14 December 2019

Formally announced! XBOX Series X... (Updated)

Anyone who's been following my blog will know I'm a sucker for gaming and tech stuff and the late night (for me) reveal of the next Xbox, formally the Xbox Series X was a cool little Christmas present for the end of the year. However, I thought I'd do a little bit of commentary on this reveal - what I think of the name, form factor and the press release via Microsoft's blog.

22 November 2019

Analyse This: The Next Gen Consoles (Part 2)...

Originally, I wanted to update the previous post with further supporting observations but during that research and thinking, along with newly released information, it ended up ballooning into a whole new post.

7 November 2019

Why magic users are often boring to play...

Looks cool, plays a little boringly...
With the release of the teasers for Diablo IV in full flow in the games media I've been reminded of a recurring problem within games: balancing the gameplay for magic users.

This all started when I was listening to the Game Informer coverage of the Sorcererss' gameplay from their few hours of playing the game across the three available classes. The recurring theme throughout the 10 minute video was "this just isn't as fun to play as the other two classes". In fact, the Barbarian gameplay was 24 minutes long and I wonder how long the comparable Druid gameplay video will be - especially since the reporters were mostly talking about the Druid playthrough in this video and practically anything else they could... they event skipped parts of the gameplay.

So, what's the problem and how do we (potentially) fix it?

5 November 2019

Diablo IV and the re-Diabloisation of the series...

Diablo IV was announced during this year's Blizzcon in a beautifully-produced CG trailer. I have to say that the game looks really nice, though it is important to remember that this is baically Alpha footage of a game that is not meant to be released any time soon - so anything could change in the intervening period.

I am quite hopeful because the direction of this game is already leaning more towards the aesthetic spirit, if not the identity, of Diablo and Diablo 2 than Diablo 3. However, these early indications really show that Diablo 3 still has its claws deep in the series' beating heart.

So let's take a brief look at what we've seen and why there might still be reason to worry...

23 October 2019

Analyse This: The Next Gen Consoles...

DISCLAIMER:  This is NOT an official slide from AMD or anyone else!!!! 

I've been following the drip feed of leaks and official releases from Nvidia, Intel, AMD, SONY and Microsoft about their respective expected technologies for many years. However, I recently began noticing a trend regarding the potential technologies in the next XBOX and the PS5 that, when I looked deeper, seemed to make some sort of sense despite appearing crazy at a surface level. But, let me lay everything out for you to decide for yourselves...

4 October 2019

Post Thoughts: The Occupation...

A suitably ambiguous title...

Let me tell you a secret - I'm an old man. Okay, maybe that's a little fatalistic and partly an exaggeration. However, I am old enough to have been alive during the infancy of the modern style of immersive sim, though I didn't play them until 2002-2003 and I never actually played the original System Shock. There is something that resonates within me for games that create a world and let you explore and inhabit it, just as I love exploring the nooks and crannies of open world games - looking for the next beautiful or wondrous sight or hidden easter egg or quirky story.

The last ten years has been (what some have been reffering to as) a renaissance in the genre of immersive sim and while the initial installments were well-received and sold well, the latter half of the decaed saw lower overall sales numbers, leading many people to wonder if the immersive sim was in trouble:

  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011)
  • Dishonored (2012)
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2015)
  • Dishonored 2 (2016)
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (2016)
  • Hitman (2016)
  • Prey (2017)
  • Hitman 2 (2018)
  • The Occupation (2019)
Incidentally, I'm writing an analysis of why this might be but that's going to take a while.

I played White Paper Games' previous release, Ether One, and loved that - though it was quite buggy, even after a few patches. I didn't directly pay for that game as I got it through PS+ and since I quit PS+ I never managed to actually get to the final ending. It's clear that the developers have improved the engine and their knowledge of the systems they are releasing on and, quite frankly, despite its much more complex design, The Occupation is in a much better state after patching than Ether One was.

If you skip the story section, the spoilers are pretty limited here since I'm actually going to focus mostly on the mechanics but... just in case: BEWARE - here be spoilers!

29 September 2019

Post Thoughts: Titanfall 2... (Part 2)

In the game as-designed, the space fold weapon has blown up this planet's moon. This is such a crazy and dangerous thing to do to the planet you are on... I have to believe that the writers/designers have no idea how this type of event would affect the planet.

While I do think Titanfall 2 is a very flawed game, I don't think it's a write-off. There are many good elements that can be used and tweaked to improve both the story and gameplay. For my thoughts on the game, see Part 1. Now, onto how I'd "fix" the game...

27 September 2019

Post Thoughts: TitanFall 2... (Part 1)

... and we all roll over and one falls out.

Back when Titanfall 2 launched, I heard a lot of good feedback about its singleplayer storyline - not just from critics but also from the playerbase as well. This was a welcome departure from the first installment which tied its storyline to the multiplayer matches and thus had to build the pieces semi-dynamically. I originally wrote most of this review back in January of 2018 but then replayed it recently in order to finish the review and see if the negative emotions caused by a (then recent) break-up affected my perception of the game... so if the review reads a bit more negatively than per usual, that's why. However, that only applies to the similies, metaphors and general text, not what I'm speaking about (I've made sure of this in my re-review). Good sci-fi is still lacking in gaming (in my opinion) so I thought I'd check out Titanfall 2 and see what all the fuss was about. This is what I think about the game...

As usual - thar be spoilers!

19 September 2019

Analyse This: The Concept of Health and Balance in Games (Part 3)

Last time I spent some time detailing what sorts of health systems you may run into within a game and the types of worlds that are implemented for games to control the player's progression in general. In Part 1 I spoke about balance in a more general sense. This time, I'm going to explore how all of those choices can result in less interesting gameplay.

18 September 2019

Analyse This: The Concept of Health and Balance in Games (Part 2)

Last time I started trying to talk about health systems in games but became side-tracked into a conversation about difficulty and balance in games. Ultimately, the two are interlinked as encounters need to be balanced around the health system in a game.

But back to the health systems of games and back to my premise:
Having a game system which requires no thought from the player or little management results in boring or uninteresting gameplay. Worse still, it results in multiple game systems feeding into that specific game system being unfocussed and underdeveloped because less thought is required for the whole thing to function.
People play games for many reasons but one of the reasons we play games instead of watching a movie or reading a book is that gaming allows us to make choices - whether we are aware of this aspect or not. The choice may be simple enough - a dialogue decision, exploration, who to shoot in combat or which weapon to use... how to solve a puzzle.

17 September 2019

Analyse This: The Concept of Health and Balance in Games (Part 1)

I touched on this topic very briefly around 9 years ago but, if I'm honest, it was never a huge topic for me until Bob Case got to his analytical break down of Baldur's Gate this past week and I realised my feelings on the subject were stronger than I anticipated.

The health system of any game is vitally important in order to balance all gameplay elements. While the concept of "health" can be more or less abstract across different genres (what is "health" in a card collecting game (CCG) or a real time strategy game (RTS), for example?), I'm going to focus on its place role playing games (RPGs) and first person shooters (FPSes)...

28 August 2019

Post Thoughts: Rebel Galaxy Outlaw

I was a huge fan of Wing Commander: Privateer when it came out. Back then, space flight sims were quite common and very popular but the star of the space sim very quickly faded into a niche with the rise of the first person shooter. Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is a call-back and directly inspired by Privateer, replicating and updating most of the gameplay systems whilst adding some new aspects. Let's take a look!

Though the game is not super heavily story-based - here be spoilers!