Posted by: seanmalstrom | February 24, 2021

Corporate vs. Entrepreneur Gaming

I’m tired of this AAA and ‘indie’ defined bullshit. All that’s telling us is how much money has been invested. There’s a better definition of the terms: Corporate Games and Entrepreneur Games.

Many indie game ‘companies’ are having the scent of corporate about them. They try to control all reviews. They give out ‘press kits’ for their games. They think they’re being professional unlike those ‘plebian’ developers out there. But they’re not. They’re simply being corporate. And their games PLAY like corporate.

Corporate games give me an unsettling feeling like a Marriott hotel. The staff run around, incompetent, always apologizing, alqyas polite, while the hotel is big, beautiful, and luxurious. It feels all fake. All ‘paint by numbers’.

I’ve been wondering why I LOVED game developers in the past but I DESPISE game developers today. What’s changed? What I loved about game developers of the past is that they were ENTREPRENEURS. Entrepreneurs are more likely to say what’s on their mind, listen to real feedback, not live in a lie, work extremely hard, and tried very, very hard to please the customer. Today, the corporate mentality is with game developers. They’re not interested in failing, in trying something different. They are so scared. They are like herd animals trying to find the lowest probability of failure (so they copy every other successful game). There is no real passion behind them. It is nothing more than a song of ‘check those boxes’. They just want a job in ‘the games industry’.

I also get the sense that developers no longer play their own games. To them, the game is ‘workflow’. How efficiently can I make my workflow?

What about playing your own game for fun?

“Can’t do that…” the game developer says. “That would interrupt my work flow.”

As if the workflow isn’t about PLAYING the damned game! Or WATCHING others play the game. I remember with Blizzard, the true secret of Blizzard polish was that they never stopped playing their own games. Even after the game shipped, they went home from work and kept playing their game! That is how Blizzard games kept changing radically from launch and why those games are still played today.

Corporate developers never allow surprises and ‘ah ha’ moments in their game development. It’s all put into place early on. An entrepreneur developer would react during development and change things up if that is what’s needed. Yes, that might delay the game. But the result is a game that people actually want to play.

Anyone who has any true experience in creative works from game development, music writing, book writing, etc. knows that the true magic of creation happens in the midst of it. Why did Iwata do so many Iwata Asks interviews? Because Iwata was fascinated and curious about the development process. It’s almost a magical process. But in Corporate Developers, it is a machine-like process. Like making sausages.

Corporate Games:

-Designed around bullet points. Formulaic.

-Heavy borrowing of previous games.

-Very rich production work such as art.

Entrepreneur Games:

-Hard to describe the design. Unorthodox to formula.

-Very different from previous games.

-Low production work such as art.

Not all corporate games come from AAA companies. They can come from indie game developers too. I’d say most indie games are ‘corporate games’ but with shitty production budgets. And not all AAA companies make corporate games.

Golden Age Blizzard was the best example. People don’t realize how Blizzard was trashed for the ‘poor graphics’ of Starcraft (“Why didn’t they use 3d? Wah!”). Warcraft 3 is a sequel to the very successful Warcraft 2, but it is extremely different. And World of Warcraft’s success was something else entirely.

I suppose that is why the early Nintendo games appeal to me because they very much feel entrepreneur driven. Zelda 2 isn’t like Zelda 1, yet it is exactly a sequel, which is very fun. Blaster Master and Guardian Legend don’t make any sense in a corporate mentality. And we wouldn’t have had Mega Man 2 had the Capcom developers listened to their corporate overlords.

Game development was like rock and roll bands. But as gaming became more corporate, it is like hearing music from a big music company. It sounds so artificial, so machine-like.

I would rather play shitty Entrepreneur Games than awesome Corporate Games.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | February 24, 2021

Email: I freakin’ LOVE you, man!!!!

So – I was watching that Nintendo Direct the other day. Honestly, I wasn’t 100% sure how I felt about any of what they had shown (considering it had been over a YEAR since the last Direct was put together!!!). But the very second they turned the video over to Aonuma, my heart sank – I was literally wincing, preparing myself for the next bastardization of Zelda…   …when he announced (the typical) delay. “Uh oh, I have a really BAD feeling about this!!!”, I suddenly thought to myself. The Switch with its active joy-cons – oh God, please do not let it be…!!!!!
…and then, the image of an Aonuma-bird is seen flying across the screen…
NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!

My God, Skyward – really?!?!?!? But why am I shocked? Should have seen this one coming from MILES away…      …but I digress and I’ve gotten WAY off topic, here – I could spend DAYS discussing how Aonuma is a talentless, egomaniacal joke – but that wasn’t why I wanted to write you! The topic (as referenced in the subject) is supposed to be about why I “love you” – and it’s because as I waited for your review of the event to come, I kept hoping you would link to my favorite video of all time – AND YOU DID NOT DISAPPOINT!!! LOL!!!!!

I love that Aonuma-Style song – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to it, ever since you first posted it on your site! And of course, it couldn’t be posted at a more timely moment – just as that self-centered, ignorant, jackass, “the world is a puzzle”-Aonuma decided to let me know how he was going to poison my Switch library with such an “artistic” pos!!!!

Anyway – had to get that off my chest! You are the best, dude!!!! 😄

The remasters of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess are on the way. Skyward Sword is coming out *now* because Nintendo knows you won’t buy Skyward Sword when better options present themselves.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - Limited Edition Gold Wii Remote  Bundle: Amazon.co.uk: PC & Video Games

Skyward Sword was sold at $50 and came with a ‘golden’ Wii-mote and a soundtrack!!! And people *still* didn’t buy it.

Today, it is going to cost $60. It will not come with a controller. It will not come with a soundtrack.

And yet, Skyward Sword Switch will sell. Why? Lack of competition.

From an Iwata perspective, video games do not just compete with other video games. They compete with ALL entertainment. This includes going outside and doing things. However, something big has happened since 2020. With all the forced lockdowns, going outside and doing things is banned. Video game sales are UP, UP, and UP to monstrous levels not because video games are outcompeting other forms of entertainment. It is because those other forms of entertainment have been outlawed!

So the macro side for video games is up, up, up as the economy slows down.

In addition, Skyward Sword wasn’t the only Zelda on the Wii. There were two more. Wind Waker, which could be played through the Gamecube backwards compatibility, and Twilight Princess which famously launched with the Wii. In addition, there was the Virtual Console Zelda games. Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask were available then, I believe.

Breath of the Wild isn’t competing with Zelda games. It is EXCITING the entire market for Zelda. Nintendo knows this. And they know they will probably fuck up the Zelda franchise again. So they are going to push as much Zelda stuff out there to get as much money as they can. Age of Calamity is an example of a game entirely feeding off of the Breath of the Wild excitement. All Zelda games will get a boost from all these new people who have gotten into Zelda due to Breath of the Wild.

My take on it all is that Breath of the Wild is a hot, scorching fire of market excitement, and pushing out all these Aonuma style Zelda games is throwing wet blankets on that fire. Eventually, that scorching fire of market excitement will become less and less hot and eventually die out entirely. Age of Calamity is a great example of this. My excitement for Zelda has GONE DOWN after going through Age of Calamity because I hate how that game was done. It went down with the 3d style Link’s Awakening remake too. It will go down after Skyward Sword. And it will go down further with Wind Waker and Twilight Princess re-releases.

I believe Nintendo has weakened the Zelda market excitement to such a degree that if Breath of the Wild 2 doesn’t deliver, then the Zelda franchise will be back BEFORE Breath of the Wild came out. It will become an IP in danger.

Breath of the Wild 2 *has* to deliver now. If Nintendo didn’t try to aggressively milk the Zelda excitement with all these damn ports and remakes, especially of Zelda games that are decisively contrarian to the philosophy and gameplay of Breath of the Wild, Breath of the Wild 2 would not become such a critical title. Breath of the Wild 2 could have been a ‘miss’, and Zelda franchise would be OK. But due to the greed or ego of Nintendo with all this money grabbing and shoving these shitty Zeldas in front of our faces (shitty from the quality context of Breath of the Wild), Nintendo is digging a giant hole here. If Breath of the Wild 2 doesn’t deliver, Zelda falls into the hole as a grave. Then it will take another Breath of the Wild revolutionary title to save the IP.

When Metroid Prime excited the market, Nintendo wasted no time with Metroid Prime Hunters and Metroid Prime Pinball as well as two additional sequels! But that excitement wore off. Sakamoto gave modern Metroid a deathblow with Metroid: Other M. Then Sakamoto gives 2d Metroid a deathblow with Samus Returns. If Retro cannot create a Metroid Prime type excitement with Metroid Prime 4, the Metroid IP will be finished. It will join F-Zero and Starfox in the Nintendo IP graveyard.

Zelda is not there yet. Breath of the Wild 2 has to continue and refine Breath of the Wild 1. That’s it. That’s all what anyone expects. But if Aonuma is going to Aonuma Breath of the Wild 2 by twisting it into something completely different that is about ‘visual novels’ and ‘puzzles’, Zelda IP will enter the critically terminal state that the Metroid IP is in.

You can’t just look at the sales. You have to look at player behavior. Nintendo does this. Skyward Sword sold during its day, as all big Nintendo games sell. But what alarmed Nintendo was that player behavior data showed that people weren’t even bothering to finish the game! Nintendo then began to do wild experimentation with Link Between Worlds to Breath of the Wild. They knew Skyward Sword is broken.

This is as if Capcom is trying to ‘remaster’ and push Street Fighter 1 after Street Fighter 2 blew up. (Capcom never did this aside from game collections.) This is as if Hudson ‘remastered’ and pushed Star Soldier after Super Star Soldier and Soldier Blade became popular (Hudson never did this). This is as if Hudson ‘remastered’ and pushed NES Bomberman when the 16-bit era Bomberman games got popular (Hudson didn’t do this.) It’s like Blizzard trying to remaster and push Warcraft 1 after Warcraft blew up with Warcraft 2 or World of Warcraft (Blizzard didn’t do this. Instead, they made Warcraft 1 into a movie (!)).

All video game history shows, as well as entertainment history shows, that an exciting IP can only take so many ‘poor installments’ before the IP is finished. Look at the Terminator franchise. It’s gone. Look at Alien franchise. Covenant finished it off. Look at Star Trek. Dead franchise. Even Star Wars is not immune. If it wasn’t for the Mandolorian, Star Wars would be finished as an IP. And Star Wars still isn’t out of the woods yet in saving itself. If IP destruction can happen to something like Star Wars, it can definitely happen to Mario, Zelda, and Metroid. Metroid is pretty much finished as an IP. Mario is like a zombie IP that only children and nostalgic Nintendo fans like today. Mario is nowhere near the excitement of the 1980s. I don’t think Miyamoto even understands the ‘Mario Madness’ of the 1980s.

It amazes me that Nintendo works so hard to make a title that excites people about the IP, that causes people to buy the hardware let alone the game, and then allows that excitement to be so nonchalantly destroyed. People are excited about Breath of the Wild because of Breath of the Wild. People are not suddenly going to turn around and start loving Skyward Sword because of Breath of the Wild. To put it in perspective, Breath of the Wild created more excitement on the Wii U, a discontinued console, than Skyward Sword did during Wii’s zenith.

I can’t believe Nintendo doesn’t think ramming all these failed Zelda games (failed from the ‘normal’ of Breath of the Wild) at the market is going to excite the market. It will DEPRESS the market. And then we come to Breath of the Wild 2 whose title promises the game is a DIRECT SEQUEL to Breath of the Wild. If Breath of the Wild 2 is NOT an open world game or does shitty Aonuma things, then Breath of the Wild 2 will disappoint. Then Zelda IP enters ‘has been’ status and goes into freefall. BOW2 failure will not be terminal, but it will be very serious. (Metroid Prime 4 failure will be fatal to Metroid IP. I don’t see how Metroid can ever come back after yet another high profile bomb.)

I believe Aonuma and his friends have their heads SO FAR UP THEIR ASSES, they still don’t believe their philosophy of Zelda has failed. It is reminiscent of Miyamoto going, “NOW IS THE TIME FOR 3d!” holding up the 3DS while refusing the believe obvious market data. That market data was the ‘all-in-on-3d’ N64 and Gamecube destroying Nintendo’s home console sales. The utter collapse in Mario game sales. Meanwhile, 2d games still sold great such as the Smash Brothers franchise. The GBA and DS systems, 2d fortresses, sold very well. The success of the Wii should indicate that people prefer the simplicity of the NES as the Wii-mote is just a NES controller turned sideways. But noooo. After the DS and Wii highs (which still haven’t been matched), Nintendo commits suicide on their own market with their sick, sick 3d obsession with making a game console entirely dedicated to 3d (3ds). Nintendo is soooo deluded with their 3d manifest destiny that the 3DS display hurting children’s developing eyes STILL didn’t persuade them to stop. They were willing to sacrifice their core market (children) to get to their 3d utopia.

I believe Aonuma is so insane that he actually believes that Skyward Sword ‘set the table’ for Breath of the Wild. Nintendo’s huge commercial failures don’t occur out of nowhere. They occur out of huge trust placed in a big name developer. In the case of 3DS, it was Miyamoto. In the case of Virtual Boy, it was Gunpei Yokoi. I don’t think they’d let Aonuma re-design the hardware, but they did let him do whatever he wanted to do with Zelda. I remember the Iwata Asks on Spirit Tracks with the shocked Iwata going, “WTF is with the trains!?”

Breath of the Wild isn’t the first open world Zelda game. That would be Zelda 1 and arguably Zelda 2 and Link to the Past. But Aonuma doesn’t like those games. It’s hard to do ‘visual novels’ and ‘puzzles’ in an open world game. So with Aonuma, Zelda became linear.

Aonuma is convinced his own farts don’t stink. He will point to the sales of the Skyward Sword Remastered edition that people actually DO like and love Skyward Sword. They just weren’t sophisticated enough when the game came out! I know he will do this because he did this during Wind Waker Remastered. “See? Everyone loves Wind Waker. I AM A GENIUS!!!!”

Can you imagine if the prior Zeldas had open worlds like Breath of the Wild? Wind Waker would be really cool as an open world sailing game. Too bad we didn’t get it. Twilight Princess would be really awesome being open world as the game world was rather large. But that doesn’t fit Aonuma style.

Aonuma has never been a good fit for the Zelda franchise. His philosophy is all wrong for the franchise. Breath of the Wild’s success shows just how much Zelda franchise has been suppressed by Aonuma’s re-defining of Zelda.

Breath of the Wild matches what I saw of Zelda excitement with the original Zelda on the NES. Everyone knew of the golden cartridge game. It would have sold more but the primary audience of Zelda was children who couldn’t all afford it. They borrowed other people’s copies. To say that Legend of Zelda was influential is an understatment.

But Aonuma hated the Legend of Zelda. He was not a fan. He wasn’t even a fan of Link to the Past. Yet the entire franchise is turned over to him. WHY?

I get so passionately angry over this because life is short. I won’t live forever. You won’t live forever. Most people’s jobs are boring. Some people’s jobs are bus drivers, for example. It is very boring.

However, these game designers at BIG, RICH companies like Nintendo, are in a very, very, very privileged position. They get to direct or produce the next Zelda game which comes out twice a decade. They don’t even TRY to make the ‘best game’. They are trying to be the ‘most genius person in the room’ with all their bullshit they put in. And when the market reacts negatively, they get defensive about it.

They should be dismissed and replaced by someone who wants to succeed in the market. Someone who is a FAN of that series.

I’m not a fan of Pokemon, how insane would it be to make me a producer of the Pokemon IP? But Nintendo does this and protects them from failures. Why? It’s flat out corruption. How on earth is someone like Sakamoto allowed to do anything with the Metroid series today is beyond me. But Nintendo keeps circling the wagons around these high profile failures while fans run away and shareholders lose enormous amounts of money.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | February 24, 2021

NES Reviews: 720

720 NES Prices
Released: 1989

What is 720? Could this be a hidden classic, a gem among the NES collection? Could this excite the reader with thrilling new game sessions of addictive repeated plays? And most important of all, does it earn the Malstrom Award? (…which is, of course, the most prestigious award in all of gaming!) Let’s find out!

Above: Music is pretty good in this one.

The game revolves around a central hub that has some shops and events like downhill or slalom. When you are done with each event, it ‘closes’. When you are done with all four, then it goes to Class 2 which resets them.

The hub is too large. It is SO LARGE that the developers put in a mini-map for it. A map for the hub! There is also a time limit when you’re in the hub, strangely. You can get knocked down by people out and about on the hub too. And when time runs out, it says “SKATE OR DIE”. Hmm…

The events aren’t that hot. You’re too busy trying to figure out what to do. Some are downhill where you dodge obstacles. Others are go downhill into a jump. Another is a half pipe. Typical skating stuff.

The sound effects suck.

The music is… not bad. But it isn’t that great either. For a game this mediocre, the music isn’t that bad.

The hub is just too damn big. Why even have a hub at all? Why not just select what event you want to do? But no…

There’s some decent art in this game, I suppose?

Overrated

No one has ever rated 720 high, and I think that is likely to stay. However, back in the day, 720 was on the very first poster that came with the NES box (or was it second?) so it is part of the early way of NES games. As you know, the early wave of initial NES games gets rated higher than they should because of that ‘coolness’ and ‘mysterious’ factor that NES games had back in the day.

720 is shit, and no one should rate this game in any way but poorly.

Are there better skating games? Yes.

Are there better skating games on the NES? Yes.

You’ll never return to this game. Ever.

Loose Price As Of This Writing:

$5

Score: 1
_________________________________________
Back To NES Reviews Table of Contents

Posted by: seanmalstrom | February 23, 2021

Email: The Writing of Triangle Strategy

I find that the writing is definitely the worst part of Triangle Strategy, the narrative specifically. It wouldn’t be such a big issue, except that the team has made it such a prominent and important part of the game. Funny enough, I actually think I’d be far more excited about the game if the team ditched the RPG elements and the game merely consisted of the battle segments. As is, playing the demo made me less excited for the game than when I was after seeing the trailer. In contrast to where I was excited for Octopath Traveller, I’m hesitant to get Triangle Strategy unless I hear really good things about it from people who are more open to playing.

The biggest issue I find is in the Decision phase. Yes, there’s less than ideal writing all around (I’m willing to look past ‘Saltiron War’ even if it is dumb – are these really the only two resources of important note in the region? Imagine if instead of generic Salt and Iron it was instead some special mythical metal and a resource important for using magic!), if the ‘decision’ presented in the demo is indicative of the kind of decisions that will be available in the full game, I expect the entire story to make me hate it all the way through.

The simple version of the narrative presented in the demo is the heroes saving the prince, but then they’re forced to turn around and decide if they’re going to hand the prince that they just saved back over to the very same people they just rescued the prince from. To make things worse, most the NPCs are in favor of making the decision to hand the prince over.

What I see is about as dumb a narrative plot point as could possibly be written. If the story presented in Triangle Strategy were a book, or a movie, or a narrative-centric medium, the idea of the main characters then legitimately considering handing over the prince they just fought the save would be a plot point that would earn the writer legitimate scolding for writing stupid characters and dumb plot points. It would quite possible be bad enough to get the book thrown across the room (it would definitely be enough to get the book thrown across the room if the characters were stupid enough to hand over the prince) or get the movie turned off.

It feels like the team needed to justify the “Scales of Conviction” game element and forced a bad decision into the game for the sake of needing to fill a pre-determined Decision Phase. Nevermind the question of why the player needs to persuade NPCs to vote in favor of a given action since the player character is supposed to be leader of the royal house. Why should I need to go out of my way to convince NPCs below me to vote in my favor if I’m supposed to be royalty?

It reminds me of the terrible, terrible decision making presented in the old Fable games, where the karma meter presented a choice between being an absolute saint and going out of your way to being an evil villain.

And that doesn’t even get into the awkward use of the map for learning of side stories.

Again, my interest in Triangle Strategy is less now than it was before I played the demo, and I think I’d be more interested in it if they ditched almost every gameplay element except the actual battle segments. I could maybe settle for brief portions with the discovery phase and using the conversations as the actual means of shifting the plot one way or another. Otherwise, what might make for a really interesting way of advancing the plot is determining outcomes based on how battles were fought.

Presenting the option of burning your own town in order to save it is an element I actually thought was cool. Imagine if rather than using arbitrary “Decision Phase” segments to alter the story, Triangle Strategy instead altered the story depending on if and how much the Eagle Statue traps were used? That would provide for a genuinely exciting mechanic for developing the story one way or the other and changing the plot in the long-term, and the decision of “Do we burn down our town to survive?” is a decision that actually struck me as being genuinely worthy of weighing both options.

I agree completely with what you said. It’s going to be hard to add to it.

What I really dislike with Project Triangle, as well as with Octopath Traveler and the other games by this producer, is that the game feels corporate. It feels like someone in the design meeting said, “Here are the boxes we need to check,” and one of them is ‘decision making’. So it is inserted in this extremely formulaic way. The entire game feels like a formula.

I like Octopath, but I do not like the formulaic nature of the game. I’ve replayed Final Fantasy 6 countless times, but Octopath Traveler, which I haven’t replayed once, gives me pause because of the Chapter 1… Chapter 2… Chapter 3…

Remember when games didn’t have ‘chapters’?

If I was the big cheese of Project Triangle, I would scrap everything except the battle engine. Then I would make the game build up around the battle engine (e.g. story or not. I prefer organic game design). The ‘game’ would be the battle engine. But answering why you were doing these battles would present a reason why you’re in this virtual world doing battle. That’s why there is a ‘story’.

“Why am I here?” someone asks in Metroid. Well, the answer comes with that single screen of text when the game starts. You’re to defeat Mother Brain. That’s why you’re in this virtual world.

Like Nintendo, I believe story (or ‘flavor’ as they hideously call it now) takes a backseat to the core gameplay. Ninja Gaiden was about jumping on things, killing things, and being kickass ninja. But Ninja Gaiden had a ‘story’ which made you want to get to that next level. RTS games did it too. Many games did it.

But these RPG games, they get it all wrong. They keep acting like we want a story and then tack on their turn based battle system on top of it.

A microcosm of how gameplay can create story: Final Fantasy 6. Each character has unique abilities. This colors their personality in the ‘story’. The gameplay elements came first, the characters came from that gameplay. What is Setzer? His gameplay is about gambling. So that is his character. What is Mog? A dancer. So his character is about dancing and being silly. What is Locke? A thief. So his character is about being a thief. The story is ‘good’ because there is no disconnect between the gameplay/roleplay/ and the story. It’d be ridiculous to have a character be able to ‘steal’ in battle but then be in the story as an ‘honorable knight’.

Anyway, with Project Triangle, the game feels so ‘corporate’, so much ‘check those boxes’, so ‘formulaic’. I’m not playing a game. I’m playing a formula.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | February 23, 2021

Email: Yeah, the first NES top gun was pretty lame

Hey Sean, absolutely agree with you that the first game was pretty boring and doesn’t stand the test of time.

The second game though, that embraced konami’s arcade heritage, as it was even louder and even faster than the first, and removed all of the “realistic” stuff of flying a real F-15 since that detracted from the concentrated coolness . I had a lot of fun with this game back in the day.

I’d even go so far to say that this improved upon the game so much that namco took notes and used this game as the template for their ace combat series. Seriously, you can arm your F-15 with over 60 missiles?! That’s totally not realistic, and ace combat today embellishes that level of suspension of disbelief.

Like other reviewers, they would have just rammed the sequel review out real fast because ‘it’s just the same game with more missions’. Look at how Angry Video Game Nerd wrote the sequel off.

I’m just posting and formatting the last ones up to 50 reviews. Then I will take a break because the meteor is going to hit with Bravely Default II. I’ll laser focus on that.

I feel like I’m in a rut with these NES games. The reason is because they are SO TERRIBLE. One after another after another. It’s madness. It’s almost a form of torture.

There is one VERY FAMOUS NES game that the review is going to pop up soon (part of the first 50 or this fifth wave of ten), and I ATTACK IT MERCILESSLY AS A SHITTY GAME. I expect nothing less but pitchforks and torches from everyone once it goes up. Good thing I’m not monetized since then I couldn’t be honest. In no way can I see this ‘famous game’ be considered good. I know why everyone keeps ranking the game high, and it has everything to do with NOT PLAYING THE GAME. It’s the first game of a very long famous series of games. You’ll know it when you see it.

The original Top Gun is nowhere as BAD as people are making it out to be. But it still isn’t a ‘fun game’ or, rather, a ‘game you want to keep coming back to’ in the year 2021.

Pssst, reader, that’s my secret sauce.

“Secret sauce?”

The NES reviews are measured by how often do you want to return to the game. It has NOTHING to do with if the game is FUN or not!

Have you ever seen a game that is not fun but you keep coming back to it? You’re like “What the hell?” hahaha.

One big problem I have is some NES games I keep coming back to just for the music. I’m wondering if I separate the music, like start listening to it in my car, will I stop returning to the game?

There is a correlation and assumption that we return to a game again and again because it is ‘fun’. But how do you know what is ‘fun’? I have no idea how to determine ‘fun’. So I just measure how often I return to a game. THAT variable is easier and clearer to measure.

In 1988 CES Las Vegas, a man by the name of Henk Rogers noticed an interesting game. (Henk Rogers is a famous name in gaming, go look him up. I’ll wait until you return.) This game was ‘Tetris’. Henk Rogers would then fly to Moscow to secure the rights to it.

But WHAT WAS THE SEQUENCE that Henk Rogers ‘noticed’ Tetris? THIS is the best of questions. TODAY, we have hindsight. We know the value of Teris. But no one knew the value of Tetris and certainly not in 1988. How did Henk Rogers do it?

Anyone have the answer? Come on, raise your hands now. No one? Well gee…

Henk Rogers ‘noticed’ Tetris only because he noticed he kept returning to play it during CES . THAT was the parameter that he realized something was up with this nonsensical game called ‘Tetris’, a game SO SHITTY that it had NO SCROLLING and only stupid blocks for graphics. Come on, reader. This was 1988! This was when the NES was on fire! Super Mario Brothers 2 and 3! Zelda 2! Mega Man 2! A non-scrolling game of blocks? No one wants that shit. Most people looked at Tetris and probably went, “What the hell is this? Stupid blocks. Graphics suck. Shitty game!” I remember when Tetris came out. That is what everyone said.

But Henk Rogers kept returning to play it. THAT cut through all our ideological crap that hides quality (and declares crappy games as ‘good’).

The one parameter of ‘how often do I return to it’ was what caused Henk Rogers to discover Tetris. I’m shocked no one uses it for their retro reviews. I honestly don’t see how else a video game can be reviewed that ISN’T measured by ‘how often do you return to it’.

Graphics of Tetris? Zero.

Gaming innovation? Zero.

Gameplay? Zero.

The ‘return to game’ overrode ALL of that. This is why Henk Rogers has movie and books written about him. How many movies and books does the reader have written about him/her? I thought so.

A ‘good’ game is one you return to play. ‘Good’ may mean ‘addictive’. It may mean something else. Who knows. But the golden memories of gaming, for the dear reader, are probably those games you couldn’t wait to return to play.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | February 23, 2021

Email: Cryptocurrencies

Hey Master Malstrom,

I wanted to know what your thoughts are on cryptocurrencies. I bought $2,000 worth of Bitcoin around May 2020 when they started printing coronavirus stimulus checks. It was a bit of a no brainer. Gold just fluctuates against the dollar. Businesses were being forced not to operate, wall street gains to date can easily lead to another crash within a year.

The one thing that has not been touched by government has been cryptocurrencies. They have been avoiding it more or less like the plague. Even if they put regulations in place, the ordinary citizen can easily circumvent them. They hate it. I expect to have cryptocurrencies valued at 5 times the value of my yearly income.

As time went on, I started studying more thoroughly about Cryptocurrencies. What most people don’t understand is a huge revolution going on right under their noses and it is the first time the plebians can have an edge on the rich. Bitcoin right now represents 60% of the entire crypto market and wall street is only starting to take it seriously. They don’t want to hold cash because of inflation. They want to have bitcoin on their balance sheets. Cryptocurrencies are less than 2 trillion dollar market cap. Forex is about 6 trillion market and the stock market Is 70 trillion. Wealthier people are going to have problems getting into cryptocurrencies because the market is too small. Yet the room for growth can possibly match forex by the end of the year and have a 20 trillion dollar market cap in 6 years.

Being me and wishing people the best in all their endeavors, having been screaming into the sky “GET INTO CRYPTOCURRENCIES DUMBASS, YOU WON’T SEE AN OPPORTUNITY LIKE THIS IN 4 TO 5 YEARS AGAIN.”. I’ve been trying to give legitimate resources to help them out. You know what the plebs say? “I’ll think about it.”. People fail to realize that what happens in a cryptocurrency bull run. What takes the stock market to grow in 7 to 10 years can happen in a month cryptocurrencies. But as time goes on in this year, the risk to reward ratio is going to diminish. Once you start seeing people mortgage their homes to get into cryptocurrencies, it will be too late and I’ll be taking profits.

My question is why, why do my fellow plebians choose to ignore opportunity? They’ll go to college, spend $20k to $250k and never be guaranteed a job. Hell, even the stem jobs are being pushed down by H1B1 visas. I remember congressional hearings on how companies were replacing American workers with a foreign workforce.

-signed by Long Time Reader

Sent to me on 2/21/2021.

Today is 2/23/2021. Here is the financial headline today: Bitcoin plunges 18% as investors grow wary…

No one can disagree that cryptocurrencies are very volatile. They can go up and down very fast.

My ‘gold standard’ for any investment, in money or time, is to see where the masses are going… and run the other way. In 2007, I heard, “Buy a house! Rent it out! Easy money!” In 1999, I heard, “Get into the Dot Com stocks! Who cares they have no profit? Easy money!” So on and so forth. I do miss many opportunities, but I believe a key to success is to not be wrong ‘big’. You will make mistakes. You don’t want the mistake to create a ‘game over’ for you. An example of this is someone putting their life savings into Gamestop a few weeks ago.

Another thing I do is to use gaming knowledge to predict what the tech future will be. No one does this as no one has gaming knowledge and, if they do, never treat it seriously (at least that I’ve seen online). Gaming innovations has always been ahead of tech innovations. Here are examples:

  1. The first time the masses touched a computer was with PONG, not the Apple II.

2. Steve Jobs, the tech oracle and demi-god, was the 16th employee of Atari and was a PONG technician. He started his career in gaming. Tech historians are so ’embarrassed’ by this, that they never mention it at all!

3. Steve Wozniak designed the Apple II in color because he loved playing video games. Woz was a gamer.

4. All the tech giants tried to get into game consoles in the 1990s. They still do this today. Arrogantly, they fail in a massive way (see Google Stadia). If the tech businesses are so smart, then why do they almost always fail in gaming?

5. Microsoft has spent how many billions into gaming? And what have they gotten from it?

6. Sony’s gaming division saved the entire company. Head of PlayStation became Sony President. Gaming knowledge > tech knowledge? Sony believes this is the case as tech nearly cratered the company.

7. Gameboy popularized the handheld computer.

8. English language has been altered by gaming. ‘Shard’ and ‘Avatar’, for example, do not come from ‘tech’ or from Hollywood. They came from the Ultima series of video games.

9. N64 Rumble predates popularization of vibration.

10. DS touch controls predates mass consumer electronics of touch controls.

11. Wii-mote paved the way to control drones.

12. Nearly all ‘3d tech’ is owed to gaming rapidly pushing forward that space.

13. Switch ‘docking’ from handheld and desktop will predate the upcoming computers that will do this. Switch has popularized this.

The list can keep going on forever. The point is that young people start off in gaming before they become ‘the future’. Big successful businessmen, today, use gaming terms. I’ll show you one example:

Above: 43:10. Watch it there. He suddenly talks the gaming context. Mentions playing Final Fantasy 1, Fester’s Quest (!), Super Mario Kart, and other games.

So one of the big issues in gaming today is the debate between physical versus digital. I always wonder why people go on forums to declare they are ‘all digital’ like anyone cares. After the Virtual Console burn, I only purchase physical. If you can’t stand there and defend it with a rifle, you don’t own it. If you can’t lend it to someone, you don’t own it.

Time makes more converts than reason. And as time goes on, people will find their digital goods disappear as companies turn off servers. At least with the physical stuff, you own it.

Bitcoin has utility of hopping borders. They can confiscate your gold and silver, but not your bitcoin. However, as a store of value, bitcoin’s actual worth is going to be zero. It’s all digital. There is no physical. The branding of bitcoin tries to mimic the physical, with a picture of a gold coin and all. But it isn’t a gold coin. There is tremendous weakness to bitcoin when you get to the exchanges. But what is the exchange of physical? It’s what it always has been. Bitcoin also has a very small track record of nearly a decade compared to centuries and centuries of other avenues.

Why are the hard metals being manipulated? It’s because banks care about them. They wouldn’t be manipulating gold, silver, and the others if they didn’t care. What I’m seeing is that by pushing gold, silver, and other commodities down, the big banks are buying up as much as they can. Why? Because they know what’s coming. Something like gold and silver, physical, will never go to zero because it is used by nearly every nation in the world.

Bitcoiners remind me of vegetarians. Vegetarians never shut up about being vegetarian. They’re annoying. A bitcoiner will go somewhere, start waving flags, tell the entire world that they buy bitcoin, and all that. The gold and silver guys can be annoying as they sound more like preppers (prepare for doom!), but I sense bitcoiners aren’t playing to win. I sense they’re playing to feel smart.

There are four human personalities:

-Those who wish to be liked.

-Those who wish to be comfortable.

-Those who wish to be right.

-Those who wish to win.

If you want to think you’re the smartest person in the room, believe whatever you want. Nothing I can say or do can have any bearing.

You mention college education. Let’s look at that. If you were born in a certain time period, it used to be it didn’t matter what you majored in during college. This is no longer the case. “You’ve got to major in the right things…” a voice says. Of course, it is what that voice majored in. “STEM!” But, as you noted, emailer, even majoring in STEM won’t secure you a job. You say it is due to H1B Visas and other factors, but perhaps that’s not it at all. If you like Bitcoin, you’ll agree with the following point:

THE ECONOMY IS DYING.

Today, someone might say, “You should have majored in the *correct thing*.” Tomorrow, it won’t matter WHAT you major in because there may be no jobs available!

I’m talking about longterm decline of the economy. Baby boomers had it easy. Gen X had it harder. Millenials had it even harder. Gen Z, harder than that. Anyone coming into the work force after 2020 is going to have a TOUGHER TIME. The reason why it is *tougher* is because the macro-economic situation keeps deteriorating.

Covid 19 is a scapegoat for economic collapse. Economic collapse was already happening with what was going on with the repo market in late 2019.

Pretend I am Morpheus. We’re sitting in chairs across from each other. I open up my hands before you.

The first hand is a digital video game.

The second hand is a physical video game.

Which do you pick? What is the value of both?

“The digital video game has more utility,” the person says. This is very true, and it cannot be debated.

But we’re asking about VALUE, not UTILITY. Let’s not confuse the two. What is the value of the digital video game?

Zero.

Digital video games’ values will ALWAYS go to zero. Physical video games will have some sort of value, good or bad. But digital goes straight to zero DESPITE its utility.

I think the same is true with currency. Remember, they’re not actually printing more dollars. Printing press is NOT going BRRRR. What they’re doing is going into a computer and adding a bunch of zeros. The printing is digital. It’s still printing, but at least the Weimer Republic had bank notes to wipe their ass. We just have a bunch of zeroes.

I don’t trust digital. Never have. Never will. This isn’t coming from ‘aged boomer’, it is coming from my experiences in gaming (which I believe foretell the tech future).

Bitcoin has fantastic utility, especially hopping across borders. But as a store of value? The value of bitcoin will ultimately end up becoming zero.

Because everything digital becomes zero as a store of value.

What value is your Netflix or Disney+? Zero.

The value of your DVDs and Blu-Ray? Not zero.

Netflix and Disney + have better ‘utlity’, sure. But it’s value will always go to zero.

What’s my opinion of cryptocurrencies? For utility: good. For store of value: zero.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | February 19, 2021

NES Review: Top Gun

Top Gun NES Prices
Released: 1987

Top Gun! Is this a replayable classic? Does it deserve a place in your collection? And most important of all, does it earn the Malstrom Award, the most prestigious award in all of gaming? Let’s find out!

Above: Tom Cruise not found.

I love being able to choose which missile to select.

3d is bad. 8-bit 3d is REALLY bad.

This game is actually somewhat addicitive. Solid production effects like sounds and map screens for this time period.

I landed on the first try. Game will tell you what to do. Angry Video Game Nerd must be really bad to fail it.

Above: AVGN is just a clown who doesn’t even play the games. It’s easy to land the plane. FAKER!

Underrated

This game isn’t nearly as bad as its reputation suggests (thanks to Angry Video Game Nerd probably). There are MANY copies of Top Gun NES around. This suggests the game was popular during its heyday.

Tapping into the soldier fantasy, this is another typical NES ‘dude-bro’ game.Konami put in some slick production effects though. The first person flying is extremely graphically primitive, but it is quite playable.

The game has a slow pacing. Sometimes I just wait there awaiting for enemies to show up. Then the difficulty ramps up suddenly which really kills the game.

I do love the back camera that flips on when a plane is targeting you. It is like driving a car in 2021!.

Some addictive gameplay and slick production effects can’t save the pacing issues and strange difficulty curve. Also, 3d games, no matter what generation, age like shit. 8-bit 3d is the worst 3d!

Loose Price During Review:
$5.10

Score: 3
_________________________________________
Back To NES Reviews Table of Contents

Posted by: seanmalstrom | February 19, 2021

NES Review: Ikari Warriors

Ikari Warriors NES Prices
Released: 1987

Ikari Warriors! Is this a replayable classic? Does it earn the Malstrom Award, the most prestigious award in all of gaming? Let’s find out!

Above: Those death animations!

I remember this game being popular in the NES circles back in the day. The reason why probably was because of the two player co-op.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t hold up well. The first rude awakening for most players is the realization that you have limited ammo for bullets. B button shoots a bullet, A button lobs a grenade.

Controls are sluggish and feel like crap. Your shots do not even go across the screen.

When you die, you just spin around slowly…. Then disappear! Hahahaha.

The enemy goes into seizure and starts levitating away once they get shot. It’s so weird!

The sound effects are beyond terrible. They are ear grating, and you’ll probably want to play the game in mute.

I do love the beginning cinematic. A shot down plane, billowing smoke, slowly lands into the jungle. The problem is that the smoke bounces around in the same way as the plane! Hahahaha. Not even the most amateur indie game makers perform these mistakes.

No, I am not impressed with Ikari Warriors. I was never a fan of this game then or now. There were a type of NES gamer who loved every Rambo and soldier type game. Some of those games were good like Contra. Some are overrated like Rush’N Attack. But Ikari Warriors definitely falls to the lame side.

Compared to all games today, there is NO REASON to ever come back to this game. Two player is cool, but why would someone want to play with you on this?

Pacing is also bad as when you die, it goes back to a waypoint. LAME!

Overrated

This is a famous brand. The game was popular due to its two player simultaneous play (a minority of NES games had that) and with its soldier theme that young boys loved. But this game really does stink. Ugh, those sound effects!

There is a cheat code (ABBA) that allows infinite lives that gives this game much more playability and toy-like nature. It doesn’t save the game from it’s shortcomings though.

Loose Price During Review:
$7.43

Score:

3
_________________________________________
Back To NES Reviews Table of Contents

Posted by: seanmalstrom | February 19, 2021

Email: Project triangle strategy

Hey Sean, looks like they’re learning fast from octopath traveler. Sort of. Now we’re getting a spiritual successor to final fantasy tactics on the switch for it. They even have a princess lady that looks like odelia from FFT in the trailer;
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cr92D6QXxD0

One of the things that irked me about octopath traveler was that the sprites were always fixed in position and you couldn’t rotate the camera. Looks like they’re relearning their craft (now we got FFT/tactics ogre angles!). One step at a time. The lighting work looks a lot less bad, too.

I played through the demo last night.

I’m not sure if the problems are due to the demo or to the game. I am leaning more toward the demo.

WAY too much talking. Too much blah blah blah. This is RPG Maker amateur hour.

The engine is interesting especially once I figured out you can rotate it around (figured that out near the end of the demo hahaha).

I’m not impressed with the sprites like I was in Octopath. Since the gameplay revolves around grid placement, the sprites contrast too much with the background for my taste. The appeal of the 2d sprites was for the personality and warmth that only 2d animation can bring. However, teeny tiny sprites don’t work too well in this large grid environment. Aside from a few characters, I had problems figuring out who was which unit. During Starcraft’s development, they deliberately made sure each unit had an identifiable silhouette. A battlecruiser is very different from a wraith or a dropship, for example. Aside from ones like the scout (big chocobo bird) or other mounted characters, it was difficult to tell who was what.

In terms of demonstrating the engine, the demo did fine. I rather like all the parts of the engine.

In terms of the game, the development is showing me they’re completely incompetent and can’t handle a game of this scope.

-Pacing

Pacing is atrocious in both the story and battle modes. Blah, blah, blah over and over. I get the demo starts in the middle of the game, but I so badly wanted to quit before the storytime was over.

There are too many damn units to control. And each unit you need to decide ‘moving’, ‘attack’, ‘facing’. Three decisions for each character where you have literally a dozen characters. And the characters are all different so you don’t know what they all do. It was VERY SLOW and BORING going through the demo.

It took me forver to figure out how to go up the ladder! Hahahaha.

I despise the ‘exploration’ part because that is just MORE FUCKING TALKING.

-Formulaic

Octopath Traveler has the very big problem of being formulaic. Project Triangle appears to be going in that same direction.

‘Exploration Phase’. Hey guys! It’s Exploration Time! Time to talk to people again and maybe pick up that shiny thing over there. So much fun! Yes? HELL NO.

‘Decision Phase’. This is so badly done. In my game, I don’t flag the player when there are decisions coming up. I just let the player act accordingly and the game responds. I also NEVER USE A FUCKING MENU for that shit. The entire goal of role playing is to role play, not go further out into abstraction. Hitting a menu option takes me out of the game and makes me feel I’m playing a formula instead of a game.

-Bad Writing-

The death scene at the end is full anime style writing. Person 1: “You are stronger than you let on.” Person 2: “It is because I have deceived you.” Person 1: “But it is I who have deceived you.” *Does Insane Attack*. Person 1: “How are you still standing!?” Person 2: “Because I have deceived you again.” *More Insane Attack*. *Person 1dies.*

The melodrama is stupid. The ‘Saltiron War’ name really tells me they have no idea how to write. There is absolutely nothing in the demo that demonstrated to me the casting of imagination. Everything felt derivative of an older SRPG game. The scout’s mount was a Chocobo derivative. Nothing feels original.

-Conclusion-

Why are these games being made? They’re clearly not being made in trying to be the best. There is no real ambition in them. They are essentially taking a 16-bit or 32-bit game and releasing them to 2021 graphics and audio. Is that enough?

I say no.

There is such a heavy degree of formula which feels oppressive and stifles the game. Why is there so much formula? Well, that is clearly there for the building of the game. The formula feels like scaffolding used to make a house but the scaffolding is left afterward! Yes, it is much easier to ‘develop’ using a segmented formula, but the game’s spirit just bleeds out. I feel like I’m playing a formula, not a game.

Imagine if Chrono Trigger declared an ‘exploration phase’ and then ‘time for choice’ phase and all. While games like Chrono Trigger did have a formula, an internal logic, it was embedded in the game. There’s a reason why RPGs went less and less abstract over the years, of taking the battle mode out of black screens with backgrounds and then putting it on the map directly.

I feel like whoever is doing these types of games is going BACKWARDS. He keeps forcing everything into this formula and is raising the walls flagging the player they are there.

For example, how did Final Fantasy 6 do a tutorial? Well, it had that little house at edge of Narshe where people would tell you how the game worked. What this person does is slam tutorial screens at you which takes you out of the game.

My problem is the lack of interest in immersion. It doesn’t matter how pretty your tutorial screen. The problem is that there is a tutorial screen in the first place.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | February 18, 2021

Email: Skyward Sword was a precursor to Breath of the Wild

Master Malstrom,

I like how Aonuma did a bit of revisionist history in the latest Direct, claiming that Skyward Sword was a precursor to Breath of the Wild. Added a touch of class.

Isn’t he something? It’s very transparent what he is doing.

I’m trying to imagine the Nintendo Board meeting. Nintendo is very serious about their business side. They can see the sales of Breath of the Wild. Breath of the Wild is selling better than, I believe, every prior Zelda game sales all combined. The Board would be saying, “WTF!? Why didn’t we do this sooner?” Clearly, they would be saying, “This is what Zelda is going to be now.” I can’t imagine Nintendo allowing Aonuma to take Zelda back into the shitter where he led it.

Perhaps Aonuma was called before the board. How would he answer to Breath of the Wild’s success and his own many Zelda games’ tepid sales? Apparently, he would sound like he was in the direct. “My Skyward Sword gameplay was the foundation for Breath of the Wild.” I don’t remember Skyward Sword being a blockbuster hit. I remember everyone hating it, and many did not even bother finishing it. Aonuma’s philosophy for Skyward Sword was “The Entire World is a Puzzle.” Interesting how that sentiment is totally gone from him now.

In Hollywood, it is very common for talentless people to take hold of a beloved IP and just squat on it. The recent incarnation of Star Trek is a good example of that. It’s hard enough to find decent entertainment in this world. If there was actual competition for such talent within that IP, the cream would definitely rise to the top. But no! The talentless hack fortify their position through legal or other connections. And they keep putting out more dreck. They’re so determined that they are genius creatives that they won’t let go.

This is how it is with Aonuma. How long has he been steering the helm of Zelda? Shouldn’t someone else give it a go by now? And why is it when Aonuma gets involved, that is what everyone complains about? I’m talking about the water temple of Ocarina of Time or the divine beast dungeons of Breath of the Wild.

Sakamoto is another one. He has an iron grip on 2d Metroid. At least 3d Metroid can be made outside Sakamoto. But Sakamoto will not allow another 2d Metroid to be made that isn’t his despite indie game developers kicking Nintendo’s ass at making better Metroids. To me, it is very clear what is holding Metroid back: it’s Sakamoto himself! He’s not the right person to evolve Metroid. Why? He’s not a FAN of Metroid.

Aonuma has admitted he is not a FAN of Zelda. He didn’t like Legend of Zelda, Zelda 2, and preferred to cut grass in Link to the Past. Aonuma has been controlling the Zelda franchise for nearly a quarter century. It’s time for someone else to do it.

But the reason why Aonuma keeps clinging on is because he knows he’d fail if they put him anywhere else. And he’d be shown up big time with whoever takes over Zelda. They can’t do any worse than Spirit Tracks.

The way how gamers respond to Breath of the Wild is exactly how gamers responded to The Legend of Zelda back during NES Era. Everyone in the NES Era was familiar with Legend of Zelda. It doesn’t mean they all owned it. But they all knew what the game was, and what it represented. The game wasn’t really a game. The game transformed your game console into some fantasy world you could explore in. Did you know, delightful reader, that gamers only referred to Legend of Zelda as both its title and genre being the same? “That game is like Zelda,” as if Zelda were its own genre. Yet, it was!

Today, we say, “It’s like Breath of the Wild.” We don’t even really say ‘Open World’ much. A game can come out today and say, “I play like Breath of the Wild,” and immediately sell copies left and right.

In the past, many game companies copied and imitated Zelda to sales success. Neutopia series on the Turbographx-16 comes to mind. Today, NO ONE copies Zelda. Only one game I can think of did which was Okami (which was a sales disaster for the company). No one said, “This game is like Skyward Sword.” No one was excited about Zelda.

If Breath of the Wild was the successor to Skyward Sword, why the radical changes everywhere else? Why did Link lose his green hat? Why was Hyrule destroyed? Why was the linear game design shattered? Why was the brand reset if Aonuma was doing such a good job?

If Skyward Sword was so great, we’d have seen a Skyward Sword 2. But we’re getting Breath of the Wild 2 because it was Breath of the Wild that sold, not Skyward Sword. For the interest of Zelda and gaming, Aonuma needs to hand the reigns over to someone else. Aonuma has had over TWENTY FIVE YEARS, and he has little to show for it. Enough!

Older Posts »

Categories