Could Titanfall 2 give up on its Titans?

titanfall-2-betaTitanfall 2 had a “technical test” this weekend. Is this the same as a public beta? Perhaps a public alpha? What happened to demos? Remember the good old days? Whatever, you know how this goes. You have a couple of days to play a restricted version of a future multiplayer shooter. A combination of server testing and powerful marketing these tests for major shooters are fairly common practice now. They allow a brief window into how development is going. In this case my early time with Titanfall 2 makes me worry for the eponymous titans.

Titanfall 1 is more than just the titans, it is wall running and living battlefields and South African man who is angry. Titans, however, are the lynchpin of the experience. The traversal techniques exist to give pilots a levelling factor, to allow them to hold their own against titans, when without they would be fleshy running targets. The AI combatants exist to allow those who struggle with player on player combat to build points and add to the team total. This leaves those who can gain more points, and therefore titans, to bring the big scores. Everything builds up to literal titanfall in Titanfall. When Titans fall.

Titanfall 2 has me worried. Titans seem to have changed and in some ways regressed from their starring role. They are still all over the marketing, sure, but mechanically the game has reduced their importance for the average player. You are no longer automatically given titans after a set period of time. Now they must be earned like a killstreak in Call of Duty by scoring points. Maybe someone finally realised how much those things must cost.

As a result, games can occur where you barely rack up enough points to call in a titan; therefore, you are playing a big robot game where you can’t play as a big robot.

Titans no longer have a recharging shield, only a health bar that can only be refilled by other players stealing energy packs from enemy titans then transferring them to yours. You may have tried to communicate with people online before? How did that go for you? Have you tried to communicate with folks online while you’re in a big stompy robot and they are literally bouncing off the walls? This, combined with the removal of the standard dash move for all titans, results in an inability to escape and recharge. All damage is permanent and Titans fall quickly, the symphony of destruction and self-destruction providing a staccato soundtrack to your battles.

The focus on the pilots play even extends to the choice of play mode in the tech test. One of three modes available is pilot vs pilot. A mode with no titans. A mode that was only added post launch in the original. A mode that I think is a complete waste of potential for this series.

None of this is a judgment, only a series of worries in the greatest British tradition. My trepidation is that the series is already minimising its greatest asset. While Titanfall 2 continues the original’s tradition of fantastic player movement on foot, it is losing the focus of each individual match by lessening the impact of titans. Titans falling is supposed to be the thing. It’s your own little personal cinematic moment of the match. The loop of pilot to titanfall and fiery blaze of glory titan death was an instantly repeatable draw. As satisfying as the grenade, melee, shoot loop of halo.

To push this ramble into more of a discussion piece, it is worth considering that while titans have lessened in battlefield impact, Respawn have taken steps to individualise them. Each titan is now a specific model, with its own unique weapon and specials. Fitting very much into the Overwatch/General MOBA world of one-off heroes  with character specific powers.

This makes the lack of time you spend with your own special robo- buddy each match all the more galling. I want to experiment with these new range of powers and figure out what suits me best. This doesn’t work when my titan is on fire 30 seconds after I’ve called it. Why must everything I love end up on fire?

Maybe this isn’t a conscious decision by the developers, but by reducing the time you spend in titans and limiting the ability to earn without high skill ceiling, this sequel erodes one of it’s best features. Narrowing the player base to only those who have the time to spend developing skills and then giving them every advantage is what eventually suffocated my enjoyment of Call of Duty. I would hate to see Titanfall fall down the same hole.



Ground down

I have been playing both Bloodborne and Dragonball Xenoverse simultaneously. Bouncing off one when I need a rest. A rest from the cerebral concentration required to keep myself alive in Bloodborne or the upper plain of concentration required to understand what is going on in Dragonball. As exposition, energy blasts and multiple characters, friend and foe whizz through the air to guitar laden J-pop beat.

My wife saw me playing both and would ask for story summaries. In an attempt to understand the soundtrack of squelchy screams and hyperactive anime shouting. Neither game is easy to explain to the layman, for similar reasons. A single playthrough of these games is not enough to understand the full plot. Even if the intention behind the story portrayal is wildly different.

Blooborne, being of the same lineage as the Souls series of games, peppers it’s story through the environments, item descriptions and very occasional character interaction.

Xenoverse is constructed under the explicit understanding that you have seen and remember the whole anime. A basic plot framework of time travel policing is decorated with the main events of the entire series without the leg work of having to explain who anyone is or why they are there.

To an outsider both seem completely impenetrable, both are, to an extent, incredibly difficult to understand without resorting a third party such as youtube videos.

Certainly when I finished Bloodborne and my wife asked me what was going on, all I could manage was “There’s some disease, it turns people into monsters, I’m a hunter for some reason. I’m not sure if you could consider me good. In the end I had a hug with a big nobbly thing.”

While comparing Bloodborne and Dragonball is a fun thought experiment for people with lots of time I really want to compare my time grinding in these games.

Both require some element of grinding. Bloodborne requires two varieties of that wonderfully game specific verb.The classic grind for experience and items to make your avatar more powerful by killing numerous lower level monsters and the repetition of specific challenges to learn skills and strategies.

Dragonball requires a time intensive and increasingly infuriating grind to unlock new moves as well as experience. Involving completing standard bouts while also reaching certain undescribed milestones such as beating characters in a certain order or keeping allied fighters alive. This often ends up out of your hands anyway as AI characters on both sides will knock each other out at will. Even if you meet these requirements there is still a random chance on what you will or will not unlock.

This is at once a genius and diabolical piece of game development, a carrot for the player that includes a jolly good stick beating whether you manage to grab it or not. The whole point of Dragonball is the big stupid moves. The fights in the series were always decided by who had the most POWER. If you didn’t have enough POWER there had to be some roundabout way to get it. Training in high gravity, combining with other characters, finding a chamber where time moves slower so a days worth of training can be stretched to a year.

This is seen best in the evolution of the signature skill of the main character, the kamehameha. The first series ends with this being the ultimate move, it is later supplanted with other moves and is thrown around with increasing regularity to less and less effect, it ends up evolving until there about 4 or 5 different versions in this game. The only real difference being the amount of particle effects flying out of your characters hands.

The pull of unlocking the most exciting moves from your favourite characters evolves into a filthy habit. Replaying the same missions over and over for for no reward, when your skill at the game has little to no effect on the outcome.

The combat is incredibly basic and does not constitute a challenge for your mind or fingers. Unless you count overcoming the irksome underlying random numbers game gating your access to the moves as a challenge for your disintegrating brain.

Yet, I kept playing it, even when I had some time off to get some serious gaming done I spent too much time playing Dragonball to unlock the Perfect Kamehameha. As a result I was ignoring better built games with actual proper progression, like Bloodborne.

Dragonball is a bad game. It is however one that perfectly understands its players and has designed systems to extract a grudging devotion from them. This design ethos rings true to Bloodborne. The implementation of those central design pillars is employed much more cynically however. Bloodborne asks you to come back to each encounter and learn counters for each enemy. Spotting weakness, exploiting the mechanical nature of the AI patterns. Rewarding you with further progress into the labyrinth of it’s story and the promise of greater challenge that lies ahead.

From Software designed the boss encounters in Bloodborne to offer a variety of challenges and for them to seem, at first, near impossible. Therein lies the key of Bloodborne, the feeling of accomplishment when bringing down the impossible task. From Software exploit this to both push and pull the player on. Diabolical game design, tempting you ever onwards while doing its best to hold you down. The gaming equivalent of “stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself.”

At some point in the initial production meetings these games took similar yet divergent paths to end at two distant end points. Speculating about how these decisions were made is fruitless. Those discussions are too often swayed by personal prejudice towards certain sales models or companies. It is enlightening to think that if Xenoverse had taken a different tract and not relied on fan recognition to pad its length it could have been more than the grind it becomes.

I, of course, will still keep playing. I want to unlock those huge ridiculous energy blasts so I need to keep firing those medium sized energy blasts. The design of the game may be exploitative but it is effective at what it does. Much like Bloodborne, nefarious designers use human nature against the player to keep you playing, sometimes, against your better judgement.

I’m back, also Helldivers and realism in games.


Image taken from

Yet another hiatus and I’m back again. You can’t keep a good man down. Well, my own lack of ambition and poor memory can but, for now, never mind that. As much as life gets in the way, I have spent too much time on the sidelines not forcing my opinions on the population of the world, when it is fast becoming the chief form of communication.

Is Helldivers really the game to bring me out of hibernation? A downloadable indie twin stick shooter? While the indie scene may not be fully composed of twin stick shooters, they are a constant and repeated occurrence. A kind of living fossil that has been on earth forever and survives through time with its dependable but ultimately conservative traits.

Helldivers achieves nothing technically spectacular, you spin around in circles and shoot aliens, clear a path to multiple objectives and help keep your comrades alive. What makes the game a truly delightful experience is how Arrowhead has stitched together a multitude of systems to both give you a gamut of playstyle options but also punish you as harshly as possible for every mis- step. Helldivers is always on the precipice of total glorious chaos.

While this Starship troopers pastiche hardly seems like a case for talking about realism in games, the harsh penalties for error in this game wrangles the reality of the ridiculous. So, yes we are a gruff voiced drop trooper shooting hundreds of aliens with no mental consequence but shoot comrade and they die, drop a pod on your head, you’ll die. Death in this game comes quickly and easily. Most games will give you some leeway, some advantage over reality. Metal Gear Solid guards will notice you sneaking about but not when their friends have all disappeared from duty. As long as you’re not seen doing it. Fallout and Elder scrolls will make some characters invulnerable so you don’t leave yourself stranded with no actual game to play.

Helldivers punishes you for every infraction. You can call that big stompy mech down to dominate your oponents but if you stand on your comrades they take damage, if it lands on them they’ll die. Numerous times, I’ve called a mech, accidentally killed an online player with its arrival, called for their respawn and then had myself and my one use mech destroyed by their dropped arrival. All the while our team is inundated with aggressors. Never far from chaos.

Is this unfair? No, if you are paying attention, working together and playing sensibly, all these challenges can be overcome. Importantly, for me, without the need for cheap tricks. No enemy can ever spring out of an unseen corner, the best teams survive through teamwork and co-ordination. Even ammo management, so often ignored in many games factors in. Dropped clips here mean lost bullets and held bullets are limited. More ammo can be called but the team has to wait for the drop and waiting means attracting a whole load of trouble. Another element to be managed through the mission.

Realism is often touted as a selling point, the dreaded back of box bullet point. Summarising months of work in barely a sentence to fill physical real estate or top of a Steam page. Rarely do games go all the way though. One element may be realistic but there are always compromises for play-ability. Football manager, a game that sells on it exhausting attention to real life detail, suppresses the numbers of injuries in an average season but it is still considered too much by its dedicated fanbase.

This War of Mine is praised for its accurate depiction of the realities of war on the common man. The developers had real life testimony to draw on but have limited some of the graphic reality to ensure a single understandable message. Not to get overwhelmed in shocking imagery and for that to become the lasting legacy.

I bring these examples up, not to denigrate these games but to highlight how hard it is go all out on your particular brand of realism. It would have been simpler for Arrowhead to create an intense shooter where it wasn’t so easy to kill yourself and your friends. To bring the contest purely from the enemies. By adding a huge variety of weapons and player options into an already difficult experience, they give you the tools to achieve in anyway you want. I could compare it to Dark Souls in that way but I think we are all tired of that comparison by this point.

Of course Helldivers itself isn’t free of the need to bend to gameplay, you do get unlimited re-spawns but the systems put in place deserve true respect. The glorious ways they interconnect and push your teams 15 minute mission narrative forward every time you play  is a true joy of game design.

Yes, I did actually just spend that long arguing about realism in Helldivers. I’d do it again.

The Freedom To Play

Everyone loves Hearthstone, even overconfident Orcs and we all know what they're like. Image taken from

Everyone loves Hearthstone, even overconfident Orcs and we all know what they’re like. Image taken from

I’ve been playing a lot of Hearthstone, Heroes of Warcraft recently. A free to play collectible card based battling game. Yes, nary a more nerdy sentence has been uttered, maybe if we tried to force in a spreadsheet or two but I can’t do all the work for you, go open Excel then come back to this.

Hearthstone is a free to play game, I’m not going to go into the details of it, there’s a lot of complexity to it and there’s plenty of info out there for those so inclined. Plus I’m not very good at it and you could definitely do better for yourself. I would heartily recommend you go try it out, it’s incredibly addictive. I instead wanted to talk about the free to play gameplay system.

If you so much as mention free to play to some gamers they will run to the hills, froth at the mouth or some combination of the two. The once incredibly promising mobile phone arena that promised so much for cheap accessible games has been overtaken by free to play monstrosities like the Dungeon Keeper remake. These games, though free to download allow a few moves a day but charge you to do any moves at  a speed that any normal human may want to work. Essentially these games monetize the slow decay of your body. Time that could be much better spent digging out your own dungeons to trap passing merchants and postmen.

Hearthstone, in this author’s (I always wanted to call myself an author) opinion gets free to play right. As a system, free to play isn’t inherently broken. Al though lots of people seem to automatically assume it is. Like many initially good ideas it has been seized upon by those who don’t understand it or want to abuse it for their own ends.   Hearthstone gets it right by giving you the choice to spend some money but not unfairly restricting you if you don’t want to. The only thing that costs money in the game is more packs of cards. These can also be bought with in game gold that can be earned through completing challenges.

No character or card is locked behind a paywall. Everything can be earned for free it just takes a bit longer. I’ve had hours of fun already with this game and not paid a penny. Engendering good will is the true key to making free to play games profitable. If people enjoy your game and what it offers they will happily pay some money here there to get more out of it. Tribes: Ascend and Planetside 2 also take this route.

Remember those grubby money men I alluded to earlier, not understanding how this model should work? This good will part is what they forget. Making people pay for every individual section of a game is not a sensible business model. Every person has a limit to how often they will hit a pay button. If people feel have a genuine investment in a game they will happy pay money now and in the future. I’m sure we all have games we would happily have paid for more content *cough Shenmue*, an extra few maps or some more characters to play with.

So I’d implore any companies (I know you trawl blogs for business plans) that plan on using a free to play mechanic to focus on making a good game first and making the mechanics fit that after. You’ll find people will stick around a lot longer.

Back to the grindstone


Which do you choose? Do you choose any? Maybe you like your SNES and don’t hold much stock in this modern 3D nonsense thank-you-very-much.

Yeah, so…. left a bit of a gap there haven’t I. Fell into the classic classic bloggers trap of not actually blogging anything. I’m going blame Xmas and all those months preceding it. Fortunately I’m part of a lovely little community called United We Game. As they are actually a lot more active than I am they got me involved in a round table discussion about early adoption of next generation consoles. I even got the final word. The results can be seen on the United we game blog and I have republished them here. Next step is to write a new blog everyday much more regularly. Watch this space perhaps. Not continuously though, just leave it on in the background.

Roundtable Discussion – Early Adoption
January 2014
Is it worthwhile to be an early adopter of a new game console? Are early adopters truly important to a console’s long-term success? There are always questions surrounding the launch of a new console generation, but somehow these and others like them tend to be overlooked, but not anymore!

We decided to have a community discussion to try to determine some answers and we’re joined by Ben Lake, Chip (of Games I Made My Girlfriend Play), and Niall Tucker (of Niall’s Ramblings). What did we find? Read on to find out!

Hatmonster: I guess I’ll get the ball rolling here; I don’t think early adoption is all it’s cracked up to be. Sure you get to be “first” but there really isn’t much else to it than that. It used to be better, but this and the last gen really don’t make a strong case for it.

The Duck: I feel the same way. I wouldn’t ever get a new console right after it’s released because of all the bugs they tend to have (I heard about all kinds of problems with the original PS3’s, and some of the original Wii’s apparently couldn’t read the double-layer discs of “Super Smash Bros. Brawl”). Plus, lately, there never seems to be enough good games when a new console comes out to justify buying it yet.

Ben: New consoles seem to force people into two camps. Those who get massively excited about new hardware and those who are happy to wait and see how things develop. I think that you need both really. Companies need those early investors so they can carry on releasing better and better games. I’m totally with everyone else on the early adoption front though. First wave games tend to be disappointing. A lack of development time usually being the issue. I’d ask the question of us all, what would make us an early adopter? I’d personally, normally be swayed just be the childish excitement of a new console but I don’t have the money to back it up.

Niall: Hm, this is a tough one for me, i am definitely an early adopter where gaming is concerned, I work full time so I’ve been lucky enough to get both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One at launch, the difficult thing is trying to explain what I get out of it. When a console launch occurs it is almost always two consoles together, the 360 and PS3, PS4 and Xbox One, and the logical thing to do would be to wait it out and see which is better, the reason I try to get my hands on things as soon as possible i think is down to the thrill of having something that Is currently on the forefront of technology at the time, it’s exciting to have the latest thing, I almost see it like the thrill of gambling, you know you might lose, but the hype and buildup coming up to a launch is always great, being there at midnight, that kind of thing it’s all very exhilarating as silly as that may sound, is it owrthwhile however I think depends on how the console turns out. I mean, for example if you were to get a console at launch and it was fantastic, worked smoothly, great games, and then was sold out everywhere, yes it’d be worth it, but the reality is you end up paying a lot of money, there are always issues, and I do think although the new generations launch games are great, they lack originality, so are you really playing something new? Probably not. I’ll still always try to be in that midnight queue though, like I say I love being in that bubble of hype, being a part of the excitement, you can’t beat it!

Hatmonster: In reference to Ben’s question, I think it takes the same thing to make me an early adopter as it does for anyone else: a combination of rarity and hype. I’ve held early-adopter status for only one console: the PS3. I was super pumped for it before it came out thanks to a love of several Playstation-exclusive franchises and those awe-inspiring ads they were running in the months up its release (creepy dolls anyone?). As they were incredibly hard to find during the 2006 holiday season, I took my first opportunity to get it (I was lucky and happened to be at my local Best Buy when they received a fresh shipment of ‘em). Nialls, you’re right about it feeling really cool being at the cutting edge, and especially so when the launch consoles wind up with functionality later versions don’t. I suppose that excitement can be enough for awhile, but it must still be frustrating sitting on the exciting new tech until the real games start rolling out.

Cary: I have to admit that part of me *wants* to be an early adopter (maybe the part of me that also *wants* to believe that money grows on trees), but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a console at launch. (Even when my parents were the one doing the game buying/gifting, it’d at least several months to a year before we got something new.) As you guys have said, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a launch; and there really is some special about being part of that small group of people that gets to experience all the “newness” first. But I don’t know that there’s much difference anymore between being a “day one” user and a “month one (or two or three)” user. We got a PS3 in early 2007, and presumably it was just like the ones that were released at launch. (I mean, I guess they could have worked out some bugs by then, but still.) We got a couple then-old launch titles. Sony still got our money, and we didn’t have to stand in line at midnight or deal with wonky hardware or overburdened servers. I guess I’m saying that game companies need to create hype and excitement to get their machines to sell at launch, but I think the real test for any consoles occurs in the months following. Selling a million consoles on launch day is only a drop in the bucket compared to what could/should sell over the course of six months to a year.

Ben: I suppose the big deal here for Sony/ Microsoft/ Nintendo is being either first out the door or having largest unit sales means everyone else is playing catch up. I know numerous groups who buy consoles in groups. By that I mean, everyone buys the same console because they want to play together. Not usually planned from the start it just evolves that way.

Having a higher installed base to begin with must play into this for console makers. Plus getting your console into more people’s hands means you sell more games, assuming people didn’t buy the console to have an incredibly expensive and inefficient paper weight.

So returning to my earlier point of what does a company need to do to get your attention, like Hatmonster alluded to it’s super hype. Often lauding games that aren’t out for months. I personally can’t wait for Titanfall but have to keep reminding myself it’s not out for months. There’s no need to indebt myself to the evil banks for my that particular expensive box of electronics.

The Duck: Like what you were saying about Titanfall”, Ben, I’m super excited for “Kingdom Hearts 3” for the PlayStation 4, but we very well could have long over a year left to wait for that to come out, and unless something else exciting comes out sooner, I can wait on getting the PS4. The price should go way down by then, too.

And I think console-makers need more to get us to buy stuff than just hype about games that will come out someday. Perhaps they should already have awesome games to play when the console comes out, hmm? I think they just release consoles early to try to get a headstart in sales, but that’s not really the most important thing in the long-run. Like Cary said earlier, it’s also important to consider the sales in the months to come. A console needs to have good features and good games in order to get as many people to buy it in its lifetime as possible. It needs, well, staying power. The hype isn’t enough to make me buy a console, but I often buy a console years later once enough games have been released, so they still get my money in the end. If the hype is the only thing the console has going for it, what late-adopters want to buy it years later once this hype has worn off? The people that buy a console early are certainly important to get the console going, but they shouldn’t forget the late-comers, either.

Hatm0nster: In reference to the Duck’s point, in most cases I don’t think they forget about the latecomers, but rather they sort of take them for granted as the main audience. If the console gets proper support, there will always be a steady stream of games coming out to entice people to pick up the console. There are exceptions of course, just look at the PS Vita.

Ben is right though, there really should be more to entice people other than the hype. If you look at the release list for this year, many of the “important” games used to advertise the consoles aren’t out for a long time. Watch Dogs isn’t out until June, and Destiny isn’t out until September! Is there a tangible reason to own one of these consoles right now?

Cary: Hatm0nster, good point about Watch Dogs and Destiny — this is exactly why we’re waiting at least until Titanfall to get a new system! Otherwise, why spend the money on a next-gen console when the games aren’t really there yet? If any of those games had been released at launch, as Ben alluded to, that would have been a whole different story; and I bet we’d be seeing even higher launch sales figures than we’re already seeing. (Also very much hoping that a Titanfall bundle will be released — how cool would that be?!)

So I’m honestly not sure that the early adopters made a huge difference with the leap into the next generation as maybe they did with past generations. I mean, the graphical and processing capabilities between the PS3/Xbox 360 and the PS4/Xbox One are better and noticeable, but they’re nothing like the the giant steps made between the PS1 to PS2 to PS3 or the N64 to the Gamecube to the Wii (to the Wii U). Those then-new consoles were so much more improved over the previous consoles that the choice to buy early seemed so much more necessary. Throw in the fact that PC gaming has significantly risen over the past couple decades and that today many gaming PCs are statistically better (though more expensive) than the PS4/Xbox One, and that intense need to adopt a next gen console early doesn’t seem as intense.

The Duck: Yep, I agree with Cary’s points. For one thing, I’m less motivated to get a new console as soon as it’s released because there isn’t enough of an improvement. When the GameCube first came out, I played it at a friend’s house, and I saw that the graphics were so much better than those on the N64, and it really excited me to get it as soon as I could. Plus, there were already many new games I wanted on it, such as “Pikmin”, “Super Smash Bros. Melee”, and “Luigi’s Mansion”. So once I had the money, I bought the console. Now, I am not that impressed by the new consoles, nor am I motivated to buy it based on the games currently out. If “Kingdom Hearts 3” was out already on the PS4, for example, I’d be pretty tempted to buy it now. But, it’s not, and it won’t be for over a year, no doubt, so I’m waiting. In short, for me, there is much less motivation to buy a new console soon after its release when it isn’t much better than the last one and when I can’t even get any games I want for it yet anyway.

Chip: All great points, gang. I do feel like hype plays a huge part into the “first run” purchases of a new console. At my workplace, it seems like the folks who camped out to buy an Xbox One or a PS4 fell into two camps:

1) Those who wanted a specific game at launch, hell-no-I-cannot-wait, I have to play with all of my friends who are waiting in line with me.

2) The sort of person who buys every freshly-baked bit of tech, no matter what the purpose, just to add it to the pile and drop your glorious ownership into conversation with those mere mortals who decided to wait on the new consoles.

Both of these types seem to make up the target audience for the new product hype that is advertised by the console-makers. I suppose there is something to be said for having an Xbox One or PS4 at launch, but I never really saw the appeal. With first-run consoles come first-run tech problems and glitches, as if these products are part of some worldwide beta-test. I still remember so many of my friends who picked up the Xbox 360 at launch, only to encounter the red ring or an E93 screen mere weeks later.

Ultimately for me, it comes down to what games are exclusively available for each console at launch. It seems like ages since there has been a truly worthwhile launch line-up for any single console. Just think about the comparison between launch games for the Sega Dreamcast versus any of the new consoles. The Dreamcast had Sonic Adventure, Power Stone, House of the Dead 2, and SoulCalibur all on Day One in America. Each of these games were console exclusives and all of them were pretty fantastic. Compare that to the line-ups for the last two launches, which are made up of lackluster sequels and games that can already be played on the previous generation of systems. This isn’t to say that there aren’t games in development for each system about which I am excited (Smash Brothers, Transistor, The Witness), but most of these games are months away at least. So to me, unless you fall into the two categories I mentioned before, there is really no reason to pick up a console at launch.

As an aside, why don’t consoles come with a fantastic pack-in game anymore? I know these things are only getting more expensive to make, but come on- where is the next Super Mario World?

Niall: I don’t think there is any doubt that the new generation have been poor launches, I’ve touched on it in a blog some time ago, the Xbox One launched with basically no “New” games, they were all sequels, FIFA, Battlefield, COD, Assassin’s Creed, it’s all been done before, this is why I was so gutted when Watch Dogs was pushed back, it was the one game I was really looking forward too! And when you look back at what games launched with older consoles they seem to have at least that one huge iconic game, whether it be Super Mario 64 on the N64, or Halo 3 on the 360, neither consoles in this generation have that in my opinion. Yeah, I think it’s fair to say I’m a sucker for the hype..

Ben: I think Chip’s point there is crucial, about pack- in games. One of the key of the Wii’s massive success is the fact it came with Wii sports. That showed off what the tech could do and was instantly an all round family favourite. I believe the same was done with the original Sonic the hedgehog on the Megadrivie/Genesis.

Getting a brilliant game with your console gives you reason to buy it and, vitally, gives you something to do with it except look at dashboard menus. This is really the best way a company could make early adoption a reasonable proposition at such a high initial price point. As Microsoft and Sony are moving away from having internal studios to develop games as well as tech it makes the combined development of games and console difficult. This is the key benefit Nintendo has. They make the consoles AND the games. The two aren’t considered disparate entities. If they could just sort their marketing and release schedule out then they may just take over the world.

Jam it in as small a space as possible

I’ve always liked games. I’ve also been a massive child for a lot of my life. These two things combined to develop an over riding need to know all about everything in my chosen subject area. For a while, in the last generation this was largely achievable. I could keep abreast of all the major releases on consoles. I couldn’t afford/ didn’t understand a PC’s but this was a prior to the recent indie resurgence and few games came out exclusively for the home computers. The massively multiplayer online games never appealed to me, even as they hit their stride. I was a maestro of game knowledge. I managed to sample the majority of new releases.

Things have changed though, the world changed. I don’t like change for this very reason. What price to maintain the status quo? These days I’ve got games coming out  the wing wang. I’m not even sure where that is. The drop out of middiling physical games should have meant a lot less games to keep up with. You remember the games I’m talking about, Conflict Desert storm, Psi Ops……ok maybe you don’t know what I’m talking about. That’s kind of the point though, these aren’t the stand out classics, they are the mid- budget games that rarely get made anymore as there is no more mid budget. Modern consoles cost loads to develop and the middle ground doesn’t really exist anymore.

So how come there’s loads of games now. I struggle to keep up with the mainstream releases. Nevermind that each console also has it’s own online stores and independent development environments. Then the PC has Steam and Steam Greenlight, Kickstarter and to be honest anyone can start up their own project in the kind of advance payment method made popular by Minecraft. So there’s basically loads of games, coming from everywhere. Like I said. Wing wang.

This all makes my childish pride hurt as I just can’t keep up with it all. Never mind that I can’t afford games (never mind games, I can’t replace my holey clothes) there’s just never enough time. Even with dedicating quite a lot of time to just console games, I can’t keep up.

Complaints rage as to decreasing length of games and withdrawal of previously free content. Are games getting shorter or easier? I think there’s another debate there (that could be another blog, everyone stay away from that idea until I get around to it) but plenty of games now try to draw you in for a long term. Whether through the promise of continued downloadable content, say Borderlands 2, or huge game worlds with a range of toys to play with, such as Minecraft. Whole communities can dedicate their entire gaming life to Minecraft. I dip in and out but unfortunately one of the childish qualities I haven’t carried over is a surfeit of imagination. So I build a square house and then run out of ideas.

So there’s lots of gaming to be done. In an a ever increasing range of forms and levels of involvement. It’s great….. but I still suddenly feel out of my depth in my own hobby. I keep seeing reviews of games that I’d never even heard of. Things that have had a massive funding run on Kick starter. So someone knew about it. They never bothered to tell me. These are games I want to get excited about too, I want to get involved, want, want want! Basically modern gaming life doesn’t support my child like need to be respected by my peers.

As you can tell, this is my problem (it always seems to be), the industry is more varied than ever and I’m struggling to keep up. As well as making me frustrated though, it also makes me excited. There are hundreds of games out there for me to try at some point and they’re not all tied to aging hardware. They’re safely stored in the warm comforting bosom of the internet, ready for me when or if I’m ever ready for them. Maybe part of growing up is realising you can’t have everything. This is most likely the lesson I probably should have learned well before the age of 28. Growing up is difficult and all that.

“Next generation?”How can I know I want it? I don’t even know what it is yet.



I’m going to ignore the ruckus over pre-owned Digital rights management and the like as groups on either side basically hold their ideas with a religious fervor. 5 or 6 people reading another opinion piece on on the matter is hardly going to rock the world. Not that anything else I write is, but don’t spoil my heady intentions.

I have been thinking instead about how a lot of people have decried the lack of true “next generation” games being produced for the next wave of consoles. Many of the E3 conference time given over to a lot of shooters and well…. shooters…………..ermm……. racing games! Them too.

I would first ask for a definition of what people mean as “next- gen” (that’s the last time I put it in quotation marks, honest). Original games are not by definition next generation, large groups of people seem to be confusing originality with an increase in computational muscle. Just because you’ve seen a shooter before does not mean you’ve seen a shooter THIS BIG!

Next generation games are surely those that can only be achieved on the most up to date hardware.  They therefore fit very neatly into the “bigger, louder, better” category of some of the big action titles seen at E3. The full destructible buildings of Battlefield 4, or the combined mech and on foot melee of Titanfall. Could these reach their full potential on current hardware? That’s sort of a time limited rhetorical question as they are coming out on current hardware we will found out eventually but all noises suggest they will be inferior ports. Titanfall is not even being handled by Respawn for Xbox 360. Doesn’t leave you overflowing with hope.

The reliance on cloud computing and mixed single player, co- op and multiplayer worlds seem to be the herald of the new generation. Are the building blocks original, the mechanics fresh? It doesn’t seem that way but I can see a major shift in the way we play some major titles. The Division in particular has caught my eye. Seamless shifting between co- operative and competitive multiplayer in a massive open world appeals to me…. well, massively.

The point I’m labouring towards is that we need to make sure we are complaining about the right thing. Just because the next console generation is beginning to lumber to life don’t expect to see loads of curio titles. There is some experimentation happening but it is more in how we connect with our fellow players than pushing the boundaries of what a game can be.

It could be argued that this is merely semantics but if people merely expect a jump in creativity associated with an increase in power then its no suprise that many companies give “more” rather than “different”.

So don’t go demanding next generation unless we all agree on what that consists of. Well, maybe we don’t all need to agree but each person must at least must have an idea of what their own desires are for the next gen. I personally want to see more dinosaurs, bigger dinosaurs and louder dinosaurs.

Taking a chance


You know those programmes where loads of stupid “fashionable” people go out and get drunk and show a distinct lack of common sense. I believe here in the UK they are called Geordie Shore and in the US they are called Jersey Shore. I’m sure there’s more varieties than that but It’s not relevant. To this discussion or anything in the world really. 

These shows annoy me primarily because the people depicted in them seem to have no worries about money even though I can’t think in what manner they earn their living. Unless being drunk is a job description now, For those of us not sponsored by a TV show to be stupid (I do it for free) we have to be careful with our money. A fair old whack of my money goes on games. If you’ve chosen to read this, that may be true for you too. 

A recurring theme amongst gamers seems to be the overpowering drive for a bargain. I’m not going to pretend this is limited to our austerity times. I’m pretty sure its been a long term trend. Gamers are an odd breed in that some will pay huge amounts of money for say a collectors edition of an installment of their favorite franchise. You know the ones, they come with a realistic plunger, just like the ones Mario uses, I assume…… when he actually gets to do some plumbing. I bet he really savors those moments, arm jammed half way down a pipe or testing a boiler, doing what he was trained to do rather than eternally rescuing a woman he can never be sure isn’t just being kidnapped in a desperate attempt to add adventure to their ailing relationship.

Where was I? Oh yes. Money. It’s limited and we are wary of our purchases. This brings me to my point. A new game comes out this week. Remember Me published by Capcom is a sci- fi adventure about fiddling with peoples memories, like in that Jim Carrey film where he doesn’t wave his arms about as much as usual. Were you thinking of buying it? I’d imagine it falls into either the “wait for the price drop” or “buy it, used, on a whim” category for many people. 

Now I’m in no way preaching to you to buy it. From the sites I trust for reviews it been getting good 7/10 type scores. So good but its not going to blow your top, as it were. A couple of things stand out to me about this game though. First, its a brand new franchise with a pretty original concept. Second its set in a futuristic version of Paris. No I haven’t misspelt New York. Paris. That one in France.

A lot of complaining is done on forums and comments pages and the like about a lack of originality and over reliance on stagnating franchises. When a new franchise appears though I often notice a reticence to risk money on it unless it gets incredibly high scores. So as a counterpoint I would present the Last of Us developed by Naughty Dog of Uncharted fame. Again a brand new franchise set in a fairly original setting appearing on shop shelves next week. The pedigree of the studio behind it and excellent review scores however will most likely see it becoming a hit. What will happen to Remember Me at the same time? Who knows but if dedicated gamers decide to wait for a price drop then it could well make no money and be considered a flop.

I am not advocating buying Remember Me over any over based entirely on the premise of the fact it might fail. That would be an odd way of living your life. I’m trying to suggest that we all have a tendency to be perhaps a tad too careful with fledgling games when in fact we need to be most bold with them.  

Hopefully Remember Me will do well as videogame sequels, unlike other mediums, often see the greatest work done following the original release. I often consider videogames an iterative process. Sequels allowing for great refinements on the original blueprints. Case in point, Naughty Dog’s own Uncharted franchise. The first game was good but the real quality work came in the following sequels. 

Don’t take this as a criticism of anyone’s buying habits. These companies are companies. not charities. It’s in the description. It’s their jobs to make you interested in their games, I only write this in the hope to make you all have a little think whether you take enough chances If you’ve got the cash and the impulse, go give a game a try you don’t know that much about. We all like a bargain its harder to complain to a producer about their lack of risk taking if no one is willing to back them when the risk is taken.

Today’s good original title may lead to a stonking franchise (I like the word stonking). So I’m not suggesting you pour your money down a black hole like the producers of programmes that fund professional idiots. If you think a game tickles your fancy gland just right take a full priced punt on it. 

Life lessons from the battlefield

A first post of a blog should probably attempt some form of explanation as to the motivation of the author. Creating a blog doesn’t, like anything else in life, have to have a grand overarching plan. Like eating an entire tub of Ben and Jerry’s in one siting, some activities are just fun, even self destructive and devoid of purpose. As I’d like people to regularly read this and for me to actually bother to a write a regular series of posts I think detailing my motivations and plans for this blog might convince everyone that I’m not here to just shout any ill conceived thought in your general direction. If no one reads it then it’ll just be a  reminder to myself of why I’m doing it. An advanced form of talking to yourself.

I have always enjoyed the creative industries, even though I lack an ability to draw anything except wobbly tiny robots, can’t dance, sing, play an instrument, act or anything you might reason as a positive contribution to society. Instead I’ve followed a love of fossils and science into a long drawn out training in an attempt to become a palaeontologist. I stand on the crux of this dream however I have always longed for a way to express myself and peer reviewed scientific papers aren’t the way to do it.

Having always enjoyed writing but suffering from an acute form of lack of self motivation I have never truly applied myself to it. A couple of recent events made me realise, I need more outlets in my life than merely playing videogames and trying to become Sam Neill in Jurassic Park.

First, I managed to talk myself out of a well paid job in Australia. My skill at pratting up a good situation know no bounds, I’ll save you the details and ask for no sympathy, there’s still more opportunities for me but I’m sure we have all felt the sting of a vanishing opportunity. It may all be for the best anyway, I hate giant spiders and I hear Koalas are incredibly aggressive lovers. I don’t want to see either of those concepts made real.

A week later, a few friends from my first degree came to visit me, we went to a park and lay in the sunshine, had a picnic, chased my friends small dog about, gained a true appreciation of my lack of fitness and played human buckaroo on our sleeping associate. A good afternoon, by anyone’s standards I’m sure. Later that night after we had all returned home we all gathered on xbox live to play Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3.

Truth be told me and my close university friends built our relationship on the various iterations of Call of Duty. Beginning in university when me and four friends lived in the same house, had three xboxes between us and played Call of Duty 3 until we could switch the tide of battle at whim. Often swapping teams to ensure the war was not over too early.  If only modern conflicts had such an overriding sense of fairness to them…

We sat in the park, my friends, with a mortgage and puppy, another with a well paid job regular business trips and me recently engaged. We are a stereotype personified an 80’s teen movie they forgot to make, all moved on from university life, transitioning into the more regular drudge of adulthood. However, unlike the 80’s we are  still able to maintain a regular connection through our xbox headsets. No longer are we the game changers on the battlefield. I’d like to think that my lack of time to invest in playing and the change in map design to more tight compact urban affairs are to blame for my declining performances. The truth probably lies in my inability to react with the speed of old, my eyes crusted over with age and blinding me to that bugger in the corner.

The confusing mix of emotions I felt at this time, the joy of friends and the annoyance at an opportunity lost has lead me to stop restricting my writing with the usual excuses. The most probable lack or complete absence of readership being the main one. Well, screw it. Even if no one reads this, at least I’ve achieved something today. Rather than just being poor at online shooters, I’ve written about being poor at online shooters. Hopefully my writing ability should improve at the same time and when I read about the amazing passionate communities formed around gaming, I can finally think I’ve contributed a small part to it.

After all I’m never going to publish a video of me getting a fifty kill streak on Call of Duty or 100%- ing freebird on guitar hero. I don’t have the skill. I can’t imagine a video series would work, most people say my speech turns into a mumble due to my soft northern accent. Just the other day, an old man asked what I do. I said “fossils”. He heard “bottles”, which led to me shouting “fossils” at an old man in a car park while he shouted “bottles”. I’m not entirely sure he wasn’t saying “brothels”. Either way, he didn’t get it.

This is my best creative outlet, one I enjoy, can complete with the least amount of confusion to others (bar those who can’t read) and I hope to actually apply myself to it. Lets see how that goes.