Saturday, 15 June 2013

NEWS: Saturday Update

E3 is finally over. What a crazy week it's been. This was my first E3 that I covered for the Escapist and the increased workload I had to deal with was intense. It should all pay off in the end though (literally, as I get paid per article).

So what's my opinion on E3 this year? Obviously, there is the Microsoft thing, which completely baffles me. I am somewhat of a Microsoft fanboy (i own an Xbox 360, although how I came about owning one was more of an opportune than deliberate purchase) and even I have to admit that Sony wiped the floor with them. It was just one bad policy after another. I know Microsoft are trying to change the gaming world here, and they knew there would be resistance, but damn.

A lot of people compare what they are doing to what Steam did to PC gaming several years ago. I tend to agree with them there. Steam was met with just as much (if not more) resistance than is now facing the Xbox One, but at the end of the day it turned out to be the best thing to ever happen to PC gaming.

Microsoft wants to do the same thing with console gaming, but damn, they could have done a LITTLE bet better PR on it. Maybe eased people more into it rather than just dumping bad news after bad news.

Aside from that whole bru-ha-ha, a lot of cool stuff came out of E3. We got to see Titanfall from the guys who made Call of Duty back when Call of Duty was a competitive PC FPS and not a running joke. If they pull this off, it'll sit besides TF2 and NS2 as a go-to multiplayer FPS for me.

Watch_Dogs, with it's hide-and-seek multiplayer and crazy gameplay options looks set to really shake things up.

There was the announcement of the new Battlefront, which doesn't really need to have anything else said about it (fingers crossed for a PC release).

And then there was of course, Nintendo's direct, which pretty much hit everything right. Wii U has no games? OK. How about some big first party Nintendo games? Super Mario. BAM. Donkey Kong. BAM. Mario Kart. BAM. Oh? You are sick of the bog-standard Nintendo franchises you always see? Well here's Wonderful 101, a crazy new IP that's about controlling a whole mob of superheroes at once. You want third party? We got third party. Batman. Assasin's Creed. Bayonetta 2, which is a Wii U exclusive!


As you can imagine, I haven't had too many real-life adventures this week! Next weekend i'm planning on attending a 'scavenger hunt' in Fukushima, which sounds fun.

So anyway, here's the news for last week:

Story of the week:

Okay guys, that's it from me for this week! Be sure to subscribe to my twitter for up-to-date news and blog updates, my youtube channel for gaming videos, and check back here every Saturday for a roundup of my Escapist news pieces!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

NEWS: Sunday Update

Hey guys,

This week's update is a day late once more, because I went to Spa Resort Hawaiians yesterday with my good friends Jerry and Joe.

It was really nice to get into the pools and waterslides again. I have some great experiences with waterparks - both at Wet n Wild in Australia, and of course, who can forget Sunway Lagoon in Malaysia? So, I was understandably really looking forward to this place.

Fortunately, my good friend Steven Thompson (of Happy Steve, Angry Steve fame) got us some discount tickets for about 1,000 yen each. This was very fortunate, as the usual price of admission is around 3,000 yen. The second reason this was fortunate was because of the inevitable pay-wall.

At the resort, your price of admission covers the pools, the onsens, the "hulu show" and the "spa world" - a series of outdoor themed spas. What it does not cover, is the waterslides. Because who goes to a waterpark to ride on waterslides? The waterslides were 400 yen each ride, or 2,400 yen for a day pass. We arrived at around 2pm, and discovered that there was a special "half day" pass from 3pm for 1,200, so we ended up getting that, but were still pretty grumpy.

Pay-walls are a phenomenon i have complained about in Japan before. Back home, pay walls don't stand, because people will just refuse to pay them. Most folks would be willing to pay a slightly higher price of admission if it covers literally everything in the park. Japanese people are apparently willing to pay high admission and then still pay for pay-walls on top of that.

Pay-walls are particularly ridiculous when combined with things that should be free, like national heritage sites or temples. Seriously. Temples have a pay-wall. They are even considering pay-walling Mt. Fuji!

But besides that, we actually had a pretty good time. The slides were lots of fun, and the outdoor "edo-period onsen" was a really nice experience. I rate the park 7/10 because of the pay-wall and also because its too crowded (we went on a cloudy, random Saturday and it was super packed. I can only imagine how it must be during the summer vacation).

On the gaming front, nothing too exciting happened this week. Next week E3 kicks off, and I'm assuming that all the major players are waiting until then to make any big announcements. I'm personally covering the Ubisoft and Nintendo press conferences for the Escapist, but will most likely pick up other stories that my colleagues don't get to.

And here's last week's news:
Story of the week:

Okay guys, that's it from me for this week! Be sure to subscribe to my twitter for up-to-date news and blog updates, my youtube channel for gaming videos, and check back here every Saturday for a roundup of my Escapist news pieces!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

OPINION: Five Gaming Innovations I Wish Were Never Innovated

As the years go by, games tend to get better. The programming becomes more advanced, the graphics become more photo-realistic and new innovations are introduced that are quickly adopted into the next generation. 90% of the time, these innovations are welcome additions, yet occasionally we’ll get a particularly nasty one that for some reason will stick to the games industry like a dog turd to your brand new sneakers. Here are the top five things I wish developers would just lose their boners over already.

1.      Regenerating health
The third world war has broken out. I’m fighting the Russians/Koreans/generic Arabic terrorists and they have me and my squad pinned. I step out to try and offer some cover fire and I get shot in the face with a shotgun. It’s K, though, because I can just hide behind this wall for a few seconds and I’ll be fine. While health packs aren’t any more ridiculous of a concept (heal gunshot wounds with bandages and painkillers), they at least had the benefit of adding a sense of urgency and care to your gameplay. In the days of Half-life, I couldn’t just stay behind a wall as waves of bad guys slowly got closer. If I got shot, I lost health, and I had to go and find myself a med pack or a HEV battery. I’ll add regenerating ammo to this point too, for the same reason. You have no idea how relieved I was that Team Fortress 2 decided to stick with health packs (and the medic). 

2.      Knee-high walls
I’m playing an action-RPG/third person shooter. The very first room I enter is littered with these pissy little knee-high walls. ‘Whelp, guess it’s time to hide behind cover until bad guys stop running at me.’ This is almost exclusively tied to my first point on regenerating health, but it seems like a game these days isn’t complete unless you can duck behind a knee high wall and blind fire over the top. Gears of War is the main source of this grievance, and while it actually did the cover system pretty well, other games are so intent on copying it that they will occasionally forget that they are supposed to be a different kind of game.

3.      Open-world sandboxes
Don’t get me wrong. I like sandbox games. I’ve always been a GTA fan, and Sleeping Dogs was one of my favourite games released last year. It’s just; sometimes you don’t want to play in the sandbox. Sometimes you want to play on the jungle gym. Sometimes you want to slide down the slide. I really liked the first Red Faction game, but the sandbox of Guerrilla just turned me off. Similarly, I’m not looking forward to Prey 2, because I actually enjoyed the linear FPS plot reminiscent of Doom and Quake that the first game offered. “Linear” has become a dirty word in the games industry, and developers are constantly scrambling to throw together a “sandbox-world” to avoid it.

4.      Quick-time events
You all knew this one was coming. The famous ‘press X to win’. Quick-time events are a crutch used by bad developers, who make cut scenes that are either too long, too frequent, or too boring to hold the player’s attention, and they are thrown in to offer the illusion of interactivity. When designing a cutscene, all developers should ask themselves: ‘Does this cutscene need a quick-time event to make it work?’ If the answer is yes, then scrap the cutscene and start over. 

5.      Games being designed around Easy mode
Hey, you suck at video games. That’s ok. There are video games I suck at too. I’m really bad at fighting games, for example. I don’t have a problem with people sucking at video games, and don’t get me wrong; they should have the ability to make games easier. What I’m complaining about is games being designed around the Easy mode. Games used to be designed to be grueling and tough, and if it was too much, you could make it easier tweaking elements of the game – lowering enemy health bars, giving yourself infinite ammo, reducing the amount of enemies and so on. These days, it feels like most games are designed to be played on the easiest setting, and players wanting an extra challenge can turn the difficulty up and increase enemy life bars and damage numbers or whatever. The problem is, just making things harder doesn't make them more challenging. You understand? The game is obviously not designed around enemies having the extra health they have in hard mode, so there are times that it becomes frustrating rather than challenging. It also leads to developers giving enemies abilities that feel ‘cheap’ (such as instant auto-aim) in an attempt to ramp up the difficulty.

So these are my five biggest peeves of the games industry right now. Most of them add nothing to a game's design, and actually detract from it at times. What do you guys think? What gaming innovations do you hate?

Be sure to subscribe to my twitter for up-to-date news and blog updates, my youtube channel for gaming videos, and check back here every Saturday for a roundup of my Escapist news pieces! If you liked this article, you might enjoy "Always Online and You: Why it Isn't a Big Deal", another of my opinion pieces!

Editor's Note: Thanks for reading guys. I'm trying to get back into writing a regular weekly feature. It's hard to dedicate time to these kinds of pieces on my blog that don't earn any money when I know I can just crank out another Escapist news post and actually get paid for it, but I think it's really important to hone my writing by writing various different styles. I don't want to become known as the guy who can only write news, I want to do reviews, opinion pieces and features as well.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

NEWS: Sunday Update

Hi everybody!

This week's update is a day late because I had my junior high school's sports festival yesterday, and afterwards went to an Izakaya (Japanese pub) with my co-workers and got absolutely plastered.

It was a good festival all up. My school is in a beautiful location at the foot of the mountains, and at this time of year it was just the right amount of sun and cool spring breezes to make the event really enjoyable. As an added bonus this year I was actually given a task. I was in charge of the video camera, so I spent most of the time following the kids around and filming the various events. That is of course when I wasn't being swarmed by elementary school kids who came to watch their older brothers and sisters.

It was nice to actually be included and actually be given a job, however small it was. Usually at these things I just sit around being bored off my ass, so it was nice to actually be treated like another teacher for once.

I'm also pretty sure I got some rad street cred with my teachers at the party, when my Kyoto-sensei (vice principal) showed me his completely clean plate after having some grilled fish. "I ate everything," he boasted, "even the skin and the bones." "まけγͺい!(I'll never lose!)" I replied, turning back to my plate and finishing off my own skin and bones.
Takabayshi Junior High School's Sports Festival (I think the faces are indistinguishable enough to get by Japan's censorship laws)
As for gaming news, here are last week's top stories:
Story of the week:

Okay guys, that's it from me for this week! Be sure to subscribe to my twitter for up-to-date news and blog updates, my youtube channel for gaming videos, and check back here every Saturday for a roundup of my Escapist news pieces!