Category Archives: Video Games
NOTE: I started writing these thoughts days ago. Finally got time to finish them. Sorry for the delay.
I’ve always enjoyed E3. Even as my fanaticism about gaming has waned to make room for other important things in life, I’ve always still enjoyed E3 as a few days to relive all those times I used to get ridiculously excited about games and hardware that were coming out. Hearing about amazing new hardware, mind blowing Zelda games, and the huge adventures that I would… someday… get to experience. This year though, I was left with the feeling of, “That’s it?”
Maybe it’s just the way it was presented that made the games seem less exciting this year, or maybe, the games were less exciting. Listening to Iwata speak English at length is strenuous. I appreciate the fact that the president of the company wants to be there to represent Nintendo to fans and the media, and it’s not just some paid spokesperson, but for something like E3, where I’m used to things being sorta bigger than real life, I was a bit underwhelmed. Reggie is still the man for this job, I say. I usually enjoy Iwata in other Nintendo Directs, so maybe what I’m getting at here is that Nintendo Direct might not have been my preferred platform for Nintendo at E3. If I could have the old press conference back, I’d take it.
So what about the games? Well, let me say right away, I’m probably going to buy about half of them. Haha. And I suppose from Nintendo’s perspective, then these announcements were a success. Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, and Donkey Kong Country are all probably eventually going to find their way into my library. But nothing was jaw dropping.
Probably my biggest disappointment was Mario Kart 8. This coming off of Mario Kart 7 which I have been thoroughly impressed with on the 3DS. Mario Kart 8 seems like just 7 on the Wii U… with antigravity. Really? I never really thought a game that revolved around tossing banana peels and firing heat seeking turtle shells could “jump the shark” but it may just be possible. Part of the problem is that Mario Kart is a 20 year old idea that may already be fully evolved. No longer can you rely on improved graphics to re-pack and sell essentially the same game, and keep it feeling fresh. Visual upgrades are now so incremental, that it was easy for me to look at Mario Kart 8 was 95% the same game as Mario Kart 7, a handheld game! All that said… I’ll still buy it because it is Mario Kart. Nintendo wins.
I felt almost exactly the same with Super Mario 3D World. I was really expecting something more along the Galaxy line. And I was HOPING more for a more traditional type sequel to Super Mario 64. But instead a game was announced that I felt like I had already played. I am 100% certain that this game will be amazing, solid, and successful. But the announcement itself was disappointing. Will I buy this one? Yup. Nintendo wins again.
One of the titles I’m most excited for, Wii Fit U, was announced… to be delayed until December. So another aww shucks.
All in all, Nintendo’s software lineup for 2013 looks solid, safe, and predictable. I don’t think they’ll have any trouble selling games. All I’m saying is I feel like E3 could have delivered me a bit more this year.
What was the “Retro-Room” is now officially “Luke’s Room”. We had some doubt about how he would take to moving downstairs and into a room all by himself. And turns out, he couldn’t be happier apparently! He went to sleep without a single peep! We’ll see how he handles the morning though when he wakes up and Mommy isn’t right there.
I for one am super happy. I always feel like I have to tip-toe around in the morning getting ready because I don’t want to wake Luke up, and that in turn wakes Andrea up. So this way, I don’t have to go into his room at all and he can stay zonked out.
As for the retro-room. I guess all that stuff is getting relocated to our bedroom, which is really two rooms that got combined at some point in the past. So there is plenty of room up there. But I thought with it in our bedroom it would be less accessible when guests come over. But then I thought, who am I kidding. In all the time we’ve had guests over, maybe once did we spend any time in the retro room. I guess I’m alone in my love for these old games. If nothing else, hopefully in our bedroom, and having the opportunity to look at them each day, they will get a little more play time, at least by me..
Third day in… and I’ve already broken my commitment to post every day. Dang it! But you know what? I’m not going to apologize or feel guilt for it. Yesterday was a pretty good day.
Saturday started out pretty much like a regular work day for me. I had to get up and be at the radio station by 8AM to finish up some stuff I didn’t get done Friday, then I had a remote from 10AM to Noon. So at least it was a half day if anything. And the remote itself was pretty cool. I was hanging out at a car dealership with 3 classic dragsters, a new Shelby GT500 and a new Dodge Challenger or two. So as far as working goes, it wasn’t too bad.
After that I headed home, and really didn’t accomplish a whole lot. Took a nap. Watch a storm roll in. We were expecting some hail, but it turned out just to be a nice good soaking rain, free water for the yard! Then it was pretty much time to eat, played with Luke. Luke went to bed and then… I actually got to play some Guild Wars 2! It’s been about as long since I’ve played that game as it has since I had posted on the blog.
So even though I didn’t get a post made yesterday, I had a very enjoyable today. I’m hoping for today to be equally as good, but a bit more productive. As soon as Andrea gets up and around, I’m going to see if she can watch Luke and I’m going to get some work done on the cars (all four of them, ugh) that I’ve been putting off.
I’m not going to lie. A majority of the time when I’m playing Guild Wars 2 these days I’m on the Trading Post. But with some free time this weekend, I decided to actually PLAY the game. So I took off to resume my adventuring where I left off. Remember ages ago when I posted some screen shots from exploring Lornar’s Pass? Well, guess who’s still there. It’s a testament to what I believe is both an insane amount of content packed into the game, and the fact that my play is highly sporadic.
Here’s an example of an in-game event (above). I don’t remember this guy’s name. ”El Satano” or something. I get around pretty good solo in the game, so I figured, what the heck, I’ll try to take him out. If I do, I get some bonus rewards for completing an event and the world in that area usually changes in some way that effects everyone. But when my first couple hits didn’t make a dent, and then he wholluped me for half my health in one swipe… I RAN! I’ll have to come back here when I have an actual group.
I play a Charr Mesmer, which means one of my special abilities is to create clones of myself. Basically shadows of my player with minds of their own. The damage they deal is low to moderate, and their health is low, so they don’t last long. But while I’m out on my own, I’ve found them invaluable for creating distractions, especially when I find that I have bitten off more than I can chew. If I time it right and using my elite skill, I can call up to 6 temporary allies to my side.
Choosing your weapons has a huge impact on how you play the game. I play with a Greatsword in my first weapon set. A huge two-handed sword that you don’t actually swing at anyone. Instead it fires bolts of energy at long range along with some other skills to summon illusions. My second weapon set is a sword in my primary hand, with a pistol in my off hand.
I really love this setup. I’m able to initiate a confrontation from a distance and start dealing damage as the enemy moves to engage me. When the foe gets into close range, I’ll use a shockwave to stun and blast him back, then fire away again and summon some illusions. When the foe gets back up and again starts to close in on me, I’ll switch to my sword. One sword skill allows me to perform several rapid attacks while invulnerable to attack. Once this skill wears off I’ll stun the enemy with my pistol. This gives me time to heal, or wait a second or two for my other skills to re-charge. With this arrangement I really feel like I can control the mobs. The backup from my clones helps provide additional attack power and soak up some of the hits as well.
Look at that ridiculous sword! It’s twice as long as my character is tall. He is possibly compensating for something.
Here is a sweet pirate lair. Amazing structures like this are all over the place in this game. When I came upon this there was a Quaggan in charge. A race that is known for anything but being cut-throat and devious. Apparently at one point, he told one of the other players in the game that he had always wanted to be a pirate Captain. So that player along with anyone else in the area at the time fought and took control of this outpost and made the Quaggan Captain. As time passes the broken pirate crew becomes restless and plans to retake the outpost. That’s what happened when I was there. And I’m proud to say that I was absolutely no help and the outpost was lost to the pirates.
I don’t remember what this place was. But it looked cool, so I took a picture!
So I finally decided that it was time to advance in my personal story. I went off to my next quest. And this SUCKED. My computer companion on this trip said, “Watch the flags and torches to know when the wind is blowing… you don’t want to get blown off this wall.” I probably got blown off that wall 20 times, easily. That or I just plain fell off. Guild Wars 2 is not a great platforming game, but they sure like to throw plenty of platforming at you with quests like this and jumping puzzles everywhere you look.
But at long last, I finally passed it. With much relief. Glad that’s behind me. Oh, look! I have some Trading Post cash to go claim!
I don’t get to play Guild Wars 2 properly most of the week. But I do take a little time to login, comb the trading post for stuff that looks profitable and flip it. So far I’ve made most of my gold that way. Started with just 3 gold, and now I’m up to 15 gold. That has taken a couple weeks though.
That said, it has a bit of a snowball effect. The more I make, the more I’m able to pour back into aquiring more items to flip. So each day I make a little more.
Not too exciting, but it’s fun to set it all up, go off to work, then see what it has done through the day.
But for now, I’ve got some free time, so I’m actually going to go PLAY!
If this were made today you would earn experience points, level up and then get some kind of cheat after a couple tries to help you through the level… because everyone is entitled to win! Well, not back then. These games made you cry.
The above is a quote from Mark Bussler’s “Classic Game Room” in his review for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II for GameBoy.
Games have come a long way. 20 years ago we were mesmerized by a few dozen textureless polygons in barren and featureless worlds. We could have epic 2D adventures unfold on a canvas only 256 pixels wide. Just like your grandparents lived without now expected amenities like air conditioning or cruise control, we played on without quick saves or wiki’s. We didn’t long for them, because we didn’t know any better.
Technology has enabled games to be some of the most amazing pieces of entertainment production available. Massive open worlds to explore, epic and cinematic story presentations, new ways of interfacing with that world and controlling your character that wouldn’t have been possible in the 70′s, 80′s or 90′s. But strip away the technology, and what you expect out of a gameplay experience is fundamentally different than it was 20 years ago.
Let’s consider metagaming. Metagaming, in this context being what players in general expect from a video game, along with what developers produce to meet those expectations and sell games. You couldn’t release a game such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II above on any current generation hardware and expect it to be even mildly well received. It’s clunky, it’s slow, it’s repetitive, and it has a steep difficulty curve. Consumers expect polished and expansive games with tons of content. Many games don’t even include instruction manuals anymore. No big deal, because the first 2 hours of gameplay are tutorials. The game IS the instruction manual. Without any research whatsoever, I feel pretty confident generalizing that the average gamer today has a shorter attention span than they used to. Maybe that’s just something old farts like me say. But I’ll even include myself in that generalization. There are so many more mediums of entertainment and information now battling for our attention, that I don’t think it’s a far fetched claim to make.
Please don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not saying “New School” is wrong, “Old School” is the only right way. I just think that as the “meta” morphs the game experience slowly and over time, that eventually you reach a moment where you suddenly become aware and have to say to yourself, “How the hell did we get here?” Where your computer controlled side kicks can kill every enemy in a level, where you can sit idle and let your health re-gen, where you can insta-save at any moment so there’s no fear of dying, or perhaps most egregious, purchase in game “power” with real world money to make a game easier.
As a developer, your job is to create games that will sell. When games first became a profitable venture, it was the job of the developer to come up with a fun and compelling hook, then beat the ever loving shit out of you in short order. In the arcades, this kept people pumping quarters into the machines. Games that were intensely fun to get you playing, but quickly became incredibly hard to get you off the machine. The first home consoles basically fulfilled gamers’ desires to bring that arcade experience into their home. So again, developers gave gamers what they wanted. As home consoles became more prevalent, the market started to open up for games that were a more lengthy experience. You could easily sit on your couch for 30 minutes or an hour and enjoy a video game now. And again, with an installed hardware base already in place and the technological means to deliver those longer games; people first started to demand them, and soon expected them.
Over time, along with the technology, gamer’s expectations also evolve. What is first innovative, soon becomes standard. And once it is standard you become comfortable, even rely on it. Jump back in the evolution chain and it can be difficult to adapt to a game that doesn’t have some of the expected features of a more modern title. I experienced this with Final Fantasy III on the SNES. I was trying to figure out how to use Sabin’s “Blitz” command, and was completely lost. I didn’t have the instruction manual and there was no in-game tutorial. I was completely adrift for a while. I guess part of me just expected the game to hold my hand through that part, instead it opted to mercilessly kick my ass.
For me, some of the best games I’ve ever played are the ones that frustrated the ever loving crap out of me. Because you keep tyring, and when you FINALLY beat it, you feel like you have really accomplished something. I remember the first time I beat Ganon, got past Bald Bull, de-fused all the underwater bombs in time, and passed Stop N Go Station. All some of the hardest and most rewarding experiences at the time.
This isn’t a rant about how games aren’t hard any more. There are still hard games. This is about lowering the bar until the player can step over, rather than expect the player test their mettle. Regardless of a game’s difficulty there’s something I respect about a game that is unwavering in its challenge. I feel there’s some degree of measurable respect to be given to players who meet those challenges.
Games now aren’t worse for their crutches. Just a different kind of adventure. One that is perhaps a little more scripted and forgiving. But if you get a chance, pick up an old game. Grab your old Super C cart and see just how far you can get your first time through. It can be a humbling experience. And in the “say anything” age of the internet, it is my observation that we could all use all the humbling we can get. Myself included.
Much more focused conversation this time, on a topic I could discuss for hours! Retro Gaming! Hope you enjoy this episode! And thanks to Josh at JoshBieber.com, check out his site for lots of cool Tech tips and such!
My progress in Guild Wars 2 is slow. It is laborious. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am savoring every single moment with this game, and those moments are pretty scattered, so the time I do get to play is even more appreciated. At this rate it is going to take me years to beat this game. And you know what? I’m fine with that. I see all this new Level 80 content coming out, stuff that I can’t participate in for the most part as I’m still only Level 40, but most of it will still be there when I get there.
I spent parts of the day continuing to explore Lornar’s Pass, where I’ve been for probably the past week. I did some personal story stuff which went amazingly smooth. Considering I finally upgraded my armor and weapons. Here I was roaming around Level 40-ish, but still using level 25 gear! No wonder I kept getting my butt kicked! Up until now, decent gear had just been dropping for me from mobs, or came as rewards from quests. I hadn’t had to buy a single piece of equipment. But as I am flipping all this stuff on the trading post now, usually doing mid-level armor and weapons, I got to thinking… “Hey, I could use some mid-level armor and weapons!” That’s when the light went on…
So I haven’t been steamrolling since then, but as I spend most of my time soloing through these maps, it has gone much smoother. Here’s some more screens from today’s adventures.
I’m 30 years old, and for as long as most people have known me, video games have been a part of my identity. It’s a passion that waxes and wanes through the years, but for the most part it has always been there. Well, not always. You know, there was a time before games, before Nintendo.
My VERY first memory of video games involves the NES. I had to be around 5 years old. It was at least 1987, because I remember a friend and co-worker of my Dad’s bringing over his NES to our house. If I recall, his name was Kevin. This was a long time ago, so that may not be accurate, but for the sake of the story, we’ll call him Kevin. He and my Dad set up a small 13″ TV in our dining room and strung out all the cables and connected the NES to the TV. I really had no idea what it was. But I remember Kevin was excited to show it off. They were playing The Legend of Zelda, which I distinctly remember because of the gold cartridge and I remember watching Link walk around killing creatures. I never did play it though. To be honest I was more interested in this totally awesome firefighter board game he brought for me and my sister.
To side track just a minute here. That board game by the way, was freaking awesome. I completely forgot what it was called, but thanks to the internet, I actually was able to find it! It was called “Oops & Downs”. You actually assembled several pieces of cardboard together to create a 3 tier game board and you raced to the top. Sometimes you’d land on a tube though, and you had to slide your fireman down the the level below. It made a funny little “waaaah” noise as the game piece slid down the tubes. It was about as complicated as Shoots & Ladders, but it was so much fun! I hadn’t thought about that game in forever!
Okay. Back to Nintendo.
So while Kevin’s NES was my first exposure to video games, I didn’t have a real meaningful impression until some time later. Sometime in 1987 or 1988 I remember visiting a friend of my Mom’s. I can’t remember what her name was. I’m 95% sure my Mom knew her as a co-worker from her days at “OK Video” in Dodge City. I want to say she had a somewhat uncommon name. At any rate, her son had an NES in his room. He would have been a few years older than me. And I remember vividly, his room was small and cluttered. It was dark, lit only by the glow of a small TV and the light that bounced in from the open door to the hallway. I remember watching him play Super Mario Bros. and thinking, “This is amazing!”
Any impressive technology provides a bit of disbelief that you are actually able to do what it allows you to do. I still marvel at smartphones, and that I’m able to get my e-mail, navigation and even video chat from almost anywhere. It still baffles me a bit to know that all that is capable in a device you can slide into your pocket. If you weren’t there at the time, it’s hard to imagine the NES as “amazing”, I’m sure. But the Nintendo Entertainment System really felt like something new and cutting edge. When you saw it sitting on the shelf, you marveled at the technology inside. It looked sleek and very “now”. The NES has become such an icon of retro culture that it’s difficult to believe that we once looked at it the same way we look at the PS3 or iPad now. It was an expensive advanced and fancy pants machine in its day, that’s for sure.
I remember watching this kid in his room, pluck-ing fireballs, going down pipes, and exploring this amazing world inside the television. He let me play a bit. I of course was terrible, but I was compelled, just wondering what could possibly lie just off to the right of the screen. What adventures did each next level have in store?
My Mom came in and told me it was time to go home. I actually cried when it was time to leave. I wanted to badly to stay and keep playing. In the weeks after that, whenever Mom loaded us up in the Astro Van to go run errands, I always hoped in the back of my mind that we would make a stop at that house so I could play more Mario. To this day, I still remember that house was on Avenue C.
The weeks and months that followed may possibly have been some of the most annoying days my parents ever experienced. I don’t remember nagging them for a Nintendo, but I do remember REALLY wanting one BAD. So whether I deserved a Nintendo, or they got one just to shut me up, I’m unsure. When you’re 6 years old, you have a significant lack of perspective. Whatever the motivation we eventually got our very own Nintendo Entertainment System.
Here’s what I remember… I don’t recall it being a particularly special occasion like a holiday or birthday. I just remember my parents saying we were going to Wal-Mart and we were “Going to get a Nintendo”. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t remember going in the store, but for some reason I feel like I remember seeing the box in the car on the way home… that memory is really fuzzy though.
One thing I do remember rather clearly is my folks saying it was going to take 30 minutes to hook it up once we got it home. 30 MINUTES! I couldn’t believe it! What an eternity! I might as well just wait until I’m RETIRED! Sheesh! Time is certainly a relative perception, and if you have kids, don’t underestimate the difficulty little people have waiting for things to happen. When you’re a kid, if it’s not happening now, it may as well be 100 years away. The funny thing is, now hooking up a NES takes about 2 minutes. But it sure felt pretty complex back then.
I also recall being chiefly aware that this was expensive. I don’t know if I respected that fact then as much as I do now. It was definitely a lot of money compared to every other toy I had. I figure the NES probably cost around $150 then… the equivalent of almost $300 in today’s money. That was a lot of money just to shut me up! Ha ha.
After that, my clearest memories involve me being supremely frustrated with Super Mario Bros. There was so much rage when I couldn’t even clear the first jump in World 1-1. Time and time again, I would approach that hole… jump… and die. Mom had to try to calm me down, I would get so mad. I even tried thrusting the controller up in the air, hoping my muscle movements would help propel Mario over that chasm. Little did I know someday that would actually be possible. But with patience… okay, maybe not patience, but practice… I finally cleared that first jump. After that I never looked back.
The NES continued to bring so many great memories. Excitebike, Punch Out, Galaga, Rad Racer, Ice Hockey… all early experiences that felt completely amazing. And it began a love for games that continues to this day, even if I spend more time reading and writing about them that I do playing them it seems.
What were your first gaming memories? Post ‘em up in the comments!