spectrum to construct high resolution and detail, the designers use the opposite extreme to grand effect. The visual filters and muted shades paint a dreamlike visual experience that is unique and immersing. Background and foregrounds are at a constant haze. Environments feature sparse lines and sharp angles that just barely convey a sense of open woods, labyrinthian underground tunnels, and complex industrial areas. Indeed, the world of Limbo only roughly sketches its home, then hands the pencil to the player's mind to draw the rest of the details. Where this could be easily viewed as pretentious or even lazy on the developer's part, the design is definitely purposeful, as the rest of the tools are clearly in the iron grasp of talent.
The animation is top notch, with subtle particle effects and little details emphasizing every action. Many clues are given for gameplay as well as narrative in the smallest of touches. The audio wisely follows the consistency of the visual design; sparse, light overtones occasionally punctuated by dramatic flair, and effects that will make the player much more squeamish than the persistent visual violence. I began playing with two friends watching, but before the hour mark I was alone. This brings me to an important point:
Limbo's content is not for everyone.
There is implied murder, torture, gore, drowning, dismemberment, and very dark themes. Without giving away spoilers, some actions will likely stun you in their graphic nature. This is not Mario. It is not Braid. It is a game designed around a certain theme, and that theme is played out fully. In the same manner that South Park may appear to target a young audience but is designed for adults, the same could be said for Limbo.
Though I personally feel games should always be based on their own merit, and there are flavorful and unique elements to the experience that is Limbo, everyone will compare titles. As mentioned before, Limbo imbues a desolate and lonely aura likened to the PS2 classics Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, comparative indie vibes to Braid (also an 'artsy' title criticized as derivative and overpriced), along with gameplay similarities to PC/PSX's Heart of Darkness.
And if the biggest sell for Limbo is the original atmosphere (and it most certainly is), the other is gameplay. Physics based puzzles and platforming challenges make up the bulk of the experience, with exploration and attentive observation yielding literal eggs for completion and achievements. A chapter select allows for easy access, and the game respawns the character only moments before each mistake, again putting the emphasis on puzzle solving and atmosphere. Some of the timing elements of the game are, true to the genre, mostly trial and error, and the designers were wise to avoid any life count or continuing limitations, allowing the player to simply keep at it until done.
Which brings out Limbo's only real 'fault' making the rounds of the critic circles at large. At fifteen bucks, is a game that can be completed in only a few hours worth such a premium? Limbo would certainly not survive the current expectations of boxed retail, and as a Live arcade download only title it is expected to compete with cheaper games containing more longevity. The almighty Castle Crashers, Braid, and even Ikaruga have fielded the same complaints, and review scores are bashed in light of perceived value.
I intend to write an article on the perception of entertainment value later. As for now, it comes down to this:
Limbo is original. Limbo is exceptionally well made. Limbo is, for a certain audience, wonderful. Limbo is fairly short, even abrupt by today's gaming standards. If you are interested, play the demo. It will tell you all you want to know: do I want more of this? Will the experience be worth the money to me, individually? Will I feel at a loss for paying this much for a few hours?
I know I, personally, have no regrets about purchasing Limbo. Indeed, I consider it a gaming experience to rival my top ten. But if you play the demo and are still not sure, Limbo probably is not for you, fifteen bucks or otherwise.
As an end note, I feel that the narrative played out in Limbo is terrifically realized, despite forum debates passed to and fro over the subjective nature of the story and its details. I thought it was rather clear in its intentions, and if it is not painfully obvious by now, I also feel it was a masterfully well done experience. If you are curious about my thoughts on the particulars of the story, feel free to PM me: I don't want to ruin or cheapen the experience for the curious by posting said thoughts in a forum.
BioShock 2. Halo 3 ODST. Super Mario Galaxy 2. New Super Mario Bros. Any Street Fighter after II. Every Madden after 2000 or so.
These games, other than representing new entries in their respective franchises, don't have much in common. But one thing I have heard about all of these games, either by critics or fellow gamers, is something along these lines: "this game is unnecessary."
The general mentality behind said comments usually indicate that the game does not offer enough updates, change, or innovation as to justify its existence, especially in light of previous games in its respective series. Some, such as the numerous updates to the Street Fighter series or Madden, are largely seen as simple tweeks or balancing, with occasional new characters or roster updates. Others, such as Super Mario Galaxy 2 and BioShock 2, are critically praised as superior gameplay experiences to their predecessors, yet are deemed as not really "needed" because of how well the first game performed or was received, and that the sequels were only market-driven extensions.
For this humble industry observer, the very idea that any entertainment product is 'unnecessary' because of previous similar product is not only humorous, but self-centered and destructive.
Imagine this same take on other entertainment:
Star Wars/Babylon 5/Stargate/Battlestar Galactica/Star Trek/Any other Sci/Fi with aliens represented as humans of other color or forehead wrinkles
Neon Genesis Evangelion vs. ANY OTHER SCI/FI Anime
Baseball/Football/Soccer/Basketball/Any other sport involving teams and vaguely spherical ball-like objects
Nascar/Rally/Cart Racing/Off Road/F1/Derby/Any other sport involving a vehicle and driver
This Band/That Band/That other Band/That Boy Band/All Rap,R&B,Techno,Classical,etc
Not only are all of these modes of entertainment highly derivative of other forms of entertainment, but to a non-fan they are often indistinguishable from each other within the same genre. Try talking about the differences of TOS, TNG, Voyager, DS9, and the movies to a non-trekkie and they'll just shrug; not only can they not distinguish between them but often they wouldn't care enough to try. I know plenty of people who can't distinguish Star Wars from Star Trek. Sacrilege to me, apathy to them.
Mention a 'strike' to a baseball fan and then a bowling fan. Watch what happens when you pretend to confuse the two. Somehow YOU'RE the dumb one for mixing up a term between two silly sports involving letting go of a ball. Aren't they pretty much all the same? (*ducks various thrown sporting gear*)
I'm not even getting into music, and how so many bands sound the same and yet sometimes something new and different can be so off as to be mistaken for noise.
The healthy purpose of entertainment is to at least give relaxation, and at most to edify. Why would I get upset over another Madden this year? Even if there are no serious innovations or updates beyond the new team rosters, if the sports fan buys it and has just as much or more fun with it as other entries, who am I to say that's not enough? Is someone else having fun? Am I a 'must be something new' Nazi to the point that I can't enjoy the bulk of current or even past games? Games that, while market-driven and mostly made with profits in mind, are still designed for the point of enjoyment?
This is not an attack on innovative progression. It is an acknowledgment that 'new' is not always better, and 'same' often has the right to exist alongside it. Striving for something completely groundbreaking and different, even improved, is admirable, and NECESSARY for the healthy development of our hobby. Trying to choke the gaming public with too much of the same will only lead to stagnation. The ol' industry crash of the early 80's will always be a reminder of that. (And epic mismanagement, of course.)
But video games are a much larger entertainment beast now. There is not only room for 'new' and 'same' to exist simultaneously, but often 'same' is needed to help fund 'new'. Those years of Madden sequels, much as they are criticized, paid for Dead Space, Mirror's Edge, and other original EA IPs. I have no interest in rehashed Pokemon, but that juggernaut helped keep Nintendo's name in the industry until my beloved DS released. Not to mention that shiny and awesome looking 3DS was built off the backs (money) of Mario Karts, Mario Golfs, Kirbies, and yes, Mario Parties.
Not only are sequels comfortable for us, they remind us of what we like and why we like it. I could probably enjoy Halo sequels for years, despite a core formula that is traditionally not altered much, not to mention it being another "generic" space marine FPS. You know, I LIKE that. I know what I'm getting, I know I like it, I want more of it. If they change things up a lot, I might like it more, but I might like it a lot less. Is is worth taking a chance? Sure. But why whine when a sequel is more of the same? If we liked the first, why are we griping that we were given more of what we liked?
We also need new. We need different. We need Katamari Damacy, Panic!, Vib Ribbon, mr. Bones, Seaman, Twisted, Odama, Kinect, Waggle, Move, NiGHTs, Yar's Revenge, Super Scopes, Bongos, Loco Roco, Patapon, Myst, and especially Shadow of the Colossus. We need something at least a little different, even if it fails. Even if it turns out to be not that fun. Even when new becomes the new derivative. Our industry adapts and shifts, or stalls and withers.
Different people enjoy different things, and the fact is that many of us will buy sequels and enjoy them, even if they aren't much different. Sometimes, it is because they are not much different. As much as I enjoy the Halo games, I think the Call of Duty series tend to be just above average games, but largely derivative of each other and offer little innovation between the respective entries. (Of course I recognize the same arguments leveled at Halo.) But they are both undeniable successes, and the sequels will undoubtedly follow in the same footsteps. Is that bad?
Apparently millions in the gaming mainstream don't think so. Why argue games should be so different if so many are enjoying these games? Are these millions of gamers wrong? I think that's the wrong question.
I think the more important question is, are these people having fun?
Or wasn't that the point?
With an overwhelming majority of the votes Sonic the Hedgehog will be the next Off the Shelf title. Nothing else really stood a chance did it?
Continue reading Off The Shelf - November - Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was the turning point in Sega's history. Released roughly one year after it's predecessor, Sonic 1, on Nov 21, 1992 in Japan, and Nov 24, 1992 in North America and Europe, Sonic 2 can be designated as the spark that ignited the major console wars between Nintendo and Sega. Only mere months after its release, Sega's market share had skyrocketed to an astonishing 50+%. This review will tell you why.
In the beginning of the game, we are greeted with the familiar chorus of 'SEGA', followed by a Sonic Team logo. After this fades out, the Sonic 2 logo begins to fade in. But wait! What, or rather who is that?! It is none other than the latest addition to the then young Sonic franchise, Miles 'Tails' Prower. In this game, you are given the ability to play as Sonic, Sonic & Tails, or just Tails. Whether or not Tails was a good addition to the game is a matter of much debate. You will find out my opinion later.
Come on... It's a Sonic game! Press A, B, or C to jump, and down A, B, or C to spindash. Easy to learn, difficult to master. 5/5
Gameplay in this game is great if you are playing as the Sonic & Tails duo, and brilliant if you are just Sonic. Why? Tails is just an idiot, plain and simple. He tends to botch up what you are doing, and when you actually need his help, he doesn't give it to you! However, the little 'Tails' problem will not detract from the gameplay. What makes the score rebound is what all Sonic fans know and love, Spindash. Introduced in Sonic 2, the Spindash is an iconic symbol of Sonic's speed. Overall, gameplay is quick, quirky, fun, and simple, just as a Sonic game should be. 5/5
Level Design/Replay Value:
Sonic 2 greets you with all new levels that are more zany than his first installment. If we look ahead a few years, to Sonic CD, I personally say that if Sonic CD has THE best levels of a Sonic game, Sonic 2 is a close second. Twists and turns will get you lost instantaneously, and the fun just never quits. Hidden passages and more points will keeps you playing again and again. 5/5
There are many songs in the video game world that you just can't forget. SMB: Overworld Theme, Metroid, Kirby, Legend of Zelda, the list goes on and on. Well, add Sonic 2 to that list. After a bout of Sonic 2 gaming, you will catch yourself humming these 'catchy' tunes! From Zone 1 to Zone 7, they're all great! 5/5
In conclusion, Sonic 2 is one of THE best Sonic games out there, and definatly deserves the official designation of a Classic Masterpiece.
20/20 or 100%