Sunday, January 30, 2011

Interview Overload

This time we have two great interviews! First I got to talk to Garth Chouteau VP of public relations for PopCap games. Second interview is with Alex Neuse CEO of Gaijin Games who is most famously known known for the Bit.Trip series. Being someone who is not working for any major publications I feel greatly flattered that both Garth and Alex took time out of their busy days to answer my email questions.

With the PopCap interview Garth got back to me within the same day which was amazingly fast. I was excpecting to wait a week but I guess it is Garth Chouteau's job to get the good word of PopCap out their. If you have not taken the time out to play any PopCap games I suggest you start off with Peggle. If you want a task of what the game is you can download Peggle Extreme which is free on steam. It features some great art that you will truly appreciate if your a Valve fan.

Gajin Games interview was in the works for about a month but I really do thank Alex for taking the time out of his day since his team is very small. Gaijin Games has supported the Wii and shown that you can develop great WiiWare titles. Their games feature motion controls which Gaijin Games has perfected. Bit.Trip Fate their latest game has you pointing the wii mote in order to aim Commander Videos shots which feels more responsive than most classic controller games. If you haven't played any of their games I say start off with Bit.Trip Runner which is probably my favorite in the series.

Hope everyone enjoys the interviews!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This is the game that never ends! It goes on and on my friends!

Instead of linking my post to an article I have written I thought I would write something that is near and dear to me. This game has given me hours and hours of gameplay and I still haven't even gotten to the DLC add ons. What game am I speaking of? Why Borderlands the game that put Gearbox on the map, though I was also fond of Half Life: Opposing Force. This game has everything I have ever wanted  massive loot, rpg elements, giant guns, and of course the first person shooter aspect. While this game doesn't do anything truly orginal I believe Gearbox has found the perfect mix of these two genres into one amazing game.

The first aspect I love about the game is the loot. There is plenty of it and the game makes you yearn for more.  The loot is unique so one gun never feels similar to another unless you picking up an unique weapon specific to a boss. What always make me smile is getting that new sniper rifle and reading the attributes it has on it. The detail put into each gun is amazing to me. Right now I play as a Hunter on my second play through and even though I might carry two sniper rifles they are both completely different from each other. On the one hand I have one that deals a great amount a physical damage and has the look of a classic vintage gun. My other sniper on the other hand deals great amount of fire damage plus has a more modern look with a electronic scope. I could go on and on about each subtle difference but that would take awhile.

This games bring enough RPG elements that I don't feel lost in the sea of numbers. With Fallout 3 I found myself lost at times figuring where to put my stats when I leveled up. I love Fallout 3 but it can be time consuming just managing your stats. Borderlands takes all the fuse out and just simply gives you the power to choose with weapon selection and skills. When you level up you simply get one point that is used to gain new abilities and skills. The skills are straight forward usually you have ones that are passive and the others usually affect your action skill. You get one action skill that is usually simple and straight to the point. The Hunter's action skills is the hawk which attacks enemies for you from far distances. I chose the passive path though making my character more efficient with snipers and pistols rather than improving the skills of my hawk.

The game brings enough first person shooter aspects as well to keep you active. In Fallout 3 you can actively kill creatures but you have the choice of using your stats to take more precise shots. The shots are timed and you pick how many you want to take. Borderlands goes for full first person shooter so there is no stopping the game to line up your shots or picking a body part to shoot to cripple the enemy. The game does give you a chance though enemies will usually stop to shot for a second and the bigger enemies will take their time walking towards you. The only shot that really makes a big difference is a head shot in Borderlands which counts as critical hit damage. It is fun to just get caught off guard by the local skag (alien dog creatures) and have to quickly take them out before you get to many of them swarming you. Even though I have played through the game about four times I still find myself jumping out of my seat when the skags come jumping at me.

Did I mention the game is pretty to watch. I have found myself playing this game over and over again but people still have the same reaction when an enemy melts to death, or catches on fire in front of your eyes. Apart of me says "wow did he really deserve that" then I remembered he tried to chop me with a machete. Another timeless sequence is the opening of boxes. The pause has me grinding me teeth in anticipation hoping that I found that unique weapon that I desired so badly. The people in each town are bursting with life as Dr.Zed is probably one of my favorite characters. Dr.Zed is a doctor in practice but doesn't need a medical degree because he is just that bad ass. He sports a name tag on his blood ridden medical outfit just in case you wanted to know who was amputating you. Though most of the work is done by his machines. As Dr.Zed always says "Who needs a doctor when you got my machines and their scary needles?"

Gearbox didn't do anything that games have not already done before they just bring them all in one neat package. Eventually sooner or later I will end up getting all the DLC add ons for the game but for now I still can't get enough of this game. Right now on Xbox Live Marketplace all the Borderlands DLC is half off so it might be my perfect time to jump in and try it out. I would have jumped into the DLC sooner but I am a gamer on a budget so I have to be compelled that the DLC will add even more gameplay than I am already getting right now. If you have not already gotten Borderlands yet do so right now you can get it cheap on amazon or if you don't want to wait download directly to your PC, or Xbox 360.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

When Casual Gaming Goes Wrong!

I have already talked about the great things that can from great casual games but what about the bad ones. I would say there are plenty horrible casual games out their compared to good ones. I would say about twenty percent of the casual games out their are actually good maybe another twenty okay and the rest complete garbage. I thought I would take time out and focus on one casual game that just bothers me every time I see it or see it being played by my wife. That game is Farm Frenzy 2 Pizza Party and yes that is the full title.

Lets start off with the first reason why this game totally bothers me is that this as a sequel to Farm Frenzy 2 but somehow adding a Pizza Party would really add some gameplay. It just makes no sense the other aspects of the farm make sense then all of a sudden you have this pizza barn that churns out pizzas to sell for profit. This game falls into the generic time management genre except for the one quality oh choosing what to sell to market in order to reach the goal at the end of each level. Though it is still mind boggling that some farm would be selling pizzas to make a grand profit.

The second aspect that bothers me is that making your farm bigger and faster means more success. You start off with barns that produce small amounts eggs. You make enough money then you expand your barn into a bigger farm until you get to the max upgrade of a chicken factory. I find this to be offensive to farmers since farming is an art not something that should be massed produced in factories. It just pokes  fun at farming at every turn starting off with a beat up old truck as your main transport for selling goods. The final upgrade for the automobile ends up being a semi truck. This game makes it seem like a one person would be running a mass farm like this when in reality mass farming has been the destroyer of family farms.

Maybe I am taking the game to seriously as my wife says, "Its just a game" but for me these things are kind of hard to ignore. The reason why PopCap games appeal so much more to me is because they don't play off of real life situations. Since Farm Frenzy is about taking a real life thing like a farm and turning making it more profitable seems more like a promotion for capitalism than a video game. This is why I find her passion for games like Plants vs. Zombies to be more universal. Nobody wants to get attacked by a mod of zombies so it is only natural to feel more engaged in the game since your fighting for your life. In farm frenzy the goal of making more profits to the point of mass production is a very debatable subject.

I have not even gotten into the finer points of the game mechanics which I find the game also lacks. I never try to judge a book by its cover so I did try the game for thirty minutes before I turned the game off. The game progresses at an fairly well pace but the worst part about this game is the massive amounts of clicking you do in the later stages. It didn't even feel like strategic clicking but more about how fast you could click. I have a fairly fast clicking hand but still found that there was no strategy to winning a level other than clicking with speed. 

Last is the art direction that the game takes. Even the logo on the bottom of my mac makes me cringe as a pig is holding a slice a pizza with a chefs hat. The modules for all the animals looks really cut in dry even though they are rendered in 3-D. This is proof and point that sometimes 2-D games can look greatly better than 3-D games. Most of PopCap games usually feature 2-D drawn sprites with the occasional 3-D sprite like the puzzle pieces in bejeweled 3. The grass is even drawn horribly in 3-D looking more like grass viewed through a drunk man's eyes. 

Lets just say leave casual game development to the professionals. Farm Frenzy 2 Pizza Party I doubt was made to blow gamers mind or even win a award. Just the goal of the game capitalism seems to be the reason why this game was made. My wife can't get enough of the game but for me this just seems like a complete failure in casual gaming. Pop Cap truly understands how to engage people into games and not just to how engage casual gamers. The true problem beyond Farm Frenzy 2 Pizza Party is that most casual games are made for casual players and not players all together.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Casual! Who are you calling Casual?

   I was inspired by another blog that stated that games were more than just fun. Just as the word fun demeans  the work of a video game the word casual also has some very negative meaning. If we look in a dictionary casual is a term used for a person who is relaxed and unconcerned. A person who goes out in casual clothes usually is not concerned with how they look. If you walk casually you have no rush to get to where you are going. Casual games should not be looked at in the same light though since to make a casual video game takes a lot of time and effort.

     In my article I bring up the fine point that casual games had been invented for the gamer who has little time. Not to say that people who play games that require a short amount of time hate more advanced games but they have little time to spare. From my own experience I have found it even harder and harder to play games that require more time commitment. When I was in high school I was an avid City of Heros players and played at least two to four hours a day. Then I got into college I had to study hard so I had stop playing the game because it required to much time commitment. I was still playing hard with my other games like Gears of War 2, and Team Fortress 2 but my relationship bloomed into a marriage. I am not even at children yet and my game time gets lower and lower by each day. I will call myself a gamer probably my whole life and hope to make video game journalism a career of mine so I can play great games all day. Until the day that it becomes career I have to manage my time well so games that require a short amount of time to learn and I can easily quit or ones I pick up.

    The future of gaming though is in hybrid games which are games that appeal to both the addicted and leisure players. RockBand is a true stand out in the field. Whenever I get to my friends house I cant help but strap the guitar on with joy. The song plays and my hips sway and move to the beat as I sing along to Hungry Like The Wolf, White Wedding, and EverLong. The great thing as I am playing on expert lead guitar my friend David can rock out on whatever level he wants to play on. You can make the game whatever you want it to be. If you want to play for that perfect score or just a cost along on easy you can. Songs are also very universal so it is easy for someone to jump in and play they don't need any prior experience on RockBand to know the lyrics to your favorite song.

   Another game that I can't get enough of is Super Meat Boy though I would not call this a casual game. The controls are simple and you can play as much or as little as you like but the difficulty can get frustrating for a person who does not usually play games. I would consider it a game I play at my own speed since I have been so busy with work and friends. I love to come home after a hard days of work and play a few levels. The phone rings, which usually ends in me dying but death is the least on my concerns playing Super Meat Boy half of the fun is watching all the times you tried a level. When my wife comes home from work I don't feel like I have lost game when I go to great her at the door.

   The thing that makes me most mad about the video game industry is the amount of copy cat games there are in the industry. Usually you have one game that starts the innovation like Bejeweled, and Diner Dash and you get twenty million copies of that game. Most people who buy these games though sadly want more of the same not more innovation. If they know a match three puzzle thats what they will stick with. I just hope that these games will lead to people playing games that they might have found to hard to play.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why movies do not always translate into video games?

    This time we take a look into the world of movie video games. This article gets down to the fine points of the way movie video games are not always good. Instead of me retreading the area that my article went I'll take this time to address areas that my article may have overlooked.

    The thing about some movies that are made into video games is that some are even taken from books. Making movies into books is already a heavily debated subject. Taking a book that takes a day or two and making it into a movie is an even harder task than making a movie into a video game. Each version has a different interpretation and different writers so by the end you it ends up being a game of telephone. Harry Potter video games are a prime example of a book being made into a movie then being made into a video game. For me the book wins every time since there is so much information you are getting from the book compared to the movie and video game. What I think should be tried more which I think would be more interesting would be more books being turned into video games. Tom Clancy's video games don't count since the games are not based off of specific books but his name is used for name branding. I am sure there are book based video games (I would love to hear some from the audience) but have not played one that isn't based off the movie rather than the book.

      One video game in particular that I forgot to mention in my list of amazing movie video games was Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64. This game follows the movie but not so much that it is a total image of the movie. This game even borrows from former bond films featuring Jaws, and Odd-Job in multiplayer mode. The levels are well designed borrowing scenes from the film but also feature secret levels from past films as well. I think the video game was a better experience than I had actually had watching the film.

    What makes or breaks a game in the end are the game mechanics. If the base gameplay is not solid enough there is no reason you would continue playing the game. When you play as Iron Man in his movie tie games it never even feels like you are playing as Iron Man. Lets start off with bad controls shall we. Flying is one of Iron Man's abilities, but the controls are so shaky that it feels more comfortable to walk then in does to fight in the air. Second the game is just so boring that you find yourself circling your enemies over and over until you shoot them to your death. Third lock on camera has a mind of its own and when you get closer to smaller enemies usually you find yourself spinning in circles.

    Most of these games are here to cash in on the gullible consumer. Though the developers who are making the video games now are trying to push themselves away from the film showing their independence in the matter. Now companies are getting the right idea as Sega who has failed horribly at making the Iron Man series into a good game is now working on the new Captain America movie video game. We already have our first look into the development as Sega is taking more time to develop a working title. Lets just hope that Sega can development solid gameplay mechanics!

   The morale of the story movies are a different medium than video games. Not to say that movies are inferior to video games but are two different things. What is good for a film might not always be good for a video game and the same is true for turning video game into film.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Will the Dreamcast rise from the grave?

     There has been talk about the Dreamcast coming back to life as gamers sit by their seats. My article this week raised the question and came to the conclusion that it will never happen. I am sorry my dear friends but even though Sega might have dominated in Europe and Japan it never really did that well in North America. My dear friend Jamie in the UK is still holding out hope but I am hear to bring him his band news of the week.
    Don't lose to much hope some of the classics have come to XBLA if you never got a chance to play them the first time around. My wife was addicted to Crazy Taxi herself as for me I was in love with Marvel vs. Capcom 2. I am still crossing my fingers though that sonic gets a true 3D sequel unlike the junk Sega has been giving us. For the most part Sonic has not had a great 3D adventure since Sonic Adventure 2 and I am sticking by that. Sonic doesn't need a crazy sword or turn into a werewolf he just needs to do what he does best and that is running really fast.
    Apart of me still thinks that the Dreamcast is still alive. The latest talking classics video reminded me why I feel in love with the Dreamcast. The inner fan boy is coming out of me saying "it was just to powerful for the common gamer to understand!"I will be realistic with myself though and understand that Sega does not have the funds to even start a new console to begin with. Heres hoping that Sega pushes some great hardware out in the next year or two.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Donkey Kong Is Back Baby!

  This time we are venturing further into the world of Nintendo to look into Donkey Kong Country Returns. My review for Donkey Kong Country Returns just got put up yesterday at JustPushStart. To start off this game is the reason you are a Wii owner. This game has all the bells and whistles you want plus gameplay to last you for hours. 
     The secrets in this game have my mind boggled though. At first when I was playing the game my goal was to 100% by the time i got to the end but even in the very first level finding all the puzzle pieces is actually hard! Some of these pieces are just right behind a bush while others are tucked away in a pit fall that is actually a secret room. By the time I completed all the tasks in the first level i had played through the first level four times. 
    I took the easy road and just played through to beat the game rather than get a full 100% on the game. What keeps me so excited about the game is the beating the tiki creatures at the end of each boss battle. Towards the end you can see the action button in the bottom right hand corner to shake the wii mote and it always gets me worked up like a child to shake the wii mote as fast as I can in order rack up as many hits towards my score. 
   What surprised me about this game as well was the story. Yes call me crazy but I felt bad for Donkey Kong. He had spent the past years in retirement collecting all his bananas when this crazy tiki creatures take control of all the jungle creatures and steal his bananas. It is a tale with little dialogue but one of pure revenge. Most of the time I am yelling at the screen "Thats what you get for stealing my bananas damn tiki creatures."
    The most frustrating part for the game even though it does not ruin the game is the rolling mechanic. It should have been mapped to a button rather than a wiggle of the wii mote. I did try to get gold on some of the time trials but found it hard trying to shake the wii mote and press the A button at the precise time to jump. At times in the game you have to use the role and jump combo in order to find secret rooms and even get that hard to reach KONG letter. 
    This game is no cake walk as I have said in my review and I have come close at times to turning off the Wii at my frustration. Just like with Super Mario Galaxy 2 you will die a lot but the one ups are easy to come by. I never used a continue once in my entire time playing the game because I could just by all the one ups from Cranky Kong I wanted. You will also most likely pick up 100 bananas in most levels giving you even more one ups then you need.
    What I suggest if you have a second controller get a friend over and play the 2 player version. This is even a harder challenge because you only have 2 hearts at a time and you waste the one ups a lot fasters since when one person dies you lose one life from the pool of lives. Over the christmas holiday me and a friend played for about a good 8 hours together and had a blast. The mine chart levels are even more fun two player because you get to shout jump at the right time to help each other out. It also makes getting Kong pieces easier though as one person can take the risk while the other takes the easy road without having to restart and go back to the start of the level. 
    In closing this game is totally worth the $50 dollar price point. This is probably my game of the year for Wii even over Super Mario Galaxy 2 just because of the two player fun you can have. Donkey Kong you have been long missed and it is great to have you back in the Country!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Taming Your Inner Fan Boy!

    This week the article hits close to the heart as this one is all about keeping your inner fan boy in check. The fan boy will come when you least suspect it trust me! I speak from experience because I find it hard at times to control him. The latest outburst I had was not even an argument but someone just stating that they didn't like the Mario. I just have to keep in mind that not everyone has the same passion for Nintendo as I do. 
   The crazy thing is that the video game world has a wide variety of fan boys compared to the movie industry. The Movie Industry wins in numbers with Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and even Twilight. The video game industry is unique though because we also side with companies like Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. The only big movie company that people have a true fan boy following for would be Disney.
     My new year resolution is to try and branch out more myself. I usually miss a lot of the Playstation 3 titles so I am going to try and play them before they pass me by. Little Big Planet 2, and Killzone 3 are the two games I have my eye on for right now. For Xbox 360 I will be getting Bulletstorm and yes it is on Playstation 3 but the you get a beta key if you pre order the Xbox 360 version. 
    The inner fan boy though is telling me at this very moment though to drop everything and wait in anticipation for the 3DS. Yes i am drooling over the fact that metal gear solid 3 will be coming in 3-D but i am trying to see as little media about it before it comes out. I want to judge for myself in person and not on what other people are saying. I just have to keep my inner fan boy locked up for now, and tell him to keep his Nintendo comments to himself!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Why Call of Duty will stay free to play (probably)?

   Yesterday I posted my article on yet again Call of Duty. This franchise seems to always be in the crosshairs of my articles mainly because it has gotten so big. It was hard for me to resist the rumor that a free to play series would go to a monthly service. At first I could only see the bad in this rather than the good but I did try to be un bias with my article and state all the good things that would come of Call of Duty monthly service.

    To expand on the good which would come from a monthly service is the fact that their really might me true content added to the game. I love playing new maps don't get me wrong but the fact that people call new maps a "game changer" can stump me. I can understand how new weapons, and modes change a game but new maps just changes the places where you'll be camping.

    If Call of Duty does continue on the path of DLC they should take notes from Red Dead Redemption which I think redefined how DLC is done for games. Every new DLC was loaded with new content even the first one which was the most underwhelming featured nine new multiplayer maps and even some new weapons. Even the last DLC Undead Nightmare added more content to multiplayer than most of the Call of Duty Map Packs combined (which is sad). The most innovation in Call of Duty DLC for me was the World at War. Der Riese in Map Pack 3 was probably the most fun I ever had with the Zombie mode.