Learn by Death, More Fable items on the Web, and Europe becomes the real place for gaming? – Welcome to the column that thinks the more you punish a player, the less likely they are willing to take up bondage as a vocational hobby known as Dare to Play the Game.
Welcome to another edition of Dare to Play the Game. The Labor Day weekend was full of watching various web pages to determine whether or not Gustav was going to come anywhere near by backyard of Texas. Thankfully, it did not and Louisiana despite damage avoided a tremendous disaster. The fact is that New Orleans could have possibly had another Katrina like disaster. They did not because 1)Gustav was much weaker than Katrina and 2)It did not suffer a direct hit on the levees. The barriers held and New Orleans can live and prosper once again. One has to be worried though that since New Orleans is under sea level (like a soup bowl), can it keep avoiding disaster? Well perhaps, but the team of army engineers need to come up with a real solution and quick. The levees in place would have not held anything above a 3 and history can only be rebuilt so many times before it is just that: history. The rest of the time? It was spent doing usual weekend chores and spending time together. We planned our trip to Ohio (airlines really really suck) and we will be required to stop in Atlanta for a connecting flight to Akron, OH. Atlanta? Seriously? I apologize to the people who actually live in Atlanta but what the heck do I do to deserve this? Maybe if they put a big sign over the archway that says “Welcome to some place that isn’t named Atlanta”, I can just pretend it isn’t one of the worst cities in the US. Well then again, it isn’t Detroit.
Who likes tank tops? We like tank tops, yes we do. Well, I suppose that’s not really all that true, it usually depends on the color and who is fitting inside them. Ever been at the beach and seen something that resembles a whale on the sand? Darn oil spills and sunblock. Seriously though, clothes like this make me proud to be an American. I would sing at the top of my lungs some patriotic song but it would probably come out wrong and perverted. “Above the fruited plain” would take on a new meaning.
As one commenter elsewhere points out, must be Europe buying all these Imagine titles, because for Ubisoft it’s a bigger market than the U.S., “by more than five percent,” said Ubi CEO Yves Guillemot in an interview with Gamesindustry.biz.
From the sound of it, the strength of European currencies against the dollar has something to do with it. But Guillemot also says the market’s growing because gamers are becoming “more accessible” to European games, and of course flacks Ubisoft titles as leading the charge. EndWar (out in October) features voice commands, for example. So will Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X., out next year.
“A game like EndWar, for example, which you can control by voice – it’s totally changing the industry because it gives you the opportunity to command what’s happening, and to have a quick answer to the orders you give,” he said. “And it’s the same for a lot of other games, like the party games you can play – the games with guitars are also helping things to increase the fun, and bring more people. Because when you have fun with your family on the game, you take them into more games with you.”
If Europe is indeed Ubisoft’s biggest market, fine, I don’t know their numbers. But this to me sounds like sour grapes for getting beaten up by U.S. critics and gamers, especially over its Wii titles, and more than a little justification for going so heavy on the casual stuff. Whether that’s retroactive justification — or pre-emptive — bears watching.
*scratch head* This would be the part of the show where we ask if Ubisoft is on crack. Most experts would agree that they are indeed on crack. I think the last Ubisoft game I bought was Rainbow Six Vegas 2 and I also considered Assassin’s Creed at several points. Hey did you know they were behind the game named B.A.T., an awesome futuristic DOS based game back in the early 90’s? *crickets* Anyway, Ubisoft does make some decent games when they aren’t trying to create the next strategy masterpiece. Like EndWar. The EndWar demo was included with RSV2 and I found it to be rather dull. Sure it was innovative but it seemed like one of those PC strategy games where you spend twenty hours deciding how to click on a platoon and tell them what to do. I’m guessing that this sort of game is perhaps more appealing to the Europeans than us who like our games hardcore, but evidently not that hardcore. Perhaps UbiSoft is justifying why some of their titles simply don’t sell well in the US. Personally, I think they are getting tired of every other game with the name Tom Clancy at the beginning of it.
Fable 2’s pub games was the first cross-over Xbox Live title that let you earn something for a retail game by playing. Sure it was glitched, but they’re fixing it, and it’s a very neat idea.
Speaking with Lionhead Studio’s Sam Van Tilburgh earlier today I discovered that Pub Games won’t be the only way you can earn cash for Fable 2.
When the game’s official website relaunches it will include a web game or two that allows you to earn Fable 2 gold and unlock goodies like dye pots and a chicken suit for the game. All told, gamers will be able to unlock six to seven special items through the website, Van Tilburgh said. You can also earn coin through the games.
What about mobile games? Or iPhone games that will earn you Fable 2 cash. Van Tilburgh was cagey about the possibility, but said he’d mention he idea to Peter Molyneux.
Okay, okay so you will see a slew of Fable II news probably in here until that faithful release date in October. Assuming it isn’t delayed. I’m still playing lots and lots of Pub Games. I am up to a three-star rating, have half the achievements and accumulated about 3,000 in debt. Go me. My only real trouble revolves around winning the Keystone tournaments. I don’t make enough good inside bets. Anyway, I think the Web games are an excellent idea of getting more item cards for Fable II (Iphone not so much). But that’s probably the extent of it. Too many gimmicks and you take away from the game. I don’t want to see a card trading game with Loot cards anytime soon if you catch my drift.
The other piece of Fable news this week besides the eventual patch to Pub games is that they might be looking for some way to punish the cheaters who have exploited the Fortune Tower glitch. I have not cheated as you can tell by my debt amount and I play Fortune’s Tower probably the most. However, I think this is a very bad idea to punish them. Basically you are punishing them for your faulty programming. I don’t agree with the cheating but Lionhead allowed it to happen. Leave them alone, they will be punished enough by playing a game that will be insanely easy and have no challenge because they have a ton of experience. Of course if it is like the first game, experience is a good and bad thing. Your experience also determined your age, so if you have 1,000,000 gold and it is turned into experienced then you would have a character that is probably about 1,000 years old. That could be an awfully funny dynamic when you see a grizzled old man swinging his walking stick at opposing monsters. Be careful Lionhead if you decide to seek solutions to people cheating, you might get people who didn’t cheat pissed off and then suddenly people start cancelling pre-orders.
Learn by Death
A few people have written on the ‘softer, kinder’ ethic found in games these days — more and more games seem to be offering less challenging/frustrating mechanics so that players can actually complete them. I think a lot of this discussion does center around different play styles — after a long day of banging my head against the walls of the Ivory Tower, I don’t want to come home to bang my head against the gaming wall — so I always read these essays with a critical eye. But regardless of what I (or anyone) personally like to play, it does seem like the era of extraordinarily frustrating games has passed, at least for AAA titles:
Awhile back at GDC I attended a panel that discussed taking frustration away from the player. Microsoft evidently has all sorts of metrics that show that players who are able to finish a game are more likely to purchase a sequel or order DLC, so it makes sense to take away the frustration that prohibits a player from finishing the title. These things range from automatically adjusting difficulty, creating more checkpoints, allowing saves anywhere (vs. gating at savepoints), but most importantly, not punishing death. Braid, for instance, is a perfect example of how not to punish death: You simply don’t die. You just rewind to a point previous to dying, and fix your error. There’s no need for multiple lives or continues or checkpoints. You just rewind.
Now, before I continue, I don’t think Braid is what’s wrong with gaming. In many ways, it’s what’s right. But the biggest problem with taking away “Learn by Death” is that in many ways, we’ve removed the challenge. There is little to no tension in GTA IV, because I know that if I get into trouble, I just need to die. Cops chasing you? Don’t get arrested; they’ll take away your guns. Just fight them, die, and wind up at the hospital with all of your guns still on your person. The only penalty is that you might have to replay the mission you were on, and you probably lost the stolen car you were driving at the time. Sure, there are hard parts in GTA IV.
But in the ten hours I played GTA IV I didn’t once have a nail-biter moment (at least I don’t recall many).
I think Braid can be just as punishing as any game that forces you to ‘learn by death’ — I find few things are worse than figuring out how to solve a puzzle, then be unable to execute it; endless rewinds aren’t that far off from dying — but has the challenge really been removed from games at large? Or is it only a particular type of challenge for particular types of players? I log plenty of hours playing games I enjoy (well over the 10 hours the author spent on GTAIV and Halo 3), but I won’t put in those kinds of hours if I’m playing games that challenge their players in certain kinds of ways. I hit my frustration threshold and I’m done — usually for a few weeks or a few months, if not forever. I like challenges within reason, and seek out games that hit that sweet spot between ‘too much’ and ‘not enough.’ But that sweet spot is never going to be one size fits all.
I played Braid. I wasn’t impressed. I felt the rewind feature to be annoying rather than all that helpful. Sure, I didn’t have the screen fade to black and start at the beginning of the level but I also felt that each thru each “death” I really didn’t try to learn anything. I merely kept flicking my controller in a different direction until the situation got figured out on its own. The rewind feature or other methods of escaping dieing should be called the pussy feature. Sure there are games that really punish you at dieing but you do one of two things. You either stop playing or if you actually like the game you learn from your mistakes. If the game is easy, it doesn’t matter whether you like it or not; once you are done you probably will never play it again. If you like a game and are just frustrated, then you will try and try again until you get it right.
I can’t tell you how many times I died when playing Doom, Quake, the Mega Man series or any game where you die more times than finish stages. But I learned from each death. Don’t go there or you will die, don’t try to fight that one head on or pick up that item before you fight that and you will get better results. I learned. What would I have learned if I simply had a rewind moment? That the game was ridiculously easy and I really don’t care to explore the finer points of the game. If Mega Man 2 for example had a rewind feature, I never would take the time to learn that a certain weapon was better for fighting this boss and so forth. I’d simply rewind until I beat the darn thing. Boring! And I would have never touched another Mega Man game until this very day. No 3,4,5,6 or any Anniversary collections for me. No wonder people are already forgetting about GTA IV.
With the Summer games over, I guess XBLA is now making a mass release on some of the ones they held off on. Pirates vs Ninjas is one that a lot of people have heard about for a while. Pirates, Ninjas, Zombies and Robots all fight over the supreme title holder of Dodgeball master. The graphics are pretty decent and there appears to be a lot of special shots and interesting things you can do to throw off the rival team. It certainly has that Super Dodgeball feel. Multiplayer looks to be available over Xbox live and this could turn into quite a party game if the control is right. One to watch.
Shred Nebula blends Asteroids and SubSpace where you are participating in a multi directional shooter. Naturally, you can only shoot in the direction you are facing but the game has over twenty ships to complete forty stages with all kinds of obstacles and traps. There are also three modes to play with: Arcade, Score Attack (Survival mode), and Multiplayer. We will see how good this game is and whether it is a sleeper or complete dud.
Well, I always am a fan of good card games. Spades, Uno, Strip Poker, you name it. (I win the last one all the time, no matter what the girlfriend tells you) Gin Rummy is something I know pretty well but by no means a master at. This cheapy title includes six variations like Oklahoma Gin and Three-Hand Gin. You will also be able to create your own house rules allowing for many unique experiences. Sierra Online is behind this so it could be hit or miss. But at 400 points and Xbox Vision support included (okay, that’s not really a selling feature), it could be worth the drop.
This picture says it all. They want me to pay good money for a virtual aquarium? What’s next a virtual fireplace with 40 different types of logs and fire effects? Why don’t they just make a virtual suicide game so I can blow myself up after playing these? I can’t even imagine why somebody would think this would be interesting. If I got a virtual aquarium from somebody on my birthday, I think I might sick my virtual cat on the tank and watch the skeleton bones of all the little fishes spell “This title sucks” I think I’ll use the Wii remote to bash the Hudson creators upside the head rather the “fun” way they describe of tapping the glass. Where is my remake of Adventure Island?
A fun classic in the NES library. The evil Sea Urchins have stolen all the gold bars and placed them in mazes for Bubbles the bubble fish to uncover. Of course those Sea Urchins will pursue poor little Bubbles as every turn. Then there are black holes to worry about but you do have sound waves and daunting speed on your side. Okay, epic cinema game play it is not but if you desire a cute puzzle platformer to widdle away some NES retroness on, then this is an easy pick up for you.
We got Y’s last week (which I hope all of you have picked up by now). Now we get another RPG classic, the infamous Super Mario RPG. This also has the distinction of being the 250th Virtual Console game to be released. A worthy title. The story here was that Mario is trying to save the princess from Bowser (déjà vu) and during the battle a giant sword crashes into the castle and sends the three of them flying. Mario eventually finds his way back and is talked into 1)getting the princess back and 2)finding out about this sword. That starts a wonderful rpg adventure for Mario to play. This title had a full featured battle system with a platforming element not found in many games like this. It was complex but fun and honestly a very easy recommendation this week. It is also my hope that this decreases the price of the cart on Ebay. *fingers crossed*
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames
NFL Head Coach 09
Rapala Fishing Frenzy
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames
NFL Head Coach 09
Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise
Warhammer: Battle March
Rapala Fishing Frenzy
World in Conflict: Soviet Assault
Rapala Fishing Frenzy
Defendin De Penguin
Defendin De Penguin
Mercenaries 2 is kinda of an odd child. You could say it was released last week and this week. In truth, it was released on Sunday. It highlights a whole slew of titles for the 360 that include everything from a little boxing to a little Pinata collecting to fishing to practicing to be a head coach. Facebreaker could be quite a cool boxing game since it’s been a while since Fight Night Round 3. However, I really can’t get the image of Kimbo Slice out of my head from seeing that commercial. Could he look anymore like he belongs on an episode of Bum Fights (I kid, I kid!…please don’t hurt me!)? However, since the Fight Night people are involved, it might be quite a fun affair. I’m interested in the Pinata game but I probably need to go back and replay the first one. I reviewed it for the site and found it to be a sleeper hit of sorts. It was a gorgeous game and quite the time waster. Hopefully the second one improves upon what made the first one so memorable.
WoW time. 53/28/14/14. The dwarf priest leveled some as you can see. He’s questing in the area around Exodar which is rare for a dwarf but I wanted to see what the Draenei side was like. My troll rogue did finish all of his mithril and weaponsmithing quests and is now officially a weaponsmith. Go me.
On a side note, I really am having trouble going into WoW talk or completing this column. My girlfriend is hurting pretty bad, she’s been having some medical problems this week and I’m afraid they aren’t getting any better. I’m not looking for any sympathy, but wanted to let you folks know why I cut this column a tad bit short. She’s the most important thing in my life, and she’s way too young to go through this. Not that I’m a religious man, but keeping her in a prayer or two probably would not hurt. Take care and have fun gaming kiddoes.
Kedrix of Aldrianian
(*The Forgotten One*)