After what has been just about the worst customer experience possible with GameStop UK with my Dragon Age: Inquisition Collector’s Edition that arrived both late and heavily damaged. (Something that I am still trying to sort out!) I have decided to make a drastic change in my game buying habits.
I have been burned by traditional retail and online ordering too many times. My life is becoming increasingly busy and I am running out of space for all the crap I buy in a given month. So I am making the transition to buying the majority of my games digitally. If you are a PC gamer this will be old hat to you but for me it will be a big change to how I obtain and play my games. It mainly means I won’t have to bother relying on the long chain of people needed to get the games I want to me on time. I made the move with comic books a few years ago and never looked back so I am counting on having a similar experience with digital games.
During E3 last week Bungie announced that the Destiny Alpha would be coming to PS4 for the coming weekend and that all those who signed up for it where pretty much guaranteed entry. Naturally upon seeing this on the video of the PlayStation Press Conference I leapt at the chance to play some Destiny before the Beta in July.
The rest of the week was long but on Thursday night I received my code and downloaded the client. Sadly I wasn’t able to play it until Saturday morning but the wait was worth it.
My god it was worth it.
As it gets closer and closer to release I find myself getting more excited to play the HD Remaster versions of Final Fantasy X and X-2. I suppose it has something to do with the major nostalgia factor that Final Fantasy X has for people around my age. Sure I had played Final Fantasy VII through IX on the PSone but when FFX hit the PS2 in Europe in 2002, (almost a year after its release in Japan!) I was 15 and at just the right age to really understand the key themes and thrust of the story in a way I had not with the previous games.
Tidus’ journey into adulthood with the innocence of his youth being stripped away as the hours of gameplay went by reflected certain aspects of my life at the time. It also helped that Tidus as a somewhat annoying character (but not as annoying a Squall that mopey bastard) was surrounded by one of the best casts of characters in a Final Fantasy game. (Please feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments below!) The world of Spira was a setting that mixed the post-cyberpunk/neo-gothic stylings of FFVII and VIII with a traditional fantasy setting to deliver a unique world which has not been touched or replicated since X-2. It very much stands apart from the other Final Fantasy games because of this. It does not quite fit into the classic Nintendo or PSone eras of the franchise or into the modern cross-media hit and miss of the PS3/Xbox 360 titles. Hell it does not really fit in with the other PS2 era Final Fantasy games which both went for very traditional settings. X and X-2 are unique to the Final Fantasy franchise and I find it really odd that SquareEnix have not gone back to that particular well to plunder it for more spin-offs and new games. Such as my idea for a Blitzball Manager game for iOS. (Think about it. How awesome would that be?)
Also it helped that at the time of its initial release the game was one of the best looking games ever made, had an awesome combat system and non-linear character progression that was way ahead of its time. But hey I liked the world and the characters. A lot. It is also the only Final Fantasy game that whenever it is brought up in the eternal argument of which is the best Final Fantasy (hint: It is NOT Final Fantasy VII) that causes everyone to pause for a second and ponder before returning to their original and most likely, incorrect pick. (FYI the actual best Final Fantasy game is close tie between IX and XII)
Callum’s CV: The Game! is one of those long gestating ideas that I have been slowly tinkering with in the background for the past six months or so. I have managed to fill a notebook with everything I want to do in and with the game and I have only just really got to the point were I can really start putting things into practise.
Two things have been learned from this longer than planed planning phase:
- I need to get off my arse and do more game dev stuff outside of my work as a games tester. (Gotta build up that portfolio!)
- I really need to incorporate a method digitising the scribbles, notes and doodles I make in coming up with game concepts. Especially considering that a notebook crammed with game and game mechanic ideas decided to go walkabout earlier this year.
Still, I have managed to get everything back on track and I’m sure the missing notebook will resurface at some point, so here is the first “proper” update post for Callum’s CV: The Game!
This week’s update is all about creating the small but crammed with stuff (S.B.C.W.S is an “Official” game design term 😉 ) World Map for the game.
The scene: two people are arguing in a crummy loft apartment. One dressed all in black with a giant green X painted on his face. The other dressed in black with PlayStation logo painted on his face.
“My console has more graphics than your console and therefore it is better.”
“No my console is better-er because of the graphics and the cloud!!!!”
*BOOM! An arrogant PC gamer bursts in through the skylight with a huge PC tower strapped to his back*
“You all suck balls! I am PC! I have the bestest graphics of them all if you are willing to spend a fortune and constantly worry about game/hardware specs for the rest of your life!”
The arguement escalates and a huge fight ensues. Disks being used as throwing stars. Controllers as small, oddly shaped clubs. Etc.
Outside a mother walks by handing her iPad over to her overweight four year old.
“The password is: IamStupid don’t spend too much on virtual bird bucks.”
In another case of me stealing my own posts from the NowGamer Forums this time kerr9000 asked the question in the following thread,
What was the first game any of you played that felt like more than just a game, it felt like a whole world, a huge story, an actual quest or a living breathing society?
There is only one game I can to talk about when that question is asked. A game I hold near and dear to my heart. One that is intrinsically intertwined with my teenage years and going from childhood to young adulthood. A game that only people who played it can really understand the way I feel about it.
I’m going to have to talk about Phantasy Star Online….
It is a game that defines my teenage years and one of the few games that I have bought multiple times for different machines. Over the years my PSO journey spanned across:
- Phantasy Star Online [Dreamcast]
- Phantasy Star Online Ver.2 [Dreamcast]
- Phantasy Star Online Episodes I&II [Gamecube]
- Phantasy Star Online Episodes I&II [Xbox]
- Phantasy Star Online Episode III [Gamecube]
- Phantasy Star Online SCHTHACK Private Server [PC]
As you can probably guess I have put a lot of time into it as a game and that’s not including Phantasy Star Universe!
So getting Callum’s CV: THE GAME! finished as my #1GAM for March has failed spectacularly! I started work on it part way through the month and I could have released something to meet the deadline but it would have been half a game. A mere shell of what I have planned for it. Also it being a game of my CV demands that it has a certain level of quality and wit to it and as it currently stands it still needs a fair bit of work.
So my current plan for April is to get CV:THE GAME finished in the next couple of weeks then get onto my task for April: learning Unity. So the plan is to put together a very quick and rough game for #1GAM April as part of my learning process for it. Then hopefully May will allow me to make a more robust game with it.
One of the reasons I enjoyed the new Tomb Raider as much as I did (see the review in Tomb Raider Part 2) despite my past with the franchise (see Part 1) is that it subverts and turns the conventions and tropes of the male focused action game on their head. To the point where a lot of people playing and writing about the game keep saying the game is unrealistic because you are playing as a female character. Which is equal parts a mental statement and an interesting one. One that shows how little we have come since Lara Croft first came back on the scene in 1996 in a blaze of glory brought about in part by the girl power craze initiated by the Spice Girls. (Man the 90s were a weird time!)
It seems like every week we see cases of sexism in games, gaming and the games industry. From the whole Tropes Vs Women/Anita Sarkeesian mess, to Metroid Other M completely undermining the character of Samus Aran (one of gaming’s other great female characters), to the insistance in this generation that female leads cannot sell games. It is clear a lot of people in all areas of gaming have a warped view of women and their place as our fictional heroes or their function in a story. It is great to see a game like the new Tomb Raider being made and released with a lot of fanfare and chatter. It is great to see this new Lara being such a strong character with actual motivations and you know, a personality. It is great to see how the game constantly plays with your expectations and shows up the macho gaming tropes for what they are. But it is depressing that this is only happening now. That some people are up in arms about it, crying about misandry (the sexist’s go to defence against feminism, white knighting and anything pro-equality). That people are claiming the game to be unrealistic because it features a woman in the lead doing all these things. In a game set on an island surrounded by magic storms, home to a cult and ancient Japanese mystical warriors the thing that people say is unrealistic is Lara Croft being able to defend herself as well as she does. That is the state of play for female characters in games at the moment. They cannot do what male characters do, no matter the situation. Now that’s depressing.
- Game: Tomb Raider
- Platform: Multi (Xbox 360 Played)
- Developer: Crystal Dynamics
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Price: £32.04 (Amazon)
As I said in Part 1 of this look at all things Tomb Raider, my past with Lara Croft and her games it troubled at best. Having never really been a huge fan of the older games (despite playing a fair amount of them) this new game was a very interesting prospect. Doing away with the old trappings of the franchise and trying something very different but similar at the same time. At its core it is still Tomb Raider as we know it, you explore the environments finding hidden objects and collectables, fight bad guys with a small arsenal of weapons and Lara is still the same person. Albeit a greener, more rounded, more interesting character that you actually care for.
The main focus of the game is to bring Tomb Raider a very, let’s be honest here, cheesy franchise with awkward gameplay and a character larger than the game itself into the modern sensibilities of the games industry. So while it doesn’t do anything particularly groundbreaking apart from having a strong female character at its centre which is apparently still surprising thing in this day and age. It gives us the best bits of modern game design this generation all wrapped up in a very entertaining package.
Crystal Dynamics I doff my cap in your direction!
In this first of a three part exploration of all things Tomb Raider I explore my history with the franchise and how it has always been there wether I like it or not. Part two focuses on my thoughts on the new game and part three is about why the new game is so refreshing and why that is both a good and worrying thing.
I have a mixed past with Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider games. The PlayStation age, otherwise known as the late 90s is the time that defined me as a gamer. My childish attempts to grasp the various genres available to me on the PSOne fed into my tastes and gaming styles today. Lara Croft, the poster child of 90s gaming and the games industry however is very much absent from my best of the best lists and the Tomb Raider games are squarely on the edges of my gaming memories from those years. Don’t get me wrong I still bought a bunch of them and like everyone my age I have memories of running around Croft Mansion locking butlers in fridges and killing Lara in various comical and frustrating ways. Sometimes because the games were annoyingly awkward other times to drown my sorrows. But the games and the character have never felt quite, right to me.
The games have always had horrendous controls that hinder the player most of the time. You wanted Lara to take a small step to the left but suddenly she would leap off the edge of a perilous drop to her doom…to the right…. The character herself always, even to my childish view of the world back then, felt off. She wasn’t real. She was very much a cartoon to me. She was this impossible creature that was always there on the edges of my gaming leering at me seductively from a promo poster slapped on my wall.