Heya folks! Due to unexpected interference from reality, What Happened This Week will be uploaded tomorrow instead of tonight. Fortunately, thanks to this happy accident – which in no way involved napping in a warm sunbeam listening to the Sox humiliate the Cubs – I’ll be able to gauge how Facebook’s doing on day two and whether what happened Friday is part of a long-term trend. Sorry for the hold up. I’ll see you all tomorrow night!
Archive for the ‘Editorials’ Category.
Ahh, April Fools’ Day, the day when everybody takes time out of their busy schedule to come up with ideas that we all laugh at but secretly wish were real. I have a similar problem, only with content I openly wish was real. Got a bit sidetracked this weekend folks, afraid WHTW won’t be up until tomorrow night. You know how it is, never enough time in the day. That, and one of the companies I applied at got bought by one of the other companies I applied at, so… yeah, been an interesting last couple days. Sorry ’bout the delay, I’ll see you all tomorrow!
The idea that unless a game is truly monstrous, professional video game critics will score a game somewhere between seven and ten out of ten is a well-recognized and much maligned part of the gaming landscape. Many gamers accept that, one way or another, scoring is bunk. As a result, there is a widespread mistrust of video game reviews, a general acceptance that critics in general are more PR guys than writers, and an understanding that popularity will almost always equal a high score. Unfortunately, in many cases, these assumptions are all too valid. However, it may be helpful to take a look at the relationship between publishers, public relations firms, and gaming publications, so that we can see some of the reasons why things are the way they are. Continue reading ‘Editorial – The Elephant in the Review’ »
With E3 winding down, it tends to be the tradition of gaming news outlets to look back at the show, to reflect on megaton announcements and deride the goof ups and failings. Though this year had its share of both — like many, I fear I may be seeing Mr. Caffeine in my nightmares for a long time to come — it displayed a disturbing lack of the one thing our readers had been most anticipating: Role-playing games. Continue reading ‘Editorial – E3: Where Are the RPGs?’ »
It should come as no surprise that gamers, by our very nature, are competitive creatures. We argue and debate amongst ourselves constantly, which more often than not is the reason gaming is such a vibrant subculture. No, arguing is not an inherently bad thing, but there are a series of discussions which pop up from time to time that serve no real purpose other than to divide. These are invariably circular arguments which should be purged from our collective dialogue, pointless disagreements that use our competitive natures against us, that serve no purpose other than as springboards for even more irritating secondary bickering about other people’s grammar and what they “really meant” by what was said. In short, these are the four most destructive arguments gamers have. Continue reading ‘The Four Most Destructive Gamer Arguments’ »
One of the things we’ve been discussing behind the scenes here lately is the fact that a number of video game review websites (we won’t name names) have been posting more reviews for games that the reviewers haven’t actually completed. The average reader may not know this, but some of the major websites, particularly those who cover all genres, don’t always finish the games they review. This is understandable in some cases because of time constraints, the volume of their coverage, or the fact that with some genres, there really isn’t an ending (such as MMORPGs and certain simulation and puzzle games, which instead have hour requirements). But games that have actual endings — RPGs in particular — require completion. What’s disheartening is that smaller websites, whether they target a genre or a specific gamer demographic, are doing this too.
Saying that development for the PC is complicated is a lot like saying someone struck by lightning is feeling under the weather, in that it doesn’t really grasp the problem. Given the various combinations of operating systems, hardware, software that might be borrowing the hardware during play, physical condition of the computer, and simply where that internet browser has been, it’s almost impossible to build a PC game that won’t give somebody trouble. And this is on top the usual things that don’t pan out: weird voice acting, misplaced quest triggers, poor plot handling, and so on. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 28 – The Witcher’ »
Once upon a time, Squaresoft and Disney worked in the same building in Japan. Though they shared a residence, they each had their own projects and worked separately. One day, Shinji Hashimoto had a chance encounter with a Disney executive in the elevator and an idea appeared: a collaborative crossover game featuring Disney and Squaresoft characters.
Two hundred and fifty-five; deux cents cinquante-cinq; nihyaku goju go; 255. This number will be familiar to most gamers. It seems to crop up quite a lot. In the original Zelda, it’s the maximum number of Rupees you could carry; it’s the max number for many of your stats in most Final Fantasy games; it’s the highest number of Effort Points in Pokemon. There’s a technical reason for this. You’ve heard of bytes, right? A byte is made up of eight smaller units called bits. The result is that the maximum number of values it can represent with these eight-digit units is 256 (255 numbers plus zero, I assume). Let me quote Wikipedia for a moment: 225 is “the maximum value representable by an eight-digit binary number, and therefore the maximum representable by an unsigned 8-bit byte.” Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 26 – Disgaea: Hour of Darkness’ »
Super Smash Bros. Melee is not an RPG in any way, shape, or form. So why, you might ask, is it the subject of this week’s column? The answer can be summed up in one word: Marth. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 25 – Super Smash Bros. Melee’ »
I’m sure I’m not the only relic of the NES era, so let’s go down memory lane together for a few moments. Since it was bundled with the NES system (because back then a bundle inlcuding a game and two controllers was the norm — ah how times have changed!), just about everyone got to play Super Mario Bros. And for many of us, it was the game that first lead us down the path of gaming addiction, which in those days meant we all had very sore left thumbs until we grew a nice callus. This was not, however, Mario’s first appearance. In fact he’d been around for a few years prior, first appearing as “Jumpman” in Donkey Kong back in 1981 and then in the 1983 arcade game Mario Bros. as Mario, the American-Italian plumber with his brother Luigi. Super Mario Bros. for the NES is what made him a star, though, and he was soon to ascend to the rank of Nintendo’s mascot. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 24: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars’ »
The RPG world as we know it is composed of several sub-genres, mostly focused on the difference in battle systems: menu-driven or traditional, action, tactical, hack and slash, roguelikes. The first three are, by far the broadest and most common categories with action RPGs being the ones most en vogue at present, and menu-driven RPGs being the oldest. But what about tactical RPGs? Perhaps not everyone knows this, but they do indeed have a long lineage and an impressive pedigree, one dating back to the NES era. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 23 – Final Fantasy Tactics’ »
There are only a few things in life that you can really count on. Mario will always trump Luigi; there is never anything “final” about Final Fantasy; and Dragon Quest will alway be a bastion of tradition in the RPG world. But in December 2006, Square Enix shook the very foundations of our RPG beliefs: they announced that Dragon Quest IX would slough off the shackles of menu-based fighting and embrace modernity by becoming… an action RPG. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 22 – Dragon Quest IX’ »
For many gamers, their first experience of multiplayer gaming came in the form of Super Mario Bros. where one lucky player got to be Mario and whoever lost the coin toss got to be his green and white clone, Luigi. When Mario bit the dust at the hands of a hammer-tossing Hammer Brother or got knocked out by a rogue Koopa shell, player two got his chance to do the same thing while payer one got to watch. Thrilling stuff. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 21 – Seiken Densetsu 2 (Secret of Mana)’ »
These days, most people just take it for granted that RPGs will make it to North America roughly six to twelve months after hitting shelves in Japan. But despite a devoted fanbase and several petitions for its release, one game stands as one of the most-wanted games that we never got. That game is Mother 3. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 20 – Mother 3’ »
To be a game changer, a game doesn’t necessarily have to introduce a revolutionary change in gameplay, graphics, or interaction. Sometimes, all it takes to make an impact on the development of RPGs is to turn to one of the most basic impulses of human life: sexuality. Mass Effect wasn’t the first game to include sexuality, but it certainly went farther than most had before.
Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 19 – Mass Effect’ »
Those of us who remember the 1980s and the early days of console gaming can probably recall at one point or another being puzzled by the text we saw appearing in white block letters on the screen before us. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link had one of these classic moments. You, the hapless player, send Link into a house to gather information, and the NPC, with perfect aplomb, announces that, “I AM ERROR.” To which most players responded, “I am confused.” If you never got to experience this, one of the high points in the history of gaming localizations, I have procured for you a shiny screenshot. Behold! The fellow’s name would better have been romanized as “Errol.” But you see, the Japanese language doesn’t distinguish between “r” and “l” as we do and you can see for yourself the results of a poor translation. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 18 – Dragon Quest VIII’ »
These days it’s not altogether uncommon to see strange genre mashups. In 2007 Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords managed to successfully combine RPG elements and puzzle games in what is perhaps the most unusual combination out there. However, it was by no means the first. As early as the SNES era you could find games that defied genre boundaries, with Harvest Moon being not the earliest, but the most successful example. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 17 – Harvest Moon’ »
Controversy, while usually reserved for more mainstream titles such as Grand Theft Auto, isn’t completely unknown to the RPG world. Recently Fallout 3 garnered some attention, of the negative sort of course, for in-game drug use, as did Mass Effect for its “sex scene.” However, by far the most controversial RPG out there is one most of us have probably never played, one created not by a big game company for profit but by an aspiring filmmaker using an RPG maker software for the sake of social commentary.
In 2005 an indie game with the controversial (and to many, offensive) title of Super Columbine Massacre RPG! caused a media frenzy. It was condemned by some as a sick joke and money-making scheme, and by others, lauded as a serious attempt to use the video game medium to engange with social issues. It also resurrected the debate about whether violent video games and music can cause real-world violence, a debate which had been at the centre of the aftermath of the Columbine shootings six years earlier. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 16 – Super Columbine Massacre RPG!’ »
Final Fantasy is the biggest-selling RPG franchise so it’s a foregone conclusion that when it branched out into other mediums it would be a huge success, right? Well I think we all remember one of its first attempts, the computer animated movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within in 2001. It bombed at the box office, leaving Square (at the time) with a net loss of some 94 million dollars. Yeah… oops. It wasn’t that it was a terrible movie. I wouldn’t say that it was great either, but it wasn’t horrible; however Square failed spectacularly in two ways: a) they didn’t realize the limited appeal of the movie to the general population, and b) they made the movie different enough from the Final Fantasy games that it also had limited appeal to the core audience of the games. It might be fair to say that it tried to be all things to all people and in doing so managed to satisfy none. But what Square failed to do with The Sprits Within, .hack would manage one year later and thus become king of financially viable tie-ins. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 15 – .hack’ »