One of my favorite blogs to visit is The Ancient Gaming Noob (TAGN) and he recently posted an Influential 15 list - started by another blogger and other sites are also playing along. The parts I read indicated not too many rules, but just do not overthink it - only take 15 minutes, and list them out.
This sounds like fun. I am going in chronological order!
Mario Bros (arcade) (1985)
I spent most of my allowance money playing this game with two of my best friends at the local bowling alley. It was close enough to our school that we could run there at lunch breaks, and always went right after school as well - but just for 20 minutes before racing home. This introduced me to the side scrolling platform [honorable mentions: Ghost and Goblins, Castlevania, Bionic Commando]
Hardball (c64) (1987)
Two teams - the red, power hitting team and the blue, speedy team. That was it in this baseball game. My brother and I played for hours at home - nice to not have to be at the arcade. (I always got stuck with the blue team). [Honorable mention: Madden (I still buy it every few years]
Police Quest (PC) (1987)
My first foray into the Sierra games series (King's quest, Space Quest, etc.) and it was always a weekend event at one of my friend's houses who had it. I think it took us 6 months to complete, since we only had limited weekend time (we mostly played outside - kids those days!)[honorable mention - Maniac Mansion]
Street Fighter (Arcade, SNES) (1987)
Another arcade favorite the one on one bragging rights was a blast. Learning the combos, fighting friends (and arcade enemies) for the right to stay on the machine for the next challenger... flipping a coin for the left or right hand side. All sorts of home field advantages. [Honorable mention: Mortal Combat]
Star control 2 (PC) (1992)
Exploration, adventure, discovery. Space. Has anyone come close since? I am avoiding throwing my money at Star Citizen yet watching it closely. That is a completely separate blog post. [Honorable Mention: Wing Commander. If only for the space.]
Doom (PC) (1993)
We had huge contests at university with Doom - inter dorm rivalries. My philosophy class suffered fiercely. I made a philosophical argument about augmented reality to the prof and he BFG'd me. University was so cool. [Honorable mention: Half Life]
NHL 94 (SEGA) (1993)
Oh Sega hockey, with the one move that would score 100% of the time.. that was up to you do defend properly. Both ends of the rink, there was that ONE move. Yet it was still awesome. Plus bleeding heads.
X com (PC) (1994)
Turn based mastery. This is on many 'best of ever" lists, so not going to explain its full awesome-ness. Many have explained it better than I ever could. Xcom is the perfect example of a game you loved but refuse to play it again. I have it through steam. It sucked to relive it - but awesome the first time around. We are not conditioned to accept failing the first X missions before we have a chance. (see what I did there?) [Honorable mention - Civ 1 - bit of a stretch, but very turn based]
Baldur's Gate (PC) (1998)
I had played a lot of Pen and Paper games and this one reminded me the most of them. I hadn't played a lot of D&D at the time and this was my first real foray and experience into that. I don't even remember if I won or what happened in the game - I just remember the hours spent hunched in the darkness... in amazement. Just one more encounter. One more.
Rainbow Six (PC) (1998)
The AI could be buggy as hell when you were planning your rescues, but this was an AMAZING shooter - one shot and you are dead, get caught/spotted and the hostages are dead. Great premise and superbly executed at the time. You could do many missions in many different ways and had the choice of your own path. The planning and thinking part was as exciting for me as the executions. And oh yes, permadeath! [Honorable mention: Counter Strike]
Everquest (PC) (1999)
The MMO game changer that has spawned 100 clones, for better or for worse (often better, jaded vets may argue worse. It doesn't even matter anymore. It was awesome and really kickstarted the genre.) It has ruined MMOs for me since, but that is also because of the testserver play environment (hint: community). The rose colored glasses often adorned!
Sims (PC) (2000)
Sims the original was the first game that I could get my girlfriends to play. And my non-gaming roommates. It was the first time I realized games could be for everyone. Then I invented the Wii. (or should have, at least). All that being said, I am pretty sure the things my girlfriend at the time did to the Sims (or tried to do) made me realize that maybe she wasn't the one. Sicko. May have saved my life.
Dark Age of Camelot (PC) (2001)
My second MMO I played the heck out of and my first real PVP experience was also amazing. I also played on the testserver (Pendragon) and the strength of the community there really improved the overall experience. Sadly, game developers have learned that test servers make bad for the quick hitting types of testing they want with enough sample size, and they don't really exist anymore. The lesson they should have learned is that smaller, more dedicated communities make for stronger ties. Another post. DAOC taught me to embrace PVP and how humans always beat AI on experience - always.
World of Warcraft (PC) (2004)
What to say? The most successful MMO ever made took an inaccessible genre and made it easy for everyone to participate. While I have spent my fair share of time arguing WoW has hurt the MMO space in many ways, you cannot argue against its influence. I still go back every expansion, do the theme park rides, /hug and /hi to my friends still playing, and then out again. I think the next MMO Blizzard makes is going to say a lot about what they have learned from WoW. I'm intrigued.
Battlefield 2142 (PC) (2006)
The multiplayer FPS I judge all other FPSs against. It was great. It was better than great - it was awesome. The kits, the vehicles, everything. COD always felt too twitchy and gamey in comparison (even the DICE successors did) and I started playing more strategic, slower paced shooters afterwards. BF2142 was just the perfect balance for *me*. [Honorable Mention: Project Reality]
There is my list! Crazy, and a *bit* sad that the most recent game launch on my list is 8 years old already, but influence is influence. As I re-read this there were a few I wanted to add (RTS such as Warcraft -or- Command & Conquer) but I decided to keep it pure - the ones that spoke to me first. I'm sure as I read through other's lists I'll have many an "aha!" moment. I hope mine brought along some positive smiles and memories!
I wrote a bit about Project Reality when 0.8 was released as it was my first experience with it. After my gaming break I recently rebooted up the franchise in it's 0.95 version. This Battlefield 2 mod does so much right for my gaming style and in general, that I want to share, promote, hug it, and force all of my Call of Duty/bunny hopping/Medal of Honor/dolphin diving friends to play it. And appreciate it.
A bit of history - the mod is created by Black Sand Studios, which is a group of FPS enthusiasts who decided to improve the realism level of Battlefield 2 way back in 2004. They do a lot of modding of various titles but Project Reality is their flagship. It is one of those 'labour of love' projects, as the mod is free to the community.
In the most simplest of comparisons, PR is EQ if Call Of Duty is WoW. That's not meant to scare you off - there isn't progression in PR (it's a 64 multiplayer map game) but strip down all the silly from what we get in new FPS titles, and all the fluff that detracts from the experience, and you have the most solid core gameplay for any FPS out there with depth, consequence, reward and decision making that is sadly absent in the FPS of 2010.
More PR goodness after the break.
This title stems from educators wanting to remove kids from an 'F', or 'Failing' grade. No more failing - just deferred success! Clearly the change in terminology will make kids all become hugely successful.
This Epic Defer is part of a longer list of deferrments by public offcials who manage powerful unionized employees (the same unions that say it's unfair to periodically test teachers to ensure they are, you know, smart enough to teach kids). So in essence the teacher's union has accepted their own deferred success and want to pass that onto the kids. That part makes complete sense.
Sorry for the mini rant, its funny stuff. The gaming slant comes next.
Gauging success in all forms of gaming has me in a proverbial pickle. Is wiping on a boss mechanic, only to come back and conquer it, any more or less satisfying than restoring from a save game point in a single player game? Single player games do have 'difficulty' levels, while MMO's have been adopting that same sort of mechanic with Hard Modes. Developers have to take into account all sorts of play styles and ability levels to range the expected outcomes of success. Players want to win, developers want players to win too - for the satisfaction of the purchase. So in a sense, developers are just setting their own levels of deferred success for their player bases.
Make it too hard - players revolt. Make it too easy - players don't feel challenged and have a superficial experience. Where, and how, is that line drawn?
This thought process has lead me to a pillar that should be of more importance - the story. Regardless of difficulty level story is a trump card. If the story is amazing, I'm more likely to bang my head against that wall in a tough level to learn what happens next. I'm also left with a feeling of satisfaction after completing an easy level as my waltz through it is still rewarded with a narrative. Call of Duty, Black Ops did this particularly well in their interactive movie experience single player campaign.
World of Warcraft, and most of the other MMO's I've payed have not done the story aspect particularly well.
Then we have the outliers, the games that don't present directed experiences as the challenge but where the players create the stories. Minecraft is a good example of this. Sports games where players play against other humans also has a much stronger skill aspect.
All games are created for you to have success in them - they are just designed in a length of time format that players expect a return on based on the monetization scheme.
I don't have a conclusion here and just throwing this up for discussion. It just all feels very shallow to me right now -the deferred success in our games - like the Wizard of Oz is just some dude behind a curtain was just revealed to me.
I think I have mentioned it here before but worth bringing up again - if you like first person shooters and beta testing go apply for a slot as a Combat Tester.
I've been in the group since 2007 and have enjoyed access to several betas through them. A list of previous tests through them after the break.
Not interpersonal human relationships, as that is better served by the professionals.
Not MMO player relationships (guilds, etc) as that is still managed between human beings.
In Fallout: New Vegas, I am asked to manage relationships in game via two formats - Karma, and Reputation with various groups.
Karma is interesting - if you do something inherently bad, even out of sight, you 'lose' it. Down the road your Karma rating is a benchmark on whether certain groups or characters will work with you. It is an unforseen force, yet exists. Many argue that to be true in our real lives. Karma, is apparently, a bitch.
Example in game: I am tired. I see a bed. I mouse over the bed to have the option to sleep in it. The choice is in red - if I choose to sleep in it I will lose Karma. It is red only because it 'belongs' to a character in game. I can't ask that character for permission to sleep in his bed. I only have the choice to sleep in it, lose Karma, or not sleep in it and find another place to sleep. For some reason you can't sleep on couches. (One of my favorite pasttimes).
Oddly enough, if I kill the owner of the bed I don't lose Karma. Now that he/she is dead, the game flags the bed as 'unowned' and I can choose to sleep in that bed and not lose Karma. Sad post-apolyptic survival social commentary that you get penalized for sleeping in a bed without asking, unless you kill the owner of the bed first. I should probably just end this article here, but there is more.
The second managed reputation is with faction. If that same owner of the bed is a member of a group, say the NCR, then if I kill him I lose reputation with the NCR (even without a witness). In my play through in F:NV the NCR and I don't get along. Apparently I was more concerned with my Karma score than my Rep scrore, and heck, you need to sleep a lot in the game.
I get a mission to go speak to an NCR Leader at an Embassy. He teases me with the premise that if I go speak to him he has the power to offer me amnesty for my past crimes against NCR bed owners. I decide to go have a chat with him. Unfortunately for me he is located deep in a NCR Military Police Base. Unfortunately for the NCR MP's the Leader didn't inform them that he asked to speak with me.
I kill 40 NCR MP's on my way to the NCR Leader ( I have to kill them, they won't let me walk by) to get my amnesty. In fact, I even killed 2 in his room while he sat at his desk and watched. I believe a head exploded on his paperwork. There is a severed limb of one of his NCR guards in his lap. He watched, waited for me to finish, then offered me my desired amnesty if I would take the time to go convert a neutral faction to the NCR cause.
I go do so, and the NCR and I are pals once again.
I suppose the Global Agenda 'strike while the iron is hot' promo is, uh, striking while the iron is hot.
Last chance for APB refugees and other Shooter/MMO fans to receive discount
Dear Shooter/MMO Fans:
Recently, I wrote an open letter to APB Refugees and other fans of the Shooter/MMO genre. In that letter, we offered players 30% Off Global Agenda when purchasing from our webstore using the promotion code "LongLiveShooterMMOs" (that's $20.99, £13.12 and €15.75).
Since that letter, we've had thousands of new players join the game! With each additional Shooter/MMO fan the Global Agenda community grows stronger and the online multiplayer competition becomes more intense.
Based on this, we've extended the promotion through Monday, October 4.
So if you are interested in Global Agenda's high-flying shooter combat inside a futuristic game world, there's no better time to strap on that jetpack! And, remember, the game has no monthly fees.
Still unsure? You can try before you buy by playing the free trial, available here.
We welcome all the new players that have recently joined us, and hope to see the rest of you in game soon!
Executive Producer, Global Agenda
My own emphasis on the 'thousands of new players'.
Received this in my inbox today.
An Open Letter to Shooter/MMO Fans from Hi-Rez Studios
Dear Shooter/MMO Fans:
The last few years have been rough for many fans of the Shooter/MMO genre.
Several innovative game titles with great communities have folded as they sought to bring together those of us who enjoy the fast-action, intense pace of a shooter, but also the character progression and persistence offered by MMOs.
Today, we mourn our latest fallen colleague, APB. In making APB, Realtime Worlds had a bold vision to make an MMO devoid of traditional tab-targeting, cast bars, and die-roll combat. We honor their effort and innovation, and greatly mourn the game's closing.
Sadly, the APB server shutdown leaves their entire community with nothing to shoot or blow up tonight!
So between today and Friday, September 24, 2010, we are offering refugees from APB and other Shooter/MMOs an opportunity to join Global Agenda's growing community more easily and affordably than ever.
We figure you deserve it. And you'll fit right in since you already know how to aim.
All players that purchase Global Agenda on the game's official webstore prior to September 24, 2010, using the promotion code "LongLiveShooterMMOs" will receive a 30% discount off the game. That's $20.99, £13.12 and €15.75!
This one-time purchase gives you full access to the game's content, with no monthly fees.
And, remember, you can try the game before you buy by playing the free trial, available here..
We at Hi-Rez Studios believe strongly in the Shooter/MMO genre. We celebrate and thank all developers advancing innovative Shooter/MMO concepts, as well as the fans that dedicate their time to playing and supporting these games.
Executive Producer, Global Agenda
So.. too soon?
A sequel so close to the original - (Left 4 Dead launced last November) seems to have the fans of the title confused. Some, who have spent tons of hours in zombie guts glee are extactic that the new game, with new features and improvements, is coming out so quickly.
Others feel ripped off - and that in typical Valve style they would be playing free upgrades and mission packs for a long time from now (a la TF2).
Read the comments in this blog announcement to see the ruckous.
I can understand the fret from an economics point of view, but the fandom in me from a title I logged 100 hours playing for the box (through the single player, co-op, co-op versus and recently free released survival mode) and loved every minute. A game with set play, limited levels, and replayability isn't going to hold me much longer than that. I am ready for something new.
So it comes as no suprise, that I am pretty excited about the announcement.
In Valve's defence (if it's needed) or additional cheering (which camp are you in this announcement?) they haven't said the pricing structure, future support for L4D1, or anything of that nature. One would suppose that the majority of the fan base of L4D1 will pick up the new title, leaving less games for people who stick with L4D1. You could also make the argument that by next November, a lot of people will be tired of the original title and ready for new anyway.
Will be interesting to see how it all pans out. Whatever Valve has touched lately turns to gold - hopefully that translates into gold zombies, and not upset L4D1 fans.
Tagged by good friend Tesh over at Tish Tosh Tesh, us periphery folks are now part of the fun. Like Tesh, I'm not going to follow the format as directly. Unlike Tesh, I don't keep a lot of my screenshots so finding any was quite the effort. I have two problems with screenshots - I uninstall a lot of games when I am done (despite having enough storage capacity) to keep things tidy and organized on my PC (something I am sure my wife would appreciate me doing in real life org skills, you should see my desk) and usually when I take a screenshot it is quite by accident. This would have made for some great screenshots if only I had saved them. So, after digging through old files, here is what I managed to find.
Pics after the break.
I don't really "review" games, and I am not going to start today either. Will keep it simple and sweet. If you like FPS's, play L4D. If you like Co-op, it is well done. If you like opposing Co-op, it's a great game. If you like Zombies, go buy it. If you like a base achievement system, ca-ching. If you like perfectly paced gameplay in the aforementioned settings, buy buy buy. I don't throw the word perfect out a lot. Now that that is settled, I want to talk about the absoulte, most awesomest, fantastical gameplay mode in the entire universe that is also included in Left 4 Dead. After the break.