Archive for May 2012

The Dogma of Multiplayer Action RPGs

May 28, 2012

Advertised to many as a “Western Monster Hunter”, Dragon’s Dogma intrigued me. While I personally hate Monster Hunter, I absolutely love multiplayer dungeon crawls or “Monster Hunter Clones”. In fact I would even go so far as to call them one of my all-time favorite game genres.

So imagine my surprise when a friend of mine informs me that Dragon’s Dogma has no real multiplayer…then begs me not to complain about it because it’s a great game and everyone is complaining about the lack of multiplayer.

Now, I can’t vouch for Dragon’s Dogma’s gameplay one way or the other as I have not bought the game (and, admittedly, will now wait for it to drop to $20 before I do) and spent little time with the demo. However this is a truly baffling issue. Dragon’s Dogma looked like a multiplayer game and was pretty much advertised as such, so disappointment is expected.

It’s at this point that some people then jump to the game’s defense. Especially because it’s a Capcom game and for some baffling reason Capcom has the most widespread subconciously dedicated fanbase I have ever seen, though that is a story for another time.

The general argument though is that “Not Every Game Needs Multiplayer”. This is very very true. Some arguing that it would break the immersion, that there’s no way you could have the A.I. party members in multiplayer, or that tweaking things to make the game work in multiplayer would result in a more generic game. A game just like every other multiplayer dungeon crawl this generation.

…and that is where we find the real problem: WHAT MULTIPLAYER DUNGEON CRAWLS?!

No, seriously. While there are a handful of good ones on the portable systems, it’s slim pickings on console. A fact I find incredibly strange considering how much more social and online-centric consoles are getting. You’d think you would see more of them somewhere.

The best one on 360 is 2007’s Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom, a game which received (unfairly) poor reviews at the time. It’s not bad but it’s far from great or untoppable and seemed like it would merely be a holdover until a better game came out…and 5 years later we still don’t have one.

Phantasy Star Universe is there but it requires a monthly subscription and has strangely lacking netcode. There is also Castlevania HD, though that game has it’s own issues as players have to grind to get good enough to beat enemies only to never reach a point where they actually have to beat said enemies in any sort of normal way. One could make arguments towards Marvel Ultimate Alliance, though the DLC debacle with it put the kibosh on me ever playing it as the DLC has been discontinued and players that have the DLC cannot play with players that do not. There’s a Lord of the Rings game as well but limited character selection has prevented me from playing it. You could kind of count Castle Crashers as well and/or Guardian Heroes. Borderlands also counts in a way but due to being an FPS it’s sort of another issue entirely. Dungeon Siege 3 also happened with it’s limited characters and awkward way of handling levelling for guest players as did the clunky Sacred 2. Then there was that XBLA D&D game, which had a massive game breaking bug that set all of us running far far away from it. There was also Crimson Alliance, but it’s crummy pricing structure caused everyone to lose interest in the game very very quickly.

The PS3 has Dungeon Hunter: Alliance but again there is lacking player choice. It also has Castlevania HD, Lord of the Rings: War in the North, and Dungeon Siege 3 but…that’s about it.

…and if you count Demon’s/Dark Souls, then you’ve clearly never tried to play them multiplayer.

As mentioned, portables fare better. The DS has Phantasy Star 0 (which has much better netcode than PSU) and the often overlooked Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow. There’s also Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echos of Time but it’s netcode is so jawdroppingly awful it’s litterally unplayable. The PSP has Phantasy Star Portable 2 and, of course, the Monster Hunter series (as does the Wii).

Now it might seem like my ratings are a bit uneven. The 360 sure does sound like it has a lot and I admit that when I first started this post I didn’t even remember 2/3rds of these. However that should give you an idea of the issue here. I had to stretch pretty hard with most of those. Most are only sorta-kinda a dungeon crawl or are sorely lacking in more than one area (usually character selection and customization). This generation’s best are Phantasy Star 0 and Portable 2, Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow, and Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom. All of these came out a good while ago, the most recent being PSP2 in 2010 and again the best ones are on portables.

My point being that the problem here isn’t that all games need multiplayer, but rather that the 360 and PS3 don’t have any worthwhile multiplayer dungeon crawls. They have a handful of passable ones, but nothing on-par with the portable Phantasy Stars and Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow.

In retrospect the issue here isn’t that there aren’t games in the genre, it’s that somehow every single attempt at the genre this generation has missed the entire point! I’d make a bulleted list of everything these games need, but many of the things these games are missing aside from character customization and class variety is so utterly baffling I can’t even really list it! Have a sane levelling system, let players carry their characters over between games, make sure your combat doesn’t suck, make sure your save games don’t shit themselves, oh and make sure it has multiplayer! You know, little things. Little obvious things that somehow the entire industry has screwed up on the 360 and PS3.

Thankfully, Torchlight 2 is coming soon-ish and should fill this bafflingly not-quite filled niche. Thank goodness!

(Author’s Note: I had the Crystal Chronicles boss music stuck in my head the entire time I was writing this! GAH! Rub it in why don’t you!)

Gaming with GEL – XaviX PORT Boxing & Tennis

May 19, 2012

In which I play a pre-Wii motion controlled game system no one knows even exists!
[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/hNldgvfPHQA?p=1 width=”425″ height=”344″]

Always Online is Always Terrible

May 15, 2012

So I just grabbed a copy of Diablo III from the Midnight Release at GameStop. I’m sure you would all like to know my first impressions.

So would I.

However, after installing the game and creating the prerequisite Battle.net account I couldn’t play. Why? Because the servers haven’t gone live yet…at 1AM.

Of course they’re working from Pacific Time, so I have to wait until 2AM.

I find this kind of funny. Here Penny Arcade is complaining about having to wait to play their digital copies until the physical people get theirs, but even the people that purchased physical copies have to wait!

So, 2:05AM rolls around and I try to log in and…well…do I even need to tell you what happens next? The servers are busy! It is now 2:25, the servers are still busy.

“Well of course!” you say “remember what happened with WoW? It’s launch day so of course the servers are busy! They’ll probably crash too!”

Well that’s all fine and dandy except one thing: this isn’t an MMO. It’s a dungeon crawl. Even then, I don’t even intend to play it multiplayer immediately! I just wanna make my character, try some things out, and see how well it runs on my new computer at various graphical settings. But I can’t do that. I can’t play the game single player. Why? Because I have to be connected to the internet to play at all.

It doesn’t take much to imagine the assorted issues with this. What if the servers do crash? No one will be able to play their single player game. What about when the servers are being maintenanced? There’s a plethora of problems in the foreseeable future with Diablo 3.

And just to add insult to injury, my friend in Europe is playing the game right now and has been for the past couple hours! Let me tell you I am so glad I don’t care that much about Diablo 3 (not until they patch in Gamepad support. I honestly hate controlling games like this with a mouse) or I might be livid!

Gaming with GEL – Cabela’s Hunting Party

May 11, 2012

In which we learn that the Kinect works best with a Move…wait what?!

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/hNldgvbKRwI?p=1 width=”320″ height=”240″]

This Console Generation is too PC

May 8, 2012

So I just got done watching “All Your History Are Belong To Us“‘s episode on Interplay (it’s great stuff so I highly recommend checking it out), and it reminded me of something I hate about this generation.

You see, the episode reveals that many of the big name games and companies of this generation got their start at Interplay…on PC. Of course the episode goes on to reveal that Interplay’s big problem was that they could never manage to port their successful PC games to console and so it should be no surprise that now that those games have made the leap, they’re wildly successful. However it doesn’t change one fact: they’re PC games at heart.

This has been perhaps my biggest complaint with the generation: It’s too PC-esque! It’s true that videogames are videogames regardless of system, but back in the old 8-bit era many companies determined that PC and Console games were two different beasts because they had different audiences. PC Gamers were more patient and preferrerd slower but more complex games while Console Gamers wanted something quick and immidiate that they could fully understand in minutes.

Now this especially made sense at the time. Consoles were generally owned by children back in the 80s and PCs were the realms of much older people. So, as the core userbase of videogames mature, doesn’t it make sense that the games mature with them? Isn’t that what’s happening here? Console games are “evolving” into PC games because they’re intended for an older audience?

No, I don’t think so.

You see, in the previous generation, many PC Gamers were starting to make the switch to console. The constant need to upgrade their system, install and patch their games, and slog through numerous troubleshooting issues made the act of gaming on PC too much work. So when the XBox started offering more immidiate versions of PC games, many hopped on board. Now, in the previous generation, Microsoft went out of their way to make sure the XBox was as far from “just a PC you hook up to your TV” as possible. This generation, with the XBox 360, they made the decision to scrap that. It was a smart move as it made the 360 much more useable than the original XBox with it’s USB compatibility and plethora of features.

But along with this, it also made it that much easier to port PC games to 360. This was a great move as it let the 360 quickly accumulate a game library as PC games were quickly ported to it. However, developers quickly realized that their games saw more success on 360 than they did on PC. Pretty soon they started developing with the 360 in mind rather than the PC. This lead the hardcore PC gaming crowd to complain about the “consolization” of their games. It was a legitimate complaint as many PC versions saw a sudden drop in the quality of their keyboard and mouse control and many common options quickly vanished.

However, on the flip side, consoles were becoming PC-ized. PC game developers were porting more PC-style games to consoles, which quickly began to dominate the market and began to make more Console-style games obsolete and no longer profitable. This had a further adverse effect on the industry as Japan just…disn’t really make PC games. In Japan, the PC had a stigma as being a pervert’s game system as it’s lack of regulation allowed pornographic games to flourish on it. So they’ve always had this Console-esque mentality when it came to game design. So, with that style of game becoming obsolete, Japan is kinda screwed.

Of course, I also take issue with the game journalists and reviewers of this era as well. With the psuedo-collapse of the PC gaming market (there’s still Steam, which has plenty on it, but is a whole other beast entirely), many PC Gamers seem to have seeped into the Console Game segment of game journalism. It’s a thing I’ve been noticing more and more, how many of these journalists have few fond memories of the Soul Calibur series, old NES games, or the Dreamcast; but they can regail you with the entire history of the X-Com series and go on long winded tirades about how much they miss point and click adventures. I have no qualms with these people, but they really appear to be in the striking majority these days.

So, what’s the problem? Well, people who prefer more console-style games are kinda being driven out of the market! The sheer number of people I know who say “Gaming just isn’t FUN anymore!” is absolutely astonishing and I have a jawdropping number of hardcore gamer friends who don’t have any current generation console. Have they grown out of videogames? Heck no! They still play their PS2 or new DS games regularly and are very serious about them. But there is litterally nothing this generation that appeals to them and I find that to be very very disconcerning!

But wait! Aren’t instantly accessible pick up and play games also known as “Casual Games”? To a degree they are. However the nature of Casual Games has sorta warped and twisted over the years. With the awkward touch-screen based smart phones becoming the leading system for casual gaming, casual games have gradually become closer and closer to Flash games…or maybe Atari 2600 games.

What we’re missing here is the middle ground. Something more complex than a Flash game, but more accessible than a PC game. There is still some market for this. XBox Live Arcade is one grand example and indeed some of the most fun I’ve had this generation has been on XBLA. If I could choose the future of videogames it would indeed be low priced, short but sweet downloadable games like those seen on XBLA. However, XBLA has plenty of issues. The DRM may become a nightmare in the future, the marketplace is over-curated, and Japanese companies shy away from it.

The DS is also a great place to find more Console-esque games. However, it seldom gets the attention and press it deserves and with the release of the 3DS, it’s release list has started to dry up. So, can;t the 3DS continue to deliver these same kinds of games? Well even that is questionable. Now the games are becoming to expensive to allow developers to take risks and consumers to make impulse purchases. Meanwhile the growing smart phone market is seemingly taking a chunk out of the portable game market, making it less profitable than it was.

Yes, for the first time ever, I will say that casual games are hurting the industry…in an incredibly roundabout way.

Yes, what I’m seeing here is the industry increasingly moving towards two different extremes with the middleground slowly vanishing. One almost wonders if this will tear the industry apart. Maybe not cause a “collapse” per-se, but definitely a split. Actually, considering how apparent this split already is…well…yeah.

Make no mistake, gaming will always be here and as such I will never quit. But wow, I sure wish I had a Videogame Console and not a PC hooked up to a TV to play on.

Ninety-Nine Nights III is coming…but may lack Extreeeme-ness?

May 5, 2012

Tak Fujii may well be one of the most fun people to follow on Twitter, or at the very least the most extreeeme! However a recent tweet revealed something very interesting:

“@cam_sky Q Entertainment is working on N3-3 but not mine anymore tho. I am working something more extreeeme of course :D”

So, despite what I thought were lackluster sales, Ninety Nine Nights is getting a 3rd game! However, Tak Fujii is not inloved. While we can probably count on there still being One Million Troops, can we count on it still being extreeeme?

Well I’ll be buying it regardless. I really loved the first game but it felt insanely unfinished and the second game was…well…an entirely different beast. A shame as I really would like a more complete version of the first game. So, hopefully this third game will deliver an even better Dynasty Warriors-esque experience.

But the real question is, what game could possibly be more extreeeme than a third Ninety-Nine Nights?!

Your Review Sucks: 1UP Magna Carta 2

May 4, 2012

You know, I was just thinking about grabbing a new copy of Magna Carta 2 as I can’t find my second disc, something got spilled on the case (and I definately want that case in good condition!), and I want to beat the game. So, reminiscing about the Eastern RPGs of this generation I decided to look up Magna Carta 2 and discovered…it disn’t get nearly as good of reviews as I had thought!

Really quite shocking if you ask me! The game is rock solid and I consider it one of the best RPGs on console this generation! The fact that it’s one of the few I’ve nearly beaten is testament alone to that. Scrolling through the reviews though, 1Up’s stuck out like a sore thumb:

“Sometimes, stereotypes exist for very good reasons. Korean role-playing games have a reputation as low-rent incarnations of their more polished Japanese counterparts, and Magna Carta 2 does nothing to combat that perception — instead, it embraces it wholeheartedly. “

Wow. That’s pretty harsh. Shoot, it borders on racist! Exactly how many Korean RPGs have we played that aren’t MMOs? No, seriously, I’m curious as I have not seen enough Korean console games to make any sort of judgement like that! So I decided to dive right in.

“One of the biggest fallacies about “gaming journalists” is that we’re supposed to, somehow, approach games from an “unbiased” perspective. Well, we’ve all got our biases, “

Okay, honestly? This is true. No one can be completely unbiased. It’s just not possible. I applaud the reviewer’s honesty and agree with this statement…however the general tone of this review quickly turns this from an honest footnote to an admission that this guy should not be reviewing this game.

“and so I’ll admit it: Magna Carta 2 raised several red flags in my eyes. For one, the original game was probably the worst pile of dreck that the otherwise reliable Atlus has published in the last five years. And a Korean-developed action-RPG? I’ll trust Koreans when it comes to real-time strategy, but after the wretched Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom and other assorted failures, there’s not too much rely on when it comes to emulating Japanese RPGs. “

Hooboy. While yes, many did not like the original Magna Carta, Circle of Doom is a whole other beast entirely. In fact, to this day it’s one of the better multiplayer dungeon crawls on 360. But what I find interesting is that this is all he can list in terms of “bad Korean games”. Honestly it’s all I could list too! Phantom Crash might be Korean, but it’s a cult classic. There have not been that many Korean games. Not enough to make such a harsh judgement based on them!

“Here’s the good news, though: In spite of its walking cliché of a protagonist, Magna Carta 2 isn’t terrible. But the bad news: That’s only because Softmax rips off every successful formula from seemingly every conceivable Japanese RPG and stuffs it into the most generic, derivative package possible”

This is true, Magna Carta 2 takes inspiration from other games. Indeed it is that inspiration that lets it be so good. However, all games take inspiration from other games. That’s just a fact. Claiming a game is bad purely because you’ve seen mechanics elsewhere is just sad. If that were the case, Skullgirls would be a pile of shit because the entire system is a mish-mash of Marvel vs Capcom, Darkstalkers, and Guilty Gear. Xenoblade would suck just as much as it takes an equal amount of inspiration from the same sources as Magna Carta 2! Let’s not even get into the FPS genre.

But no, where this review goes from being hate filled and overly biased to just downright sad is when he lists where the inspiration comes from.

Final Fantasy VII‘s Materia system”

You mean a socketing system? Like Diablo and many other RPGs? Yeah I guess Kamonds are like Materia in that way. We can go with that.

Final Fantasy X‘s skill tree”

Umm…no. This game has no Sphere Grid. It just has a skill tree. Like, you know, every RPG with a skill tree. They’re a pretty common thing.

Final Fantasy XII‘s real-time combat”

Yeah it did remind me a bit of FFXII…except that it’s an action battle system rather than a psuedo-turn based one. Alternately one could say that it’s very MMO-like.

So…they’re inspirations are…generic things many other RPGs have done? How is this bad? As I said earlier, if this is your only complaint then you could make the same argument with Xenoblade or really quite a few other RPGs. Heck, Xenoblade does include a socketing system, a skill tree, and even more FFXII-esque combat than this game! The only reason it seems so bad in Magna Carta 2 is because it’s Korean and you want to believe that the only things Koreans are capable of is ripping off Japan. This is literally your entire argument.

“And while it’s clear that Softmax wanted to emulate the expansive vistas of Dragon Quest VIII

Because that’s the only game with expansive vistas. It couldn’t possibly because they’ve built the world like an MMO!

“they forgot the reason that those work in Square Enix’s PS2 masterpiece — they’re actually fun to explore! Magna Carta 2’s environments are a confusing mess of dead ends and poorly laid-out paths, so frustrating to navigate that I actually had to look at the minimap in the upper-right corner to see where I was going, and not the actual in-game visuals right in front of me! “

Heaven forbid you actually use a map to navigate!

“From the moment I turned on Magna Carta 2, I got the sense I’d played it all before — and that’s because I practically had, in this case. I suppose the game might be a decent way to kill time, though…if you’ve somehow already played every single other RPG on the 360. I will continue to recommend the stellar Tales of Vesperia till I’m blue in the face, and you’d be foolhardy to choose Magna Carta 2 over that — or just about any other Eastern RPG on the console, for that matter. “

This is the kind of elitist thinking that has practically doomed Eastern RPGs. Since Magna Carta 2 isn’t the best freaking entry in the whole genre ever, it is looked down upon because there are “better” games. This isn’t even getting into how few Eastern RPGs there have actually been this generation! If you’re not playing your DS, then it has been slim pickings! It’s perfectly plausible that someone has played all the other Eastern RPGs this generation! Especially when Magna Carta 2 hit!

While it’s impossible to review a game completely without bias, a game should be judged on it’s own merits. Who cares what it purportedly “borrows” if it puts the pieces together in a good and interesting way!

What’s more, this is practically then entire review! It’s a very sparse throw-away piece with little to no information on the actual game. At no point do they go in-depth about what makes the action battle system unique. Heck, they don’t even mention that it is an action battle system! They barely discuss the plot, don’t touch at-all on the graphics, and make no mention of the side questing!

This review is just a sparse, hate filled rant that borders on racist. Even as a racist review it sucks as it makes no mention of how MMO-esque the Magna Carta 2 experience is!

Generally when I read a bad review, I don’t think the actual person behind it is bad. Just that they did a bad job in this one case. This review, however, is an exception as every single word in it delivers only one message:

Andrew Fitch is a hateful, elitist, asshole who needs a swift punch in the face. Go fuck yourself.