games

The value of games

“Over 9000 dollars” by 8bitpikachu

Every time I slam down fifty bucks for a new game, there’s always one person in my circle of friends who says: “Huh, that’s pretty much dough for a bunch of pixels. Sure you couldn’t have invested that in something else?” Of course, I always reply that he should shut his japper and let me just play my new game, but the question got me thinking: how do you put a price tag on digital entertainment?

Personally, after buying a game, I always divide the price I paid by the number of hours I invested in it. If the average price per hour is lower than the price per hour of seeing a movie at my local cinema, I know that I got a bargain. Why compare it to the price of seeing a movie? I don’t know, it just feels like the right measurement to me. So, when I paid forty-five bucks for Mass Effect 2 back when it was released, and it turns out I’ve invested about sixty hours in the game, having paid less than a dollar per hour sounds like a real deal.

Of course, this is just my way of explaining to my conscious that I made the right choice. How do you measure the value of your gaming investments? Let me hear your calculations!

It’s a great time to love (digital) card games

As my recent posts about the mother of all trading card games show, I am a big fan of the genre. Something about building your own deck, tinkering with it game after game, until you have the ultimate tool to wreak havoc on your friend’s cards is just alluring, and there’s a reason I keep trying different TCG’s over and over again. It’s great to know then that several big fishes of the industry are about to launch a few new titles, and this post is dedicated to three digital TCG’s I’m looking forward to.

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It’s never boring in Neverwinter

It seems that it was very sunny last Saturday, at least in the part of the world that my physical manifestation calls home. Honestly, I didn’t notice it that much. To my great surprise, Cryptic’s newest title Neverwinter was able to captivate me for most of my free Saturday, to a point where my girl had to text one of my housemates to check if I was still alive, since I hadn’t replied to any of her messages. Yeah, Neverwinter is that distracting!

Being distracting is one thing, but is it also good? Well, you’re about to find out in this short review!

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Strange Sunday – grannies with shotguns and other crazy design choices

the secret world shotgun design

Get off my lawn!

One of the many reasons I love my girl is the fact that she doesn’t mind if I squeeze in some gaming while she’s over at my place. When I decide to launch a game, she either watches me play or reads up on some of that…fantastic fanfiction she’s into. Hey, she ain’t complaining about my odd hobbies, and I ain’t complaining about hers.

Anyway, as I was able to get some time on Chindividual in TSW, I started thinking about some of the odd, or maybe even strange design choices that have been made during the creation of this game. In order to keep this week’s Strange Sunday in line with March Gaming, let me run you through three, by today’s industry standards bizarre choices made during the creation of The Secret World.

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Puzzling with elementals: a Legend of Fae review

Image found on softpedia.com

Browsing the vast collection of blogs WordPress is hosting can be rewarding. Two days ago, I was just clicking around the millions of posts provided by other users, when I stumbled upon this short post about a game I hadn’t heard of yet, but that looked intriguing. An hour later, I was ten bucks poorer but tons of fun richer, as I delved into Legend of Fae. Wanna know why you should throw your money at this indie game as well? Then read on!

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Three game soundtracks that are music to my ears

sephi sing

You know what really bothers me? Every time a new game hits the shelves, everyone talks about its awesome gameplay or awesome-o-saurus graphics, but I rarely hear people give their praise about the music of a game. Sure, there are some aficionados who mention it, but in general, music seems to be a second-class criterion when it comes to judging games. I want to set this wrong right, so today, I’ll give you my three favourite game soundtracks. Hook up your headphones and set your volume to eargasm, we’re gonna bring music to those ears!

Number 3: Mass Effect 2
As I have told you in previous posts, the Mass Effect trilogy is one of my all-time favourite gaming epics. It made me bond with several characters (shout-out to my homeboy Garrus), and had me actual care for the fate of the galaxy. One of the reasons for that was the sometimes bombastic, sometimes enchanting soundtrack. Out of the three games, the one soundtrack that really hit me in the feels was that of Mass Effect 2. With tracks like “The Normandy Reborn” and “End Run”, it still gives me the urge to step aboard that damn cool ship, listen to Joker’s puns and shoot up some Reapers.

On a sidenote, one track that makes me think of ME2 but that isn’t on the soundtrack, is the track used in this badass trailer of the game. It’s one of Two Steps From Hell’s masterpieces, which should also have more than the million fans they already have!

Number 2: Dragon Age: Origins
Yeah, sue me for giving the second spot to another BioWare title, but it’s not my fault their sound department makes epic music. Dragon Age: Origins is one ride of a fantasy RPG, and if you haven’t played it yet, you should be castigated for your sins and then play it. Before you do so, however, hear me out why the music of the game is so delightful.

When making epic music for an epic game, the mistake many composers make is to have it sound just too epic. I know, that sounds weird, but it’s hard to explain. It’s like the music loses its supportive, carrying function, drowning out the actual scene it is meant to make perfect on an acoustic level. Luckily, Inon Zur is one heroic composer, and the pieces he wrote for DA:O are marvelous. If you want to hear the (in my opinion) best ones, check out “Dragon Age: Origins” and “The Deep Roads”. 

Number 1: Final Fantasy VII
Oh geesh, bring on the goosebumps! It’s hard for me to give my feelings for this game and its divine music a suitable written form, but I will try anyway. Gosh, just thinking of this soundtrack gets me all hyped.

Next to making some of the greatest RPG’s that have ever been inserted into consoles, Square-Enix is also known for hiring the best composers and musicians alive. Their in-house musical genius is Nobuo Uematsu, who has been responsible for most of the music you hear in the Final Fantasy series. The peak of his talent shows in the soundtrack of Final Fantasy VII, a game that has left his mark on the genre and is still called one of the greatest games ever made. If you ask me, that is an understatement.

Next to being one of the greatest digital adventures I have ever experienced, FFVII is also a musical highlight. When the movie sequel Advent Children was released, a great part of the soundtrack was remade and reborn in an even greater way. While watching the movie and fanboying all over the place, my ears were almost unable to really comprehend the greatness of the music I was hearing. The new versions of masterpieces like “One-Winged Angel” and “Aerith’ Theme” made my skin shudder in delight, and my heart pound faster as I was re-united with the heroes from a game that had touched me so deeply.

Really, if you want to hear the perfect example of music not just supporting, but uplifting a game, play FFVII and listen carefully. Be careful though, you might be humming the “Victory Fanfare” after every success for the rest of your life if you’re like me.

So that’s my top three of epic gaming soundtracks. If you think I missed any great musical piece, or if you would like to share your opinion, hit me up in the comments. While you’re doing that, I have to clean the tears from my cheeks after being reminded of Aerith’ death…

From simple to complicated – the evolution of ideas

“Evolution” by Ikurx

Ah, how I love Pokémon. My generation had the honour of growing up with the very first generation of these little critters, and just like all the other kids on the block, I loved to play every game that involved these monsters. I collected the trading cards, and I fielded a nice team of battle-hungry Pokémon on my Gameboy. The video game was just so addictive. From the moment you received your first Pokémon (Bulbasaur for the win), to the satisfying moment where you defeat the Elite Four, Pokémon offered tense and tactical battles with monsters ranging from cute to threatening. Every time I give a new Pokémon title a try, I’m overwhelmed by this sense of nostalgia and unfortunately have to discover that none of the new games satisfy my lust for the collection of pocket monsters.

However, what these new games also show is how a rather simple game can turn into something really complicated over different iterations. Pokemon Red and Blue (I will not mention Yellow here. Only the lazy, snobby kids who wanted all the cool Pokémon in their time played Yellow, and I was far too awesome to start a game with a lame Pikachu in my team) were, essentially, nothing but a glorified rock-paper-scissors simulator: certain types were efficient against other types, so the trick was to have a well-balanced team that was able to hold its own against different kind of Pokémon. However, the franchise was and is still milked for every penny it’s worth, and so generation after generation of new games appear. Fortunately, they are no carbon copies of the originals. In fact, they take the basic concepts of Red and Blue, and keep adding additional layers to the game. These days, trainers have to be aware of so many things next to their Pokémon’s type, and when I hear players talk about their team set-ups, I feel like I’m listening to football coaches and talent scouts talking about something I once knew so well, but that has become something so deep that I can no longer follow them.

Despite the fact this added complexity has caused me to fall behind, I understand that this is the ideal evolution (see what I did there) of a game: starting out simple to get players used to the ideas and concepts, and slowly change into something that still holds on to these core ideas, but that is also refreshing. It’s an organic and really natural growth, that in most cases gives the franchise a fresh breath of life with every new iteration. Pokémon is by far not the only game who has done that. Recent sci-fi RPG series Mass Effect might have kept the same awesome and thrilling storytelling through all three titles, but the actual game that was behind the cinematic drama changed significantly throughout the three parts. Each new Zelda title sticks to a well-known set of characters, but also tries to re-imagine the world of Hyrule every time. It’s progress at its finest, and in my opinion the best way to introduce innovation into the market.

The problem with many great ideas is that you have to get them into other people’s minds. This entirely new game idea might sound really great in your own head, but that’s no guarantee that your target audience will understand it. Instead of throwing everything at them at once, risking the chance that the complexity and “newness” of it will scare your audience, introduce them to it step by step. Start simple, but get them hooked. Take the best part of your concept, and put it in a nice package. It’s like writing a text, where your opening sentence has to catch the attention of the reader, or else they won’t bother reading your stuff. See how I lured you in with some talk about Pokémon, and how you’re now reading something about organic introduction of new game concepts? I got you hooked, and step by step, I’m introducing you to my ideas.

Once the audience is on one level with you, ramp up the complexity. Build on the foundation you have laid, and see how they react to it. Should you go into the wrong direction, you can direct this form of intelligent design into another, better way. You control the organic growth of your product, and react to the demands of the market. In the gaming world, it’s survival of the fittest, and whoever can adapt to his environment will come out a survivor.

So next time you start writing a game or come up with a brilliant idea, break it down into simple pieces. Start with the core idea, and turn it into a strong element that you can bring to your audience. Then, let evolution do its work and see where it goes. I’m sure that, in the end, you will even surprise yourself about the direction it took.