Archive for the ‘rants’ Category

This e3 is missing something.

June 15, 2010

You know, watching the recent e3 and the slow but safe collapse of the video game industry, drowned by a wave of useless and pointless gimmicks, i can’t help but remember better times. Better times in…2008, well, not exactly better times per se, but maybe happier times. Two years ago nintendo announced wii music, to the joy of soccer moms and midi-obsessed people everywhere in the world. In that e3 nintendo decided to show their new product in a very exciting way, no cirque soliel or any of that bullshit. Nintendo had something better:

Just like that, a smile was put into everyones face. Watch and learn microsoft.

Actually, microsoft is not doing bad this year either:

Random machine gun.

June 12, 2010

2D is alive and well and with a strong Strider vibe.
-You probably already saw the clip, so i won’t even link it. Seems that some people think Mortal Kombat, a story about martial arts maestros/ninjas/secret agents/actors/inter-dimensional demons ripping each other apart is in desperate need of a “gritty” approach, Batman Begins style.
-ECM posted a very interesting entry in his blog regarding natal and that other motion control thing for the ps3. Turns out that: surprise surprise, nobody cares for neither of them. Gee, turns out that it’s not just about having a certain piece of hardware to attract costumers, you actually need games, would you believe that?
-It’s way too damn hot over here.
-I will post more stuff but i’ll take my time, not to mention that most (well, all of them) who read this blog are busy killing giant animals over and over. I can do that any given day here in the wild mexican mountains but…i don’t feel like doing it.

It’s funny because it’s true.

June 5, 2010

Also sad, specially sad

There’s not much i could add to that fine piece of writting, it sums up quite nicely what i think about the current state of events in modern gaming. There are some parts which i could nitpick (the b-movie thing being a guilty pleasure or bad thing by default) but neverless, the fact is video games are not evolving, are not moving foward. They’re stuck in a bubble of collegue kid fantasies, juvenil attitude and just a very limited scope of what video games can do as a form of communication.

Video games are not evolving? You’re dumb dood, what about this (insert game name) that totally implemented this sweet physics option where you can manipulate your weapon in such fantastic ways.

Yeah, manipulate your weapon/body/camera angle/special powers to go and kill more enemies. Way to miss the point.

But video games are in no worst shape than from what they were 20 years ago, the market was also stuffed with generic action games. Stop being an idiot!

Yes, 20 years ago, and games are still in that area. Twenty frigging years of perfectioning the way you can defeat enemies, and how “cool” it looks. Fantastic.

To sum it up, where’s the diversity? Where are other games with different ideas about how you can have a fun time? Sure, they do exist, but the ammount of action related games being released for home consoles is still big. Then there’s the thing about the vg media working it’s “magic” promoting these games to no rest. As i type this vg sites everywhere already have stories about Killzone 3 and Gears of War 3. The way the label system works these days ends up breaking games into “core” titles, the “niche” games, and from there you can just move to either shovelware area, “weird” games or something else that might get called a fun game. Even if a good solid game that is fun and get’s the job done happens to lack the “great” graphics, lacks voice actors or something along those lines it’s considered and inferior game.

No need to repeat things the article already says, there’s a vicious circle among the media, the companies and the “gamers”, that is keeping games from moving up in the evolutionary chain of entertainment. Already 40 years of video game history, and the greatest acomplishments so far are……..?

Mexican “journalists” crying about twitter.

May 1, 2010

Context: All the people you see in the video, with maybe the exception of one, are “journalists” working for grupo televisa, the biggest most power-hungry television monopoly in latin america. Having even their very own tailor-made law that allows them to control the national airwaves at will, heavily restricting the access to any other company trying to open a tv channel on mexican television.

Anyway, on twitter a rumor started to spread that Joaquin Lopez Doriga (super old guy in the video with glasses) was being fired from televisa, this was obviously not true. Well, this trivial and harmless rumor got televisa and their goons up in arms. They don’t like seeing themselves being criticized on the internet, and they would just looooove to be able to control this in some way shape or form. Obviously this is pure whishfull thinking, and unless Mexico becomes another China or North Korea this is just never going to happen. In this video Lopez Doriga and friends cry about “perverse people” controlling the internet, and how the goverment needs to get involved somehow and control this “madness”. Translation ahead:

“Lopez Doriga: The challenge is recovering spaces from crime, not just a challenge for the goverment, but for society too. It’s more effective the action of the people here than from the goverment. Recovering the cyber-space, which seems to be in hands of the organized crime, and perverse people. All this noting the importance of the instrument, and how it works when it has to work. This doesn’t mean that everything in the web is good or bad, there just happens to be a lot of garbage..

Other guy: So, the goverment needs to have a presence…

Other guy: The goverments!

Some woman: IN THE VERY SAME (SOCIAL) WEBS”

The hollywood machinery eating itself.

April 30, 2010

Commando getting a reboot

That’s right, the 80s actioner Commando, a vehicle for Arnold, featuring some of the most memorable one liners of the genre, might get a reboot. Yes, a “reboot”, hollywood’s new fancy word for “we are still rehashing stuff and we don’t care” method of movie making.

I can see some people claiming this is nothing new, that hollywood has always been like that. Yes, rehashing stuff is not new, but answer me this, which movies were been “rebooted” or remade in the 70s? 60s? 50s? The argument just ends up being a poor excuse to cover the recycling machine that is hollywood today. Hollywood, one of the biggest entertainment industries in the world, exporting their product to almost every corner of the earth. This same machinery thinks it’s ok to make a “reboot” of Commando, and the sad thing will be that a lot of people think is ok to go and pay to see it. The karaoke analogy in that article sums it up quite well i think. It’s like as time passes by each generation just comes and devours the previous one, and so on.

Two cliches, one game.

April 29, 2010

Cavia, the makers of the very underrated Drakengard games are getting their newest game released for the PS3 and 360 in the west. Going by the name of “NIER” this rpg-actioner has a very peculiar detail regarding it’s localization. You see, we are getting the exact same game as the japanese, but with one exception: the lead character. While japan is getting this guy:

While we are getting this dude:

The reason for this? According to Square Enix, the publishers, each character was made to appeal to each market. The androginous young boy for the japanese, the “angry roid-rage guy” for us gaikokujins. You know, because there’s barely any of those character featured in games in both the east and west. Well, the guy we are getting is surprisingly not bald.

Hey, two different characters, a different take in each story right? Not here, the story is exactly the same for both versions, with just some minor alterations. So the question here is, why not just having a single guy for both markets? A single, well written character, that can help make the story as engaging and appealing as it can. Sure, the game might play well, but seeing this much attention focused on the “looks” i have to wonder how the story flows. The premise is that the hero is trying to find a cure for a plague, in the japanese version affecting the sister, and in the american version the daughter. Here we arrive at one big problem: changing the age of the character right there means a lot more than just doing an asthetic change. A younger man is not going to approach a situation in the same way a more experienced man could do. That the producers are minimizing this aspect speaks greatly about how game companies still approach storytelling in video games, and yes, western companies are in a similar condition before you say it. Seriously, when was the last time you heard about a movie releasing two versions with different leads in the same date? Same story, same situations, just a different guy to “appeal” to different audiences?

Here’s the thing: you can’t please everyone all the time, sometimes the end result can end up being quite ugly that way. Japanese developers seem to be obsessed these days with pleasing way too much the audience, even forgetting about themselves in the process. Sure sure, a game is a product made for mass consumption, and people always want more of the same. The thing is, if you are never going to try something different might as well not bother doing a new franchise at all, just release another port or a redundant sequel to a well known franchise, and call it a day.

Now, if the story is actually good, well damn, sign me up. I still find the reasoning behind this “different lead for different demographic” quite silly, at the core japanese and western players are really not that different. They stick to what they know, but sometimes it’s good to rock their boat a bit.

Here we go again…

April 18, 2010

It’s just innevitable that this debate will keep poping out from time to time. At the core of this debate both sides, the pro-game is art crowd and the games-are-not-art side are both aiming at a very noble and worthwile goal, i just think they’re doing it with the wrong approach.

Several people on the gaming crowd just want videogames to be a respected form of entertainment, and that is already becoming a reality. Considering the sucess of the wii console with non-gaming crowds (to different degrees of course) and the ammount of space videogame related stuff takes in the media it’s safe to say that videogames are at their peak of popularity as a form of entertainment. They can just go higher right now. Is just that asking right now for videogames to be put in the same area as other forms of expression is just, i would say, rather pointless. You can’t just demand for something to become relevant right there at the moment, it should be a natural process, in case it actually happens, not something forced upon.

It’s a semantics issue, and maybe both groups are missing the point there. In the same way, as much as many forms of expression might share several elements, that doesn’t mean a movie is the same thing as a book, a book the same thing as a movie and so on. Each format has a unique way of doing things, and trying to make one mimic the others seems rather silly. That’s why i find quite dissapointing seeing many games these days being so desperate to be movies, to be considered “interactive movies” as some would say. Videogames operate on a different level, and should be approached with that in mind, by both the makers and the audience. There’s also the fact that some audiences will never be into videogames, and that’s perfectly fine, that’s another thing i wish more videogame companies would get in their skulls: you can’t please everybody, no matter how hard you try.

That’s the other thing about this whole debate, these two sides already made their mind about what they believe, there’s really no point in trying to convince one or the other about anything at all. Each thing has a time and place to exist, and a context to work with. Videogames are still shaping their identity, and trying to force them a certain label might actually do more harm than good to the cause. There’s absolutely no need for this kind of cultural war at all, to each of it’s own, let’s move on to other things.

That’s not fair.

March 26, 2010

That’s the first word that came to my mind the other day while playing Resident Evil 5: Lost in the Nightmares. The dlc where you can visit the spencer mansion once more and see what was going on before the events of the game. There’s a boss fight at the end, and the game throws you a couple of QTE (quick time events) where you barely have a second to react at them. Take too much time and the boss will hurt you and drain your energy badly.

All right, no prob, that’s fine, it’s an action game and it makes sense that the game wants to test your reflects. It is cheap, but i can live with it. Then i started to play Riviera: The Promised Land. Turns out that every time you open a chest with a trap you have to enter a quicktime event code of sorts, press a bunch of buttons the screen shows you in a certain time or you get hit by the trap. Mind you, the game does give you more time to react, but still, some of them can be quick enough to end before you finished pressing the sequence.

Is this really the “ultimate” form of interaction videogames can reach? The best one? The most proper one? A lot of people should think so, because there is a good ammount of games with this kind of gameplay these days. Remember all those lousy sega cd/3do games that made you press buttons in a certain moment in order to advance in the game? Their legacy lives, now is just more shiny and good looking, and with less bad live-action sequences.

Actually, the game responsible for this explosion of “press (x) or die” games is Yu Suzuki’s brainchild Shenmue, the term “Quick Time Event” was coined with that game, and many other games have wasted no time in following this path. Some have done it well, but most of them seem to try to integrate this in the lousiest ways possible. The most infamous example for me, and is a recent one, had to be a game i love and enjoy a lot, Bayonetta. There aren’t many of these sequences, and not all of them are anything to make a big fuss, but there’s a couple that you will surely going to remember for a long time. Some of them are designed following verbatim the “press this or die” mechanism, this wouldn’t be bad per se if the game at least gave you a warning that they are coming, the problem is that some come right out of nowhere, giving the player no time at all to give a proper reaction. Thankfully this doesn’t break the game at all, but it does create a very annoying beginners trap, and is sure to give you the first continue “skull” in your screen, and quite early on.

Why is this happening? Who keeps saying yes to this awful gameplay decisions? Yeah, my post is more of  visceral reaction than a proper reflexion of this kind of gameplay mechanic, but to this day i still fail to see why is there such an obsession with making us behave like trained monkeys that need to press buttons at certain moments, or else we get an electric shock as punishment. They eventually become a memorization thing, not a reflex test, and that just breaks completely their reason to exist, unless game programmers are expecting me to read their minds. Even there some games will throw you a curve ball and keep changing the buttons to press just to keep teasing you. In essence a lot of games depend of memorization, be of enemy patterns, command input or other related actions, all that said i just wonder, what’s the point of forcing me learn when to press a certain button over and over ? Where’s the skill there?  Call me old or slow, but i’m tired of seeing such little imagination in developers when trying to implement this. I’m no damn monkey (who are very intelligent creatures by the way forced to do some stupid stuff)  i’m  just somebody trying to have fun with my games.

Videogames are serious business.

March 18, 2010

Quick, name one thing in common with most high profile games being released these days. Here, let me help you:

Man, everybody is looking way too serious.

Comedy, where’s the comedy? Not in these games for sure, not to mention that this is something not exclusive to the current generation. Videogames seem to avoid comedy in one way or another, the output of comedy-oriented games and “serious” games is way out of proportion. Think about all the comedies that come to cinemas every weekend, to tv every new season, books and music devote plenty of time in making people laugh too. Yet videogames, an activity related to, you know, having fun, seems to step away from this area as much as possible. Why is that?

Well, making people laugh is no easy task, that’s for sure. Cultural differences can also play a vital rol in what things can make a certain audience laugh, not to mention that certain types of comedy could be offensive to some people, offensive enough to make them rally against the source of said offense. All those things into consideration, i can see why many game companies might have some reserves when trying to inject some humour into a situation. On the other hand, the nature of videogames orbits around the absurd, the realms of fantasy, the “everything is possible” approach. Making games shy away from being irreverent just doesn’t seem right at all.

Actually, i’m not being 100% accurate with those images i used there, take the Yakuza franchise for example,  games that, while tackling the shady side of japanese culture (crime syndicates and everything related to them) takes the time to throw a good mixture of humour in several missions, and even in the gameplay itself. This is after all a game where, in the case of Yakuza 3, the main character can learn new moves by watching the extravagant antics of several people on the streets. The hostess missions, the heat actions and several other moments bring a lot of color to the whole thing. The Final Fantasy games used to have a lighter nature to themselves, before turning into soapy melodramas. Neverless, these franchises, and specially God of War and Final Fantasy, are the last things you would think when trying to come up with games you would consider big on the laugh department.

This could be a universal thing, when something is not taken itself “seriously” in it’s presentation people tend to dismiss the whole package, this is quite unfair considering how comedy has been used to reflect about our society, about several issues in our world. The videogame media seems to disagree with this, and it’s quite common to see a game getting a bad review for “not taking itself seriously” for playing it for “laughs” and for being just too “campy”, which seems to be the word these days for “any type of humor i don’t get”.

I can think of two clear examples of getting the “serious business” boot, Bayonetta and God Hand, specially for the later. Here we have two games so willing to poke fun of all the cliches that populate over-saturated macho/geek power trips of invincible warriors fighting dozens of enemies, and the vg press just doesn’t like it. Both got the “camp” label, like a prisoner getting it’s number code printed on their skin. Sure, some oddball games might get a free ticket from time to time, Viewtful Joe didn’t got a lot of heat back in it’s day, not that i remember. But the rule prevails, and game fully devoted to it’s comedy is bound to get bad looks from many, to be dismissed in the shelves. These days when Capcom gives the world a turkish oil wrestling in Super Street Fighter IV (a real style of fighting, go look it in wikipedia) some fans complaint that they didn’t got another guy in a karate gi.

Videogames aiming for a more serious approach are perfectly fine too, if it wasn’t for the fact that very few games actually manag to have decent enough writting, and it’s hard to take them seriously as a work of hard-hitting narrative, or anything in that vein. Not to mention that many times a game so focused in being taked seriously could produce the exact opossite result, just take a look at many games with early use of voice actors, cutscenes and even real life performers working their magic on the screen. The results speak for themselves, and these days nobody is discussing the “gritty horror” that Night Trap evoked on them, people remember more the jill sandwiches, the miserable little piles of secrets and the likes.