There are a couple of games that I’ve been hoping will be localized for the West, and for one of them, that isn’t happening–Hironobu Sakaguchi‘s Last Story. I don’t play a lot of Japanese RPGs, but this one caught my attention, partly because I want to see if Sakaguchi’s return to game directing translates into a significant change in JRPGs. The combat system, particularly the gathering ability, sounds like a good update for the traditional group combat in JRPGs.
I know the story is that JRPGs don’t do well in the West anymore, but FF XIII still sold well in the Americas [2.24m versus 1.88m in Japan]. Instead, it might be a concession that the Wii has lost its audience for these types of game, even though I think Monster Hunter 3 shows that it’s still around.
The other game that I hope is localized is another Wii game for which I’ve seen little detailed information–Earth Seeker. Collection is clearly a part of it, which I hope means exploration, but the combat looks similar to Monster Hunter. But, given the premise and the fact gamers play the same female character, it seems to have a story.
Unfortunately, I now have zero hope that the West will see this game localized. Enjoy this clip, too.
At some point about 5 months ago, Capcom put something in my food.
That’s my theory at least.
You see, for some inexplicable reason about 5 months ago, I became very interested in Monster Hunter Tri. And I’ve never been interested in the series before. True, the visuals grabbed my attention at first, but the more I read about Tri and the series, the more interesting it seemed. Having a static character with no leveling has been one of my highly desirable features in an RPG. Yeah, doesn’t seem like an RPG if that’s case, I know. But I think the point should be that the characters get better with a specific thing by using it repeatedly. [Muramasa had a similar approach where you leveled up by choosing different swords.]
Monster Hunter isn’t exactly that, but it’s somewhat close. After playing Tri now for 10 hours offline, it’s more or less what I expected, and I’m enjoying it. The starting few hours are basically a tutorial, but the gist of it is that your character improves weapons and armor to take down bigger monsters. To improve armor and weapons, you need to collect different ingredients.
One significant draw for me is that the game requires that you pay attention to what you’re seeing, especially in fights. And thus, the game is known for being difficult. For example, it has no lock-on while attacking, but the reason is that where you hit the monster is important, as the graphic below illustrates. A lock-on target system would take away a part of the strategy and skill of the game.
monster hunter tri cut damage reference chart
You have to mine, fish, farm, forage, and, of course, hunt to collect the ingredients. Reminiscent of my Everquest days, the monster might not drop the needed ingredient every time, so I might need to defeat it a few times–as in tri, tri, tri again. And some fights with monsters might take most of the 50 minutes you have to complete the quest, especially if you’re soloing.
But the fights–that’s where the game shines. You might spend a bit of time preparing for a fight–maybe upgrading your weapon or armor but also collecting materials for health and stamina, for traps and bombs to use against the monsters. So, you have less urgency and the game somewhat slows down. But when you take that quest, the timer starts and the pacing changes. You have to hunt the monster, you see. Isn’t that clever? The map is divided into several zones, and, unless you have particular armor, you might not know where it is. And once you find it and weaken, it can run to another zone, requiring you to find it again, unless you hit it with a paintball so that you can now track it across zones.
This isn’t a hack and slash, though. You can’t stand there and attack a monster. You might spend as much time dodging as swinging. And there’s no health bar to tell how much damage you’re doing. No flying damage numbers with each hit. There are indicators for you and your weapon, but for the monster, you have to pay attention. Is it drooling? When does it attack? How? Does it run when injured? Certainly, it’s a variation on finding the patterns in shoot ‘em ups and other games. But it feels fresh as an action RPG.
I’m not doing the game justice because it has several little things to enjoy and appreciate. Also, it has its share of frustrations. For example, the game has a lot to learn, and if you read the info on Monster Hunter wikia, you wonder how anyone would learn the weapon trees and such on their own. And while the game has shed the Wii Friend Code system, it’s still not easy to add friends, even if they are on your Wii friend list. You can only send messages to people that are online, requiring to coordinate with friends offline. Still, it’s an improvement because adding people you meet online is certainly easier.
Through these 10+ hours, I have more personal investment and satisfaction than I had in 70+ hours of Final Fantasy III. Yes, I can customize my character in many ways, though not as extensively as some games now allow–no getting that particular nose and bottom lip that I’ve always wanted! But it’s more than custom appearances or my selection of weapons and armor.
Maybe it’s that I have a 10-year-old son who’s trying to assert himself and do more for himself, but the game reminds me a lot of that satisfaction of doing something hard, doing it your way, and then enjoying that satisfaction, even though you might have had doubts. The game isn’t holding your hand. You don’t necessarily know the right way to play, but you’re learning a way. Beating diablos is satisfying because of your preparing for it, watching and learning the creature. Who knows if getting that one ingredient to make that one extra dung bomb might not make the difference in completing or failing the quest.
So far, I’m enjoying Monster Hunter Tri, and I’m anticipating some lunch time gaming. My son has created his character and wants us to play together. Once again, gaming brings families closer.
Maybe I have a high threshold. Or low expectations. But I enjoy games that try something very different, even if not fully successful. So far, I’m enjoying Silent Hill – Shattered Memories immensely, even with its flaws, which lie primarily with the controls. While good most of the time, there are times when the controls feel wonky . . . not working as I expected. Yet, these difficulties are what I actually like about the game in many ways, because the game is pushing towards a more immersive experience.
Glitches can break the immersion, but so can a game that is too easy.
For example, I’m running from the nightmare creatures, and I have to run in precisely the right place to pick up a flare. By then the creatures are on me, and I’m shaking them off, and I can’t quite turn to run towards the door. Or when I have to interact with a device and I can’t get in the right spot easily to do so.
In more than 6 hours playing, I’ve had three, maybe four, of these moments. Honestly, I can’t say that this is more than other games that I’ve played on the 360 recently. But I think the Wii controls accentuate the problem more because of the gestures involved. More physical, more noticeable.
However, I’ve seen several players complain about the lack of combat–that the Wii’s controls for throwing off creatures are too imprecise and involve waggle. I’ve also seen complaints that knowing where to run in the nightmare chase sequences is too hard. Some say that they’re too close to the creatures to use the phone’s map to see where they are and where to go.
When I read complaints such as these, I’m not surprised that Nintendo came up with the idea of in-game help.
But how hard is too hard? In this case, yes, I died a lot in the first chase, and in a later chase, I ran in circles several times [though I only died three times]. As is, the death penalty in the game is non-existent, because you restart at the beginning of the chase in full health. I also found ways to look at my map, even while being chased.
Yet, that feeling of desperation, of running almost by instinct, is the point of the game experience. Yes, Climax could have added waypoints in the game world or markers, but then, I find the indicators for the interactive objects intrusive enough. To add such direction markers would make the game the equivalent of paint by numbers. I think even adding combat would make the game easier.
The expectation that we should be able to run through a game successfully, without failure or even some frustration, is the desire to play a game that is soulless. It doesn’t ask us to give much of ourselves to play the game.
Certainly, too much frustration, and you’re having a miserable experience. Normally, I’d say that frustration from bad camera angles or imprecise controls is not good frustration. And I think Shattered Memories has those moments. But the design of the chase scenes . . . I think that’s a good frustration. For example, the original Fallout games were somewhat brutal in their difficulty, but that was a frustration by design and for a purpose, that tied into the theme of the games. Similarly, I think the disorienting chase scenes are excellent designs that thematically support the disorientation of Harry Mason.
As much as I appreciate Harry’s confusion, I’m nonetheless watching it, experiencing it intellectually. But in those chase scenes, the disorientation is visceral. That might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but I think it’s some of the best game design I’ve played this year.
In contrast, Arkham Asylum is a fun platformer, beat’em up game that I enjoyed, but I was never close to immersed in the game. The third person view kept me removed from the game, and I just never thought for even a second that I was Batman [as much as I would love to and wanted to]. For all the supposedly terrifying criminals in Arkham, I never once had goose bumps, not once felt trepidation or anxiety. And though I thought the different tasks in the game gave it a richness of gameplay, I’ve realized in contrast that Arkham Asylum‘s trophies and environmental hints for actions kept me removed from the Batman. I know some reviewers and gamers felt that they were Batman thanks to fight scenes and the detective mode, but it felt like most games, where I’m a puppeteer. Batman’s mental and emotional state was a faraway thing to me, something I saw only intellectually and never felt for myself. [And I don't believe for one second that Batman wouldn't be afraid of facing his enemies in an asylum.]
I’m not saying Shattered Memories is a better game than Arkham Asylum, but it does something that Arkham doesn’t, which is to pull me not just into the game but into the character–into the experience of being in Silent Hill and into the mindset of Harry Mason. That success supersedes the very few control issues that I encountered.
Having too many games to finish, of course, I picked up another one, Silent Hill – Shattered Memories. I never played the original [because I was purely a PC gamer then]. But even just playing Shattered Memories for an hour, I’m really pulled into this game. Yes, the graphics are part of that draw [notice I didn't say 'for a Wii game' although the animations, the textures, the details all put to shame many Wii games]. As the darkness looms all around, the flashlight creates some stark contrasts while also throwing up shadows to make me doubt sometimes what I think I see.
And so far, the story has pulled me in with a similarly appealing ambiguity. The question of what is real is an old one, going back to the pre-socratics at least and treated well by the likes of Philip K. Dick and many others. Yet, I still find it appealing in this game so far.
Games like this are thoroughly enjoyable, as much as frenetic jumping and action. Yet, some reviewers apparently have attention issues and can’t handle the slow pace, which adds to the game. Does it have ‘dull pacing’? I guess, if you expecting Modern Warfare pacing. Yet, I don’t expect a drama to have the pacing of a summer blockbuster. [Needless to say, I find the Game Informer review way off in its assumptions about what a good game should be, as well as in its assessment of the controls, which I've had no problem with.]
I think the assumption that games have to have X, Y, and Z is a problem because it assumes that we’re homogenous. So, some might not like this game, but that hardly means that it is a bad game. I return to roguelikes as an example of this–if you accept the premises and conditions of a roguelike, you’ll enjoy titles in this genre. But if you don’t accept them, then that doesn’t mean that such games aren’t fun . . . they’re not fun for you.
I find a slower paced game that isn’t driven by combat to be extremely appealing. I accept such a premise for a game. However, some might not. That doesn’t mean that Shattered Memories is therefore a good game . . . I’ll have to play more to judge that. [And it's possible that the game could indeed fail, even on its own terms. But that does not mean the GI review is vindicated . . . you can be right for the wrong reasons.]
Magazines like Game Informer contribute to an aesthetic, to definitions of games. Unfortunately, it’s one largely drawn from about a handful of gaming experiences. They remind me of the Talking Heads’ ‘Once in a lifetime,’ where the character doesn’t know how he arrived where he is. The dogged pursuit of one thing, of one aesthetic, means that we relinquish other aesthetics and pursuits.
Note: I had already drafted this post when I came across gnome’s comments on gaming, art, and industry. I think there’s some overlap between our posts, as it regards some fundamental forces that shape current games.
Yesterday, I moved more firmly into middle age and got a boy and his blob as a present. I’ve barely played the game, so I can’t say a lot in detail about how good it is. But I have a couple of reactions.
First, between blob, Muramasa, and the forthcoming New Super Mario Brothers Wii, I’m finding how much I enjoy the 2D games. I’ve been impressed by some 3D games, like Arkham Asylum and Fallout 3, but I can’t think of one where my first reaction was ‘beautiful!’ Maybe that’s my age coming through, but perhaps not. As games moves towards greater realism, they begin to take themselves away from styles that might be more aesthetic and might actually reveal more about the subject. Depending on your definition of beauty, you could see it and realism as different ends of a spectrum.
Could Van Gogh have conveyed what he did in a more realistic style? Would Henry Moore’s be nearly as beautiful with more realism? I know this is a very tenuous argument, but looking at a boy and his blob and Muramasa, I’m seeing beautiful games that 3D realism cannot match.
Second, some have criticized the game for a lack of story, to which I say, ‘meh, who needs it.’ This is a very boyish game–we might not have ever been this type of boy, but I think many of us connect with it. I remember days of waking up in the summer and running off immediately to some adventure. I didn’t need a plan or a narrative . . . I just did things. What a wonderful thing to experience again on my birthday as an older guy.
I hope a boy and his blob continue to bring me the pure fun and joy I’ve felt so far.
Nintendo released the 4.2 System Menu update a couple of days ago, which seemed focused on removing the Homebrew Channel, Twilight Hack, etc. The problem is that even those Wii owners who don’t have homebrew, updating to 4.2 probably isn’t a good idea because gamers are reporting that the update is bricking their system. Worse, some Wii owners are reporting that Nintendo support staff said that the owners would have to pay for repairing the bricked Wiis.
See team twiizer about their response to the 4.2 update. Even if you successfully updated it, you can re-install the Homebrew Channel. If you have the Homebrew Channel, update it before updating to 4.2.
Update:Nintendo says that they will fix bricked Wiis for free. However, some owners have said that they do not have modified channels or HBC but had their Wiis bricked by 4.2.
I’ve spent too much time of late on blogs and forums where gamers have talked about “deep” games, with too often the dark, moody games getting most of the acclaim and recognition. I’ve been enjoying Batman – Arkham Asylum, but I was a bit tired of it one night and went back to playing LostWinds, a simply marvelous game. And then I couldn’t resist a good deal on Muramasa.
It’s quite interesting to juxtapose these games, especially one that has the acclaimed depth of Arkham Asylum. The reason is that they all have game worlds that you can immediately identify and jump into. I find Lostwinds and Muramasa no less engrossing and immersive than Arkham Asylum. Yes, it helps that they have distinctive art styles, but LostWinds and Muramasa are 2D platformers. Partly, as familiar as I with the world of Batman, it’s not as new to me, especially as it’s based on a graphic novel and atmosphere from 20 years ago. What’s engrossing about Arkham Asylum is the ability to feel like the Batman, from the fights to the detecting to the gadgets.
You could say the difference is immersion through the character or the world. So far, Muramasa has two characters that you can play as, but in my initial choice of Kisuke, the ninja who has lost his memory. Besides being generic, gamers run through several stages in one level before getting anything resembling a story and character information, all told through exposition. In contrast, Arkham Asylum tells several stories in different ways–expository diaries, recreated memories as cut scenes, dialogues.
Yet, I find Muramasa no less compelling of a game world because of the rendering and the obvious folklore that it invokes. Unlike Arkham Asylum, I’m traveling through many different settings–woods, cities, fields. In Arkham Asylum, as with many Batman stories, I feel that I’m in an externalized world of the Batman’s psyche–it’s dark and brooding, with dangers around all corners. Arkham Asylum and even Gotham by extension are what you imagine a man obsessed with having witnessed the criminal murder of his parents. [It's a Batman story I've long wanted to write--how Batman sees a much different world than the rest of us.]
In Muramasa, even though dangers lurk around, it’s in a beautiful world. The world is not the scary extended worldview of the character but of a much different view, one of wonder and even delight. Supposedly the game is placed during the ‘golden’ Edo era in Japanese history, in contrast to many games set in the Sengoku era, a time of civil war. This contrast of beauty and fighting creates its own tension, in a much different way that the reflective environment of Batman. [I don't pretend to know Japanese history, outside of my paltry readings and work in oriental art class.]
In LostWinds, we have another fictional setting rooted in windy cultures of Tibet, Inca, and Maya. In LostWinds, gamers play two characters simultaneously–Toku with the nunchuk primary and Enril the wind spirit with the Wiimote. Like Murasama, the characterization is not deep, but as we know from good stories, characterization doesn’t have to be deep to be interesting or captivating. As in Ico, gamers play a bonding relationship in which Enril can do some pretty neat things. At times, Toku seems like he’s merely along for the ride, yet he’s essential to Enril.
Lostwinds‘ world is beautiful–many times, I enjoy drawing the wind through the trees to see the blossoms flutter. Between the art and the music, Toku and Enril wend their way through the world, allowing the player to interact with it to solve puzzles. While the puzzles might not be terribly innovative, they are nonetheless satisfying.
I think that, like Arkham Asylum, Toku’s world is something of a reflection of the character’s view. For the most part, it’s happy and bright, but it has its darker aspects, with the caves and mines. The over and under world is a staple of fairy tales and children’s stories. So, the structure is familiar while the presentation is fresh.
Yet, the 2D vs 3D and standard vs high def resolution has no real bearing on these games’ ability to pull players in. An interesting world is far more important than these aspects that we spend far too much bandwidth discussing.
A while back, I splurged and bought a license for Playon, a media server that allowed me to watch Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, etc. videos on my 360. We don’t watch a lot of tv, but Hulu has a couple of shows that we enjoy, so it’s nice to watch them on the big tv rather than a computer screen.
Now, if I can use for my 360, why would I bother with using it for the Wii?
With the 360, I access the playon server on my computer directly. With the Wii, I use the Internet browser to go to wii.playon.tv and then I apparently use the Playon server on my PC to access my accounts for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc.
I find that the Wii interface is vastly superior to my 360 interface. For one, the IR pointer is verrah nice for going through the listings. Second, the web interface has a couple of nice features, like a screencap of the video.
The new beta also allows me to access my Amazon video library, including all the new Battlestar Galactica episodes. Currently, I can do this with my 360, but I have to download the video to my computer first. With the new Playon, I can apparently stream them without downloading. The quality isn’t as good, and the video is not always smooth, but it works very well.
It seems that the streaming from Hulu is actually better than on the 360. Maybe this is my imagination, but sometimes, the 360 connection dropped, and I had to go back to my PC and restart the Playon server. Clips seem to load faster, too, for the Wii than for the 360. This might have more to do with the improvements in the beta overall rather than something specific for the Wii.
Is it worth the $40? If you only have a Wii, this could be a very nice, easy way to stream internet video to your TV. It costs more than that to get the Gold membership for Xbox Live to see Netflix on the 360. I think Hulu and Netflix could justify the cost. Having Amazon videos makes a very persuasive purchase.
I can see us using it because of usability issues in the 360 Dashboard which always throws my wife off. She’s now comfortable with the Netflix channel on the 360, but the Playon access is beyond her ken at this time. [actually, she's a tech savvy woman, but her threshold for clunky interfaces is far, far smaller than mine.]
I’m not playing homebrew games like I was, but this lot of NEO competition entries has me interested. Smealum’s DawnSeekers looks like an excellent 3D game. If you’re looking for new homebrew to try, go download these and vote.
Also, an interesting new Wii game released this week, Cursed Mountain. I’ve been eyeing this game for a while because it looked like it has atmosphere and a good narrative. It’s not action horror game, like Resident Evil 5, but the pace does pick up after the beginning. The setting and use of Tibetan and Buddhist lore has me the most interested, perhaps. I like the slightly offbeat, different games that might not be a huge hit but that isn’t following the pack. Sometimes, these types of good games are more memorable than the great games.
I started to include just game footage, but this amateur review is good for showing more of the whole game rather than just the beginning.
I’ve been intrigued by Muramasa – Demon Blade for a while, mainly for the art style. But this IGN hands-on preview provided something else interesting–the depth of simplicity. Sounds a little like zen-speak, but I think they’ve possibly applied an aesthetic to controls, something that we tend to think of in logical or usability terms.
. . . the combat is all delegated to the A button. Tapping does combos, pressing A and any direction does stronger attacks, holding A is your block, holding down and A preps for blade-breaking counter attack – critical on the harder difficulty – and holding A and left/right/up will do different air dashes to chain together mid-air combos. Pressing B will unleash a special attack based on which of the 108 blades you have equipped, and tapping up jumps.
Some games have become ridiculously complex in their use of the controls, as if that makes the game deep or interesting.
Add to this the mechanic that the swords wear and eventually break, and you have a combat system that has some interesting depth. I love that the A button is the focus, even when used in combination with gestures or other buttons. I appreciate this kind of thoughtful game design, working from the idea that sometimes less is more.
Pity the gamer who uses game reviews to decide whether or not to purchase a game. I took two recent Kotaku and Gaming Age reviews for The Conduit–I picked them only because they were two most recent ones I saw. Two contradictions between the reviews jumped out at me.
Unfortunately, I think contradictions like this lead some gamers to look at the metacritic or game ranking average for a game, with the idea that the average somehow balances out these inconsistencies.
I’m with Al Franken — When you encounter seemingly good advice that contradicts other seemingly good advice, ignore them both.
On the map designs:
Kotaku: While much of The Conduit’s single player campaign is a bit monotonous, the levels you have to fight your way through offer up a pretty broad spectrum of settings and maps. The game has you working your way through the White House, the Pentagon, down city streets and inside bunkers. It’s a nice reminder that not all shooters have to take place on a battlefield.
Gaming Age: Unfortunately, the level design doesn’t always make the best use of the setting. Sure, you’ll see some landmark areas, but a lot of places will come off as too generic, in part because the game tends to tunnel you around a lot. Certain sections early on are just corridors and small rooms, with little exploration involved and a set-up that’s almost like a rail gun shooter. One section on a series of train cars especially feels that way, as you’ll open a door, gun down the enemies in front of you, move forward, and repeat. It’s not a big sequence, but it lacks any real innovation for a shooter. There are a couple areas, especially towards the second half of the game, that open up a bit more, but for the most part I felt like the areas you run around in were a little confined.
On the enemy AI:
Kokatu: The enemy artificial intelligence, the heart of any single-player experience in a shooter, is tragically flawed. Enemy aliens and humans occasionally get stuck behind things, continue to fire despite having no clear line of fire, and respond to obvious triggers in the game, allowing you to systematically clear a room with careful footwork.
Gaming Age: I was pretty surprised to find that the enemy AI was handled really well, as I expected the game to be a bit basic considering High Voltage hasn’t had a great deal of FPS experience up to this point. However, the enemies will react well to what you’re doing, and they won’t be content to let you hide behind cover and pop out with shots when you want to. They’ll either try to flush you out with grenades, flank you, or simply rush up to your location and melee you to death, so you can’t get by with sitting still.
Does a game have to innovate to be good? Of course not. Half-Life 2 did not innovate. Age of Empires III did not innovate. Yet, they were great games because of their execution. The Conduit does not innovate the FPS genre, yet it does something else that might be just as challenging.
Many gamers look at The Conduit and see a game that doesn’t havethe FPS features that PS360 and PC gamers have come to expect. The setting and story is fairly generic–aliens are invading and have to be destroyed in a guy with a super suit.
Yet, High Voltage Software focused on the Wii market and its challenges to create a very fun FPS. I’d argue that HVS faced challenges that the PS360 FPS devs don’t have, and these challenges constrained what HVS could do and still succeed.
The Wii is a huge install base. Yet, it is very diverse, supposedly populated with a lot of non-traditional gamers or, at least, non-traditional hardcore gamers.
As a result, the Wii’s owners don’t necessarily follow gaming trends and check game sites and magazines with fervor that, say, 360 gamers do. Getting the attention of the diverse Wii crowd is a challenge.
The Wii has graphical and processing limits that prevent it from creating a FPS or other upmarket game comparable to the PS360.
The Wii’s network abilities present certain developing and usability challenges. Friend codes aside, game developers can’t rely on the Wii OS [which doesn't really exist] to provide online functionality.
Console FPS gamers have come to accept and even love their dual-analog controls, yet it’s a control scheme that requires time to learn, in addition to some of the more involved features that games have introduced–like a multiplayer that has RPG qualities and requires gamers to level up.
In short, today’s FPS is probably not well suited to the diverse Wii crowd. Yet, to focus on the non-traditional gamer means leaving the ‘core’ Wii gamers in the cold. So, how to create a FPS that wades in the blue ocean while offering something to those who’ve been on the beach for a long time.
To a great extent, I think The Conduit succeeds, even though it’s not a great game. I’ve seen many use the ‘for the Wii’ qualifier–it looks good . . . for a Wii game. It’s good . . . if you only have a Wii. In a way, these are valid judgements. No game exists in a vacuum, so the point of these criticisms is that the PS360 offers far, far better FPS.
Yet, that is also not the point. Those non-traditional Wii gamers aren’t going to buy a 360 or PS3 to play FPS.
Instead, The Conduit is serving a vital function for the Wii and even gaming in general. It’s an attempt to bridge the downmarket and upmarket gamers. So, a comparison to PS360 FPS games misses a larger context.
In a way, it’s like saying a 12-ounce claw hammer, but it’s nothing compared to this 22-ounce, ergonomic framing hammer with removable faces and a titanium handle. Right. That framing hammer has more features than a traditional wood-handled claw hammer, but most people don’t need them.
Yet, even professional carpenters can use a lighter claw hammer. But this hammer analogy fails to capture how a ‘hardcasual’ works to ‘train’ and introduce new gamers. As such, The Conduit cannot simply be judged as something for hardcore gamers. Unfortunately, that seems to be the only way gaming sites and magazines know to evaluate games like The Conduit.
Or to put it another way for gamers, does it make sense to judge a ranger’s melee abilities to a warrior? Not really. You have a way you want to play that help determine what class you choose.
So, how well does The Conduit serve as a ‘hardcasual’ game? I can’t say for sure, but I think all the pieces are there.
Why it works for casual and non-core gamers:
Sticks to fundamentals–The Conduit is a kind of throwback to the 90s FPS, where it’s fast and run-and-shoot. You’re not going to see more complex strategy gamplay that you can find in other FPS titles.
Uses a ‘blockbuster’ approach–HVS choose to create a game that’s more like a summer blockbuster movie than an arthouse film. The alien invasion and secret society conspiracy might be old hat, but it can be fun and has wide appeal.
Keep it clean appealing–HVS also choose a little brighter color palatte than PS360′s usual grey and brown games, although no one will mistake this for The Mushroom kingdom. Just as importantly, this is a bloodless game and has no gore to speak of, so it doesn’t threaten non-traditional gamer sensibilities.
Use intuitive controls–Without a doubt, dual analog sticks are a cumbersome way to control movement in a game. I never got the hang of aiming well with them, in fact. Yes, in The Conduit, you use two different controls for moving and aiming, but the IR on the Wiimote making aiming not only more intuitive but easier to be precise. There’s even a soft lock-on feature to help first-time FPS gamers.
Keep it simple–This applies at several levels. Saves are automatic and fairly frequent. Also, it’s a fairly linear game as there are no multiple routes to an objective.
Why it works for the core gamers:
Uses a familiar gameplay–While not exactly retro, the game is familiar to Quake and Unreal Tournament players. Time to brush off your bunny hopping skills.
Customize the livelong day–While casual gamers might use this, the Conduit’s customization for controls and the HUD is something core gamers will appreciate.
Play 13 multiplayer modes online–The game has a good mix of free-for-all and team modes. Nothing here is groundbreaking, although the Bounty Hunter mode is a good variation. While there’s not a leaderboard, you can track your lifetime stats. Also, you gain levels from experience you get from kills, and in public matches, you are matched with gamers with similar experience levels. As for lag, I’ve played more 3 hours online and have yet to see a laggy game [although I also have a 32 ms ping from my Wii]. I’m not having to shoot ahead of players, and I’ve seen no sign of host advantage so far.
Provide difficult single player–If gamers really good, then they play at the highest difficult level of Severe for more challenge. Gamers who complain of finishing it in 3 or 5 hours are rushing through the game and playing below their skill level.
Are core gamers getting a game just for them? Nope. In a way, they’re taking something of a hit. Yet, this is a bridging type of game for the Wii, and it’s getting a lot of advertising and marketing, which a successful ‘hardcasual’ game.
Even though it’s mostly a corridor game [at least through 4 of the 9 missions], I still find it well done for that type of game. And I want to keep playing it.
As for the graphics, I think they are excellent. No Wii game will have HD graphics. Some of the environment textures are flat, and it’s obvious that HVS focused on the character models and textures than the environment. Yet, it’s hardly an eyesore. Instead, I see a lot of lighting effects and good animations. As I’m playing, I’m not thinking of Halo 3 or other HD FPS games.
With The Conduit, I’m playing a very fun but familiar game. I like the online matches. I like the fast pace. I’m enjoying the community. As with almost anything that tries to appeal to a range of skills, The Conduit can’t be the perfect casual game or the perfect hardcore game. But as a hardcasual game, I think HVS nails it with The Conduit.
Thanks to a busy summer schedule, I’ve not been playing a lot or posting. Who said, ‘summertime, the living is easy’? Still, the summer is good for gaming, and in my opinion, the Wii has one of the better summers among the consoles, with games like The Conduit and Overlord – Dark Legend.
Unfortunately, I see a couple a couple of Zack & Wiki titles, games that are very good games but sell poorly for whatever reason.
The more promising title is Dawn of Discovery, which is the retitled, North America release of Anno–Create a World. which IGN rated an 87. This is a strategy game, something that we’ve seen too little of for the Wii which would seem to have the best controls for a strategy game. If you’ve not played the PC or DS versions, now’s your chance to play a very solid, fun strategy game. It’s a city building game with resource management, but it also has an exploration, combat element. It’s a quick style of strategy, not one where you can crunch the numbers and come up the most efficient path [which is not my idea of fun].
Next is Cursed Mountain, a horror adventure game set in the Himalayas. Adventure games seem well suited for the Wii, but a horror game depends so much on the delivery and cinematics that it’s hard to know from a clip what to expect. And I’m uncertain about the combat. Still, it has potential, and it’s not a horror adventure with zombies, which seems to be all we get on the Wii.
Plus, my H.P. Lovecraft interest is piqued by the frigid mountain setting, although I doubt we’ll see giant blind penguins in this game.
If these are indeed good or excellent games, I hope gamers notice them and don’t let them fall to the wayside. And if you still haven’t picked up Zack & Wiki, you should.
I watched Microsoft’s E3 session yesterday [thanks to G4tv], and I have to say that it was an impressive presentation. It had spectacle, big names, and games. But without a doubt, the most talked about part was Project Natal, Microsoft’s technology for motion control and then some. Using 2 cameras as well as voice, Project Natal was shown with great promise–ease of use, highly interactive, facial and voice recognition, an ability to scan in devices like a skateboard, and more. Indeed, as several people on stage said, it’s the stuff of science fiction.
First, I think it’s intriguing in that it shows a great commitment to the current 360 console, which is entering its 4th year, and we likely won’t see Project Natal until 2010.
Second, I’m dubious, not just because Peter Molyneux’s has a history of unfulfilled hyperbole but because of several questions.
Microsoft may have scores of bank vaults to throw behind its projects, but it has a record of overcharging for its accessories. I have a hard time believe that this Natal accessory would sell for less than $150. This in itself is a barrier for it reaching anywhere near the audience that the Wii has. Needless to say, there’s no way you can use this with the disk-less, arcade version of the 360, so we’re looking at $400, if not more. In addition, accessories rarely get the kind of game support that built-in features get, which is a reason that the Wii controls released as part of a new console rather than a Gamecube accessory.
The idea that the body is a controller has a sleek, minimalist appeal, but in actuality what does it mean? The Wii nunchuk and remote already saw a reduction in the buttons compare to the 360 or PS3 controller–9+dpad vs 13+dpad. And people have complained about that reduction. Now, imagine having no buttons. While that might work for some games, how would you play a FPS or strategy game with no buttons? For simple games, yes, the body is a seemingly intuitive controller, yet limited. Now, imagine a game that uses both–what’s the gained advantage of the body as a controller if you have to use a gamepad? Plus, I can imagine the broken tvs with that 360 controller with its rounded design.
In the latest Tiger Woods game for the Wii, a twist of your Wii remote as you swing has an effect on the contact with the ball, almost like in real golf. This is the beauty of the Wii remote with Motion Plus–it can detect fine changes like this. Can 2 cameras detect such a twist of the wrist? Reliably? Consider me doubtful. I think there are limits to what those cameras can detect. As we saw in the Red Steel 2 demo yesterday, use of Motion Plus allows the game to detect speed, as well as direction. Again, can two cameras capture this information?
I think that ‘air’ controls are too imaginary for us to get into gaming. As someone who enjoyed The Force Unleashed, I can saw that the Wii remote was a physical thing that actually contributed to my immersion–it had a ‘feel’ of a light saber handle. The weight of the remote also helped in not the illusion. Having nothing but my swinging hand seems to return too much to my childhood, where, even then, we had physical sword substitutes.
Molyneux’s Milo demonstration was fun, but realistically, I’m not sure how it will work with games. HD games already have budgets 2-3 times that of a Wii game, if not more. They’re going to add to the game’s budget and lengthen the game development with some sophisticated voice and facial recognition? For an expensive accessory that not everyone has? Consider this: Even with the Wii Fit and balance boards achieving incredible sales as an accessory, I count the games that support it on one hand. Even if Natal achieves Wii Fit sales, is there a reason to expect more games? Consider me dubious.
Another gameplay question is how would these cameras handle multiplayers? Can 2, 3 or 4 gamers play at the same time and still have the motion detection work accurately? I know the demo showed 2 people, but how is that implemented to work reliably?
I’m not trying to be Wii fanboy here. I was caught up in the demo as it happened [although seeing Molyneux raised the proverbial red flag]. But Microsoft talked some smack with the idea of Natal being a Wii killer. I just don’t see that happening.
Personally, I find Microsoft a very confused, yet highly successful company. At times, their various products’ designs seem to be a grab bag of competiting features. I also think that Microsoft have missed the point of the Wii’s success, focusing on motion controls. Nintendo has packaged their appeal in a variety of ways–the motion controls, Nintendo’s cast of characters, the price, the design of the hardware and the menu.
Yet, the other part of Microsoft’s session was real and very impressive. As I’ve said before, I think services is a key to game consoles. And Microsoft is very much ahead of Nintendo and Sony in that respect. [Again, I these services further indicates that the 360 will be around beyond five years.]
My throw-away comment–Nintendo better not have charts for their session. The Microsoft session was well rehearsed and very focused on games and the user, not on the company and sales.
High Voltage Software, the creators of the soon-to-be-released The Conduit, have announced two new games for the Wii. One of them is Gladiator A.D., which is a fight game with unique characters and fighting styles, a split-screen local multiplayer, and other very nice features, not to mention a bit of the gore.
Here’s a video of the game which IGN hasn’t published yet. Although it’s clearly still early in development, you can get a feel for some of the game. Notice all those individual Romans moving and reacting in different ways? This isn’t normally my kind of game, but it’s worth watching as it develops.