Category Archives: Gaming

“VR Fail” Is The New Clickbait

Last year was so VR is so next year. This year is so VR is so fail. Take this Re/Code article with the attention grabbing headline of “VR Is Still Not Ready For Primetime”. In the article, the author (who I enjoy reading, btw) posits that VR is only ready for niche consumer adoption. The argument goes like this: VR in the 90s was a joke (true) because the tech was shit (true). VR in the teens is a joke because, while the tech is great, it is only for nerds for a host of reasons (content, cost, image, etc). These two arguments are apples and oranges.

My issue with the clickbaity article boils down to how we define “Prime Time”. The article defines Prime Time as 300 million devices. Well, okay, if that’s the definition of Prime Time then I guess microwaves aren’t prime time yet. VR is going to happen. It’s going to be “big”. It probably will never be 300 million big (roughly 2 per US household), but it will be at least 20 million big within 10 years in the US alone. That seems like prime time to me.

Man Sells 300 SNES Jurassic Park Video Game Cartridges for $1,500

Why did he collect 300 cartridges of the same game? Because he wasn’t using his refrigerator for anything else, I guess. Who decided to purchase these? I have no idea. I can only assume they are trying to form a Jurassic Park SNES Cartridge Cartel. I really have nothing else to add. Click the link…

No Man’s Sky — Biggest Game Ever?

I just heard about this PS4 (timed) exclusive today. Apparently it’s an indie-ish, never-ending, procedurally-generated, exploration and space-combat game. Or something like that–it’s being kept somewhat under wraps. According to the Sony guy from this article, Sony is banking on it for the holidays since both Ratchet & Clank and Uncharted 4 have been delayed. Check out the vid below for a look at the scale of the game. What say you, J, yay or nay?

Konami, Hideo Kojima, and Chinese Head Transplants

Let’s talk about Konami: Konami has been in the news that past few days (and months, really) due to major upheaval in their video game division and questions about their overall business strategy. Konami is a large, multi-national corporation based out of Japan. They create all kinds of entertainment… uh, things. Things like slot machines, and trading cards, and toys, and, of course, video games. According to Wikipedia, the company was originally founded as a Jukebox repair business in ’69 (by their current Chairman), so they’ve come a long way. Oh! I almost forgot, Konami also operates a bunch of fitness clubs all around Japan. So that makes perfect business sense.

A few months back, a rift between Hideo Kojima (creator of my favorite game franchise, Metal Gear) and Konami was reported. Then, in the past few days, it was reported that Konami is scrapping their next Silent Hills game, a heavily anticipated game that Kojima was helming in a partnership with Hollywood’s Guillermo Del Torro. No one knows if Kojima was fired (duh, he was; he’s now working as a contractor for Konami in order to finish up MGS5, at which point he will exit Konami permanently), or why Guillermo Del Torro’s partnership with Kojima/Konami fizzled out. Maybe Del Torro, who spins a tight yarn, couldn’t deal with Kojima’s ball of fur style. Or maybe contractor-Kojima backed out of Silent Hills after being fired, and Del Torro followed suit, aligning with Kojima. Who the f’ knows.

Ultimately, this all comes down to money. I postulate that Konami made a business decision that they couldn’t deal with the vagaries of Kojima’s art direction any longer (MGS 5 had seen many delays; MGS 4, after all, was released nearly a decade ago). Which brings us to Konami delisting from the NYSE. Their digital business (video games) has shrunk in the past year, but margins have risen. When I read through their fiscal report, I can’t help but think the rise in margin is due to smaller titles (often mobile) that require far less money to create than a Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Torro triple-A video game mega-franchise. Meanwhile, their slot machine business has improved 200% YOY. My point here is, Konami is a big corporation, beholden to their shareholders, who, like any big corporation, want to improve margins. Period. Big video-games, like Hollywood blockbusters, are super-risky (just ask anyone who worked on Duke Nukem For Ever).

(Now, none of this explains why they would operate a near-zero-margin fitness business. That shit makes no sense.)

My meta-point: I do not expect to see any major game productions out of Konami again. Ever. I do expect a lot of simple and probably shitty MGS games built on old technology. Sad, that.

So, what about the Chinese head transplants, you ask? Well, apparently a crazy doctor who claims he can (and soon will, in China if need be) transplant the head of a living person onto a recently dead cadaver is threatening to sue Konami for using his likeness in MGS5. Some fans, however, believe that the entire doctor’s persona has been a marketing ploy from the MGS camp over the past several years. If the latter is true, it would truly be one of the most remarkable surreptitious marketing ploys employed by a game maker ever. I’m inclined to believe they used his crazy likeness.

Maybe the crazy doctor could cutoff Konami’s body and put Kojima’s crazy head on it. They would probably lose money, but man would they make some rad games.

Is Bloodborne “Fair”?

Seems like everyone is “You Died”-ing interminably these days via the PS4’s newest (only?) must-have game: Bloodborne. The game is insanely hard, especially (in this humble blogger’s opinion) in the beginning when you have no Earthly (or Yarnhamly, as the case may be) idea of just what the fuck you’re supposed to do. Seriously, it’s as if you’d never heard of the game of chess and suddenly you’re supposed to take on Kasparov.

I’m now a bit further into the game (though I haven’t even beat the first beast yet), and I’m enjoying it a little more. I mean, I define “enjoying” in this context as now having more to do than face the same three characters and get mulled over and over. However, the game remains insanely difficult and frustrating, but it is now, at least slightly, more enjoyable than having my balls hit with a sledge-hammer.

J is fond of regaling me with stories of how difficult the Souls games are, but he is always quick to add: “but they’re fair!” J and I both go back to the classic example of Super Mario Brothers 3 for what constitutes a damn hard–but fair–video game. Toward the end of SMB3, there’s a level that will literally turn you into the little girl in the exorcist in a fit of rage-quitting. But the level is the same every time. It’s just a matter of getting the perfect timing. If you mess up, it’s clearly your fault, the game didn’t trick you into dying. (Also, I’d just like to point out that I beat the more difficult Japanese version of the game when I was 12. So suck on that, you damn goombas.)

As for unfair games, I would categorize these as games where you are unable to control your character and/or environment in a consistent way. This could be due to poor design or poor coding. Being fair is not dissimilar to creating fictional worlds: you must define your rules and stick to them consistently. Obviously, any game with technical glitches is probably unfair in some sense (I’m looking at you, Skyrim.)

Which brings me back to my question: Is Bloodborne fair? I’m not so sure. There are problems with Bloodborne that I would not put up with in other video games, but I find myself sometimes apologizing for Bloodborne because I don’t want to be the “casual” gamer who gives up in the face of difficulty. Here are a few of the problems I have with it…

  • Camera issues (not fair): This is, by far, the most frustrating part of the game for me. Especially when in attack mode (see later bullet point). There are many times in the course of Bloodborne battles where I find myself shoe-gazing like a 12 year old emo kid while a giant werewolf slices open my colon. Look, there are a lot of nooks and crannies in Yarnham, and I’m sure the camera is tough to deal with, but it seems like control of the camera is unnecessarily yanked away from me far too often. And this, more than anything else, really pisses me off.
  • Slow player attacks (fair-ish): For an “action” RPG, Bloodborne plays very sluggish to me. My main issue here is that the attack direction seems to be very finicky. If I’m off by a hair, I miss my mark and am quickly slaughtered. But on the other hand, the attacks are consistent. Ish. So, I guess that’s fair. The reactions required for the game lead the player into becoming very good at timing, and ultimately, that’s what you’re playing: A “timing” RPG (not my favorite genre, I like butt-kicking speed). The battle system, frankly, reminds me of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out.
  • Targeting (fair, but bad design): This is right up there with camera issues, and it’s related. If I use the target function, I can attack without any of the aforementioned finicky directional issues, but then I’m back to the camera issues mentioned in point number 1. When in a targeted mode, the camera becomes entirely controlled by the game. This is OK if you’re facing one baddie, but the moment a second dude gets there, you’re pretty much toast. The biggest issue is that as soon as you un-target, the camera does a Nancy Kerrigan while a goddam werewolf pulls a Jeff Gillooly on me (also, I’m old and so are my references). It may be consistent, but this is questionable design (and poor design in light of the poor camera control mentioned above), at least give me the option to turn it off. Also, changing targets is basically unusable, but fine, whatever.
  • Load times (fair, I guess, but maddening): Look, I’m sure the devs aren’t putting in these horrendously long load times–after we died due to shitty camera angles!–just to make us wallow in our self loathing. But that’s how it feels. If I die and can immediately go seek my revenge, there’s something comforting in that. But when I die and I have to look at a fucking loading screen for 40 seconds before I can play again, by the time I’m back in Yarnham I’ve often forgotten why I’m so fucking mad in the first place because I’ve tuned-out and am now browsing NBA scores on my iPhone.

As an adult, I no longer have time for unenjoyable games. But does unenjoyable equal unfair? I think Bloodborne is mostly fair (aside from the camera issues, but I could probably overlook those). Frankly, my ratio of fun to ball-hurt–right now, for me–is not enough to justify continuing to play Bloodborne. Especially because of the load time issues.

I’m going to beat the first beast and then put the game back on the shelf until an update comes out fixing at least the load time problems. Don’t worry, I’m coming home soon, Ul’dah.