Archive for the 'Playstation 3' Category

21
Apr
09

The future of Grand Theft Auto

Lets face it, most modern games contain as many kills as kilobytes. It’s always nice to have someone new to shoot at, but with each shotgun to the face we step further away from reality and the rules of our world. This isn’t an issue for some, but games that attempt to exist in our world and rely on a prior knowledge of our world rules can be legitimately damaged as a result.

Lets look at Grand Theft Auto IV, it’s a game that more or less mimics (parodies?) an American city, including the gangster underworld and other undesirable elements. The world seems real enough, and the story is compelling and well written, but it’s what happens in between cut scenes and phone conversations that exposes the game – the medium’s storytelling limitation. As the game progresses and the difficulty ramps up, Niko Belic is tasked with more complex objectives and faces larger numbers of enemies. Niko undertakes missions resulting in the deaths of a dozen or more gangsters, and often as many police. But the game continues, and the cut scenes and other characters ignore Niko’s questionable actions.

This Niko Belic effect is amplified when the story asks you to make moral decisions about the fate of key characters; it’s almost laughable that the story can pivot on one life when such mass killing is involved in the rest of the game.

By now, you’re either nodding your head in agreement or about to stop reading as I’ve just spent a few hundred words telling you what you’ve known for years.

But that my friends, is my point.

We accept that this is how it is. The game and the story are two separate entities. Once that cut scene ends, shit will get heavy. When we’ve killed the 30 guards protecting the building and flipped the switch, the story will continue and thank us for flipping the switch – there’ll be no mention of the body count, and we’ll move on.

I can live with that, I can see GTA4s epic story for what it is – a modern day masterpiece with as much grip as anything you’d pay $16 to see on the silver screen. But what if I hadn’t been conditioned to separate the story from the game? What if I wasn’t a gamer – could I be expected to take it seriously? A well written story that is emotional and powerful, with a higher body count than Rambo 4.. Really? Maybe that’s a clue as to why this medium has such trouble being understood.

Rather obviously, there are two ways for Grand Theft Auto to approach this issue – change the game to fit the story, or change the story to fit the game. Unfortunately, neither option is guaranteed effective and changes made either way would likely be detrimental.

Luckily, words are cheap and we’re not a big budget developer with the gaming world on our shoulders, so we can afford to at least explore the options available.

Lets look at this in the way I’m sure many developers would – we’re here to make a game and that’s our priority. The game needs to be fun and challenging first, and realistic in concern to the narrative second. We could easily change the GTA story to make mention of the hordes of enemies we’ve put in body bags. Niko, go to see the Russians and kill 30 of them, that should keep them off our backs. I’ll admit I’m not a thug, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t part of their day to day. The critically acclaimed, down to earth(ish) GTA story has been reduced to Uwe Boll level crap, which obviously isn’t an option.

Lets look at another high profile title, one which has had more luck melding coherent storytelling with gameplay.

Enter Fallout 3.

Fallout 3 is set in post apocalypse America. It’s a dangerous, sparsely populated place, where people are likely to have had more confirmed kills than radiation free meals.

Sure, a run through the subway will end the existence of 20 or more ghouls, but this is a landscape seriously altered by nuclear war, it’d be ludicrous to expect anything else. Additionally, conversing with other characters allows me to even brag about these feats – the story makes no attempt at distancing itself from the game.

Bethesda has had the advantage of creating their own world, by doing so, they’ve created their own rules. Welcome to Fallout 3 player, the subways are filled with feral ghouls, they used to be people but have lost their humanity and prefer to live in the dark tunnels. One, that’s awesome. Two, what else am I to expect when I go tunnel running – I can hardly be pulled away from the narrative by a bunch of ghouls.

So in a way, it’s Grand Theft Auto’s relevance that is it’s Achilles heel. GTAIV pushed the series in a intelligent mature direction, but one that can not be continued without dramatic changes to the core gameplay. I’m not necessarily suggesting we’ve seen the end of GTA, or that the series will stagnate, fade into irrelatively and lose it’s podium as this century’s king of games – I’m sure the Houser brothers are far too brilliant to ever let that happen.

What I am suggesting is that we’ll see some major changes in future instalments, or, we’ll see the introduction of a sister series, developed to take the reins and push the design in darker directions, while Grand Theft Auto remains the accessible, fun lovin’ criminal that it is.

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27
Mar
09

Umm fuck yes.

When EA announced Battlefield 1943 I was pretty excited. A digitally distributed multiplayer remake of an existing property with a more casual friendly approach; sounds like something I’d suggest.

I have an unwarranted fondness for digital distribution, allow me to summarise.

I like to own things, and having disks and shit is nice – but having a hard drive packed with games is nicer – I prefer to navigate the XMB rather than the living room.

So how do I react when potentially given the opportunity to forgo a physical console? Sceptical, and a little scared.

I’m referring of course to OnLive, which might as well be called the future. This is cloud gaming  – no need for a console or gaming PC in front of you, simply log on to OnLive and their machines do all the work, and stream the audio/visual to you. Xbox, PS3, Mac, PC – doesn’t matter. Pick a game from whatever platform and play it on your low spec PC or television.

It sounds good if not a little fanciful, but I’ll reserve my judgement until I see it in action and see what they expect to charge for the service.

Now for news that inspired this post’s title, I’m happy to say some of my dreams came true this morning.

It’s not official yet, but the original Call of Duty is coming to PSN and Xbox Live. Nostalgia ahoy, I’d had some amazing time with that game and I can’t wait for the excuse to jump back into some multiplayer action.

I’ll admit I am a little concerned how the game will fare without a keyboard and mouse, and considering the scoped Mosin Nagant was my weapon of choice and I rolled with the handle Vasily Zaitsev, I may have trouble returning to my prior awesomeness – sniping with an analogue stick is a skill I’m yet to master.

17
Mar
09

Resident Evil 5 taught me to share, and to care.

Narratively, Resident Evil 5 is no more than a fucking pikelet. There is preciously little to comprehend, but like the pikelet, it’s consumed fast and with ease. It’s easy to look at Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil comparatively, so I guess a food analogy is required for the former. The Metal Gear Solid storyline is a four course meal. It’s a fucking investment, and you’re not going to want to eat afterwards – although you could probably still fit in that pikelet.

Resident Evil began as a B Grade type horror story, and although the dialog has been smartened up a little, subsequent releases have still retained the simplism and slight absurdity the original title built it’s narrative around.

It’s a hallmark of the series, and it’s good to see it hasn’t been lost in the 5th instalment.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not giving the game cookies for it’s basic storyline – it’s just incredible to see what happens when you make a triple A title and put gameplay above storytelling. Yes, Video Games can challenge books and movies as far as crafting a mature, thoughtful, immersive story; Resident Evil 5 just shows you don’t have to – you can have massive boss fights and crazy locations instead.

Don’t pay too much attention to the storyline’s details, it just hurts your head. Instead, take a drink every time you see something Capcom have hand altered to remove any ammunition racists (you know, those ones who hate whites, wont get off our back about it and almost come off as colour envious) might have over the game.

I don’t know why Chris looks so worried, having white skin is your ticket to survival in RE5. No black character would dare to attack a while character – every time someone white gets attacked or dragged off it’s a white or random Hispanic dude that is the aggressor.

But you do have to giggle at one of Shiva’s early dialog lines, as she explains to Chris she’s accompanying him just to appease the Africans. Personally I would have removed that one, and because I don’t have a segue lets talk about Wesker. 

I guess Wesker’s steroids don’t shrink his balls, but his brain.

I should have killed you years ago Chris! He yells out as the finale begins to play out.

Yeah Wesker, years ago.. or last chapter where you had us owned but decided to just run off instead.

I could poke holes in Resident Evil 5’s story for a thousand more words, but I think I should stop now. Stop now, and begin explaining why despite it’s absolute disregard for storytelling, Resident Evil 5 may find it’s way into my top 5 games list.

RE5 offers the definitive co-operative experience. Sure, Dead Space 2 will attempt to topple it, and with hindsight and a couple of years over RE5 it should succeed, but until then I have hopes RE5 will be the go to game. What makes it so great? Well obviously Capcom’s risky decision to include co-op from the ground up plays a big part. I say risky, not because adding co-op is a risk per se, but limiting their access to many of the series fundamentals (scripted scares, feelings of isolation etc) is a big call. This decision was spring cleaning in a way, anything that doesn’t work with co-op is out, ready to be replaced with something that does. What we are left with is more simulation than game – the simulation of surviving this fucking bizarre scenario.

When you’re playing with a friend sitting beside you, the game’s narrative dissolves. What is left is two friends trading ammo and items, looking for the smartest way out and the most efficient way to survive. The weapons you have determine your situational strengths and weaknesses – instead of feeling like two players in a single player game, you’re both given a role, and a chance to shine. I guess there is a lot to be said for ineqality between co-operative players.

02
Mar
09

My weekend in Burma

So I collected my copy of Killzone 2 from JB. My attempt at scoring the game early fell through when the Game Traders store manager I’d sweet talked into handing over a copy once stocked arrived took the day off, so I waited until Thursday like the rest of us. Hey, I saved $20 (apparently JB’s retail price is lower than GT’s cost price) and also picked up Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Awesome Collection. That was probably a mistake, as I had planned to use this space to give my impressions of Killzone. What happened next surprised us all.

I more or less shunted both games for a book.

The book in question is Shadow Warrior, the autobiographical tale of Dangerous Dave Everett. His story starts the same as a lot of people’s – leave school and join the Army as a trade, a mechanic in Dave’s case. Dave’s story steps up tempo when he is accepted into the SAS, but the real meat is in how he puts his newly acquired skills to use.

When I applied for SAS selection back in the early 1980s, I was a skinny young apprentice mechanic who nobody thought had a hope of getting through the gruelling course. Not only did I get through, I managed to achieve an above-average score to boot. Life in the Regiment was great for a young digger, but I quickly became frustrated with the lack of action. While on leave investigating an SAS mate’s suspicious death in Burma, I became caught up in the plight of the ethnic Karen of Burma, and joined their fight against a totalitarian military regime. In the unforgiving jungles of eastern Burma, I experienced the harsh realities and horror confronting the Karen people. On my return to Australia, I went outside of the law to raise money to help the Karen cause.

It’s really amazing stuff and I’m surprised how much it’s affected me. The book plays out similar to a gritty, realistic Burn Notice (without the beaches and bikini clad babes), and it’s exciting to have something real-world to contrast Hollywood’s interpretation of special forces and what happens in the shadows.

Shadow Warrior is certainly a compelling read. I’m unsure if I related because I’m aussie, because my dad has a military background, because a lot of places visited in the book are familiar, or because I see authority in the same transparent way, but I highly recommend this book to anyone; especially those not convinced – Dave is likable, funny and very human. He doesn’t break the law, he disregards it; but his motives are so clear and innocent you’ll accept his actions rather than judge them.

For those looking for a taste, a chapter omitted from the book is available to read here.

Continue reading ‘My weekend in Burma’

24
Feb
09

Random Muesli

So the DSi has a release date and price in Australia, and awesomely, it’s not too far off.

EB in true form have already demanded offered preorders, eager to take your money without the nuisance of parting with their goods. Which sucks, because that’s really my favourite part.

I’ve had my eye on the DSi since it was announced last October, ever intrigued with the promise of downloadable titles, ready to shed the shackles of physical media and begin my new trouble free life. But my focus has changed, and these bits of plastic do look appealing. The more explorative clickers will notice one of those links directs directly to a page about Pokemon Platinum.

I’m not sure I want to catch ‘em all, but I’m prepared to say I want to catch some. Specifically the cool ones, like the ghosts and shit.

Sometime this week Killzone 2 and myself will both visit the same store. I’ll start a conversation and wont even know why – I’m already taking her home; the $100 in my wallet is the guarantee. Maybe I’m nervous, nervous about my decision. I want you K2, I know I do. Or I think I know I do. But thought insinuates doubt, maybe I think (I know) I don’t. In either case, I’m buying Killzone 2 because I own a Playstation, in the same way as I chase women because I own a penis; I’m buying it because god wants me to. I’m not arguing with him and you shouldn’t either, unless your prepared to wake up with a wii and vagina instead.

I can’t determine what my stance on the game is, looking at the last paragraph I’m unsure if I’ve advocated it’s mass purchase, or condemned it’s inevitability. Maybe you can decipher it, whatever, but you’ll follow my reservations when I drop the news that I don’t have a quality internet connection in the dark place I dwell. Allow me to make a comparison – playing Killzone 2 without online multiplayer is like.. say, for example, playing CoD4 without online multiplayer. Yeah, I thought that would illustrate my point.

16
Dec
08

My weekend in gaming – LittleBigPlanet impressions

On my girlfriends recommendation, nigh, insistence, I picked up LittleBigPlanet.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hesitate to comply, the game had simply dropped while I was on holiday and at the rate we’re moving forward even the most remarkable titles can get left behind. Shortly after the title’s release I had played a couple of levels at a friends house, and enjoyed my brief exposure. But I still wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, was this game really as good as they’d said it would be?

The answer is yes. And no. Well at least, not yet. I was honestly amazed by what MM where capable of achieving with some of their levels. Prior to purchasing the game I read a comment on Kotaku in reply to a your favourite gaming moment of 2008 type post which read “LBP… Hands down” and I couldn’t comprehend it. I do now. But unfortunately it’s this all encompassing understanding that Media Molecule have over their game and mechanics that threatens to defeat LBP’s other selling point. Simply put, I can’t beat them at their own game. If I try to make something simple or derivatory, I can’t present it as well as MM. If it try to make something outside the box.. well MM have crafted a pretty big fucking box. Alas, my attempts so far have been enlightening learning tools and observing what MM have done in their levels is a great way to expand my own ideas. I will create an awesome level, and you will love it. It may just take a while.

Continue reading ‘My weekend in gaming – LittleBigPlanet impressions’

15
Dec
08

An open letter to EA, Part 2: Please reboot C&C Renegade, and heres how

The goal, to take an existing property and create a well received game, minimising risk while ensuring a profitable outcome.

In part one of this proposal we located Renegade’s target audience and market position. It almost seems counterproductive to discern this information prior to detailing the game; but it’s an important step in making a profitable title, by defining our audience we can determine the goals Renegade must achieve, and understand the qualities it must encompass. 

The goal, to create a popular online console experience enjoyable by traditional multiplayers and first timers alike.

Renegade’s target audience has been determined, and consists of console owners with the ability to purchase and play content online. The audience can be broken further into two groups – multiplayers, and first timers.

When tailoring a game for traditional online participants there is ample direction and a wealth of inspiration, anything from Doom to CoD4 and every title in between can be studied to observe trends and discern the qualities players of these games hold in regard. But for every console sold, potentially, an offline gamer has the ability to enter the realms of online play. To ascertain what qualities a multiplayer virgin looks for in a multiplayer game, we must apply the knowledge we have of the target group; specifically their interactions with games in other genres.

Games that are popular among the casual, offline crowd share the following qualities.

  • Easy learning curve.
  • Segmented gameplay.
  • Low skill requirement.
  • Simple rules and gameplay.

Renegade’s gameplay features and mechanics will not be compromised to suit the casual player, that is not our goal. Our goal is to create mechanics and features from the ground up that lower the requirement for online play, allowing players with less time, skill or motivation to play online.

I’ve briefly outlined some requirements for success, and it’s time to give the game legs and define the gameplay and features that will carry Renegade towards unfathomable popularity. But before we do, there is one matter I would like to discuss.

There is a certain frailty involved when dealing with existing IP, especially when attempting to diverge from the formula; some fans of forerunning titles can be difficult to please. Fortunately, there is an almost universal solution. The most effective strategy for dealing with possible fan backlash, is to ensure the new product is polished; show the fans that the IP means as much to you as it does to them.

Continue reading ‘An open letter to EA, Part 2: Please reboot C&C Renegade, and heres how’




Playing on Playstation 3

Red Dead Revolver - I paid about $1000 for my launch model PS3, so I guess it's time I get some use out of that emotion chip crammed inside. I remember Red Dead Revolver looking rather good when it was released, and despite the low resolution and odd blurring (that I attribute to playing on a HD set) the game holds up well. It looks good despite these graphical limitations because the art direction is so precise and awesome. And it isn't just the art direction, the music, dialogue and set design (for some reason, set seems a more fitting word than level) all work in tandem to recreate an iconic Wild West atmosphere. Red Dead Revolver doesn’t aim to recreate life in the Wild West, it allows our imagination to take over and populates the locale with legendary men and their legendary stories.

Playing on iPhone

edge - Well I never thought I'd consider playing a game on iPhone as actually gaming, but edge has turned me around. The game is built for the iPhone. Sure, it could be ported, but the elegance of what has been created is astounding, it boggles the mind and makes me wonder what amazing gems we'd receive if current gen consoles weren't clones of eachother.

Playing on PC

Sins of a Solar Empire, Demigod, Generals - Zero Hour - It may be a temporary effect as I slowly reintroduce the PC into my gaming diet, but it seems every title I’m excited to play on the platform is either a strategy game, or a cheap indie game. PC gaming isn’t dead, it’s just restricted to titles that require complex input or a pointing device, and games that couldn't be developed or distributed on other platforms. I guess that’s part of the reason the AppStore is so far a success, there were a lot of indie devs stuck on PC for lack of a better alternative.
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