Episodic narratives – Why not?

January 31, 2009

Before we start, please listen to this song: http://de.youtube.com/watch?v=5OueTGtbUyk

If you´ve done that, i have to ask you: What was the last game you played that had such a pull towards it, such an adventurous feeling? Personally, i can´t remember any such game at all. Of course, this is an opening song of a series and it´s supposed to hook the audience, but it reminds of something i´ve wanted for so long: Episodic stories.

Buy episodic stories i basically mean something like the Pokémon-anime…only times 1000 better. I´m talking about the structure. Modern games always focus on one main story, where anything that´s not part of that is a minor sidequest. Also, i hardly ever felt like taking part in one the adventures i´m playing. It´s always a very passive situation for me, the player. One game that did a great job in giving me the feeling of being part of the adventure was Baten Kaitos, where the player was directly talked to by ingame-characters.

I´d love to see this more advanced, though. I want that my fellow NPCs shout at me, not because of some mistake i made, but because they´re talking to or care about me. Like, i´m walking within the game world, and one of my party-members starts telling a little story or a joke. Or we´re in battle and i´m about to be attack from behind and a NPC-friend shouts “Watch out, behind you!”. Sure, some games to this, but it´s a very artifical way these games are doing that. I want it to feel more natural. I want…to CARE about the NPCs that are following me. I don´t need shallow zombies that do whatever i want them to do.

And i want all that to happen within a story that´s not so ultimately straight forward. Go there, do that, go there, do that, and each time giving me the feeling of having experienced a great little adventure. Not “go there, do that, go there, do that” and then saying “uh, finally i can proceed with the main quest”.

I don´t know if it´s just me who´d like something like that to happen, but i think i would combine both lenghty adventures AND appeal to gamers without much time, as those could finish many little adventures and not forget something, which could happen in one big adventure.


It´s alive! New trailer for The Crystal Bearer

January 29, 2009

It has been a long time, too long for some, like EGM that announced this game to be cancelled. They were wrong and i am happy, awsome. Anyway, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearer is well alive, and no, i won´t write that title again in this article. Square-Enix was so kind to include a new video-trailer on the disc of the Wii-Version of the latest Crystal Chronicles-game, Echoes of Time.

The trailer starts out rather weird and annoying, mostly due to the bad music, at least bad for a trailer. It´s later on when the “real” trailer starts and we get to see various scenes within the game. And really, the Crystal Chronicles-series finally evolves beyond the nice party-game towards a series that can stand equally next to the main line Final Fantasy-games.

To be honest, The Crystal Bearer is the only Square Enix-game i´m excited about. Of course the game uses a famous name, but in itself it is something completely new. The visuals are great, trumping any other 3rd-party game for the Wii. The design is neither overly cute nor realistic. Instead it´s in the middle, which gives a feeling of a modern FF9. The shown locations look beautiful and creative, most interesting though is the gameplay. It´s too early to give a final judgement, but from what can be seen so far, the game makes great use of the Wii´s features. The main character, Layle, has telecinetic abilities, maybe making use of the Gravitas-magic spell, and throws enemies and all kind of stuff around. He also actives switches from the distance. The potential is there for making a great combat system.

Instead of throwing another bunch of emo-characters towards the player, we finally get a strong, confident protagnist, likeable from the very beginning. Two seemingly bad guys are shown, though it´s unknown if they´re the ultimate bad guys of the game. Looking at Crystal Chronicles-history, probably not.

I´m personally super excited for this game, as it´s less an RPG and more a action-adventure. That means a greater sense of interactivity and less cutscene-watching. It also helps that the main character´s abilities appear to be awsome. With Monster Hunter 3, Dragon Quest 10 and now The Crystal Bearer, the Wii´s lineup looks better than ever before. Now bring Fragile and Tales of Symphonia 2 over to Europe and all is fine.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearer – Trailer


Lowering the price of older games – Why?

January 17, 2009

First of all, wow, i really have a lot to say this month, well, maybe because i´m currently sick and every single cough feels like my throat is about to explode. Whatever. Today i wondered why games are worth less money the farther into the past their release lies.

Franchises that get yearly updates like many of Electronic Arts´ games of course lose value when there´s a better version of the same concept available. Then there´s bad selling games that may have a second chance of selling when their price is lowered. What i want to talk about, though, are successful games, blockbuster games, games that received highly positive feedback from the press and did well in terms of sales.

This may be really just my view on this matter, but to me a game like, for example, Mass Effect is a piece of…well, a piece of eternal entertainment. “Eternal” simply means that no matter when you´re going to play Mass Effect, it will always tell you its great, unique story and offer you great gameplay within a believable virtual game world. Or take the Zelda-games or Final Fantasy. There is nothing about these games that will be forgettable in the future. Take books for example. Is the price of J. R. R. Tolkien´s Lord of the Rings any lower than it had been years ago? No, because this story was, is, and always will be a “piece of eternal entertainment“.  When it comes to games, though, they´re rather treated like lowly consume-products. As if you´re buying a bottle of Cola, and once you drunk all of its content, the only value that remains is the money you´ll get when you take the bottle back to the store where you bought it.

Now i´ve heard people openly complain about how Nintendo is especially bad, because they don´t lower the price of their games. They´re not doing so because of what i´m talking about, they´re doing so because their games keep selling. Nonetheless, i totally love this situation in which games keep their initial value. And i think that in the end this would be a good thing for everyone. Good for publishers, good for the used games-market, and most importantly, good for the acceptance of videogames as more than childish consume-products. But maybe i´m wrong and my fellow gamers really only look at games that way. I can only hope that this is not the case.


Casual vs. Hardcore – What´s next?

January 15, 2009

Just today IGN published a nice…no, wait, i hate political correctness, so let´s restart:  Just today IGN published a ridiculous, embarrassing article about the ten things that are destroying the video game industry. One of the points that made me laugh most was “- motion controls”. No further explanation. The second point that made me write this text was “casual games”.

And it reminded me of how ludicrous this nomenclature is. You see, back then i always thought hardcore gamers were those that find out about awsome easter eggs or get the highest highscores. Those that become so good at Guitar Hero that you have to pitty their life (not that i do that). Casual games, meanwhile were all games that, well, casual gamers played. Which was games like GTA3 or popular first person shooters or Gran Turismo. Also called “the mainstream”.

As for me, i can remember three generations of ridicule:

– kiddy vs. mature

– mainstream vs. hardcore

– casual vs. hardcore

What i´m asking is: What is next? If Nintendo presses further into the virtual reality market, i could see the following become reality:

– VR-gamer vs. RL-gamer (Virtual Reality-gamer vs. Real Life-gamer)

And as awful laughable that sounds…it would fit just fine in line with its precedessors. Beware of the crusade of RL-gamer, that praise how games should be played on a TV, while the other group enjoys the newest gaming experience.

PS: While i wonder how IGN can allow such an article to go online, i certainly agree with #9. I cant get immersed when i´m playing a girl. It´s even worse with anime, all good shows have female leads. So, certain mods of a certain board should get the sand out of their vagina instead of banning IGN from the whole board.


Marvellous sets Countdown for “secret game”

January 13, 2009

Japanese developer Marvelous Entertainment put up a website including nothing but a countdown…and a little picture. They´re not the only ones, Sega and CyberConncet also released such a countdown-website. Right now, nothing is known, not even which platform(s) will get that new game.

But i wouldn´t be myself if i didn´t look at even the most ludicrous, non-sense “hints” for my favourite game-series. So there you go (and thanks to wrowa and onipex):

omg

Indeed, how about it? Again: HOW ABOUT IT?!? Though, seriously, it´s definitely not like i´m getting up any kinds of hopes for something like that to happen. But still, outsourcing just the franchises wouldn´t be so out of the realm of possibilities. It would be shocking, but still possible. So how about a “Harvest Moon: Hyrule“?

I´d say both franchises/developers would gain something from that. Be it Marvelous that would get a lot of hype for such a game, or Nintendo that could say “look, here we have something for our beloved hardcore fans”. And honestly, it´d certainly make the concept of Harvest Moon interesting again. I mean…if you take Ocarina of Time, for example, everything´s there…the farm, the town, the mountain. Easy like that. Drop some decent nostalgia here and there, et voilá, millions of Zelda-fans are going to buy that game.

Nonethless, it most likely isn´t happening. So, simply take it: There is a countdown for an unrevealed game. That´s as much news as there is.

Source: http://www.mmv.co.jp/special/game/30/


Miyamoto bringing hardcore- and casual-gamers together: New Patent

January 9, 2009

News is that Nintendo, with a mentioning of Shigeru Miyamoto, patented a new concept of how how games are offered to all kinds of gamers. Unlike nowadays, where you either finish a game or fail at trying to do so, the patent features two new game-modes.  Even more fantastic the patent seems to use the next Zelda-game for Wii as a demonstration for what is going on. So besides the typical “New Game”-mode, where you start from the beginning, there´s a so-called digest-mode, as well as a scene menu-mode.

The digest-mode seemingly can be started from several points within the game and then is like a video-walkthrough. Great thing is that the play can overtake control of this walkthrough at any given time. The scene menu-mode simply appears to be a chapter-oversight, where you can choose from different chapters and enter the game, thus playing from this point on. Both new modes, as it seems, don´t allow the player to save the game. Depending on how long one of these pre-generated chapters is that could be a problem, but let´s not fear for the worst.

Another point made in this patent is a hint-system. If you´re stuck you can press a hint-button and a video is shown in a small ingame-window. This video shows what you have to do.

screenshiot

Now why is this actually really awsome? Because it´d basically allow Nintendo to make a really hard Zelda-game, or at least not dumb down it any further, without alienating either of the, well, two audiences, “hardcores” (sorry, but lol, that term is so misused nowadays, Kohler got the real definition perfect) and casual gamers. Traditional gamers will be able to play the game just like they always did. Less experienced gamers meanwhile can choose from various help-systems, be it little help within the normal-mode, or jumping from chapter to chapter, or, if nothing works, simply watching the game. This is not only something for a Zelda-game, but a great idea that could be used in any game that´s not directly targeted at the mainstream.

And if it wasn´t enough, not only is this concept giving games a broader appeal, but we´ll also be able to kinda play a boss-rush-mode, instead of having to play through the whole game. I still have three occupied saves of Twilight Princess exactly because of the lack of that, one right before the fun boss of the fourth dungeon, then right before the gorgeos dragon-boss of the sky-temple, and last but not least at the very end before facing Ganon. I really missed the option to play those scenes at any time, so, thanks for this patent. Oh, and totally not some news, but somehow the pictures the patent came with remind me of the great art style of Legend of Zelda 1 and 2. Well…just a feeling, haha.


The Curse of the Double Jump

January 5, 2009

It will be short, it will be a rant, and you might not agree with me, so keep that in mind…NOW!

I don´t care about the solutions they had in good ol´ 2D-times, and i don´t really know which one was the first 3D-game to “feature” this, but i do know that i don´t like it: The Double Jump.

I am talking about that gameplay-action, where you´re inmidst of the air after pressing the jump-button once, then press the same button again while you´re still up, and you can jump a second time…without touching the ground again. This came to my mind when i played God of War yesterday, and no, this is not something only this game does “wrong”. How about the “Sony Jump’n Runs“, how i call them, Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, Sly the Racoon. Or Crash Bandicoot. They all feature this Double Jump, that, at least from my point of view, doesn´t make any sense.

Rather than being ridiculous from a visual point (your character jumps from the air, lolwut, is this One Piece, CP9?!?), it´s even moreso a cheap way out of a game design problem. Without a Double Jump, many areas in the above games would have to be completely reconstructed, simply because they character wouldn´t have such a reach. Also, it´s a matter of accessability. Tapping the same button twice is easier than, for example, holding another button AND press the jump-button to do a long jump.

This is what brings us to the Mario-series. Really, much more so back last gen then today, it was said that the best Jump’n Runs are on a Sony-system now. You see, i could never agree with that…for the simple fact that the only Jump’n Run today that actually features a deep Jump-system IS the Mario-series. No Double Jump, no, when Mario jumps, he either reaches his goal or falls to death. No rescue-jump. And it seems Nintendo especially thought about that matter, as the Double Jump in Metroid Prime is a gameplay-mechanic that´s totally well explained. Then there´s Zelda where you cannot even jump anymore on your own. I really wish for some jumping-action in future Zelda-games, but i definitely don´t want Link jumping around like an idiot, Nintendo always kept the movements in Zelda-games somewhat “realistic”.

To make long matters short: I´d love to see more reasonable jump-concepts. One idea i had for a long time is that if you want to jump farther, you hold the jump-button, press the stick into the wanted direction, and your character realistically takes an inrun, and once you feel like it´s enough, you release the jump button and the character jumps…in horizontal, not vertical distance. A game that featured that idea in some kind was Spiderman 2 for all systems last gen. Though it was way overdone, totally not suited for a normal jump’n run. Anyway, that´s what i want.

Do you like the Double Jump? Have you even ever thought about it? Tell me…so i ca rant some more.