Arcade revival (in handheld form)

All hail the mobile gaming revolution. As the dwindling figures started occurring circa ‘92 for the local arcades due to the 16 bit era matching the performance of arcade quality games such as Street fighter 2 (ok near arcade quality). The gaming industry thought this was the end of the arcade business as we know it. Initially, during the period of 1994-2000 we experienced a lot of arcade ports onto consoles this was primarily driven by Capcom, Namco and Sega with games such as Tekken, Soul Calibur, Sega Rally and Final Fight to name a few. This was mainly due to a backlog of (over the last 10 years) arcade games that were easily transferrable for the console experience. This missed out on the key factors for me such as the price, accessibility, competitiveness and social element of arcade gaming. It didn’t feel quite the same. However, once the arcade scene was deemed not to be profitable outside of Japan a shift occurred for all developers and publishers to concentrate on console gaming. As we have observed it takes a lot of investment of time and money to produce a console game with longevity, great graphics and mass appeal. This marked the end of the so called ‘arcade experience’ as it could not compete with traditional gaming. Granted the introduction of the Xbox 360 back in 1996 introduced arcade games back into the fold. However, mostly these were games of yesteryear and were more of a novelty serving the already present gaming audience. Games such as Geometry Wars proved there was a market still for arcade games. Once the Iphone (and later Android) was introduced with throwaway priced games starting from ‘FREE’, back in 2008, we experienced smaller developers reigniting the arcade experience all over again. I would describe the arcade experience as being: • Accessible • Anyone can play • Chuckable games • Little investment needed in time and money • Gimmicky • Short games • One more go factor • Socialising with fellow arcaders • Competitiveness • Unique interface When you look at the above list you can see that this transfers over very well to mobile gaming. Games are cheap; require little investment time and for the most part little money as well. They have the social element buttoned down such as competing against friend’s high scores and sharing. Lastly, they are accessible due to the wide adoption of mobile smartphones. I can name a few games true to this formula such as Cut the rope, angry birds, Jenga, Doodle Jump, Bejewelled and Tiny wings. I enjoy console gaming but sometimes it is nice to know while sitting on the train or waiting for someone you can quickly fire up a quick game of Angry birds. Long live arcade gaming.

Gaikai – a platform agnostic solution for the future gaming needs

I have just played the demo version of Mass Effect 2 on the Gaikai website; judging from the website it’s an impressive user of today’s technology for streaming a game in real time in your browser thus making it a platform agnostic solution.

I have just played the demo version of Mass Effect 2 on the Gaikai website; judging from the website it’s an impressive user of today’s technology for streaming a game in real time in your browser thus making it a platform agnostic solution.  Theoretically you should be able to play games using OSX, Linux or a Windows system using any choice of browser albeit Chrome, Firefox, IE, Opera or Safari.

All that was required was a visit to the website and install the Gaikai Java applet which is similar to most other plug-ins to play video or music such as Flash or Quicktime.  There is no need for special hardware such as excess RAM, dedicated graphics card or a powerful CPU.  Instead the Gaikai technology uses your PC as a thin client to stream the display data whilst the actual game is hosted and played on the Gaikai servers.

This is similar to the Onlive solution however this will require you to purchase a special box and controller to access it unlike Gaikai which will support your mouse and keyboard as standard.  I am sure in time there will be controllers that will be made compatible with this system.  The closest example I can think of is Facebook which currently offers only the most basic arcade/console games and takes up minimum hardware power.

At the moment the Gaikai platform headed by (Dave Perry) is marketed as an advertising platform for accessing game demos but this has been downplayed somewhat.  The potential for this technology in the coming years, due to the trend in an ever increasing oversaturated OS market, seems to make sense.  As the internet browser is common place and a powerful application among all devices; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this is where we are heading for PC and mobile gaming in the future this is why HTC have invested heavily in OnLive.  Similar to streaming media platforms such as Netflix, Napster, Spotify and Qriocity all games will be available in a large library ready for the gamer to play.

The only question remains is how to generate sufficient revenue and profits from such a platform?  Personally, I think games 3-5 years old should be available as part of your monthly subscription with each publisher getting a share based on how much their games are played and you pay extra for any new release games.

I don’t think it will put out Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft anytime soon (let’s face it they are great at what they do and have a very successful business model) but Gaikai will be a great platform to provide accessible gaming and help grow the gaming community further whether it is farmed out on a publisher by publisher basis or becomes a competitor to Steam.

My all time top 20

I thought it would be a good idea to list my all time top 20.  It was hard but I have decided to list them in no particular order as that would take me twice as long!!

Super Mario World – The pinnacle of 2D platforming.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 – Would have been SMG1 but this beats it in every single area.

Fire Emblem GBA – Awesome game the ultimate portable fun.  The game to last you your entire holiday.

Metroid Prime – One of gamecube’s finest first person action games.

Zelda Four Swords – Amazing multiplayer Zelda, expensive setup but well worth it for the experience.

Rez HD – Synethesia, the future of rhythm based games.  Bring on Child of Eden!!

Shadow of the Colossus – Meeting the first Colossi was breathtaking and then taking it down was even more so.

Ico – Serene, isolation, panic, tense.  Gaming for adults.

Bayonetta – The greatest action brawler ever and yes, better than Devil May Cry and God of War.

Zelda A Link to the Past – 2D Action RPG played through multiple times.

Zelda Wind Waker – Graphics still look amazing even now.

Advance Wars GBA – Same type of game as Fire Emblem but this formula works.

Half Life 2 – Would have been the first one but this improves on it in every single way and remains timeless for now.

Street Fighter 4 – Just buy yourself a madcatz fight stick and enjoy one of the best fighting games of all time if not the best.

Shenmue 2 – Brilliant for its time, technically adept but not without its flaws, you become so engrossed in the story and the Virtua Fighter style battles are awesome.

Resident Evil 4 – The greatest survival horror game ever made.

Gran Turismo – The first true driving simulator for consoles before this you had the choice of 8 cars and 8 tracks.  This changed all that forever giving you 10 times more content packed on to 2 CD’s.

Grand Theft Auto 3 – The first true 3D open world game and one of the moments you sit up and notice that gaming will be forever redefined.

Uncharted 2 – Even after 2 playthrough’s the game never fails to disappoint and leaves you awe struck.

Mass Effect 2 – This is the future of RPG’s.  RIP levelling up and grinding through random battles.

Game saves – save anywhere is the future

I trade in my old XBOX 360 for a new slim model ensuring that I have copied all of my game saves and content to an external drive.  Copy version seems ok with all game saves intact.  I copy the content and game saves to my new XBOX 360 slim.  I fire up Forza 3.  I look for my game save.  No game save available.  Dissapointment sets in…

I am not a happy bunny after spending around 15 hours Forza 3 prior to this and losing my game save is not on.  I will not be touching Forza 3 anytime soon.  A similar thing happened with my PS3 where I was unable to copy over my Uncharted 2 content.  Why do hardware manufacturers make it so difficult to retrieve your game saves?

This brings me to cloud gaming profiles.  Imagine a world where you play a game and the saved game is automatically uploaded as part of your profile.  Wherever you are you can access your game save and profile.  It is a simple idea and in this hi-tech day and age I am surprised it hasn’t been thought of already?

Granted we are not going to see Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo hold hands and share user profiles.  However, all three should be able to implement a cloud game save solution.  The amount of hours I have poured into various games over the years only to find that I can no longer revive my scores or game states.

We are stepping in the right direction with Apple and it’s Game Center where your game saves are backed up as part of the App to re-sync later.  However, this is locally via PC and your Iphone/Ipod Touch.  As gamers we need a better solution.  Please Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo listen!!!

Intro/logo screens really necessary??

I hate intro/logo screens.  Is it really necessary in today’s gaming?

There is nothing worse than loading up something like Fifa 10 and for the first few minutes of your game having to see all the logo screens.  Multiply this by the number of times you access the game it becomes a significant number.  Surely if someone wants to know who created the game they can go to the credits section?  Or even have logos placed on the menu screen as small icons/logos maybe similar to a web page?

I am sick and tired of seeing logos technology specific i.e. softdec, unreal engine, havok engine, dolby surround sound etc etc.  The list goes on and on.  Not forgetting the logo screens for the games’ publisher and developer.  The gaming industry really need to get the UI right as this is the first impressions of a game.  I think Nintendo have this more right than others.  I think the worst offence that can be committed is to have a intro movie right at the begininng which you cannot skip but that is another story.

The way I see it booting up straight to the menu page doesn’t seem like a huge deal now as most games require a compulsory install or require a straight install.  Previously games have had logo screens in order to hide the fact that the game was loading in the background.

What do you think add your comments below?

Mirror's Edge review

I love this game. Despite playing the majority of the story mode without realising that you can pick up weapons (not explained in game very well I thought but I’ll forgive them) :)

I love this game.  Despite playing the majority of the story mode without realising that you can pick up weapons (not explained in game very well I thought but I’ll forgive them) :)

Dice have come up trumps with the look and feel of this game.  Also, the sound created by Solar Fields is nothing short of stunning.  Both graphics and sound really pull the whole concept of running and jumping through the environments together by adding verve and agility to the pacing.

Some people will not get this game due to it crossing several barriers such as running and jumping through first person mode and secondly, the simplistic nature in its combat.  Which neither makes it a traditional first person shooter or say a platformer.

However, saying that I liked the fact this is trying to break new ground and for the most parts the combat, running and jumping works.  There are moments of slow down in pace which doesn’t sit comfortably with the running sections.  It is more fun running across and over buildings which gets your adrenaline pumping rather than the minimalist shooting sequences which can frustrate especially given your health bar.

The story mode lasted around the 8-10 hour mark for me and then you can take on the challenge mode.  It is a worthwhile game those looking for something different and willing to take the gamble.  I loved the art direction and for the most parts the environments and characters.

4/5

Plants vs zombies review

I am the type of gamer who likes to complete a game once and never go back to it. There are a few exceptions such as the Zelda or Mario series but generally I don’t.

I am the type of gamer who likes to complete a game once and never go back to it.  There are a few exceptions such as the Zelda or Mario series but generally I don’t.  However, having played the MAC version during Christmas 2009 and thoroughly enjoying it I purchased the Iphone version.  It is the same game and I purchased this as an impulse buy on the iphone.

I have found myself playing this game again.  This is a rare statement.  The game is phenomenally addictive.  It has a simple desktop tower defence gameplay where you as plants have to protect the house from the incoming zombies.  With the PC version you can purchase extra gear from Crazy Dave to help you against the zombies.

You have selection of plants which serve different purposes as in any equivalent tower defence game.  Zombies range in size and movement.

The gameplay is perfectly balanced to the Nth degree.  You will find yourself coming back again and again.  There is something magical about this game similar to Zelda and Mario where you can’t quite put your finger on it but you know that it is perfect.  It is a long game and lasted me around the 12 hours mark.  There are extra modes in the PC/MAC versions.  I highly recommend this one.

5/5