Posted by: maddrcliche | June 2, 2011

Mix It Up

Hello pretty ones, sorry it’s been so long since my last post.

So whatever happened to all those nice mini-games? Remember in Final Fantasy VII when all of a sudden you were riding a motorcycle and hitting guys with your sword while protecting your friends who were riding in a van? Or when you rode a Chocobo in a race? Or piloted a submarine? Or commanded an army? It made the adventure feel all the more epic for throwing in these occasional shifts in gameplay and made the world feel much more dynamic. Then the next game in the series came along and there was just some crappy card game. Why not have more of these? Someone please tell me why game designers are so afraid to think outside the box and make something new.

I recently played L.A. Noire and it was amazing. Don’t get me wrong, it has its flaws and there were moments where I got really annoyed with the interrogation system, I’ll admit, but all in all it was a totally unique experience and I would recommend it to any gamer just because of that. Games don’t need to be a slave to genres, developers should mix and match things to realize whatever their vision is. L.A. Noire is a brawling, driving, shooting, adventure game, and that’s what makes it awesome. Final Fantasy VII has all these different mini-games and it makes you feel like the adventure you are a part of is on a much grander scale than other RPGs.

Why can’t a first person shooter have a dynamic conversation system with branching pathways? Why can’t a giant mecha game have dating sim elements where you interact with the other pilots? Why can’t a survival horror game have you collecting clues and piecing together evidence to bring a masked serial killer to justice? Games are such a unique medium for telling a story and there are so many ways different elements could be brought together to create something new and exciting, yet most games come out just follow the same cookie cutter design as each game that came before it.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a fun time playing a first person shooter with regenerating health and a cover system with my friends, but why is it they are all the same? Surely game designers can aspire to more than “Gears of War in ____ setting” or “Halo in _____ setting”. That’s why I love games like L.A. Noire or Deadly Premonition, they feel like something you’ve never seen before, and I heartily recommend both of them if for no other reason than that.

Okay, this was a short post, but it seemed like an interesting topic and it’s been on my mind. Adieu!

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Posted by: maddrcliche | April 5, 2011

I want to play THAT game…

So the Dynasty Warriors formula hasn’t really changed much over the years. Sure, there have been gameplay tweaks and new systems and weapons and now they have enemy cavalry units and such but the basic formula of you being one really powerful officer cleaving through hordes of soldiers who only rarely do anything but stand next to you waiting for you to kill them is pretty much the same. However, the opening cinematics have gotten more extreme with each incarnation.

The first thing you see when you fire up Dynasty Warriors 7 is Zhao Yun finding a baby on the battlefield, then suddenly he’s riding away on a horse with the baby while about a thousand guys are chasing him on horseback. They are trying to stab him and he’s flipping around on horseback, jumping all over the place, just destroying this entire army. His horse falls and he starts running about 100 miles an hour along a wall, this guy throws an iron ball on a chain at him and he catches it and goes spinning through the air. Suddenly he’s jumping down a waterfall and he somehow plants his feet on the flowing waterfall and starts sliding down it. Some enemy soldiers do the same and they start spear fighting while defying the laws of gravity and sliding down a waterfall. Holy shit. Can I play that game?

Why do so many games have cutscenes where crazy shit happens that sometimes isn’t even attempted to be replicated in gameplay? Like in Metal Gear Solid 3, Snake can take out a whole group of guys with CQC without them firing a shot, and you can’t really pull off those crazy moves in-game. Though there was one time I stripped Snake down bare-chested and ran around with only his knife slitting guys throats while they shot the hell out of me. Don’t know how I survived, it was on the second hardest difficulty. Or in Devil May Cry where a cut scene will take over to show you doing lots of bad ass stuff you’d rather be playing out yourself.

Anyway, Dynasty Warriors 7 is pretty rad. It follows the actual story of RoTK a little closer and is a lot more involved and dramatic than past games. The story mode is actually pretty cool so far. You pick a kingdom instead of an individual warrior and play as different warriors from mission to mission, following instead the overall stories of Wei, Wu, Shu, or the new Jin dynasty. The new art design is… very anime inspired, to say the least. I like it but I can see some people being turned off by it. Google image search Zhong Hui or Lu Xun (make sure to specify Dynasty Warriors 7 when searching Lu Xun since he’s not a new character) and you’ll see what I mean.

Oh, and there’s a spear that when you use it in a combo causes rainbow-colored lightning to come down from the sky and strike your opponents. I think that would pretty much be the point I give up if I were one of the generic soldiers.

“Okay, that guy over there can fell like 100 guys with a single arrow and that guy can wield two halberds at once, that other guy is rolling around like a boulder… I can accept that. These things happen in our kingdom full of powerful people. I thought maybe with strategy and enough numbers we could overcome them. But that dude has a spear that causes rainbow-colored lightning to fry people who mess with him. I’m out.”

Posted by: maddrcliche | March 29, 2011

Not Favorite But Important

We often see lists of the “best games of all time” which usually flip flop back and forth between two things. The games which are, in the authors opinion, their favorite games of all time, or to be a little more sophisticated they will sometimes make a list of the most influential games of all time. For example 007 Goldeneye on the N64 because it completely changed the way FPS games were seen on consoles, changing them from being usually pretty bad PC ports into being considered respectable in their own rights. Games like Call of Duty owe a lot to Goldeneye.

But the other day it occured to me that there is another very interesting topic relating games that I haven’t really seen discussed. What game has been the most important in your life?

While thinking on this the other day I realized that I could basically trace who I am today back to a game released in 1995. After picking up Marathon 2: Durandal, I became obsessed with the Marathon series, keep in mind that I was very young at this time. It blew my mind for two key reasons. First of all, it actually featured friendly NPCs that would fight alongside you from time to time. Secondly, the Marathon games are quite possibly the first FPS games that ever featured an actual in game storyline. Not only that, it is an interesting storyline filled with twists and turns and philosophical ramblings.

Back in Middle School I spent a lot of my free time reading all about the games storyline and people debating hidden meanings and secrets on the Marathon’s Story page. In the final game in the Marathon Trilogy there is a creature which is central to the plot that is a bit Lovecraftian in its description. This is how I first discovered H.P. Lovecraft, by hearing him mentioned on a website relating to an FPS game I really liked. I decided to check out a compilation of some of his stories and my taste in literature was forever changed.

While I was really getting into H.P. Lovecraft I discovered that there was something called a Roleplaying Game based on his works, the infamous Call of Cthulhu. It sounded really cool to me so I scrapped together some allowance and purchased it. I learned how to GM it and taught my friend Ryan how to play and although those first games were horrible when I look back on them, we had a lot of fun and it would lead me to other games like World of Darkness. This is how I came to discover roleplaying, which is now one of my biggest hobbies and takes up a substantial portion of my life.

In High School I would eventually meet two classmates named Stephen and Brandon, who would introduce me to Jorge and Andrew, all four of whom are some of my best friends without whom my life would be a great deal duller. How did I become friends with them? Through my friend Ryan organising a game for all of us over at his place. Without roleplaying it is entirely possible I never would have been introduced to these great friends of mine.

Looking at this winding pathway through my life it is fair to say that the Marathon games made me the man I am today. Sure, I might have come to discover all these things independantly, but I would have found them in other ways and I could be an entirely different person. So I might change my mind from day to day on which games are my all time favorites or which ones are the most influential, but there is no doubt in my mind that Marathon 2: Durandal is the most important to me personally.

What about you, readers? Which game is the most important to you personally?

As a side note, the entire Marathon trilogy was made open source by Bungie and can be downloaded for free right here. All you have to do is download the files for one of the games, download the Aleph One engine, then unzip them both into the same folder and run the Aleph One executable. There are also a number of great custom scenarios for Aleph One which can be downloaded for free.

Speaking of which, any talented sprite artists out there want to team up and make a FPS using the Aleph One engine? (;

Posted by: maddrcliche | March 26, 2011

Hipster Gamer

Everyone should play indie games. They are artistic, beautiful, fun, and a lot of the best ones are free. I’ve gotten more entertainment out of some of these games than I have out of some of the mainstream games pouring out of the industry these days and I thought I would share some of my favorite free indie games with you so that you can enjoy them as I have. So, here we go, in no particular order.

Hero Core

This retro style 2D shooter features fast paced gameplay with a pretty decent challenge to it. A few of the bosses actually had me on the edge of my seat. It also sports a beautiful retro soundtrack by Brother Android that I adore. It’s free and it’s fun, why aren’t you playing it?

Iji

From the same developer as the above Hero Core comes a surprisingly large indie game that is likewise free and totally awesome. This game is also insanely feature rich for something that is totally free, as evidenced by the following quote from its page:

Iji is an action-packed strategic platform shooter with a detailed story, large levels with multiple paths, powerful bosses and lots of secrets. There are alternate gameplay events, dialogues and scenes depending on what you do, a wealth of extras and bonus features, and seven stats to upgrade through a leveling system. Iji herself has superhuman strength and abilities, and can crack Nanotechnology, use her enemies’ most devastating weapons against them, and be a pacifist or a killer – the story adapts to how you play. Soundtrack by Chris Geehan and Dan Byrne McCullhough, songs also by Tom Mauritzon and Captain Goodnight (and LifeForce, but their song was not originally recorded for Iji).

Cave Story (Doukutsu Monogatari)

You can’t really mention indie gaming without mentioning Cave Story. This game was single-handedly developed by Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya and is an absolute triumph. Cute, funny, challenging, and big, this is one of the greatest Metroidvania style games ever released. What? It is. There’s a reason that when you mention indie gaming this gem almost always gets brought up.

Within A Deep Forest

I can’t say enough good things about Nifflas’ atmospheric little games. Also check out his games Knytt and Knytt Stories. All feature good gameplay and beautifully atmospheric and introspective soundtracks.

La Mulana

Not for the faint of heart, this challenging and massive indie game is a love letter to the MSX. It’s graphical style is purposefully similar to MSX games and it is heavily influenced by “Maze of Galious” as well as a hearty dose of Indiana Jones. Consider yourself a hardcore gamer? Definitely check out this gem of a freeware game because it is seriously tough. Did I mention it has an absolutely rocking soundtrack?

Well, I’ve just finished a rather long history paper for college so now I think it’s time for a well deserved rest. Next time your bored or find yourself curious about the indie side of gaming check out some of the above games. They are all free to download and I think seeing this other side of gaming can give you a bigger appreciation for the art of gaming as a whole, whether you find them to your liking or not. Oh, this post is also my personal “fuck you” to anyone idiotic enough to say that video games are not art.

Posted by: maddrcliche | March 25, 2011

Most Anticipated Games of 2011

I figure why not start off a new blog with something terrible cliché. It is in my name after all. What follows is a list of my personal most anticipated games of the current year, although admittedly it is a little late to say this now and one of the games I was looking forward too has already come out, but I’ve seen other people do them and I figured I would throw in my five cents.

5. Catherine

Made by Atlus, the creative minds behind the Shin Megami Tensei series, Catherine is an odd sounding game to say the least. You control Vincent, a 32-year-old who is under pressure to get married but wants to continue his carefree lifestyle. He meets the mysterious Catherine who seems to be everything he wants and has an affair with her, and after this begins having strange dreams. Rumors are going around about young men dying in their dreams and never waking up. Half the game is puzzle based challenges in your dreams and the other half is a sort of adventure game where you witness the story.

The most interesting thing to me is that you don’t make decisions at the biggest moments in the game. Rather, you get to make smaller decisions that don’t seem to impact the story much and these change Vincent’s personality when the big moments come up. All in all it sounds pretty interesting and I hear that the story in the game is quite good. Reports on the Japanese version say that the difficulty was a bit… terrible in the Japanese version but the patch to fix the Japanese version will supposedly come standard in the English version.

4. Duke Nukem Forever

My dad is an engineer on ships and as such knows a lot about computers. He was actually the first one to get me into gaming and I grew up on PC gaming and came to consoles later, the complete opposite of most people. So while the average gamer remembers Mario as their gaming mascot for me it was the old side scrolling Duke Nukem. Back when Duke was a disgruntled Opera viewer out for revenge because the vile Doctor Proton had interrupted her show. Duke changed a lot over the years but I always stuck with him.

This damn game has been in development for most of my life and I can hardly believe that it is finally going to be released. This would be higher up on my list but I’m a little worried about it because most big budget FPS games have been disappointing as of late. I get tired of the same old regenerating health pop up and shoot a guy then duck into cover gameplay, and I’m actually hoping that this will be more of an old school shooter. It is being produced by Gearbox, the creators of the hit Borderlands which I have plenty of good things to say about. Even if it turns out terrible, this is Duke and I’m excited as hell to see his return.

3. Shadows of the Damned

 

The genius Suda 51, creator of Killer7 and No More Heroes, joins forces with Shinji Mikami, creator of the Resident Evil Series, to bring us a game about a demon hunter with a ridiculous name who travels into hell to save his girlfriend. Need I say more? Seriously, just go watch the trailer. I’m not even going to write more about this game, just go watch the trailer because it is awesome.

2. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

The original Deus Ex is one of my favorite games of all time. A great blend of first person shooter and role-playing game, there are multiple ways to get through each level and whatever actions you take are reflected in the world of the game. Is it perfect? Hell no, but it is awesome. There is a reason it is consistently listed among the best games of all time. The art direction of this prequel looks amazing, as do the cut scenes we have been shown of it so far. If developer Eidos Montreal and publisher Square Enix deliver on their promises of intelligent squad AI, multiple paths to solve each problem, and an engaging storyline then this may well take its place alongside the original as one of the best games ever made. If they fail to deliver on those promises… well, it’ll at least be one damn good-looking failure.

1. Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect is a series unlike any ever made. The first time I imported a character from the first game into the second and saw my old Shepard back in action and the results of choices I had made long ago I was stunned. No other RPG series has ever been like this one before and I love it. Some people bemoan the loss of classic style RPGs like the original Fallout games, and while I love those and miss them I think there is a great deal of merit to this new style of game. They may not be as open-ended and non-linear, but the more structured storyline allows for a deeper experience. You get to know the characters better and have more personal relationships with them, you get to see real long-term circumstances to your actions rather than just the short-term and a clip of narration at the end of the game, and you get to experience epic events unlike what you get in an open-ended game.

Compare the original Fallout to Final Fantasy 7, both games released in 1997. Fallout offers you a personal experience as you travel the California wasteland while Final Fantasy 7 offers you a very linear experience as you journey through an entire world, go to space, fight all manners of beasts, and eventually save the planet from a giant meteor that is going to make all life go extinct. Fallout is the more personal experience and I personally like it more than Final Fantasy 7, but the journey to battle The Master is not nearly as epic as the battle to defeat Sephiroth. I see the modern western RPG style pioneered by BioWare as the best of both worlds. Not as open ended as old school classics like Fallout but much more epic in scope.

The biggest challenge Mass Effect 3 has in my eyes is wrapping up the story. I love the mystery of the Reapers and I can’t wait to experience the final battle. I just hope that after four years since the first Mass Effect the answers to all our questions aren’t going to be dissapointing. BioWare has a big challenge with this one but I think that they’re up to the task.

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