The Electronic Entertainment Expo is much anticipated not only by gaming industry professionals and gamers, it is also a haven for the gadget fans who can drool over the latest electronic gaming gadgets and equipment that are usually previewed in this event. In terms of gadget surprises, Nintendo has captured the attention of E3 followers worldwide for the second year in a row. Last year they announced the Nintendo 3DS and this year the announcement of the successor to the hugely popular Nintendo Wii has everyone talking. [Read more…]
One of the things that came up recently in conversations with my older relatives was exactly what I did for a living. This has changed from something extremely technical (working for an Affiliate Network) to something slightly less technical though nonetheless highly skilled – working as a marketing and PR exec for a nutritional supplements company.
I have a variety of tasks that I perform day to day, including looking after the website we run as well as creating ads and press releases. Said relatives understand some of this, however other parts of it just completely are beyond their understanding. Which is what brings me to the eponymous title.
I’ve ran a few blogs and been contributing to others for a very long time. My folks are aware I do this, and I’ve shown them the backend of blogger for instance, so they can see exactly how I put content on the web. It still eludes them though, as there is no way they’d be able to do the same for themselves.
My mother was lucky enough recently to win an Ipod. It wasn’t a huge video Ipod but just a nice little Ipod Shuffle. However, I still had to come along, install Itunes, put some songs on there and even show them the play button. To the best of my knowledge, play has remained the equilateral triangle on its side for the best part of thirty years now. Seems strange that they have to ask me which one it is then!
Being unfamiliar with technical gadgetry is one thing I suppose, given how fast things can and have moved recently. However, I suppose this all points to a gap between generations in the form of the amount of information and new technology we have to adapt to every day.
Let’s look at a quick straw-poll list I’ve gathered:
DVD (including writers)
New types of fuel
Computers (both new and old)
Various versions of Windows
The Internet perhaps points to the greatest change of all. Younger generations keep in touch faster, play together more (WOW and Live to name just two), get news faster, listen to Podcasts and much much more. They are far more adept at picking up the stuff they want to know about, as well as letting other people know about it. It’s no surprise then that families sometimes have concerns!
Of course, in this ‘information age’ there has been a great deal of change in how we do things. This governs work (imagine not having access to the net to work – well I couldn’t do at least part of my job as outlined above) or even a powerful computer – to create the high-res for print ads I make would take all day! Play has changed too. We’re now well into consoles that can create almost real worlds for us to play in, define as our own and change, as we’d like.
It’s not all doom and gloom however. One of the things I’d always recommend is ensuring we try to follow at least some of the tenets of Web 2.0 – and part of that is making it an accessible experience for all. Everyone should be invited to this seemingly smaller, smarter and generally better world. Let this be an exclusive world – exclusively for everyone. When we achieve this, all of the modern technology we have will truly come into its’ own.
Recently, I’ve been playing a few more games on the 360 and the PC. One thing I’ve noticed though is that I’m less inclined to play any game that doesn’t give me achievement points. Stupid I know. However, I’m not the only one to pick up on this trend. Matt and Todd over at SAG (Short Attention Gamer) have both commented and said that of course the game should be the reward in itself, yet this is not the case for a lot of Xbox 360 gamers.
I have a Gamer Tag (blackvv – feel free to add me to your friends list) and I am surprised to admit that I actually care about the score that I get. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to run out and buy every EA game (well known for having much easier ways in which to earn your Gamer Score Points) – but I do actually want to see a score of over 5,000 if possible, as apparently that’s when you have ‘made it’.
Some games give you a real sense of achievement for getting the points. Forza 2 for instance is an excellent example of having to work for your points. The game requires you to complete each section in order to achieve the points that you need – you can’t just plod through it ad hoc. You can however hire a driver to win your races if you have half decent cars!
Even the official Xbox site has an ‘achievements annoymous’ section – quite worrying really! Carrie Gouskos has also written a feature about this strange addiction over at Gamespot. There are of course a few reasons why the points are popular.
Firstly, it’s quite like a game in and of itself. Can you really do the 25-metre jump and then go on to kill 10,000 zombies? Whatever the game, there might be a weird way in which to get some points. Second, you can see your progress through the game, and when matched with True Skill Points, is a great way to show off to your friends.
Overall, Gamerscore Points are a really good feature on Xbox Live and I can’t wait to get some more of them. Of course, I really want to earn them on some of the upcoming games such as Bioshock, Assassin’s Creed and Blue Dragon.
The waiting is finally over. Forza 2 has arrived for the Xbox360. But is it worth the wait? You bet it is. For those of you who have played the demo (or original), you’ve a good idea what to expect. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to sample it – let’s take a look at what the game is about and why I’m such a fan.
Forza 2 is a racing simulation game featuring over 300 cars, based around real world tracks such as the infamous Nurburgring. The game is set up so that it can be played by both the novice and the expert -options coming in the form of driving aids. With these, games can be made as hard or as easy as you like. Do you lower the difficulty and turn off ABS? Would you rather remove the racing line? This is one of the more famous features of the game from the original – a line giving exact turn-in and breaking for best lap times. Now there’s also an option for just a breaking guide, though it does show where to hit the apex of a turn.
Seeing Forza 2 running in 720p with 60fps shows a good looking, if not beautiful game. The car models are excellent and the tracks are all accurate (where they exist), but this is not groundbreaking to look at in the same way as seeing PGR3 or GOW for the first time.
Another aspect of the graphics is the car decal/modelling. Cosmetically, almost any car can and is easily changed. Just look at some of my designs. All cars have decal layers in the thousands meaning that you can create anything from a tiger-striped mini to a TVR Tuscan with a wolf on the bonnet.
Of course it doesn’t matter what it looks like if the place is terrible, but thankfully it lives up to the hype. Each car has a very different feel to it with weight, drive train and a myriad of other factors giving the near-flawless illusion that you’re driving the car. I guess the only real letdown for me is the lack of a genuine in-car view. Given the simulation nature of the game this seems somewhat of an oversight but apparently it would have had a hugely negative impact on the physics engine that runs at a mammoth 360 updates per second.
Where Forza 2 really excels is the physics. This element of the gameplay is really brought out if you turn off the driver aids and turn on the telemetry. Look at your tyres heating up. What about the g’s you’re pulling around that turn? Where is the weight of the car being moved to? There are pages and pages of telemetry sheets to look at, all with varied bits of information on the car’s performance.
There are various options and modes in the game including an arcade session (featuring time trial, exhibition and free run) but career is really where it’s at. Here there’s probably close to 60 hours gameplay all in, maybe more. There is a huge wealth of cars to unlock and different race types (such as manufacturer originals and endurance races) so there’s sure to be something for everyone.
One final thing to mention about Forza Motorsport 2 is the online component of the game. Once on Xbox Live you can sell cars at auction, show off your car designs, race and much more. One of the coolest things is how well it is integrated to the official website. I can heartily recommend this game and if you’re in the least bit interested in cars you are sure to get a lot out of it. Mentioning which, I’m off to play it again…
I have made it no secret that, out of the 3 ‘this gen’ consoles, I believe the PS3 to have the most potential. This is for reasons of power, capability and having a wireless control pad. However, it seems that each of the three consoles – PS3, Xbox360 and Wii – have reasons to doubt them. I have covered the latter two here already, so lets move on to the PS3.
One of the most obvious that things that hits you about the PS3 is the lack of rumble. Now that Sony has settled a suit with Immersion there shouldn’t be a problem. But there is. All the consoles shipped already don’t have force feedback. To find out how enjoyable force feedback is, try the new Microsoft Wireless Steering Wheel. For a previous gen experience, try Forza Motorsport on the Xbox. Rumble and feedback feels just as it should on that.
Price is the major point that everyone has pulled up the PS3 on, and with good reason. Over in the UK it is still retailing at over £420 – which is more than $700. That’s not far off half a month’s wages for some people. You can now get an 32 inch LCD TV for that price. Or a new washer, or cooker. Any essential for the home really. This should really put into perspective how much it costs.
So if the PS3 is so expensive, is it still being bought? Well, yes. However, as I’m a cynical marketer I’m 100% sure that even if it were a couple of hundred dollars more, people would still flock to the Sony brand. This is evidenced in the fact that as much as it’s been slated in the gaming press, the console is still being sold.
Games, and the selection thereof, is perhaps the number one criticism of the PS3. What do you want to play at the moment beyond Motorstorm? For me, it’s nothing really. That’s a shame given the power of the console and the matched motion-sensing controller. The number of exclusive games has been reduced (Devil May Cry 4 anyone) – though this is a symptom of the industry and something I’ll cover in another article. However, if there aren’t any AAA exclusives, why wouldn’t someone just buy the cheaper 360?
Online functionality is an issue, though in my opinion I see the PS3 as between the Wii and the Xbox360 in terms of current ability. Rubbish friend codes ruin the Wii, whilst Live is hampered by being a paid-for service. Home looks impressive, if similar to Second Life.
Overall, I guess that the PS3 doesn’t have any spectacular detractions to what it is currently providing, more like niggly faults. This speaks in turn to potential in the near future, and I’m hoping for great things. Of course, two of these great things would be a price cut and some games I am genuinely excited to play. This will come with time though, I know I certainly wasn’t an early adopter of the 360…
I was never a huge Simpsons fan, but that thing up there warms my heart like nothing I’ve ever seen before. No, not even the shiny PS3 when it was officially unveiled May of last year. Roughly a month ago, the Xbox 360 Elite saw light of day with HDMI (which practically nobody in third world Philippines uses today) and a beefier 120 GB hard drive to let you get all the Live Arcade games there are, and there will ever be.
If you haven’t been following the rumor mill lately, new 65-nm processors are on the line and should pave the way for less noisy and cooler 360’s (with hopefully less chances for red rings of death), but none of the graphics bravado and a processor as powerful as the PS3’s Cell. Which makes sense, as any major hardware change can result to compatibility issues with the games that are already out. The question “Is this all Microsoft has up its sleeves in the wake of the Sony PS3 giant?” should then not make very good argument.
Much like the personal computer, console generations are typically three years in between. Already halfway through its lifetime, we have seen the 360’s games go from cartoon-esque (think Dead or Alive 4) to life-like (Rainbow Six: Vegas), and we can expect things to get better as newer games exploit 1080p. Meanwhile, we see PS3 games already undergoing the transition from ports of games from older consoles (Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion) to finally coming into its own (Resistance: Fall of Man).
The yellow and shiny Xbox 360 – I like. Happy gamers need no stinkin’, yet another next-generation console: at least for the time being. And so ends my talking up Microsoft brownies in an attempt to put balance in a world where Mac users get thunder for all fanboy-ism.
Most recently, I have been playing GRAW, Gears of War and Splinter Cell – all on the co-op modes available in each game. As my usual gaming buddy, CJ can attest to how much more fun it is to have a real person guarding your back rather than some limp A.I. This is for a number of reasons, but not least:
Humans can mess up, but a stupid play can be laughed at. The computer on the other hand messes up and simply provides frustration.
A success is twice as big a deal when there’s at least one other person involved. Suddenly, taking that checkpoint means much more as your realise your accomplishments in the team. A play where you can help each other (as in the scripted sequences in GOW) are especially important as the dynamics give opportunities for many high fives.
A newer gameplay element such as active cover in shooting games requires you to really use a high level of interactivity. Exploring these excellently realised worlds gives you that great ‘look-at-this!!’ fun factor. Pointing out either online or even better in person all of the best parts of a game is fun.
Co-op play online bring it’s own level of mischief. Teabagging the enemy is now notorious as a humiliation tactic, as is the frequent damning of players as ‘noobs‘ of course. Camaraderie between teammates can result in huge bonds being formed, as well as clans. This gives even further in things like MMORPG‘s (worst acronym ever!) where people can and have been digitally as well as physically married.
I guess the main thing that co-op play brings about is a different way to do things. You’ll find a friend might try something differently that works well, or has a particular gaming skill that you wouldn’t otherwise have seen or have access to. So lets take a look at my top 3 co-op games:
Okay, so it’s an oldie now but it sure is a classic. Teams of varying sizes on the maps that now almost everyone in the world has probably seen vie to kill each other. Or rather plant a bomb, or rescue hostages. You see it’s broken to T’s vs CT’s – Terrorists vs Counter-Terrorists. A great game with simple mechanics that requires good cooperative play.
Gears of War is the daddy of cooperative play. There’s nothing that comes remotely close to it for the intense play, great graphics and general hijinks of delta squad. If you haven’t played it in co-op, go do it. Now.
Neverwinter Nights 2
Though we still can’t get this to run properly, when it plays as well as the original Neverwinter then it will certainly be an amazing co-op experience. Wandering around dungeons together could only have been eclipsed if you could do multiplayer in Oblivion. Which you can’t.
So there we are – if you’re generally a solo gamer, please do try cooperative modes. You’ll find a lot more fun there than you bargained for and possibly make some new friends to boot. Just watch they don’t steal your kills…
Now that the rush is over and I’ve had a play with all of the consoles released over here (sadly that doesn’t include the PS3 however) I’m thinking ahead. One of the things that I usually don’t consider is what lies beyond the next batch of big releases. I, weirdly, have difficulty in thinking of games that I would like to play (in terms of concept ideas at least), which is also weird as I’m naturally creative. However, for this article I decided to have a really good think – over a nice cappuccino – on where I’d like the future of videogames to go.
Firstly, lets pick up on some of the obvious stuff. The Xbox360 is designed to be permanently connected to the Internet. This is obvious from the fact that it lacks an internal clock and some games give you a date on your unlocks, but only if you’re online at the time. It also means you can have your downloads in a queue, with stuff being sent to your console whilst your sleep.
This goes for the Wii and no doubt the PS3. So my estimate for the future in this department is that this will be an increasingly used feature, with all three nex-gen systems happily downloading and updating your content and games, and maybe even downloading stuff to compliment your current games roster. This is actually a feature I would quite like to see given how much I’ve enjoyed getting access to demos on Live.
Games on demand will become a more prominent service – whether this be games from an online rental store, games queued in a DDS (digital distribution service) such as Steam, games downloadable for trial and then buyable etc etc. I guess this means games will generally be more accessible for all, including the busy professional and the young mother who needs to get the latest game for her son or daughter.
Wireless is to be a huge feature in the future of videogames, as it already is in the present. Everything from wireless remotes, to motion sensing and even possibly power will be coming via wireless protocols. This will mean less clutter, and probably more synergy between devices. I remember when Sony was originally talking about the PS3, and the idea of other Sony devices (such as a TV or even a microwave) having a CELL processor.
The theory was then that they would use distributed computation to power games and applications. I would go so far as to speculate that this would become more and more commonplace in the future. Whilst at the moment with my 360 I can only send stuff from the computer or discs, sometime in the next 20 years there’ll be a console which will be able to ‘borrow’ the CPU of a desktop or laptop and use it to further enhance particular games.
One of the things that has disappointed me with the recent consoles is the lack of controller options. However, this might be changing with the future. I recall the original Xbox massive controller, which was quickly swapped out for the ‘S’ model for the European and Asian markets. It’s a novelty now to have an original. With the Wii of course you can have a classic controller, a GameCube controller or of course the Wiimote and nunchuk. All very good. To top that, you can now get a Wireless steering wheel for the 360 and probably a motion-sensing device in the future (come on, if Sony and Nintendo have one, Microsoft are bound to follow suit at some point).
Sandbox games have become more and more important as time has passed, and this is going to continue into the future. Stuff like GTA, Dead Rising and Saints Row will be eclipsed in the future by games which have a huge amount of freedom still, but with a much more realised world – giving even more interactivity and characterisation to the game. It goes without saying that Alan Wake could possibly be the first example of this so I’m quite looking forward to seeing that in action.
Graphics is of course the big one that is going to change over time. A couple of people I know are still talking about Virtual Reality and how that will be the next big leap in games, however I disagree. I was old enough to try VR when it first came out and saw a number of people who work sick – the motion they saw and the world they were in simply baffled their brain. So nope, I don’t think VR is the way to go. On the other hand, I believe that HD will become the norm (until super HD or whatever), there’ll be a couple of disc formats to offer more content (I won’t offer a winner here) but one will win out.
This will allow even more visual detail in games, though we’ll possibly find it difficult to produce something that’ll run it at first. In my opinion there’s less of a leap between the past generation and the nex-gen at the moment and this is a trend that is set to continue unless there’s a serious amount of time between them. To be honest, games look pretty good at the moment but naturally this is a boundary that’s going to be continually pushed until things look indistinguishable from real life.
So overall, what does the future of gaming look like? Well it’s online, beautiful looking and offering excellent controls. It has a variety of game types (as now) but with some brilliant freeform stuff that gives the player what he or she really wants – choice. We’ll wait longer for big releases, but in the meantime play smaller indie stuff. Wirelessly, we’ll order our dinner delivered in the middle of a game, and as it arrives pay with our ‘credits’. Game over man!
Well, it’s almost Christmas, so lets take a look at some games that Santa might bring you if you have an Xbox 360 – and you’ve been a good boy or girl. These are, in my opinion, the pick of the bunch at the moment. Obviously lists like this can change, but they’ll top quality so even if you pick one up post Christmas you’ll still love it. I’ve also included a ‘booby prize’ game which I’ve added to the very bottom of the list.
There’s not much I’ve said on Gadzooki about The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, and at least part of the reason for that is that there’s not a lot I haven’t said on my own site about it. For those of you who’ve been living under a rock, Oblivion is an epic first or third role-playing adventure, where you have a main quest, but the freedom to do almost anything in a hugely expansive world.
There’s any amount of ways to play the game – from combat to magic to sneaking, and everything in between. The cool side quests can range from a mystery (who did the portrait of the dead Count?) to all out combat. Whilst the duplicate levels within each Oblivion Gate may let down some, the sheer scope of the game as you buy a house, trade, barter and fight allows for a truly compelling gameplay experience. With over 200 hours worth of gameplay, Oblivion is an essential purchase.
Gears of War
This years’ big release was Gears of War. It’s a much-hyped third person shooter with an emphasis on tough enemies, and cover use rather than run-and-gun ballistics. I found Gears to be a very rewarding experience, with the action being explosive and intense. Some have complained about the lack of variety, but the amazing visuals and sheer excitement of the game should keep you coming back for more. A lot more!
A much hyped and quite interesting proposition was Dead Rising earlier this year. Based on a similar concept to Dawn of the Dead, your character Frank West is in a mail, and there are zombies on the loose. As Frank is a photojournalist part of the gameplay is taking pictures and scoring points. The real fun is had however in belting the hell out of the zombies with anything you can find. Everything from cash registers to guns to Servebot heads (!) can be used to full effect against your stumbling opponents.
One aim of the game is to find out exactly what has gone on to cause the outbreak of the game. However this is at odds with the other victory condition – to rescue the other survivors. As such, it’s not possible to do both in one sitting, so choose one or the other and then keep on the straight path. An interesting element of the game is the action-RPG styled stat increases after killing zombies and achieving certain win conditions. Go buy it, there’s nothing quite like it. [Read more…]
Tomonobu Itagaki has been accused of inappropriate behaviour recently. This is the man who brought us Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball – along with developing numerous lady models etc. He’s one of the most flamboyant games studio staffers (especially of such a high profile, even if he’s no longer with Tecmo) out there, but if this accusation is true, obviously his behaviour leaves a lot to be desired. Do, however, his games?
Dead Or Alive (since 3 at least) has had a strong focus on the ladies. No other beat-em-up (Rumble Roses excepted, pictured below) has as many female playable characters. The models have invariably looked good too. What about the notorious age system and physics though? Whilst there are some spurious hentai games out there in the Far East, only DOA really offers scintillating ladies with their own gravity generating bosoms… that can be changed via the age rating. Crank it up to 99 and you’ll see something rather strange happen to their décolletage. What does this say about games?
Well, games are a new media. They are as a form of entertainment less than a third of the age of celluloid. So movies are now over 100, TV about 60ish and radio is older than that. Nonetheless, I’d suggest games matured remarkably quickly. The first sign of that coming of age was Sony making sure gaming became mass-market. Say what you like fanboys, this was a very powerful move – the business effects can still be felt today. This includes the way in which games have interfaced into popular culture and of course the strength of the Sony brand.
Another sign of maturity of the industry is branching out, franchising and technological development. Whilst the two former statements may sound contradictory, they aren’t. Think of it as organic process finding, answering questions like ‘what works?‘ and ‘what do people want?‘. Creative industries have growing pains. Is DOA a sign of this? I don’t think so. Much like any other product, it is serving a need – playing on our desires (sex being one of our most basic). Sex sells – though this doesn’t change the understated gameplay. Whilst I can’t see this product changing greatly in the future, perhaps we could see more of a focus on gameplay than on a skin-flick.
Essentially though, Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 falls down simply because it is just okay; ultimately falling down as it falls short of what it is aspiring to. It still worries me that the games industry is still modelling itself on Hollywood for some reason, but that’s an analysis for another time. Learn from the mistakes guys and gals and make the industry into something even greater than it already is.