I’ve really been enjoying Season 2 of The Walking Dead from Telltale. I love the TV show, but I actually do feel more invested and involved in the game. The choices are mine, and so are the consequences.

That’s why I was so disappointed there wasn’t more Walking Dead for me to play this weekend when I finally had some gaming time. (Disclaimer: My consoles are not yet set up, so I was going PC for my few hours) That’s the trouble with episodic releases: You either wait for the next one to be released, or you wait for them all to be released so you can play through them one after the other.

I feel bad for folks playing The Wolf Among Us – Episode 1 released on October 11, 2013. Episode 2 came 4 months later, February 4th of this year, which is quite a wait. Thankfully, Episode 3 comes out tomorrow, only 2 months after the last episode. 

What do you think about episodic releases? Would you rather wait for the full game? Or do you like having small chunks to play at once, each with it’s own beginning, middle and end?

Friday, 11:07 am – Gavin

First thought on Stauffer’s comment: “Man I ain’t reading all that”

Second thought on Stauffer’s comment: “It makes so much sense”.

Well worth the read, if you can spare a few minutes.

2014 is not going to be Nintendo’s year.  We all know that, and we’re all prepared for that, but this is a system that very sorely needs some major titles coming its way, and this is what we’ve got:

  • Child of Light, a turn-based RPG from the Far Cry 3 team.  Holy hell, this game looks absolutely gorgeous.  I can’t stand turn-based games, and I think I might have to break that rule just because of how goddamn gorgeous it looks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuDaxVfe12o
  • Mario Kart 8, coming May 30
  • Bayonetta 2, coming “sometime in 2014”
  • Hyrule Warriors, coming “sometime in 2014”
  • Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, coming “sometime in 2014”
  • Super Smash Bros. U, coming Q4 2014
  • Watch Dogs, coming May 2014
  • X, coming “who the hell knows, probably not until 2015 at this rate”
  • Yarn Yoshi, coming “who the hell knows, probably shelved forever”

We’re 3.5 months into 2014, and so far, we’ve had three big games for the Wii U – Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Wii Fit U, and the Lego Movie Video Game.  Now, it’s not like things are much better for Sony – they’ve had Infamous: Second Son, the Lego Movie Video Game, Thief, Metal Gear Solid V, and the latter two there weren’t met with great acclaim.  Things were equally grim for the Xbox One, with Titanfall, Metal Gear Solid V, Thief, and the Lego Movie Video Game.

The difference, obviously, is that as far as Nintendo is concerned, there are only four titles that we can realistically anticipate will be released – Child of Light, Mario Kart 8, Watch Dogs, and Super Smash Bros. U.  The rest exist somewhere in Nintendo’s ether, and I have no intention of hyping myself up for them (not the least of which is that the only title in that list of unconfirmed ones that actually appeals to me is Yarn Yoshi, and that will probably never see the light of day).  Until those titles get release dates, we can’t realistically expect them in 2014.  Meanwhile, for Sony & Microsoft:

  • Child of Light
  • Trials: Fusion
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order
  • EA Sports UFC (couldn’t pay me to like this, but at least they’re getting it)
  • Elder Scrolls Online
  • Watch Dogs
  • Destiny
  • Mad Max
  • Alien: Isolation
  • Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • The Crew
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition
  • Assassin’s Creed Unity
  • The Division
  • Rainbow Six: Patriots

Plus, Sony gets Driveclub, a re-issue of The Last of Us.

Nintendo has a lot more than 4 titles coming out in 2014, obviously – there are quite a few indie games not available for the PSOne.  But still, if I were interested in picking up a ton of other titles for the Wii U, I’d be concerned.  For myself, there’s enough to satisfy me for the rest of the year, but we can’t assume that I’m the typical consumer.  You can’t get by on spectacular quality alone.

So, at about 1.5 years old, we have the following first-party titles for the Wii U:

  • Nintendo Land
  • New Super Mario Bros. U
  • New Super Luigi U
  • Wii Fit U
  • Wii Party U
  • Super Mario 3D World
  • Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
  • The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD
  • Lego City Undercover
  • Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
  • Pikmin 3
  • The Wonderful 101

For comparison’s sake, at about this point in the Wii’s lifetime (1.5 years), we had the following:

  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  • Wii Sports
  • Wii Play
  • Super Paper Mario
  • Mario Party 8
  • Big Brain Academy
  • Mario Strikers
  • Mario & Sonic at the Olympics
  • Super Mario Galaxy
  • Super Smash Brothers Brawl
  • Mario Kart Wii

It’s really hard to say which is the better list.  However, what you don’t see is the overall number of titles released, and the Wii CLEANS UP compared to the Wii U, and certainly had more in the way of third-party releases, even though the Wii U certainly has the better multiplatform games at this point in its life (Assassin’s Creed III and IV, Mass Effect 3, the Batman games, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Call of Duty: Ghosts which I hated, but it was better to play than Modern Warfare on the Wii, etc).

Is Nintendo in trouble?  Well, that’s a dumb question, because a) none of us are economists, and b) people have been asking that question since the late 80s, and Nintendo just won’t go away, so why would they now?  All I know is that if I needed more games to validate my console purchase, I’d feel more comfortable owning a PS4 or Xbox One at this point.

Thursday, 11:49 am – Ricky

Really interesting discussion currently happening over on the Polygon forums: How should reviewers treat episodic games? Since there’s more story to be told, and usually, some of the story has already been told, how should they handle spoilers while still giving context?

Here’s an amazing comment from Telltale’s Director of PR Job J. Stauffer in response. It’s a long one, but he touches on the concept behind and treatment of “episodes” in games, how to treat the reviews (and uses a Game of Thrones reference for TV episode reviews), and how spoilers can play a role.

Tuesday, 12:39 pm – Ricky

You see, I think the hectic life I live is the reason why I enjoy short games, and by extension, episodic games. That said, it’s a balance between patience and enjoyment: If I love the game I’m playing, I want more of it, but I have to be patient for it to release. I’ll still be playing episodes 3 through 5 as soon as possible after they come out, and I’ll probably do the same thing with subsequent seasons of The Walking Dead… I just need to work on my patience!

Patience is not something I had for Mass Effect 1 – I played those same first 2 hours, and I just couldn’t get into the game. I had even read the prequel novel before the game released! It didn’t help, and I’m resigned to the fact that I’ll probably never spend my time enjoying that series.

I am ready for more driving games though! Those who know me know that my level of excitement for Ubisoft’s The Crew is through the roof. I love the concept: Open world driving game set in North America. Pick a car and drive from coast to coast with your friends. Simple, yet it’s never been attempted at this scale before. Ubisoft dropped the latest trailer for the game today, touting a “2014” release. I know this one will end up in my collection, probably on PS4 and PC, so I really hope they deliver on thier lofty promises. Check out the video below and the article on Polygon that dives a bit deeper.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lM5t_G2UZo

Monday, 10:45 am – Gavin

Apologies for my absence last week  – it was a hectic week at work and home.

There’s a very delicate balance to be struck with episodic releases.  You want to tease the player just enough to keep them on the hook, but not so much that they get bored with the wait.  The only episodic games I’ve played are The Walking Dead seasons 1 and 2, and it wasn’t even really episodic with season 1 – I just waited until everything had been released and dove through it in a week.

It turns out that I don’t like episodic gaming.  I’ve determined that with The Walking Dead, Season 2.  The problem with the delays between episodes isn’t that I lose excitement – trust me, it’s still very there.  It’s more that with such a long wait, the emotional attachment starts to fade a little bit.  I forget some of the incremental decisions that led me to a particular point – I can’t remember each dialogue choice, how a particular character feels at a certain point, how two characters interact with each other, that sort of stuff.  Hell, in terms of TWD Season 2, I couldn’t even remember Rebecca’s name by episode 2.

I almost wonder if I should wait for the next three episodes of TWDs2 before playing any of them.  Maybe I’d just go back and replay episodes 1 and 2 – wouldn’t be difficult to remember my choices when they’re presented to me.  I’ve got no shortage of games to play until it’s all done, and that way, I could play it properly, taking breaks when I need to but burning through it when I really feel the urge.

Anyway, so over the past two weeks, I’ve tried to dive face-first into Mass Effect.  I started up with 1, despite advice to the contrary from some friends (I’ve long-since heard that you can skip straight to 2).  Over the first two hours, I really wasn’t that invested in it  – the controls felt a bit clunky, all of the special attacks and squad commands felt a little fiddly, and I hadn’t fully grasped the “up for good conversation, down for bad conversation” functionality of the dialogue tree.  Plus, I had given my FemShep a horrible face that I hated.  I hated looking at it.  This made things terrible, because you’re looking at her face so often.  Every cutscene was a reminder that I had screwed up in making my character.

After two hours, I quit and went into Mass Effect 2.  In an instant, you notice improvements to the UI, control scheme, and just general feel and pace of the game.  Once out of the initial intro sequence, you’re taken into a conversation with NPCs where they outline your choices from the first game.  The problem was that I hadn’t made those choices, so it was incredibly jarring.  It was telling me about characters that had died due to my decision-making, and I couldn’t get over that block, knowing that my experience playing ME1 might have led me to make different decisions, keeping those people alive.

I want to dislike ME1 simply so that I can skip it, but after playing for a few hours yesterday, I found myself quite enamoured with it.  I started from scratch yesterday and redesigned my FemShep’s face to give her a nose that didn’t jar so much with the rest of her face.  I knew how to approach the conversation trees, what was involved in the first few missions (so I could breeze through them) and I had a better sense of what combat was.  Friendly AI is pretty poor to the point that I often just end up ordering my squad to hide behind cover so that I can do all of the fighting myself, but you take the bad with the good.  It’s unlikely that I’m going to love this game more than just like it, as I can point out too many flaws as it is, but this has been sitting in my consciousness for seven years now, so it’s good to give it a whirl.

Last week, I played and beat Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.  Took me about three hours, but I did barrel through it – there are a few optional achievements that I didn’t get to, mostly because getting to them broke my immersion in the game and felt very min-maxy – doing things for the sake of doing them.  Still, it’s an excellent game.  The idea of “one-player co-op” is implemented well – it’s gimmicky, sure, but it works.  None of the puzzles are desperately difficult – there was only one that I couldn’t figure out by the second go-around, and when it hit me, I felt like a massive idiot.

The story is fairly basic: two sons must travel far and wide to find medicine for their dying father – this much is revealed in the trailer.  However, the game does an absolutely exceptional job of telling an environmental story.  It immerses you in situations that also have additional stories to tell, it gives you almost zero exposition, but paces the environmental developments perfectly.  These ancilliary details are really what sell the game; otherwise, you’re just bouncing from puzzle to puzzle.  They give you a reason to have an emotional connection to your characters beyond the obvious.  Each environmental story has a great arc that is perfectly paced – enough details to get emotionally invested, but not so much detail as to distract from the main story.  This is really where the game shines and I applaud the developers for that.

It’s a very emotionally-charged game with lots of little quirks that really sell it.  I can’t imagine this taking anyone longer than about 3.5 to 4 hours, so if you can make time for it, definitely do so.  Plus, the art style is BEAUTIFUL.  The close-ups are reminiscent of a more muted Bastion, while the long-range environmental details are classically artistic without a hint of pretense.  The game conveys emotion at 50 paces, and it does so very well.

And then I played Goat Simulator.  BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.

Monday, 10:39 am – Ricky

Boom. Posted.

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