Obscured View

A few chosen words on the world of video games

Archive for September, 2008

Criss Angel: Believe… or really don't. At all. Just "forget".

Before I begin, let me just say that I really have nothing against Criss Angel, and happen to love a lot of the Cirque shows we have here in Las Vegas.  I’ve been to LOVE three times already.  I’ve enjoyed the bits of Criss’ show that I’ve caught on TV.  I went into this with a neutral attitude.

Now that we’re done with that…

Ahem.

One of the fun things about living in Las Vegas is the ability to go to see previews of shows before they’re “ready” for the general public.  I’d assume they use this as a metric to see how the show is thought of before it goes “live” and give them a chance to tweak things that aren’t working.  Really it’s a show in beta — things may change a bit, but it’s roughly there, and they’re working out the finer points (i.e. timing and such).

So this past Saturday, my wife and I went to see the preview of “Criss Angel – Believe” at the Luxor.

Short and sweet: I think this show is beyond saving.  I’d recommend you skip it.

Read on for the longer version (SPOILERS)…

Read more

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Is LIVE going to see the light?

I still stand by my theory that Geometry Wars kinda screwed LIVE  when it first started.  Sure, MS’s very tiny download limit didn’t help, but really when a very simple (albeit fun) retro-styled game becomes the #1 game on LIVE, it’s easy for everyone to do the “me too” and start cranking out the retro!  Of course, everyone went cheap (because they didn’t get that GW was a polished title), and the result is LIVE flooded for over a year with -mostly- cheap games that lack any real quality or fun past the demo.

— Let me say that I’m not lumping some of the quality casual games into my “lack of quality” bin, but as a gamer they don’t really count for what I’m talking about, which is actual games. —

So now, we’ve got a different situation.  Bionic Commando : Rearmed, Braid, and Castle Crashers all slap the “cheap and retro” idea in the face.  Sorry Galaga, you didn’t go far enough to qualify in this group.  To your dev team’s credit, PacMan CE did though.

But anyway, so here’s a new generation of fun, eye-catching games that re-assess what a console download title can be and what experiences it can deliver.  Sure, Braid was overpriced, but the others weren’t, and all of them delivered some very fun gaming.

I’ve always believed that PSN is a more risk-taking service in terms of providing games and experiences I couldn’t get on the other consoles and via some retro game port.  However, is that changing?  Are we going to see some better games on LIVE now that we’ve seen that original titles (and remakes done right) can be successful, and they’ve finally lifted the footprint size that developers can work in?

All we need now is a rating system (purchased user rating and non purchased, please!) in place and we’ll be making some great progress!

I really don’t know what MS plans to do with LIVE, but I can hope they get it together.  The new fall update, which is the bastard child of iPhone UI and a Wii, seems to just be new clothes on the same navigation system they have now.  For now I have to remain unimpressed, especially when MS peeps say things like “well, we wanted avatars before the Wii…”.  Sorry that doesn’t matter.  Suck it up.  They got them in first, and now you’re copying.  Just admit it, or just don’t answer any questions regarding that glaring fact, eh?

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Cinemaction! (likely with a TM after it)

Oh come on.

This is one of those things that I have to believe that someone in marketing came up with, because I can’t imagine a game designer or even a producer (ok, I can imagine a few producers that might) thinking “yeah, let’s take an established, used-many-times-before convention, and try to market it as something new… by giving it a new name!  I AM SO AWESOME!”

Not saying that I wouldn’t like to play a 3rd person 40k game, but “cinemaction”?  It’s not new.  Shenmue did it, God of War did it, the Metal Gear series, that one PS game with the barbarian that could kill things 300 different ways… yeah it’s a unique mechanic all right.  Oh, wait it’s not.

I realize that you can get people to believe a lot of things just by saying it over and over and that you can claim newness when it isn’t, but it’s not like they waited a generation or two (HEMI, I’m looking at you!) before trying to reinvent something that existed before.

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Why speak intent?

I recently was watching a video by David Jaffe, in which he pondered why most industry people refer to their intent when publicizing their games, especially in un-established franchises.  Why talk about intent in a title that’s new?

Well, for one thing, how to stand out amongst the glut without doing so?  Screen shots really don’t do much for games any longer, since a 3rd person game is going to look like every other one out there — character, view into the horizon, ground, some enemies, a stripped-down UI — and that’s what everyone shows.  Sure, lighting and style come into play, but really everyone can guess what 90% of the game will play like just from those very similar shots.

So… yeah.  How does that make the game stand out?  It doesn’t.

Videos can do a better job, but when you just show the game without narration, unless you have a very unique and visual mechanic (or an amazing sequence) that’s unique to your game, most people won’t get it.  Now that says a lot for having a very visual mechanics / hooks, since you can sell the game on that alone if people see it and understand why your game is different.  God of War II’s opening level with the Colossus?  Sold.  Highly visual

I think the issue is that many genres now are just too hard to have a very visual novel mechanic these days, simply because gamers are exposed to so much in each genre that they read into a game even as they first see it.  Take Bioshock for example.  A great, ambient, game.  Wonderful art style, but in a video it would look like any other shooter, just with a few novel weapons.  It’s when you get Ken Levine explaining the game’s intent while backing that up with gameplay that demonstrates it, and then it starts being sexy.

So what does intent get you?  Well, if done right, it gets the player a glimpse into why product X will be different, especially when you’re in a very crowded market, like FPS or action games.  Once a series is established, the intent you’re after becomes a desire to know choices in how decisions were reached, but when marketing something new, I think it’s more along the “see why we’re different?” line.

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Site updates

I’m looking for a better theme with a bigger font and more space for words rather than columns.  I’m just trying stuff out to get the look that I’m after.  Apologies for the drastic changes in appearance.

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