Posts Tagged ‘ PS4 ’

Counterview from a Wide-Eyed Video Game Industry Fool

In a recent pre-E3 post at Scholarly Gamers, video game advocate Patrick Scott Patterson detailed his precarious position on the precipice of cynicism for the industry he loves. I’ve followed PSP for a while on social media, I’ve even had dinner at WingStop with the guy once, and I’ve agreed with a lot of his opinions and efforts, but I’ve disagreed from time to time as well. Where he’s peering into the pit of cynicism, hoping E3 2017 will deliver a swinging vine with which to grab and swing over, I feel quite different about the state of the industry right now.

PSP Pitfall

Totally professional artist’s rendition of Patrick Scott Patterson’s E3 2017 goal.

I think PSP’s lamentation of a time in the 90s where hardware was the focal point of discussion rather than games is fair. He specifically states: “…this time period seemed to focus too much on technology and not enough on games. All I wanted out of the industry – all my friends wanted out of the industry – were games.

I think that’s a fair statement and one that holds true for most gamers today. We saw that in the push back to X-Box One’s announcement focusing on television, television partnerships, a Halo television series with Steven Spielberg, and the multimedia capabilities of the system, to which gamers replied “where are the games?”

In fact, Sony “won” E3 that year and has been “winning” the latest battle for the living room by their message of being for gamers and putting the focus squarely on games at their presentations. Sure, they still had Netflix, were still working on a more a la carte TV offering, and were still a multimedia system too, but they knew that gamers want games and made that their focus.

Where Scott and I first diverge is on the opinion of delivering on this desire. I’ve talked with Scott via social media posts before have the impression he feels the PS4 doesn’t have the library to draw him in. I, on the other hand, have an ever growing library of games for the system that I can’t keep up with (as a typical gamer, my backlog doth floweth over), but I’ll touch on that a bit more later.

Hardware or Software? Who Gets the Spotlight?

GameInformer Issue 289

But is hardware overtaking the spotlight when it comes to games? Overall, I don’t think so. Let’s start by the fairest comparison we can have to the 90s with a print magazine. May’s Issue 289 of Game Informer dedicates four pages to VR hardware technology, but four pages to games coming out that will take advantage of VR headsets. Two pages discuss the Nintendo Switch, which is arguably a look at hardware.

A feature on indie games at GDC 2017 covers 12 different games with quick looks. 12 more games are given quick hit blurbs, then a page each for an afterwards look at Horizon: Zero Dawn and For Honor. Halfway through the issue, we’re on to reviews for Hellblade, Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, Injustice 2, Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Perception, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Sonic Forces, Kingsway, Hob, Tacoma, Into the Breach, Quake Champions, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III, Perception, Escape from Tarkov, Tokyo Xanadu, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Ghost Recon Wildlands, Yooka-Laylee, Persona 5, The Elderscrolls Legends, and Tumbleweek Park. That’s 6 pages for hardware with 47 games getting attention in the issue.

Moving beyond print media and looking at the online landscape of games sites, where does hardware fall?

What is Real? – Virtual Reality

Honestly, things are pretty sparse on VR coverage. Many are concerned Sony has already given the PSVR the same vaulted position next to the Vita and PSP under a rug. Where Scott wasn’t impressed with its presence at E3, many are worried about a lack of it this year, myself included.

Specifically speaking, Virtual Reality is another point I disagree with PSP on in general. Or at least, I’m hopefully disagreeing while fearful he’s right, but here’s where wide eyed fool meets at-risk cynic with more matured observational experience. I’m a firm believer that we can look to our actual future by looking to the science fiction of our past. Whatever we imagine, we eventually find a way to bring to life. From Star Trek automatic doors and communicators to modern day….well automatic doors was on the nose, but surpassing the science fiction with Smart Phones, we’ve made science fiction reality. Self driving cars have long been a staple of science fiction and we’re on the verge of reaching for that goal in the next decade.

Likewise, we’ve long imagined virtual reality, where we can be fully immersed in another world, transported through some form of technology, dreaming of a day when the virtual is near indistinguishable from the real. While I don’t think we’re on the verge of that, I actually am excited by the modern adoption and interest in virtual reality and want it to be pushed. I want games exploring the possibilities. I want the clunky headsets of today because they’ll become the sleek visor/ear covers of tomorrow. I want the groundwork laid out now to be deep diving into VR when I’m in a retirement home.

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Obligatory Morpheus pic while talking about Virtual Reality…check!

I’ve never liked first person games, but based on my experience with Arkham VR, I look forward to an Elder Scrolls game in VR and am fully hoping next week’s E3 includes the announcement of Star Wars Battlefront 2 being fully playable in VR.  I haven’t played it myself yet, but most reviewers and commenters seem to agree Resident Evil 7 is a whole different experience in VR, and far more terrifying than it is without.

State of the Consoles Address

I somewhat agree with Scott’s view on the state of the consoles, though not completely. Nintendo needed to bring out the Switch to replace the Wii U. While the Wii U had some fantastic games and I agree will likely be seen as an under-appreciate system in the future, this fall will mark 5 years since its release. That’s only 1.5 years less than the Wii’s lifecycle. If the sales-struggling Wii U managed to reach that close to its juggernaut predecessor’s life, I consider that pretty good longevity.

The PS4 Pro and Project Scorpio, however, I agree are a bit unnecessary and I’m not crazy about the idea of half step generations becoming the standard, especially depending on how much more they start to offer in the future over their “lesser” versions. Right now, however, they haven’t seemed to be that much of a game changer. If Scorpio proves to be more of a true next-gen step with Microsoft stepping into a staggered cycle, that’ll be a bit different, but it remains to be seen.

However, going back to hardware overshadowing software, I’m not sure that spec comparisons of PS4 to PS4 Pro and XB1 to Scorpio, as well as PS4 Pro to Scorpio, are really overshadowing the games. Searching “IGN + E3” gives you IGN’s page featuring 29 articles on game expectations with only 2 on Scorpio. Searching for “Game Informer + E3” yields articles primarily about games. Similar results are found at GameSpot’s E3 page.

Obviously, Scorpio and its specs will be a big part of Microsoft’s presentation with them feeling they’re in a similar position as Nintendo and need to get back in the race. I’ll agree a stronger, more horsepower, console isn’t how I’d expect them to win gamers back, though. Scalebound and more exclusive first and second party titles would have done more than a beefier processor in a new system replacing what people already own. But that’s the course Microsoft is taking for E3, so…

Where’s the Beef Games?

When Scott says “I hope I can see an industry that is once again focused on providing wonderful and groundbreaking game play experiences, rather than continuing to hype the boxes that are supposed to run those experiences,” I think that’s a valid desire, one which I think is going to be delivered from Sony and Nintendo this year. Their boxes are out and they’ve said what they do, so now they can focus on the software for them.

He goes on to say, “If anything else, it’s a case of clarity as to where we need to put our hard earned money. There is a clarity and confidence in knowing that you have invested in a video game console that you know is going to give you joy for years to come. There’s a warm, fuzzy feeling in seeing a game library grow and grow on hardware you know will be the focus for quite a while yet, rather than this look-over-your-shoulder feeling the marketplace has created for itself now.

I really feel like here’s where we stop walking on different sides of the path and diverge in two different directions. I got a day one PS4 and I’ve not been disappointed with the first 3.5 years and I expect plenty more games in the next 2 or 3 years as well. I own 59 titles for the system (not including about 50 more from Limited Run games) and have completed less than half of them. And there’s no evidence to suggest PS4 is slowing down with God of War, Spider-Man, The Last of Us 2, Days Gone, Death Stranding and more on the way (though I suspect Death Stranding will be the system’s swan song at the end of its life cycle), not to mention third party titles that will be available on multiple platforms.

I jumped on the Switch at launch as well and I thoroughly enjoyed Breath of the Wild and look forward to Cave Story+ next (even though that’s not new, per se) and have heard ARMS is surprising people with how fun and challenging it is. I think Nintendo has something hot on their hands that isn’t going to cool off for a while still and hopefully that will be reflected in the software down the road for the next 5 or 6 years as well. Since this little device is so unique apart from XB1 and PS4, I don’t see it having to sweat the advance of technology as much for a good while still.

Khajit Has Wares, But Are They Worth Coin?

Sony and Microsoft need to show me something jaw dropping for me to trust them enough to buy their shiny new hardware.

I think Sony’s already made their position clear regarding PS4 Pro. It’s the console enthusiast version of the PS4. Much like a good $800 PC will play most games on high settings and you’ll thoroughly enjoy those games without missing out, there are going to be people with $1800+ PCs that play everything on extreme settings while running 100 resource hog addons at the same time without a hitch. PS4 Pro is merely that higher end one, but nothing demanding PS4 owners to plop down another stack of cash to replace their PS4. Sony’s not trying to convince you otherwise, and if you don’t have a 4K television, it’s a moot point to begin with.

Now, will Microsoft treat consumers the same? Will they assure customers that their X-Box One is just as valid and just as much a focus this holiday season as the Scorpio system? One can hope. I would certainly hope Microsoft wouldn’t be arrogant enough to think they can put all their efforts to the new system and expect everyone to jump on it, especially after so many X-Box fans jumped ship to PS4 at the start of this generation and even more are seeing the PC as the best option for the X-Box exclusives. An X-Box isn’t an Apple product, after all.

In Conclusion

I’ve been gaming for around 26 years, give or take, just about a decade (little more, little less) than PSP has been drawn to the industry and its offerings. Perhaps it’s that decade difference of experience and observation that still has me wide eyed and bushy tailed where he’s resisting what I expect will be a temporary threat of cynicism.

It could also be a shift in tastes. I know Scott’s voiced preference for shorter play times and quick plays with his kids, over the sprawling narratives and vast open world games while I remain single and afforded the free time to explore a large Hyrule or take in the story of games like Uncharted or the mix of both with Horizon: Zero Dawn. I think there’s definitely a difference in approach to games for a husband and father who is self employed versus a single bachelor with time on his hands.

I really hope this happens. For almost 36 years now, I have been one of the loudest advocates for the video game industry, save for that one confusing period in the 90s. I hate that I have been starting to feel like that again, but there it is. Just give me something fun to play, folks. Show me some focus.

Please.

I just feel if further rests on tastes and what you’re looking for. There are a ton of great looking games coming out and while some look similar to one another (yes, I noted the Assassin’s Creed similarities while playing Horizon: Zero Dawn), that doesn’t make them the same ol’ same ol’ either. Each definitely have their own flavor to offer.

I don’t platinum games often, but I try to finish every game I pick up. Even when games don’t hit the mark, I still find them enjoyable in some way and appreciate the different things many try to accomplish, even if they don’t quite get there.

I’d be curious to know what Patrick Scott Patterson’s top 15 games (total, not each) from 360 / PS3 / Wii (and Wii U) are. It would definitely be interesting when watching E3 to speculate what, if anything, catches his eye.

For me, I’m looking forward to all of it. I’ve never been burned by my own E3 excitement. Honestly, and seriously, not once. Bring on the games so I can start budgeting the rest of my year. I’m sure October’s going to hurt, as always.

National Videogame Museum Opens Its Doors

The National Videogame Museum (NVM) opened in Frisco, TX on April 2, 2016. It was a bright, sunny Saturday morning. 10:00 AM, to be precise, was the opening of the doors. I was there and I was excited. Obviously, it’s taken a while for me to get to writing my thoughts on the grand opening of the nation’s, the world’s, first museum dedicated to the history of video games (I use “video game” though the museum officially uses “videogame”).

I had arrived at the Frisco Discovery Center, where the NVM is located, at 10:05 with a bit of a hurried step. I wanted to get in with plenty of time to look around as I was meeting someone in 3 hours to hand over some video games I had accumulated that weren’t going into my collection. I knew the doors opened at 10, so I went right in. And found the line. I followed the line outside again and saw just how many had arrived to see the history of their hobby.

There were a lot. The Museum holds about 240 people and the line was well out of the building and along the sidewalk, starting to curl around the build like a human formation of Nibbles.

0001 Outside

One or two people showed up

I stood in line with a mother whose 7 year old son was running around playing with other kids while they waited. Preston was here to see more about video game history, particularly Pac-Man and Galaga. I learned something from Preston’s mother in the hour we waited outside.

Pixels was a good movie. That’s right, Pixels.

Pixels

Yes, THAT Pixels.

Preston saw Pixels more than once in theaters and probably a dozen times at home since it released on blu-ray and DVD. Pixels introduced this young boy to Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Q*bert, and made him want to learn more. He went to Google and began reading about these games and these characters and when they came out. He grew interested not only in the games themselves, but their history.

If a 7 year old boy loves a movie about video game characters, and that movie drives him to pursue the history of the industry, then I have to say the movie did something right. Adults and critics may not like it, but if it stirred the interest and curiosity of children, then it’s a good movie by my measure.

And so, there we were, at the first museum in the nation that would let him explore more of that history. TekForce was present and volunteered to provide music and MC the waiting room that we reached at 11 o’clock. I was able to speak with him a moment and learned that the museum was expecting 1,500 visitors for the grand opening day. In the first hour, they were adjusting expectations to 4,000. They underestimated how many people would come out for the grand opening.

As we waited for our ticket groups to be called there were pictures available to color, music played, and a couch set up with a Wii U and Super Mario Bros. available to play. Kids were having a great time. There was also trivia to win prizes – the question I was present for was regarding Pac-Man’s original name (The answer is Puck Man).

At 11:35, our ticket group was called up and we finally went into the NVM lobby to pay for our tickets to the museum proper. Tickets are $12 for adults, but include $1 worth of tokens for the arcade at the end of the museum. By noon, 2 hours after arrival, I finally set foot inside.

The Museum is divided into 16 stages, all of which cover a different portion of video game history.

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But first, you’re greeted by Mario

 

Stage 1, “Begin” covers the early days of video game history. In fact, with Ralph Baer’s “Brown Box Prototype” on display, it might be safe to say this touches on video game pre-history and then advances through history from there.

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An important aspect of the NVM is that it’s not just exhibits to look at and read. There are a lot of interactive features at the museum, mostly in the form of playable games in the exhibits. Almost every Stage has something you can play.

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Just like the one you grew up with, right?

Stage 2, “Timeline” is the most time consuming interactive option. With screens set up above oversized Super Nintendo controllers, this allows visitors to browse every single video game console ever released to get some information about them. Release year, MSRP, some highlighted games, as well as notorious games, and some of the most valuable on the system can be reviewed. There are 53 different consoles to read about, all of which are on display on the wall.

Stage 3, “Third Party” showcases a number of the third party titles that helped consoles excel with the public. Pitfall, which is playable in the exhibit, Stampede, Megamania, River Raid are on display in their original boxes in a display case while some notable Nintendo entries from Activision share the bottom shelf of the display with Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, Rampage, and more.

Stage 4, “Control” is, quite simply, a full wall with a history of controllers through the years. Multiple controllers from each system are displayed, as well as a disassembled Atari 5200 controller.

Stage 5, “Portable” explores portable games. Game n’ Watch is on display, along with others that pre-dated the Game Boy most think of when “portable gaming” is mentioned.

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Again, there are playable games set up here as well. However, one of the most notable items features in this display is the Barbie Edition Game Boy, which is an unreleased prototype Game Boy Pocket. Supposedly the deal never went through and only two of the systems, along with a gaudy carry case, were made.

Stage 6, “Crash” is ironically my favorite exhibit, despite its dark days in gaming history. It deals with the video game crash of 1983. The first thing I liked was the introduction plaque does detail that the cause of the crash is much more complicated than the simple examples often cited, but not without being self aware of these rumors. Poor E.T. still appears in the stage’s image, even though it’s acknowledged the game was not the cause.

What I really liked about this exhibit, though, was the “going out of business” store front. With various 80s items such as Pac Man trading cards and bubble gum under the glass, a Top 5 sign for the week’s hottest games (which includes E.T., I might add), and a sign indicating the store is going out of business, it’s a very nicely done presentation.

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I promise I was also NOT the cause of the crash.

Stage 7, “Rise” presents the return of video games, stronger than ever, on both computer and with the Nintendo Entertainment System. A lot, and I do mean a lot, of set ups are here to play and interact with.

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At this point, as you venture through the museum, you’ll find the bathrooms. Not exactly something you’d think worth mentioning, but this is the NATIONAL VIDEOGAME MUSEUM, so of course the bathroom entries are worth mentioning with their clever indication of “Men’s” and “Women’s” signs.

 

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Women’s

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Men’s

Stage 8, “Create” presents games moving from just being games and actually involving the user in the creative process. Games like Mario Paint are on display, but I wasn’t able to spend much time hands on (there were a lot of people here, remember?).

Stage 9, “Invent” presents a theoretical game studio’s office. Games adorn the shelves, a PC and work station are present, various articles and news clippings are framed on the walls.

Stage 10, “Transmit” discusses the rise of online gaming with various Blizzard entries, Quake, and two terminals that visitors can use to communicate and send a webcam image to each other on either side of the exhibit with.

Stage 11, “Listen” details music coming into games more with entries such as Parappa the Rapper and, of course, Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution.

Stage 12, “Unplugged” is likely to surprise many visitors with the various board games that were released based on video game properties. Frogger, Q*bert, Pac-Man, Legend of Zelda, and more are all on display.

Across from “Unplugged” is an exhibit showcasing various items. Systems, the Pokemon series, rare and valuable games, this section is an eclectic mix of things that didn’t belong to a single exhibit, but are definitely fun to look at.

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Before venturing to the next stage, there’s also an exhibit with various pieces of merchandise, including the wearable Mega Man helmet.

Stage 13, “Family” accurately portrays a family living room from the 1980s, with a console hooked up for play on the television, a fake plant, wood panel walls, and a Dogs Playing Poker painting on the wall! There are even family photos on display.

Stage 14, “Sanctuary” depicts a teen’s bedroom. Bear in mind, the NVM is in Frisco, Tx, so if you aren’t a Cowboys and Rangers fan, forgive the decor!

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A Pac-Man throw pillow, 80s movie posters, a record playing 80s music, and a Mario phone. It’s worth noting that the visitor I caught in this picture….still had trouble with the NES Zapper hitting the ducks in Duck Hunt.

Stage 15, “Respect” isn’t an exhibit so much as an art display. A cube art mural of Ralph Baer hangs near the conclusion of the museum tour.

Stage 16, “Bonus” is a collection of framed posters, displays, arcade machines, and a life size statue of Gabriel Belmont. Along the wall next to Stage 16 are a line of consoles, all of which had someone playing them. I did get to finally play a bit of Bonk’s Adventure on Turbo Grafx-16, though. Above the consoles is a mural with a number of recognizable video game characters.

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Stage 16 leads to an 80s style arcade to conclude the tour of the National Videogame Museum. The lights are dark and lit more by the neon marquees and the screens of video games than overhead light and it was packed with a person on just about every cabinet. A machine is in the arcade to give tokens for dollar bills in case your 4 tokens from entry aren’t enough to get your gaming fix.

Finally, you exit the arcade to find yourself in the gift shop. I didn’t look at everything, but overall they had some cool items in there. Some books particularly caught my eye and they were all priced reasonably compared to Amazon.

I’ve gone on for over 1700 words about this museum and don’t think I’ve scratched describing it. I was hopeful for this endeavor after visiting the “History of Videogames” exhibit at the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle, WA, but this is far beyond what was presented there.

The one thing I’d like to see NVM add if they are ever able to expand in size is to build a display library for every system. The curators, I believe, have only brought out a small part of their overall collection. I would love to see a glass display shelving every Atari or NES title in their boxes. In time, seeing every video game on every system lined up on shelves, their spines facing out would be truly a sight to see.

If conclusion, if you’re in the DFW area in Texas and have time to get to Frisco, the National Videogame Museum is well worth your time. I only had a couple of hours available and don’t feel like it was remotely enough time. I’m looking forward to going back with friends when they come into town, but I might have to sneak an extra trip before they make it.

My only hope is that they get repeat business and are able to stay open for a long time to come. Video games have become a huge part of our culture, both in America and across the globe, and it’s great to see a museum preserving and sharing their history.

 

Never Alone

A tale of a girl and a fox

I’ve been meaning to play Never Alone for a while now. I had it saved on Steam, and I’m not a Steam user, nor am I a PC Gamer, to be honest. It interested me, though, to have a game that’s intended to present a story of a native Iñupiaq people and bring a little bit of their culture to a larger world. With it being on sale, I picked it up on PS4 this past weekend. My regret is that I didn’t play it sooner.

There has been a lot of discussion over the past year about diversity in video games. In my opinion, games like Never Alone are an example of how games can grow and expand into new areas to share experiences with people across cultures. I’d describe the game as a fairly simple platform puzzle game that focuses more on sharing with the player than challenging them. It was a short, enjoyable game, that can be played alone by swapping between the arctic fox and the girl or co-op with each player controlling one or the other.

Graphics
I really enjoyed the gameplay graphics. There was a nice blend of slick modern capability with stylization of some characters such as the Owlman or the Manslayer while Nuna and her arctic fox have an almost Pixar quality to them.

While often simple, the backgrounds are quite smooth and a pleasure to look at. Unless you’re being chased by a polar bear.

Upper One Games did a good job with the view of the screen as well. There’s a slight blur around the edges and corners at times, setting a mood of looking through the blizzard that Nuna and the fox are braving in their adventure.

Between levels, the story is told using cut scenes employing an artistic style drawn from traditional scrimshaw. Some won’t care for this, but I particularly liked it.

Controls
The controls can be a bit frustrating, particularly with the bola, but otherwise I didn’t have much trouble with the game. Jumping was responsive and I only found myself moving wrong when I got impatient. Honestly, impatience is your biggest enemy in this game. There are only certain times that urgency is needed and something is chasing you. Most of my deaths were caused by me trying to rush and not waiting to observe the patterns of spirits or the movements of ice. Much like the lessons taught to children in Alaska, ignoring the natural world around you can have dire consequences. Slow down, observe, and then act appropriately and you will avoid a lot of frustrations during your adventure through a blizzard in Alaska.

Music
I can’t say too much about the soundtrack for Never Alone. It was pleasant enough, but not memorable or striking to me. I would have enjoyed if Upper One Games had incorporated more traditional music into it and explored that more. There is a video on the importance of the drum in the culture, but not too much.

I will note, though, that I found the yaps and grumbles of the fox quite adorable.

Difficulty
The game isn’t hard, really. If you die, you start pretty much right where you went wrong and can try again infinitely until you finish. There aren’t many enemies and you only have to defeat one while the others are about finding ways out of the predicament you find yourself in. The game isn’t long either, taking only about 3 hours to complete with all extra items found, which open videos about the Iñupiaq.

Conclusion
The lack of challenge isn’t a detriment in this case; not for me, at least. Never Alone is more about telling a story and giving you insight into the culture and history of an entire people. In that respect, it’s a fine game. I enjoyed the puzzles, particularly where you had to scramble up walls and leap off of them as the fox in order to open a path for the girl, Nuna. However, I found myself enjoying the story quite a bit and any gameplay was largely driven by an interest to hear the entire tale.

There is even a moment where something happens that sort of made my heart sink. When a simple 3-hour game with a little narrative and no real dialog from the protagonist can have an emotional effect, even if only a slight one, I would say that’s a success. Then again, I may also be a big softie at this point.

Narrated in the Iñupiaq language with English subtitles, there was a certain feel of authenticity (it should, they worked with members of the Iñupiaq, one of whom narrates) and interweaving the videos into the game added some depth to it. Hearing actual stories from native Alaskans about their grandfather’s pet arctic fox or a brother’s pet polar bear were really interesting. I recommend watching the videos as you find them during the playthrough rather than waiting until you’re done.

Never Alone, or, Kisima Inŋitchuŋa (“I am not alone”), is a video game telling a story in an interactive method of traditional Iñupiaq storytelling. As players learn, these stories were often told to teach lessons to children about the world and about their people’s history and culture. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from Never Alone as well. Video games can help us view other cultures and their stories as well, and even better understand their history. If one is to play the game and take their time, one may also learn a lesson of patience and enjoying some simplicity, even in a video game amidst our current level of graphics and AAA titles.

I look forward to more games similar to Never Alone from Upper One Games and if they were able to make an ongoing career from short games like this that let us look at other cultures and stories from around the world, I think I’d be willing to play every one of them.

If you have the chance and can get this at a price that seems reasonable, I do recommend giving it a try.

Then again, considering the name of the site, I may also have a soft spot for games featuring foxes.

I want one.

How Resident Evil’s Horror Could Survive

Capcom has been going in new directions with Resident Evil for a while now with mixed results.  After being one of the most well known series in the survival horror genre with Resident Evil 1-3 and Code Veronica, Resident Evil was always an anticipated release when a new installment was announced.  The Resident Evil REmake and Resident Evil 0 were well received on GameCube and a Resident Evil 2 REmake is one of the most fan requested games out there.

But with Resident Evil 4, Capcom switched to over the shoulder gameplay rather than the old clunky “tank control” scheme, yet 4 was still highly praised despite getting away from Umbrella Corporation’s T-Virus.  That warm reception wasn’t waiting for Resident Evil 5, which followed Chris Redfield and his new partner Shiva in Africa where the T-Virus’s origins were first discovered and Umbrella as fans came to know it was born (which las plagas from Resident Evil 4 still factored in).  Resident Evil 5 split fans as the game seemed to get further away from its survival horror roots and go more towards an action game.  Resident Evil 6 had fans hopeful with the apparent return to a city devastated by a new outbreak similar to Raccoon City, but while the game started with more familiar elements of survival horror, it started showing signs of action. When the game picks up with Chris Redfield, it’s more of that action game style with giants stomping through cities and battles of 2 men against tanks.  The final chapter takes it even further with motorcyles outrunning tanks and jumping over helicopters and a plane crashing into a city before a fresh outbreak of a new virus.

Resident Evil has been going bigger and bigger like a Hollywood action film. Explosions are more frequent than tense jump scares as Capcom has sought to pursue a more broad audience.  Left in its wake are the faithful fans who still long for survival horror like Resident Evil was built upon.

Resident Evil Revelations 2 is supposed to be a return to survival horror while still using the over the shoulder model and hopefully Capcom gets it right.  We’ll see how that pans out in February 2015, but in the meantime, here are a few things that I think Capcom should do with the series to get it back on track.

1. Start over but continue forward
Fans are familiar with the established characters of Resident Evil.  Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Rebecca Chambers, Leon Kennedy, Claire Redfield, and Albert Whesker are the familiar faces the series follows, but that may also be detrimental at this point as well.  These characters are likewise familiar with these events. While they tried to give Chris some PTSD elements, he’s overall able to push through and Leon has become so hardened to bioweapons he’s pretty much a specialist specifically for such operations.

For that reason, I think it’s time to get away from bioweapons being common and time for the old cast to step aside for new characters.  For Resident Evil 7, I would set the game about 5-10 years after Resident Evil 6.  After the incident in China, almost all nations around the globe unified to outlaw the research on bioweapons and aggressively hunted down any cells still continuing work from the days of Umbrella (and Neo-Umbrella was just a ridiculous name).  Essentially start the game in a world where the events of Resident Evil 1-6 are a dark mark in human history but no indication of such things have been seen for years now.

Set the game anywhere you like, though I would likely pick a more remote country – perhaps somewhere in South America. Perhaps an Interpol task force or a drug taskforce infiltrate a compound on information of a major drug production operation.  During the infiltration, something goes wrong and only a handful make it into the facility (yes, mirroring the set up of the original Resident Evil).  As they begin to investigate the facility, they find out a group has been doing research from the ground up based off Umbrella’s T-Virus and have successfully recreated it.  Thus we are thrown back into a game where the protagonist is just as terrified as the player is when creatures start coming at them rather than cool and collected and the player is dealing with claustrophobic corridors, zombie workers, undead dogs, spiders, rats, or whatever creatures you like, and a few mutants as well.  Perhaps you can even bring back a new version of Tyrant if you really wanted.

The key point is to get back to basics of the plot and have this scenario be completely new to the characters in the story so they have reason to be terrified.  Sure, people would have still heard of these things, but even 5 years after the China incident, a 25 year old operative would have been in college and possibly less than concerned with such events.  It yields itself for fear from the characters and if done well, that fear will be passed on to the player as the new research can be completely unknown and with enough variations the game can keep players unsure of what to expect.

2. Over the shoulder, under pressure

The over the shoulder perspective worked well in Resident Evil 4 and has worked well ever since on its own.  Slow moving zombies are easy to get headshots on when you’re able to aim reliably.  But 6 headshots only kills 6 zombies if there’s a dozen shambling towards you and your 6 shooter is slow to reload or worse, you only have 20 bullets to your name and have no clue what’s in the next hallway.

That’s a bit key to survival horror in my opinion.  Limited resources and inventory management.  In a game like Resident Evil 4-6 where you’re moving forward, I understand the need to suspend disbelief and have magical storage units that hold items, but having a dozen guns on your person is a bit much.  Bring back the limited inventory and the storage chests with their own limited inventory.  If the facility we’re in is designed so it makes sense, don’t even have the storage units share inventory and make players have to go back to retrieve what they stashed.

That sense of “did I bring the right weapon and do I have enough ammo” helps build tension as you open one more door or go down one more dark set of stairs.  In Resident Evil 6, having “enough” ammo was okay because you’d be able to blast through the zombies or monsters and collect more ammo from their body to keep blasting away.  In the old Resident Evil games, realizing you were at max capacity on two weapons and just found three more boxes of bullets actually instilled a bit of fear because “Why are they giving me this much ammo? Oh no, what’s about to come after me?!”

3. Bruce Lee doesn’t train zombie defense
This one is a problem we brought upon ourselves.  In the old tank control Resident Evil games, we were always grumbly about having to wildly swing a knife when we were low on ammo.  Why couldn’t we side kick a zombie in the chest? Why couldn’t we have any form of hand to hand combat?

Well, we eventually got it and it honestly made the games trivial enough that survival wasn’t a big deal.  Even without the abundance of zombies dropping ammo, you could conserve a lot by taking two shots and then giving a round house to splatter a zombies head, or deliver a running bulldog worthy of Rick Steiner from WWE.  If you can take out monsters without guns, why worry?

Having this be a new recruit on the team would make the idea of going hand to hand against creatures willing to bite your face off a bit outlandish.  And if they’ve only gone through basic hand to hand, they aren’t in a position to reliably fight off these creatures anyway, giving a reasonable excuse for removing the feature and putting us back to relying on our ever diminished ammunition and somewhat unreliable knife, or maybe a collapsible baton this time. Just cuz…

4. We can still acknowledge our favorite characters

Just because a new character is green behind the ears and about ready to soil himself over this horror he’s stumbled into doesn’t mean we can’t give him some reassurance now and then.  After managing to find a radio, you could get word out reporting what you’ve found.  Later on, your next opportunity to try and make radio contact could be none other than Leon Kennedy, Jill Valentine, or any other of the familiar characters. While not on site with you, they could offer some insight and advice to the new character, encouraging him to keep it together and make it through this alive while they marshal resources to get there.

5. And don’t go straight into the same problem again

At the end of the game, why not have the problem unresolved and even escalating?  Why not have the protagonist stop the researchers at the facility in this game only to radio into HQ at the end to tell them he’s found there are other facilities set up and something worse.  Our final scene could show that the virus has already somehow been spread to contaminate a nearby city.

And that easily sets you up to go right into Resident Evil 8 with an outbreak in a city just like Resident Evil 2.  And again like Resident Evil 2, why not go even worse than Leon’s predicament? Why not have a protagonist that isn’t part of any organization or organized force? Perhaps a retired police officer, or even just a random citizen trying to survive this.  You could have your new character from the previous game arrive and split the game between the two like the old games used to at times and you could again have our established characters remotely involved or arrive late.  For that matter, I’d have them running clean up and just a few steps behind to contain the situation before it gets out of hand so all their specialized skills and knowledge aren’t enough to prevent the horror from breaking out again.

I’d even consider it worth thinking about having each game take place with a new character who may come into contact with familiar characters, and only rarely have the game mostly focus on familiar characters arriving to work in a new location.

Conclusion:

I’ll admit some of this might come across as just re-visiting Resident Evil 1 and 2 with new characters and a new location, but I think that’s almost what Capcom should do at this point.  By going forward without a reboot, it lets fans of the series continue on while also introducing those old games’ style of survival horror elements to a generation that never played the old games.  A generation of gamers never played the Playstation entries and likely have no interest in doing so, which would make this a new experience for them while nostalgia would likely make these worthwhile, yet still different enough, to be interesting for old players.

Backlog Review: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

It’s been almost a year since Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag released and I just recently got around to playing it.  I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who, like me, have a bit of a back log of games to play (My back log is dozens if not 100 games across all systems).  I’m actually happy Dragon Age Inquisition is delayed until November.  It gives me just a little more time to catch up on a few games, not to mention Final Fantasy XIV should be letting me play ninja by then.

That said, I have to say AC IV: Black Flag is pretty fun.  I know there are detractors out there who don’t like the Assassin’s Creed series coming out annually with pretty much the same gameplay with a few additions here and there.  Honestly it doesn’t bother me too much.  The formula works well enough, so I don’t feel it’s necessary to reinvent the wheel with each game.  Using the same basic formula with a few new bells and whistles here and there is perfectly fine by me if the story is good and the game play is fun.  After all, Mega Man did alright coming out on an annual basis (with an extra year between a couple of them).

The sailing feature from Assassin’s Creed III proved popular so Ubisoft built ACIV around it even more.  I actually enjoyed it in III and it’s still fun in Black Flag.  There’s no shortage of things to do outside of the main story as well.  With treasures spread about the Caribbean, buried treasure to find, a ship to upgrade, equipment to upgrade with crafting, and a home base to upgrade similar to past games, there’s a lot of things to spend your time on.  I haven’t used the Fast Travel option much since it’s fulfilling enough to choose plenty of extra stops on the way to the next main mission.  And of course there are always ships to come across to attack and pillage for loot.  The life of a pirate, yo ho.

Combat hasn’t gotten a real upgrade, mostly the same as we’ve seen before.  I have to say it’s enjoyable to see a dual wielding character this time, though. The new animations are fun to watch that movie-inspired swashbuckling flair.

I’m not too far through the story, but I do like the slight change. Edward Kenway is not an Assassin nor a Templar. He is truly just a pirate, though he’s gotten mixed up in the plot of Templar vs Assassin.  Granted, this does raise the question of how he seems to have all the Assassins’ skill set without any training, but let’s just let that slide for game play sake.  I’ve been told by a friend the story is a bit weaker than the others and seems it could be a bit shorter.  I am a bit unclear on why they decided to call it Assassin’s Creed IV rather than only the subtitle “Black Flag” since it seems like the game is more of a resolution of AC III tying up some plot threads.  The main character is the grandfather of Connor and outside of Edward’s story the Abstergo Entertainment plot seems to be tying up the last of Desmond’s story.  In contrast, we have Assassin’s Creed: Unity coming out this year, not Assassin’s Creed V: Unity.

Overall, if you enjoyed past Assassin’s Creed games, I think you’ll enjoy Black Flag.  If you haven’t played any of the Assassin’s Creed games, Black Flag isn’t a bad one to hop into since there’s not as much intertwined back story from previous games to worry about too much.  Set sails on the open seas and live the life of a pirate.  Drink up, me hearties, yo ho!

E3 – Day 1

E3 Recap time!

Getting caught up on E3 news for the first day here.  I’ve said before I’m not an X-Box fan, so I didn’t watch the Microsoft presentation, though moreso because I wasn’t at the computer but was picking up a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on GameCube (what’s up?!) at the time.  From what I’ve heard second hand, nothing particularly stands out to me as amazing for me.  Halo fans will probably be thrilled at the variety of 100 multiplayer maps in Halo’s Master Chief collection, so that’s out there for fans of the series.

The things that intrigued me from Microsoft’s presentation are available on PS4, though.  Tomb Raider: Rise of the Tomb Raider, The Division, and Dragon Age: Inquisition are some games I’m looking forward to.

Ubisoft’s presentation was rather interesting.  I’ve never played a Far Cry game either, but the Far Cry 4 preview was a great hook. It’s a good start up to pull you into the story.

I’m not sure if I’ll continue following the Assassin’s Creed series with Unity as it looks like it’s going to grow in importance of multi-player which doesn’t tend to get my interest for console games, but on the other hand, the trailer did look pretty good.  With the open world design and problems coming up as you move, the game could be more interesting than other installations have gotten.  I was particularly interested in the way they showed the character running after a thief, but stopping when he came upon a murder scene. Coming out of the murder scene, you hear the comment “I can’t solve every problem” which could make the game very interesting if there’s some impact on ignoring some problems and addressing others, especially if there’s no way to resolve them all.

The Division looks interesting and if I can get a friend or two to play alongside me, I’ll definitely be playing that.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War.  We didn’t see the gameplay of this game, but the art style is very stylized and the central character it revolves around that ties all the characters together is a dog. Set in World War I, it’s an extremely unique game inspired by letters from soldiers in World War I.  It has support from historians and actual photos are apparently used courtesy of various historical sources.  Just from the trailer video, it looks like it will be a rather touching and emotional game in its own right.  It may be one of those games that every gamer should play when all is said and done.

I’m also not a FPS player, but the Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six preview actually looked really cool.  Another one that looks like it would be a lot of fun with friends who play together regularly.  I have to give them credit when an FPS actually gets my interest.

Now I’m caught up….. I’ll blog thoughts live on the Sony presentation.  🙂

Sony Presentation

Sony kicked off with Destiny.  Again, I’m not a fan of FPS games, but this one has been doing a fantastic job of making me want to know more about it.  From the commercial last year with the law of the pack to this intro video just now, it looks like a cool world they’re building.  I’m not sure it’s enough to pull me into an FPS game, but it does look like a cool game.  Exclusives for Playstation with PS4 players able to play Destiny Alpha next week and July 17th for beta for Playstation.  Looks like PS4 will also get it released first.  Exclusive weapons, ships, and maps for PS4.

Next showing is The Order 1886, a PS4 exclusive IP.  It looks pretty darn good from what they showed.  Seamless transition from what looks like cut scenes and play footage.

Entwined. A game about two souls in love who can’t be together (looks like a bird and a fish).  Guiding two characters at once, one with each analogue stick (yikes).  It looks somewhat Star Fox-ish in style, flying through tunnels and hitting targets.  It looks like a very artistic game from a small development team.  Sony continues to promote the small and indie developers.  PS4 available now for $9.99 tonight with PS3 and Vita (cross buy) to come.

Getting more inFAMOUS content in August.  There’s another exclusive Playstation title.

Little Big Planet 3 is showing next.  From what I heard, the Project Spark game shown at Microsoft’s project looked a lot like Little Big Planet.  With LBP’s fan base, I’d say it’s already got the lead, despite Conker’s addition to Project Spark.  I played Little Big Planet 1 a bit, but honestly, this game with the 4 player team work really looks like it will be a lot of fun.  It will be coming out in November.

Big cheers for Shuhei Yoshida on stage.

Yoshida is introducing a new IP – Bloodborne.  Another zombie based world, looks like it’s set in a medieval time period. Coming in 2015.

Next up we see Far Cry 4.  The intro from UbiSoft was interesting, as earlier stated.  This showed more of the gameplay. Fairly standard FPS in terms of shooting, but still interesting.  Big news…you can invite friends to play with you who don’t have the game only on PS4.  That’s a pretty big thing.

They’re going through letters from players about things they’ve wanted to see next.  Here’s what we get in response to these letters:

Next up…Zombies.  Amusing style trailer.  Very different approach to zombie style game for Dead Island 2.  Funny trailer, check it out.  30 day exclusive beta and an exclusive character class for PS4.

Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition on PS4 will include zombies from Last of Us in a special dungeon.

Battlefield Hardline gameplay trailer up next.  It looks like it would make a great Bruckheimer/Bay film.

Disney Infinity exclusive edition on PS3 and PS4 with Incredible Hulk.

Partnership with Paradox Interactive.  More exclusive PS4 games, starting with Magicka 2.

Grim Fandango will be getting remastered exclusively to PS4 and Vita.

Console debut exclusive to PS Platforms: Devolver, Broforce, Titan Souls, Not a Hero, Hotline Miami Wrong Number, The Talos Principle – a lot of indy style games in there.

Another PS4 exclusive with a violent brawler game called Let It Die coming in 2015.

Giant Squid development team (creator of Journey’s new team) bringing us Abzu.  It looks a lot like Journey in style, but underwater.  This is also a PS4 exclusive.

Final game that will make its debut on PS4 looks like a Sci Fi exploration world. Interesting art style that reminds me of Wild Star a bit.  Looks like another FPS, though currently they’re flying a space ship…into space through meteors, able to shoot in the ship from cockpit view.  Looks like worlds can be discovered and the player who discovers them is marked as such.  Flying around the planet, did a barrel roll!  Shooting down other ships.  The title is No Man’s Sky.  Indy game as well and looks damn impressive.  Every player starts on a different planet.

They’re now talking about the Playstation Camera, an optional addition (nice jab at Microsoft), and how it can bring gaming to a new dimension. Yes, folks, Project Morpheous.  Sony’s Virtual Reality headset.  Creative teams are working with Sony to define this, the game’s in the booth with three game demos, two of which are new.  (Stay tuned, planning a solo blog post on this)

Shawn Layden on stage, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America.  Talking about the drive for innovation at Playstation.  PSN – Playstation Network – robust and evolving, reacting to what gamers want; to share experiences and connect with friends.  New tools are brought to the PS4 faithful with Share Factory and photo mode in inFAMOUS Second Son.  95% of PS4s are connected worldwide, social activity is astounding. 1.25B hours spent gaming, +1B multiplayer sessions, share button has been used 220 million times, and YouTube is coming to PS4 later this year.  With a press of the Share button, pS4 gamers can upload video to their YouTube channel.  Can see your friend’s shared YouTube videos in the “what’s new” activity feed.  150 million spectate sessions.  Twitch and Ustream will allow viewers to communicate with the players they’re watching.  Create broadcast sets for your broadcasts.

This YouTube feature is going to be an amazingly massive feature.  They brushed over it, but I predict this is one of the biggest features hitting any console.

Sony is committed to Free to Play games.  Currently 25 F2P games coming in the next 12 months – Kingdom Under Fire, Planetside 2, and Guns Up.  At point of entry, free to play is free to play.

Playstation Now hits open beta on PS4 July 31st this year.  Select Sony televisions will be able to access Playstation Now without a Playstation console.  Just need the Dualshock controller.  Wise move to help the sluggish television sales.

Support continues for the Playstation Vita.  It will have access to Playstation Now. It has 100 games in development. Child of Light and Tales of Hearts R, Tales from the Borderlands, and Minecraft (full console experience with co-op).  The US will also be getting Vita TV due to the unprecedented support and demand.  $99 for Vita TV or $140 for Vita TV, a Dualshock 3 controller, HD cable, and digital Lego Movie game voucher.

Mortal Kombat X footage premiere is up next.  Graphics look great.  New characters I’ve never seen before.  Graphics are smooth and the game is gory as ever. 😉

Entertainment offering is taking a “new superhero twist.”  Sony Picture Entertainment is bringing exclusive content to PS4 (this is sort of what Microsoft got burned for talking about last year).  Powers is the first series, based on Bendis and Omen’s graphic novel series.

RATCHET AND CLANK MOVIE!  I’m not going to lie, this looks like it will be awesome.

The Last of Us comes to PS4 (not news, but we get a look at it).  This game pushed PS3 to the limits…PS4 takes it further and it does look amazing.  July 29, 2014 release date.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain new trailer shown.

Grand Theft Auto 5 coming to PS4, footage shown from Playstation 4.  Comes out this fall, taking advantage of the system capabilities and features enhancements. Current PS3 and 360 players will be able to transfer their progress to PS4.

Batman: Arkham Knight footage up next.  I still don’t like the new suit, but the game looks amazing. Showing a lot of the gameplay footage of the Batmobile useage.  Movements look faster and smoother than past games.  Exclusive missions on Playstation.

And to wrap up the presentation…

UNCHARTED 4.  The crowd is pretty happy.  Just a trailer, really. It’ll be out in 2015.

End with a montage of footage from various games for Playstation 4.  Kingdom Hearts 3 was shown among them as well.

All in all, really impressive presentation from Sony.