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"Those games up there are what they are depending on to save the industry."
June 15, 2010 7:47 AM   Subscribe

The Day the Gaming Industry Died: David Wong, editor of Cracked, attends E3 2010 and finds it wanting: "For whatever reason gamers won't keep playing games unless given a completely new format every half decade."
posted by Rory Marinich (167 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
"For whatever reason gamers won't keep playing games unless given a completely new format every half decade."

Said the editor of the website formed five years ago under the name of the failed print magazine.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:48 AM on June 15, 2010 [19 favorites]


Top 10 lists are the future!
posted by Artw at 7:50 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


E3 just start. Granted Microsoft's Conference sucked, but today is technically the first day of E3 and it is not yet 9AM in L.A. At least wait until Nintendo and Sony have their say to declare Gaming dead.
posted by 2bucksplus at 7:52 AM on June 15, 2010


I'm not sure why it's remarkable that, five years into the current generation, console sales are down. If you want a Wii, 360, or PS3, you probably have it already. Is this more bullshit like the RIAA complaining that profits aren't rising at the rate they feel they're entitled to?
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:52 AM on June 15, 2010 [29 favorites]


David Wong previously on video games: 5 Creepy Ways Video Games are Trying to Get You Addicted.

I'm not a big Cracked fan but I make an exception for David Wong.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:53 AM on June 15, 2010 [19 favorites]


E3 kind of killed itself, (they were too popular, so they tried to downsize). Perhaps it's not the best representative of the gaming industry on the whole.

Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX, has grown by leaps and bounds, and to some degree has taken the spotlight from E3. The E3 flop was well-timed with the growth of PAX. They weren't formed with the same goals, but cover the same ground to a degree.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:55 AM on June 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I love Rock Band, but I really don't want to have to buy all new kit (again!) for RB3.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:55 AM on June 15, 2010


As far as I know, your old controllers should work for RB3. You'll need to get the keyboard if you want to play keyboards, and you'll need Pro controllers if you want to play pro mode, but if you just want to play guitar/bass/drums or sing, you should be fine with what you have.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:57 AM on June 15, 2010


you guys must not have waited for the animated gif of the microsoft "tiger petting" simulator to load.

virtual reality is finally here!
posted by Hammond Rye at 7:58 AM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I haven't read the article, but I have a strange urge to let metafilter know that the trailer for MGS Rising has me so excited I may poo myself.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:58 AM on June 15, 2010


The tl;dr version: the Wii was successful, Microsoft have a new product, this guy doesn't like the Wii or Microsoft, therefore gaming is doomed.
posted by Artw at 7:59 AM on June 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


I remember when PacMan switched from EBCDIC to ASCII but that's going to be nothing compared to the Unicode version. THIS SUMMER SO EXCITED!!!11
posted by DU at 7:59 AM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also: you kids get off my lawn etc. Mediums change over time and the books/movies/games of your youth were different from the ones today.
posted by kavasa at 8:00 AM on June 15, 2010


E3 kind of killed itself, (they were too popular, so they tried to downsize). Perhaps it's not the best representative of the gaming industry on the whole.

Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX, has grown by leaps and bounds, and to some degree has taken the spotlight from E3. The E3 flop was well-timed with the growth of PAX. They weren't formed with the same goals, but cover the same ground to a degree.


E3 did try to downsize a few years ago but they've been ramping up again, as far as I know.

Yeah, I love Rock Band, but I really don't want to have to buy all new kit (again!) for RB3.

I'm sure all the old instruments will still work (just like RB1 instruments worked for RB2), you'll only have to buy the new stuff if you want the new functionality.
posted by kmz at 8:00 AM on June 15, 2010


Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX, has grown by leaps and bounds, and to some degree has taken the spotlight from E3. The E3 flop was well-timed with the growth of PAX. They weren't formed with the same goals, but cover the same ground to a degree.

I have a feeling that the difference between the two are going to become more clear and established over the next few years. PAX is truly a convention, complete with concerts, signings, artist's corners, gaming sessions, etc. E3 has returned as what is probably more appropriate, anyway-- an industry trade show. I think the ultimate distinction is that E3 is going to be where the industry largely announces and discusses its product while PAX becomes the opportunity for the fans to engage with them.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:02 AM on June 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think he may have some good points here and there, esp. regarding the Kinect, but I'm not really buying the 'industry is doomed' angle. He talks a lot about sales going off a cliff, but where's the empirical evidence for this?
posted by pziemba at 8:05 AM on June 15, 2010


I think it's probably worth pointing out, given what a couple of people have already said in this thread, that the article isn't about the death of gaming, but of the gaming industry.

Which are, of crouse, as different as 'music' and 'record labels'. I hope that the rise of independent game studios will, in time, prove to be as awesome and productive as its musical counterpart.

(Also... I'm kinda embarrassed for Microsoft. Kinect Sports? Seriously?)
posted by Rumpled at 8:06 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Man, I almost hope he's right, just because it sounds like he's going to cry about it, and I really want to see him do it.
posted by Caduceus at 8:09 AM on June 15, 2010


Every time I hear fearmongering like this, I just remind myself that about six months ago, the entire gaming blogosphere (rightfully) shat themselves stupid about the awesomeness of VVVVVV, which is hella old-school.

Yes, it didn't sell nearly as many units as Rock Band -- or ever will -- but there's always hope.

(Also, the Wong's addiction article is fucking terrifying and you'd do yourself a favor to read it.)
posted by griphus at 8:11 AM on June 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


Also, I'm sure the hardcore gamers are going to laugh at me, but that Dance Central thing for Kinect looked pretty cool to me. Nothing else Kinect had really resonated much with me, but that looked like fun. And the ESPN thing looks like it'll be awesome, especially if they're carrying a lot of Texas games.

I'm pretty new to the modern gaming business, but there's already a ton of stuff I'm looking forward to. Mass Effect 3, the Criterion Need for Speed, Rock Band 3, Crackdown 2, etc. And that's not counting the huge back catalog of old games I haven't gotten to.
posted by kmz at 8:11 AM on June 15, 2010


Sigh, "the Wong's" indeed.
posted by griphus at 8:13 AM on June 15, 2010


For whatever reason gamers won't keep playing games unless given a completely new format every half decade

Hell, I still play adventure games.
posted by dortmunder at 8:13 AM on June 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Kinect looks pretty poor and I predict it will flop (especially at that price), but from where I'm sitting the games industry appears to be churning out a LOT of superb games right now, so many that I struggle to justify buying them all as I don't have enough time in the day to play them. I know several other players in the same situation. So I think they're doing commendably well from that point of view.
posted by thoughtless at 8:16 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


All I can say is, after the Civ V consciousness upload this fall, RB3, even with keyboards, is going to have to be damn good to want to touch meatspace again.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:16 AM on June 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


Also, I'm sure the hardcore gamers are going to laugh at me, but that Dance Central thing for Kinect looked pretty cool to me. Nothing else Kinect had really resonated much with me, but that looked like fun. And the ESPN thing looks like it'll be awesome, especially if they're carrying a lot of Texas games.

I have no doubt that Kinect will be fun, just as the Wii is fun for the stuff it does well. I just find the Segway-like declarations that it will revolutionize the gaming industry to be nonsensical. It's like 3D movies right now. Jesus, people, you do not need to suddenly make every single new release conform to this format.

My prediction is the Kinect will drop from the shelves well before the 360 does. Not Virtual Boy level failures or anything, but 360 is going to thrive from awesome games coming out over the remainder of its life cycle, not motion capture products.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:17 AM on June 15, 2010


The Virtual Boy was exactly what I was just comparing the Kinect to to a friend.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:20 AM on June 15, 2010


There are a ton of great games coming out, and developers are making huge sums, but not these developers. The indie and casual gaming markets are growing by leaps and bounds, and you know what? I had more fun with the $20 Plants v. Zombies than I did with anything on the 360, ever.

They've gone to these immense budget productions, and they're so risky that they're not willing to do anything but go back over and over and over the same ground. Couple that with Bobby Kotick, the CEO of Activision, who has said that he's not interested in making games unless he can ship a sequel each and every year to extract more money from the public. He also said that one of his main goals to make the process of making games no fun anymore.

And, temporarily, that's working. But I think we're headed for another crash. A lot of big game makers are, I think, going to go poof. But small game makers? Those guys are doing just fine, and I have every expectation of a constant stream of fantastic ideas from them.

I don't need a big-budget production to be happy, and in fact it's not looking like I'll be buying much of anything from the big makers this year, with the various horribly restrictive DRM schemes (everything from UBISoft) and deliberate crippling of products (no LAN play in Starcraft II). But I have no doubt whatsoever that there will be plenty of neat games available.
posted by Malor at 8:20 AM on June 15, 2010 [12 favorites]


This article is a load of pish. There's so many sweeping generalisations, assumptions and outright fabrications I don't know where to start.

Oh wait. Cracked.com?

Right, carry on.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:21 AM on June 15, 2010


Activision just announced that it's sold 20 million copies of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

And while I don't care about motion controls and will not buy Kinect or Move, I know several young kids who would find the tiger game adorable.

I don't think either MS or Sony is really interested in selling motion controls to "hardcore" gamers. They're planning on casuals who purchased the Wii finally making the move to HD and they're trying to make their respective consoles as appealing as possible to that audience, not the hardcore.
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:21 AM on June 15, 2010


The console industry tends to lapse into these periods of malaise, we are entering one now. The last console game that was original was Portal. They continue to publish the same game over and over, (the world does not need three iterations of Gears of War, one was enough.) I believe it's a case of economics getting so out of whack with what can be reasonably recouped that there's no incentive to try anything fresh as the risks are too high.

I'm anxious for the latest COD game, the exact same game mildly reskinned with Nazi themes, or 'Nam that they release once a year and people still buy it.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:21 AM on June 15, 2010


Has anyone mentioned Project $10 yet? The new(ish) idea from EA to bundle new copies of games with a code, redeemable online, to download extra features, or enable multiplayer, but have that code cost $10 to anyone who bought the game second-hand? And thus earn money from resales? Then I'll mention it. There's loads of new ideas around gaming right now, and for every Activision -- and to be honest, every Blizzard, who seem to be putting the minimum possible effort into WoW despite huge revenues -- there's a balancing wonderfulness.

The last console game that was original was Portal.

*cough* Flower *cough*
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:27 AM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


When a genre is relatively new making an alternate version of it is seen as really derivative. But really 2d fighting games (other than smashbrothers), vertical scrolling shoot-em ups, and many over genres and subgenres are just as similar to eachother as microsoft's motion controlled games and wii's motion controlled games.

And yes videogame sales are down. But guess what other sales are down? Everything. We are still in a serious recession. The macroeconomic conditions can't explain all of the decline but they are a significant factor. Add to that the fact that this is the first time when there have been three consoles without a clear winner or loser.

Personally I like the idea of the wii a lot. I like the notion of the videogame system as an activity sort of like a pool table only more affordable and convienent. The excecution I'm not so crazy about. It's a little too chaotic and arbitrary for my tastes. And other than the two wii sports titles and a handful of others (boom blox, tiger woods) few of the games really do anything other than map a button to a shake. If microsoft can provide the same kind of idea with superior execution I'm all for it. The fact that xbox currently has probably the best library of games is an added bonus.
posted by I Foody at 8:27 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


the third game in the Gears of War series, the fifth game in the Halo franchise, the seventh game in the Call of Duty series and the 800th game in the Metal Gear series.

Movies have been doing this for ages, too. The 3rd Aladdin movie, hell, any savaging of Disney's beloved classics. We get X-men movies every 3 years, but no one complains that movies are a dying medium.

The gimmicks and the classics don't necessarily crowd each other out. Nintendo's been quietly making billions by producing high-quality games via its portable systems, has done admirably by not actually requiring the pointer/motion control of the Wii be used in any of the games. Even marquee games like Super Smash Bros. Brawl did not use the "new Wii functions."

Anyway, sequels are inevitable in games. They're games. People want the same gameplay with a couple of twists. The game designers and manufacturers are just a bit more up-front with the notion, rather than constantly remaking the same stories with different window dressing, like Hollywood's remake of Shakespearean classics.

Besides, when you make a different game like Rez, you get critical praise but sell few copies, while being called "weird".
posted by explosion at 8:28 AM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


you'll only have to buy the new stuff if you want the new functionality.

Yeah, that's part of what I'm reacting to. So if I just get the game, I'm getting it incomplete as I won't be able to use an entire game mode or instrument. Basically, the disc becomes some giant track pack. While 60 bucks for 83 songs is a good deal, you don't get to choose your songs like you do with DLC.

This is largely moot, though, as I'm a consumer whore and will probably get all the new toys anyways. Or at very least the new keyboard and maybe the drums. I've already had the conversation with my friends where they assumed I'd get the fancy new guitars, even though I never play guitar during our play sessions.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:33 AM on June 15, 2010


I dunno. Maybe you folks can school me on how great the first two Fallouts were. I never heard of them.

Fallout 3 rocks my socks.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:34 AM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Maybe, just maybe, the industry will need to publish games that strive to be art. That's usually what happens when gimmicks in a format burn themselves out.
posted by klangklangston at 8:35 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


"For whatever reason gamers won't keep playing games unless given a completely new format every half decade."

The reason is, because that's what studios insist on giving them. And if you (studios) think I'm wrong, then I challenge you to take half the budget you put into one of these new-fangled shooters (Halo, Call of Duty, etc.) and produce the best damned Pac-Man style game that anybody has seen in 20 years. Release it with a $29.99 price tag and watch what happens.
posted by cribcage at 8:35 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Besides, when you make a different game like Rez, you get critical praise but sell few copies, while being called "weird".

The idea that Rez was "innovative" has always, always bugged me because it assumes that innovation comes as a result of rehashing old tropes and combining them. It's a rail shooter that has rhythm-based gameplay instead of twitch-based, and abstract graphics. There was nothing new in it at all -- it was completely recombinant. Sure, it was a good game and well-made, but innovative? Eh.
posted by griphus at 8:38 AM on June 15, 2010


I dunno. Maybe you folks can school me on how great the first two Fallouts were. I never heard of them.

If you dig the retro-post-Apocalyptic aesthetic (figure the world ended during the Leave It To Beaver 1950s) and black humor, the Fallouts are really, really fucking good. Just amazingly good. The writing is pitch-perfect and a complete antidote to the heavy-handed crap we're used to from JRPGs. The combat system is truly tactical without being a war sim and you can win against the toughest opponents while being underpowered if you've got a head for positioning in firefights.
posted by griphus at 8:41 AM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Eh. I am not much of a gamer. I watch people who game and I watch their relationship with games and the industry as a whole. I know a serious gamer who has taken off an entire week of work so he can watch all of the E3 pre-festivities, see E3, follow up the demos on websites, etc. For a long, long time, it seemed to me that the industry concentrated on measures of verisimilitude (movs, I just made it up), like frame rate, polygons rendered, texture maps, destructibility, and so forth. Gamers would quote these things to me the same way that sports car enthusiasts talk about how long it takes to go from a dead stop to sixty miles per hour.

That gamers have been trained to view these things as capital I Important was useful for the gaming industry — hardware advances meant marketers could pressure the developers to continue to increase movs and everyone counted on it. "Replayability" is such a fuzzy term, but any amateur can get a feel for frames per second. We value what we can measure.

MOAR, though, means game development must demand new platforms occasionally. Faster CPUs, faster GPUs, more cores, larger hard drive space for more voice samples and textures and maps. That can last only so long, either until we max out physical limits or we surpass the equivalents of resolution and framerate of the human eye. Only that "casual gamer" (and what a strange division that is) market seems to focus on anything else.

Rock Band 3, though, is qualitatively different than its previous incarnations. If what was explained to me is correct, the Pro mode enables you to more closely learn playing an actual guitar. The game also includes a keyboard, with what looked to be about an octave and a half. It's hardly a "real" keyboard but, if you're going to teach people to play along, you might as well try approaching the real thing, and that means new hardware.
posted by adipocere at 8:43 AM on June 15, 2010


Maybe, just maybe, the industry will need to publish games that strive to be art.

Seems to work for the GTA developers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:44 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The last console game that was original was Portal.

AGGGGGHH. Look, you can play Portal on a console, but it is fundamentally and intrinsically a PC game. It's by Valve for god's sake.
posted by Justinian at 8:45 AM on June 15, 2010 [21 favorites]


I dunno. Maybe you folks can school me on how great the first two Fallouts were. I never heard of them.

I'm going to go over there and drink myself into a stupor. Later.
posted by Justinian at 8:46 AM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Shoot, I could have written this after going to the GDC. Maybe that's why they hand out beer at the career pavilion.
posted by hellojed at 8:47 AM on June 15, 2010


Gaming cannot be dead so long as the ads for Valve's games are more entertaining than most entire games used to be. Also, Valve has a surprise which is too awesome to show at E3.
posted by straight at 8:47 AM on June 15, 2010


the Fallouts are really, really fucking good. Just amazingly good.

Good enough to be worth checking out post-F3?

posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:48 AM on June 15, 2010


So huge corporations are like lining up in soup kitchens because people want new stuff all the time. What exactly would they do if people didn't want new cool fun things every few years? They're game makers! If people didn't constantly want newer, cooler, totally awesomer stuff all the time, they would be actually really out of business! What would be good for them? If we all just bought Civ 1 and decided it was all we ever wanted forever?

I mean...unless I'm missing something totally obvious here.
posted by clockzero at 8:51 AM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


If we all just bought Civ 1 and decided it was all we ever wanted forever?

Coming This Holiday Season: CHESS EXTREME 2010 HOME MAKEOVER EDITION!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:52 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


If we all just bought Civ 1 and decided it was all we ever wanted forever?

To be honest, I'm thiiiiiiiis close to saying that Civ 3 is all I want forever. Not quite, but close.
posted by COBRA! at 8:54 AM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Good enough to be worth checking out post-F3?

Yes, if you like RPGs. F3 by comparison is a shooter with RPG bits pasted on.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 8:54 AM on June 15, 2010


from the 5 Creepy ways link:

What's this armor from?

http://cdn-www.cracked.com/phpimages/article/9/8/7/19987.jpg?v=1

After all, people pay thousands of dollars for diamonds, even though diamonds do nothing but look pretty. A video game suit of armor looks pretty and protects you from video game orcs. In both cases you're paying for an idea.

truer words...
posted by ServSci at 8:54 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


That article is a terrible piece of shit.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:55 AM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


The game also includes a keyboard, with what looked to be about an octave and a half.

I think it's a 25-key keyboard, so that's 2 octaves.

It's hardly a "real" keyboard but, if you're going to teach people to play along, you might as well try approaching the real thing, and that means new hardware.

Further, if you have your own midi keyboard you can buy a little midi-to-usb dongle (that also has all of the console controls on it) and connect it to your console. Voila! No need to buy a new instrument. I'm pretty sure all the old instruments will work just fine as well.

Did I mention I'm really looking forward to RB3?
posted by malthas at 8:55 AM on June 15, 2010


Yes, if you like RPGs. F3 by comparison is a shooter with RPG bits pasted on.

It's a weird kind of bias where being isometric and using turn-based combat makes something more authentically an RPG than being first-person and using real-time combat.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:57 AM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Good enough to be worth checking out post-F3?

While there's no way to rightfully compare across them as they are just wholly different animals, I'm just going to say "yes." Fallout 1 and 2 are isometric, drawn RPGs and the combat is turn-based -- there are "action points" that you spend on actions like moving, using your inventory, shooting, etc. -- rather than the real-time combat of F3 (I've never played F3 but it seems that the battle is real-time.) Here's some gameplay.

Like I said, the best thing about it is the plotting and writing. It's just aces. If you can appreciate that over the occasional slow parts of the game (although there's no straight-up grinding except for the very first scenario) and the 1990s graphics, you're in for a treat.
posted by griphus at 8:57 AM on June 15, 2010


The idea that Rez was "innovative" has always, always bugged me

I've played a lot of shooters, including rail shooters, and I've played rhythm games. Rez does not feel like any of them. It's not necessarily better than Sin and Punishment or Panzer Dragoon, but it definitely feels different. The music and abstract graphics are definitely an important part of it.

There was nothing new in it at all -- it was completely recombinant.

Almost any innovation can be described as merely recombinant at some level.
posted by straight at 8:57 AM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, the Rock Band 3 keyboard is, in fact, a MIDI device. You can plug it into your computer if you want.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:57 AM on June 15, 2010


I would happily trade the video game industry for the ability to put together a decent roleplaying group.
posted by Caduceus at 8:57 AM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


To be honest, I'm thiiiiiiiis close to saying that Civ 3 is all I want forever. Not quite, but close.

Civ 3 was excellent, but Civ 4 + Beyond the Sword is the best Civ iteration. If nothing else, the absolutely stellar mods have made it so. Have you played Fall From Heaven 2?
posted by Justinian at 8:58 AM on June 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


It's a weird kind of bias where being isometric and using turn-based combat makes something more authentically an RPG than being first-person and using real-time combat.

That's not bias at all. Combat in a role-playing game should depend most heavily on your character's stats vs the enemy's stats. A first-person game using real-time combat depends most heavily on the player's skill at action games. That's diametrically opposed to the basis of role-playing games.

The VAATS system or whatever it was called was marginally more role-playey.
posted by Justinian at 9:01 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


If anyone wants to watch the Nintendo presentation, it's on now. Reggie!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:03 AM on June 15, 2010


Reggie has been going to Steve Jobs school, too.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:04 AM on June 15, 2010


ServSci, that's from Fable.
posted by straight at 9:04 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's not bias at all. Combat in a role-playing game should depend most heavily on your character's stats vs the enemy's stats. A first-person game using real-time combat depends most heavily on the player's skill at action games. That's diametrically opposed to the basis of role-playing games.

My take on it is that there has to be a good combination of both stats and positioning, although not necessarily more heavily on stats. Honestly, I feel that the basis of combat in role playing games is tactics, not stats. This is why I can't play old-school JRPGs -- everyone is just standing there in front of one another and my suspension of disbelief is completely ruined by the fact that I feel like I'm playing inside an Excel sheet.

However, I agree that pure twitch gameplay shouldn't be found in what is supposed to be an RPG. Knights of the Old Republic did this very well. You could position your characters in real-time, but the game would freeze between turns letting you take your next action.
posted by griphus at 9:06 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Durn Bronzefist: I dunno. Maybe you folks can school me on how great the first two Fallouts were. I never heard of them.

Fallout 3 rocks my socks.

griphus: If you dig the retro-post-Apocalyptic aesthetic (figure the world ended during the Leave It To Beaver 1950s) and black humor, the Fallouts are really, really fucking good. Just amazingly good. The writing is pitch-perfect and a complete antidote to the heavy-handed crap we're used to from JRPGs. The combat system is truly tactical without being a war sim and you can win against the toughest opponents while being underpowered if you've got a head for positioning in firefights.

Seconded. Also, for what it's worth: when I finished the original Fallout for the first time (I was maybe 13), it was the very first time I can ever recall being devastated by a narrative. The whole game had superb writing (caustic, hilarious, and tar-black -- show me another game in which you can sell your wife into friggen slavery), but that ending... I mean damn.

The graphics and whatnot feel dated today (they were released in '96 and '98, if I recall correctly), but the writing and gameplay is just top-notch. They weren't totally perfect games -- the whole beginning of F2 was kinda dull, I remember, and my version F1 had some bugs you just had to learn to avoid -- but they were honestly pretty damn close. I replayed them all so many times, and just kept finding amazing stuff I never knew was there.

(Example: one time, maybe my 5th playthrough of Fallout 1, I decided to see what would happen if I set my Intelligence and Charisma to 1, making a well-meaning but incomparably stupid hero who I decided to call Ugbert. I left the vault (all normal), and when I arrived at the first town, like always, I was cautiously greeted at the gate:

Seth: [paraphrase] Howdy, traveller. My name's Seth, and this here is Shady Sands. It's not much, but we call it home. Treat it right, and maybe we won't run you outta town. What's your name?
Ugbert: [The only dialogue option:] Wugga?

They planned for the precise contingency of a total dimwit!
I cannot even begin to tell you how awesome and fun it was to play as Ugbert. People would try to give me missions, but give up as soon as it became apparent that I could barely understand them. The game, with difficulty, was winnable (there was always some ingeniously-designed way that a barely-cognizant simpleton could Get The Waterchip, or Save the Girl) -- and it was so worth it just for the yuks. Last example; confronting the MAIN MUTANT BAD GUY AT THE END OF THE GAME:

The Master: ... So you see your efforts are futile. All humanity shall be turned. It is the next phase of evolution, and I shall lead us there.
Ugbert: ... GRUG! [Attack]
posted by Rumpled at 9:07 AM on June 15, 2010 [33 favorites]


The Kinect peripheral costs what an entire Wii system does. I think the target market must be (A) loyal Microsoft fanboys who refuse to buy any other console, and (B) people who buy everything.
posted by Foosnark at 9:08 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gaming cannot be dead so long as the ads for Valve's games are more entertaining than most entire games used to be. Also, Valve has a surprise which is too awesome to show at E3.

Wait wait wait. Team Fortress 2 has a single player mode now?

My relatively modest prayers have been answered. (The prayers for an internet connection that lets me play online games, alas, have as of yet come to naught.)
posted by Caduceus at 9:10 AM on June 15, 2010


I think the target market must be (A) loyal Microsoft fanboys who refuse to buy any other console, and (B) people who buy everything.

No one ever went broke overestimating what people with too much money will buy. Except the Sharper Image. And three-quarters of the dot-com boom. Okay, maybe this isn't the best plan for Microsoft.
posted by griphus at 9:11 AM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


My god, this author missed the point. This guy couldn't hit water if he fell out of a fucking boat.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:15 AM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Never mind, Fallout fans, F3 is kind of there in spirit, you should see what they are doing with X-COM and Deus Ex.

/weeps

Actually the new X-COM looks kind of neat, it just sure as hell isn't X-COM.
posted by Artw at 9:16 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


A first-person game using real-time combat depends most heavily on the player's skill at action games.

If you don't have points in your combat skills, you're going to get your ass kicked regardless; your accuracy will be shit and you'll do very little damage.

I liked the way Vampire: the Masquerade - Bloodlines handled it, which was similar to how Deus Ex did it- you had a targeting reticule that would grow when you moved and shrink when you stood still, and your shots would go in some random place within the area bounded by the reticule. (And of course, with an accurate gun and high skill, you could get very accurate, because the reticule would become very, very small.) You could still use guns without the skills, but you're going to spray bullets everywhere and hit nothing unless you shoot from point-blank range- rather like real life.


They planned for the precise contingency of a total dimwit! I cannot even begin to tell you how awesome and fun it was to play as Ugbert.

TROGG CAN PUNCH HARDER!
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:17 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rumpled: I seem to remember, possibly on Something Awful, someone doing a write-up of a FO2 playthrough with a complete imbecile. Their experience was similar to yours, except at one point where you meet a similarly-cretinous NPC and can have a brilliant conversation along the lines of:
A: Ug. (Hi, how are you?)
B: Bluh! (I'm great thanks, what's up?)
A: Urgle grug ungg *blows raspberry* (I'm on a desperate mission to save my tribe from...

and so on.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:18 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Have you played Fall From Heaven 2?
posted by Justinian


No, I bailed on Civ 4 when switching from Windows to Mac a few years ago, and was happy just to settle back to 3. But it looks like I'm missing out on some pretty interesting Mods. Huh.
posted by COBRA! at 9:18 AM on June 15, 2010


Ha, beaten by Pope Guilty. Well played sir.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:18 AM on June 15, 2010


What would be good for them? If we all just bought Civ 1 and decided it was all we ever wanted forever?

I would be a happy happy happy camper if Civ V came out of the box (or out of the download) with an ability to play Civ 1 or Civ 2 rules.

(I liked Civ3 much better than Civ4, and part of me enjoys Civ2 more than Civ3)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:19 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, when you meet Tor in Klamath, if you are also stupid, you can have a complex, polite, and well-mannered conversation.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:19 AM on June 15, 2010


Excellent. Thanks for the Fallout feedback, all. I do indeed dig older games, I like rpg’s, and I’m crazy about the Fallout aesthetic and writing (at least as it is in F3). Looking forward to checking those out. (and love your Ugbert story, Rumpled. In an odd way, it reminds me of playing Vampire: Bloodlines as a Malkavian)

On the subject of older games, Civ “1” really isn’t the whipping boy you’re looking for. It was probably the most addictive game of its kind and still holds up well.

But my original point was that some sequels are very worthwhile. For Civ (to me), that’s Civ IV. Caesar 3. The aforementioned Fallout 3. Though these are hardly one-a-year releases, so even if the changes are incremental, there can be marked improvements in gameplay. FWIW, people seem to be pointing mostly to FPS examples of redundant sequels while ostensibly talking about sequels generally.

And on preview: what are the chances of two Vampire: Bloodlines references in this thread (for different reasons)? What you refer to, PG, was also used to good effect in Crackdown.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:20 AM on June 15, 2010


And on preview: what are the chances of two Vampire: Bloodlines references in this thread (for different reasons)?

I will admit that when the topic is RPGs and shooters, the odds of my referencing Bloodlines are just about 1.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:22 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's not bias at all. Combat in a role-playing game should depend most heavily on your character's stats vs the enemy's stats. A first-person game using real-time combat depends most heavily on the player's skill at action games. That's diametrically opposed to the basis of role-playing games.

I think Fallout 3 does a good job of balancing in that regard though. FPS combat has more of a learning curve than old-school menu-based combat or even isometric tactical RPG combat, but given a certain level of FPS skill the game scales well. For example, walking into Megaton for the first time and starting a fight would result in my character getting killed in about three seconds, whereas later in the game with better stats I could wipe the whole place out. It would be possible with enough FPS skill to do well in the game without leveling up, but it was also possible to beat older RPGs under similar constraints by becoming extremely skilled at their combat systems.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:23 AM on June 15, 2010


Are there PC versions of a simplified Civ game like Civ: Revolutions for the DS? The big Civ games are just too much for me; I can't keep track of everything and all the choices and decisions just drive me crazy and anxious.
posted by griphus at 9:23 AM on June 15, 2010


...but it was also possible to beat older RPGs under similar constraints by becoming extremely skilled at their combat systems.

Depends how far back you're going and what sort of RPGs. NES (and to an extent many SNES) JRPGs were completely unforgiving, and even maxing out your stats did not guarantee success in battle.
posted by griphus at 9:25 AM on June 15, 2010


Foosnark- The cost is a lot less by the time you add 3 more controllers to allow four people to play at once, and party-oriented games are unquestionably an area where the Wii has excelled. Not to mention the additional cost for the Fit.

I am by no means convinced Kinect will be a hit, but it just seems too soon to dismiss it out-of-hand. The launch titles seem underwhelming, like many launches, but there is still a lot of potential for innovation with true free-space control vs. two hands and a weight sensor. I'm interested to see what people come up with.
posted by SpookyFish at 9:32 AM on June 15, 2010


Fallout 3 does rock, right up until it crashes ten minutes into play. Dragon Age: Origins rocked, until the 1.03 patch which caused it to display this same behavior.
posted by waraw at 9:35 AM on June 15, 2010


So, uh, Civ is a bad example I guess because it looks like most people would be okay with marrying it (I concur). I just meant that for game makers, gamers who are easily satisfied and still pleased with something that already exists would be far less profitable than gamers who always want something new -- new games, new systems, etc.
posted by clockzero at 9:38 AM on June 15, 2010


I can't decide if I'm excited about or dreading Civ 5. I love that they're going to hex tiles but not sure about the one unit per tile restrictions. I liked religions too and they seem to have gone away. I'm sure that I'll buy it anyway, it's one of the few titles that I always buy. Now if they could only come out with Alpha Centauri 2.
posted by octothorpe at 9:39 AM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


What's this armor from?

That's from World of Warcraft. Specifically, it's the Warlock Tier Five Raid armor set (Corruptor Raiment).

If you like looking at pictures of imaginary armor, Blizzard has a website devoted to the various armor sets that people have collectively devoted millions of hours to acquiring.
posted by jedicus at 9:41 AM on June 15, 2010


I can't decide if I'm excited about or dreading Civ 5. I love that they're going to hex tiles but not sure about the one unit per tile restrictions. I liked religions too and they seem to have gone away.

One unit per tile? Horseshit! I hadn't heard that, that almost totally undoes my hex-tile enthusiasm.
posted by COBRA! at 9:49 AM on June 15, 2010


Top 10 lists are the future!
From another article by the same dude mentioned else-thread:

"By the way, this is the same reason a person who wouldn't normally read a 3,000-word article on the Internet will happily read it if it's split up into list form. Are you ignoring boobies to read this? I've done my job!"
posted by clvrmnky at 9:55 AM on June 15, 2010


He held his arm too stiffly, and so was thrown back repeatedly, until at last I seized his forearm and snapped it back against itself. His training suffered while the arm healed, of course, but I felt this was a lesson he must learn early, and well.

Spartan Kel
"Honing the Kinect"
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:55 AM on June 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


NES (and to an extent many SNES) JRPGs were completely unforgiving, and even maxing out your stats did not guarantee success in battle.

Actually I don't have a problem with that, as long as the games don't require more than 40 hours of play. (Sadly, nowadays they all require 150+ hours.)

However, per International treaties regarding the definition of the word “surprise”, of which both Aperture Science and Valve are signatories, the time, date and content of the actual surprise will only become available as you experience the surprise.

Oddly enough, this leaves me completely unsurprised.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:57 AM on June 15, 2010


And how did Cracked get into an industry-only event? As press?? Cracked is press?
posted by Xere at 10:01 AM on June 15, 2010


Just as it looked like Nintendo's ability to print money was falling off, they announced a new console. Hurrah!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:05 AM on June 15, 2010


Oh my god there's going to be a metal gear solid on the nintendo 3ds and I have fainted with joy.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:09 AM on June 15, 2010


Depends how far back you're going and what sort of RPGs. NES (and to an extent many SNES) JRPGs were completely unforgiving, and even maxing out your stats did not guarantee success in battle.

I was thinking of things like solo challenges and similar artificial constraints that people have made up to make old RPGs more challenging to people who know all of the spells/items and when to use them. In most of those games, once you reach a certain level of skill at knowing what to do in combat, the game is unbalanced toward being easy in the same way that a FPS-like RPG might be unbalanced for people who are good at traditional FPS combat.

Part of what makes the games fun in the first place is that combat involves some level of skill, otherwise combat would just be a few virtual dice rolls to determine what happens. Real-time combat can have more of those skills in twitch-based FPS-style gameplay, but either way it's more than just a question of levels versus levels, and requiring skill in combat doesn't necessarily detract from the RPG elements.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:09 AM on June 15, 2010


And how did Cracked get into an industry-only event? As press?? Cracked is press?

Well, this "press-only" event is E3 and some of the Cracked video game-writing staffed is pretty seasoned; hell, they've got Seanbaby writing for them now. Plus, they get a good amount of traffic and are backed by a relatively-heavy hitter that was almost bought out by Yahoo for $2bil (Demand wanted $3bil.)
posted by griphus at 10:11 AM on June 15, 2010


Reuters and PricewaterhouseCoopers have a different take. "From 2011-14, video game industry growth will continue at a clip of 5.1%-6.5% annually, PwC will report."
posted by podwarrior at 10:13 AM on June 15, 2010


And how did Cracked get into an industry-only event? As press?? Cracked is press?

I watched the event on GameTrailers yesterday live. All those images seem direct from that feed. I'm not sure he was there.
posted by eyeballkid at 10:22 AM on June 15, 2010


Just as it looked like Nintendo's ability to print money was falling off, they announced a new console. Hurrah!

Wait, what? I know they're announcing a lot of stuff about the 3DS but that's been known about for a while, and it's not a console.
posted by kmz at 10:25 AM on June 15, 2010


How is the 3DS not a console? I am confusion. And "known about" is one thing, although all we knew for certain was that it's 3D in some way and is more powerful than the DS; they've got hundreds of hardware units in the hands of journos right now.

Not only can you play 3D games on the thing without glasses, but you can watch 3D movies as well -- they're demoing how to train your dragon and some other stuff. It's going to be huge.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:33 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


but it was also possible to beat older RPGs under similar constraints by becoming extremely skilled at their combat systems.

This must be a definition of "older" I'm not sure I'm on board with.

Could you beat Wizardy without leveling up? Hell, could you beat Wizardy VII without leveling? Ultima III? Wizard's Crown? More recently, Baldur's Gate or the sequel? Neverwinter Nights?

Huh. Exactly what non-action-oriented RPGs could you do well in without leveling up? Because I can't think of any RPGs worth the name in which that is true.
posted by Justinian at 10:35 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Downturn over!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:38 AM on June 15, 2010


How is the 3DS not a console?

Huh, I guess I was actually confused about the terminology. I've always thought console referred only to, well, non-portable systems like the Wii, 360, PS3, etc, while portable systems were under another umbrella. But it looks like "console" encompasses both, at least according to Wikipedia.
posted by kmz at 10:42 AM on June 15, 2010


Huh. Exactly what non-action-oriented RPGs could you do well in without leveling up? Because I can't think of any RPGs worth the name in which that is true.

When I said "similar constraints" I meant other handicaps that don't involve staying at low levels. I don't think it's even technically possible to even progress through most RPGs without leveling, but having one high-level character when the game was designed around players having 6 high level players with different strengths is roughly analogous to relying mostly on FPS skills to beat Fallout.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:42 AM on June 15, 2010


I don't know anything about the new consoles and whatnot at E3, but I want that tiger.

I'm not a Microsoft fan by any means--I'm loaded down with iPhone, iPad, and Macbook Pro--but the game I play most often on my laptop is Microsoft's Zoo Tycoon 2.

I love that game. My animals are *happy*, by god. They have little animal babies all over the place.

If there was an iPhone or iPad app for Zoo Tycoon 2, I'd be feeding and grooming cheetahs and rhinos all day.

So now, with some kind of technological magic, I can actually pet that big orange and black kitty?!

MUST. HAVE. TIGER.
posted by misha at 10:46 AM on June 15, 2010


hell, they've got Seanbaby writing for them now

New Seanbaby? Well I'll be damned if somebody didn't just up and go and make this whole thread worthwhile.
posted by penduluum at 10:55 AM on June 15, 2010


My take on it is that there has to be a good combination of both stats and positioning, although not necessarily more heavily on stats. Honestly, I feel that the basis of combat in role playing games is tactics, not stats. This is why I can't play old-school JRPGs -- everyone is just standing there in front of one another and my suspension of disbelief is completely ruined by the fact that I feel like I'm playing inside an Excel sheet.

However, I agree that pure twitch gameplay shouldn't be found in what is supposed to be an RPG. Knights of the Old Republic did this very well. You could position your characters in real-time, but the game would freeze between turns letting you take your next action.


You've probably already played them, but Avernum 1-3 by Spiderweb are exactly what you're looking for. Decent writing, too.
posted by codacorolla at 10:56 AM on June 15, 2010


Warhammer 40K Online: The Trailer
posted by Artw at 11:08 AM on June 15, 2010


The problem is that so many games are linear. There are still contingents of Stacraft and Warcraft players. Oh yeah, Command & Conquer. SimCity. And more.

Games need to be replayable; this however does not feed the marketing paradigm. Games become obsolete for the same reason that models of cars do. It's not the consumer's fault if industry can't come up with new reasons to buy. It's the consumer's fault for letting them get away with that kind of thinking to begin with - and if the gaming industry dies because the games suck, well then.

Oh and yeah, the gaming industry hasn't died and won't die, by the way. Cracked editor's ennui is not mine.
posted by Xoebe at 11:15 AM on June 15, 2010


The problem is that so many games are linear.

That game developers have a horrible urge to pretend to be movie makers and railroad users between cut scenes is probably the worst aspect of this.
posted by Artw at 11:21 AM on June 15, 2010


It's a weird kind of bias where being isometric and using turn-based combat makes something more authentically an RPG than being first-person and using real-time combat.

It's not an authenticity debate, it's simply a different kind of game altogether, one where, if for instance, you have a disability that affects your reaction time, you're forced to either cheat or savescum your way through. (I had the same kind of issues with Diablo, FWIW.)
posted by StrikeTheViol at 11:23 AM on June 15, 2010


They've gone to these immense budget productions, and they're so risky that they're not willing to do anything but go back over and over and over the same ground.

Deja Vu.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:40 AM on June 15, 2010


In March, in the article about how video games get people hooked, he said: "And let's face it; if you think WoW is addictive, wait until you see the games they're making 10 years from now. They're only getting better at what they do."

Three months later, he declares the industry dead.
posted by not that girl at 11:46 AM on June 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


As ever, I am wondering if I was too lenient in this proposal, as it did not feature jet-pack monkey assassins.
posted by Artw at 11:52 AM on June 15, 2010


I'm not really that excited about anything coming out any time soon. I'm not a huge fan of cover shooters, or consolized ports.
posted by codacorolla at 12:06 PM on June 15, 2010


Earth-2 David Wong, circa 1997: Apple is DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMED!
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:26 PM on June 15, 2010


The last console game that was original was Portal.

Buh. Grugbooflewtf?

Rock Band/Guitar Hero, no matter how much I despise the fuck out of them were shockingly original, even if they owed a debt to DDR.

Also? I may harp on this a lot, but Little fucking Big Planet is pretty original in terms of gameplay mechanics and how the inevitable need of people to build their own stuff is built right in.

LBP2 is the only thing I care about at E3.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:28 PM on June 15, 2010


I've known WoW was basically a money printing press for Blizzard, but that didn't really hit home until tons of people paid $25 for a mount that apparently didn't even have any special gameplay powers.
posted by kmz at 12:31 PM on June 15, 2010


The problem is that so many games are linear. There are still contingents of Stacraft and Warcraft players. Oh yeah, Command & Conquer. SimCity. And more.

Thats's what Fallout 3 and Oblivious is for, both of which I hated. Some people- like myself- dislike non-linear, sandbox games. I like a straight path. To each their own.

Could you beat Wizardy without leveling up? Hell, could you beat Wizardy VII without leveling? Ultima III? Wizard's Crown? More recently, Baldur's Gate or the sequel? Neverwinter Nights?

People do try. I had a roommate who was obsesses with these kind of challenges- at least back in the day, gamefaqs message boards had all kind of "challenges." If FFX, it was to not use the sphere grid. In Kingdom Hearts, it was to get hit less than 100 times in the entire game to get the special ending. I can't commend on the majority of the games because I don't find the challenged particularly fun- in the Kingdom Hearts example, he had to get to like level 20 or 30 on the starting island to have a high enough defense.
posted by jmd82 at 12:34 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gears Of War players are like this, Wii Sports players are like that. Why is there never any middle ground?
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 12:35 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


While the games currently planned for Kinect do look pretty stupid, I'm actually glad Sony and Microsoft are getting into the "gimmicky" motion-controlled devices; I like the concept and would have bought a Wii if Nintendo released games for people older than seven years old anymore. Well, to be fair I guess things like Wii Sports or whatever doesn't really have an age range, but those sorts of one-off style games bore me. The other games the Wii offers that aren't in that style seem entirely marketed to little kids now. I haven't liked a Mario game since the SNES or a Zelda game since the N64, though I keep trying. For Mario I just didn't like the increasingly juvenile atmosphere and I don't care for three-dimensional levels -- though I appreciate that some people love that, so it's just not for people like me anymore. But Mario was already in a decline with the Yoshi's Island games on the SNES, even. In Zelda everything got so little-kiddy and unchallenging that I have trouble believing it appeals to anyone who isn't a little kid now; the last time I saw any sort of challenging puzzle in a Zelda game was in Majora's Mask. Now not only are the solutions pretty simple to work out -- you only have so many items you can use on something to begin with -- they give you completely pointless clues, like markings in the ground and shit, so you couldn't have thought it through even if you wanted to. It's like they try so hard now to make it easy on little kids they ruin it for anyone with higher cognitive ability. It's disappointing because I never really saw Nintendo going that way, but that's how it's been since the Gamecube.

I keep trying the new installments at friends' places when they come out, and they bore the hell out of me. Zelda in particular seems to have really terrible storylines now, on top of being too easy. It's like trying to play a coloring book. Wind Waker was god awful on every level -- although the art didn't bother me like it did some people -- and I still don't know why I bothered to play the whole thing through. I guess I felt like I had to keep giving a chance because I liked most of the other Zelda games prior to that. I couldn't stand Twilight Princess even after a few days, so I just gave up on it lest it turn into another Wind Waker ordeal. I hear so much about how Twilight Princess is supposed to be so good, and how it got perfect scores from gaming magazines, but Wind Waker got good scores too when a five year old could have beat it and gaming magazines give everything WAY inflated scores now. The story I got to see was as arbitrary as Wind Waker's, and all the motion controlled stuff didn't make a difference since the game was too easy. I ultimately decided if it wasn't any fun after a couple days then screw it. I don't really have a problem with the existence of Zelda games that cater to little kids, but I'm disappointed that's the only Zelda games there are anymore. There used to be an atmosphere to Zelda games that I can't even describe, something that seemed especially strong in A Link to the Past and Majora's Mask, that's just completely gone now. I also appreciate that the Wii is kind of aimed at more casual gaming for family and party related stuff, and I think those people should have games that appeal to them. I just don't like that it seems to be the only direction Nintendo is going because its franchises go with it.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more Nintendo's angle seems to be devaluing skill to make games more fun for people who aren't good at them; a lot of their multi-player games have a huge luck element that makes it irrelevant if you're any good at the game or not. That's smart in some ways, and a good way to welcome in people who would otherwise find games intimidating, but it's a huge trade-off in audience. A lot of people don't see the reason in playing something if getting better at it has no rewards or if it's simply easy to begin with -- myself included -- so what's fun for some people is frustrating or boring for others. Mario Kart on the SNES and N64, at least off the top of my head, kept some of that luck element, but it wasn't such a huge trump card. All it meant that if someone was slightly better than you, you had a chance and it was worth trying. My experience of multiplayer Nintendo games for a long time now, though, is that it's about as exciting as watching people roll dice. I have friends who have found this aspect very fun and social, I just don't understand the appeal myself -- I would sincerely rather lose all the time than play a game where my efforts don't matter, and I have done exactly that.

So I'm left with the PS3 -- or the XBox 360, which we don't own, but probably will eventually. There are great, challenging games for those consoles that don't make you feel like you're watching Nickelodeon. I'm really not hard to please in that sense. But those games don't have motion control, so I have to miss out on it for now.

Without Mario and Zelda, I don't have anything to attract me to Nintendo anymore; anything else I'd want to play is available on other consoles. The Wii motion-controlled stuff always seemed to have potential, there's just literally not a single game on the Wii I actually want to play. I don't think motion control can save a bad game, but it does seem like it could make a good game even more fun; I can think of a ton of games I would love to have motion control. There's a reason little kids like to jump around acting out fight scene choreography they've seen: it's fun. It's even more fun when you don't have to get in a street fight for your skill at flailing to have rewards.

I think the problem right now, especially if you look at a list of Wii-only games, is that there's this idea that motion control is ALL you need, and if you have motion control, people will want to do whatever mundane crap you could possibly do with it. When it's built into the console, rather than needing a separate expensive bemani-style controller you're going to have to try to sell to people too, there's not as much risk in churning out something like Virtual Dry Cleaner or Wii Law Clerk. Since the Kinect and Move are new, it's unsurprising that their first offerings are going to fall prey to the same mindset; they see Nintendo games appealing to people, and since those games are worse than many XBox 360 or PS3 games in most other ways, they think it has to be the motion control.

That's the problem, though: it's not the motion control, or at least not entirely. I think the real issue is the cost of the PS3 and XBox 360 compared to a Wii, and the Wii's appeal to casual gamers. If you're not a huge gamer -- and by default the majority of the population isn't -- you're going to buy the cheapest console with the least intimidating games. I'd be surprised if the Kinect and Move are profitable unless they eventually offer some more sophisticated games, though, because I don't think most casual gamers are willing to pay for the cost of the consoles at all, much less the cost of the Kinect or Move on top of that, and the people who already have the consoles are people who appreciate harder games. I could see someone who already owns one of those consoles getting the Kinect or Move for their kid because hey, why not, but I can't see any of my PS3 or XBox 360-owning friends bothering with it. Not yet. If they wanted to play those kinds of games, they'd already own a Wii.

I'm hoping the Kinect and Move eventually have some games worth playing, but even if they don't, it's the sort of thing that's just going to become standard in later consoles anyway so they may as well get their feet wet. For the first several years I wondered why they didn't just rip off the motion-control idea, and I was beginning to worry it would always be a Nintendo thing. Once motion-control is just a given, though, I'm confident that the focus will be back on making good games that just happen to include motion control because it's the new standard, rather than gimmicky games that slide by on little else.
posted by Nattie at 12:41 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just as it looked like Nintendo's ability to print money was falling off, they announced a new console. Hurrah!

I'm not sure what is so surprising about that, it's what they do. I'll repost my general impression of how the money train keeps rolling:

->Release new system!
->Release extra peripherals
->Release new color scheme for system and/or possibly new shell
->Release upgraded system
->Slowly work towards planned obsolescence of current system
->Release new system!

Sometimes those steps overlap and/or repeat but that's the rough idea. I wouldn't call the 3DS a new console, but rather an upgrade to the existing system. I would also add that it's an upgrade they've probably had in their pocket for a while.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:05 PM on June 15, 2010


Justinian: That is the wrong question. The correct question is "Could you beat Wizardry?". That was a game that seemed to have been designed by an old school pen and paper RPG DM, who clearly hated his players and derived immense satisfaction from the thought of being able to inflict suffering on thousands of them at once. I had to send away for the special "every dungeon mapped, every creature stated" manual, and It still took me years to get that goddamn amulet back.

That said, Fallout 3's stats did have a measurable effect (at least for me) on the FPS game-play. I noticed as my stats went up, I was shooting noticeably better, and doing more damage with my shots. VATS made this even more pronounced.
posted by Grimgrin at 1:12 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Sony presentation is appalling. They could have stuck with their strengths: games! Instead we've spent hours on their Wiimote knock-off, their 3D effort, and some new adverts they made!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:12 PM on June 15, 2010


But Mario was already in a decline with the Yoshi's Island games on the SNES, even

I was actually a little shocked when I first read this. Yoshi's Island blew me away when I was a young'un.

Also, you mention dissatisfaction with Mario and Zelda, but what of Metroid?

All it meant that if someone was slightly better than you, you had a chance and it was worth trying.

What about the new Super Mario Brothers 4-player? There's quite a bit of chaos that naturally occurs when 4 people are jumping on each other's heads, but skill matters. The levels are displayed with an appearance of depth, but the gameplay is pure 2d sidescroller.
posted by Jpfed at 1:30 PM on June 15, 2010


Roffle, and then they start showing games -- Portal 2! -- and it gets interesting.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:31 PM on June 15, 2010


The problem is that so many games are linear. There are still contingents of Stacraft and Warcraft players. Oh yeah, Command & Conquer. SimCity. And more.

Games need to be replayable; this however does not feed the marketing paradigm.


I agree with this... well, sort of. I really, really disliked Fallout and Oblivion because they weren't linear enough. But I like games that have some big sandboxy things available within the context of a greater linear storyline -- and not something weak like Oblivion's, that barely took any time. I played WoW for five years so I get the appeal, but for whatever reason I don't look for something like WoW on a console. I expect console games to have a definite end, a point at which I have done everything I can.

I've been thinking about this recently after having played FF13 and teasing out what I liked about it and what I didn't. Some of the Final Fantasy games on the PS2 appealed to me because of the huge linear aspect and the equally huge sandbox option; I like being lead through a story long enough to get invested in it, and then once I actually care about what's going on, being given freedom to do a whole bunch of other stuff before I beat the game.

- FFX gave you a reason to replay by letting you discover letters of the Al Bhed alphabet, so you could read and understand stuff that was incomprehensible on the first playthrough. There was a ton of optional stuff, like the Blitzball minigame -- I really liked this -- and tons of other minigames and the monster arena and the ultimate weapons and extra aeons and the Omega bosses. You even had a reason to redo the temple levels because new stuff was in them later. That's on top of normal leveling activities. There was just a huge variety of things to do that drew on different sorts of skills and would appeal to different types of people.

- I'm pretty sure I'm the only person in the world that liked FFX-2, because hahahaha dress spheres shut up I liked the campiness :( , but getting the highest possible completion score meant playing the game through at least twice, and I think you had to play it through three times to actually see everything. It had more than one ending. It had a New Game+ feature, which I always like.

- FF12 just had an unbelievable shitton of stuff to do and places to explore, maybe more than in FFX but many in the same sort of vein. FF12 was the kind of game where you could wander into an area under the right conditions and stumble upon something strange or unexpected, so wandering around felt cool. The clan and mission thing was especially fun; it gave you multiple reasons to revisit old areas.

In contrast, FF13 on the PS3 felt a bit thin. It tried to follow the same sort of pattern but there just isn't enough stuff to do. I love the battle system, I love that fights are actually challenging, I love that it requires you to think quickly but in a strategic way that isn't heavily dependent on fast motor skills. FF12 was the first FF in a long time that actually had some insanely hard fights, but those were optional and I feel like FF13 is even harder. I like when there are fights where, even if you've leveled up as much as possible, you can die.

Other things I like about FF13: I actually like that they made it possible to get everything in a single playthrough so you can't make a careless mistake that would take another forty hours to correct; I don't like having to replay a game just because it can arbitrarily shut stuff off to you without your knowledge, I only like replaying when it's the intended and only way to do something. I love that you can beat the game and then do the extra stuff.

But all there is to do are the missions, and there aren't even that many of them, and among those, several of them are for defeating the same kind of enemy. You can five-star those and that's about it for stuff to do, unless you count upgrading your equipment, which is so standard I don't think of it as a feature. There are barely any areas to explore, which after FF12 felt so disappointing. Furthermore, barely anything you do postgame in FF13 feels exciting or important. There's no crazy hidden boss, really, unless you count the boss of the Titan's Trials, but that doesn't really have the feel of fighting an Omega Weapon. I appreciated that there are normal, non-boss monsters that are ridiculously hard, but all FF games have that. I wondered why they didn't make it possible to kill all the fal'Cie or something. Or why there wasn't any sort of minigame -- and chocobo treasure digging hardly counts.

Off the top of my head, all the following will keep me playing a game for a long time:
- New Game+ feature; if you just want to go through the story again this is great, but it's even better if there's more to it if you do
- optional side stories
- entire areas that are optional; it gives it the sandbox feel without being a confusing mess
- insane bosses that are optional; especially if these are hidden away, it can add a sandbox feel
- missions/quests type of thing; has that quick gratification WoW/achievement feel, and usually a larger reward if you finish them all
- multiple endings, especially ones that require multiple playthroughs
- minigames that have rewards you can use in normal gameplay, like items or equipment -- but Blitzball and the card game from FF8 I would almost play just for fun so it doesn't hurt if they're great as stand alones
- the ability to play through the game as another character, if it gives some extra perspective to the story
- better rewards, or different story options, for doing something on a harder difficulty

For a lot of games, especially strategy games like Starcraft and Warcraft, I think the replay appeal comes partly from attention to game balance, but also just because your competition keeps changing. In that sense, I think there are definitely console games that fulfill that, just maybe not so many yet since internet-connected games have been on the PC longer, and latency still seems like less of an issue on PCs in my somewhat limited experience. Then when I think about games like SimCity, it just seems like existing console controls are a bit clumsier than PC controls still, unless you buy special peripherals.

I agree that replayability doesn't seem to feed the marketing paradigm anymore. When I first played FF12 and was blown away by how much extra stuff there was to do, I actually wondered why they bothered; they'd probably sell as many copies even if it only had half as much extra stuff. I was grateful they didn't skimp on it, though. Then when FF13 came around I wondered if they had heard my thoughts. :-/

For that very reason my husband and I have taken to renting most games now, because a ton of them can be beaten in the five day period Blockbuster allows. Maybe if more people start doing that it'll be within the game company's best interests to make stuff replayable again.
posted by Nattie at 1:46 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rock Band/Guitar Hero, no matter how much I despise the fuck out of them were shockingly original

They most certainly were not.
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:50 PM on June 15, 2010


jpfed: I've actually never played a single Metroid game! It's one of those things, like Resident Evil, that I've always meant to get around to and somehow it just never happened. I might give the Mario game you mention a try, though, if I get the opportunity; it sounds like I might like it more than previous stuff.

My memory of Yoshi's Island was that it was just too easy compared to Super Mario World; I was ten or eleven years old and I rent it and beat it in two days, and I beat most of the levels on the first shot just by blindly running/jumping through them. This is coming from someone who has never managed to beat the original Mario on the NES because I'm just that bad at platformers. I remember there was some way to get more stuff or get better scores on the levels, and that maybe that made it harder, but since the levels weren't already challenging on their own it didn't appeal to me. If it had been like the SNES Donkey Kong games, where the original level was a bit challenging and getting the extra stuff made it even more challenging, I would have liked it better; I really liked the SNES Donkey Kong games, especially the first two.
posted by Nattie at 1:55 PM on June 15, 2010


But Mario was already in a decline with the Yoshi's Island games on the SNES, even

I was actually a little shocked when I first read this.


Shocked? I was horrified. Yoshi's Island was hilariously good fun.

And yes, try the Metroid games for Gamecube (Metroid Prime, Prime 2: something or other) and Wii (Corruption). Incredibly, incredibly well done.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:18 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Valve recently released Portal for free on Steam as part of the lead up for Portal 2. The best selling game that week was the Orange Box, suggesting that replaying Portal made gamers nostalgic for the Half Life 2 episodes and Team Fortress 2. Every gamer I know is currently replaying Half Life 2.

Every gamer has a game they return to again and again. I've finished Baldur's Gate 2 six times in the past ten years.

He's looking at this from completely the wrong direction. Gamers aren't constantly looking for the next gimmick- they're just settling for that because they're rarely offered a truly good game.
posted by PercyByssheShelley at 2:44 PM on June 15, 2010


The only game I'm really looking forward to is Saint's Row 3 and I haven't seen any news on it yet.

I'm afraid that MS is overestimating the interest in motion control, particularly when you have to buy their console for $300 and the motion stuff for $150 to get Wii-like gameplay that costs less than half that price if you just buy a Wii in the first place.

So far, from what I've seen of the conferences, Kevin Butler's appearance and inspirational speech on gaming was the highlight.
posted by MegoSteve at 2:53 PM on June 15, 2010


I wouldn't call the 3DS a new console, but rather an upgrade to the existing system.

I would. I mean, it's significantly more powerful, has several new features built in (gyroscope, motion sensor, cameras, 3D) and has some other bits and pieces different to the DS (widescreen, analogue nipple). Yes, it's a handheld like the DS, and yes, it plays DS games, but that's like saying the PS2 wasn't a "real" new console since it could play PS1 games and they both hooked up to the telly.

Anyway, I'll get one. Some of the demo'd games look pretty neat, and my DS is a chunky launch model anyway and could use replacing with something moderately comfortable to hold, and hell, 3D is a fun gimmick.

I'm disappointed there was no PSP2. I'm wavering on the edge of replacing my 5th gen ipod with something that can play movies and music and read PDFs and comics like my PSP, but with a higher res screen, and I'd rather like it to be another console so I can play games on it too.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:56 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


The funny thing, Nattie, is that this week I'm back in my hometown, and my friends here are big gamers, and I find that I don't enjoy playing games with them because even the uber-random Nintendo titles like Super Smash Brothers favor skill too much for me to compete, not when I've spent a year away from consoles of all sorts.

Maybe it's that now I've spent a year and a half trading only in arthouse titles and Portal 2, but I can't enjoy a game for its challenge anymore. The two things I need out of a game are: a) a sense of personal discovery as I play it; and b) a feeling of meaningful progress. I actually find that games too challenging ruin the former and impede the latter.

Now, needless to say neither needs are ones I get out of many games. It's hard to program a world creatively enough that I feel immersed in it, and it's hard to reward me enough for playing a game that I'll keep going on past an hour or two. Which is why titles like Braid, Portal, and Blueberry Garden appeal to me so much. (Especially Blueberry Garden, which was an incredible delight for exactly as long as it took to beat it three times.)

I stopped loving games when I realized how little they gave me for the time I put in. If I want exertion I'll do half an hour of weights. If I need buttons under my fingers I'll play flute or keyboard.

The forty hours I spent playing Pathologic (and slowly going mad) deprogrammed me in a few ways. I'm incapable of appreciating rewards from video games after beating that. I don't get a sense of accomplishment out of it. So I dislike challenge, because it stops me from appreciating the really important things I could get out of art. Unless the challenge is actively clever (like Syobon, the Mario clone that traps every part of the level in brilliant and cruel ways), it feels like programmer jerk-off and not anything meaningful.

As for option: I love optional areas that feel integrated into the world. Majora's Mask you can't go outside without running into a dozen stories that require your attention. But side content for the sake of side content is shitty and makes me feel like the developers care less about designing a fulfilling world and more about wasting gamers' time.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:05 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Christ, did anybody else here make the mistake of buying that John Dies At The End book? Fuck me was that bad, and I openly admit to chuckling heartily at a lot of Wong stuff back when he was on some other site that wasn't Cracked that was somehow linked with Jay Pinkerton in some way.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:34 PM on June 15, 2010


Fallout, Starcraft, Zelda. Is someone trying to summon me?

It's a weird kind of bias where being isometric and using turn-based combat makes something more authentically an RPG than being first-person and using real-time combat.

You do have a point. On the other hand, no one considers Ultima Underworld or the Might & Magic of your choice "fake" RPGs, both of which use FP and real-time combat.

Zelda in particular seems to have really terrible storylines now, on top of being too easy.

Might that be nostalgia? Zelda always had simplistic storylines (gather things, beat bad guy!) and if you played the older games when you were younger, they must have seemed harder to you. Incidentally, the final battle in Minish Cap may be among the hardest in a Zelda game. If you prefer your platformers in 2D, may I suggest one of the many indie games that have been released in the last years (knytt etc.)?

And yes, give Metroid or possibly one of the recent 2D Castlevanias a try.
posted by ersatz at 4:39 PM on June 15, 2010


Reading that article, I was reminded of:
"For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive—you merely had to brush the panels with your fingers; now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components and hope. It saved a lot of muscular expenditure, of course, but meant that you had to sit infuriatingly still if you wanted to keep listening to the same program."
posted by vidur at 5:03 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe, just maybe, the industry will need to publish games that strive to be art. That's usually what happens when gimmicks in a format burn themselves out.

Painting became the art form we currently know and love around the time photography got its shit together technically, and was able to replace painting as a medium for representation. So the world was left with all these piles of hugely technically skilled painters with no more reason to be paining dukes and whatnot; instead they turned their hands to doing crazy shit with the canvas. Once the intended purpose of the medium became non-lucrative, shit started growing. The culture of painting appeared, much like a culture in a petri dish or a meatwad left on the counter for too long.

Likewise, the text adventure took off as an expressive form a while after games became graphical. Things took off in the nineties, and are (I think...) still going strong today. It's a wierd little subculture, but the authors make things without the need to make a bottom line. And the authoring systems are streamlined enough that it's individuals writing the games, not teams of engineers - just like one doesn't need a team of painters.

Similar things happen with some of the indie games. Anybody can do pixel art, so it becomes a dominant form for the visual side of these games. It doesn't require a team of people or a budget to get the ideas down, and the pixel art is explicitly not simulationist - it really hammers the fact that we're playing a game.

In short, it's not surprising that consoles aren't a medium carrying much high art. The barriers to entry are too high, and the risks (as other have pointed out) are too great to allow real experimentation with the form.
posted by kaibutsu at 5:14 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reading that video game addiction article has made me realize that it's time to move on from Nethack to SLASH'EM. I know nethack a little too well to justify one more playthrough, even if I haven't ascended as a rogue yet...
posted by kaibutsu at 5:15 PM on June 15, 2010


I'll be surprised if Kinect or Move get any real traction. The Wii caters to casual gamers who love that kind of pseudo-intuitive interface. It is easy to learn. But the more traditional gamers who make up the majority of game purchases for 360/PS3... we'll see. Lots of issues, from the purely technological (I'll be shocked if control can be anywhere near as good as a controller, certainly the Wii isn't even close) to the practical (my character can run for hours. I cannot. If my movements are supposed to reflect my character's movements, that's ridiculous. My character is supposed to be a superhero/supersoldier/superwhatever. I don't have that kind of stamina).
posted by wildcrdj at 5:27 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nettie:

It's too bad you haven't stuck with the 3D Mario games, because both Super Mario Galaxy and Galaxy 2 are pretty challenging, as are the Metroid Prime games and the new Punch-Out!! -- I'm also surprised that you felt the newer Zelda games are lacking atmosphere, because I thought Wind Waker is actually the best of the series in that regard. I got a real feeling of being a kid set loose in a really big backyard; it wasn't Lord of the Rings, it was a whimsical fairy tale (without feeling forced, a la Fable). I dug it, but obviously we're talking feelings here, and not objective truths.

On the subject of story in Zelda games, though: he rescues a princess ... aaand that's about it. I never got the impression that they were trying to do more; it just wasn't the reason you'd play that series (in contrast to, say, the Final Fantasy games).

The Wii motion-controlled stuff always seemed to have potential, there's just literally not a single game on the Wii I actually want to play.

Literally? Not one, single game? Not the Boom Blox games or de Blob or House of the Dead: Overkill or Dead Space: Extraction or the No More Heroes games or Mad World or Zack & Wiki or Red Steel 2 or Silent Hill: Shattered Memories or RE4: Wii Edition or Little King Story or A Boy and His Blob or Muramasa: Demon Blade or Tiger Woods Golf 10? Nothing?

There's a reason little kids like to jump around acting out fight scene choreography they've seen: it's fun. It's even more fun when you don't have to get in a street fight for your skill at flailing to have rewards.

Having fun flailing is pretty much the antithesis of the skill-based games you're looking for, but regardless, allow me to mention Red Steel 2 again. There ain't much to it outside of combat -- you go into an area and shoot/slash d00ds, then upgrade your stuff, move to the next area, and repeat -- but oh, how good that combat is.

I'd be surprised if the Kinect and Move are profitable unless they eventually offer some more sophisticated games, though, because I don't think most casual gamers are willing to pay for the cost of the consoles at all, much less the cost of the Kinect or Move on top of that, and the people who already have the consoles are people who appreciate harder games. ... If they wanted to play those kinds of games, they'd already own a Wii.

Agreed. I just don't see any major developers pouring the resources needed to make a AAA game into making something that requires a peripheral that, at best, five or ten percent of the consoles' user base will have. Then that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, where nobody wants to buy the peripheral because there are no games for it and so on.
posted by Amanojaku at 7:43 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Skyward Sword appears to be the Legend of Zelda game I wanted Twilight Princess to be, so I'm pretty much sold.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:32 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The DS Zelda games are fabulous. I beat the hell out of Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks looks similarly great.
posted by asperity at 9:06 PM on June 15, 2010


straight: "ServSci, that's from Fable."

That's not from Fable that's World of Warcraft buildings behind him. Looks to be some sort of Warlock armor.
posted by Bonzai at 10:19 PM on June 15, 2010


I would. I mean, it's significantly more powerful, has several new features built in (gyroscope, motion sensor, cameras, 3D) and has some other bits and pieces different to the DS (widescreen, analogue nipple). Yes, it's a handheld like the DS, and yes, it plays DS games, but that's like saying the PS2 wasn't a "real" new console since it could play PS1 games and they both hooked up to the telly.

Is it a new format? The defining factor at this point in time is if it's a new format, if yes than I would probably agree. Personally I'm not going to lose my shit over "3D graphics" (remember Virtual Boy?) but if you're really excited about a DSi with an extra camera and another D-Pad; spend away. Like I said, they probably had the extra D-Pad (which is the real game changer) in the chute from the beginning (remember that planned obsolescence step?) and are just filling in for the downturn in interest.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:38 PM on June 15, 2010


I'm not excited about a "DSi with an extra camera and another D-Pad"; I'm excited because a new format is effectively hitting the reset button marked "Nintendo Handheld" in the minds of devs and publishers, and this -- along with the increased grunt and new features -- hopefully will mean games from people who either didn't bother with the DS or gave up on it long ago, and much as I love the PSP its control configuration meant that amazing titles like Peace Walker and Monster Hunter felt clunky. When these franchises come to the 3DS -- not really a case of if since Kojima is already enthused about the possibilities of 3D and Metal Gear, and Monster Hunter has already turned up on a Nintendo console after single-handedly saving the PSP -- they can use the new features to address those issues, and give me hurrah3D as well.

And that's not even considering the games that will make use of the built-in gyro and motion sensor as well. The few games for the GBA and DS that came bundled with that sort of thing were great fun, and I can see devs all over Japan being delighted they can code for that stuff as a base, rather than spend time and money supporting the 2% of players who already have the required widget.

I'm surprised by how underwhelmed people are by the 3DS. I suppose I get it if people don't like handhelds in general, or prefer USA-style games (since the handhelds are Japanese-dominated), or prefer the particular subset of USA-style games with protagonists so muscly they're as wide as they are tall, but aside from that the 3DS seems like way more of a big deal than the launch of, say, the Xbox 360, which was "just" an Xbox with more power under the bonnet and wireless controllers, or the PS3, "just" a PS2 with more grunt and a new storage medium, and those are both consoles that have played host to fantastic, critically-acclaimed, megabucks-earning games.

they probably had the extra D-Pad (which is the real game changer) in the chute from the beginning (remember that planned obsolescence step?)

You mean the new PSP-style analogue nub? I don't think so. The DS wasn't really designed for the sort of games that really benefit from analogue control; at the time they thought the touch screen would stand in on the few games that needed it. After Metroid Prime: Hunters and Mario 64 DS (a quick'n'dirty porting experiment intended to show off how much more capable the DS was than the GBA) I don't believe there was a single first- or second-party title on the DS in a similar style; every game they made from then on worked beautifully with a combination of D-pad and touch controls. The company listens hard to Miyamoto after all; if he'd asked for a stick on the DS they probably would have put one on, unless of course he did but they decided the available options weren't satisfactory (to this day the PSP nub kinda sucks).

If you mean they were planning all along to shove on an analogue nub when they made whatever turned out to be the DS2 or the Gameboy 3 or whatever, then yes, I expect so. They will have known that, in time, they would be able to produce a handheld console full of the same sort of low-powered, cheap hardware as the DS that would nevertheless manage Gamecube-level (ish) graphics without compromising profit or battery life, and that whatever that console was, some sort of analogue stick would be necessary if they were lazily to port their catalogue of N64 and Cube titles without having to rework the mechanics for a touch-screen or a motion sensor. I'm not sure that's particularly fiendish or manipulative, though; technology moves on. Besides, after Galaxy rejevenated 3D Mario games in the eyes of the public, demand for a "proper" 3D Mario on the 3DS will be high.

I also kinda think "planned obsolescence" goes out the window when you have an install base of 129 million units. Yes, they're going to want to sell 3DS units and games, but they're not going to ignore those numbers. The DS isn't the Cube, after all; it's outsold every console ever made bar the PS2.

I'm also surprised that you felt the newer Zelda games are lacking atmosphere, because I thought Wind Waker is actually the best of the series in that regard.

I loved Wind Waker until I'd done the first couple of dungeons and the game suddenly became rather repetitive and boring. I thought Twilight Princess was uninspired and lazy -- I'd just played Okami, which was downright amazing (and well worth picking up for anyone who likes Zelda and has a PS2 or a Wii) -- but I'm hopeful for the new one since it seems to have stepped back towards Wind Waker's art style a bit. If they can keep it varied and fun all the way through they'll have a sale from me, even if it's not super-original.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:24 AM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think declaring it as hitting a reset button is a bit much but...alright. AOK, I get that you're excited about the new console, but my point is that it shouldn't be so much of a surprise to you if you simply look at how Sony and Nintendo have done things in the past.

You mean the new PSP-style analogue nub?
No, my mistake.

If you mean they were planning all along to shove on an analogue nub
Yes, that's what I meant.

I also kinda think "planned obsolescence" goes out the window when you have an install base of 129 million units.

What was the install base of any iteration of any previous game console? The term doesn't mean to leave the users high and dry without recourse, they carry them over to the next product. The whole backwards compatibility thing insures that. So I don't know what you want to toss out the window but I didn't
conjure those words up myself. It's a well established part of the business.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:30 AM on June 16, 2010


What's a surprise to me? I'm confused; new consoles of some sort or other every five years has been the pattern for a while now, and I'm well aware of that. I just don't think that "planned obsolescence" is particularly relevant in an industry built on technology that moves so fast, and doesn't exist in a vacuum.

The DS may be extraordinarily popular now -- and the PSP in Japan -- but the iPhone is picking up steam as a gaming device of sorts, has a nicer touch screen than the DS, and if pushed can reportedly out-pretty the PSP. It can also be picked up for an un-huge amount of money if you're willing to get a contract, and since running a mobile phone is already an accounted-for expense for many people I can see how, balancing the prospects of buying a cheapo phone and a DS -- with its dated graphics and cartridge-based games -- or getting an iPhone instead, lots of people are going to choose the latter. Gamers have been clamouring for updates to both major handheld consoles in light of this. Nintendo and Sony would be mad not to comply; part of the reason I'm surprised to see no PSP2 announcement, considering how badly the PSP is doing in the West right now.

If the iPhone had never come along, then maybe we'd have seen the 3DS this year, but it's just as likely it would have remained an ever-updated prototype in Nintendo's labs and we would have kept getting recolours and slight redesigns of the DS until the sales started seriously to fall off.

Planned obsolescence is an iffy concept in the video game world; the costs of shifting gen are such that each new generation knocks manufacturers, devopers and publishers out of business. The longer lifecycle of the 360 and the PS3, due in part to the failure of consumer computer graphics to leap as dramatically ahead from 2005 to 2010 as they did in any given five-year chunk previously (and also economic yada yada yada and the slow uptake of HD TVs), is a breath of fresh air for an industry that's only recently finished building its tools pipelines for HD. Every console manufacturer wants to keep their device relevant for as long as possible so they can actually make money selling the thing (rather than loss-leading) and flog games to an ever-expanding userbase. Smacking the reset button for the sake of selling a new widget would be madness considering the costs involved.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:10 AM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


We're very likely talking at cross-purposes though, and I don't mean to sound fighty; just rambling.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:19 AM on June 16, 2010


ArmyofKittens: Plus, the CPU advancement has also slowed to a crawl. i5 and i7 are strong, but they're only faster than the previous generation in a limited subset of applications. For those applications, they're MUCH stronger (mostly things requiring memory bandwidth), but for software that's not written with that capability in mind, they're not that much different. And AMD's Thuban is good, and can often be overclocked up to about 4Ghz safely, but that's not that much different than the prior generation. (they're competitive again finally, though... they're still about 30% off the pace of the high-end i7s, but you pay through the nose for those. At $300, the Thuban is very appealing.)

Compare that with the processors in the 360, which shipped five years ago, and are clocked at 3.2 GHz. They're not as good as desktop CPUs, being rather heavily oriented toward matrix math and raw throughput, rather than running branchy code, but they're still pretty darn fast. And there are three of them in there, with hyperthreading, so it looks like six if you squint.

The only thing the consoles really need is more RAM. Microsoft made a critical error in cutting the RAM in half right before they shipped; had they not done that, the 360 would have been perfectly fine for several more years. As is, it's getting a mite squeezed in there.
posted by Malor at 5:56 AM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was working near E3 today, and a game dev stopped to talk to me. He was asking what games I was really into, and I kept saying things like Okami and Katamari and Final Fantasy, and he kept saying, "Wow, that's really great that you're into all those old school games." It was like, C'mon, man, Tetris is old school. Five years isn't.
posted by klangklangston at 7:35 AM on June 16, 2010


Microsoft made a critical error in cutting the RAM in half right before they shipped

I read it was the other way around, supposedly it was Epic who convinced Microsoft to ship with 512 instead of only 256 MB of RAM.
posted by Bangaioh at 9:04 AM on June 16, 2010


Painting became the art form we currently know and love around the time photography got its shit together technically, and was able to replace painting as a medium for representation.

This is a pretty bold statement, with which most people who've seen an El Greco or a Titian would probably disagree.
posted by ersatz at 9:08 AM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's funny, RAM has always been a sticking point of console manufacturers -- every new gen, whether set-top or hand-held, there are stories of game devs begging the manufacturers not to screw up their amazing new console by going with 2mb of memory or whatever.

Katamari isn't old school! There was one released last year! (it's great!)

Malor, I totally forgot about CPUs :)
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:20 AM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I still want Katamari Wiimacy. :(
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:23 AM on June 16, 2010


Valve recently released Portal for free on Steam as part of the lead up for Portal 2. The best selling game that week was the Orange Box, suggesting that replaying Portal made gamers nostalgic for the Half Life 2 episodes and Team Fortress 2. Every gamer I know is currently replaying Half Life 2.

Some of us Mac users were finally playing them for the first time. I finished HL2 Episode 2 a few of days ago and Portal last night, and now I understand what the fuss was all about. Those were great!

I still feel bad for abandoning the gnome in Episode 2, though. Damn helicopter. I may have to replay it and try to carry the gnome all the way this time. He deserves better.
posted by homunculus at 10:02 AM on June 16, 2010


Oh my god that fucking helicopter. My attempt at that achievement is permanently stalled there. The gnome looks out at me, forlorn, from the save file. Bastard.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:05 AM on June 16, 2010


What's a surprise to me?

Well when you said this, I read that as surprise.
Look, I'll say it again, I'm not making the planned obsolescence thing up. It's an established part of what Nintendo has done in the past. You seem to be blind to that and you also seem to have the wrong idea about what the term means, but whatevs. If you really want to see a good model of what I'm talking about; look at the life cycle of the Game Boy, it's various iterations, and how it was carried over to the DS platform.

the costs of shifting gen are such that each new generation knocks manufacturers, developers and publishers out of business.
That's the nature of any business. If you can't swim with the big boys than get out of the pool. I think the IPhone made a fantastic move by making a "wading pool" for independent publishers, and Nintendo copied this to some extant with the Wii. Although not as successfully.
I'm sure Nintendo wants to make the DS just as relevant as any smart cell phone, but I think they need to do a few things before that would even look like a possibility.

Every console manufacturer wants to keep their device relevant for as long as possible so they can actually make money selling the thing (rather than loss-leading) and flog games to an ever-expanding userbase.
That's where the planning part comes in. Drag your feet when you need to, and make the jump up when it's right.

Smacking the reset button for the sake of selling a new widget would be madness considering the costs involved.
This is your misunderstanding. A "reset button" is a bad way to frame it, "moving to the next level" is a much closer analogy.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:52 PM on June 16, 2010


Penny Arcade summary of E3
posted by Artw at 2:45 PM on June 16, 2010


E3 2010: first gameplay video of Valve's Portal 2
posted by homunculus at 2:45 PM on June 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Whoa.
posted by Artw at 2:47 PM on June 16, 2010


Amazing video, thanks!

P.o.B., that wasn't surprise, that was sarcasm :) As to the rest of your comment, I think we're definitely talking at cross-purposes and I'm going to stop monopolising the thread.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:16 PM on June 16, 2010


Pew pew!
posted by Artw at 3:16 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


New Seanbaby? Well I'll be damned if somebody didn't just up and go and make this whole thread worthwhile

So overrated.

Also, the ghost of James Thurber that lives in my brain twitches every time someone here or anywhere else says "gaming industry."
posted by JHarris at 4:46 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


OMG!! (spoiler)
posted by chalbe at 7:17 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aha! The way to deal with the helicopter is to hop out of the car and fling its bombs back at it when it first starts dropping them on you. Repeat until it's destroyed, go back for the gnome, and then you can drive along without much difficulty until you reach the next group of allies and the helicopter they're fighting. Seems so obvious now.

Don't you worry, my little gnome buddy, I'll get you to your date with Lamarr before that rocket launches.
posted by homunculus at 12:10 AM on June 17, 2010


Nintendo CEO reveals how company toiled for years on 3DS concept.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:12 AM on June 19, 2010


Portal 2 Has More Than Portals
posted by Artw at 9:21 AM on June 20, 2010


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