We are World of Goo and Year-End dump

Today’s post is mostly just stuff I’ve neglected to post earlier in the year and just some random stuff that’s happened since my last blog post, and a preview at something I’m writing. But as usual, let’s begin where we always do:

New Games

    • Europa Universalis III: Complete (PC dl)
    • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers
    • Hearts of Iron 3 (PC dl)
    • Majesty 2 (PC dl)
    • Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (Wii)
    • Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People: Episode 1 – Homestar Ruiner (WW)
    • Volvo: The Game (PC dl)
      The PC download games are review copies that I got through the website I write for,

http://www.gameobserver.com

      , except for Volvo, which I got from the download site through which I recieved the games. Hopefully I’ll have some time to play now that I’m on break.
      I got Strong Bad because I got sick of waiting for Castlevania ReBirth to hit WiiWare and I got Silent Hill the day it came out. Crystal Bearers I got yesterday at Gamestop, though most places still list the release date as December 26, which is odd.
      anyways, let’s move on to the dumping of random bits.

Press Frustration ventilation

      This is somewhat related to my article/rant from my last blog entry. I’ve basically had it with most video game media outlets and two articles from some major sites sort of set me off in a conversation with a friend who was nice enough to let me vent it out. Its been edited some for the sake of brevity.

Me said:

      every day I’m getting more and more dissillusioned with the gaming press/audience

Friend said:

      Eh, try to ignore them. If you don’t it’ll jsut bring you down

Me said:

      I’m just really starting to hate the kind of people that are basically in charge of writing the history of gaming. Its not that I disagree with their opinions, which I do often, its just that they provide no more depth about video games and the industry than Entertainment Tonight does about film

Friend said:

      Well, it does show the industry is starting to be mroe mainstream. And I assume this si the point where the Indie Only Film and Music snobs started to crop up in thsoe respective industries

Me said:

      Well, see its not about Indie/Music snobbery, but actual examination. Yeah music and film have their snobs, but they also have intelligent, academic appreciation and examination

Friend said:

      Right. And it took time for those to develop.

Me said:

      True, I just wish that the best we have now would be better than slightly less rabid fanboys put into a position of editorial power. I mean, dear god, the recent IGN review for the Wii port of RE0 gave it a 4.5 despite the review basically saying its the exact same game and the reviewer repeatedly mentioning how much they hate the old-school resident evil games or GamesRadar’s recent feature on the worst business decisions in gaming.

Friend said:

      Well, to be fair, trying to pass of a prot of an x year old game without doing anything isn’t worth much. Though it should have the caveat that if you liked RE and jsut missed this one it’s worth it.

I said:

      the thing still is that if the Wii is someone’s first console, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility, and they liked Umbrella Chronicles, again not out of the realm of possibility, they might be interested in playing through the full version of RE0. The port is $30. To get everything you would need at gamestop would cost $13 for the game, $15 for a GCN controller ($17 if you want wireless) and $10 for a memory card. The Wii version is a better deal. Sure you could scour the internet to save money but that itself takes more time, then you have to wait for it to come in. And are you really going to save all that much off of $30? So is it a release everyone, regardless of whether or not they own the original should rebuy? Of course not. But is it a pointless release? Hardly.

Friend said:

      A good reviewer definitely should point out that people who did like it and enver played this aprticular one should be fine.

I said:

      it just annoys me that people whose opinions carry real weight in the industry can’t examine something beyond its face value, like that GamesRadar article I mentioned. They list the decision and then whether or not it was a defendable decision. One of their poor decisions was making No More Heroes a Wii exclusive, which they of course say no it wasn’t and that it should obviously gone on the HD systems where the hardcore audience is. They don’t even take into consideration that Killer 7 sold more copies on the Cube than it did on the PS2, despite the PS2 being where the hardcore audience was and Nintendo still suffering with that kiddy label. Or the fact that being such a niche title, it wouldn’t have blockbuster sales regardless of what system it was developed for so developing on an HD console just meant they’d lose even more money if it didn’t sell through.
      Same thing with Microsoft dropping a ton of money on Rare. At the time they bought it, Rare was still a powerhouse developer, though they’d only developed Star Fox Adventures on current gen consoles at the time and they still had projects in development.

Friend said:

      I didn’t think that was a terrible decision, it just didn’t pay off.

I said:

      everything’s clearer in hindsight, so of course no one would think to drop $400 million on Rare given what they’ve gone to produce, but at that time, they were still the developer known for some of the most amazing games in the industry. Not only that, but it was a key second party from a rival corporation. To say that it was not a defendable decision is just plain stupid.
      And then they say the same about Nintendo stickign with cartridges for the N64. They mention that the development costs lead to developers siding with Sony, which is of course true but to say it was not defendable is again short sighted, and its even more apalling because they mention two big reasons for sticking with it in the second sentence of their analysis. Nintendo went with it because they loaded much more quickly and that they were more resistant to piracy. From a business standpoint, the latter is almost reason enough alone to go with the format. Hell, I remember people who owned not a single legitimate Playstation game back in those days. Was sticking with cartridges the greatest decision? of course not, but it had its advantages and from a business standpoint its certainly understandable.
      Anyways, I think that’s all I have to vent about right now

Friend said:

      Naw, it’s fine. It’s defintiely very irritating.

Comment Dump

      I don’t often respond to articles or videos in their comments section or on message boards for several reasons. For one, I find the ignorance on display on the part of 90% of the commentors quite infuriating so I usually refrain from throwing my words in among theirs. Second, my comments are typically ignored so their contribution to any sort of discussion is usually defeated. I really don’t know why that is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if length is a contribution seeing as anything above three, well-composed sentences, is considered a ‘wall of text’ and scares the lazy people away.
      Anyways, I figured I’d repost some of my recent comments here where I’m sure they’ll get more consideration than they did in their original threads.

Kotaku comment on Silent Hill: Shattered Memories said:

      Shattered Memories is easily the most contraversial Silent Hill game ever produced. Unlike the previous two games where there was a more or less general consensus among reviews, this game is the definition of mixed reviews. For every 8 or 9 this game seems to get, there’s a 5 or 6 to balance it out.
      I personally love this game. Though I will admit, the compartmentalizing of the danger may work against it somewhat, but the town itself, safe as it may be, still has an aura about it.
      I personally wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this game to anyone since I think it has an excellent story and the presentation is simply amazing, even without the for a wii game qualifier. I love the fact that most anything in the world can be read without collecting it and viewing it an an inventory or something and the fact that you can call any phone number you see in-game and you’ll get a response.
      While the nightmare sequences may be confusing at first, they’re not impossible to navigate. You’re usually given a moment after the world freezes over before the chase begins, its there that I bring up my map and draw a path towards the exit Phantom Hourglass-style (I’ve yet to read a review that mentions the feature, though the crappy manual certainly doesn’t help) and though the game funnels you down certain paths, I can usually check my relationship to my original path and figure it out.
      To a degree, I feel that losing your way is part of the point of those chase sequences. The first time I went through the nightmares, it was more panic that caused me to lose myself than really level design and that’s why I felt it made sense.
      I also haven’t really had any problems with the motion controls, though I notice that as a whole I seem to have less problems with them in general than most people and reviewers. Throughout the chase sequences, throwing monsters off became almost a reflex action, as was throwing obstacles in their way.
      I personally enjoyed the story. I’m sure purists will be turned away because it doesn’t present everything exactly the way the first game did. The thing is, the game isn’t doing that simply to be different or because they’re not respecting the first game. There’s more to the story than has been revealed through news outlets and by playing the game you’ll see that there is a reason for everything to be different.
      Even so, the departure from the established universe is somewhat refreshing. I found the story in this game to be much more human and relatable then the other games. This was mostly because the game is about you and the way you fit into this world as opposed to previous games where you’re stuck in some ‘other’ place. This game is about Harry and his life and family. You may not be combating some mysterious ‘other’ evil. Instead you’re coming to grips with your own human failings.
      The game isn’t perfect, especially not under the scruitiny of what is generally accepted as a mainstream great game, but I feel the game has more of an artistic lean than most games. The game isn’t so much about checking off the list of what makes a blockbuster. Instead the whole game seems to be made in support of an idea and does so even though it takes it through some commercially questionable territory.
      Even the ice world, though different it may be, makes sense in the context of this game. The game isn’t meant to replace the first game in the canon, it has its own place in the series. Whether or not it becomes widely accepted is yet to be seen but it shouldn’t be overlooked just because its nightmare world is different than the previous games. One commenter said that it was supposed to be hell and that may be true in the other games, but like I said, this game stands on its own and the ice world makes sense for it. The ice world is also not something I can see making a return if there is a follow up. Not because it wasn’t successful, but because the way it works into the story makes it almost unique to this game. It just wouldn’t make sense to repeat it in a different context.
      I personally think this is a great starting point for more games. Climax has done an amazing job with the technical aspects of the game (save some glitches here and there), it has told a meaningful, human story, and it has some compelling gameplay mechanics. I personally hope this game does well enough that it will garner a sequel or follow-up. Climax has a great game on their hands and with some further polishing, another game would be amazing. Maybe mixing up the exploration and the chase scenes more. Simple things like including chases in the normal world and puzzles in the nightmare world will make the scares feel less predictable and hopefully keep tensions higher throughout the game.
      One last thing. I really don’t understand why so many reviews are complaining that the profiling doesn’t change the game enough. It seems that they expected entirely different games to be made. I find this entirely unreasonable since most games with morality systems or other similar system never changes all that much. Like Shattered Memories, games like Mass Effect and Knights of the Old Republic still have you visiting the same places and fighting the same bosses, and saving the world regarldess of whether you play as Jesus Christ reborn or as Satan and Hitler’s love child.
      I’m only partway through my second playthrough and I’m personally amazed at the influence you can have on the game. Things you do in game will change how characters treat you, characters will look and act differently, and locations will look different. And then there’s the over-the-credits doctor’s summary that, if played through honestly, is a frighteningly accurate representation of your personality.

Response to this comment on IGN concerning Mega Man 10 said:

      Good article with some well thought out points. I do however, have to disagree with where you are coming from Mr. Moriarty. Your whole premise seems to be It’s for the love of pure gameplay that Mega Man 10 is being released, just like Mega Man 9 before it. My question is why can’t Mega Man 10 have the same fun gameplay of 9 (or Mega Man 3) but ALSO have good looking, more modern graphics? This isn’t some concept where you have to choose one or the other. Why can’t Capcom go the extra mile (or few feet) and update the visuals to at least the 16-bit era?
      Matt Casamassina just put up a fantastic article several days ago accusing Nintendo of being lazy in how it approaches it’s games and I would submit that Capcom falls into that category as well. I can see them going with a modest look for Mega Man 9 to see if the fan support is still there after all these years and that was proven to be true. Now is when Capcom should feel safer in knowing that they can allocate more resources to the Mega Man series because they know it will sell but as usual Capcom is recycling the same assets over and over just like with the Street Fighter series.
      I own Mega Man 1-8 and all of the original Gameboy versions but I refuse to get on board with Mega Man 10 or 11 etc until Capcom makes the jump to the 21st century. Call me crazy but I’m not changing for them, they will have to change to get my business back and if not then there are plenty of games out there that are interesting to me from a visual and gameplay perspective.

My Response said:

      My problem with your philosophy on this is that you’re taking this from the perspective that this line is cutting edge and if you’re not approaching it then I’m not buying it. Fair enough. I just don’t see it that way.
      When you make a game the appearance of the game itself is part of the game’s mise en scene. Its part of the game itself. If I applied what I percieve as your attitude towards this to other art forms then I’d be asking why artists are still using paint when Photoshop has so many more features or why musicians still use instruments that are hundreds of years old when they can synthesize it on a computer, or why anyone would stick with traditional animation when it can be automated on a computer.
      For me, it doesn’t come down to linear advancement. An artist may want to paint in the style of the old masters complete with old oil paintings and canvas and not touch a computer. It doesn’t mean they’re lazy, it means they have an appreciation for a different point in the medium’s history and they want to contribute to it.
      Its clear a lot of people have an appretiation for the old pixelated graphics what with the recent releases of games like the Bit.Trip series, Half Minute Hero, and even Matt Hazard. In this case, I think the gameplay and the graphic presentation are inseperable. The whole idea of these games is to invoke the old styles and conventions and to couple that gameplay with newer cutting edge graphics won’t ruin the game, but it renders the whole point of doing the game moot.
      Its like wanting to do a send up to 70s exploitation movies but making everything from the special effects to the film processing cutting edge. It undermines the purpose.
      Hell, I personally wanted to see a new 16-bit Mega Man but for a completely different reason than you do. You seem to have wanted it because its more modern and up to date. I wanted it because I remember and enjoyed that era in video games as much as I enjoyed the 8-bit era.
      Yes it would be nice for Capcom to give Mega Man a proper current-gen update but just because we’ve gotten this doesn’t mean the gameplay is any less exciting or the levels any less creative. The thing is people want these games as much because they remember the era and the old Mega Man games than it is because Mega Man 9 was still an incredibly well-made game.

Review dump

      Though I really haven’t been posting them on GT, I’ve been writing reviews posted on [url=www.gameobserver.com]GameObserver[/url] for a few months now and I just figured I’d highlight some of my recently uploaded ones, though some have been available on GameObserver for a while.

Bit.Trip Beat
Bit.Trip Core
Bit.Trip Void (via GameObserver)
Doc Louis’s Punch-Out! (via GameObserver)
Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings
Strong Bad: Episode 1 (via GameObserver)
Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World

      This next part is the first of a six-part article I’m writing for GameObserver. This part hasn’t yet been published and the entire article is not yet complete, but I hope you guys find it interesting enough to check out the full article on GameObserver when it gets posted:

We are World of Goo: Part 1 – The Goo-filled Hills

      Video games with greater themes are nothing new. Games like Metal Gear Solid have shown that it is possible for video games to convey a message that can serve humanity as a whole. The thing is, these games are typically not very subtle about it. Metal Gear Solid practically spells out its theme for you. Its characters have long soliloquies talking about the dangers of nuclear weapons, the proliferation of gene therapy, the face of war, love, life, etc. Its messages are all important but its anything but subtle.
      When I first played World of Goo it was a brilliant puzzle game on a gameplay level. It took shots at corporate globalization and consumerism but little more than that. Or so I thought. I recently went back to the World of Goo and what I saw could only be compared to stepping into the infinite in Stanley Kubrick�s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
      World of Goo is a  game has some pretty obvious themes like those I mentioned above, but it goes beyond that and touches on beauty, our past, the cost of progress, and our place in the world. There�s so much to this game but how do they fit it all within the confines of a puzzle game? Puzzle games like Tetris are brilliant in their own right but often lack all semblance of a storyline, much less deep, meaningful themes but somehow World of Goo transcends the apparent barriers of the genre, some might even say the medium, and deliver messages appropriate for the best of films or poetry and does so with such tact and subtlety that many won�t realize how obvious it really is. When I stumbled on it, World of Goo went from being an excellent puzzle game, to being a tragic mirror with a glimmer of hope in a telescope aimed towards the stars.
      I first began to stumble upon the depth of World of Goo when I began to wonder who exactly I was playing as. You�re not exactly playing as a goo, after all, since you�re reaching out and manipulating them yourself. To answer this question, I thought about what you are trying to do. In almost every level, your goal is simply to reach a tube. Upon reaching the tube, it sucks up all goos not used to build the structure and pumps them back to the World of Goo Corporation. And that was it. Whoever you are, you are working for the benefit of the corporation. What does this have to do with anything? Well, I then began to think about what I was being asked to do in order to serve this corporation. For perspective on this, I turned to The Sign Painter.
      The Sign Painter is a never-seen character in World of Goo. In most every level he leaves signs with cryptic, sometimes sayings or hints. His signs however, are not only there to help you through the level. They provide perspective on what�s happening in the game world, perspective that you, as the player, simply do not have.
      In level 3, �Hang Low,� the Sign Painter�s sign reads,

 

      This cave looks like it’s been undisturbed for thousands of years …Until now! When the pipe broke through the ceiling above, the sunlight must have blinded these rare Albino GooBalls. They didn’t seem to notice when it began to snow. Maybe they would wake up if they had something to jump onto.
      Aside from the fairly obvious gameplay hint, this passage immediately brought to mind images of drilling for oil; using the pipe to harvest resources, only here the severity of my crime is expanded upon. The passage mentions that the cave has remained undisturbed for thousands of years and here I am breaking through for the purpose of harvesting the goos that have inhabited it for centuries. There is a tinge of tragedy in this level, but this is only the beginning.

And that will be it for today and most likely the year. LE Reviews will likely return next time at the start of a whole new season. Any suggestions for an LE review are welcome, just post it in the comments. As usual, all comments are appreciated whether you agree with my views or not, so long as things are kept civil and thoughtful.

      Merry Christmas!
      Happy Holidays!
      and a Happy New Year to everyone!