DayZ Standalone

25 12 2013
DayZ Standalone

DayZ Standalone

Morning! This is me writing down some of my thoughts and impressions from the newly released DayZ Standalone Alpha, and why I think you should play it. For the record, I played the DayZ Mod for so me time, but ultimately stopped playing due to the vast amount of security breaches, which lead to large groups of players running scripts that compromised the games integrity and more importantly the game dynamics that are at the core of DayZ’s strength.

At first glance, or reading a few hotly contested forums, the inexperienced  DayZ player will assume this game is strictly about PvP and less about survival. They wouldn’t be entirely wrong, but I’m here to tell you that it is much more than that, and even though the DayZ SA is only in Alpha, the reworked mechanics and engine are setting the stage for a unique experience you can’t find anywhere else.

Let me first start by telling you a brief story. Since the Alpha has launched, I’ve lost several characters. If you are completely new to what DayZ SA is, you spawn with a character, you try to scavenge for gear, food, medicine, clothes, and more importantly weapons. If your character dies, it is done, you respawn and try again. You can die from zombies, sickness, disease, exposure, dehydration, hunger, and more commonly from other players.

Continuing with the story, after several deaths, I had a character that had been alive for several days, and running with a group of friends in RL inside of the game. ( Banding into social groups is often the only way to increase your longevity for any length of time ) We found ourselves a nice part of the map ( Which is over 230 sq km in size ), and eventually we were all considered “geared” with military and hunting gear. I personally had the Mosin ( the current bolt action sniping rifle )

2013-12-22_00006

As a general rule, our group doesn’t automatically shoot other players unless they pose a threat, especially in towns, coastal areas, and in the forest. However, when raiding military camps, all bets are off. It is an unspoken and understood rule of DayZ SA. This is where my story leads, I want to tell you about the first player life I took, how it made me feel, and why I had to do it.

Several of my pack were raiding a valuable military structure, and were completely exposed from the windows and doorway entrance. I personally was on over watch, or in a “guardian angel” designated marksman position. I warned my squad over chat, and proceeded to dial in on the back of the unsuspecting player at around 400 meters.

2013-12-24_00002

With uncommon amounts of adrenaline pumping into my system, I steadied the scope and lined the shot up. He was alone, I knew he was here for the same reason we were. He wanted to survive, he was looking for military grade gear and weaponry to facilitate that survival so his character might live a day longer…… or, he could be what is referred to as a “bandit” in DayZ SA. People that gear up, head to the player spawn areas, and purposely kill players for the sheer enjoyment, and their gear.

Either way, as is the most time tested ROE ( Rules of Engagement ), he was a threat, and being on the airfield, there are never any negotiations. I radioed in to my squad that I was taking the shot. Barely able to keep the scope still due to anxiety, I fired the first 7.62 bullet square into his back, reloaded, and then fired a second shot. He dropped immediately, never knowing what happened, and likely not even hearing the shot before it hit him.

Now why is this story important? It’s the only game, ever in my opinion, where you truly experience several phenomenon in a digital video game to this extent. First and foremost, players can generally experience something called “pathos”. It is essentially when they are vicariously living through their character, and display interesting psychological things about them. Like having vested interests in their well being, referring to the character as themselves, especially in a spacial reference. Due to the harsh nature of DayZ SA, the longer your character is alive, the better gear you get, and the more healthy you make him/her, you really start to care about your character. You’ve survived countless terrors and engagements with players, hunted for food/water, scavenged for gear, and deep down you know that in one wrong move and in a single instance, it can all be taken away from you.

2013-12-19_00012

As human beings, we all at some level understand loss, risk, reward, forming social structures/communities, and more importantly we understand predatory survival. DayZ REALLY plays upon these exact instincts. Everything about the game is designed to encourage that. There are no annoying and intrusive HUD or UI elements, no player nameplates or target reticles ( so the only way to spot a player is to literally see them )

Most games, especially action/horror games employ a design technique called “negative space”, or commonly referred to as “pacing” in level design. Basically, think of any horror game, Dead Space being a great example, and think of the parts of the level where the bad guys leave you alone, you calm down, maybe read some story segments, regain some health, find some ammo, etc. However, you know, in the pit of your stomach that the next engagement is around the corner, and the anticipation starts building.

This is another reason why DayZ is so powerful. The game takes advantage of the powerful Arma II engine, and gives you over 230 sq km of play space ( if you aren’t familiar with measurements, that is roughly over 142 sq miles of play space ) while also rendering scenery, players, and vegetation at an extreme distance. With all of these elements intertwined, you and your friends ( or just you ) will spend HOURS alone, but you have to be prepared and watchful, because if you run into the wrong people, your characters life can be ended in seconds. So when something does happen, your adrenaline literally shoots through the roof. There’s been times where I can barely keep my hands from shaking due to the sheer anticipation or adrenaline while trying to stay alive.

Inevitably, loss happens, and it’s amazing to see the game dynamics that happen all on their own, nothing scripted or predestined by the game. When a friend or a player goes down, you are not prompted to do something about it, they either die, or you try to help them.

2013-12-20_00009

This is a real scenario I took a screenshot of with the group I play with. Nobody told that player on the right to take up security and watch outboard, nobody told the other two players not in the screenshot to post up security down the street, and most importantly, nobody told the player with the defibrillator to try and save the players life. DayZ SA is just a game with a set of systems, that can be understood, and used to whatever purposes you see fit as a player. You can try to save people, you can mug people, take prisoners, avoid players, be a bandit, whatever.

2013-12-19_00022

This is all possible in a game that is only in Alpha. Repairable vehicles, hunt-able animals, a full crafting system, player build-able structures, are all coming. Can you and your squad last long enough in the future to establish a base in the forest, build up fortifications, defend against zombies, infection, starvation, and the biggest danger of all, other players?

That all being said, there are a few caveats with the DayZ SA. First and foremost, you have to get used to the inventory and movement system. If you have never played Arma at all, it will come as a little “clunky” to you at first. The game doesn’t move like a FPS or Action Hack & Slash, it moves like a war simulator, as that is what much of the code is based upon. Fortunately, Dean Hall and his band have revamped much of the inventory and added a hotbar, which are GREAT improvements over the Mod. They also moved most of the processes server side to combat cheaters/scripters, etc. So far, it’s working great.

I could spend all day talking about the individual mechanics, player dynamics, but I’ll sum it up in a statement from one of my squad mates while having this conversation during a long forest trek. “Why is this game so awesome? That’s because, in DayZ it isn’t ‘what’ can happen, it is that ‘anything’ can happen”.

Plus the amazing sunsets!

2013-12-21_00001





The Typing of The Dead: Overkill

8 12 2013

Obviously one look at this game and two things should be obvious. The first, is that this game does not take itself (or anything) too seriously. Second, that the game is based around a zombie killing grind-house type genre. So why am I writing a blog post about this game? Because it’s refreshingly fun, and also because it has the potential to do something amazing for education type game. Now before I talk about that, let me explain the basic mechanics and what you can do in this game.

The game actually does a great job at introducing you to new mechanics and events in the game. Obviously as the name implies, this is a typing game. I’m sure we all remember the old style “space invaders” typing games some of us played back in the MS-DOS days on an old 486. The crafty folks at Modern Dream have basically taken the same concept of educational typing challenges and slapped it into a cheesy zombie shoot em’ up type action game. You don’t actually control your avatar, which ends up being great later on because you are obviously typing! The camera movement is reminiscent of any arcade shooting game you would have played in the 90’s. If one doesn’t come to mind, just think of Time Crisis.

Kill it before it gets to you!

Your avatar will navigate various levels, where you will literally be presented with typing challenges. The basic mechanic is you shoot zombies by typing whatever the presented word is. Naturally, depending on the difficulty of the enemy, the typing challenges are often time sensitive. If you take too long, you’ll start getting hit or eaten by the enemy. Successfully typing the word results in shooting the enemy, target, or challenge. The overall concept of the mechanic might not sound engaging, but it’s actually very cleverly executed. Word of warning though, as I previously stated, the game does not take itself to seriously and is plainly meant to target adult audiences with the crass humor and violence.

Like I said, crass humor.

Like I said, crass humor.

While playing the first couple of chapters ( yes there is a story ) I found I was actually experiencing anxiety as hordes of zombies closed in on me and I struggled to blast away on the keyboard to execute them in time before they started chewing on me. Most of the time however, I found myself literally laughing out loud at the audacity and slapstick type humor the game possesses. Not only are the game events ridiculous and over the top, a lot of the humor is built into the words the game presents for you to type. Sometimes, it is just senseless random words, other times full sentences of the most ridiculous phrases you can imagine.

Example of ridiculous phrases

To keep the gameplay from getting stale, or giving you cramps in your wrists, they incorporate pickups and bonuses in the rooms your character clears. You activate these when you see them by simply hitting ‘tab’. Sometimes they are bullet time items, which can be strategically used to slow time down when killing multiple enemies. The game will also sometimes give you just single letters on a group of zombies or projectiles being thrown at you, which helps break up typing full words or phrases. A lot of them will also be bonus based twitch skills. The majority of the game is actually based around your ability to react and prioritize targets. You will often be approached by several obstacles or enemies and have to figure out which one to start typing first. You can even back out of a phrase you are typing in order to engage another target first. At first glance, this would sound kind of clumsy and an overall pain, but the game handles the transitions very smoothly. The game will also automatically pick the correct phrase you wish to start typing by the first letter you hit. So no two phrases that you are presented at the same time with will start with the same letter. Upon  completing a level, challenge, or mini-game you will be presented with your stats, so the game even has leaderboards!

I’m good at typing!

As you’ll notice from that picture, the game even incorporates a multiplayer game mode. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m assuming it functions similar to Time Crisis which I mentioned earlier. You can play with random people on the internet through matchmaking, or you can invite your friends via Steam. The game does an interesting job at pacing, level design, and unique events throughout the levels to keep you excited and perhaps a little anxious. There are even boss fights, which are usually involved in managing multiple typing challenges with varying time sensitive twitch typing events. Overall, the gameplay is fun, surprisingly engaging, and actually refreshing.

This baddy likes to throw stuff at you.

This baddy likes to throw stuff at you.

So now that I’ve covered the basic mechanics and what you do in the game. I want to talk about why I was really impressed with this game, other than it being engaging to me. After the initial “sticker shock” hit me when I found I was enjoying something that I didn’t expect to like in the first place. The thought occurred to me, “I’m having A LOT of fun with a game that’s just making me type words….” So once you look through the over-the-top humor, classy grind-house action and art aesthetic, this game is doing something pretty amazing. You can literally have a lot of genuine fun playing this game, and all you are doing is practicing your typing skills.

So from a design perspective, I’m immediately drawn to other possibilities… what if you could do this with math? Programming? World History? Can you imagine if portions of your high school experience taught you various subject matter via interactive methods like this that ACTUALLY engage you? If you actually look at how much information in the typical game a player is required to learn, memorize, and retain it is pretty amazing. I think this is the power that games can have, and it is an untapped potential. Our education system is long over-due for an overhaul. It hasn’t had a major overhaul since the industrial revolution, or thereabouts. I urge you to take the time and watch some of this gentleman’s lectures. http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

So at the end of the day, this game is not only fun, engaging, but it is also making you practice and refine what would be considered a “hard skill” on your resume. ( My WPM is 150, or something crazy ) It also does a great job of showcasing how we can create games that are unique and refreshingly fun while being outside the “norm” of game genres. You can pick this game up for $20 on Steam right now, so if this looks like it would appeal to you, I urge you to take a look.

Thanks for reading!





Final Fantasy XIV: Realm Reborn: First Impressions

29 08 2013

FFXIV Emblem 

 

So as many as you are probably aware, Square Enix bravely decided to reboot their own MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV after a less than cordial reception upon its release. Originally, I had been so turned off after playing the original FFXIV beta that I wasn’t interested. However, after I began to really think about it, and just what they were undertaking, while publicly acknowledging their own failures, I decided it was well worth a second look.

Before I launch into my first impressions after a week of play, and why I think you should give this re-launch the time of day. Let me first start by acknowledging, and repeating, exactly how much of a big deal it is that Square Enix was able to basically say, “Yah, we know our game sucks, and we aren’t happy with it, so here’s what we are going to do…” Based on the sheer amount of effort, time, and money it takes to release an MMO ( and I know first hand, as I physically work on an MMO at Arena Net ) it dawned on me just how humble and revolutionary this idea was.

From a design perspective, designers have a classic mantra to the effect of, “We learn to eat our young”. Basically, that means that you have to learn how to be told that your game, idea, or work in general, sucks and needs help. So because of all of this, and my first week of experience inside of FFXIV: RRB, I believe it’s worth your attention. ( +1 Point )

Story

So, first things first, if you played the first FF XIV, you are probably wondering, well how are they going to tie the story in? Well have you ever heard the expression, “Nuke it from orbit, and burn it with fire.” Well, this is literally what they’ve done. Without going into TOO much detail ( and spoilers ), an event happens that basically nukes half the planet, and a few years after that, that’s where you pick up. So far, it seem pretty interesting, and from what I can tell, there looks to be several quality story arcs developing along my chosen characters path. Suffice it to say, my curiosity is piqued. ( +1 Point )

FFXIV CharacterCreation

The only oddity that I’ve encountered, and this may be patched over time, is that you start the game, and there are ZERO VO’s ( voice overs ). While it’s a Final Fantasy title, this doesn’t inherently bother me, just feels a little retro. Except, once you start to get into some of the important story cutscene’s, you start to hear VO’s…. and some of the English voice actors, are well… pretty terrible so far. So to remedy this issue, I switched the VO’s over to Japanese, and even though I can’t understand what they are saying, the passion in their voice acting is apparent, and I have subtitles to read besides. So needless to say, I know voice actors are expensive, and it costs a lot of money to get all of the proper localization and post processing done, but so far, the English voice actors sound like shit. ( -1 Point )

Closing with the story, the questing appears to tie directly into the story narrative, and FFXIV: RRB does a great job focusing your attention on what you should be doing, and when. In the first twenty levels, there was never a moment where I stopped and asked, “WTF am I supposed to be doing here?” ( +1 Point )

Classes

During the beta phases, I tried playing several disciples of war ( didn’t have time to check the magic users ),  and I finally settled on Lancer while picking the “Miq’ote” race ( which some of you fondly remember as “Mithra” ). I don’t profess to fully understand the class system yet, but it appears that you can basically play ANY of the base classes with one character, but you can only specialize in one or few of them with that character. What I mean by specialize is that my “Lancer” will eventually be able to turn into a “Dragoon.” ( +1 Point )

As is traditional with oriental game developers, and audiences I think, the game restricts you heavily on what you can do early on. It forces you to finish your quests ALL the way through level ten ( which is a hefty amount of quests ), before you can begin to learn other classes from other guilds, etc. While this doesn’t bother me, I believe it’s a common method in oriental games, which is to heavily teach the game, or class, before physically letting the player explore other areas of the game. This may sound very heavy handed to some of you, but I assure you, the game keeps you engaged enough, you won’t even notice ( that much ). ( +1 Point )

Combat

Ah yes, COMMMMMMBAAAAAT… ( wait… wrong game.. shit ) everyone’s favorite, and rightfully so, one of the most important topics of the game! As if the core gameplay mechanics suck, well, then so must the game no? So let me first start by saying, if you played Final Fantasy Eleven, there’s enough here in the combat mechanics to make you reminisce, but with enough innovation and improvements not to scare away everyone else. Interested yet? Well you should be! So basically, they took the traditional tab targeting system, and the class based combo system from eleven, and gave it some crack cocaine…. By that, I mean they sped it up. So a lot of the structure operates the same, as far as chaining kills, targeting enemies, doing combo’s off of other’s skills, but at a much faster rate of speed, which I believe was much needed. ( +1 Point )

Related to this, once you attain other classes, your character will switch classes by just changing your gear out for the appropriate class, and all of your stats and hotkey items swap with it. It’s fast, seamless, and you don’t have to talk to a damn kupo to do it! ( +1 Point )

Crafting

Here is a topic that I can’t talk to heavily on, as I currently have two crafting professions started, but not very high. The point I’m going to stress, is that the way they handled it is very interesting. Basically, you go to a “guild” and learn the crafting profession that you wish, and all of the regular hubbub that you would expect ensues, you get some crafting tools, some quests, a speech about how you suck and show learn the trade to be super awesome, etc. etc…… except one major caveat. Crafting professions behave identically to a regular character class, so that means, when I’m running around as a botanist, or a carpenter, I have my own unique stats, gear, hotkey items, etc. This is interesting as it presents a sort of, “meta” game for cutting down trees, or for whatever you are doing. It singlehandedly makes crafting more interactive, and likely more difficult in the long run. ( +1 Point )

The only point of contention that I have here, is that they make you wait till your level 10 quests are done on that character, until you can begin to think about cutting trees down, so far, not a fan. ( -1 Point )

Graphics

Not a whole lot to say here, but that the game is absolutely gorgeous, well if you are fortunate enough to be playing on a PC, if you are playing it on a PS3…. I’m sorry for you! ( +1 Point )

Although, speaking on that point, I’ve been asking myself for years, “Why the hell isn’t there cross platform MMORPGS??!” Well, they have just proven that it’s a matter of policy, and political arrogance and likely not much more, that is keeping more MMO’s from being on multiple platforms, and to that, I say boo! ( +1 Point )

FFXIV Gridania

Quests

In FFXIV: RRB, Square Enix decided to keep with the traditional method of having a “Journal” and tracking your quests as you collect them. Normally, I’d say, “SCREW THAT!” especially after being spoiled by Guild Wars 2 and their questing system that they built. However, so far, it seems like you are never overburdened with too many quests that you lose track, and I always knew what was the most important, and never really had a hard time tracking them. ( +1 Point )

That being said, and this could probably deserve its own category, but when you receive a quest or an objective to navigate to somewhere else, the map is not very helpful, it’s hard to explain, but if it’s somewhere you haven’t been, the quest marker doesn’t give you shit for a clue on how to get there. What they really need here, is some type of pathfinding tech that will kinda “point” you in the right direction of a new area that you need to go to. ( -1 Point )

Economy

 Last but not least, the “Economy”, probably one of the most critical elements to an MMO for success, and easily the hardest to create, innovate upon, and balance. Well, I don’t have shit for you at this point. As an obvious effort by Square Enix to “ward” out gold sellers, my character is level 17 and doesn’t have access to sell items on the auction house yet. Essentially, you have to purchase a “retainer” to help you sell your items. While this is frustrating, if it helps keep gold sellers out, then I’m all over it. As if any of you remember in eleven, gold sellers nearly ruined the game! ( +1 Point ) ( -1 Point )

Events

 So, in traditional video game industry style, Square Enix shamelessly copied some dynamic event ideas from Guild Wars 2, Warhammer online, and probably a couple of others. In FFXIV: RRB you have what are called, “Fates” that randomly spring up on the map, and anyone who runs into the area, automatically joins in to receive progress ( assuming they contribute ). It’s a nice touch, and it automatically lends itself as a design to getting players to work together naturally. ( +1 Point )

Conclusion

Obviously, I know that you can hardly judge and MMO based off of the first 20 levels, and the content therein. However, I felt that they deserved the attention based on the leaps and strides the game has come since the first FF XIV launch. I can honestly say I’m legitimately interested in seeing what they have to offer, and how the proverbial “End Game” plays out. I know the game has a subscription model, which will immediately turn many of you off, as we’ve been spoiled by F2P business models in the past few years, but I say don’t let that discourage you. If you like the art direction, or have liked ANY Final Fantasy game in the past, this likely deservers a second look by you.

I doubt I’ll reach level cap in time to do a quality “End Game” review before the hundreds of people that don’t know how to sleep beat me to it, but I felt this initial review was necessary, and deserving.

I hope you got some helpful information out of it.

 





The age of monetization

7 07 2013

World-of-Warcraft-player-figures-fall

As some of you might have read or heard, Blizzard finally acknowledged the idea of adding MTX ( monetized items ) to the colossal giant that is World of Warcraft. Why is this significant? I think it’s not only a sign of the times, but the fact that the most successful MMO to date is considering moving towards that type of business structure is a huge sign. The age of MMORPG’s charging a monthly fee, plus an upfront purchase price is about finished. Now some of you, might jump for joy and release a victorious shout of “Finally those greedy bastards, it’s about time!”

What most gamers/people don’t realize, is the significant cost of building and maintaining an MMO, and in most cases, the subscription fee is well justified and needed just to keep the game running, and that’s not even addressing the issue of building new content. However, when markets stop supporting one business model and consumer spending habits change, the industry must find another ( insert cheesy “Life finds a way” quote….okay maybe not 😛 ). Thus a new age has dawned, and that is the age of monetization. When games like Puzzles and Dragons make an ungodly amount of money in a single month, the rest of the industry starts to take notice. ( Try to the tune of 113 million, and they aren’t the only example )

 http://www.joystiq.com/2013/05/13/hit-mobile-rpg-puzzle-and-dragons-earned-113-million-in-april/

130513puzzledragons

Now you might say, “Well that’s not an MMO, it doesn’t compare”. However, as an individual that works on Guild Wars 2, I can tell you in-game monetization is the future, so it would be in your interest to understand it and embrace it, especially for MMO’s it’s going to be a requirement just to get an ROI ( return on investment ) for a product. It’s my belief, that the next console generation that’s starting, will also start to experiment with FTP ( free to play ) and MTX business strategies. Some will even argue that video games are moving towards being a “service” versus just a “game”, but that’s a completely different discussion.

What does this mean for you? This means that you better start being able to identify good and bad MTX/FTP business strategies. For every one out there that doesn’t feel manipulative or over the top, there’s guaranteed to be the ones that feel like they are smacking you with a proverbial MTX hammer, or if you’re of the older gamer generation “Insert coin to continue!” feeling.

Ultimately, with rising consumer expectations, skyrocketing development costs to meet those expectations, and the failing of traditional business models, the industry is in a state of flux. While this is both an exciting and scary time, I think what it means is that in <=5 years, we will be consuming video games in a way that we never would have imagined…..so in the holy words of Samuel Jackson, “Hold on to your butts…

tumblr_lglb2dJGeL1qzoxl6o1_500

hahaha….yah no seriously though, you should hold on to them……





Xbox One: A rollercoaster of conflicted opinions

27 05 2013

468px-Xbox_one_console_controller_too

Naturally, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last week or so, you’ve inevitably heard SOMETHING about the most recenMicrosoft announcement of the Xbox One. No doubt you likely have formed an opinion already as well, as I had.

I’m writing this blog piece for several reasons, one as I was forced to modify my original opinion of their announcement, and what it truly meant to the industry and me. For those of you that actually missed the announcement, basically they’ve been under siege for basically “ignoring” the “core” gamers, incorporating barely standard hardware architecture, “ignoring” indies, and possibly having some questionable implementations in their online service with how games will function.

microsoft-xbox-one1

Before I get on to my point of the blog, whether you agree with it or not, keep in mind they still have a lot yet to announce (as far as the actual gaming part of the Xbox is concerned), so I wouldn’t count them out just yet. However, that being said I was personally in the camp of the “disappointed”, which appeared to be an opinion that was ubiquitous for the most part.

That is, until I started digging and reading some very thoughtful articles, namely on Gamasutra, and other places. I literally had an epiphany while wading through the commentary (which was getting pretty hostile). This one thought struck me like a bolt of lightning, “It’s not about you anymore”. The more I thought about it, the more it began to make sense.

Oncle-Sam-we-want-you

Traditionally, what did a dedicated gaming console target? Why “gamers” of course! (I use that term loosely as I think it sucks and doesn’t apply any more to our society). However, I believe Microsoft has come to the conclusion that it’s no longer worth the risk “banking” on the consumer that JUST wants to play games. For this reason we’ve already seen a natural progression of the Xbox 360 steadily turning into a multi-functional set top box.  The difference here is that I believe they have stopped directly targeting the younger generations. Here in lies my biggest point and argument for this piece. Think about the average generation of “gamers” that were in line to purchase the Xbox 360 when it debuted? Think about it, you could probably guarantee you had your fairly standard fare of 16-30 year old males, which usually makes up the largest cross section of people that consume video games (or at least used too).

3pzwy1

So now ask yourself, after almost TEN YEARS (If I’m not mistaken the Xbox 360 launched around 2005) what are those people doing now? I can almost promise you that a good portion of them aren’t playing as many games, as unfortunately when you progressively get older, you usually have less time due to commitments, families, jobs, or whatever laundry list of responsibilities you’ve managed to tack on. My point is, these individuals would likely be heavily interested in a set top box that does most everything, ESPECIALLY TV, while satisfying their need to play games when they find the time. Take a good look at the Xbox One, everything about it screams that Microsoft is targeting an audience that has grown up and has different needs/expectations, not the newest one.

So next point, why isn’t Microsoft targeting younger audiences/generations? I could go on a tangent about entitlement generations and how they’d rather pirate everything, but that is not the point of this piece. Honestly think about it though, younger generations have grown up with tablets, smart phones, and almost all of the content they consume being readily available and in HD. They don’t appreciate what consoles used to represent, and honestly I don’t think they will probably care. The long and short of it is I suspect younger generations have had their attention divided across multiple sources of attaining digital content versus older generations that had fewer options, arcades, consoles, or a PC (if you were loaded with cash).

Let me finish by putting some flames out and acknowledging that yes, there are undoubtedly a lot of “younger” consumers that enjoy games on consoles, my point is that consoles as we used to know them are beginning to be less relevant and thusly you’ll start to see them go through a transformative process, they must adapt or fade into the history books. I have plenty of commentary on that, but that’s content for a later post.

-Cheers





Mars Rover truly left its mark! (A good Friday laugh)

26 04 2013

Mars Rover Get’s Cheeky!

I know this may seem a bit unprofessional but when I heard about this on the radio (and promptly looked it up on the internet of course) I couldn’t stop laughing. Perhaps this isn’t tactful for a professional blog that is constructed for the sole purpose of evaluating games and game industry, but sometimes it’s the little things that really get you through the day.

So no doubt as some of you have already heard, via the pictures going viral, the Mars Rover apparently got a little “cheeky” on the planet we plan to colonize and inadvertently drew a large phallic picture on the Mars surface with its tracks!

eqOEDzw

Take of it what you will, but personally my boyish nature found it incredibly funny. No doubt some will be offended by this, as it is certainly not suited for everyone’s taste. However, I’ve learned in my life’s experience that sometimes you just have to “Let your hair down”and have a good laugh here and there without being uptight, life is too short!

I won’t make a dissertation out of this, just had to post as I found it incredibly funny and ironic at the same time….. what do we do with the most scientifically advanced robot that we put on a foreign planets surface hundreds of thousands of miles away? Why draw subjectively naughty pictures in the sand with large amounts of comedic value of course!

This isn’t the original article by any means, as it first appeared on Nasa and Reddit, but for further reading (and enjoyment)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/24/mars-rover-penis-draws-nasa_n_3148422.html





American “Gun Culture” & Video games:

13 04 2013

AR15-with-American-Flag

Let me first state that this is not a political piece aimed at either side of the hotly contested gun control debates on Capitol Hill. While I am very passionate about my 2nd Amendment rights, this is not what this is about.

Disclaimer: I am not writing this piece partial to either gender, when I say “him, he, his, man” it’s an all-inclusive statement covering men and women

Frequently, I see conversations and posts from people outside of the United States whom are bewildered by what is perceived as the American “Love Affair” with guns. The purpose of this brief post is to attempt (to the best of my ability and understanding) to try to explain why America is this way, why guns are important and pivotal to our society and culture. Then I will relate that to video games, especially heavily influenced Western video games. In order to attempt to appreciate this article, I ask that you set aside any cultural or personal biases (especially if you are not an American citizen) and try to view our culture outside of your own cultural lens you’ve acquired from whatever environment you were raised in.

 Washington Crossing the Delaware

That being said let us begin! So the elephant in the room, so to speak, “Why are Americans obsessed with guns?” No doubt many countries just view us as “cowboys” and a people that are in love with themselves. In order to understand us you must take a look at our history. America was colonized and founded mainly on the ideals of independence and “freedom”. Granted, there are some very dark patches in our past, but over the course of our history you will see a common element or theme. Our society has been about the individual and their independence. Take a guess at what’s been at the corner stone to all of that, the gun. The “gun” has always done something miraculous to the Western individual, in the American mind-set; it’s a transformative tool that allows a man, an ordinary man, to pick it up and change the world, his environment, or to do something greater. This has been the case from when pilgrims settled the West, to when we fought against ourselves in the Civil War, and so on.

CoB

Do most Americans truly believe that they will have to “rise” up one day and overthrow the government? Probably not, but the “gun” is so deeply rooted in our culture that it’s a part of who we are as a people. Just take a look at the stories we write, the movies we make, and most of the video games we tend to build. You will observe ordinary individuals confronted with an unconquerable conflict, you’ll observe them taking up arms and transforming not only their mental models but overcoming obstacles that were previously viewed as insurmountable.

battlefield-3_wallpaper

Conversely if you need an example of a polar opposite culture (for the sake of this anthropology discussion), take a look at Japanese culture and how they view the gun. Japanese culture is deeply rooted in both Shintoism and Buddhism which generally speaks of “balance”, “being attuned with nature”, and so on. When you view their creative works, you often see the “gun” as an extension of the self, instead of a transformative tool/object that changes who the individual was before they picked it up. It’s often also personified as channelling inner “chi” or energy, hence why many protagonists will “shoot” fireballs, have guns/cannons physically attached to them, versus being a separate object.

zero_epyon

akuma_air_fireball

I apologize for going off on a tangent about Japanese culture, but I believe it’s important to showcase another cultural example for anyone having issues setting aside their own cultural biases. Although, if you are not capable of doing that you will probably have quit reading by now!

In summary, I believe the “gun” will always be synonymous with American culture and especially video games. For people who are either not American, or are American and still don’t understand guns and how they relate to our society, try to view our culture objectively and really understand how it all relates. Inevitably, this is about to get comments asking about the “violence” in America. For my one truly political statement, I believe the statistics you see so casually thrown around are greatly misconstrued and abused by being taken out of context. Realistically, violence in American is at an all-time low, the reason you see so much of it is due to sensationalistic journalism and specific special interest groups and their agendas, but I digress.

I wanted to keep this really short, as a piece like this could get REALLY lengthy very quickly. This was not meant to be a dissertation, but a brief peak into American culture in the hopes to shed some new “light” and hopefully give people outside of the United States a chance to be objective without being automatically dismissive, perhaps I ask too much.