Tuesday, 16 December 2008
It's been a while since I last saw this, just got flashback's of when we filmed it at college. It's not the greatest thing in the world but we were just given a camera and told to go film something, and with no previous experience I don't think we did that badly.
Hope you enjoy it.
Sunday, 14 December 2008
Other things like the unofficial turbo pad for the Mega-Drive made the games a bit more fun after I’d played them all to death and an official resident evil pad I had for the PSone made the game much more controllable and fun with one half of the pad shaped like a gun handle with trigger making zombie fights a bit faster to react to and the other grip shaped like a door handle… it was an odd thing. Zip forward the Xbox and a game I bought called Steel Battalion which came with the largest game controller ever released for a console, with two giant joysticks, over 40 buttons and switches and a 3 pedalled unit for your feet, it truly was an epic piece of kit and although it wasn’t the easiest thing to set up, it really helped make the playable experience more entertaining as you were literally in control of every aspect of the giant robot/mech you were controlling.
But the best pad I’ve ever used is by far the Xbox360 pad, it feels so nice to hold, like it was molded to fir your hand perfectly. All the buttons are in easy reach and don’t get in the way during game-play, and even attachments like the MSN keyboard fit perfectly to the pad without hindering its use and still be easy to use during game-play. I remember seeing a video before the console came out about how they designed the pad to make it as comfortable as possible and put so much effort into making it the best for the player and now I look at pad’s for the ps3 that is essentially that same design they’ve had for 15 years and I just think to myself they really must not car about how people play as long as they are buying there game. I think anyone who has tried to use the trigger buttons on the ps3 pad knows exactly how poorly designed and rushed it seems.
Consoles themselves have changed greatly just like controllers over the years. The ZX Spectrum was nothing but a keyboard and a tape deck and the only the original NES was… well a box. I remember seeing the Mega-Drive 2 for the first time and thinking how different and cool it looked with its curved shaped and curved control pads that seemed to be the first attempt to make a controller more comfortable to hold as I suppose people were in general playing games for longer amounts of time as they become more mainstream and more a part of everyday life. Then the PSone hits the shelves and it looks like we’ve taken a step back to the box look and then fast forward to the ps2 and it’s even more of a box than the first one. We look at the consoles today and it’s a much different story (except for the Wii), It’s back to the curves and Xbox360 and PS3 are the key examples of this. I like the overall design of the 360, it’s pleasing to the eye and looks nice next to anything on your shelves, the PS3 is good but it does have its drawback, like it being the size of a small house and the fact you will be lucky to fit it on any shelve you may have at home already, and if you do fit it on it will suck every ounce of dust your house has as cover it’s nice shiny surface, mean you have to polish it about one every 20 minutes. I think when they come to design their next console, Sony may take a little more care, but given their track record of doing what they think is right and not listening to the fans about what they think is better I’m not going to hold my breath on that one.
Now we get to the trick one... MMO’S. Playable experiences such as Second Life (because it’s not technically a game) don’t have any story; they actually rely on the social aspect of the experience to create its own story between its users. There nothing but empty space and land that players purchase and then go about building their own buildings, shops and landscapes that other player can then visit and experience. This kind of freedom is cool, but with the content being completely generated by the players some things may not be suitable for all audiences. World of Warcraft on the other hand is a world that is built and controlled by Blizzard Entertainment (now Activision/Blizzard) and is a very in-depth world with themes and characters; both NPC’s and User’s, to interact with. It is story based, but the way you go about completing this story and the how long it takes to do it is completely controlled by the player, some don’t even choose the story route and rather use the landscapes to interact with other people much like a social website. (FaceBook come to mind).
Now MMO’s aside, you can look at games like Call of Duty. Now the main single player campaign is set during the second world war (excluding 4 from this) and you as the player must experience all the horrors that this sort of battlefield may contain. Now, is it a war story…? I would say not entirely. Yes its set during the war but each of the games are putting the players in control of a character that must experience the war first hand. I think the story is more about the persons experience during the war rather than just the war itself, Some may not agree but I think that the war was not just between the country’s that fought it, it was about the people involved and their experiences during that time and I think that what the game is trying to convey more than anything.
Saturday, 13 December 2008
In my opinion, I much prefer story driven compelling games than simple platform titles. I love how narrative based games can draw you in and make you feel more a part of what you’re experiencing as it happens and this makes you feel more a part of the overall experience. The most memorable moments in my gaming life are from games that made me feel a part of the moment that evoked emotion from me; made life and cry, get apprehensive or just plain scared. For me this is what gaming is all about and it’s something that a lot of people seem to have forgotten and would rather buy a game because it has superior graphics than another similar title. I feel sorry for them…
Personally I am not a huge fan of ranking systems, all this ‘8.2, 9.7’ score jargon seems a little bit petty to me; almost like ‘nit-picking’. By this I mean that a product could be seen as less of a game because it didn’t score well when in fact it might be an excellent game, or that a game with a high score (Kane & Lynch springs to mind here) is undeserving (which may lead people to getting fired...)
Out of all of the reviewing styles I far prefer a subjective style, provided it’s done in the right way; an example of this is Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw from ‘Zero Punctuation’. He methodically deconstructs a games good and bad points, its social impacts on players and the gaming community; whilst still keeping his opinion straight forward and precise all with a pinch of humor(you can see an example of whch here: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation/213-Too-Human ). I think this format appeals to others is proven by the how fast his popularity has risen over the internet and how his ‘Yahtzee’ persona has become such a cult character among gamers.
Friday, 5 December 2008
All the fun didn’t just belong to Sony, Microsoft introduced themselves into the console market with the ‘XBOX’ and the stage was set for the third console war. Xbox presented mainstream titles and a new selection of exclusive games that Sony weren’t able to produce and thus were able to reach a new audience. Xbox became known as the gamers console with the Play station focusing on selling any game they could to anyone who would by them (this lead to some of the more horrible games in recent history… Crazy frog racer I’m Pointing at you…) where as Microsoft limited there catalogue and focused on spending more time on making key games for certain demographics and this lead to better quality of games with far better visual presentation. To counter the ‘Metal Gear Solid’ licence that was exclusive to Sony, UbiSoft built “Splinter Cell”, a stealth espionage game that was set in a more realistic setting than metal gear and was enhanced buy real time lighting, amazing enemy AI and movable materials such as curtains and drapes. This was a great showcase for what the Xbox was capable of. The best story based game of this was the now cult classic “Knights of the Old Republic”. It was another great game that helped push the Xbox forward and showed a lot of people that heavy story games were here to stay. Its massive world, great cat of character and fantastic story were praised by fans and critics all over the world even to the point where many consider the game to be the best Star Wars story of its entire expanded universe series of books and comics that have been produced over the Last 30 years. The makers of this game, ‘BioWare’ would later set out to show us that this type of story based game-play would work in a game that didn’t have to rely on the Star Wars fans, this experiment would lead to ‘Mass Effect’ on the Xbox 360.
This for me shows the direction the games industry is heading, back in the eighties and early nineties story based games were the some of the most popular games on the systems as the world could be large and story’s long, but the graphics weren’t up to high standards so they didn’t take up much room on the cartridges they were sold on. As tech advanced, graphics became better but the medium of which to sore this information hadn’t could up so story games visuals got butter but the stories shorter to compensate the medium they were sold on. This lead to companies focusing one simpler games such as sports titles and beat-um ups to carry the people’s desire for more games to play and this lead to story games falling out of favour with audiences. With the advent of DVD and now the key Driving force Blu-Ray, story games can have fantastic visuals but are now also able to be much longer and more in-depth as they used to be. Games such as ‘Metal Gear Solid 4’ and the yet to be released ‘Heavy Rain’ are giving us the long, in-depth playing experiences that a few years ago just weren’t possible, and as a whole will push the industry forward. As budgets grow to their highest levels ever, games companies can I’ll afford to make, simple poor quality games that are too short or have bad game-play as the money they would lose from a poor selling game could devastate them finically. This has been evident recently in the news with ‘Midway’ who had huge success in the nineties being sold off for less than one million pounds after money lost on poor games. I think that this way of making games maybe more risky and time consuming but the quality of the finished product we are getting now is second to none and poor 3rd party titles will disappear into the mist. Where this will take us in the next generation of consoles I’m not sure, I have a feeling as World of Warcraft have showed us and ‘Knights of the Republic’ will show us upon its release is that the future will be online. Xbox have laid the groundwork for making multiplayer online on consoles a main part of the everyday use of a console, along with the interactive services it provides on its dashboard. If this means that in the future if we play the future GTA:5 title, the cities we are driving around in may very well be populated with other players around the world and in war games such as call of duty, rather than having NPC soldiers in you platoon as your enemy, they may be players on the other side of the world fighting with you. I think that the future of games will rely on more on the gamers who play them to inhabit these in-game worlds and create the experiences for each other, either way the new era will be something very special.
In 1983’s “Dragon’s Lair” became the first ever game to feature ‘Full-Motion Video’ or FMV’S with the thanks of the large laserdisc it was released on, for which it was also the first. It was a landmark game as for the first time in a videogame there were no animated pixel characters or flat backgrounds, it instead used cartoon animation and ‘Hot Points’ where the player would have to click in time to advance the video or face a grizzly death.
In 1985 the ‘Third Generation’ of consoles began with the introduction or the ‘N.E.S.’ (Nintendo Entertainment System) and the ‘Master-System’ from SEGA. With these new formats game a string of games that would become forever identified with these systems and laid the groundwork for the first franchises in the games industry that still last to this day. The most notable of these new franchises were ‘The Legend of Zelda’, ‘Super Mario Bros.’, ‘Dragon’s Quest’, ‘Final Fantasy’ and the first ever stealth-based game ‘Metal Gear’. The 1980’s would become the decade that Nintendo showed the world that games had truly arrived to the masses and was now an everyday part of life. In 1989 they cemented this fact by releasing the first hand held console, the ‘Game Boy’. It became the best selling hand held unit of all time and gave the world the phenomenon that was ‘Tetris’ which has sold over 33 million copies and is second only to ‘Super Mario Bros.’ which sold 40.2 Million.
The 1990’s saw the games industry explode into a global powerhouse, Budgets became larger, production teams became bigger and Music and Cinema began to work together to create some epic stories and engrossing environments. The ‘Fourth Generation’ of consoles was ushered in by the Sega Mega Drive and the ‘S.N.E.S.’ and the mascot for this new generation was SEGA’S ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’. Design to be a flagship character against Nintendo’s Mario, the new high speed platform style of sonic became a driving force of a heated battle between the two companies. In 1996 Nintendo would re-secure their dominance (all be it for 12 months) with the introduction of the N64 and its flagship Launch Title Mario64, the first full 3D platform game which became a cult classic . Other key N64 titles of this era were ‘GoldenEye 007’, ‘Perfect Dark’ and ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’. With the advent of CD technology being utilised for the first time in dedicated consoles, such as Sony’s PlayStation, the stage was set for the biggest game of the 90’s, ‘Final Fantasy VII’. Now a lot of people argue this point and I’m not really a diehard fan of it as most seem to be but I still think it’s important, it opened the gateway for a wave of Japanese games to flow into the us and Europe for the first time and as we see the results today, the Asian influence is very noticeable in today’s society. It also showed how large film type storylines and FMV’s could work together to make an enthralling experience, Although I still prefer the ‘Broken Sword’ type of storytelling in games. It became the game that cemented the PlayStation as the leader in the videogame industry; dominance that would last until the mid 00’s.
Now I seem to have gone on a bit long here so I’ll try and keep this short, for me the best games came in the late 80’s and mid ninety’s, I remember as a child playing a ZX Spectrum when it was brand new and waiting for games such as ‘Fantastic Dizzy’, ‘Hungry Horace’ and ‘The Oracles Cave’ to load on its loud and colourful loading screens for 15 minutes before playing and just enjoying it for just the game it was without the worry of graphic being the selling point of a game, it was just more enjoyable. Queuing up with my dad on the Launch day to be one first people to get a Nintendo GameBoy and playing ‘Tetris’ for hours and never get sick of it, and I still play with the same enjoyment today. And then the mega drive, playing that for the first time and finding I couldn’t understand the language of the games because my parents had gotten a Japanese import and all the writing was in Japanese but still loving every minute of it. Games were so much simpler back then but way more enjoyable, I remember my dad sitting there trying to play Sonic 1 all day and night just so we could see the last level because as children it was a bit of a tall order, I don’t think any parent without much experience with games could sit there for 5 minutes these days and be able to get far in a game because they are so overly complicated. But the highlight for me was getting Broken Sword, this beautifully drawn game with compelling story and fantastic sound and animation was the biggest eye opener for me. I had always been interested in art and to see a game that looked like it had been drawn was the point when I thought that one day my art could get me somewhere, that I could be able to make games like this one day, it’s a possibility I’ve always hung onto and am now able to put into practice.
Saturday, 8 November 2008
Gaming dates back further than most people may think and here are some of the key titles that set in motion the birth of the videogame industry. When people think back to the earliest games most people would stop a ‘PONG’ from the 1970’s, but you would be wrong. The origins of gaming actually stretch back to the 1950’s where the first basic game was produced. “Tennis for Two” was a simple as its title, a two player tennis game that was played from a side angle rather than an over the top view. Next up, we move to 1961 where some MIT students developed a the ”Spacewar!”. The player would control a spacecraft that would fire missiles at hazards that were created by a black hole in the centre. It was built into a unit called the DEC PDP-1, very original… it is the size of transit van and the game itself is played on a circle monitor and controlled with a basic keyboard. I had the lucky opportunity to see it in the flesh at the ‘Game-ON’ exhibition in 2006 and it’s amazing how things have changed in 50 years.
The game went on to inspire later efforts like 1969’s “Space Travel” and 1971’s “Galaxy Game” which became the first ever coin-op videogame and was built into a very unique looking cabinet.
Now we come to gaming genesis, in 1972 ‘ATARI’ was founded and its debut effort was “PONG”. The classic over the top format tennis game went on to influence the look of most tennis and sports games all the way up to the mid 80’s. PONG was the stand alone arcade success for most of the 70’s and the cabinet it was built into became the standard design for most arcade machines to this day. I wish I had the opportunity to play it during the height of its popularity rather than many years later on the Atari 2600.
In 1978 Taito’s “Space Invaders” ushered in the “Golden Age” of arcade gaming. ‘Space Invaders’ offered a more complex gaming experience with many objects on the screen at one time and the introduction of a ‘LIVE’s/Credits’ format made the games more competitive especially in bars and arcades where these cabinets were placed and extra features like top scores added to the experience and help people part with their cash. The first colour arcade game “PAC-MAN” added to the popularity of the arcade machines and he became recognised as the first icon or mascot of the games industry and led the way for future titles to adopt mascots to represent their games.
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
I look forward to the work that has yet to come and get started on making this blog full of my ideas and work...
Let the good times roll -