Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 25, 2016

Zelda BoW music analysis

Sound and music is the MOST important thing in video games. Graphics age, but the music lasts forever. Note how there is no such thing as ‘remastered for stereo sound’ for older titles. Changing Pac-Man or Super Mario Brothers sounds would totally ruin the game.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 24, 2016

The High Quality Gamers

For the longest while, I have been wondering what Derek Smart’s problem is. Derek Smart is an outspoken critic of Star Citizen. Being a critic is fine, but Smart has a passionate zeal about it. Everyday, it is more anti-Star Citizen stuff. If Star Citizen doesn’t come out as backers want, there, of course, will be a reckoning against Chris Roberts. However, if it does, Chris Roberts gets his statue. But even if Smart is correct, no one will build a statue to him. No one cares. There are no statues to doubting thomases. The doubting thomas is always remembered as the fool, as if history threw up this caricature to say, “Cannot work,” only to contrast when it does work.

What is Smart’s issue? Was it jealously? Is it something else? I finally figured it out when I listened to a twitch stream interview with him. It isn’t about Roberts. It is about the gamers that are backing it. The ‘shitizens’ as he says.

We keep hearing terms being tossed around like casual gamers or hardcore gamers but really there is such a thing of Quality Gamers. Like any other entertainment field, there are different levels of quality. It is not entirely subjective.

The best selling video games are, indeed, inclusive, easy to understand, hard to master, games. But the best selling video games are also almost always high quality games with high degrees of craftsmanship.

“But Malstrom, how do you know this?”

Remember the 1983 crash? We don’t want crappy games.

Gamers do not exit the market just because games get ‘too complicated’ or ‘too time consuming’. We exit the market because the games become too ‘low quality’. Derek Smart started ranting that all these people are buying into Star Citizen but are not giving all the numerous other space games a chance. Of course not. Those space games are shitty. Chris Roberts games (Wing Commander, Privateer, Freelancer, etc.) have always been high quality experiences. People are willing to pay more for a high quality experience. This also explains why there is no backlash with Star Citizen taking so long.

Quality is a hard thing for game developers to understand because ‘all their babies are beautiful’. A better word would be craftsmanship. Quality games have a high degree of craftsmanship.

Chrono Trigger is a high craftsmanship RPG game. No one will deny that. I think there are many RPG players out there, but they desire a certain level of craftsmanship in order to enter the market. I would love a game with the craftsmanship of an Ultima for example.

There exists in the market a type of ‘high craftsmanship’ type market. If any game is below that certain craftsmanship threshold, they see the game as a ‘waste of time’. This market is also plugged into the game industry news cycles as they are on the look out for high craftsmanship games. This is why the game market has an avalanche effect. Once a game is considered high craftsmanship, everyone rushes to buy it.

Instead of a market flooded with games, it is actually a market starving for high craftsmanship games. It explains why some games like Minecraft and Stardew Valley can just explode. Marketers and developers sense this is the case and try to ‘pump up’ the high craftsmanship signals with using hype.

Malstrom is, of course, a high craftsmanship gamer. I only like games that have high craftsmanship. If the game becomes unplayable within twenty years, I do not want it.

When it comes to Star Citizen’s mysterious insane funding, it is clear that it isn’t the game that people are funding. What they are funding is the high craftsmanship.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 23, 2016

Star Citizen hinting at what games may be a decade from now

Space ships are easiest to make graphically since ships are… objects and they are in black space. There is a reason why Space War came out before a fantasy adventure game.

Imagine the scale of all this in an open world fantasy game. It will happen. Generation 12?

Anyway, the above video I thought was hilarious and oddly entertaining to watch.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 22, 2016

Email: Federation Force verdict

Google the reviews, game is mediocre as you predicted not even good enough for the hardcore reviews. Nintendo did not let reviews out until release day so they already knew. The game was DOA.

What I don’t understand is why can we not get a Metroid game that WANTS to be a Metroid game. Every ‘Metroid’ game we get isn’t trying to be Metroid. Federation Force is trying to be… something. Other M is trying to be a movie. Metroid Fusion and Zero Mission were… trying to do something I didn’t want them to do. Metroid Prime 2 and 3 are different because they are differentiating themselves from Metroid Prime 1, and Metroid Prime 1 was a Metroid experience. Super Metroid and original Metroid are Metroid experiences.

We can forgive Metroid II as it was trying to be a Metroid experience on the freaking Gameboy (and succeeded in many ways).

Metroid Prime Pinball was trying to be a pinball game, and it is really awesome.

Metroid Prime Hunters was trying to be a FPS game on the DS which actually was really, really cool.

Nintendo knows we don’t want Sakamoto’s Samus Aran soap operas. Now we are getting something else with a comic book war between Sylux and Samus Aran. It is not a bad idea to use the hunters from Metroid Prime Hunters. But it is a bad idea to turn Metroid into anime crap.

Metroid is the Alien or Aliens movies. For inspiration on a modern Metroid, perhaps Prometheus would work:

As for gameplay, Metroid is for ADVANCED GAMERS. It is supposed to be hard and disorientating.

Metroid’s purpose is not to sell gazillion of units. It can’t. Metroid is at the top of the gaming food chain. Metroid isn’t for new gamers. “But all games must be for new gamers.” BS. Defender and Defender 2, both very hard, complicated games, performed very well. Not every game needs to be Pac-Man or Donkey Kong. Nintendo provides with Pac-Man and Donkey Kong type games but not with Defender types.

Defender is more like Metroid than the new Metroids. Metroid is a trippy game that is for experienced gamers.

Metroid is not about soap operas.

Metroid is not about anime.

This isn’t that hard. Why can’t Nintendo, a billion dollar company, understand its own IPs?

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 22, 2016

Email: Bait and switch games

There’s nothing that irritates me more in gaming than games that
promise something but then give something else entirely, usually the
developer “vision”.

I played Metroid Fusion for the first time recently, by getting it
through My Nintendo for “free” (gold coins that I had no other use
for). When you first load up the game, you actually get the words
METROID 4 on the screen, and the graphics style and mapping system is
almost directly taken from Super Metroid. It’s presented as being a
sequel to that game, so naturally you’ll figure that it’ll be just as
good.

It doesn’t take long until you realize that you’re very, very wrong.
The game is a precursor to Other M in many ways:

– Samus droning on and on about her feelings, past and other things
nobody cares about
– The game being extremely linear, so much that it will often lock all
the doors except the place you’re “supposed” to go. This is not
Metroid
– Adam, Samus’s ex-CO/possible lover, who despite being dead and an AI
directly orders Samus around for most of the game. He’s the one
constantly locking/unlocking all the doors

I beat it with 100% of the items, and I’ll probably never play it again.

Every Zelda game since Ocarina of Time has been bait and switch as
well. We’ve been promised “the best Zelda ever” and each and every
damn time it’s been anything but, and gradually has gotten worse.
Skyward Sword has been the worst offender.

I’m really worried about Breath of the Wild. Even though what we’ve
been shown is “cool” so far, I get the eerie feeling it’s all a
smokescreen and the final game will end up being the same Aonuma crap
we’ve been getting for close to two decades.

One of the recent trailers shows the Koroks (tiny plant/leaf people).
Which game did they come from? Wind Waker. Now yes, that’s only one
thing, but if we keep seeing more and more references, the final game
will end up being Aonuma World and probably nothing like the E3 demo
(which, I think now, was carefully crafted to avoid showing most of
these things… bait and switch).

 

You are right about Metroid Fusion. I played the game once and never touched it again (nor have any interest in doing so). However, I have replayed Super Metroid and original Metroid many times.

The Koroks do not matter. Zelda Breath of the Wild may be Aonuma-World at the end, but it is more probable that it will not be. I am pleased that they are getting The Big Picture right for what a Zelda game ought to be: an open RPG.

In the prior post, I had Warren Spector do an interview. He said that during the making of Ultima 6, he had a tester get stuck with a barred door (many small openings but a human cannot pass). The lever is on the other side. You need the spell telekinesis to use the lever to open the door. Spector laughed at the tester’s frustration since he didn’t have the spell. “Looks like you are going to be stuck! Ha! Ha!” But the tester used Sherry the Mouse, a member of your party, to go through the door’s small openings and use the lever thus opening the door in a way the designer never intended. In this classic RPG, there was a ‘puzzle’, yes, but there were many solutions to it.

And that is the point of video games.

Super Mario Brothers has many ways to get through a level. You can confront enemies, or you can avoid them. You can go through warp pipes or warp zones. You can run and jump on platforms or stay on the ground. Even Super Mario Brothers offers a multi-faceted way to play the game. Aonuma design sucks because it is single-dimension. A puzzle is presented and there is only one solution. When the gamer says, “I like the old Zeldas were you can do dungeons out of order.” What the gamer is actually saying is: “I prefer a multi-faceted gameplay world.” The point is not the dungeon orders, the point is the multi-faceted nature of the game.

The game that does the multi-faceted nature the best that I can think of is Minecraft. There are ‘puzzles’ in Minecraft. There is a cliff up high you want to reach. How do you get there? You could build a ladder. You could dig a stairway. You could jump up and keep putting blocks beneath you. The point is that it is multi-faceted. You have a choice.

Video games are not worth playing if players do not have choice. After all, what is the purpose of the INPUT if the game isn’t multi-faceted?

Take PONG.

PONG is fun because of one thing: where you hit the ball on your paddle determines its arc and trajectory. Without it, the game collapses.

Tetris also works because it is multi-faceted. Where do you put the block? There are choices! There is not just one way to do it!

I have been a Nintendo consumer for many decades. I watch with amusement and horror that Nintendo still asks why certain games are fun and why certain games are not fun. The game must be multi-faceted. Without it, there is no game.

What is genius is that there is a ramification from the multi-faceted nature. In Tetris, there is a ramification for where you place the block. The ‘floor’ is now different because you placed a block in that location. In Minecraft, there are ramifications everywhere. In RPGs, the ramification might be more experience or a goody prize. The stronger enemies give better experience.

Look how story is done in gaming as well. Good stories in games inspire the player’s imagination. Bad stories in games limit the player’s imagination.

Metroid inspires the player’s imagination.

But games like Other M limits the player’s imagination.

In Lord of the Rings, Tolkien constantly refers to old histories and legends giving the universe a larger breadth than it actually does. He is inspiring the imagination.

It is basic seduction. A woman dressing modestly inspires imagination while a naked woman does not. The naked woman may be what the man ‘asks’ for, but he responds stronger to the modest woman and fast gets bored to the naked woman. Imagination is the soul of many things. Shakespeare ended his plays by having the Tempest say at its conclusion: “We are the stuff that dreams are made on.” That dreams are made on. Indeed, we are just ‘stuff’. But it is the dreaming that matters.

What is life without a multi-faceted nature? It is a life of someone telling you to do one thing and then another. It is a life of a slave. A life with a multi-faceted nature is freedom. When people say they want games with freedom, they do not desire to ‘go everywhere’ so much as a multi-faceted game. The first Zelda game is multi-faceted in ways that Aonuma games are not.

Has Nintendo realized this for Breath of the Wild? From what I have seen, they have. “But what about what you haven’t seen?” I don’t know. I haven’t seen it yet!

I could tell Skyward Sword and the DS Zeldas were bad from the beginning. Breath of the Wild, however, seems different. We’ll see how it turns out. If Breath of the Wild is successful, it will destroy Aonuma Zelda forever.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 22, 2016

The revolution that was Wing Commander

If someone asked me what was the most industry changing game of all time, without question I would say Wing Commander. I’m writing this post because I am trying to inform a 20 year old about this historical event.

Wing Commander came out in 1990.

These were the games that were released in 1990.

Secret of Monkey Island

Mega Man 3

Commander Keen

And this is Wing Commander

 

To say this game caused a shock is an understatement. We didn’t realize PCs could DO this.

Warren Spector talks about Origin. Spector was also a producer for Wing Commander. He refers to Chris Roberts as someone he ‘was in awe’ of what he was doing.

Anyway, I hear Star Citizen is doing procedural generated star systems but then hand crafting filling in the systems with interesting stuff. Another very famous game did exactly this: Star Control 2.

After Wing Commander, video games ceased to have the center of gravity be around the designer and had the center of gravity be around production. Was this good or bad? I don’t know. But I wouldn’t want to live in a universe without Wing Commander.

This is the demo of Star Citizen at Gamescon. Take a look:

To those familiar with Chris Roberts’ work, as well as Origin games, this seems like a modern Origin game. Origin was the game company that made Ultima and Wing Commander. When their games came out, they were the cutting edge of power and graphics. You had to buy a new computer to play the latest Wing Commander or Ultima game. The games hold ridiculous attention to detail. Wing Commander came with ship blueprints in the box, for example. While I dislike the movie aspects of the later Wing Commanders, you have to realize how Wing Commander 1 really set up a ‘universe’. Chris Roberts does not like menues. You do not ‘exit’ the game, you clicked on your bunker. You did not select ‘start mission’, you clicked on the door that led to the mission hall.

Folks, the above game of Wing Commander came out in 1990. When Mega Man 3, Commander Keen, and Railroad Tychoon was released, this game was released and WOWED everyone. I believe Wing Commander, more than any other game, made video games production based instead of design based. The production values were nuts.

What Roberts is doing is now rarely done in games today: lotable ambition.  The sheer ambition of Star Citizen is nuts. A modern Wing Commander would be Star Citizen. Complete nuts.

But Origin did go out of business and was taken over by EA. The reason why was because of the price of disks. Had Origin not been so far ahead of the curve, their games could have utilized CDs which would have cut down massively on the costs of their massive, massive games.

Is Derek Smart correct about Star Citizen? I believe everyone is right. Smart has good points: why is this game so far behind? Will it ever be completed? And why waste money on something now? It is best to wait until the product is out. However, I want Star Citizen to be successful just to show everyone what true ambition and magic gaming can be. Is Chris Roberts lying and cheating gamers? I don’t think so. But I do think he is biting off more than he can chew with this. He should have made a smaller game first and then done the rest.

Real artists ship.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 19, 2016

Email: July NPD – 3DS was the bestselling hardware

Hello, Master Malstrom!

First off, let me make it clear that the purpose of this e-mail is not to celebrate the 3DS as a great gaming device. This e-mail is about Nintendo’s larger strategy that involves using smartphone games to grow their core business (dedicated gaming hardware).

According to the leaks for July NPD (numbers provided on sites like NeoGAF and VGChartz, by people who have a track record of being credible), the 3DS was the bestselling hardware (exact numbers undisclosed, but a minimum of 176k units was confirmed), beating everything else. What makes this interesting is:

1. The 3DS slumps in the region of 80-120k units in non-holiday months on a regular basis, more often than not below 100k.
2. The PS4 and Xbox One pull off numbers in the range of 175-225k in comparable months.
3. The 3DS had no price cut on its hardware or its games in July.
4. The only notable new 3DS release was Monster Hunter Generations, an IP that doesn’t push any notable amount of hardware in the USA.

Essentially, the 3DS had to double its sales rate in order to have a shot at #1 for the month, and it did just that without any sort of the usual things that drive hardware sales. The cause of this sudden surge is easily found: It’s Pokémon Go. The smartphone game reinvigorated interest in the Pokémon IP, the titles that benefited the most from it were Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire which re-entered the top 10 of the software charts with combined sales of ~160k units.

Conclusions that can be drawn from this:

1. Nintendo’s strategy to use smartphone games to grow their core business is going to work, provided NX offers compelling software. Pokémon is known to not deviate much from its established framework, so new mainline games (or remakes of them, as is the case with Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire) deliver what consumers expect from Pokémon. I do not expect NX to be a surefire success if Nintendo goes crazy with their IPs or the hardware itself and shows no interest to meet consumer expectations.

2. Smartphones aren’t direct competition for dedicated handhelds, rather the relationship between smartphones and handhelds is similar to PCs and consoles. I know you’ve said this before, but the video game industry likes to push the notion that the dedicated handheld is dead; consequently, Nintendo games on smartphones would be the final nail in the coffin for handhelds. But what the actual numbers show us is quite the opposite and it’s all the more delicious because a mediocre system like the 3DS beat the industry favorites PS4 and Xbox One.

That’s enough for this e-mail. Looking forward to your 2 cents on these NPD results, and more importantly, the implications for Nintendo’s future.

 

I’m impressed, but not surprised, that Minecraft Wii U version is like number 6 on the NPD. Monster Hunter is like #1.

What does it all mean?

It means no new games came out in the month of July. That is what it means.

But it also means Pokemon Go’s success is feeding people into the 3DS and Pokemon games.

In the 80s, there was Nintendo Power and TV cartoons like Captain N or The Super Mario Super Show. There has always been commercials. But now the TV is no longer relevant. The most important screen in a person’s life is their smartphone screen. People look at it everyday for texting and whatever else they do. Pokemon Go is keeping the IP alive in people’s minds which feeds them to the Pokemon product despite it being years old.

This is interactive marketing, and it is brilliant. Pokemon Go isn’t so much a game as it is Nintendo marketing.

It makes me wonder what this means. With the Internet, we saw marketers try to shift their advertising in such a way for that forum. We have seen ads inside games. But perhaps the best way to market a video game is through interactive gameplay of a sort.

I think Nintendo would make a Mario app game similar to ‘Flappy Bird’ which would funnel people to the Mario game on NX. A Zelda type app to do the same to the Zelda game.

I actually believe this was the purpose of the ‘Expansion products’ that Nintendo made. Nintendo wanted Wii Sports and Wii Fit to lead people to 3d Mario, Aonuma Zelda, Sakamoto Metroid, but instead those gamers went to the games Nintendo didn’t want to make such as 2d Mario or even Mario Kart. These ‘app games’ are just to drive the ‘players’ to the Nintendo product.

The problem with mobile games is that they are cheap or free and add value to the hardware, not to the game maker. Apple or the hardware maker is leveraging the mobile makers to sell their phone at a premium amount. What Nintendo is doing is inverting it. Nintendo is using Apple or other hardware phone makers as a platform to drive its users to Nintendo’s platform. The Nintendo IP serves as a bridge from one hardware (mobile phone) to another (Nintendo hardware).

Will analysts understand this? No. They will think the mobile games are products unto themselves. They may generate profit, and it is awesome that marketing itself can now become profitable, but the mobile game is not the end into itself. In the same way, the ‘weather channel’ or ‘everybody votes’ channels on the Wii were not an end to themselves. They were to create new pipelines of consumers into Nintendo’s gaming.

The mobile game will never replace the console game. Nintendo will use the phone’s hardware uniqueness to make that mobile game as Pokemon Go did (Pokemon Go could never be made on a home or handheld game console). Nintendo’s mobile games have the distinct advantage over other games because Nintendo is utilizing the hardware’s uniqueness, the other mobile games are wannabes and trying to create a console (handheld or home) experience on a phone.

This is also an interesting marketing technique to get old products selling again. The Pokemon fans already bought the Pokemon games. So who is buying Pokemon today? It  has to be the new fans. Nintendo may be using this type of marketing for games already out for a year or two.

It makes me think of the NES Mini. If someone buys it and is happy with it, that is money in Nintendo’s pocket. But most likely, a new love for video games will come out in that person’s heart. That person will want to buy the new Nintendo console to play new games. The NES Mini might be better interpreted as ‘interactive marketing’ though intended for a different audience (former Nintendo gamer).

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 17, 2016

Some Ben Franklin quotes

If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.

Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.

Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.

Love your Enemies, for they tell you your Faults.

Idleness and Pride Tax with a heavier Hand than Kings and Parliaments

only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.

He was a smart old man.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 17, 2016

Microsoft reveals why there is no new console generation

Microsoft did a huge reveal today and no one noticed. This is what was said:

Is this the last console generation?

Greenberg: I think it is. … For us, we think the future is without console generations; we think that the ability to build a library, a community, to be able to iterate with the hardware — we’re making a pretty big bet on that with Project Scorpio. We’re basically saying, “This isn’t a new generation; everything you have continues forward and it works.” We think of this as a family of devices.

The bold is my emphasis on that Microsoft is speaking only for Microsoft. This is a curious response to a question of ‘is this the last console generation’? Microsoft is not speaking for others. Microsoft is speaking only for itself. Microsoft is saying, in code, that this is the last generation for Xbox as a console.

A hardcore gamer enters the blog post. He points to Malstrom and shouts:

“Do you hear it, Malstrom? It is the declaration of inevitability. The console market will no longer have generations as we have known. It is time for you to get used to the new ways.”

Are you sure that is what Microsoft is saying?

“Of course. What else could Microsoft be meaning?”

That the Xbox is not a console.

-silence-

You hardcore gamers are amplifying this by justifying the ridiculous notion that ‘console generations no longer exist’ that Microsoft is spewing by saying no generations exist for the PC. I agree with you. The PC is not part of the console generations.

Gads, you guys are stupid. You and the Game Industry, you Hardcore Gamers who have a control stick up your butt as you live on message forums all day, you guys know nothing about games.

You think console generations are about hardware.

You think console generations are about games.

You think console generations are when you spend a ton of money buying ‘new shit’.

Console generations are about…

…consoles.

If we were talking about toasters, we would say Toaster Generations and look at the evolution of the toaster. Operating Systems clearly went through generations. Graphical video cards go through generations. Generations applies to everything.

But console generations are about consoles.

“Microsoft is no longer affected by console generations.”

That is code for ‘Microsoft no longer makes consoles.’

But I know you are still here, Hardcore Gamer.

“Yes, I am still here.”

If the Xbox is not a console but a PC that has no generations, then how does the Xbox compare to the PC?

“Xbox to PC Master Race?”

Yes.

“Xbox is casual gaming. The serious PC gamers play on a PC, not on a pre-made device where they had no input.”

Gasp! This means that if Microsoft goes ahead with declaring Xbox free from console generations because, the only way how is if Xbox isn’t a console, is to praise how PCs do not have ‘generations’ like consoles do. And if that is true, that means the ‘Hardcore Gamers’ of Xbox brand are actually ‘Casual Gamers’ of PC games.

It is what I’ve always said the Xbox was.

The PlayStation also is a dumbed down PC. But Sony is smart enough to keep marketing and pretending the PlayStation is a home console.

Now, is there value in a dumbed down PC masquerading as a console? Sure. Remember, most early consoles were arcade machines masquerading as a console.

Atari-2600-Wood-4Sw-Set.jpg

Both of these are Ataris. One descended from the arcades (no longer there). The other descended from the PC. At one point in time, Atari could have had Apple and Nintendo under its roof.

While we know that the Super NES and Genesis are clearly arcade descendants, the Famicom does stand for ‘Family Computer’. This is what was used in Japan. But the PC scene wasn’t as well established as in America, but that still left open potential for more ‘Famicoms’, i.e. family computers.

The TurboGrafx-16

Turbographx 16 was called the PC Engine.

And, of course, the PlayStation came from Sony Computer.

If we accept the arcade and PC as two markets, the console is how you play the games in your living room (or handheld). But the Xbox, despite its heavy PC influence, wanted to be a console. Today, the Xbox no longer desires to be a console.

Xbox will just become an entertainment PC. Xbox players are just players who cannot handle a real PC.

Console generations are about consoles. The only way hardware can not participate in console generations is if it no longer is a console.

“Don’t need no more generatons, man! It’s like PC. PC don’t got no generations!”

Thank you, Hardcore Gamer. You have completed the circle of my point I’ve been making for over a decade. The Xbox has never been a true console. It is nothing but a dumbed down PC designed for those who cannot handle a real PC (such as children and men whose wives won’t allow them a PC). The ‘hardcore gaming’ marketing was like telling boys that their fisher price toys are ‘edgy’ and ‘super cool’ when they were nothing but plastic toys.

Time makes more converts than reason.

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