My Slow Transformation to Being a Console Gamer

I don’t know when this happened, but I find myself playing less on PC and more on PS3. When new stuff – such as PS3 Move – appears for the console, I’m curious to hear about it. For games, I try find something to play on my console.

This is quite new thing to me, since I’ve been a PC dude as far as I can remember.

I’m guessing there’s few reasons for this change:

  • NHL ’10 exclusivity on PS3. I think it was NHL ’08 or ’07 which is available for PC, but newer NHL games are only available on consoles. Same goes for certain other games that I’d like to try. If I wanted to play these games, I needed to get console. Monopolies work.
  • Ease of use. PS3 is simple to use. Launch the game and you are good. With PCs, I might need to do some mystical rituals to get games working. And after they work, I might need to change resolutions and settings and stuff to get decent framerate and visuals. With PS3 I don’t need to do that.
  • Sofa playing. My PC is located downstairs, in a dark room, with spiders and snakes and such. My PS3 on the other hand is located in our livingroom, with proper lights, sofa and everything. Oh, and those wireless bluetooth controller devices. They are great. PS3 is convenient.
  • Bigger screen (TV for PS3, 24″ monitor for PC)
  • PS3 also nowadays offers online multiplayer which wasn’t available some time ago for consoles. I only play multiplayer games, and with PS3 I can go online so it’s not limited to only offline multiplayer. Which gets me to my next reason.
  • Offline multiplayer is also nice. Sometimes it’s just cool to have people you play with in the same room. PS3 offers that.

But… if it wouldn’t have NHL ’10 online (and blu-ray) I might have not bought the console at all. It’s just later than I’ve found out how cool machines these things are.

This is quite lot said from a guy whose previous console experience was provided by NES (I wonder what happened to that machine) – and who has always held the PC flag very, very high.

I suppose things change.

Why Consoles Are Stuck In The Era of The Dinosaurs?

PC and consoles have one major difference: proper digital delivery.

For PC you have these fine options:

  • GOG – good old games to download in digital format for small price. PC rocks.
  • Tons of more places to get indie and AAA games: Direct2Drive, Steam, Gamersgate… and more. I don’t need physical copies for PC, I can buy them in digital format.

The point is… if for example I want pretty much any game (that was published to) PC, I can get it. Consoles don’t have proper digital delivery. Yes, PS3 offers some demos via playstation network and sells some minis and classics and whatnot, but their catalogue is lacking badly. Xbox live is doing a better job in live area but if I understood correctly, you cannot get for example Alan Wake as a digital download. You (most likely) need to get a physical copy. Same with Wii and others. (I didn’t bother to check but I’m sure somebody will correct me, that’s the beauty of the Internet: there’s people who are always ready to prove you wrong.)

Anyway.

Let’s take an example. If I’d want to hunt down old game called The Incredible Hulk for PS3, I can go through their network and different online shops to see that “it’s not manufactured anymore”. Then I can try ebay (or huuto.net, the Finnish alternative) and with some luck might find some seller. Maybe after some painful research and work, at some point I might eventually get the game delivered to my house. But since I don’t live in the US (where ebay is used much more than here), the odds are against me. In short: it will be tough to find that game to my PS3.

Now… I could switch to PC and check for example D2D and after 17 seconds of time, I’d find this. Downloadable version for about ten bucks. I’d be playing in minutes.

That’s the beauty of the beast. The PC beast. And that’s where PC rocks and consoles suck.

I hate playing disc version of games. They make loud noise, I need to switch discs (since I can have only one inside the machine, not two you know), they might not be available for purchase, package delivery takes time. I nowadays buy mainly digital downloads for my PC, and it feels like I’m forced to go to the stone age with consoles.

I do like playing NHL on my fancy PS3, but seriously… it’s 2010 for heavens sake. We might not have teleportation invented just yet, but could I at least get my console games in a digital format.

Please?

One Reason Why D&D RPG Can Provide a Realistic Combat Experience

I remember when we first tested Rune Quest pen & paper RPG. The game had different hit locations (arms, torso, head, legs), and hitting certain locations might make the limb useless. Also, the game provided a “realistic” system where your skills improve based on which skills you use. This was totally different after Dungeons & Dragons RPG.

There was just couple of issues with Rune Quest’s system, perhaps biggest (to us) being:

The hit locations didn’t make the game “more realistic” experience or more fun. Okay, perhaps the fighting was slightly more realistic for the characters in-game, but it also mean that tracking hits and locations and shit just took more time, and made the combat “less realistic” experience for the players. In D&D you could blast fireballs, calculate damage quickly and continue killing more orcs. Okay, there was dice rolling involved but it was fast & quick.

In some sense, this was more realistic. If you think of “experiencing the fight”. I could immerse in the world and imagine myself throwing those fireballs while my fellow combatants would help killing the damn dragon, with everybody’s hands sweating (like in a real fight against any dragon). Rules didn’t get in the way of the experience, and “realism” happened in the mind of the players.

In Rune Quest, the fights took longer and there was more planning involved (should I hit that guy in the arm… or maybe go for the head for double damage?) and this made the experience less realistic for the players. Now you were more of thinking “what my character should do” instead of “what should I do?”

In a way, the more complex system becomes (in a game where computer cannot do the calculations) the less fun it becomes (unless of course you happen to like calculating combat results, I know there’s people who like that a lot). The fights will take longer: tracking of hits, movements and whatnot is more realistic for the game characters (since you take into account fatigue and everything)… but for the players, the experience is less realistic.

In pen & paper RPGs the so called “more realistic” (complex) systems are less realistic for players, while in more simpler games where combat is fast paced, the players can get better immersed in the world and experience a more realistic (or more fun) combat experience.

I’d follow Einstein’s advice on this:

Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.

Works a long way.

How Much Realism Is Needed?

Modern games provide tons of realism. If you think for example physics: while not perfect in games, you can still experience good-enough physics and think that “this is realistic”. Sure, they might miss a neutron or two when it comes to physics in games, but gameplaywise that doesn’t matter.

What matters is that it’s realistic enough.

NHL ’11 – which I mentioned earlier – promotes how they have redone the game by adding a totally new physics system. I’ve tested the demo and can say that doing a successful hip tackle is most rewarding with the new physics system. Sure… players don’t get tackled realistically (they stop weirdly and then go bit oddly)… but it’s done well – and it’s fun.

Meaning, it’s more than better for the gameplay.

In my zombie game Dead Wake the zombies could punch away barrels and stuff. I don’t know how realistic it was (well, in real life it’s bit tricky to figure out how strong some walking undead dudes would be) but I think I got the barrel throwing just right so that it looked realistic from certain camera perspective. And that – what I believe – is what really matters.

In fact, when players think something is realistic, then game developers have done a good job.

What you think. Which games have succeeded in being realistic? Which ones have failed miserable?

Have you created games which are very realistic or feel like such? What made you decided on doing such projects?

The Next Person to Descibe a Sports Game “Realistic” Will Receive a Grand Trout Slap

I read a review about a golf game, where the author described the game as “realistic” attempt on golf.

I gave the paper this look:

o.O

And after that I started ranting in my mind how that golf game isn’t realistic. Anyone who has played real golf will agree with me.

Here’s some points that I went through in my mind:

#1 – Pain is in the body of the golfer
Let’s take a human back pain and then add pain-in-parts-you-didn’t-know-that-existed-in-your-body. I’ve tried golf once (for few hours). The next day, my “side” (don’t know English term) was hurting like hell. I couldn’t twist my body. And this happened when I was in such shape that I could run half-a-marathon. I’ve yet to see golf game do this.

#2 – “Yeh, but Wii has that if you do it properly!” I can hear you thinking
Well, Watson, there’s more into it.

Golf, by default, is a bloody frustrating game where you can achieve 20% accuracy (and by accuracy I mean the ability to actually hit the ball so that it flies to some direction) after few hours of training – if you have 10 years baseball experience background like I do.

Most of the time it’s frustrating. You try to swing and most likely it results in:

  • Flying pile of grass
  • Almost missed swing (combine with the previous + add 10 cm ball movement)
  • Missed swing (leaving ball where it was)
  • Ball that goes to left, bouncing very low – and touching ground almost all the time.

Only on rare occasions, you will actually hear the most rewarding sound (the sound of your club hitting the ball) and see how the ball flies far away (and far away it indeed flies!).

And that’s the only reason why you keep swinging the damn club for several hours… the reason that at some point you might actually hit the golf ball. (And that’s the reason why I actually enjoyed golf a lot). Classic game design element here: “randomizing reward”.

In “realistic” golf games you just press couple of buttons or wave some short stick controlled in your hand and then the ball flies most likely to the direction you wanted.

I’ve yet to see a single golf game that would be realistic, and unless the game will feature (1) real golf club, (2) real golf ball, (3) enuf space, I doubt that I will never will.

(And don’t even get me started talking about “realistic UFC fighting game”…)

“200 New Features”

I’ve played the NHL ’11 demo a few times, and I had some mixed feelings about the whole game – and thought how “new versions are made in the big world”.

One major difference to indie world is that if NHL ’11 would be done by indies, it would have been published as a patch or as “an expansion pack” (or “paid upgrade”), and it wouldn’t be a new game that costs 50 euros (or whatever the new AAA games cost).

To me it looks like NHL ’11 is the greatest ice hockey game in the planet, and I’d give it 90+ points if I was to write a review…

…but I’m still not buying it.

Why?

  • As cool as the new hip tackle (and other tackles in the whole games) is and no matter how cool is to see broken ice hockey sticks, it still feels an upgrade to the previous version. I would have no problem paying 20ish euros for an upgrade, but since I’ve already got NHL ’10 I feel that I’m not getting this new version – I’m waiting to see NHL ’12
  • Plus: from game developer’s perspective I’m almost guessing they haven’t improved the online multiplayer version in certain ways that I’d want – but of course that’s left to see (since couldn’t test that in demo). I’m talking about making it impossible to take away goalie (since people can ruin the game by randomly taking it off), more balanced matchmaking (based on ranks or something), possibility to change position mid-game (for example, if somebody leaves the game, you could take his position), even balancing the game to favor the losing side (I’d make it so that the team who is losing would get bonus for goalie skills, or perhaps to losing side player skills would be somewhat improved). If technically possible, I would make it so that people could join the online game during the play, and also would make so that players could turn ON a “bot mode” for a moment (if they need to stop playing for a moment). I know some of these are big design decisions and something that won’t be easy to accept, but for example balanced gameplay wouldn’t perhaps be “realistic”, but I’m very certain that it would be more fun.

I think EA has done a great game. I think they’ve made some great improvements. The physics change is a biggie for example and the game just feels (once again) more polished that it’s a no-brainer to get it (unless you already own NHL ’10).

They have put 200+ new features.

They’ve made the world’s best ice hockey game.

Yet, it feels like an “upgrade” to me.

I’m about 110% certain that EA will make tons of more money this way (selling it at 50ish eur price point instead of 20ish eur upgrade), but In the indie world things would be different.

Indies would give those 200 features for free (or as an add-on pack), and people would be amazed about this.

Not sure if that would be sensible for indies. This is just some food for thought.

What you think?

How PS3 Move Could Have Become Much Cooler Than It Currently Is

Sony PS3’s new fancy gadget is the Move motion controllers. Those funny looking sticks with ball of light in one end. Half of the hardcore gamers in the world are laughing at their appearance, half are silent about getting one (to ensure the other half won’t laugh at them).

This is how the Move controller looks like:

I was browsing for some more info about Move (since I’m planning to get the thing) and saw some old discussion about it. Some gamers were laughing at it’s appearance and said something that the marketers could have listened.

“Sony should have made them gloves.”

I think that’s a brilliant statement. A brilliant idea. Sony’s marketing team took Wii’s controller, improved the tech, and are now bringing a bit funny looking cone saying that “hardcore and casual gamers will all love it”.

Well, maybe. Sony probably has a bit more experience in marketing stuff than I do, but I must say that the current solution looks bit like “we are like Wii except better and try to cater for everybody”.

What if Sony would have made a bold move instead, and play from their strengths?

What if they would have decided to:

  • Make the motion controller a glove (or pair of gloves)?
  • What if they would have branded it to be the hardcore gamer’s motion controller?

Now they compete with Wii (who already has all those sports games) and Kinect (which has the extra coolness factor of “you don’t need a controller – you are the controller”).

I don’t know if it would sell more this way, but I think Sony could have made a bolder move in this thing – and differentiate them from others.

You know, they could have done something like this that was done 4 years ago (“Wii power glove mod”) – but of course in black…

Move is technically superior in accuracy (from what I’ve read), but I sure would buy a pair of motion gloves more happily (and pay extra) than a stick or two with light ball in one end.