Posted by: seanmalstrom | June 22, 2016

Email: We Mere Mortals Can Slay These Game Gods

I’m sure you’re still digging through all of the E3 backlog as I type this, and hopefully this email won’t get lost in your sifting as I felt something I haven’t felt in a very, very long time since I’ve observed the video game industry from the sidelines throughout half a decade.

Video games feel exciting again. Valve Corporation is beginning to lose their stranglehold on the PC gaming industry from another company that’s actually a subsidiary of a video game developer that actually makes their own video games to this day by allowing certain titles purchased on Steam to be tied to a gog.com account for free (but not the other way around), Nintendo doing the right things with Zelda (The first thing I heard in the E3 trailer of the game sent chills of excitement down my spine), and finally, we have another game industry bombshell that dropped not too long ago:

Mighty Number 9, a video game with at least 4 million dollars to its name, is finally out for people to buy and nobody wants it. Everyone who helped fund the game got shafted repeatedly throughout its development to the point that I could palpably feel their seething anger just by visiting the official reddit board and noticing how little activity was over there. Whatever enthusiasm anyone posted about the game was tepid at best, since every single piece of breaking news that came out in that board was just more fuel to add to the dumpster fire. Heck, it felt like they were using black humor just to forget about it. The amount of bad rep this game has gotten to the point that whoever’s in charge of Sonic the Hedgehog’s twitter feed makes jabs for at the developers of the game whenever they do any major PR stunt for it. What makes these Sonic tweets even more insulting to is that although most of the Sonic games released after the Dreamcast were horrible, at least they actually get released and were probably made with a lot less than 4 million dollars.

Of course, to top this all off, Inafune himself publicly apologizes about this train wreck (Kotaku says to start at minute 48):

https://www.twitch.tv/comceptusa/v/73636349

Which still doesn’t help matters at all. The twitch comments are also really brutal. Of course, Sonic also adds his own salt to the wound: https://twitter.com/sonic_hedgehog/status/745311041987371008

What I loved about this whole debacle is that a lot of gamers have been publicly exposed to this game industry rot that your posts have revealed on this blog for a very, very long time because this blunder came from a revered figure in the gaming industry. This alone makes it more significant over something like gamer gate is because this is stuff that actually matters since it’s about making games and not stupid political BS that people want to shove into something like Overwatch.

It’s amazing how a bad game can destroy a Game God. Remember the hype of Will Wright and his Spore? And then we actually played Spore.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | June 22, 2016

Email: Good Feels About BoW “WOW!”

Hey Master Malstrom,

First off, I just wanted to point out that Zelda is not Dark Souls. If it is, then Shovel Knight is also the true spiritual successor to Zelda 2. It’s not. Easier games can often be better games, as seen with Mega Man 1 vs. 2. Heck, Zelda 1 ain’t too hard once you know the secrets of the map. If BOW has varied, challenging combat throughout the game I’ll be satisfied. Challenging does not have to mean draconian.

The emailer who was at E3 cited my main concern, that the enemies might be too few and far between. Of what we’ve seen, though, there’s little reason to think all the enemies we do encounter will be pushovers. I understand keeping expectations to the dirt, but it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy what we see.
Now I’m a bit positive about this game for several reasons:

1. The game looks fun!

2. You’re positive. You’re usually on the pulse of good games well before they come out.

3. Skyward Sword’s marketplace failure. When Nintendo fails, watch out, they might bring their A-game next time.

4. New blood. There are a lot of new, young Nintendo employees working on this game, and Aonuma has implemented their ideas. Also, 100 employees from Monolith Soft are also helping out, which makes sense of how Nintendo could jump from Skyward Sword linear and small to Xenoblade Chronicles open and huge.

5. Nintendo is changing Zelda traditions away from Puzzelda towards Classic Zelda. Aonuma has mentioned, “breaking traditions,” and he went into some detail on what that meant. In the past, “breaking tradition,” meant taking the GOOD parts of a Zelda and subverting it into Puzzelda. The sword in Skyward Sword is a textbook example, something meant primarily for combat is turned into a puzzle device.

Today, Aonuma saying “breaking tradition” means making the game open-world and changing a lot of rules that make no sense for good game design. Not having a jump button makes sense in 2D Zelda, but in 3D Zelda the lack of a jump button is the root behind a lot of the environment’s linearity. In past 3D Zeldas, they had to design the environments in very specific ways for platforming to work. Now they don’t have to worry about the quite dated way of designing things for the silly no-jump-button “tradition.”

6. The Guardians are the new version of Octoroks. Aonuma thought making a giant slimy land-octopus would be “gross” so he made them machines haha. But whatever, the menacing cold-killer look of Guardians is SWEET!

7. The words “Zelda” and “Puzzles” are no longer used as if they were synonymous. Everyone’s going on and on about the WORLD, not “puzzles.” Case in point, here’s an article I drew from for this email. It is Aonuma talking with Time about Zelda BoW “WOW!”, and he does not say the word “puzzle” even once!:
http://time.com/4369527/zelda-breath-wild-open-world/
Thanks for blogging,
The Fortunate* Reader
*P.S. Fortunate in the sense I was fortunate to find your glorious little blog years ago. Not only has it been exceedingly interesting to read, but a bit of your life advice has helped me out.

 

There is so much E3 information that I missed that Aonuma interview. It’s hilarious that Aonuma sees Breath of the Wild as ‘destroying Zelda traditions’ while I see it as restoring Zelda traditions.

It is also interesting that while Breath of the Wild is about the ‘nature’ and surviving in the world, there seems to be much futuristic technology. Did Classic Zelda have futuristic technology?

Look! It is a Hover Horse! While I am not as familiar with the 3d Zeldas, Zelda 2 has tons of futuristic technology.

The Doom Knockers seem like robots that throw… something that wasn’t made in a barn.

The Blue Fokka still scare me to this day. What the hell are they? They jump all over, shoot lasers with their swords, and are a PAIN IN THE ASS. They seem futuristic. Hell, the entire Final Palace seems futuristic.

Here is what I like with BoW “WOW!” so far…

  1. Open World in that Link does whatever he wants.
  2. An actual rich overworld out there.
  3. Physics in the world.
  4. Interaction with the world.
  5. Combat means you have to jump around, dodge, and is intense.
  6. Can wander somewhere outside your league and get easily killed. I think this was lost in LTTP but was present in Zelda 1 and 2.
  7. Futuristic technology. I like this.
  8. Apocalyptic feeling. I never thought about this feeling with Zelda 1 and 2, but I suppose it was there. I just associated it with ‘Zelda’. LTTP, while a great game, seemed too ‘happy’ and ‘cheery’ to me but we all loved the Dark World. We cannot feel like a hero unless we deal with evil. You cannot have ‘evil’ if everyone is happy.

If I was a young programmer on the Zelda team, I would tell Aonuma-san that “These bosses that just sit in a room at the end of the dungeon… why does it have to be like this? Why don’t the bosses roam? How about bosses that roam the outside world? MMORPGs have some of these. You cannot defeat them unless you get something from inside the dungeon.” Stuff like that.

I cannot wait to play this game. I am only cautious because I have been let down so many times by Aonuma.

I think the most important thing, out of all, is how you can interact with the world. Guys, this is huge. Interaction with the game world is very, very hard to do, but it is so very rewarding.

In this Bill Trinen video, the other guys throw in Half Life 2 and other games about interacting. When I think of a game of interaction, I think of Ultima VII. I would say Ultima VII is the flagship of an interactive open world. I still play that game to this day, shocking to think how it came out before the freaking Super Nintendo did.

Minecraft is also very much about interaction, but it is all block based. I do not find Minecraft that immersive. I am hoping Zelda BoW “WOW!” is immersive. It is hard to judge from just the plateau.

Come to think of it, my original playing experiences of Zelda I, II, and LTTP was about the interaction. In Zelda 1, we were trying to burn every bush and bomb every dungeon wall. Repetitious today, but consider gaming back then. In Zelda 2, I would try to turn myself into a fairy and fly to places I should, attack walls with my sword hoping they would break, and so on. Link to the Past, who did not get delighted being able to run through the grass with your sword which would mow it down or bounce off a tree and have fruit fall off it? But is the game about cutting grass? No. But the game IS about interacting with the world. I think the mistake was that Aonuma and others liked the cutting grass and put it in every Zelda and missed the lesson: it was about interacting with the world, not cutting the grass.

Aonuma: “OK Malstrom. You are playing Breath of the Wild. It is time for you to get the item and go to the first dungeon. Go on now. Go, go!”

Screw that! I want to hop about for half an hour chopping down these trees.

Old Aonuma would say: “Outrageous! How dare you defy my direction. You must stop what you are doing RIGHT NOW and go to the dungeon.”

New Aonuma would say: “Do whatever you want. The game is about YOU having fun, not about ME having fun.”

Well, I would hope Aonuma would say that today.

Hello Master Malstrom,

Everyone is doing a good job writing interesting impressions and everyone seems to mostly be on the same page about things. I don’t normally do this sort of thing, especially over the ‘net, but I’m going to give just my $0.02 on the subject.

I really like how Link in this game is very proficient. He wields a variety of weapons including pitchforks and axes with dexterity. When I first saw this Link during the E3 2014 reveal, I thought he was hideous and that I would never get use to him. But this link Is like a woodsman, a scout, a swordsman and maybe more, all in one. This Link can do everything! I instantly fell in love.

On Link’s Tunic:
Here’s Aonuma being asked about Link’s tunic:
what happened to Link’s green tunic? “I don’t know… I wonder,” Aonuma said with a laugh.
(http://www.ign.com/articles/2016/06/14/e3-2016-the-legend-of-zelda-breath-of-the-wild-hands-on-preview?page=3)
A treehouse representative said that of all the outfits in the final game, it’s possible it’ll make a return. (http://www.zeldainformer.com/news/getting-to-wear-links-iconic-green-tunic-in-botw-is-still-a-possibility)

I really hope it makes a return… I mean, it should. Wouldn’t make sense to put Link in the wilderness where he can hunt and stuff and not give him a camouflaging green tunic. Also, his blue tunic seen in the promotional artwork was simply plundered from a chest, sitting in the middle of nowhere. At least in the demo… A hero needs some royalties.

Do you remember how around when they first showed Twilight Princess, they didn’t even want to say whether the horse was Epona or not?

After all, in this game, Link has been asleep for 100 years and the game acknowledges him as a hero from the start + the Master Sword is in this game, which I’m sure is going to be the ideal blade that won’t degrade and break, so he should have an ideal outfit to go with it all. Right?

Monolithsoft is working on the game. I’ve never played any of their games, though I want to…(http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2016/06/17/monolith-is-helping-work-on-the-legend-of-zelda-breath-of-the-wild.aspx)

About shrines:
During the Treehouse stream, one of them stated that even though the shrines that they were showing were puzzle oriented, not all of them are. Some are action oriented others are puzzle oriented. Some are even both, I think she said. This sounds cool, like you might not know what you’re getting into.
From what we’ve seen of the shrines, you’re given a new ability at the start of the trial, if you complete it, you get to keep the new ability. My only worry is that if the game sticks to this exact setup too strictly throughout the game, the more action oriented ones could be geared towards certain weapons which could make things feel artificial all over again. I hope this isn’t the case. Maybe I’m overthinking this?

About the overworld:
During the Threehouse stream, Aonuma stated that at some point, Link will jump off of the plateau and that will dictate what kind of rout you’ll take. This to me sounds like the overworld will be sort of maze-like and that’s good.
And about the music; The music choice makes sense.
They went with an “open air” music style since it’s hard to keep a matching pace in such a wide open space with many different activities available, they claim.
I do like that it seems to be a fully orchestrated soundtrack. However, I do hope to see more in the way of a traditional soundtrack as the music that I could hear so far, mostly for battle, were minimalistic. Moreover, if you watch the Wolf Link Amiibo trailer, the trailer music actually seemed like a good fit for the field. I hope they actually use it at some point in the game. Maybe like a different arrangement of it.

Speaking of Wolf Link; The Amiibo function is actually alright. What it does is allow you to spawn Wolf Link from Twilight Princess into your Zelda: BotW game. He will serve as a helper in combat and he will also “sniff out certain items for you as well”. After you complete the cave of trials or whatever it’s called in Twilight Princess HD, the left-over hearts that you survived with will be the amount o f hearts Wolf Link has When imported into Zelda: BOTW’s Hyrule. Not that big of deal, really, but it’s damn well implemented and looks really cool to have a wolf running along side link. Aonuma said something about this feature being for players that still want a companion character. I don’t remember the quote. But this is the way to do it! That being said, there’s otherwise no companion character. YAY!

About the combat:
Now wielding all of those weapons is cool and all, but I noticed that when wielding, I guess, one-handed weapons, a sword for example, Link would only swing horizontally. He performed a vertical jump attack but that’s different. I am wondering if Link’s basic moveset will expand or has it just been simplified. Perhaps the weapon variety is to make up for it.

About that slow motion aspect:
Much to my dismay (and some others, as I’ve heard others voice their concern on this) the slowdown of time during combat is not an external force. Meaning it’s just part of the game’s combat. It happens when you dodge at just the right time as well as use certain moves, apparently. Think Wii Sports boxing. I worry that this will be distracting, break up the action and just feel disjointed overall as the game constantly slows down and speeds up as you try to fight. I’d much rather the game just let me strike enemies if not let me control it.

About the “technology” theme of the game:
I’m really not feeling this. Though it doesn’t look overly prominent in the footage we’ve seen thus far, I just don’t really like it. Some of the effects are distracting to me, like those blue shards when Link chucks a weapon at an enemy and the blue blasts those blue orbs make. Because of this, I find it a bit of a tease that the blue orbs make the satisfying blasting noise while other objects, like the barrels in this video (https://youtu.be/NIrY56yg7dY @28:25), make the same dang sound they started using in the Wind Waker. I hope they change this.

Oh, another cool thing: If you watch IGN’s timelapse video where they show off the day/night cycle, a meteor of sorts can be seen falling from the sky and hitting the ground, making a giant beacon!

I wonder what that is… =o

Well, I guess that’s it. Turned out a bit longer than I expected.

Take care!

P.S. Your blog has really been a blessing to me. I’m taking all of your various criticism and insights into account when I make my own game some day. :^)

 

Time lapse video is pretty cool.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | June 22, 2016

Generations by their themes

The console generations do have their themes and innovations. Some of the time we can only realize them when looking back. I am summing them up in one phrase which is quite a challenge. This is to reveal how the Console Generations are really a March of Time itself instead of a parade of consoles. Take a look:

Generation One- Interactive Television

The TV in your home is now something you interact. You do not just watch it.

Generation Two- Multi-Games, Multi-Controllers

Generation Two saw the innovation of cartridges which could change your games, add in new games, and being able to change the controllers. The Atari 2600, and the console industry itself, was saved by the release of a game called ‘Space Invaders’ which was a killer app and rocketed the Atari 2600 sales.

Generation Three- Japanese Console and Game and Controller Design

The breath of fresh air comes in from Japanese style gaming. You had to have been there. Super Mario Brothers, alone, normalized background music, scrolling, and even backgrounds with its ‘blue sky’. There were Japanese games on prior consoles, but they were arcade ports. The way how the Japanese designed games rocked the Game Industry at the time and spurred a revival of the console space. The Japanese innovations have been fiercely studied and incorporated into Western game companies since (example: Blizzard).

The Japanese did away with the joystick and gave us the D-pad, the controller you hold with two hands. Revolutionary. Also, most of the legal underpinnings of the console business were established during this time. Sega couldn’t make hardware that played Nintendo games (but last generation, Coleco made a console that could play Atari’s games).

Generation Four- Output Innovations

The best way I’d categorize the Generation Four was that it was about output innovations. You could say that about every generation so far, but remember that in Generation 3, retailers still refused to stock the NES despite its output innovations over the Atari 2600. No one bought a NES because ‘its graphics were better than Atari 2600’. They bought it because of Mario. I remember. I was there.

Generation Four was when game consoles became ‘Red Ocean’ and fiercely competitive in the avenue of output innovations. Sound and graphics especially was where the competition was at. Every game had to sound better and look more beautiful. The sprites had to be better, have more animations, and sometimes even created on another machine entirely (Donkey Kong Country).

Interestingly, there was little controller innovation. Aside from a few more buttons, the controllers stayed the same. With CD attachments, gaming got CD quality audio which is essentially the peak hardware-wise that our ears can handle.

Generation Five- 3D

It is pretty clear that all the consoles of this time were chasing 3d… to some games’ benefits and to some games’ curse.

“But this generation is also the switch to CDs! Include that, Malstrom!”

But that didn’t alter gaming like the addition of cartridges did. CDs do the same job as cartridges… although CDs are cheaper and hold more data. A data innovation is not what this generation is differentiated about. Data innovations are in every generation.

 

Generation Six- Better 3d Output

What were all the consoles chasing? What was the market responding to? Better 3d output. Games ceased being blocky messes.

In many ways, this is a continuation of Generation Five in dealing with the 3d. Gamecube was aptly named as if it was all going to be 3d hence the ‘cube’.

 

Generation Seven- Input Innovation, Online Play, Procedural Generation

Without a doubt, the input innovations of Generation Seven created the best selling Wii and DS from the Wii-mote to Balance Board. Sony and Microsoft later copied with their own take on input innovations. While HD output was lionized, the best selling game for Xbox 360 was a blocky clunky game by the name of Minecraft. Online Play had far more impact in gaming and keeping gamers to a console due to their friend lists.

Procedural Generation was *the* key reason why Minecraft took off. Procedural generation wasn’t ‘new’, but it is now become to the point where it can consistently be entertaining.

 

Generation Eight- Digital transmitting

I would engulf Generation 8 with the envelope of Digital Transmitting. This goes from the Wii U talking to the Wii U gamepad, to DLC, to Cloud based gaming, and so on. Granted, this is a rather lame innovation which may be why the console market is shrinking so fast after the massively innovative Generation 7.

 

Generation Nine- ?????

What will it be? Who knows. My guess for the Nintendo NX is Nintendo doing its Internet thing not AROUND the games like the other consoles are doing but WITHIN the game. As for Microsoft and Sony, I expect them to go more connectivity with their other products. We just do not know.

No, it will NOT be the Virtual Reality generation.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | June 22, 2016

Generation is defined by time, not by “lifespan”

The Game Industry is saying, “Scorpio is not the Next Gen of Xbox. Neo is not the Next Gen of PS4. They are there to merely extend the life of the machines.”

Dos Equis Gifs to the World facepalm smh smdh no

This is nonsense. A generation depends on time, not on a ‘lifespan’ of a product. Some game consoles do keep selling into other generations. PS2 kept selling well into Generation 7 though it is best defined as a Generation 6 product. NES kept selling into Generation 4 but it is clearly a Generation 3 product.

Gameboy was released in Generation 3 (NES Era). I know Wikipedia pegs the Gameboy at Generation 4, but whatever. The point is that the true ‘next gen’ of gameboy was the Gameboy Advance which was released in Generation 6. We had Gameboy Pocket, Gameboy Color, and so on. With the DS of Generation 7, we had DS, DS Lite, DSi, and DSi XL.

 

While it is true that the DSi and DSi XL extended the DS lifespan, the DSi XL could be said to belong to Generation 8 simply if you interpret Generation 8 to start at 2010.

The generation differences in console is not due to ‘next gen’ marketing but due to time periods. It is *that* simple.

Nintendo home consoles have been obeying the generational time shifts by putting out hardware for each period. After the long ass First Generation (which is probably so we can include the not-so-successful consoles such as the Odyssey), each generation has been around 5-6 years.

If you place new hardware during that time and say, “It is not New Gen, it is extending the life of the old console.” That is fine and dandy. But that new hardware belongs to the epoch of that Generation even if the old hardware can play the new games.

Generation is defined by time, not by hardware. People are getting confused because they think generations are defined by new hardware. They are not.

Where is the Seventh Generation Sega hardware? There isn’t any. The Sega line ends in the Sixth Generation. But let us say Sega came out with a console today. It would belong in Generation Nine, not Generation Seven. Time is the differentiation, not hardware.

Generation Eight began in 2012.

Generation Nine will probably begin in 2017. That is five years difference which is the norm. Each generation is half a decade.

This suggests Generation Ten will begin in 2022. That is five years from 2017.

If Scorpio and Neo are the only hardware Microsoft and Sony release before 2022, then Scorpio and Neo belong to Generation 9, not Generation 8.

“But it isn’t Next Gen because it doesn’t say PlayStation FIVE on it.”

But it IS next gen. It just says Sony doesn’t know how to obey the generation time shifts and is trying to sell a console architecture for two generations.

Nintendo has been obeying the generational time shifts by putting out new hardware every five to six years. The late Iwata mocked Sony’s notion that they didn’t have to obey the time shifts (back during the PS3 era when Sony was saying the PS3 was going to be a ten year machine). The PS3 was NOT a ten year machine. Sony had to put out the PS4. PS3 was launched in 2006. PS4 was launched in 2012.

Sony is launching new PlayStation hardware in 2017. “But it is not PS5!” It may not be a PS5, but it does belong to Generation 8. It is Sony’s hardware response to the time shift of that generation provided that PS5 doesn’t appear until 2022.

The Game Industry does not write the epochs of the console generations.

It is the console generations that write the epochs of the game industry.

Time is the master of all things… including money and business.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | June 21, 2016

Email: Experience Playing Zelda

Malstrom readers are even at E3… right where Nintendo would never expect them to be! If the reader will quiet down for a moment, we will hear this emailer tell us how it was to play the new Zelda.

“B-b-but how do you know this, Malstrom? Anyone can email you anything!?”

Did I not tell you to be quiet? There is a reason why you are the reader. The emailer sent proof that he was, indeed, at E3. Perhaps he was part of those elite cabal we call game journalists.

Hello Master Malstrom,

So you are looking for Zelda impressions. Well, I actually got to played at E3. So I thought I’d share.

So, of all the games I played, it’s probably the most memorable. There are a ton of things that impressed me. For one, you can die. If you’ve seen the footage or watched the trailer, there is this skull rock, where if you knock down the lantern, it will blow up the room. When I messed up. I figured “Oh, I could kill this guy like I’ve killed every enemy thus far” Well, the big guy in there killed me in one hit. I had to run away from that. When was the last time you died in a classic Zelda game. I’ve seen some other footage where there are enemies in the starting area that can wreck you. In another instance, I fell down a cliff and pathetically rolled down. I had to fight the enemies to try and steal their stuff to restore my health. It was a bit exciting with a little more tension. That, and it feels like fighting and raiding camps was worthwhile.

If I were t compare it to any Zelda game, it would be the first one. When I first saw it, I thought it was a mix of Skyrim and Shadow of the Colossus. But thinking back, it’s really a modern version of the first one. If someone were to go to sleep after the NES and wake up in 2016, having no knowledge of the other games, they would see this as Zelda to the max. It seems different to a lot of Nintendo fans because their idea of Zelda is Ocarina of Time. Nothing wrong with that game, but this, if anything, is a return to form.

What makes it memorable is this game feels like an adventure, not a “Go to X, solve puzzle.” I despise Anouma Zelda. This felt like a real adventure. You get different weapons, can explore, you fight enemies. Everything feels right. I met a girl there who had played it and she gushed about everything. She liked the idea of cooking and pulling chest from the water. She seemed like a big Zelda fan, but hated Skyward Sword (good indicator for someone’s taste). A ton of people were loving this game, but when I heard her excitement, I realized that this could be a hit.

Oh, and the line was something else. It was closed 3 minutes into the last day. A friend and I got in because we basically made a line at the end of the official line. The line wrapped all the way around Nintendo’s booth and then some. It moved fast, but there were just too many people. Everyone had to play Zelda. Heck, I only got to do it once.

Also, if your curious, you get you first weapons (a tree branch, woodcutter axe and a bow) about 5 minutes in. The story demo had you get a book, equip some clothes, climb a rock, and do a short cut scene outside. You could skip all the cutscenes too. You may get a sword 10 minutes or so in (an enemy drops it). This could probably go faster if you skip the cutscenes (which weren’t that long) and just go for the stuff.

That said, I still have some concerns (can never trust Anouma). First, it didn’t seem like there were too many enemies. The Treehouse footage showed there were a bit more. Also, we haven’t seen towns or NPCs (which Anouma fucks up. They look like stupid dolls. If someone put a gun to Anouma’s head and told him to draw a not awful character, he wouldn’t make it). There is also the stamina bar which is used for almost everything. The sword spin (maybe attacking too), running, climbing, swimming. It just seems like a limiting mechanic. I’m hoping we can at least upgrade it. Then it will at least feel like an RPG element and not dumb. Also, the first shrine is named after Aonuma, but the other ones may be named after other developers, so I’m hoping it’s not self flatulation.

So far, the game is awesome. I’m hoping we aren’t disappointed. From the reaction, this could be huge. This is the game everyone was talking about, and getting into the game was almost impossible. People waited 3 hours before the show opened just to get into it. It was that crazy.

By the way, here is proof that I actually was at E3. I wrote this late so I’m sorry if it has any spelling error or what not.

 

Can you believe it, reader? This emailer met a girl who not only played Zelda but gushed about it! What is going on here!?

Posted by: seanmalstrom | June 21, 2016

Email: Playing Super Mario Brothers 3 with my sister

Hello Malstrom,

Maybe you’ll enjoy this anecdote. A few weeks ago my sister was nearby and would visit at my place, so I proposed we play a video game together. We didn’t have a NES growing up and I only bought All Stars for SNES a couple of years ago, so she never had played Mario 3 before, this was the first time she got to play it.

We played the two-player mode and it was great fun. I was mostly carrying the game because I had played more games before, but the game scales very well for beginners. In the beginning she was dying quite a lot, but as the game went on she was able to beat more and more levels. Part of this has to be with how fluid the physics are, everything feels very smooth and after a while you get a feeling for when to let go of controls or how to bounce off things. Many games on the NES (and even later) feel very rigid; you instantly stop, you have very little control mid-air and you get knocked back all the time or stunned, forcing you to learn animation frames to get good.

It’s kind of hard to put into words why Mario 3 was so fun because there are many factors that come together. You have already written a lot about how the game fleshes out its world, and looking back Mario 3 really does go the extra mile. Take World 5: in the New game you beat a boss and then you just end up in Sky World, but in this game you start out in a regular grass world and there is some weird Tower of Babel thing, which is odd because it doesn’t look like a castle. So you make it there and keep going up and up until you emerge above the clouds. That’s so much cooler.

There are many other such details, like the bridges raising and lowering and the boat you can find in World 3 or all those pipes in World 7. Speaking of which, some of the worlds are the usual standard stuff (grass, desert, water, ice), but Giant World, Sky World and Pipe World were really fun concepts. I think Giant World was her favourite and it’s mine as well. You play the first three worlds and they are pretty standard and then it hits you with this. World 8 was the hardest of them all, and it was a worthy finale. First you have to make your way past Bowser’s attack force with the tanks and the ship and a super-fast airship (we couldn’t beat it without P-wing) and then you make your way towards the final castle.

Overall everything about the game feels… nice, I guess? The music is pretty laid back (except for the athletic theme, it sounds like random leftovers), it’s cool in its own way. Some levels have unique elements like the angry sun, the giant fish or the giant shoe you can ride. The airships are rather menacing (not so much on SNES, but still), there is something really eerie about a level that has no enemies except for the cannons. Reminds me of the hallway to Mother Brain in Metroid. What is really cool is how the game tells a story in a way: you are re-conquering the different kingdoms from Bowser’s army one by one and occasionally the princess sends you a letter, except after World 7 when Bowser has kidnapped her while you were fighting his forces.

So yeah, needless to say beat it pretty quickly because we just had to keep playing. The levels have a pretty nice length, not too long and not too short either. We did about one world per day, thanks to the save feature. Beating the game in one sitting would be out of question for two grown-ups, unless we were using the warp whistles, but you have to find those first and they are harder to find than the warp zones in Mario 1.

Let’s see, what did we not like? The game has some really annoying time wasters. Every time you fail a level you get knocked to the last level you had beaten, which could be an entire screen, and then you have to wait for the hammer bros. to stop moving. That’s just annoying. The warp pipes on the map are really cool, but why do I have to enter a level screen every time? There is nothing interesting down there. And the same message boxes at every single mushroom house gets old quite fast. It’s nothing game breaking, but it happens all the time and only stops the excellent game flow, it begins to get on my nerves. Some of the items were also pretty useless: the star lasts too short, skipping a level with the cloud is useless if you don’t beat the next level on your first try and the music box is just dumb. I also hated some of the castles with puzzle level design. You can’t have me guessing doors and also put a time limit on it. The first castle in World 7 was the worst, I barely managed to beat it with only a few seconds left on the counter. That’s just bullshit.

I don’t know what else to say, but that Mario 3 even after all these years is one of the best games ever, it can still make new fans. We have since then beaten New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Newer Super Mario Bros. Wii (a mod for the former) and we are currently playing Super Mario World. Should I write about those as well?

Super Mario World for sure.

I disagree about the pipes. I thought it added a tangible immersion to the game instead of an abstraction. They only take a second anyway.

Toad could definitely say different things when you visit his house. I agree with you there.

I hate the puzzle castles too.

I hear the Wii U can get the Gameboy Advance copy of SMB 3 with the E Card levels. That is more SMB 3 levels for you to play!

SMB 3 is one of those games that when you start playing it, you cannot stop. It is sooooooooo good. Super Mario World is like that too, but I get burned out when I get to Forest Area. Perhaps it is because of the ‘puzzles’ that appear.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | June 21, 2016

Email: Zelda BOW Bait and Switch

Hey Malstrom,

I’m a longtime reader of yours whose been out of the modern gaming loop for a very long time now but for curiosity’s sake I decided to go and check out what Nintendo is doing with Zelda these days since E3 has rolled around.

So having just got done checking out the new Wii U Zelda presentation I have to say that I’m just not feeling the hype.

Reasons being its the same old lame/ugly Skyward Sword visuals/art style that don’t immerse you in the gameplay experience like the more realistic and beautiful graphics of Twilight Princess and Ocarina (3DS version) but not only that the enemies…well…what enemies there are…are simply ridiculous looking re-treads from Skyward Sword for the most part which in addition to the ultra kiddy graphics totally removes a person from the immersive experience a game series such as this is supposed to provide.

I think the hype for this game is moreso due to Wii U owners craving games ANY games due to the Wii U’s severe game drought more than it is an example of Nintendo fans getting excited for the next big Zelda game.

As for this idea I’m reading on your site either from yourself or your readers that says there’s not going to be any annoying helper character this time around for Link all I can say is we can never trust Aonuma/Nintendo to not lie to us.

They lied to us and betrayed us with Wind Waker and they lied to us and betrayed us with the original epic and awesome Wii U Zelda trailer which was another realistic Zelda presentation we were led to believe we’d be getting only to be bait and switched with more ugly detestable anime.

So I’m sure Aonuma will stick in a fairy friend or two (or three) to bother Link without end…or {{Shudders}}…Tingle.

Or…

Perhaps they’ll make the middle aged man character I saw who looked like a fatter version of Mario in the Zelda U trailer into Link’s helper probably giving Link some “magical” device via which he can “phone home” or “radio in” to Link near constantly so Nintendo/Aonuma makes sure none of us gets lost. Pathetic.

(The character could be Link’s Uncle ala LTTP?)

I also think you or one of your readers ideas from a past column will turn out to be true and that idea is that much like with Wind Waker’s ocean travel mechanic this Zelda will also be essentially “on rails” whereby whatever horse Link gets to ride you just press a button and direct the horse for large and certain sections of field and have no real control or exploration over where you’re going.

Ultimately I just see Nintendo/Aonuma as incredibly disgraceful pathological liars and deceivers almost always engaging in bait and switch tactics on the Nintendo/Zelda fanbase and that the end product of this game won’t be as close to the original Legend Of Zelda on the NES’s spirit of freedom as you and many of your readers seem to be thinking right at this moment.

 

Link to the Past had an old man who guided you.

You could ignore him as you can in the new Zelda. Has anyone ever said Link to the Past is marred by the old man? I don’t. There was even a fortune teller. To compare to a PC RPG, Ultima had the king (Lord British), a jester (Chuckles), and a talking horse (!) (Smith) guide you. The Old Man is just a NPC.

I don’t think this is Bait and Switch because we haven’t seen the switch. I think this Zelda is truly about the overworld experience as the soul of the game.

When I started this page, I was accused of working for Nintendo because I was so positive about Nintendo. In 2008, I became negative which angered many people. Now I am positive, at least, about what I’ve seen of this Zelda so far. The goal is to be fair. This Zelda is the right direction. I have to give Aonuma credit for allowing it to happen.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | June 21, 2016

Email: Re: [New post] Some more Zelda emails…

I’ve seen the ‘shrines’, and I do not have a problem with them. The shrines seem short. We haven’t seen a dungeon. You can’t go 100% without puzzles because that has never been the case in a Zelda… or even a 2d Mario game.”

You have consistently stated that Zelda I and II did not have puzzles, and you were correct when you said that. The shrines really bother me – classic Puzzelda. These need to be axed and replaced with combat trials, rather than puzzle trials. Mazes /= puzzles, secret levers/blocks /= puzzles.

The Trine-like blocks and 2×4-throwing needs to be axed. Lame.

Magnet gun – Lame. Axe it.

Push-over enemies that stay in little camps so that you don’t have to fight. Their ‘tells’ last for about 5 minutes. Nintendo really needs to take a page from the Souls series in this respect, which is more like Zelda I than any Zelda game since. Enemies should be hunting you in packs, hiding behind bushes, ambushing, ranged attacks, ranged and close-quarter tag-team attacks, birds bugs, bats, swooping down to attack as you run around, horseback enemies running after you 24/7 – there should be no quarter. I like what they did with Wind Whacker where the sharks would swim after you – they could do something similar in BOW while on foot and on horse. This game is about 99% running around in open fields and if you want to go smack some bokoblins or sekeltons on the head and collect some lame treasure, you can just walk right up to them and spam the attack button – they won’t try to harm you – they intentionally don’t hit you. You can say that “its only the beginning of the game”, I don’t buy it. This IS the game; the beginning sets the tone for the entire game. It is currently “Fisher-Price”-level difficulty. Aside from bosses and mini-bosses, enemies in the over-world are going to be camping-out waiting to be slaughtered. Difficulty needs up 2 orders of magnitude. Enemies on-screen need up another 2 orders of magnitude.

In an interview it was mentioned that in the original Zelda every screen had enemies on it, and that they recreated that feeling by having things on the screen moving like the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees. Well, nature in motion is not the same as dangerous enemies in motion, and spears and rocks being shot at you. This is where they have problems making the connection.

Constant reminders of picking-up an item with item description scree and that lame-o chime: “I know what it is, I have picked it up 50 times and you have reminded me every one of them.” Aonuma is on interview trying to tell me how this chime is so amazing and emotionally connects with the player – as if telling people how great something is actually makes them believe it. In the original Zelda it worked because it was rare, it is vastly over-used now and it is not even the same chime to boot.

Over-world looking good – we have made headway here. They even intentionally recreated that scene from the manual – its in the first area as soon as you walk out. It could have been done better, but still a good sign.

NPCs and handholding – saw plenty of handholding as navi is replaced with “Sheikah Phone 6” – constantly says, “Link, you need to go here.” The owl/oldman npc comes swooping around to stop game progress and tell you crap with those words that are highlighted in different colors for some reason. Both these things need to go. Sheikah Phone = Lame -> axe it. Replace with binoculars or telescope or something.

Finally fixed Link’s movement (run/walk), no more trotting around like a moron – although I still don’t think it is good enough, it is an improvement. Link’s movement still needs to incorporate momentum and inertia and camera needs the same, but this hasn’t really even been incorporated to any game yet (except for original Super Mario Bros) so I don’t know why I think that will change any time soon.

Fixed horse movement where horse does not run into stuff – should have been done a long time ago.

Shouldn’t have gotten rid of hearts and rupees, just should have made the game more difficult and hearts more rare. Cooking food should just be a potion replacement.

 

I do not mind the hearts and rupees because it makes the game world more logical. Why would rupees be in grass or in a rock? I think the ‘use your environment of nature’ is a huge nod of Minecraft’s survival.

I think it is unfair to judge the enemy camps as passive to be that all enemies will be passive. This was only the starting location.

I like Link’s tablet. I actually think the use of high technology does fit the traditional fantasy theme. Science fiction is technology created, mythology is technology found. Science fiction is that the further back in the timeline we go, the less technology we get. Mythology is that the further back in the timeline we go, the more technology we get. This is why shows like Babylon 5 were more mythology than sci-fi in the end. I’m really digging the use of constellations and the use of ‘wicked cool ancient technology’ so far in Zelda BoW “WOW!”.

There definitely were *some* puzzles in Classic Zelda. But it is ridiculous to take a few of those and say Zelda was about puzzles which Miyamoto has done. In Zelda 2, you needed to hop on the roof tops and enter through a chimney. That wasn’t straight forward. My favorite was using fairy spell to get through locked doors.

Zelda BoW: “WOW!” could become super lame and dumb. But from what I saw *now*, it looks solid. It looks fun. I want to buy it and play it. And I haven’t said that for any Zelda game since Twilight Princess.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | June 21, 2016

Malstrom’s Crystal Ball

The Internet is buzzing (bzzz…. bzzz…. bzzzz…..) about a DFC analysis that predicts Microsoft will leave the gaming market.

The overall question now seems to be not if Microsoft will exit the game business, but when and how. Of course, that leads to many other questions such as how is exiting the game business handled? Is Xbox spun off? Does Microsoft find a buyer? Or does the company just shut Xbox down? DFC feels the latter option will most likely not occur but it is clear something must be done.

Unfortunately the value of the Xbox brand is in serious flux with much of its advantage tied to the Microsoft Windows 10 operating system.

There’s nothing new here. The Analysts have been pointing to Microsoft’s eventual departure from gaming for a long time. Malstrom, ahem, also said the same thing nearly a decade ago. While the hardcore gamers are foaming at the mouth, let me explain why everyone with a brain is predicting Microsoft’s departure from console gaming.

Why is Microsoft in console gaming in the first place? The answer to that question is why they will leave. A company like Microsoft has no business in the console business. Microsoft was content to stay away as does companies such as Apple (shut up about the Pippen). What changed was Sony’s entry. The success of the PlayStation was making more and more game companies develop their games for Sony’s systems. Sony’s PlayStation was also evolving to be more of a media center in the living room. Microsoft entered the console market as a defense strategy against Sony. Microsoft intended to prevent Sony from ‘taking over the living room’ (which didn’t matter because the cost of TV screens collapsed and everyone had a smartphone and tablet) and to prevent developers to use only Sony’s system to make games. Microsoft wants developers using their system.

“How do you know this, Malstrom?”

Ballmer told us. Do you not remember, dear reader?

 

Three factors motivate Microsoft leaving console gaming:

One- Sony’s threat of disrupting Microsoft’s software operations have fallen with the rise of mobile devices and the implosion of game consoles being a ‘top set box’.

Two- Windows needs help in order to survive as less and less people use traditional PCs and Windows. Microsoft will have Windows absorb Xbox and integrated Xbox into Windows. Xbox doesn’t ‘die’, it becomes ‘absorbed’.

Three- Console gaming has been a total bust for Microsoft. Each generation, they do it wrong. First Xbox blew up four billion dollars. Xbox 360 had the red ring of death. Xbox One is confused and doesn’t know if it wants to be a top box, do DRM, or what. Microsoft gaming is only successful in the United States and UK. Outside English speaking areas, Microsoft doesn’t exist. Microsoft has no gaming presence in Eastern Asia, for example.

With Microsoft cutting its losses (absorbing the Xbox technologies and brands), what will Sony do? Sony will keep doing its standard thing of more ‘power’ of a dumbed down PC with some popular trend (right now it is VR).

The real question is what will Nintendo do? My guess is that the NX does two major things. The reason why people do not see these two things is because they keep looking at the recent past and keep thinking ‘funky hardware with funky controllers’ such as the Wii and Wii U. That is shallow thinking.

Nintendo is not about hardware. Nintendo is not about software. Nintendo is about games. With games, there are consuming games (i.e. the consumer. If a hardcore gamer is happening to be reading this, consumer means YOU, the beautiful reader) and developing games. Both define the game console.

How we consume games is very important. Nintendo clearly doesn’t want us to consume games the same way we would on a PlayStation or Xbox. The differentiation in the past was through graphics and power. The NES was DIFFERENT than other systems and still distinct to this day. The SNES was DIFFERENT from the Genesis. But was the N64 and Gamecube that much different? Thus, Nintendo focused on the input instead of the output. The Wii offered a much different consuming of games with the Wii. Wii U seemed to be more of an act of executive selfishness than anything else. But to figure out the NX, we need to figure out the games.

“But Malstrom,” the beautiful reader says, “we do not have the NX games before us.”

Oh, but we do, dear reader, we do. Zelda BoW “WOW!” will be an NX game. Smash 4 might be NX. Pikmin 4 will probably be NX.

One distinction of Nintendo consoles from NES, SNES, N64, Gamecube, Wii, and Wii U all share in common is the communal experience of multiplayer. Give me Mario Kart or Wii Sports party any day. What I expect Nintendo to do is to leverage their DeNa (sp?) partnership of the online company to push that experience out into a communal system with other NX users. In other words, I expect a true account system. I expect true multiplayer that will be beyond the PC multiplayer that Sony/Microsoft systems use.

While we do not know if the NX will combine handheld and home console game consumption, we do know that it will combine handheld and home console game development. What this means is that instead of two pipelines to make games, there will be only one big pipeline. NX could have double or triple the first party software that the Wii U had. This is necessary for NX to go anywhere.

Quantity of third party games on a game console is overstated but its true purpose is in probability. The more software on your console, the greater probability of breakout hits (such as GTA 3 for PlayStation 2).

Is there any history of Nintendo consoles being pushed greatly by a third party game? I can’t think of any. They helped, but they did not have the impact of a Super Mario Brothers or Wii Sports. I can only think of Street Fighter 2 which was huge for SNES, maybe Konami and Capcom games for NES, and a few others.

NES had a huge First Party push because NES came out in 1985 by launching Famicom (launched 1983) games and arcade ports. United States got Super Mario Brothers from the start, Japan did not. We also got all of Nintendo’s past arcade games which are awesome (Donkey Kong, Mario Brothers, etc.).

Wii had a huge First Party push because Nintendo wisely declined HD development at a time when Sony and Microsoft were struggling.

NX will have a huge First Party push by combining development pipelines of handheld and home console.

Above: Only Malstrom readers will not be surprised that NX will launch with a tidal wave of software.

NX will launch with Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Maybe Smash Brothers 4. Pikmin 4. Obviously, it will have some other games Nintendo isn’t telling us about and third party games. Already, this has surpassed the Wii U launch, N64, and Gamecube launches. I do have a soft spot for the ineffectual launch of the SNES (my favorite launch list ever), the NES launch was able to use past Famicom games, and the Wii launch was great to me because of the addition of Virtual Console software.

NX is going to be a big launch. Save up your money. There will be MANY games you want to buy at launch. I’m buying Zelda, Smash, and maybe even Pikmin 4 plus others. What are you going to buy, reader?

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