Archive for the Playstation 2 Category

Gamers: Expand Your Horizons

Posted in Editorials, Industry, PC, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, PSN, PSP, Wii, Xbox 360, Xbox LIVE with tags , , , on September 30, 2009 by Stefano Terry
Gamers: Expand Your Horizons
An Editorial by Figboy
A thought occured to me while I was reading an article about Heavy Rain on fanboy central website N4G.com. A lot of fuss is raised over a percieved lack of innovation in todays gaming, but in my mind, I don’t think the majority of the gaming populace are ready for innovation, when they can’t even break out of their small, rigid thinking about what a game is.
It’s a generalization, but no less true: the shooter genre is the top dog in the industry at the moment. It’s kind of funny to me, having been gaming for nearly 30 years now, but I remember when the FPS, just like the RPG, were small, niche genres that a very, very small minority of gamers indulged. Not any longer. Both genres are quite large now, but the FPS genre is bordering on colossal.
Gamers eat it up. Single player, mostly multi-player, deathmatch, team deathmatch, they can’t get enough. And yet, like a contradiction, they spout off about the lack of originality and innovation in games while trying to frag their way to the next unlockable Achievement and Trophy in nearly every FPS that comes their way.
When a game like Heavy Rain comes along, it is met with crickets and tumbleweeds from the audience. Before I continue, I’ll briefly address what Heavy Rain is to those that are unaware. Heavy Rain is a single player “crime drama/thriller” video game that revolves around four playable characters and their connection to a mysterious serial killer dubbed “The Origami Killer,” because he leaves an ornate origami at the crime scene. Outside of this, not much is known about the story, because the developer, Quantic Dream, would like to keep it under wraps. The plot, however, sounds like it’s a perfect fit for the latest episode of CSI or Law and Order. And that’s precisely the point.
Gameplay wise, the game is a third person “adventure” game, where players control the character and investigate areas, talk to witnesses, and gather clues. If anyone has played Quantic Dream’s last title, Indigo Prophecy, they’d have a great idea of what to expect from Heavy Rain, although it is more grounded in reality, and features stunning visuals that help establish the characters and setting as something that should be taken seriously by the mature gamer.
Like a movie or TV show, there are action set pieces (like a crime investigator attempting to escape the clutches of a mechanic trying to kill him), tension filled moments (like the player trying to talk down a man robbing a store at gunpoint), and even some sexuality (like an undercover reporter forced to strip for the sleezeball she is trying to investigate). These scenes are played out in a unique way, using a combination of player controls and context sensitive button presses that affect the way the scene plays out. Depending on the choices the player makes, not all four of the playable characters may see the ending of the game, and each scenario has multiple branching paths that organically spawn from those choices. I saw the store robbery scene play out at least 3 different times, sometimes with the robber giving up, sometimes with the robber shooting your character, and so on. This level of gameplay complexity has very rarely, if ever been seen in gaming before, and when it is, it is largely shunned by the community at large.
As a culture, gaming has barely been around for 30 years. It’s still young when compared to even the film industry, let alone ancient forms of media like literature, music, and even art. Being the young culture we are, we cling to what we know, what is familiar to us, and we are afraid to move onto the next stage of our growth. This isn’t just the gamers fault, though we are a part of it, but the developers themselves.
Developers are afraid to take chances on risky gameplay like Heavy Rain, because they know that their target audience will not be very receptive enough to it, and the group that will be receptive, are too small to make a dent in the costs it took to produce the game.
Gamers can be very closeminded when it comes to new gameplay elements. Gamers are also very presumptous. They see a two minute trailer of a game, and they think they’ve figured out exactly how the game will play and feel. They see the button prompts fly up on screen during the first trailer of Heavy Rain, and they immediately think it’s nothing different from God of War, or Resident Evil 4, or any other game that has used buttons to help convey a sense of epic scope in the game that the game’s natural gameplay mechanics wouldn’t be able to do (for example, Kratos from God of War battling the gigantic Colossus of Rhodes).
Even more troubling than a gamer’s presumptous attitude is their indifferent attitude to anything that is not the status quo. They see a trailer for Heavy Rain, or Flower, or The Last Guardian, and they shrug dismissively and ask “What’s the big deal? It’s just some lame people talking about love, or a bunch of flower petals flying across the landscape, or a stupid little kid and his weird giant bird/cat/dog creature running around. Why should I care? It looks boring.”
That’s the attitude that is the most damaging to the gaming industry’s growth as a creative medium. If the first look at a game isn’t pulse-poundingly catchy, filled with explosions, tits, and ass, they dismiss it as “boring,” “lame,” or “I don’t get what’s so special about that,” or “that game has button prompts, so it’s not a game.” This attitude needs to change, or we will be swimming in the muck of uninspired, heartless video games and never be able to grow beyond our teenage years, so to speak. Considering how long mediums like film, theatre, art, and music have been around, the gaming industry still has acne and cracking vocal chords. And each time the gamers at large dismiss a game like Heavy Rain, or The Last Guardian, the more and more game developers will shy away from creating such creative works of art, and the more the masses at large will dismiss the gaming media as anything more than mindless fodder for kids and teenagers, despite the average age of gamers these days being 25-30.
Yet all the while, gamers get up on their soapboxes (yours truly included), and complain about a lack of fresh ideas and innovation in the industry. We won’t see any innovation if we can’t even accept varying interpretations of our medium. Games like The Path, Lucidity, Heavy Rain, Indigo Prophecy, etc, are few and far between, and they don’t need to be if we, as a culture, grew up and expanded our view on what a “game” is. A video game is not just pointing a gun at an enemy and pulling the trigger, or using a sword to disembowel a ninja, or shaking your controller vigorously to get a female characters tits to bounce. Those are certainly aspects to gaming, but they are not the only aspects to gaming. Like the various entertainment mediums that have come before gaming, it, and it’s fanbase have grown to accept a broad spectrum of content and interpretations of what the medium is.
We need to do the same to gaming, or it will never grow. I embrace games like Heavy Rain, The Path, Lucidity, etc, in the same way I embrace a game like Mass Effect, Uncharted 2, and Metal Gear Solid. We need to be more open to game ideas and concepts that may be foreign to us, and stop being so jaded, cynical, and presumptous when that new idea shows it’s face.
Once we can accept that gaming is not just one thing, we will begin to see more innovation and creativity, because we will have shown the powers that be that we are mature and able enough to handle different interpretations of our medium, and respect them for what they are, and they will strive to produce more. Not everybody has to like the same things, of course, but we certainly need to open up and at least consider that there are more ways to enjoy a video game than what we have been used to for 30+ years.

An Editorial by Figboy

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A thought occured to me while I was reading an article about Heavy Rain on fanboy central website N4G.com. A lot of fuss is raised over a percieved lack of innovation in todays gaming, but in my mind, I don’t think the majority of the gaming populace are ready for innovation, when they can’t even break out of their small, rigid thinking about what a game is.

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GamesCon 2009: Sony Press Conference

Posted in Industry, News, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, PSN, PSP with tags , , , , on August 18, 2009 by Stefano Terry

Just because I’m not in Germany doesn’t mean I can’t bring you all the latest developments from Sony at their press conference at GamesCon.

The presser doesn’t kick off until 9:30AM PST, so keep refreshing this page. Of course, since it’s Sony we’re talking about, I’m pretty convinced the whole event won’t kick off until 10:00 if we’re lucky. The conference slated to be 3 hours long, so I’m expecting a plethora of Playstation related news.

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5 Thoughts on Fixing the RPG Genre

Posted in Editorials, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, PSN, Xbox 360, Xbox LIVE with tags , , , , , , on July 17, 2009 by Stefano Terry

An Editorial By Figboy

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I’m a huge RPG fan. Eastern, Western, as long as they are quality, I’ll play them all, from Final Fantasy to Fallout. However, all is not rosy in the land of RPGs this generation. We’re about 4 years into this current generation of gaming consoles, and we’ve yet to receive a single defining RPG.
Look at it this way: By the time the Playstation 1 hit it’s second birthday, it was graced with Final Fantasy 7, widely considered to be one of the best RPGs ever made, and it most certainly was the RPG that pushed the genre into the mainstream, and beyond it’s niche market. Furthermore, by the time the Playstation 2 was 2 years old, Final Fantasy X was on the console, not only further cementing the notion that the Final Fantasy series is one of the premiere RPGs in the industry, but cementing the capabilities of the Playstation 2, and the future of console RPGs.
After last generation, however, it seems as if the genre has hit a wall in most respects. Concepts have become cliche and uninspiring, and gameplay mechanics are simply retreads of mechanics we’ve been using for the past 20+ years in a lot of cases.
All is not lost, however, as there have been some pretty good RPGs released, with more promising ones on the horizon that I feel may be just what the genre needs, but it’s still in the need of an overhaul (much like the First Person Shooter genre’s recent evolution a few years back), and some fresh ideas. Here are a few of my thoughts (and even some example games that are heading in the right direction) that I think could give RPGs the breath of fresh air they need.
1) Customizable Characters: This seems like a no-brainer, but many an RPG feature a premade character, with a premade tale waiting to be told. There is nothing wrong with these games, but most gamers, thanks to the customization of MMORPGS have gotten addicted to the concept of being able to craft their very own avatar to take into the games world.
From sex, race, class, and more, the player should be able to create an in game avatar that best expresses their own individuality, which in turn will help them connect more to the character. Sure, it’s often fun to be a premade, established character, but I most certainly feel more of an affinity for a character that I’ve spent hours to create.
Games like White Knight Chronicles (already released in Japan on the Playstation 3, and heading to the US sometime early 2010), feature an incredibly robust character creation system, allowing players to adjust everything from eyes, nose, and mouth, to the shape of the ears, neck, hairstyle, and body type (think, tall, short, thick, thin). There are sliders for each of the facial features (even down to being able to adjust the width of the space between a character’s nostrils), allowing for some pretty deep character creation. Other games like Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Fallout 3 and Mass Effect also feature character customization, although not quite as deep as White Knight Chronicles.
2) More complex Cause and Effect: Very few video games are able to accurately represent things such as morality, ethics, and the consequences of having to make hard choices. Most of the time, they devolve into “good” and “bad” choices, with a few gray choices thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, most of these choices are cosmetic, and very rarely have an effect on how the game plays out or the story.
I’d love to have an RPG that really rewards (or punishes) players based on the more moment to moment choices they make throughout the game, and having the story change and alter depending on those choices. I understand that this is not an easy thing to compute, but I feel that I’d rather enjoy a smaller game, with a large variety of choice and consequence, than a large game with black and white choices that are ultimately heading towards the same ending regardless of whatever choices I make.
Fallout 3 (released last year on the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and PC), is probably one of the better current examples of an RPG that allows you to play it with more freedom of choice than any other RPG out on the market, with many of those choices truly affecting the outcome of the game. For example, if the player chooses to blow up the town Megaton, all of it’s inhabits die, and characters and events related to the town are gone for good, and the world and people will reflect the destruction of the town.
Other games like Mass Effect, and Oblivion feature elements of this, but not on the level that I feel the RPG genre should be striving for.
3) Environmental Interaction: In just about all of the RPGs available at the moment, the world in which the game takes place is little more than a backdrop, and not a real place. The amount of interaction the player can have with the enviroment is rather minimal.
I’d like to see an RPG world that not only teems with ambiance (ie, dynamic weather effects, animals/wildlife, etc), but also features a huge level of interaction with the environment. If you want to chop down a tree and utilize it in some way (maybe in weapon/item crafting), you can. If a stubborn NPC (Non-player character) is holed up in their house and won’t come out so you can accomplish your task (or simply snoop around his home), you can kick in the door or even destroy the whole building (more than likely killing the person inside).  You should be able to interact with every object and creature in the game within reason (ie, hunting animals, rooting through drawers and cabinets, stealing horses/vehicles, etc).
The world should not only feel alive, but it should react to your presence, and you should be able to have a tangible effect on it (like having the area around you reflect when you’ve had an epic battle, and remain that way for the duration of the game).
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion features a world that is a lot more alive than most other RPGs, but it lacks a lot of the environmental immersion that really sells the setting as a real place. NPCs aren’t nearly enough. Red Fraction: Guerrilla, which is not an RPG, features a wide open sandbox environment where the player is literally able to destroy nearly every structure in the game. That element applied to an RPG would be wonderful.
4) Battle System/Gameplay Elements: I’m an old school RPG gamer, so I grew up on turn based battle systems and active time battle. However, I think the genre is in need of a change.
I propose a mixture of real time, and turn based combat, cooperative techniques, and even multi-player gameplay (on the same couch or online). RPGs have always been a solo affair for the most part, generally due to the turn based nature of combat, but opening up the world to feature more than one player at a time would really add to the experience. Also, allowing players to have more customization in gameplay really helps
Games like Valkyria Chronicles (released on the Playstation 3 last year), and White Knight Chronicles feature gameplay mechanics that are beyond the norm for the genre. Valkyria Chronciles, for example, is a real time strategy RPG, but instead of grids and structure, players are able to maneuver troops in real time in 3D, and aim and attack using a 3rd person perspective like a shooter. Even so, the game is still a turn based strategy game, just with a fresh take on the mechanics.
White Knight Chronicles allows up to 16 people to join a town, with 4 of them breaking off into their own group and accomplishing missions. Coming to the North American version of the game when it releases next year will also be the ability for players to craft their own towns and populate them online, so their friends can create their own quests and tales to venture through.
These mechanics are rarely implemented in the modern RPG, but would go a long way when it comes to adding some freshness to the genre.
5) Drop the tired premises: How many RPGs can feature the young idealistic hero who sets off on a journey of self discovery, high adventure, and romance with the help of a mysterious, yet beautiful girl? Too many, that’s what.
Despite most stories already being told numerous times in games, the simple premise above seems to be the only premise most RPG makers, both eastern and western (though primarily eastern) seem to bet on. There is a wealth of story-telling potential out there that would make for an excellent backdrop for a truly epic RPG. Not only that, but so many RPGs are stuck in the fantasy or sci fi genres.
Why not try setting the backdrop in the thriller, horror, or comedy genres? Why not a mixture of more than just one element or genre, and why not take chances with heroes and character types beyond the norm? Why not really push character development in the RPG, instead of relying on the cliches and stereotypes the genre is known for (and getting sick of)?
Games like Mass Effect feature incredibly deep stories with fantastic, unique characters, in a setting that is a mixture of realism and sci fi. Despite the main character being a user created avatar, the characters around the player provide fascinating backstory and depth to the already well thoughout world. Other RPGs like Chrono Tigger and Final Fantasy VI featured worlds, characters, and plots that played around with the conventions of the genre, but are really the exceptions, not the rule.
So there you have it. My 5 thoughts on what I think needs to happen to push the RPG genre forward, as well as a few games that are already heading in that direction. I’d love to hear what your own thoughts on improving the RPG genre are, so don’t be afraid to leave them in the comments secction below!I‘m a huge RPG fan. Eastern, Western, as long as they are quality, I’ll play them all, from Final Fantasy to Fallout. However, all is not rosy in the land of RPGs this generation. We’re about 4 years into this current generation of gaming consoles, and we’ve yet to receive a single defining RPG.

I’m a huge RPG fan. Eastern, Western, as long as they are quality, I’ll play them all, from Final Fantasy to Fallout. However, all is not rosy in the land of RPGs this generation. We’re about 4 years into this current generation of gaming consoles, and we’ve yet to receive a single defining RPG.

Look at it this way: By the time the Playstation 1 hit it’s second birthday, it was graced with Final Fantasy 7, widely considered to be one of the best RPGs ever made, and it most certainly was the RPG that pushed the genre into the mainstream, and beyond it’s niche market. Furthermore, by the time the Playstation 2 was 2 years old, Final Fantasy X was on the console, not only further cementing the notion that the Final Fantasy series is one of the premiere RPGs in the industry, but cementing the capabilities of the Playstation 2, and the future of console RPGs.

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Faceoff! God of War vs Heavenly Sword

Posted in Editorials, Playstation 2, Playstation 3 with tags , , , , on July 8, 2009 by Stefano Terry

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This weeks edition of Faceoff pits two of Sony’s premiere action/adventure titles against one another. In one corner we have God of War, a franchise three titles deep, with a fourth (and supposedly final) title hitting store shelves in March 2010. And in the other corner, we have the underdog title, Heavenly Sword, which didn’t recieve the amount of praise and support it should have from the media and gamers considering it’s quality. Many people accused the title of simply being Goddess of War, because on the surface, the titles looked very similar, but anyone who has played both will testify to how very differenct they both play and feel.

Once again, we’ll be comparing the games in the key categories of Story, Controls, Gameplay, and Graphics. Who will emerge victorious? Let Faceoff begin!
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Shadow of Destiny Heading To The PSP

Posted in Playstation 2, PSP with tags , , on July 4, 2009 by Stefano Terry

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Konami revealed today plans of bringing 2001 mystery title, Shadow of Destiny (Shadow of Memories outside of the US) to the Playstation Portable in Japan on October 1st this year. No word on a US release date yet.

No details were given about potential improvements or enhancements, but for those that don’t know, Shadow of Destiny follows the story of Eike Kusch, who is brutally murdered one day while taking a stroll.

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Activision’s Bluff

Posted in Editorials, Industry, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, PSN, PSP with tags , , , , on June 21, 2009 by Stefano Terry

An Editorial by Figboy

Earlier this week, Activision VP Bobby Kotick made this comment concerning Sony: “They have to cut the price, because if they don’t, the attach rates [the number of games each console owner buys] are likely to slow. If we are being realistic, we might have to stop supporting Sony.”

Now, I generally try to avoid talking about sales and “console war” topics, because I don’t find them productive, but this particular comment by Kotick has driven quite a few gamers into a panic, and I thought I’d throw in my two cents to view the situation logically.

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E3 2009: Sony Press Conference

Posted in Game Videos, Industry, News, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, PSN, PSP with tags , , , , , , on June 2, 2009 by Stefano Terry

The last of the console manufacturer’s press conference is finally underway, and we’re going to bring you the latest news. The conference has yet to begin, so keep refreshing this page!

Jack Tretton is up on stage talking about 2009 will be the best year for Playstation platforms with the release of 364 games. You couldn’t make it 365 and have a release a day, Jack?
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