It’s Canada Day today, and I honestly just remembered to put up this new post. Oops. I’m enjoying my long weekend – we’re at the time of the year where you play what you’ve got. The end of August will see a glut of games roll out for the holidays, but July is positively tame by comparison. Works for me, I’ve got no shortage of games to play.

So, Americans and Canadians: What’re you playing? Sure, the rest of world can chime in too, I guess.

Friday, 9:35 am – Gavin

The battle gauge was a mechanic that was implemented in FF IV, I think.  I admit that I stopped paying attention to FF games after VII (never played VII, and yes I know this means I also missed out on Tactics, IX, and some of the great ones).  Do they still use the battle gauge?  I know that Chrono Trigger used it, and Earthbound used it but hid it from the UI.  Basically any game that has a “speed” trait for your character uses it to some degree.

Turn-based games just break the flow and my immersion all the time.  I know that playing games means you’re immersing yourself in a different environment with different rules – no game fully and completely reflects real life.  But I can’t immerse myself in a situation where the rules state that combat takes place in a dice-rolling arena.

Thursday, 3:10 pm – matt

the interesting thing about FF VII’s turn based gameplay is the ATB (active time battle) setting that was implemented. Characters “take turns” battling by waiting for the character’s “action gauge” to fill up (which over time and skill upgrading can eventually be pretty quick) and then choosing attack, magic etc… different characters have different speeds in their ATB so it becomes another little strategy element to throw in.

(the worst example in the opposite spectrum in FF VII is in a magic forest where a few particular enemies can turn your character into stone or frogs, which actually end your game on the spot if all party members succumb. fuck I hated that part.)

When done incorrectly, the whole “elemental” attack thing can really suck in a videogame. It seems pretty obvious to me if im fighting a character who has risen from lava lets say, I wont be attacking with fire, seems pretty natural to me. I HATE it when enemies are invulnerable to a specific type of attack with no reason or explanation given, that surely needs to stop.

and no, I didn’t call you Shirley.

Thursday, 8:53 am – Gavin

  1. My poor bastard laptop weeps at its own impotence compared to that kind of hardware.  You’re set for YEARS.
  2. This game was finally released on Steam today.  Expect it to be a top seller for quite some time.

I’ve always generally disliked turn-based games in general – it takes a special type of game to break that perception, and so far, there have only been five games to do it:

  1. Civilization II
  2. Earthbound
  3. Chrono Trigger
  4. Final Fantasy 3/VI
  5. Lord of the Rings: The Third Age

They generally succeed despite their turn-based nature, not because of it.  I prefer to leave turn-based to IRL board games, where there’s more interactivity (i.e. with your opponents, or in the case of Pandemic, Euchre, or Bridge, teammates).  Too much chance and too many variables in turn-based games for my liking, especially Final Fantasy 3.  I like it because I respect the hell out of what it accomplished, but you need a goddamn encyclopedia to know the best attacks for each enemy.  For some people, that kind of game is amazing.  I like and appreciate depth in my gaming experiences, but when depth is mired with obfuscation, i.e. when there are too many choices, it can be a challenge to really get me engaged in that game.  I don’t want to have to waste MP or time having one character perform a scan on each individual enemy I come across.  In Final Fantasy 3, there are almost 400 different enemies, including bosses.  Many of them are just reskins of earlier enemies, but with different weaknesses.  Are you really going to remember which is the optimal way to beat them, when plenty of them have the ability to two-hit-kill you?

The problem with too many choices and too much depth is that the game still has to be confined by rules, and at some point, the application of those rules is arbitrary.  Why will fire work on one enemy but not another?  Why does it one-hit kill one enemy, do zero damage to another, and actually heal the third?  I’m not going to say that Square Soft did it wrong by any possible stretch, because I know that it’s not a broken system, it’s just how those kinds of games work.  However, I generally don’t care for games where I can’t make my player-character do what I reasonably expect them to do while still abiding by the systemic rules of the game.  If I fail in one of my attacks, I don’t want to automatically be set up for an attack that I can’t avoid or otherwise defend.  In a Mario game, if I shoot a fireball and it bounces off the armour of an enemy, I don’t just stand there waiting to be hit.  I move out of the way, avoid the enemy’s attacks, and think of another way to damage it.  I hate the notion that attacking or defending takes a “turn”.

I understand that turn-based games used to be the only way to combine that much choice with party-based game systems.  Maybe it’s the only way to deal with it in the future, albeit perhaps altered to be a bit more “faux-live-action”, like X-COM: Enemy Unknown.  Perhaps I just don’t like those games in general.  But we know that games can have tons of enemies and tons of choice and be single-player-character games – see Fable, Dark Souls, Skyrim, etc.  Is turn-based really necessary at this point, or is it done because the audience actually likes that mechanic?  I guess I’ll never know.

Wednesday, 7:48 pm – Ricky

Alright next gen games, bring it.


Wednesday, 3:38 pm – Albert

Tuesday, 2:30 pm – matt

digital releases continue to drop in price as Sony and Microsoft attempt to catch up to the PC market:

    For the Xbox staring today:

•Far Cry 3, $20
•Max Payne 3, $10
•Borderlands 2, $10
•Assassin’s Creed III, $15

    and throughout the coming week:

•Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway, $5
•Far Cry Instincts: Predator, $5
•Crysis, $5
•Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3, $5
•WWE 13, $15
•Mass Effect, $5
•Prey, $3
•Bulletstorm, $5
•Perfect Dark Zero, $3
•Dragon Age Origins, $5
•Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga, $5

    For the Playstation we have discounts and even more discounts for PS+ members, this week:

•Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3 | $9.99 / $5.00)
•Call of Duty: Black Ops II (PS3 | $41.99 / $37.79)
•Mortal Kombat (PS3 | $9.99 / $5.00)
•Mortal Kombat (Vita | $9.99 / $5.00)
•Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands (PS3 | $7.99 / $4.00)
•Ratchet & Clank Collection (PS3 | $14.99 / $7.50)
•Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game (PSN | $3.99 / $2.00)
•Shadow of the Colossus (PS3 | $9.99 / $5.00)
•The Amazing Spider-Man (PS3 | $29.99 / $20.99)
•The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest (PSP | $4.99 / $2.50)

    and next week:

•Alice: Madness Returns (PS3 | $7.99 / $4.00)
•Fast & Furious: Showdown (PS3 | $31.99 / $23.99)
•Fight Night Champion (PS3 | $11.99 / $6.00)
•Hitman Trilogy HD (PS3 | $19.99 / $15.99)
•Just Cause 2 (PS3 | $9.99 / $5.00)
•LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (PS3 | $14.99 / $7.50)
•LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (Vita | $9.99 / $5.00)
•LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean (PS3 | $9.99 / $5.00)
•Lord of the Rings: War in the North (PS3 | $9.99 / $5.00)
•Men in Black: Alien Crisis (PS3 | $29.99 / $20.99)
•Prince of Persia Classics Trilogy (PS3 | $15.99 / $8.00)
•Silent Hill: Book of Memories (Vita | $14.99 / $7.50)
•Star Trek (PS3 | $43.99 / $32.99)
•Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (PS3 | $9.99 / $5.00)
•The Adventures of TinTin: The Game (PS3 | $19.99 / $10.00)
•The Simpsons Arcade Game (PSN | $6.99 / $4.89)
•Tron Evolution (PSP | $7.99 / $4.00)
•X-Men (PSN | $6.99 / $4.89)

Tuesday, 12:31 pm – Ricky

FINE! One last lunchtime update. Titanfall takes down 6 Best Of E3 2013 awards – full list of winners at that link. Here are some fast facts:

Breakdown by # of wins

Six Wins:

One Win:
Fantasia: Music Evolved
Need for Speed: Rivals
NHL 14
Oculus Rift
The Elder Scrolls Online
Total War: Rome II
Watch Dogs

Publisher breakdown

Eight Wins:
Electronic Arts

One Win:
Bethesda Softworks
Disney Interactive
Sony Computer Entertainment
Supergiant Games
Oculus VR

Tuesday, 12:01 pm – Ricky

Oh, so here’s a game Albert will love. Cube World released it’s alpha today – the site was so overloaded it had to shut down and catch-up on orders. Sounds like it’s a Minecraft RPG, and there’s multiplayer! There’s a pretty ambitious feature set already in the alpha, and the game was created by a husband and wife team. Not to shabby for a 2 person team.

Tuesday, 11:38 am – Ricky

Looks like it’s official: Steve Ballmer will replace Don Mattrick at the head of IED (heh) and maintain all of his current duties, and Don will take the CEO position at Zynga.

Steve Ballmer… What have we done to deserve this? Ugh.

Tuesday, 9:09 am – Gavin

There’s no way Mattrick left voluntarily.  He was at the helm for every single major decision and subsequent PR disaster for the Xbox One.  Given how cutthroat and competitive the corporate world is in any sector, as a corporation, you can’t publicly acknowledge the discontent of your customers, reverse the decision that made them unhappy, and also keep on the guy who approved those decisions in the first place.

But still…Zynga?

I suppose he’s getting in at the right level.  Being a top guy at Zynga can pay off.  Earlier in the year, they raised the salary of their executives while cutting staff at the lower level – a typical corporate move.  Better to fall into that position than unemployment, I suppose.  You make a ton of money as the president of Microsoft IED (oooh, that’s unfortunate naming), but it’s hardly the F-U, people-buying money that other top execs will get.  Still…Zynga.  They’ve been taking a major financial beating lately.  I imagine this is an interim position for Mattrick.  No way he’s riding this one out for longer than two years.

I question Zynga’s long-term relevance in the gaming market.  They create fun casual games, but in my experience, the long-term attachment rate for their games approaches zero at a much quicker rate than most other major studios.  And with phones and tablets becoming more powerful, other companies are stepping up to create more powerful, intensive, fun gaming experiences.  Square Enix owns the rights to a ton of good properties, and they’re releasing their major IP on the mobile platform.  Sure, it’s more expensive, but you’ll get more entertainment out of Final Fantasy III for $15 than you will from Draw Something at $2.99.  Gameloft created NOVA, which is basically mobile Halo.  From an objectively technical standpoint, NOVA is the best mobile game I’ve ever played, in that it shows what mobile devices can accomplish.  I don’t play it, because FPS on mobile nauseates me, but still, I respect the hell out of what that studio accomplished.

I don’t want Zynga to fail for gaming reasons.  If they continue to produce cheap, disposable games, then good for them.  If lots of people go for it, then that’s their prerogative.  Zynga existing does good things for the industry, because you know it will be a challenge to compete with them on their level, so if you want a share of that market, you have to create something bigger and better.  Competition breeds innovation.

I do have a problem with Zynga’s business practices – specifically, oversaturating the market and stretching beyond their own fiscal capacities.  Hiring tons of people, then downsizing at the lowest level is common, but it’s a crappy business tactic that is very much emblematic of the 21st-century financial crisis.  Zynga is not a “different” kind of company.  They’re very much representative of the status quo, just in a different gaming market.

Monday, 1:49 pm – Ricky

Here’s some funny news (and it’s what reminded me that I hadn’t made this thread yet): There are reports that Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft’s interactive entertainment division (aka Xbox) will be leaving the company to go … to Zynga.


I’d bet that this wasn’t just Don’s decision – I’m sure he was helped out the door – but Zynga is the shocker. Frankly, that company is already circling the drain. After having announced massive layoffs, studio closures and an 18% decline in revenues, do they REALLY need any more help with failing from Don?