Mobile is Not a Dirty Word

Mobile is Not a Dirty Word

  I’ve been playing games for a good many years – about 34 of them, in fact. From the humble Game & Watch right up to the current gen of consoles, I’ve bashed my thumbs against many of their so called “buttons.” So when I say this next bit, it’s coming from someone who has a fair bit of video gaming experience behind them.   I’m getting really sick of reading comments begrudging the quality of mobile games.   Sure, Apple’s app store is flooded with games that wouldn’t have passed the fun test in the days when an Atari 2600 was considered high tech, but that is a result of what is a fairly open platform for developers of all shapes and sizes (I’m partial to 3.2 km wide octagonal ones myself). If you know where to look, there are many rich gaming experiences to be had on iOS. The touch screen of the iPad is extremely sensitive and responsive, and, when used correctly, can make for some unique experiences. Just about everyone these days is carrying around a smart phone, or as I like to call them, a powerful portable gaming device that is very occasionally used to talk to people who aren’t currently in earshot.   So why all the hate for mobile gaming? The suggestion that people who play games on Android or iOS are not “real gamers” is an absurd one. Anyone who plays a game is a gamer, and anyone who is anyone is real… do I need to draw a Venn diagram? No, I didn’t think so. I’ll listen to concerns about...
The Sound of Interaction

The Sound of Interaction

1939’s Dark Victory was a moving story of a young socialite slowly dying of an inoperable brain tumour. Starring Bette Davis in the lead role, the final scene of the film is a powerful sequence with the actress slowly ascending a grand staircase as her vision begins to falter as a result of the tumour’s influence. Knowing her performance would give her a very strong chance of winning a third Oscar, a longstanding rumour has it that prior to filming the scene, Davis asked director Edmund Goulding just who would be scoring the movie. Upon learning it would be famed film composer Max Steiner, Davis allegedly responded – “Well, either I am going up those stairs or Max Steiner is going up those stairs, but not the two of us together.” Davis knew the power of Steiner’s work and feared his score, in this pivotal scene, may overshadow her own performance and cost her an Oscar. As it stands, Davis did go on to receive an Oscar nomination (she didn’t win) but so did Steiner for his compositions. The fact of the matter is that music is a powerful and dramatic force. Davis knew this and so does Hollywood. For years, movies have made strong use of music to drive emotion in ways that on screen action simply cannot, and it has remained an incredibly versatile and powerful weapon in the film-maker’s arsenal. But it’s not just cinema that benefits from a well composed score. After years of languishing in a kind of scratchy, electronic hell, videogames have been quick to take advantage of advances in audio and storage...
Where’s My Perfect MMA Game?

Where’s My Perfect MMA Game?

  EA Sports has just released its first foray with the UFC license, following their initial crack at developing an MMA simulation in 2010. With their latest venture into Mixed Martial Arts, EA Sports’ UFC has thrust itself firmly into the spotlight thanks to stunning in-game visuals aided by a decision to leave behind the ageing technology of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Following in the footsteps of THQ’s reign with the UFC licence and under the spotlight of a rabid and growing Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) audience, I had hoped EA Sports’ UFC would deliver on its promise to be a contender. I wanted the next big thing. Unfortunately it’s not.   People can be upset with EA Vancouver for being unable to create the perfect MMA game their publisher had promised. However, making the perfect MMA game is a puzzle no other development studio has been able to solve. Ignoring the “arcade” style MMA games from years ago, MMA audiences got their first taste of the UFC game franchise with THQ’s 2009 release, UFC Undisputed. This game was a brilliant first step. It entered a marketplace starved for an MMA game, comparable only to Crave Entertainment’s first offerings almost a decade prior.  Straight out of the gate, THQ’s Undisputed became the measuring stick for a simulated MMA experience.     Sure THQ’s Undisputed wasn’t perfect, but with follow-up releases in 2010 and 2012, the combined development studios of THQ Agoura and Yuke’s Osaka tweaked where possible. The franchise slowly improved, addressing things fight fans wanted to see in their game, including a deeper career mode experience...
Share and Share Alike

Share and Share Alike

Shared experiences validate us, we want to share our accomplishments in life, and this is also true of videogames. There was a time when in order to share our experiences in a videogame we needed a photograph of a screen as proof, or to invite friends into our homes to witness our triumphs, or help fool an age gate check. With the advent of new technologies, sharing our stories while playing videogames has become more accessible, made possible by advanced and accessible tools. With the arrival of improved Internet connections worldwide, last console generation we welcomed online consoles into our homes. Boasting the ability to connect us to other likeminded communities through social media, the PlayStation 3 stumbled and fell awkwardly into misunderstanding the value of connectedness. It felt like watching a desperate friend commit social hara-kiri on a public stage, before being silently and mercifully euthanized. Instead of providing the tools to communicate our experiences, our consoles were broadcasting meaningless achievements to our social media platforms, more often than not, without our knowledge. The experience left a bad taste in our collective mouths. What should have been an opportunity to share experiences had been reduced to spam, and many users opted out of social media integration within games. The DualShock4’s SHARE functionality demonstrates a deeper understanding of how consumers want to share experiences in a videogame. The rise of the  generation demonstrates an insatiable hunger to create and consume long form video content featuring the games we play. Sometime about games. Sometimes about boobs. Sometimes about games and boobs. The inbuilt toolset of the PlayStation 4 means we are now all content creators, for better or worse. In order to succeed, Live From PlayStation requires a healthy blend...
Is Blizzard playing their cards right with Hearthstone?

Is Blizzard playing their cards right with Hearthstone?

On the 23rd of February last year, Blizzard sent out the below teaser to games media outlets. According to the invitation, “it’s not a sequel, expansion, or that rumored next-gen MMO, but it’s something we’re excited for you to get your hands on.” These assurances could only do so much of course, and it wasn’t long before rumors of new IPs or even revivals of long-dead projects like Starcraft: Ghost were flying around the internet. When the reveal of Hearthstone, a free-to-play card game based on the Warcraft franchise, finally came it was met with confusion on one side and cautious optimism on the other. After all, didn’t Blizzard already have a Warcraft TCG? Do their attempts to push the eSports aspect of the game have any merit? Why are they pushing the eSports aspect of the game so strongly? Is there really all that much potential in the digital card games market? It has been just over a year and Blizzard’s “little something” has done quite well for them. Hearthstone reached its one millionth player while still in beta. This number quickly grew to over 10 million registered accounts following the game’s full release and given that this was before even the game’s iPad launch (where it quickly soared up the charts), it’s safe to say that there are a lot of self-proclaimed ‘Hearthstoners’ out there. The eSports aspect of the game has similarly gone from awkward beginnings to a promisingly popular ends. The ESL and other eSports organizations have quickly jumped on the game’s potential and there are countless Youtubers, Theorycrafters and Livestreamers standing testament to the...
Lessons Learned  by a New Games Master

Lessons Learned by a New Games Master

Popular tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons and Call of Cthulhu had fascinated me since I was a kid. Games without controllers, fuelled by player imagination, I wanted to use my adult initiative to create my own games, writing my own plots to capture the attention of a table of players. My head filled with romantic notions of sprawling dungeons crammed with loot and monsters, I rummaged around the Internet and asked friends for advice on where to start my journey. I wanted to become an officiator of tabletop roleplaying games, commonly known as a Games Master (GM). I found the learning curve steep, and the initial experience more than a little daunting. Tabletop roleplaying games are about thematic storytelling, using a combination of imagination and a core rulebook. Rules provide the core mechanical components of game, commonly referred to as the ‘crunch’, and provide players with the tools to interact in a world. The GM creates a scenario in which players make decisions as their characters, using their character’s skills and dice rolls to determine outcomes. Thinking of tabletop roleplaying games as a videogame, players are responsible for making choices on behalf of their characters, while the GM builds everything else; sound, graphics, AI, storytelling and level design. A year into learning to GM tabletop roleplaying games, here’s some of the best advice I received from seasoned players. 1. Keep the plot simple and accessible.   Creating a long piece of fiction will result in bored players and a frustrated GM. The experience is about collective storytelling, so think of the planning process as a handful of key...