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GOTY

Posted by Segun777 Sunday December 30 2012 at 7:54AM
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They said it couldn’t be done. They said the 360 wouldn’t be around long enough. They said it would take a decade. They said… a lot of things. It has been a tumultuous last year, but BioWare and Mass Effect 3 have done what couldn’t be done. Thus there is no other choice, no game that meant more, or will be remembered as much as Mass Effect 3, this years Game of the Year.

 



When BioWare first proposed a trilogy on Microsoft’s’ Flagship console late 2005, most people were skeptical. BioWare had a giant reputation but certainly did not have a track record for producing games at a pace necessary for the trilogy to hold water. Even now years later the feat has not been attempted in anything but the most simplistic of forms; SquareEnix Final Fantasy XIII is one such example. It had been attempted before, Majesco Entertainment tried with Advent Rising, a beautiful game coauthored by Orson Scott Card with a vanguard musical score. Despite an Olympian effort, it never rose above the crowd and was the final nail in the coffin for the embattled company which would never again be a relevant console publisher.

 

 

Mass Effect hit so many high notes that a few less than stellar parts of the game were ignored. The combat was at the time typical BioWare fare, lacking. The inventory system was clunky and forgettable and the items could be set into four tiers, but were otherwise utterly indistinguishable from each other. It wasn’t even the most popular new IP on the 360 in 2007; that distinction went to a little franchise called Assassins’ Creed. Barely eeking out a RPG fantastic 2 million sold on the 360 and PC, it nevertheless failed to garner much attention outside of RPG gamers until Mass Effect 2.

 

 

Though Mass Effect 2 is oft-maligned for the story elements, and bringing too many new characters; BioWare’s nod to the Dirty Dozen added some much needed flavor to an, at that point, vanilla take on saving the galaxy. Until Mass Effect 2, players hadn’t understood just how bad it would get for the galaxy they were fighting to save or how much they might have to sacrifice. Moreover it introduced a prototype of the combat seen in Mass Effect 3, which made great strides in quality. Introducing the darker edge in Mass Effect 2 enabled BioWare to escape the inevitable shock that would have arisen from Mass Effect 3 and its dark, but powerful storyline.

 

 

And so finally we come to the end, Mass Effect 3. It is the shining achievement of nearly a decade of hard work and the last legacy of its founders. What to say about Mass Effect 3 except to say that BioWare made people care. After all the min/maxing, the spreadsheets, the best and worst endings; after it was all said and done all that mattered were the characters that we had grown to love. Love the endings or hate the endings, hate the genre, the inventory, the quest system, the combat; BioWare made each and every character yours and yours alone. Whether the feat will ever be matched, let alone attempted again, BioWare made their crowning glory unforgettable and like proud parents they can be assured that gaming will never be the same. It is in this light, for that achievement, that Game of the Year can be no other. Well Done.

The Rise of CSR Racing

Posted by Segun777 Friday December 21 2012 at 1:58PM
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I’ve been ignoring mobile gaming for a while now. After testing it out last year when I first got my IPhone I had dismissed it out of hand. With the exception of a few games, mostly made by traditional game makers like Epic and SquareEnix; everything I played felt derivative. I dismissed mobile gaming because I felt that it would never rise to the level of quality that we see in console and pc gaming; that we’ve longed for and only rarely saw in handheld games like The World Ends with You for the DS. With the barest of exceptions mobile games have always felt like businesses first with a secondary, far smaller concern that they be fun. Enter CSR Racing.

 


 

CSR Racing was a game I hadn’t even heard about until my younger brother talked about playing it. As with most things, I tucked it into the back of my mind, and turned to other things. Then last week I was reading an article about mobile gaming from gamesindustry.biz; it was talking about how CSR Racing had made 12 million dollars its first month. I wasn’t exactly pleased that the most important idea the panel was taking was how much money the game had made, but it was a panel about the monetization of digital games. To be fair, the article did mention that CSR was a new kind of game, and that it was necessary for it to make money, and a lot of it, unless mobile gamers wanted a return of me-too word games and copy cats.

 

 

From the moment I pressed the tab for CSR Racing, I was taken aback. CSR racing is prettier, better made, and cleaner than 95% of the games on the mobile market. It’s akin to playing Epic’s Infinity Blade for the first time. The game is impressive any way you cut it. It plays well, it sounds good, and for a person such as myself who traditionally stays away from racing games it was fun, kinda. NaturalMotion Games and Boss Alien the companies behind CSR Racing, made sure that the money side of the game was akin to putting more quarters in the arcade machine. Much like the arcade days of old, if you’re good enough and patient enough you can play the whole game without spending a dime, but if you want things to go quicker and smoother you pay a little money. And there lies the rub.

 

I cannot deny that what NM Games did with CSR is amazing, and worthy of praise, that they are also making boatloads of money is good for mobile gaming as a whole. But I was left thinking after playing the game for a few days that it never really felt like a game. I was playing it and getting into it; but was it a game or was it a business? It’s unfair to believe that mobile gaming is going to catch up in a few years what took console and pc gaming decades, but I wonder if the fact that making money is the primary focus of mobile gaming is hurting the industry.

 

 

Whatever happens, mobile gaming’s success or failure is unlikely to adversely affect the gaming industry as a whole. Yet its failure is not likely to bring about good things for the gaming industry either. Mobile gaming needs to succeed as a business, but unless it bothers to make sure that at the end of the day people are enjoying its products as games, I can’t believe that the industry has long-term viability. CSR Racing is a better mousetrap; all of the features that rose to prominence in the Facebook era of gaming are here. Fundamentally there is very little difference between this game and one like Mafia Wars. Like a man once told me, ‘my job is to make the most money while keeping the customer happy and their job is to get what they want for the least amount of money’. CSR Racing does it better than most, but it’s still not there yet.

 

Segun Adewumi

http://gamesforusbyus.blogspot.com

The Old Is New Again

Posted by Segun777 Wednesday December 12 2012 at 1:05PM
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I’ve been really enjoying the videos of FFXIV: ARR’s alpha testing. I enjoy the old school feel to the game. It’s pretty like only a Final Fantasy game can be, it’s also enormous and I can’t wait to explore the world that SquareEnix is building. All they need to do is tap into the joy I had playing FFXI and they'd be golden, as least for me. I loved the old Everquest vibe FFXI and FFXIV had. More than anything what I'd really want is a slightly, very slightly modernized take on FFXI. Eleven did so many things well; I hope they stick to their guns on how they wish to make a game. So many times I see games with mashups of the "best" feature of other games, but in trying to collect the best of the best, the game lost its soul; I don't want FFXIV to do that.

 

 


Part of what made FFXI great was the challenge and that there were no simple tasks. Solo play was nigh impossible past level 15 or so. Party play was required to get the most gains/time. You had to party because it was embedded deep into every facet of the game. The world was difficult to travel; even at endgame a lot of places were hazardous to your health. Every achievement was a struggle; every gain was magnified by the difficulty in achieving it.

 

But that was the stick to the carrot, every level felt important, every equipment drop was weighty; it was more than the sum of its parts. All the pieces fit together and the whole made sense, but take them apart and try to combine the best parts of other games and it would have failed miserably. Would we have slogged through those huge dangerous areas, if not for the calm and tranquility of the enormous cities; spaced out just far enough to make each one feel meaningful and relevant rather than a simple waypoint to get to the next one?

 

 

As I look forward to FFXIV, I wonder if I’ll miss the story quests of The Old Republic, or the world-building of The Secret World, will I miss the ease of play with regards to Guild Wars 2 or Tera’s combat? Often times I hear people talking about old games. They will often complain that games are too easy now, or about questing, grinding, lack of world pvp, three factions, etc.; in my mind it misses the point entirely, if we want to blame someone for the disappearing old days we need only look to ourselves.

 

The soul of the game has changed. We wanted faster travel, we wanted mounts, and we wanted easier leveling. We wanted rested experience, we wanted faster updates, more gear choices, more appearance choices, and better graphics. We wanted too many things, and when we got what we wanted we couldn’t stand the old ways. 

 

 

Quests became the standard otherwise a game became too much of an “Asian grindfest”. PVP worlds became too much of a “gankfest” because it interrupted our leveling efficiency.  We stopped trying to solve puzzles or find hidden treasures; instead we looked everything up on the internet and then cried out about the loss of the magic and charm of the yesteryears.

 

We threw away the old values because we felt they were redundant and old fashioned without realizing that they served a purpose, without replacing them or covering for them with new ideas, we lost more than we gained in the end. We have become like the mythical Tantalus, made to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree, with the fruit just out of our grasp, and the water always receding before we can take a drink. No game satisfies our hunger, no world is big enough and no combat is good enough, no picture is pretty enough; our hunger for the new is never ending. 

 

 

Now the old is new again. We have come full circle, FFXIV looks to bring back much of what we have forgotten. In all likelihood, this game will not be spectacularly popular. Gamers have changed and the industry has changed with them. Change happens for a reason; often times it is necessary for survival. Change often happens because the underlying turmoil has been ignored. Instead of a few hundred thousands, millions upon millions play MMO’s; and there is even more untapped potential sitting on the sidelines. In six months or so, the game will launch people will be happy about the impressive graphics, just as they won’t be impressed by the refusal to totally modernize. They’ll talk about a plethora of features from other games and how FFXIV doesn’t have them and so has been passed by. And they may even be right for a majority of gamers. Not every gamer wants the fight to be difficult and the battle to be hard won. I for one will be looking at the soul of the game and hoping to see an old friend. Perhaps a rebirth of the old is just the kind of change the industry needs.

 

Segun Adewumi

Blog: http://gamesforusbyus.blogspot.com/

The Importance of Being Innovative

Posted by Segun777 Saturday December 8 2012 at 7:34AM
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Author’s Note: These are excerpts from a longer post on my blog.

 

Part II: The Importance of Being Innovative

 

What is Innovation? Is Innovation fun? Does Innovation lead to greater sales and profit? What is Innovation? When things are going badly developers will do anything to stop the hemorrhaging; they’ll throw everything and the kitchen sink at the problem.

 

I envision innovation with regards to F2P as choice. Someone once wrote that the true goal of civilization is to give the great amount of choice to its peoples. While often times F2P is seen as getting something for nothing, with regards to the business side of F2P, I believe that choice is its greatest innovation. Before F2P, there was only the subscription; $14.99/month. And it worked for many years. Often times when something works fine, the school of thought is to leave it as it is. As costs and expectations rose in the wake of the explosion of popularity in the MMO market, the subscription market met a saturation point. It’s entirely possible, likely probable, that the business side of MMO’s will return to the subscription model, even if it’s just in conjunction to the F2P model. While, there is a growing surge from the consumer side for F2P, there is a core minority that wishes things to remain the same.

 

A recent article at Eurogamer featured the trio of Ragnar Tornquist, the game's creative director, Joel Bylos - then lead content designer on The Secret World, now game director, and Funcom's communications director Erling Ellingsen; the de facto public faces of The Secret World. In it Joel Bylos asked: "Guild Wars 2 is a very high quality product funded by the largest MMO publisher in the world. Will people be expecting that quality in all free-to-play going forward? What about smaller companies like us? We want to try and create that huge experience, but we don't have five or 15 MMOs that we own that are still making money all over the world. Do the bigger companies then drive out the smaller companies?"

 

One thing to realize is that innovation often comes from smaller companies, or at least less well-known games. Often times it is the smaller games and companies which can afford to be risky simply because they need something to stand out from the crowd. Ragnar Tornquist said in the Eurogamer article: "On the positive side, this brings change to MMOs, and the market needs it. MMOs had stagnated, and that's something we tried to address as well. Hopefully that things are stirring up now means that there can be new games, new types of games, and those will often come from the smaller guys or the medium-sized guys, and not the big ones, because the big ones are playing it safe."

 

The most important idea behind innovation is how it is perceived. The Old Republic innovated in story, and after the initial buzz it was largely ignored to the point of switching from a positive to a negative in comments made by writers and gamers alike. It is not enough to merely innovate; it must be innovation that is well received by the audience or consumer base. It is akin to the premiere show of a play. Initially there is a good buzz until word comes down that a major critic has panned the show. In minutes the formerly packed hall is empty. Perception is everything, and often much more important that the actual innovation involved.

A Tank's Life

Posted by Segun777 Wednesday December 5 2012 at 12:14AM
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I love playing a tank character in MMO’s. I loved playing Guild Wars 2 but there is something positively seductive about playing a tank. It was one of the reasons I went back to The Old Republic. Everybody always goes for the damage dealers when they play. I understand that, after all my first 50 in TOR was a Juggernaut. I always like to say a Juggernaut in Ravage is the most beautiful sight in The Old Republic. I love the fact that my Juggernaut giggles when she procs a Ravage, it always makes me smile. But I’ve been on a tanking kick the last few weeks. In The Old Republic, none of the three tanking specs play alike.

 

The Juggernaut/Guardian is the old school tank. She lives and dies fighting Bosses and hard-hitting single mobs. She has the heaviest armor, the most mitigation, and the longest shields. Plus she gains threat primarily by dishing out a ton of damage.

 

The Assassin/Shadow is the new school tank. In the vein of the Ninja from FFXI or WoW’s Death Knight, this tank has more than a few abilities that have to do with gaining health while dealing damage. On the other hand this class also has the single best shielding ability Resilience/Force Shroud is a beastly talent with the best cool down out of any defensive ability.

 

Then there is the Powertech/Vanguard. To be honest I don’t remember ever playing a ranged tank before. Now it’s likely that other games have done it before, but if they have I can’t remember a single one. This class in an interesting one, and I haven’t really done much with it yet, for not a few reasons I’m loving swinging lightsabers around and haven’t gone around to ‘pew pewing’ yet. But from what I’ve seen this class is more akin to the Juggernaut in defense and is more about controlling the movement than any of the other two tanks.

 

I’ve been playing a character I made off and on who only does Flashpoints, TOR’s version of dungeons. When I play The Old Republic, I tend to be more concerned with story and having the most bang for my buck with regards to leveling. Now especially that it’s gone F2P, dungeons can be something of a crap shoot. Unless you spec your character a certain way with regards to the legacy system, rested XP, and the 25% raise in XP you can get from the cash shop; the leveling from Flashpoints doesn’t compare to the experience you get from leveling through the story. But I’ve made a special effort to make a Juggernaut who has been running dungeons constantly.

 

It’s nice to play her as well, because I tend not to have to spend money on gear or anything else for that matter. I haven’t even gone to the second planet yet. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get to 50 and then run all the class quests in a row. They are the best part of the game after all and waiting to do them in like getting to eat your favorite foods all at once without having to sweat over the stove.

 

In any case playing flashpoint after flashpoint in a row is an interesting case study on parties. I have started spotting how parties are likely to go. Especially in the first few flashpoints which can be done easily in an hour, even thirty minutes for a couple. I always take the time to say a word or two in greeting before we start the flashpoint. It’s funny but people’s responses to that simple greeting; it says a lot about how the party is going to play out. People who talk usually don’t have a problem with wipes; they’re much more laid back.

 

I had a party with one guy who left the party after someone asked everyone to spacebar (move the cutscenes along) in the first flashpoint which can run from one to two hours if the cutscenes are allowed to play out. They weren’t rude, two of us hadn’t even spoken one way or another and the guy still left. We quickly went on dungeon finder, got a new member and finished up the flashpoint. I had another guy who ‘needed’ gear outside of his class. Needing in The Old Republic basically raises the chances of you getting a particular item, as courtesy says to ‘greed’ anything you can’t use. When questioned he said he needed it for his companion.

 

Now let me say that The Old Republic can be quite hard for new players around 30 or the end of the first chapter. Having a nicely decked out companion makes everything a lot easier. But as someone who has done a dungeon or two over the years I’ve never seen players get angrier more quickly as when someone takes a gear they can’t even use. The Old Republic is a little bit different because of companions but the same rules apply. As a tank I use my friend/blacklist for one reason only, to put together a naughty or nice list (by the way Rise of the Guardians was fantastic, can’t wait for the inevitable sequel). If a party member does something I think is, let’s say less than courteous, they get put on the blacklist and everyone who plays well, even if they are clearly less skilled or geared gets put on the friend list. Needless to say the dungeon finder doesn’t pair you with people on your blacklist. Word of warning; be nice to your healer/tank they might never let you play with them again. Sayonara.