Archives for April 2010

PING!: Red Dead Redemption

I had a passing interest in this game. It’s now on the “radar.” Giantbomb has a look at some online play.

If you don’t see the video, visit our living room.

Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills

I wonder how this virtual reality experiment would translate to the video game world:

Even in virtual-reality settings, men will take risks to impress the opposite sex.

Does playing with a girl (either in person or online, playing in a multiplayer setting) affect the way you handle yourself in-game? I know it has affected me.

Video Game Power Rankings #1

So I’m trying out a new, (hopefully) regular feature on the blog, the “Video Game Power Rankings.” What are the VGPR, you ask? Well, if you’re a sports fan, you’re familiar with “Power Rankings”. Done for just about any sport, on a weekly basis, Power Rankings aren’t a list of the best teams but which teams are garnering the most attention and mindshare. This is usually because they are winning (and therefore the best of the teams) but they go beyond that.

The other day, I was listening to the BS Report (a podcast by ESPN columnist Bill Simmons) and he was talking to Tim Goodman, a TV critic for the SF Chronicle, who does a similar Power Ranking, only with TV shows. I thought “why not do one for video games?” So this is a first stab a new idea. We’ll see how it goes.

The format will probably change as I do this, but the idea will be the same. The rankings will be based on a highly secret and detailed equation known only to me that will hope to capture the popularity of games and gaming topics that are occupying the mind of gamers. These topics will be gathered from blogs I’m following, conversations on Twitter and other community sources. I’ll start with a top five, but hope to build it into a top ten or even twenty. So on to the rankings:

1 (-) – Halo Reach – If you were watching TV Tuesday night, you probably saw the new HD commercial last night for Halo Reach. As if gamers weren’t excited enough for the multiplayer beta starting next Monday.

2 (-) – Ebert and games as art – This one probably would have taken the top spot if I posted it last week, but Ebert continues to claim games are not art. Bloggers and other gamers continue to disagree.

3 (-) – Splinter Cell: Conviction – The long awaited, retooled return of Sam Fisher has been met with mostly critical and financial success. I know I’m enjoying it. Even this “ill-advised” marketing stunt can’t slow down its momentum. I should have my thoughts/review up as soon as I finish the single player.

4 (-) – California’s Supreme Court A hearing about the sale of violent video games to minors bill that will. not. die.

5 (-) – Dead Rising 2 – A personal favorite here. I know it’s still three months away, but I’m getting excited. Not sure how I feel about “Case Zero” (other than “WOOHOO! Another Dead Rising game!) but Bill Harris calls it a demo.

Honorable Mention: The Korean Starcraft/Gambling scandal and Super Mario Galaxy 2’s 2D video.

This is a rough draft and I’ve noticed that it is console-heavy and absent of anything Sony related (unless you count the multi-platform games). This will change moving forward. Any suggestions or ideas where to go forward with this? Is someone else doing this already? Can you do my laundry?

Freaking Inkies–for a freaking good time

Let it be known that I have bought more games from the App Store than any other gaming medium this year. I’ve enjoyed each and every game. The winner so far? Tilt to Live.

However, this is not about that great game (that could easily be ported to any other platform, please!). This is about Freaking Inkies. Take the charm of Plants vs. Zombies, add a little bit of de Blob, and some precise tilt controls and you get this new game.

I love this stuff.

This Game You Should Play: Beat Hazard

Seizure inducing for the win

Pictures do not do this game justice. Beat Hazard by Cold Beam Games is a new entry in the music as game genre. You essentially fly a ship that shoots down anything that moves a la Geometry Wars. The catch? It’s all created by your music.

The Audiosurf of 2010

How does it work? Each song is a game. The game reads certain characteristics of your own music and then relays that as enemies on screen, their frequency, and the rate or power of your ship’s own guns. What this does is makes each song unique but each song plays exactly the same. Usually upbeat tempo (think trance) songs work best because there’s a lot of action. Sometimes it’s too much–it’s a blast. Have a song that crescendos? So does the action on screen. Is there a quiet pause after that crescendo? Uh, oh. A lot of enemies and no force behind your pea-shooter of a weapon. However, all is not lost.

Added brilliance

Instead of being a typical shooter there are a couple of neat innovations:

  • Shooting some enemies nets a POW reward. This in turn powers up your ship’s weapon.
  • Some enemies release VOL. This increases your songs volume and also draws more enemies to the screen thereby increasing your chance for failure and glory.
  • Little +1 symbols net you a score multiplier. (Oh, this game is all about points and rank.)
  • You can also protect yourself during the quiet lulls of the song by using bombs. They are a mechanic that is in every shooter: everything on screen is destroyed.
  • Your music generates bosses. Have fun with multiple bosses.
  • Of course, there are leaderboards. Always a win. Ranks too. Cumulative ranks. The higher you are the more perks you have at the beginning of each song.
  • Achievements.

Blue Light Special

So, where do we get it? It’s on Steam for $10 and can be had on XBLA indie for 400 MS points. The XBLA version is cheaper but there are a few more features (nothing major) with the PC version. The Steam version can be played with a mouse/keyboard combo or an 360 controller (only–but there are some simple workarounds for this).

Honestly, there are some songs that cause so much chaos on screen you have no idea what’s going on, but you do know what to do. It’s the best feeling to have your ship survive a huge onslaught of enemies, pulsing lasers, and seizure-inducing light effects.

How to avoid the next game industry crash

Bill Harris thinks the videogame industry is heading for a crash. I’m not sure if I like Bill, but I do respect him. His general antisocial ways probably appeal to my misanthropic nature and so I try not to have too much positive personal bias, but I can rarely argue with his analysis. He makes some good points about a potential looming crash, though I don’t think he goes far enough.

I don’t like to rehash other people’s blog posts, so I don’t want to talk about why we’re heading for a crash, just that I do think we’re heading for one. Right now the four big players are playing a four-way game of chicken except the only way to win is to not veer off course, crash into your opponents as hard as you can, and hope you’re the one who can still walk away. While there is the possibility that one or more participants could survive such a contest, a far more likely scenario is that all four wind up on life support.

Then it occurred to me this week that while the crash is almost certainly inevitable, there is a way for at least one company to win.

Instead of playing this four way game of chicken, one company needs to reverse course and completely change their whole approach. Almost every strategy being proposed by EA, Activision, Ubisoft, and Take Two focuses on nickel and diming consumers if not outright treating them like garbage. If one company starts to focus on making consumers happy, they win. That’s not a minor proposition though because it flies in the face of everything the movers and shakers in the market are working in.

Quit spending money on day one DLC. Either it’s in the game or not. Drop your prices for 360 and PS3 games to $50. Stop development on every game we all know is not going to sell. Do we really need a Kane and Lynch 2? Quit worrying about the secondary market. I’m not saying embrace it, just quit drawing attention to it and quit making it look like your trying to screw consumers. In general, start looking at ways to make gamers feel good about spending money on your products. Also, let’s face it, the current release model is unsustainable and the current economy will only make it worse. I don’t have the answer to how, but these companies are supposed to be full of smart people. Figure out how to make the “long tail” work for you and quit this ridiculous death march of trying to sell a million copies in the first two weeks of release just to break even.

Also, I know I didn’t spend much time on the above points but I’m sure the price point thing is going to stick with some people. Look, $30, $50, or $60, the actual price doesn’t matter so long as a game recoups it’s development costs. Once a game gets past the cost of development it is essentially printing money. Valve has proved time and again that lowering the price of games increases sales exponentially. $60 is an off-putting price. There are many more games I’d be willing to buy on day one for $50 instead of $60. There are many games I do buy when they hit $10 off. The difference to consumers between $40 to $50 is not the same as $50 to $60. It is not “just $10 more” in the minds of consumers. I’ve worked in software development for over a decade now and I promise you that a piece of software is only worth as much as someone will pay for it. Trying to sell $20 games for $60 is part of the reason the videogame industry is struggling so much in today’s economy. Trying to market $20 games as though they are worth $60 is just throwing money down the toilet.

The overall strategy needs to be a shift towards doing something good for the consumer.

In My Hands

I have mixed feelings about starting this game tonight. I had really hoped to have Mass Effect 2 finished before this disc showed up, but I didn’t quite meet that goal. I also feel like I’m neglecting things around these parts as my blogging has dwindled recently. Hopefully this will spark the writing bug after some good sneaking around tonight.

First impressions to follow…

Pixel Armageddon

I imagine some of you have probably already seen this (it’s been all over Twitter and the blogs) but some of you probably have lives, so it may have slipped past your radar.


Socialize with us

I’ve added a new little widget to the sidebar over there to your right. You’ll see three sections, three vectors of socialization you can have with the Buttonmashing dot com crew.

The first our little fan page on Facebook. I use Facebook fairly regularly, but I reserve it for people (with a couple exceptions) that I actually have a meat-space relationship with. This includes family, close friends and co-workers. Basically, people I’ve shared air with at one time or another. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to interact with other people on Facebook, especially you guys, so this fan page will allow for that interaction. Becoming a fan will allow us to discuss things that may not fall within the realm of the blog, but would still be interesting to chat about. For now, I just have the site feed hooked up to the Facebook page but in the future I hope to do a little more with the fan page. A contest perhaps.

The next section is the Twitter accounts of those of us writers that use Twitter. I’ve used it a little less than I normally do, but I’ve been busy during the day, which is usually my Twitter prime-time. I use Twitter more as a listening device which works for me. I’d love to hear from you outside the confines of the blog.

Finally, I’m playing around with the Google Friend Connect. If you have a Google Account (and at this point, who doesn’t) you can become a “member” of the site. This allows me to put a name with a face of you guys, which I appreciate. It’s similar to becoming a fan on Facebook, with a lot less interaction and functionality.

Sure, we’re bit behind the times with a few of these, but I’d love for you to follow us in whatever way you’re most comfortable with.