Gamer Hate

Belligerently lacking in remorse.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Busy busy busy… More ebay!

I’m still preparing for my trip to China so there’s little time to post… But hey, check out more of my ebay auctions!

A WW2 knife.

Oddworld Inhabitants memorabilia.
A lot of Magic the Gathering Cards.
Knights of the Dinner Table comic collection.
Sega Dreamcast with games!
Nintendo Gamecube.
TiVo Series 2 Dual Tuner.
A Toyota Prius… Yes, my car!

posted by CommanderHate at 9:55 am  

Monday, December 22, 2008

Selling My Geeky Stuff

In order to scrape some cash together to make ends meet and hopefully not get another foreclosure on my records, I have opened up my store of incredibly geeky stuff for sale on e-bay. I’ll be putting up many items for the next week or two and if you know of any websites that might be interested, please spread the auction love in their direction.

Almost all the items start at $0.99 and most of them will have 10% of any profit go to Penny Arcade’s Child’s Play charity.

Battlestar Galactica Episode 1, “33” signed by cast.
Transformer’s Jetfire.
Robotech Masterpiece VF-1J.
The Crow – Brandon Lee Trading Card.
Dragonstorm Figurine.

posted by CommanderHate at 10:01 am  

Monday, December 22, 2008

Commander Hate’s Best and Worst of 2008

Seems like a good way to close out the year, yeah? Well, agree or not, here are my opinions on the best and worst games of 2008.

The Best Games of 2008

3. Professor Layton and the Curious Village. (Nintendo DS)
I love puzzle games, and Professor Layton had fun little puzzles in spades. If I complete the game it’s either a testament to my stubbornness or a testament to how much fun I was having playing the game. In the case of Professor Layton, it was both. In addition it had a new (to me) and interesting art style that made it a joy to explore. I also consider this a great example of how adventure games on the DS can be very successful.

2. Fallout 3. (PC)
I also love RPGs and recently have had an affinity for RPGs with FPS elements in them. As much as I have disliked the Obsidian series, the leveling and customization features of Fallout 3 have made me very happy to play. Add to that a fascinating series of short stories to stumble upon while exploring a nuclear devastated Washington D.C. and you have a winner. The best part of this game is that no two players seem to have the same experience, even when exploring the same areas, making Fallout 3 a testament to well crafted design.

1. Braid. (Xbox 360)
This is probably always going to be one of my favorite games. It demonstrates so well what happens when you tell a story through the gameplay itself. Not to mention it’s my favorite use of using rewinding time as a game mechanic ever… EVER… And time rewinding is usually crap in games. Braid is the best game of 2008, so if you haven’t played it yet, go, now… play.

The Worst Games of 2008

I must preface this by saying it’s not my policy to play bad games. In fact, if I even get a whiff of awfulness from a game, I don’t buy it. So, since I’m only going to talk about games that I’ve actually played (since there’s no other way to have a valid opinion on the quality of a game), this worst list might include some people’s favorite games.

3. Final Fantasy Tactics A2 (Nintendo DS)
You dropped the ball Square. As much as I love FF Tactics, this game had the worst and slowest gameplay of all of them so far. The gameboy advance version had a simple way to speed through the boring parts of combat. Hit the shoulder button and it would skip through animations to the next action. WHY THE HELL DID YOU NOT PUT THAT IN THE LATEST VERSION OF THE GAME?! Seriously, I could have played through the game in 1/10th the time if I didn’t have to watch every stupid slow animation of every character doing things for the thousandth time.

As much as I enjoy the gameplay and character building aspects, the story was unforgivable. We do not enjoy the whole “I’m a loner kid in school but I find this magical world and am forever changed” shit. It sucks… It really sucks. The original FFT had a hint of it, but was a very deep and involved story that had all sorts of revenge and death twist plot elements strewn throughout. Why don’t you go with the story elements that originally made the game a success instead of the one thing people didn’t like about the GBA version?

Oh and your stylus controls that were made just for the DS? FRIGGIN FAIL! The only reason to use the stylus was if you wanted to be frustrated and angry when it totally misinterpreted whatever you were tapping with the stylus… FAIL!

2. Warhammer Online (PC)
I found almost zero innovation in this game. It was pretty much a clone of World of Warcraft but with really ugly art (even at the highest settings on a good PC). There was nothing special about the quests or the characters or the combat. Pretty much a yawn fest from day one. Been there done that, don’t want to do it again, thanks so much for trying, better luck next time. The game was so boring that I can’t even find the anger within me to get worked up about it.

1. Age of Conan (PC)
Another MMORPG, but this one promised to be different by having an in-depth fighting gameplay mechanic. For the most part, yes, good stuff… Unfortunately they rushed the game out the door a bit too fast and ended with an epic failure. Why? Because the animation speeds of women were SLOWER than that of men and caused HUGE discrepancies in damage per second values from one character to the next. You could have the exact same class with the exact same equipment but if they were female, they SUCKED compared to the male counterpart.

What was the core of this problem? The animations were taking longer for women than men. How the fuck did this get by QA? This wasn’t just a balance issue, it was a complete cluster fuck of the entire game and made a mockery of PVP as well as level advancement since an entire gender had a SEVERE advantage. You cannot release a game with such a tremendous failing. You especially cannot release a PVP based game with such a tremendous failing of BALANCE!

If you knew about this before you released it and chose to release the game anyways, you have no ethics and I seriously question your moral judgment.

Fin

So, there you have it, the best and worst of 2008. At least, in my opinion. Do you agree or think I’m an idiot? Post your comments and your own opinions on the best and worst games of 2008.

posted by CommanderHate at 6:03 am  

Monday, December 15, 2008

Games That Won’t Let You Die
Awesome or Bad Design?
From Kohyunu

Kohyunu was wondering something about the latest Prince of Persia game.

“One of the biggest thing I noticed was that you cannot die. Even if you deliberately try and fall off a cliff, Elika is there to save you. She even saved me when she was trapped and couldn’t move herself!

What’s your take on it? What was your initial reaction to the ‘No death’ design choice, and how did you feel when you played it? (If you played it that is 😛 )”

Well, to be quite honest I haven’t played the latest Prince of Persia so consider my opinion highly academic, but I have discussed the game with people who have played it and I’ve come to some conclusions about it.

First of all, not being able to die in games isn’t that uncommon. Some of my favorite games don’t always have a death condition. Particularly adventure games and puzzle games of a story nature (like Professor Layton, Myst and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney) don’t ever allow you to die unless it’s a story ending possibility (though those three examples don’t have that). Dying in those games doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as it just causes you some frustration and you never pick that option again. They’re like choose your own adventure books (my guilty pleasure as a child) where you would pick the option you thought was best, mark the page, peek ahead and if it abruptly ended the story you would pick the other option.

In fact, my favorite game of 2008 did not allow you to die. A game called Braid which was about time travel (and apparently nuclear weapons), and every time you died you would simply rewind time to a point before your death was imminent. Given that the game was about time travel and that rewinding time allowed you to try and retry the gameplay puzzles to your heart’s content, it worked perfectly for that game (and when gameplay also expresses ideas, it’s a true joy to behold). The Prince of Persia Sands of Time had a somewhat similar ability to rewind time, but it had a limitation on it to prevent the game from being too easy. It seems the latest PoP has done away with that limitation.

The first problem with an action game that doesn’t allow you to die, is that there is no challenge to the game anymore. The point of an action game is to develop your twitch gaming skills to allow you to advance through obstacles that may have been too tough only a moment ago. With an NPC basically dragging your ass through everything, you don’t really develop your abilities and as the game progresses in difficulty, you will continue to suck at it so you will spend more and more of your time being rescued by the secondary character. Not exactly heroic…

The second problem with an action game that doesn’t allow you to die, is that the primary reason to play has been done away with. If there is no risk of death in combat or skill challenges (because everytime you fall you are rescued), why are you playing? If the story is good, that’s great, but that’s a reason to watch a movie, not play a game. If you don’t have to work to get the next tidbit of story, what are you really achieving by playing? How can you take pride in your victory if you didn’t really accomplish anything to get it?

Well apparently the solution to this is to make the boss encounters reset everytime you would normally have died but are saved. What are the boss encounters? Well they’re sequences of button presses that are displayed on the screen. Probably the worst style of gameplay ever invented. This stuff came from the original Dragon’s Lair and is the subject of my rant on Quicktime Events in games.

To reiterate my points on that though, you’re basically forced to push a sequence of buttons which cover the screen and interrupt your view of the gameplay, and if you fail you have to try to push the same sequence of buttons again exactly. “But Commander, isn’t that in essence what every game is,” you ask?

NO!

In most games you get to choose how you solve a problem as well as exactly how you do it. There are margins for error in many directions in those situations. If the button presses are exactly the same everytime then there is no element of discovery, you’re just playing Simon Says, but not even a fun version of it. You’re told a button to push and you push it. It’s more a reaction time test than anything else, which can be fun for a few minutes but should never ever ever ever ever be the basis of an ENTIRE FRACKIN GAME!

Yes, I know, you Dragon’s Lair diehards are totally pissed at me now. I’m sorry but Dragon’s Lair at least he had the good taste to hide the button pressing gameplay within the game itself. It’s still a reaction test but at the very least you can still see the whole sequence play out without some stupid button appearing on the screen. Though to be honest, Dragon’s Lair was more a memorization test, because I don’t know anyone who had a fast enough reaction time to play that game without having done it at least 100 times before.

So, not being able to die in games is not inherently bad. I just don’t think it was the right solution for an action game like Prince of Persia. Between the latest Prince of Persia and Mirror’s Edge (in which you die constantly and must frustratingly start over and over and over) I think there’s a happy medium. Perhaps Prince of Persia Sands of Time got it right with their limited time rewind?

No, I take that back.

I think the correct answer for Prince of Persia is to come up with a more compelling reason to play. From what I’m hearing, continuing through the story is the only satisfaction you get, and the rest of the gameplay is the annoyance that’s in your way to that. You trudge through constantly being saved by your companion, but there’s no fun in mastery because there’s no chance of defeat. Perhaps what Prince of Persia needs is some actual thought provoking decisions to make during gameplay that aren’t just jumping puzzles or Quicktime Event boss fights.

I think most action games are missing that “something new” that will escalate their gameplay to the next level. We need a mixing of genres that will make all games more compelling. Right now, Braid is the only game to have truly impressed me as far as that goes, but I can’t help but think that if all these game companies would try to actually innovate in the area of gameplay instead of slightly improving what they already have, we might have a wonderful revolution in games.

Time will reveal all I suppose.

posted by CommanderHate at 7:46 pm  

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Compulsive Gaming is NOT an Addiction
CommanderHate was WRONG!

Previously I had indicated that gaming could turn into an addiction just like any other abuse substance. That put some enthusiastic gamers in the same boat as alcoholics. Well, that assessment may not be entirely fair in light of this article, which makes some very valid points. Although the article does agree that there may be some who are true gaming addicts, it points out that the vast majority who participate in MMORPGS to the exclusion of “reality” tend to have a social problem rather than an addiction problem.

This makes a lot of sense from what I’ve seen of hardcore gamers who never seem to leave their homes. The truth is that they just never got into the social scene, or were purposefully excluded from it by bullies or simple social awkwardness that made them the butt of jokes. If you had to choose between spending the majority of your day being picked on and laughed at, or being a hero, which would you choose? I think everyone would pick the hero, even if it’s somewhat lessened by the fact that it’s not happening in reality.

Though it’s important to note that the MMORPG has changed the dynamic of escapism to include a very critical social element. You ARE adventuring with real people, and there are still bullies and bad things that can happen to you there. The difference though is that within the game world you have the power to do something about it. In fact, since a lot of the people who tend to play MMORPGS were bullied themselves, there are a whole group of people devoted to stopping the bullying of others within those games. In WoW for example, if you’re being picked on by a group from the opposing faction, sending a shout out in the public channels will often get at least one person to come out and try to take care of the offenders. These people will then often corpse camp the enemies until they escape, thus showing the bully that they’re not going to be allowed to continue that kind of behavior (at least right at that moment and in that area).

It’s interesting that in school and other social situations where one person is being bullied, the typical response is for others to either ignore the situation or to join in and further abuse the person who has been picked as the target. Perhaps MMORPGS aren’t just to escape being bullied, but to surround ourselves with people who are more willing to fight for what is right. That isn’t to say that there aren’t assholes in MMORPGs (because there are plenty), but that there are more people who are willing to do something about it. Is it the power of your Avatar that allows you to take action in the game world whereas you would not in the real world? Is it the anonymity of it all?

Within the gameworld the consequences of taking actions against bullies is relatively low. At worst they might corpse camp you and waste some amount of your time. At best they are unable to defeat you and you can continue to bully them until they leave. I think it’s the draw of the chance to be a hero in someone’s eyes that keeps some people coming back to the game. I also think it’s the chance to be the bully that keeps others coming back.

Either way, the ability to act out your social fantasy of either being the hero or the bully is a very powerful draw for MMORPG players. It makes sense that it would become a compulsion, particularly since it can be so difficult for the socially awkward to play either role in real life.

posted by CommanderHate at 12:13 pm  

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

3D Cameras and Effects in Modern Games
Threat or Menace?
From Kohyunu

Kohyunu has had some trouble with the cameras in Fable 2 and Mass Effect that have left him feeling a bit nauseous. In Fable 2 there’s a blur effect added when you rotate the camera, and in Mass Effect there’s a jittery blur effect associated with sprinting. As far as Mass Effect, I believe the inspiration for the sprint blur came from Gears of War which has a shaky follow cam. In fact, a lot of games tried to imitate that shaky “news camera” feel after Gears came out. A lot of them didn’t quite understand why Gears did it though.

It wasn’t about making a shaky follow cam, it was about the feel of the world. The follow cam when you ran really added a lot to the feel of Gears of War. You felt like a soldier embedded in conflict because if you’ve ever seen news footage of soldiers in hostile situations, that’s pretty much what it looks like.

But what it spawned was a wave of imitation that didn’t quite live up to the original purpose. Adding a motion blur when something is supposed to be moving “fast” is nothing new. So I wasn’t only not surprised to see it in Mass Effect, I rather expected it. It honestly didn’t bother me at all.

Fable II seems to be a little different though. What’s going on is that they’re adding a blur effect to camera rotation to try and give it a “real world” feel. When you turn your head quickly in… uhh… life… There’s a blur effect caused by your eyes not having a focal point. The thing is, in real life you don’t spin your head around in an unfocused way. You usually keep your head turned toward an object. It’s also typically a quick movement even if you’re not focusing on something, probably less than 2 seconds. So while they’re trying to imitate something that occurs in real life, they failed to see how it doesn’t really occur to the degree that they’re doing it (not to mention we don’t have 3rd person perspectives of ourselves).

Anyways, despite that, I really didn’t have a problem with either game’s cameras. I’m just used to 3D gaming I guess. In fact, the only time I was ever made nauseas by a game was when I was playing the original Marathon (for the Mac and btw I’ll always consider it a thousand times better than Halo). They had a fake 3d thing going on with 2D sprites all over the place. The whole thing was a bit disconcerting and extended periods of play could really get your stomach rolling (if you know what I mean). After that though, everything was easy to take in.

I honestly think that it’s just something you get used to. Some games take things a bit too far (like Fable 2), but really that’s just a matter of their QA process needing to have a nausea check process. Perhaps get some people who don’t often play 3D games in and see if they can stand playing for more than an hour without getting sick. That sort of thing.

Honestly the number one thing I look for when designing a game camera, is that it lets you see everything you need to see, and in all other cases is totally unnoticeable. If you’re able to just intuit how the camera works and you never even need to think about it, that’s a good thing. The best cameras in video games are almost always the ones you don’t even remember anything about.

posted by CommanderHate at 11:39 am  

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