Editorial

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Opinion pieces that aren't long or detailed enough to be considered feature articles.
davyK's picture

Middle aged gamer's collection #53 & #54 - Gunbird 2 Sega Dreamcast, Raiden III PS2

Gunbird 2 (Dreamcast)Gunbird 2 (Dreamcast)I've typed this article up on an Apple laptop - and had to google to find out how to type the hash symbol. How lame is that? Jobs had some strange ideas about what people use - what was it with Java support in the iPhone/iPad default browser? Noone uses Java? What a load of rubbish.

Anyhow, it has been some time since I posted here on this subject (i.e. my far too big collection of games that I will never get around to playing to the level of commitment that the games probably deserve) and here are two I've been putting some time into recently and keep going back to - Gunbird 2 and Raiden III.

My last post in this blog was about a shmup (Darius Gaiden) and I make no apologies for following up with another two - because I'm going to rant a little bit about high scores again. Look at Darius Gaiden on the Sega Saturn - a lovely game that is tarnished because it doesn't save high scores (boo!)- taking a big chunk out of the reason to own it which is a crying shame as its an excellent shooter with a lot going for it. But a shmup with no high score is bordering on pointless. Gunbird 2 and Raiden III both do it right - though the OCD part of me thinks that Gunbird 2 could have gone a bit further with how it supports high scores.

Matt Barton's picture

Skyrim, now with Disco Soundtrack

Skyrim: Designed by John Romero and John Carmack.Skyrim: Designed by John Romero and John Carmack.Modern CRPGs are console shooters. And that pisses me off. But how did they get this way? Last week I wrote about some features I'd like to see in a classic-style CRPG. I've been thinking more along these lines, thinking carefully about all of my favorite CRPGs and attempting to isolate the elements that so endeared them to me. What I've discovered is that this exercise is futile. You cannot create a good game simply by taking out the best gameplay mechanics from different games--what's more important is how well a designer has been able to build an attractive and coherent homology. I don't much like the term, but I like how Barry Brummett defines "stylistic homology" as "the signifying system that is a style is held together by formal properties such that one could look at a new article of dress, for instance, newly designed, and identify it as Edwardian." I think we could easily do the same for individual games or even whole game franchises, assuming it's well-designed. For instance, World of Warcraft has such a coherent homology that I'm sure most players would be able to look at screenshots of a city they hadn't personally visited--such as the Undercity--and realize it was from WOW and not Guild Wars 2. If you bear with me a moment, you can also see that this concept extends beyond just artwork and into gameplay. Even before you ever played a monk in WOW, for instance, if you're familiar with the other classes then you already have a pretty good idea of how the talents, abilities, and so on will play out. I think it's the sign of a great game when you can introduce something as radical as an entirely new class and not have the rest of the game fall apart.

Unfortunately, the problem is that such coherence comes at a cost. The same factors that allow us to already have a pretty good idea of what the monk will be like are the same factors that lead to boredom and disinterest. And man oh man, am I bored with WOW and Skyrim.

Matt Barton's picture

The Kickstarters I'm Backing and Why

For the future!For the future!There are so many great Kickstarters going on right now that I'm GRAVELY concerned some of these will get lost in the shuffle. So to that end, I'm going to post some notes about each of the projects I'm backing, and I encourage you to do the same! I'll order these by the time they have left to go: Salem, Star Citizen, Hero-U, Shadowgate, and Cthulhu World Combat.

Matt Barton's picture

X-Com UFO Defense: Good Game Despite Itself

X-Com: Girlfriend UnknownX-Com: Girlfriend UnknownA lot of people have been asking me about my thoughts on the new X-Com: UFO Defense game. Usually these are folks who loved the original game, which I reviewed two years ago on Matt Chat #60. Admittedly, that video was the first time I had played any of the original games, and I didn't play it much after that, so I'm not the person to speak to about how faithfully the new one captures the minutiae of the old series. At any rate, I wouldn't care about that anyway. After all, the old ones are still quite easy to get up and running on a modern system, so if you really want the authentic experience, it's not going anywhere. So, that leaves me with a more important question--is the new one any good? I have to say yes, even if it seems the designers seemed hell-bent on sabotaging their own game.

I have only managed to play through the single-player campaign once, and that was on normal difficulty. The fact that it has a difficulty selector (which it encourages you to change during the game if it gets too hard) was alone to get my hackles up. I really hate it when a game makes me answer that sort of question right off the bat.

Matt Barton's picture

Games Journalist Fired for Speaking Truth to Power?

It's taken me awhile to try to ferret out what actually happened here, but as far as I've been able to tell, one of Eurogamer's journalists has been fired over some vitriolic comments he made about high profile game reviewers being on the take. (A doctored, but still harsh version of his article is here. The journalist, Rab Florence, isn't someone I'm familiar with, but I gather from his description as a "comedy writer" that he's accustomed to shaking things up for the sake of attention. At any rate, his diatribe against game reviewers who blatantly promote products from the big companies...I mean we're not idiots here, right? We all know that the latest COD and Halo games are going to get four stars and the red carpet treatment on all the major sites. Meanwhile, anyone who dares question the superiority of the latest AAA darling gets (a) totally ignored by the mainstream and (b) bashed or looked at funny by everyone else. Apparently, the only thing it's safe for the mainstream journalists to bash are games like Duke Nukem Forever and Mass Effect 3. After all, standing up for games that are so reviled makes them "safe" targets, so naturally they go to town, making them sound like the Worst Games Ever. (Finally, we can take the gloves off! Now let's really tear into this one to prove we don't occasionally tear into one...)

Matt Barton's picture

What I'd Like to See in an "Old School" CRPG

Shaker: Like a Polaroid picture.Shaker: Like a Polaroid picture.By now, I'm sure everyone has heard about how Brathwaithe and Hall pulled the plug on their Shaker RPG Kickstarter. I had pledged $100 to this one, mostly because the rewards were great and I have a lot of respect for everyone involved in this project (though I've yet to interview either). The gist of it all is that they went into this with a plan to do something "old school," but didn't get into enough specifics about what their game would actually be like. Sure, we all remember how great the old days of Wizardry, Ultima, Pool of Radiance, and Bard's Tale were...but after whipping up everyone into a gonad frenzy, they ran out of the room before anybody got to cuddle.

They've promised to come back with a stronger pitch. I doubt that any of them give a rat's squeal what yours truly would like to see in that pitch, but what the hell. I know they (amongst others) have the talent and experience to make me a very happy gamer, so here's what I would like to see in the next big Kickstarter classic CRPG pitch.

Matt Barton's picture

A Perspective on Kickstarter for Game Crowdfunding

Wasteland 2Wasteland 2One of my favorite all-time quotes from the much-maligned Karl Marx goes something like this: "mankind... inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation." When I first read this quotation back in the 90s, the internet was just beginning to evolve from a sort of "super BBS" inhabited almost entirely by academics, engineers, and plain ol' nerds. Everyone could see that something BIG was happening. Much BIGGER, even, than America OnLine--if you could possibly wrap your head around that! For most of this period, the internet was used by the common person mostly to send email and then go on to Yahoo to play some games or browse their extensive directories. Once money started to change hands, though, thanks mostly to eBay, there was an explosion of commercial interest. The web quickly evolved from the thousands of personal pages (dog, career, photos of gardens and some cute animated GIFs)...It soon became common, then expected, to see a URL even on your box of Mac & Cheese. "What are THEY doing on the internet?" we asked.

Chris Kennedy's picture

Generation FAIL: How I Struck Out with the 7th Generation of Consoles (Part 3 - Final)

Microsoft made a huge splash with the first successor to their XBox gaming console with the XBox 360 in November 2005. I was an early adopter, although I am not sure why. Perhaps because it was the first generation released after I had seriously started to collect consoles several years prior. By this point, I had a pretty decent run of home consoles starting with the Atari VCS. Perhaps it was a simple matter of the fact the world was moving into true HD territory, I owned a fairly new HD TV, and it was time to give this new console a try.

I had no idea what sort of troubles that I would be getting myself into, and I was not the only one.

Matt Barton's picture

The State of Point-and-Click Adventures

Adventure games, particularly of the point-and-click variety, have always been my second favorite genre, just after computer role-playing games. Unfortunately, the genre's popularity declined sharply after the collapse of LucasArts' adventure game division and, of course, Sierra On-Line's adventures. About the closest you can get nowadays to this "golden age" experience is the episodic games from Telltale Games. But what about folks looking for that classic point-and-click experience? I've been fortunate to review games for Adventure Classic Gaming, a site that specializes in new adventure games with the classic feel. The majority of the games I've reviewed are imports, usually German, and games from independent studios.

I thought it would be fun to talk about three or four of the best ones I've played recently and let you know where to get them. I'll also link each one to my full review of the title on Adventure Classic Gaming.

Shawn Delahunty's picture

Crystal Ball Time: Windows 8 VS. Retro-Gaming

Hello everyone. The last part of my article on "Randomness and Zero-Sum" is forthcoming shortly. However I wanted to jump topics for a moment, and bring to your attention a subject that, I believe, will become problematic in the next year or so. Specifically, I want to direct your focus to what I predict as another soon-to-ensue debacle, courtesy of the (not really) friendly folks at Microsoft. Yes, I'm talking about Windows 8. No, I'm not picking on it for the reasons everyone else is.

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