The Age of Quality

Or is it?

In a time where the prices are rising, DLC is proliferating the market at a staggering rate and the quality of games is seemingly going down.

Now, this isn’t to say that there aren’t great games coming out. I would be wrong in saying that. With new IPs like Horizon: Zero Dawn coming out and selling millions of copies and of course perennial favourites like Zelda, one would say my argument falls flat on its face. But, let’s look at things in a little more general light.

There are tons of games coming out from the big studios: EA, Ubisoft, etc that are coming out to infamy, rather than renown.

For example: Mass Effect: Andromeda. Granted, ME3 did leave a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths due to the poorly thought out ending. But it was a series that, for the most part, was beyond reproach. It’s one of those series, like Uncharted, that no one would dare question the quality and notoriety of. But here comes the latest installment and man, I haven’t seen anyone turn on a series so quickly or thoroughly in all of my life. It would be like if all of a sudden someone tried to tell you that Mario sucks. It seemed as likely as that.

Halo 5 is another one of those AAA entries that just bombed. It’s rare to see an big titles that go on sale as fast as it did (save for the big Ubisoft titles…but I’ll get to that). They were practically giving away the Halo 5 limited edition after a while.

Then there’s Ubisoft…Oh how the mighty have fallen! I remember when AC2 was rocketing in sales and everyone was looking at Ubi like it was the company of the future. And now? Now we get games like Unity, Wildlands, For Honor which get big sales numbers because people want to believe that the series has the potential for greatness. But they just flop. And then when they come out with new IPs, people want to buy into the possibility of how great it’s going to be. Then games like For Honor have their fan base setting a day of protest so that the company will listen to them. I mean, really Ubisoft? Is this what you’ve become? Is it only a matter of time before we end up with landfills like this:

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Only, piled high with Assassin’s Creed and Tom Clancy games.

With that said – Is this the age of the decline?

I worry that the great games coming out now are just the diamonds in the rough. The few and far between. I can say for myself that I was very excited for all of the Tom Clancy games coming out this year. Each one of them ended up more disappointing than the last. And then I had high hopes for the new ME, and I can say I’m glad I cancelled my pre-order.

Of course I still have high hopes for the industry as a whole. I know it doesn’t seem like it. I just worry that if the big companies let the quality slide, and they continue to buy up all of the small studios, it creates a dark cloud over the industry for me. One would assume that things should only be getting better with improvements in technology and people more willing to take chances on creating different styles of games, and the consumer willing to go along with them on an adventure.

But then why do we have so many bad games? Is it because the large studios are so set in their ways that they just produce garbage and assume people will buy it? There is definitely a symptom of complicity among the fans. Obviously, to some extent, to problem is that this has simply become a business. I don’t know that there’s one answer. I guess only time will tell whether or not things will get better, or crash.

– The Ego

 

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

This last year has seen a lot in the way of end of life consoles and features. The Wii U is dead (finally), though frankly it was stillborn to begin with. PS3 will no longer support PS Now.

But this year also saw the release of the NES Classic console and a bevy of retro games (specifically on the E-Shop). And in the last couple of years, the “retro” 8 and 16 bit games have become increasingly popular.

But, how does this all stand up?

Don’t get me wrong – I grew up on the NES/SNES. Games like Contra, Zelda and of course, the titular Mario Bros games. And I do still love them. In fact, I recently got myself an SNES. But with the sophistication of current games – is simple nostalgia enough to keep us engaged?

I think of games like Mega Man. An absolute classic. I don’t think anyone could dispute that Mega Man 2 is easily one of the best games of the generations. That being said – how does it stack up next to say, Fallout 4 or The Witcher 3?

Obviously the older stuff isn’t as technically proficient. And, things like the controls are considerably more simplistic. But are those the deciding factors? Is there a way to say “X is better than Y”? Is that the question we should even be asking?

All I can say, from personal experience, is a lot of those games just don’t hold up like I (and I’ll say we and speak for some of you) would like them to.

I think of picking up the NES Classic, but then I look at those games and think: Do I really want to spend 80$ to play Bubble Bobble? Or, is the real fun of Bubble Bobble, in my mind – I mean, the memory of playing it side by side with my friends (and in my case, my grand mother) as a kid?

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And I know, for whatever reason, nostalgia is a huge part of this generation (age group). So I, by default, should be in love with all of the retro stuff coming out. And part of me is. But it’s just nostalgia for nostalgia’s purpose.

I think I’m more interested in where we are, and where we will be potentially over the course of the next few years. The potential in the gaming industry right now seems virtually limitless. VR, despite it being an early incarnation, has some very interesting possibilities. Games, in general, have gotten more complex in terms of actual gameplay, graphics, stories, etc. Even games that I thought there was no hope for the series – like Resident Evil – have surprised me and put out some super high quality games. Which is especially amazing, given the proclivity towards the retro, since Resident Evil 1 was easily one of my favourite PS1 games. In that sense, this nostalgic indulgence is definitely a positive for the future of the industry.

Ok, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that indie developers are reaching back to our roots and showing us where we came from – and are doing some things to make them new and innovative. I also think it’s great that consoles like NES Classic exist for those who never had the opportunity to play through Zelda when it came out.

But this focus (read: cashing in) on the nostalgia of our generation isn’t something I can really get on board with. As far as my consumer dollar goes – I will be laying it down for the new and truly innovative. That is to say, there is nothing wrong with working on something new with a nostalgic twist to it. Every new Zelda has been as good or better than the last – with a few exceptions.

What do you think? Are we better off looking to the past for inspiration and fun, or keep our eyes on the horizon and wait to see what breakthroughs are sure to develop – some in the near future. Let me know in the comments.

– The Ego

Switch it up

Ok, I’ve had a few days to sit and organise my thoughts on the subject, so let’s dive in shall we?

I won’t go into why I’m not pre-ordering the console. I made that pretty apparent on Friday. What I do want to talk about is the presentation and it’s effectiveness and some general stuff about the console as a concept.

Let’s start where the show succeeded:

I think that the console itself is a great idea. I think that Nintendo has shown a real flare for creating a mobile product – with the 3DS’ obvious success at destroying the competition being it’s main claim to fame – so creating a home console that can be taken anywhere and you still get to play titles that are generally considered “home” games is pretty fantastic. I also think they’ve solved the issue of having portable games that you want to be able to play with friends. The Joycons are smart and (granted I haven’t held one so I can’t say this with total authority) well designed. I love the idea of being able to bring everything over to a friends or to a family event in one small, convenient package with no wires. Hauling the Wii around – despite being quite small, was always a pain because it came with controllers, 3 wires for AV/power/sensor, the sensor, plus big disc cases.

I also think the presentation was rather effective because in some ways I think they did exactly what they needed to do. They showed several big games for the launch/first year line-up. They showed a Zelda, Mario, Mario Kart (technically) and a huge 3rd party game – Skyrim. I think in this way, they definitely learned from the mistakes of the Wii U. Oh, I didn’t mention it initially – but Bomberman! Not that I know 7 other people who will buy a Switch, but the idea of playing 8 people side-by-side Bomberman is pretty awesome.

Where it failed:

Conversely – there were a lot of announcements that I thought were lacking. I mean, this was Nintendo’s chance to really wow the world. And there were a lot of big franchises missing. For one – Nothing on Pokemon! I mean, we know they have Stars in development! And even though it isn’t the Pokemon game we really want, it’s what we know is coming. Beyond that: No Metroid, Star Fox, Donkey Kong, Smash Bros or a new Mario Kart. Also – the 3rd party line-up aside from Skyrim was…well bad. I mean, a few games looked cool like the oddly named Square Enix project.

The other big blemish for me is Nintendo’s insistence on including their proprietary kookiness. Arms and 1-2-Switch are just straight up weird. I get that Nintendo still wants to be the family console – that’s fine. But there are other ways.

The overall tone of the presentation was good. I think Nintendo having some different faces out there, now that they are down a major player, is important. And I know Japanese culture is very different from North America – but they need to find some more charismatic showmen for something of this magnitude.

Also – if they’re going to copy the pay subscription of the other guys – you have to be willing to match it all. Not being able to keep your monthly games is a deal breaker.

For me, here are the two biggest drawbacks of the Switch: Price and memory. See, I like good graphics, but I have a PS4 and an Xbone Elite, so I don’t care too much what Nintendo’s graphics card/capabilities are. Battery life is about where I expected it. But the price is off the charts. Considering there is no 3D tech – this should have come in somewhere closer to the price of the 3DS.

So far as memory – starting with 32GB, expandable to 2TB, when installs are going to be 14GB for bigger games – unacceptable. The cost for a reasonable sized SDXC cards are over 100$. Adding even more incentive towards waiting out the price drop.

– The Ego

Switch to 2017

Happy new year readers.

I hope everyone got all of the games they were hoping for, and took some time to play through some of their backlog. I took some time off to recharge my batteries as far as keeping this up, so I appreciate you picking back up with me.

As I’m sure many of you were, I eagerly anticpated the Nintendo Switch announcement. So, I’m sort of live-blogging while they live reveal. I’ll share with you some of my initial impressions:

Let’s get the facts out of the way:

We’re looking at a March 3rd release date and an intial price of 300$ in NA (I’m assuming more in Canada). It will have two configurations, one with standard grey controllers and one with a red and blue – no games included in either bundle. Apparently we will be getting a system with a portable battery life between 2-6 hours, and I’m assuming that depends on network connectivitiy. Local multiplayer matches will take place over WiFi, rather than Bluetooth, with the ability to connect up to 8 consoles at a time. And, for the first time, we will get a competitive online service, which Nintendo is offering for free until fall 2017, and then will switch to a pay-to-use system afterwards.

My impressions so far:

  • The new HD rumble seems like it’ll be pretty cool. Though they could have done a much better job explaining it. I feel like a lot of info was lost in translation. Oh, and speaking of translation: Nintendo needs to hire some better translators. The guys tasked with it were appalling at best. Boring, no personality and the guy translating for the weirdo from Grasshopper just needs to stop.
  • And on the note of the Grasshopper – that guy was too much.
  • 1-2 switch and Arms look super hokey. Even for tech demos. I was hoping Nintendo was going to forgo that kind of thing this time around and focus on a solid gaming platform – but they had to go that way I guess. They make the VR tech demos look well thought out.
  • When Reggie Fils-Amie is the most charismatic at your press conference – you done fucked up.
  • I did like how the explanation of the origin Switch talked about the DNA taken from all of Nintendo’s consoles throughout the years.
  • ZELDA LAUNCH TITLE!

Ok, now that it’s over I’ll try and organise my thoughts a little bit better.

So overall I thought it was a pretty good presentation.

There were a lot of ups and downs over the course of the conference. The 3rd party announcements were weird. Octopath Traveller looked great and was a pretty old school/new school Square Enix title. Some of the others though…can’t say I’ll be jumping on any of them.

The first party announcements were good. No Pokemon announcements kind of let me down. I was hoping to see something. Oh, and no Mario Kart either? Meh. The new Mario looks fun, but super gimmicky. I mean, his hat is alive. And he can throw it. Not sure what to say about that…

Hardware-wise: I think it’s exactly what I expected it to be. The graphics are about where I generally place Nintendo. The controllers look cool, but they also look really small. The new HD rumble is a feature I didn’t expect to hear so much about. I mean, it’s great. I think it’ll improve  the tactile experience.

One thing, from the hardware perspective, that they didn’t go into was hard drive size. They did mention the ability to take pictures and eventually video – so that is going to be something I’m eagerly awaiting to find out. Not that I expect I’ll be recording much Mario.

I guess I’ll leave it with this: I went into the announcement thinking that the Switch would be a day one purchase for me. Today I’m a little more on the fence. Though I really, really want to get the Zelda game as soon as possible. It’ll take some thought.

– The Ego

Gamer/Collector

Is there ever a point where you think you’ll stop gaming? I have delved into the deepest pits, and fought treacherous odds to find someone to predict the future for me. And when I got there, and asked “Will I? Will I ever stop gaming?”, and shook the round, black prognosticator – it said “It doesn’t seem likely”.

I ask this question on the heels of a (small) decision I made recently. Now, I made the addendum – small – because in the scheme of things it was a rather small decision. Now, for me, it was footprints on the moon. Prepare yourselves, you may want to sit if you aren’t:

I opted out of buying a collector’s edition for a game I truly love…

Feel free to take a moment to catch your breath before you keep reading. You’re okay? Well, let’s continue:

Now I fancy myself a pretty hardcore gamer (despite time constraints) and more than that – I’m a collector. I have Funko Pop! figure, Marvel action figures and a bunch of random gaming memorabilia that I’ve accumulated from dozens of collector’s editions. I also don’t trade in my games to EB, or whomever. You can see how I feel about that here. So on top of all of the collectibles, I have my games.

But do we get to a point where we just end up buying games to put on the shelf? I know that I don’t have anywhere near the time I used to, but I still continue to buy games. To my credit, I have reigned in how many games I buy and when I buy them. Rather than just grabbing them all at release – a lot of them get put on the back burner till things slow down.

Does there come a point where we lose the distinction of being a gamer, and become consumers? I mean, we’re always consumers. But there is definitely a difference between buying to have them, and buying to play them. If they’re all just going to end up on a shelf, at some point, this is you:

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And, while the thought of owning all of those games is somewhat appealing, it’s just unrealistic.

Having moved across the country recently, I was able to purge a bunch of my old gaming stuff that I had stored in the basement. So I won’t end up in this situation any time soon.

The other reason I ask this question is: once upon a time we used to get a couple of big releases a year. Now, especially at this time of year, we get 3-4 AAA releases per month for at least 3-4 months. And, the industry has really started upping it’s game release wise. The release landscape has significantly changed in the last few years. I remember, having worked on the development side of things, that September to April was a dead time of year. Now, major releases are springing up in March (2017 will see the Switch and probably a Mario or Mario Kart game to go with it) and last May we had Overwatch to name a few.

So if we all buy the way I have for a long time, there must come a point where we have more games than we can feasibly play. Unless, of course, you’re all living my dream where someone pays you to actually play video games (which is what people thought I did for a living when I was a tester…and trust me, that’s not the case).

So do you consider yourself a gamer still? Do you still buy all of the collector’s editions with all of their fantastic plastic crap? Sounds off in the comments, tweet me, whatever. I’m curious to know. You con contact me here, here or send an e-mail here: theegogames@gmail.com. Please follow and subscribe.

As always, if there is a topic you want me to cover, shoot me a message, tweet me, leave a comment below and I will happily write it up.

– The Ego

Classic vs Classic

So the NES Classic edition is coming out in just seven short days. What are people thinking? I just inherited (no, they didn’t die, they just gave them to me) two-too many original NES’ from my grandparents. I was fortunate enough to already have one, and a few awesome games. Some of them were my grandmother’s – and are straight out of my childhood. I also snagged my old N64 and their SNES. Which is definitely one of my prized possessions. If only I could find a reasonably priced copy of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Mario RPG – I’d be all set.

So, personally, I’m torn. Do I or don’t I?

The thought of having an NES that doesn’t require me blowing into every cartridge is incredibly appealing. Even though this apparently “does nothing”.

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And, even though I do have a fair assortment of games, like I said – stuff like Tiny Toons and Zelda – there are a lot of games built into that console that I don’t have. Castlevania,  Donkey Kong (and Jr), Ghost N’Goblins and Punch Out! Oh man. Plus Dr. Mario. The nostalgia is just flooding back. I used to have a running competition with one of my elementary school teachers in Dr. Mario.

Plus, from what I’ve read, the updated graphics are something to write home about. I’ll chalk it up to the HDMI running the show instead of an RF cable. As a side note – when I unpacked my NES to hook up to my 4K TV, I wasn’t even sure it was going to hook up. But it did. Plus the “classic” look mode is supposed to be pretty cool as well.

And the new console looks pretty awesome. Tiny, but awesome. Apparently the controllers are as wide as the entire console.

The controllers have been upgraded as well. The new controllers include tighter, better functioning D-Pads. Which will hopefully make playing games like Mega Man 2 – with it’s incredibly infuriating platforming sections – a more workable nightmare.

But, and yea we’re onto the negatives now – on the topic of the controllers: The cord. It’s way too short. For me, it’s not a huge issue. My living room isn’t large, so short wired controllers isn’t a big deal. But, the choice to do that in the first place is kind of baffling. It’s a Nintendo decision for sure. “Do people still sit two feet from the TV like they did when they were kids? No? Fuck it. Make the cords 3′ long anyway”.

The biggest no for me is the pre-loaded games. I don’t mean the choices – although while I’m at it, some of the choices are a little wonky. Super C instead of Contra? Why? I digress. The real problem is that there are only 30 games built into the console. Which, for a start, is perfectly fine. And at (I’m assuming 80$) 30 games is a good amount. Even if they aren’t all winners. But the fact that you can’t upload, download or add any more games in any way makes this system kind of a let down. I think I speak for most people when I say that when this system was announced and they said pre-installed games, that at some point we would be able to take advantage of the built in hard drive and actually be able to get some new games for it. Of course, it’s Nintendo, so I assumed it would be at my expense from the Nintendo eShop. Which, I guess, is to be expected. It’s not like they’re going to just hand out free titles – I mean, their competition has been doing it for years, but hey, it’s Nintendo.

So, with that in mind, I still don’t know what to do. If I buy the Classic, I’ll still have to buy some of the NES games I don’t have. But it’ll save me a bunch of money and time not having to track down the games that are already installed.

What am I to do?

– The Ego

 

I couldn’t just let well enough alone…

Well, I was going to lay off of Nintendo for a while. I’ve been bashing the big N pretty hard lately. But then I saw this. Make sure you watch it to the end:

I think that about sums it up.

Nintendo has officially become the snake-oil salesmen of the videogame era. They’re out there peddling their wares without a care in the world for the end-user. I think, probably from the beginning, Nintendo had good intentions at heart. But let’s face it. Now, they’re just out there, manufacturing gimmick after gimmick to the point that the whole thing has become a seven-layer salad of stupid. If Dante were resurrected in the 21st century, I think he could write a new epic parable for negotiating the levels of Nintendo. Yes, I just intimated that Nintendo is the equivalent of Hell for those of you not well versed in 13th century Italian poets. And at it’s cold, desolate heart is the three-headed beast: Reggie, Iwata and Miyamoto. Each seemingly more disconnected from reality than the last. And in their mouths (sorry, I really like Dante and very rarely get to reference it): All of your favourite franchises screaming for sweet release, either death or literal release (dates).

Their head-space is so cluttered with thoughts of new hardware that they can’t even see the big picture any more. I’ve seen Reggie making statements about how VR isn’t any fun. Not that I disagree (though only time will tell if I’m wrong), but from a company who’s entire reason for being currently is coming up with wacky tech concepts to sell hardware, while completely forgetting that they need titles to push sales of said hardware.

Pumping out various Zelda re-masters will only fend off the hordes for so long guys. I loved Wind Waker, Ocarina and Majora’s Mask, but guess what? I spent 400$+taxes to get a new Zelda at some point. Just a heads up – I expected that some point to be before you release another new console.

I was reading an article on Polygon not long ago, and I came across this gem:

“The key to Nintendo’s success, Fils-Aime said, isn’t just to make good games, but to help people understand why they’re good.”

Really? That’s what you think Nintendo’s job is? Out of curiosity, do you see Sony or Microsoft or any software developing studio having to go out of their way to explain the merit of their games? And, before the trolls get-a-bitin’, I’m not referencing the E word, store tech demos or CES. I can’t remember the last time that Bethesda or (formerly) Irrational Games had to sit down and hold the gamer’s hand and say “Don’t you see what makes our games so great? It’s X”. Hasn’t happened yet. Because, and hold your gasps if you can Nintendo – most games are sold on their own merit. Well, the good ones anyway.

I wish I could have ten minute to talk to these guys, with the bullshit filters off. Not because I want to have an interview – I have seen the kind of propaganda they pump out in interviews. They would have made Goebbels proud. I just would love to be able to ask them what they think the average gamer is looking for, and how their current business strategy is making that happen for them.

Because so far, all I see is kitschy toys produced “for children” to create a secondary market to the benefit only of those sad enough to be scalping them, hardware that is outdated and, once again, gimmicky and games that reflect that attitude *cough* Star Fox/Metroid *cough*.

I swear to you Nintendo – if you actually produce what your fans are asking for, they will buy it. I’d buy three copies of a 3D Wii U Pokemon just to make sure they continue to make them. I really would. Pokemon U for everyone that Christmas!

That being said, I’ll leave N alone for now…

– The Ego