Posted by: seanmalstrom | September 23, 2017

Email: Was this your first mention of minecraft?

https://seanmalstrom.wordpress.com/2010/09/28/minecraft-is-game-of-the-year/ It’s the earliest I can find by searching your site with google. If it’s not can you send me a link to your actual first mention of minecraft? I first heard of minecraft from you and I’m trying to figure out what version I started with.

It might be.

I reread all of it. It is SEVEN YEARS AGO.

Quoting myself:

Like Minecraft, that game from the eighties was very ‘blocky’, was made by one eccentric bearded engineer, was graphically behind gaming by decades, yet it took over the world. Imposters! Step aside! This is the heir to the Tetris phenomenon.

It is! Minecraft is heir to the Tetris phenomenon! How’d I know that?

Now, we didn’t realize it would be the hit it was with children with entire toy aisles dedicated to it. But its clear I thought Minecraft was ‘very special’ and up there with the Great Classics of All Gaming.

Look what was written for Zelda. This was SEVEN YEARS AGO!

Legend of Zelda was founded on emergent gameplay. You were not told to go into the cave to get the sword. The player’s own curiosity brought him there. You did not have to upgrade your sword or get better armor. But players did so anyway. While the world was not random, the world felt so vast that it was easy to get lost in. And it was because of that, encounters would occur that the player never expected and took the player by surprise. Zelda used to be about exploring because you never knew what was around the next corner. You felt like you were in a vast world. When a Zelda player is asked what he wants in the next Zelda, you will find this answer common: “I want to get my sword and just go out into the world, any direction I choose, and go exploring. Just drop me off in the middle of the world with my sword. I don’t need any other of the baggage.” What the player is really saying is that he wants the emergent gameplay that once defined Zelda. In older Zelda games, nothing was scripted or felt scripted. You could choose different tactics to defeat enemies. Today, Zelda is entirely scripted with tons of baggage (i.e. story). From Zelda I to Spirit Tracks, you can see a clear but slow moving away from the emergent gameplay to more and more scripted gameplay. Now, Zelda games even have some character, which you can never get away from, telling you which way to go and what to do. And Nintendo wonders why their market data of disinterested gamers say they ‘feel video games are like work’. This is why I consider Aonuma’s comments on Skyward Sword to be a ‘red flag’ because he talked about ‘taking away Link’s sword’ for a scripted experience (a dungeon encounter). This tells me Aonuma has no interest in making emergent gameplay but only desires to make ‘scripted experiences’. Consider this: many players have said they are tired of the Zelda ‘formula’. They even suggest that the dungeon and overworld blur where it is unsure where one begins and one ends. What the player is really desiring is that emergent gameplay where nothing is scripted, where events ‘just happen’ because Link accidentally ran into some monsters who happened to spawn on top of a mountain instead of the valley, where Link accidentally did Dungeon 3 first and then discovered Dungeon 1, etc. Instead, Aonuma will think the game needs more unique ‘scripted experiences’ such as a dungeon that doesn’t look like a dungeon but resembles a bakery. Aonuma will think this is ‘surprising’ and ‘creative’ to make the bakery into a dungeon. The player will not be amused and will be fed up. The issue isn’t WHAT TYPE of scripted experience, the issue is the premise of scripted experiences in the first place.

Doesn’t that fit Breath of the Wild exactly and perfectly? haha

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Posted by: seanmalstrom | September 22, 2017

World 1: Tiled Graphics

Days after Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s release, a Time writer says the game reminds him of… Ultima VI (released 27 years ago)??? How can this be?

And yet. I think it’s something to do with their shared reverence for player curiosity, but also maybe that Breath of the Wild seems (as Ultima VI was) a glimpse of things to come. Ultima VI attempted to imbue an entire world with an order of magnitude shift in mundane pliability—there was nothing else remotely like it. Breath of the Wild feels like another such shift…

Ultima veterans tend to agree with the article’s sentiment. The first part, at least of Zelda Breath of the Wild feels identical to how a legit Ultima game felt. The game was something to feast on for a month at least, and you would just pick a direction and wander.

Time has a way of redefining things to fit the future’s present context, so it is important to capture this moment in time like catching a firefly.

Take a look at one veteran gamer’s take on Zelda: Breath of the Wild:

Listen at 4:40. “This is the best video game I have ever played.” “Every fantasy itch has been scratched.” “Everything I’ve wanted in a Dungeons and Dragons game I have got.” “I have finally gotten that fulfillment I’ve always wanted from a game.”

What he is saying here is in line with the Time writer. It is not so much praise for the ‘Open World’ but for something no one expected from a Zelda: role-playing. The mention of Dungeons and Dragons is also a major clue.

In the future, Breath of the Wild will be categorized as an ‘open world’ game, quantized in an assorted history of ‘open world’ games starting with something like Hylide then to the original Legend of Zelda and so on. The thought of ‘role playing’ will be extinguished, the thought of ‘Dungeon and Dragons’ will nowhere be found, and any link or reminder of Ultima while playing Breath of the Wild may already be gone, like leaves flying away on the wind.

What we are going to do here is explore the origins of Role Playing and the Open World. The series under the microscope will be the Ultima series. From 1979 to 1999, the series has had its hand in nearly every RPG shift including the MMORPG genre.

“Why not a series like Final Fantasy?”

That is a good series with a good stretch of time. There is much in console rise and fall over the generations with that series. But peering into the Final Fantasy series will not illuminate Breath of the Wild.

“What about Elder Scrolls series like Skyrim?”

Elder Scrolls is essentially carrying Ultima’s torch.

“What about Fallout series? What about Baldur’s Gate series? What about another series?”

The problem here is that these series are more interested in systems interacting with one another than role playing. Even Scorpia (most famous RPG reviewer) wasn’t impressed with Baldur’s Gate saying “shoe-horning Dungeon and Dragon mechanics designed for turn-based into quasi-real-time” to “…never talked to people…” because “…the dialogue is awful…”.

At the end of this exploration, the reader will know why the Time writer thought of Ultima when playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild, why the Happy Console Gamer thought of Dungeons and Dragons and role playing when playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and the connections between East and West, classic and classic, that have not yet been fully realized.

Above: Computer Gaming World Issue 76, Note ‘puzzle mazes’, not ‘puzzles’, i.e. BOTW’s Hyrule Castle is a ‘puzzle maze’ while BOTW’s “dungeons” are ‘puzzles’.

It took a long time to get to Breath of the Wild. And we still have a long way to go. People say, “How can Breath of the Wild be topped?” They come up with some nibbling around the edges like better dungeons, weapons that don’t easily break, or something else. But the gigantic creative destruction of the Zelda formula into the Breath of the Wild is shocking to everyone except to those who read this page. Our reaction is: “It’s about time!” haha

In order to show where Zelda goes into the future, I want to show off revolutionary gaming concepts that have been lost because they were too far ahead of its time… but when applied today, would create another revolution. Many of these are still locked away in the Ultima series known only to veterans of those games.

The most unique trait of the Ultima series is that every iteration was a brand new game engine and each iteration upended convention. Every Ultima game was ridiculously bold and took extreme risks with game design. Read, and you will see it too!

From Hardcore Gaming 101: (Emphasis by Malstrom)

Ultima is one of the great-grandfathers of computer gaming, spanning twenty years from the dawn era of microcomputers in 1979 to the big-business era of 1999 and with spinoffs still being produced; the first installment was released in ziploc bags with hand-printed cover and manual, and the last as a big-budget production of the then-largest video game company in the world. There are more than twenty entries in the series, and ports and versions of Ultima have been released on every major computer system from the Apple II to obscure Japanese systems to fan ports on Java-enabled cell phones. The games were massive sellers, mind-bogglingly influential and the origin of nearly every conceit, expectation and mechanic that we now define computer role-playing games by.

This is not written by me, old Malstrom. This is written by that shrine of hardcore gamers, Hardcore Gaming 101. Listen!

Unlike the ‘roguelikes’ of the college mainframe making screens out of ASCII characters, Ultima had eye-popping, high-tech computer graphics. Unlike the pure hack-and-slash dungeon crawling of Wizardry and its many clones, Ultima had increasingly intricate and adult plots and stories. Unlike the massively-multiplayer online games popular today, Ultima had more noble goals than accumulating loot and relentlessly grinding for random crap so you can go grind for more random crap somewhere else. Ultima games never failed to be complex in both technology and the human element, pushed both to lofty heights and blazing the way for the entire computer RPG genre. There are few CRPGs today that can’t trace their heart and soul back to Ultima. Each entry is a holistically unique game, improving on their predecessors in both code and storytelling, and to follow Ultima through the ages is not only to see the evolution of the microcomputer as a platform from the dawn of the home computer era to today, but also to play some fine games that are, in a distressing number of ways, still unsurpassed thirty years later.

This is a clue as to why the Time writer thought of Ultima VI when playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Many Ultima fans see some of the games as unsurpassed and hopelessly await for a game, any game, to measure up to the ambition of Ultima.

Dungeons and Dragons

In this low viewed video (less than 8000 reviews? Really?), Garriott spills it. At 1:30, he links the Halloween experience with role playing. At 3:00, he talks about Dungeons and Dragons and how it is about Role Playing, not about ‘systems’. So many ‘RPGs’ today are not really role playing games but ‘system games’. They rarely last too long in the public consciousness but highly raved and reviewed when they come out.

 

Alkabeth

Generation 2 (and 3 for Remastered)

Released 1978

Above: Ultima games have incredible Atari Era quality covers. Sometimes the covers were extremely controversial (U7 and U8) or intentionally deceptive (U3 and U6).

Richard Garriott was the child of an astronaut. He was a total nerd and kept programming and reprogramming on his Apple II until he got Akalabeth. I’m not going to dwell on Akalabeth as the game is mostly wireframe dungeons. It is amusing to me that the Role Playing Video Game was, in large part, created by an astronaut’s child. (How many astronaut children are there? Merely a handful on this Earth.)

From the Official Book of Ultima:

Garriott’s dilemma was his determination to learn more about computer programming at Clear Creek High School, for the little school in Nassau Bay, Texas had but one programming class to offer its students in 1977.

In the first semester of his sophomore year, Garriott had stormed through the BASIC programming course as relentlessly as the nearby Brazos River rushes into the Gulf of Mexico. Making up his mind to master the arcane art of programming, he and a couple of equally enthusiastic students had proposed a novel plan for doing so in a school with no more computer courses in its curriculum.

They made up their own class where all they had to do was make their own game program. Garriott’s program was taking the paper and pencil role playing game of Dungeons and Dragons and Tunnels and Trolls to turn it into a video game form. This ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ game would be remade dozens of times by him until finally becoming released as Akalabeth.

But go back to what the Time writer wrote saying that in Ultima VI, he had many ways of going through the door which Breath of the Wild reminded him about. Listen to this quote from The Official Book of Ultima when Garriott was faced with text adventure games like Zork or Adventure:

It was very different from the kind of thing I wanted to write, which was something very free going, with lots of options available to you, as opposed to a ‘node’ game like Adventure. At that time, I didn’t know of any other games that would let you go anywhere and do anything.

In terms of Role Playing Game or ‘Open World’ games where you can do anything you want, Garriott appears to be the origin of it.

The Book of Ultima then differentiates between puzzle games (which is what text adventures were and Role Playing Games):

The fundamental difference between the two different game systems lies in the adventure game’s focus on logical puzzle solving and the role playing game’s emphasis on character development as defined by traits, skills, and other elements.

The original Legend of Zelda (or any of the early Zeldas) did not focus on logical puzzle solving. The focus was on Link’s development by gaining new hearts, new weapons, new items, and other items. On the title scroll of the original Legend of Zelda, it shows items and weapons to be found, it does not show puzzles. Aonuma, who stated he despised and hated the original Legend of Zelda, loved the old school adventure games with their ‘logical puzzles’. From Ocarina of Time, Zelda series ceased to be an RPG and became ‘adventure with puzzles’ until its revival with Breath of the Wild.

Garriott, who wrote Akalabeth for fun, was talked into selling it by a store owner so he spent $200 of his own money getting little manuals and cover sheets printed along with a bunch of Zip-loc bags. One of the copies made its way to the company of California Pacific, a big game company at the time that published Pinball Construction Set by Bill Budge. Garriott considers Budge to be a mentor to him at that time. From 1978 to 1981, Akalabeth was voted as one of the top 30 games in Softalk magazine (Apple-only publication).

Other proto-RPG games were beginning to appear too. 1977 saw the release of Zork.

The money Garriott made from Akalabeth was enough to pay for his college education. What if he made a game intended for publication instead of as a hobby?

Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness

Generation 2 (Atari Era)

Released 1981

Remastered 1986

Above: Ultima 1 Intros. Second video shows gameplay on Apple II.

Yes, the original Ultima was remastered. “Don’t you mean re-released?” Nope. The game was reprogrammed, remade, for modern hardware at the time of 1986. It has become the custom of Generation 8 to say, “We are doing remakes of old games. This has not been done before!” But it has been done before, and Origin was already doing remasters of its games by the time the NES came out.

Above: Those graphics! This is from the original 1981 release.

Above: Graphics so much better! This is from the remastered 1986 release.

Ultima 1, when released in 1981, cost $40. Adjusted for inflation, the cost is $107.23. Within a year, 20,000 units were sold which is a smash hit when you consider the time period, the lack of computers, and that there was no such thing as ‘game industry’ or ‘game market’. Originally, Ultima 1 sold in a zip-lock bag, not a box.


Ultima was made in a closet

Richard Garriott literally removed everything from his bedroom closet, put his computer in there, and lived in the closet to make Ultima I. From the Official Book of Ultima:

“I’d awake the next day, still at the terminal, and often the solution would become  apparent almost immediately. My girlfriends, who understood what was going on in those days and were a big part of my life, and who always showed up in the games (as well as a part of the later games, starting with Ultima II), would sit right behind me in the same chair at my desk.” Resting her head on Garriott’s shoulder, she would “just sit there watching me program a few lines, then test it, program a few lines and test it, and watch the creation unfold. So it was really very much a way of life for me during those first Ultimas, and it overtook all the people around as much as it did me.”

How often do you ever hear of ‘girlfriends’ coming from a pre-20 year old computer/fantasy nerd who lives in his closet and programs? Garriott certainly isn’t the usual person though having astronauts as parents may have made that apparent.

Ultima I’s Gaming Revolution: Tile Graphics

Tile graphics are little square images that when several of same ones placed in an area, such as mountain images, form a ‘mountain range’. We see such style in the grid style of Legend of Zelda and early Dragon Quest games. But the origin of tile graphics came from Ultima. But Garriott didn’t make them.

Kenneth Arnold, a friend of Garriot who also worked at the same Computerland store, programmed the tile graphics. Arnold was well versed in machine language programming. Kenneth Arnold would, ironically, go on to compose the iconical music for the Ultima series.

Garriott tried to include everything including the kitchen sink into Ultima. The interplanetary travel in Ultima is there simply because he was filling up space on the disk and wanted to use every bit of the computer’s potential. The name of the game was to be Ultimatum but that was taken so it became Ultima. Ultima took one year of development time to make and was cutting edge programming and gaming technology when it was published in 1981.

Ultima was a smash hit and ultimately sold 50,000 copies. Remember, this was 1981 where there were no computers or ‘game market’ around.

1981 also saw the release of Donkey Kong, Frogger, Galaga, Wizardry, Zork II, and Castle Wolfenstein.

The Mythos

I fear writing about the lore of the games might bore the reader, but how can you discuss Zelda without explaining the Triforce and how the games connect? Ultima, itself, has its own rich lore.

Unlike every other game universe (with the exception of Super Mario Brothers as Mario is said to be from Earth), Ultima’s universe interacts with our reality. You do not play a ‘character’ in Ultima. You play yourself. When a human from Earth enters the Ultima universe, this person lives much, much longer, is stronger, and is almost a type of super-human compared to the natives. Almost all the main characters of Ultima are from Earth. Lord British is supposed to be Richard Garriott living in this world. Iolo and Shamino are also from Earth. They are the Ruling Class or Heroic Class of this fantasy world. They are not immortal. They can die. They can even leave and return to Earth. But here, time flows differently. They are stronger and age much slower.

How did people from Earth get to this other world in the first place? They used a portal called Moongates.

Lord British originally found an amulet which unleashed the first blue Moongate that led to the Ultima realm. I believe he then brought over his real-life friends such as Iolo and Shamino. In the Ultima realm, they would be kings ruling over lands.

The Villain

Mondain is the bad guy powerful wizard. But the twist with him is that he has created the Gem of Immortality which makes him immortal. He cannot be killed. He unleashes monsters and allies with all sorts of evil. He attacks the kingdoms of the world.

Lord British calls forth someone from Earth to enter this land as a champion to stop Mondain. This would be you, the player. In order to defeat Mondain, though, you have to travel back in time to before he has constructed the Gem of Immortality. After Mondain is killed, you shatter the Black Gem and return to Earth.

“But if you defeat Mondain in the past, shouldn’t the events of Ultima I have never happened?”

Apparently, Sosaria isn’t affected by the linearity of time. Everywhere else is. (e.g. Sosaria remembers Ultima II but every other place affected by Minax saw the timeline reset).

Sosaria is affected in a different way. After Mondain’s defeat, a sundering occurs which breaks the world’s four continents from each other.

The World

The game world is called Sosaria. It is divided into four continents.

Above: Four continents of Sosaria

Lands of Lord British

This continent is ruled by Lord British and the Lost Kings.

After Mondain’s defeat, Lands of Lord British are the only known part of Sosaria. After Ultima III, this area becomes known as Britannia.

Lands of Danger and Despair

The original kingdom was the King of the White Dragon. A second kingdom was made called Kingdom of Shamino and both kings lived in peace (Shamino was to marry the daughter of the King of the White Dragon, Beatrix). But with Mondain terrorizing the land, Shamino traveled to the Lands of Lord British to assist in the war promising to return… which he does only in Ultima VII Part 2.

After Mondain’s defeat, Lands of Danger and Despair become isolated. Goblins declare war against both kingdoms. Beatrix dies of broken heart, and King of White Dragon is sicken over grief over the death of his daughter and the perceived betrayal of Shamino, turns mad, kills everyone, and commits suicide.

Lands of Danger and Despair later becomes known as the Serpent Isles.

Lands of the Feudal Lords

King Rondorlin and King Barataria rule this continent. It contains one of the gems for the time machine.

After the defeat of Mondain and sundering of the land, this continent is never heard from again. (Though in an Ultima Online expansion, a catalcysm twists the land, and it becomes known as the Tokuno Islands.)

Lands of Dark Unkown

Ruled by the Kings of Black Dragon and Olympus. It also has a gem to the time machine.

After the defeat of Mondain, nothing is ever heard from the Lands of the Dark Unknown ever again.

It is speculated that this continent became the world of Pagan (Ultima VIII).

Why does any of this matter?

Why does Ocarina of Time matter? It is the origin of the ramifications. Unlike Dragon Quest or Zelda, Ultima never did prequel games (they did retcons, but not prequels). Each Ultima goes forward, never backward. While Ocarina of Time created a split time line, Ultima I’s shattering of the Gem of Immortality sunders the world. Each Ultima’s plot is a ramification of Mondain’s reign.

One unique element of the Ultima mythos is that technology and magic get weaker as the series goes on. High technology (space ships, phasers, time machines) and powerful magic are at the beginning.

And while this is a ‘fantasy’ game, it is nothing like the Dungeons and Dragons or Lord of the Rings type fantasy setting. It is a mix of Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Star Wars, and Dr. Who. I suppose it was to be the ‘ultimate’ fantasy adventure.

Above: Part of the purpose of these Ultima articles is to correctly define Ultima after Spoony’s videos have created so much misinformation. On the first one, however, he definitely pegs that Ultima I is not about the usual Celtic wonderland fantasy theme.

Game Concepts

Above: Gameplay of Ultima I

Ultima 1 is a top down, third person view of the overworld. Dungeons are first person, wire-frame. Flying spaceships (!) are also first person.

There is character creation in Ultima 1. You choose which race and distribute skill points for which attribute.

Ultima 1 is the very first open world RPG. This cannot be emphasized enough. It is non-linear. You go anywhere you want when you want. Combat is very simplistic. You can go to shops and buy items. You upgrade your gear to fight more powerful monsters and access more areas of the game.

Later, a similar top down open world video game was made with much, much better combat and doing away with character creation. This game made the dungeons top down as well.

“What game was that, Malstrom?”

It was The Legend of Zelda.

Above: From “I Am Error” Gaming Retrospective Book (FYI, Ultima II does not revolve around dungeons. You don’t even have to enter a dungeon to beat Ultima II)

Above: Tiled overworld map linking dungeons and caves… just like Ultima.

[Back to Table of Contents]

Posted by: seanmalstrom | September 22, 2017

Email: Cartridges are making a comeback

Sean,

I recently spotted this. You might want to take a look:

https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2017/09/are-video-game-cartridges-the-new-vinyl-records/

I’m still waiting for the PlayStation 1 Mini or PlayStation 2 Mini. I’m waiting for the Xbox Mini. I’m waiting for the special PS1 CD (ohhh CDs!) re-release of some damn game.

No one cares about Sony’s junk.

People care about Nintendo’s stuff.

People care about Sega’s stuff.

People care about Atari’s stuff.

But you don’t see this treasuring of Sony or Microsoft. Why? Sony and Microsoft are not game companies. They are mega conglomerate companies. Imagine if Google made a game console Who would care about it?

Posted by: seanmalstrom | September 22, 2017

Gameboy Effect For Switch

Readers,

I worry about Michael Pachter. What is he going to do with this massive Switch success? And what the hell is Sony going to do? Make PS5? Ohhhh, how boring and lame.

I am seeing the Gameboy Effect occur for Switch. Old Schoolers will know what I mean.

Gameboy destroy Game Gear, DS destroyed PSP, etc. because of the Gameboy Effect. Despite Gameboy being ‘less’ in graphics, people still preferred to buy the Gameboys. Gameboy was MOBILE. Game Gear and PSP had mobile problems.

It doesn’t matter if DOOM graphics aren’t as good on Switch than they are on PS4. You move too fast to stare at graphics anyway. The mobility, the freedom, is so much better with Switch.

Don’t you see? Sony lost its competitive advantage. “Graphics! Graphics! Graphics!” Sony says. “AAA games all come here. Nintendo can eat indie cake.” But seeing the game media obsess over Doom on Switch tells us… they’re afraid!

Above: Malstrom approaches the Game Industry and finds out what it feels

If DOOM sells well on Switch, this means those ‘super high textures’ DON’T MATTER. It means mobility matters. It means PS5 is FUCKED. This is why you see all this obsession about the frame rate of DOOM. They’re so afraid.

And what if people buy the Switch versions of games instead of ‘omg high resolutions’ for TV chained consoles?

While Game Industry is still puzzled over Switch high sales, it is just beginning to ponder what it means for their PS5 and Xbox Zero Pro consoles. Sony and Microsoft could just add a motion controller during 7th Generation. But they cannot just ‘add mobility’.

Check. And I do believe mate.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | September 21, 2017

Shantae and Half-Genie coming to Switch on CARTRIDGE

Dos Equis Gifs to the World thumbs up dos equis the most interesting man GIF

Good job. It doesn’t have to come to retail, but it does have to come on a cartridge (without me downloading necessary assets). I will buy it!

“But Malstrom! But Malstrom!” cries a reader. “That is not AAA hardcore gaming. OMG!”

Then you go back to your PS4, assume fetal position, rock back and forth, and keep telling yourself that ‘Switch is Dead On Arrival. There are no games on Switch. Switch is Dead on Arrival. There are no games on Switch. Switch is Dead on Arrival…l

 PQube is pleased to announce that we will be releasing the Ultimate Edition of WayForward’s critically acclaimed action-platformer, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, in Europe on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch in 2018.

The Shantae: Half-Genie Hero Ultimate Edition include the original game along with The Pirate Queen’s Quest, and the upcoming Friends Mode and Costumes Mode DLC. The Shantae: Half-Genie Hero Ultimate Edition is coming both physically and digitally to PS4 and Switch.

Physically to PS4. Hahahahaha. It’s all about cartridges baby!

Posted by: seanmalstrom | September 21, 2017

Email: Credit Suise upgrades Switch forecast to 130 million by 2022

Good day Malstrom!

Looks like somebody saw your big bull post a few days ago.

http://www.barrons.com/articles/nintendo-lifted-to-outperform-by-credit-suisse-1505718700

Aside from Nintendo not going into retard mode, this forecast is only possible if the macroeconomic situation stays positive. It isn’t a coincidence that Wii’s fortunes fell in 2008 since, well, a big economic hit occurred in 2008.

I think the economy will keep getting ‘better’. The Switch will just sell more and more. People will buy more and more games. Game companies will make more games for Switch. Wonderful cycle!

Posted by: seanmalstrom | September 19, 2017

Email: Open-world Sidescroller

I’d just like to say that I really, really like this term, and I’m gonna push any time I get the chance for it to replace “Metroidvania” (a term I’ve hated since I first heard it.) It’s far more accurate, and it’s not equating Metroid and Castlevania to something that is clearly not either.

Anyway, keep up the good work (and the blog too)

Sincerely,
a reader

Metroid was coined to combine two words, android and metro, as Metroid was an android running around through tunnels. But Metroid is 1986 technology, it was amazing how you could go anywhere in any direction in a game back then. You couldn’t do that in Super Mario Brothers or Kid Icarus.

In Metroid II, we got the Space Jump which created very large and very massive chasms. I was amazed by this. That, and the spider ball, created some massive areas.

With Super Metroid, I think the ‘open areas’ are the most impressive. The surface is extremely impressive and very fun to explore once you have the abilities. Large areas in Brinstar were impressive first time I went through it. Maridia was interesting though annoying after a while. I vividly remember space jumping around the surface, exploring it, being amazed at this open world sidescroller as well as the place in Maridia where you grapple beam in this massive area where you can literally spin yourself like a whirlpool. Tourian was boring compared to these large open areas.

Super Mario Brothers 3 remains so interesting, perhaps, because the game has an ‘open sky’. Flying made GIGANTIC levels that are fun to explore.

Metroid Prime had corridors too, but that was due to 3d technology of the Gamecube Era. The doors had to keep you in until the next area loaded.

The solution to Metroid is already in front of us with Zelda BoW “Wow!”. Make the world sci-fi which means you can cut down on some of the weather effects and all. The shrines are elevators which work well in Metroid. The elevators could lead to large caverns like Metroid. Also, the BoW abilities like bombs and magnesis would feel right at home in a Metroid game. The ice arrow, fire arrow, bomb arrow, guardian arrow -> Ice Weapon, Fire Weapon, Bomb Weapon, Pulse Weapon. Samus can climb anywhere with the Spider Ball. Instead of a paraglider, you have space jump which you hop your way up. Space Jump is an ‘open air game’. As BoW shows a game can be compelling upgrading your health and armor, this Metroid would have you find energy tanks and gain upgrades like before. It just works too well.

But we will get shadows from the past. We will get a 1994 Metroid ‘remade’ but with Sakamoto secret sauce (ninja moves!). We will get Metroid Prime ‘remade’ but with anime soap opera with other hunters.

If BoW shows the way how Zelda should be, doesn’t it speak to Metroid and Mario? Super Mario Brothers and Metroid were heavily influenced by the ‘open world’ in their primitive forms. Why not give it a try? We’ve done the formula to death. Time for something new!

Posted by: seanmalstrom | September 18, 2017

Email: The First Great Exclusive?

Have you tried the Project Octopath Traveler demo? I find it very exciting. It feels like the gameplay loop will be very bite sized. It feels very well suited for short bursts of play. Even the 3DS JRPGs I played felt like a time commitment (SMT IV, Etrian Odyssey). It’s in stark contrast to an “AAA” JRPG (Persona 5, Xenoblade, FFXV). I don’t know how it compares to bravely default, the same team’s other game, though.

I think this could be the first third party breakout hit.

 

.5iyu67hndbv wtfbbq…  <—-my excitement.

I just got done trying out the demo. Fireworks are still going off in my head.

What did I just play??? hahaha. How should I describe it for the reader? Pretend that Final Fantasy 7 never happened. It is an evolution off of Final Fantasy 6’s graphics. It is like a late gen SNES RPG with HD graphics! It reminds me of Live-A-Live. I played a dancer who can allure different characters to my side by shaking my booty. Apparently, I am a whore to my boss. My mansion is placed in the 8-bit land (where I can see gens 2 and 4 clearly nearby). The fact that this game has allusions to oral sex in a game on a Nintendo system that is a demo is pretty shocking to me.

The game is really fun. I love the production values. Voice acting and music are great. The characters talk too much, but I suppose they are yappy at the beginning to establish their characters. Gameplay seems to be there in spades. Good difficulty from what little I can tell.

I’m buying it day one.

I don’t think it will be a ‘break out hit’, but a cult hit. This game is a must play for those who like 16-bit RPGs like Final Fantasy 6. It better be on cartridge.

This Switch console is going to make a run to by trying to better than the NES/SNES/Wii/DS/Etc. So far, the first year software is destroying the NES/SNES/Wii/DS/Etc. And I’m still playing Zelda Master Quest. I have… 170 hours (!!!) in Zelda. And when I’m done with that, Xenoblade 2, Octopath Traveller, Doom, Golf Story, etc. etc. etc. Damn you, Nintendo! I have to make a living!

Posted by: seanmalstrom | September 17, 2017

Email: Zelda Breath of the Metroid

Being a badass and slaughtering lynels and hinox at the end of Zelda BOTW got me thinking about what you were saying about Metroid. One of the joys of a true Metroid game is the end when you have everything and are blasting through previous formidable areas like Swiss cheese. Zipping from large beast to large beast on the map, this part of Zelda feels very much like that.

I think Nintendo may have pulled a fast one on us gamers. We didn’t get a great Zelda game, we got a great Metroid game disguised as a great Zelda game. I wonder if you polled all the younger developers, from Fujibayashi on down, what would each say their most influential games are from a design standpoint?
I might be going out on a limb by making that claim, but a whole lot of the abilities in Zelda feel ripped from a Metroid game, such using your magnetic and stasis as scan modes like in Metroid Prime, the bombs and ice making abilities, and Revali’s Gale mimicking super jump abilities.

This is kind of a thing with Nintendo through the years: not giving the games to the fans they want, but taking the great game design and mechanics from a beloved series, and putting them into a more popular game instead.

When new Metroid comes, how much of it’s game play design will have already been seen. Will it feel fresh? Will Metroid Prime 4 feel watered down and unoriginal like NSMB Wii?
Not complaining at all though. I love it. I just wonder where Aonuma style will seep to next within the company. It has to go somewhere. My guess is it will rear it’s ugly head in the next Zelda game or within Metroid Prime 4. The destruction of the franchise is almost certain if we get a Metroid Prime: Secret of Aonuma’s Ooze game.

Since we are swapping so much lately, can we get a Castlevania game disguised as Metroid now please too? If I ever played a true Castlevania game again, I would be the happiest guy. I know that’s never going to happen, but maybe we can get a Castlevania in Metroid’s clothing instead.

I don’t think BoW “Wow!” is Metroid inspired, but I think it is important to highlight the physics systems are interestingly similar. Metroid had its ‘physics’ such as bombs, space jumps, and all that. Zelda BoW “Wow!” is largely based on ‘physics’ systems such as bombs, gliding, and all that. Zelda uses different types of arrows instead of missiles.

I don’t think we should say Zelda = Metroid but rather point out how important the ‘physics’ systems (or how the player can have multiple ways to interact with them) are to the game. In other words, what is more important to Metroid: the physic system of space jumping, bombing, bouncing around as a ball, or dialogue, story, and flashy ninja moves?

Sakamoto LOVES dialogue, story, and flashy ninja moves because HE GETS TO MAKE THEM. I, being the lowly player, do not get to make dialogue, story, or flashy ninja moves. I endure whatever the hell Sakamoto comes up with. What it should be is that I get to write the narrative of the game based off of my actions (Samus tries space jumping through spike infested area…. ooops!) which creates a different and unique game experience. Sakamoto’s job is to prop up the stage for all those encounters that I GET TO WRITE.

Gamers are the script writers for their experience, not the game makers. It is time for game makers to realize this.

They understood in Zelda BoW “Wow!” to make many different ways to play.

Why does this matter? It is because everyone is different! Not everyone plays the same way! So why write a game that can be played only one way? It wouldn’t be much of a fun game. And the more ways the game can be played, the more markets it unlocks.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | September 17, 2017

Reggie explains why the Switch is flying off shelves

Here is the link of Reggie saying it.

First of all, we have to ask ourselves, “Is Reggie going to tell us the truth even if he knows?” Maybe Nintendo doesn’t want people to know. During the Wii Era, people on the Internet (ahem) would trumpet what Nintendo execs said. But let us assume Reggie is saying what Nintendo thinks.

  1. Portable home console
  2. Great first party software. Mentions BoW “Wow!” by name and says it is reviewed as one of the best games ever made.
  3. Indie software makers (Nindies)

I have problems with the first reason. Nintendo is #1 in handheld console sales every generation. Every competitor against Nintendo goes for a ‘home console experience on the go’, and they fail. Game Gear was ‘color’ and failed. Sony’s PSP and Vita failed and were home consoles on the go. You could even play Vita on the TV at home. Nintendo said it was because software and hardware was designed for handheld which is why Gameboy and DS were successful.

So why is Nintendo suddenly saying the reason for Switch’s success is the same reason that doomed Sony and Sega? In many ways, the Switch experience is not that different from a Wii U. Wii U is both home console and ‘handheld’. Yes, we know Switch is so much better hardware, but the hardware of Switch is not impressive. The Joycons are very tiny and annoying. The Pro controller costs $80 and has crappy D-pad. Switch hardware is not impressive.

Wii U also had much of the same software that is on Switch. Mario Kart 8 was on Wii U too, and it was the same exact game. Nindies were on Wii U too. Terraria was on Wii U. Minecraft was on Wii U.

But Reggie mentions Zelda BoW “Wow!” by name for a reason. Even that game spurred increased sales in Wii U despite Wii Us being off the market. There is something different about BoW “Wow!”. Skyward Sword didn’t do anything remarkably like this. Neither did Wind Waker or Twilight Princess.

Zelda is behaving now more of how I remember it behaving, how it OUGHT to behave. Legend of Zelda (NES) is a game from 1986. It was very primitive hardware. Yet, look what it did. It created a perfect scaled open world adventure and popularized the save chip in cartridges. If someone asked me what is the one game that defines the NES, I would not say Mario, I would say Legend of Zelda. It is because Legend of Zelda did what arcade games and computers could not: create a fluid, responsive open world. This was 1986!!!!!

Ocarina of Time, I believe, has largely been misunderstood by its fans and Nintendo developers. They think Ocarina of Time is a ‘formula’, of a type of ‘story’, of ‘items’ and shit. Really, I think Ocarina of Time was the Open World of its era. Ocarina of Time was the Grand Theft Auto of its day. People thought they could do anything. Remember Ocarina of time was using very primitive 3d technology at the time.

I think Zelda BoW “Wow!” captures the spirit of the Open World and really triggers gaming interest because of it. It is amazing we have ALL THESE GAMES, both of today and of DECADES past, yet we drop it all for a really good game. Gamers are constantly searching, constantly reading, constantly listening for the Great Game They Are Missing.

Reggie’s comments are a confirmation of this: that if one wishes to understand Switch’s success, one is going to have to dig deep into understanding why Breath of the Wild is a success. But in order to do that, one will have to understand Legend of Zelda (NES). Since that game came out in 1986, it apparently missed the ‘first generation’ of when the PlayStation came out. Poor analysts! It came from the Land Before Time! And if they study NES Zelda, they are going to inevitably end up studying arcade gaming and computer RPGs (which Zelda was inspired). And then… and then…

Readers used to get angry at me when I would complain about Spirit Tracks (trains!? WTF!) or something else Aonuma was doing. I know how Zelda is supposed to be. It is not supposed to be ‘puzzles’ or ‘Aonuma message to his child’. (BTW, I just got done finishing the third maze shrine in BoW “WoW!” and I LOVED IT. The mazes are great fun!) And now it is crystal clear that Nintendo was doing Zelda wrong between Ocarina of Time and Breath of the Wild. A misinterpretation of Ocarina of Time created these wrong Zeldas.

Take Metroid. Sakamoto’s misbeliefs and Nintendo’s misinterpretations of Metroid is giving us the Metroids of today which is a shame because Metroid went longer than any Nintendo franchise before we got crappy games. Metroid is for the experienced gamer. Metroid is sci-fi, alien, surreal, difficult, and not for the beginner player. Nintendo themselves admit this in their marketing back in the 1980s:

You hear words like ‘challenge’ and ‘survival’. The player is using a NES Advantage. Why? Experienced gamers rejected the D-pad and went for the NES Advantage. Why? They grew up on the Atari 2600. Kid is using the NES Advantage because that is what the experienced NES gamers used. This is why there are TONS of NES Advantages out there still. Very popular controller.

Not all games have to be accessible in order to sell well. Games can be surreal and be DIFFICULT to become blockbusters. Defender from the arcades was that game. People said it couldn’t sell against games like Frogger or Pac-Man. But experienced gamers flocked to Defender because it was a challenge to them. In more recent times, Dark Souls is that game that sells because it is difficult.

Metroid was the Dark Souls of the NES. People didn’t play Metroid for the story or accessibility, they played it because they knew it was damn hard game and extremely confusing. Sakamoto seems intent on wanting Metroid to be NES Ninja Gaiden with turning Samus Aran into a ninja with cutscenes. Completely wrong.

I consider games like Robotron and some shmups to be doing somewhat a similar job Metroid did. Nintendo makes many games. But all their games are accessible and easy to play. Metroid is difficult and not easy to play. This is why the experienced gamer would buy the NES to get to Metroid, the Gameboy to get to Metroid II, and SNES to get to Super Metroid. Metroid offers a completely different style to the Nintendo ‘happy cute’ style.

I hope one day we get to play a true Metroid just as we get to play a true Zelda with BoW “Wow!” today.

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