74: A Better Way to Play

"One exciting ability of next-generation consoles is the ability to create realistic human characters with real emotions. Certainly, exploring emotion isn't a bad thing, but when it is one of a game's main features, you can bet there hasn't been much focus on actual gameplay. There are only so many hours in a programmer's week, after all."

John Scott describes why mobile games provide a "Better Way to Play."

A Better Way to Play

Settle down. While there are certainly a large number of unique titles being released on portables, there are an equal number of fun and exciting titles being spun out on consoles and the PC, many of which use technology to better the experience. Half-Life 2 uses its physics engine to create a whole host of fun gameplay experiences. Okami uses the graphical power of the PS2 to bring a mythical world to life. Upcoming games like Bioshock and Assassin's Creed are doing some neat stuff with AI (that may or may not turn out well, but at least they're trying).

Also, Many of the big hits on the DS (2 of which you mention in your article) are sequels and updates of older snes and gba games. While they are certainly fun, Super Mario Kart Rider Yoshi Hop n' Squash X is no more innovative and original than Grand Theft Thug Gangster Simulator Y.

Well, surely, it's become clear with mobile platforms that fun will outsell glitz and innovation (barring, of course, when the innovation itself is fun). This is a very useful statistic.

I am with Arawkins on this one.

John Scott contends that the mobile gaming market is a breeding ground for originality, while the console market suffers from a lack of it. I couldn't disagree more. While he makes the valid point that consumers gobble up copies of a mediocre and unoriginal games like Scarface and the Madden series, there are still plenty of fun and original titles from the last generation of consoles (e.g. Psychonauts and Stranger's Wrath). Not all of them achieved commercial success, but they are available to those of us willing to seek them out.

Furthermore, while I agree that Sony has dropped the ball on making compelling PSP games, some of the best games on the DS are those based on long running Nintendo staples, like Super Mario bros. and Mario Kart. Because the DS's controls somewhat mirror the old SNES, many of the games from the old Nintendo systems lend themselves to reinvention on the DS. Of course there are innovative and strange titles for the DS as well, like Trauma Center, but in my opinion Nintendo has relied heavily on there history and franchise staples to remain profitable. Lets not forget that the DS is quite a bit cheaper than the PSP and now that they have the DS Lite, far more portable as well.

The simple fact is that the games industry in general is unwilling to take chances on new innovation in gameplay or subject matter. Once in a while a creative and original title is released that provides a unique and compelling experience for gamers, but for the most part we are going to have to suffer through endless releases of less than stellar games, simply because the mass market will buy them without doing any type of research into how enjoyable or original the game play actually is. "Sweet! I can play as Scarface! Say hello to my little friend!"

At the risk of sounding like a Nintendo hater, which I am not, I will reiterate that Nintendo is not the bastion of innovation and originality that people seem to think they are. The implementation of the DS stylus and the Wii's motion sensitive controller do not mean Nintendo is looking to break new ground in gaming. If anything Nintendo is the old guard protecting its library of popular franchises and gives the illusion of innovation by slipping in new types of controllers into their systems. They remain profitable by NOT innovating, but by repackaging old material in slightly different hardware package. How would Nintendo fare without Mario and Zelda?

heavyfeul:
How would Nintendo fare without Mario and Zelda?

If they still had games like Metroid and Kirby, they'd fare pretty well

The fact of the matter is, the Mobile gaming world differs from the Console market because it's less threatening. I know plenty of people who don't consider themselves big time gamers, yet they clock in a big chunk of time playing Tetris or Wario Ware. Since the casual gamer doesn't really get into series like Metal Gear or Final Fantasy, the mobile market has to be innovative and creative to bring people in who ordinarily shun video games, a good example of this being my Cousin who upon seeing the commercial for Elite Beat Agents immediately wanted to buy a DS to play it.

generalissimofurioso:
The fact of the matter is, the Mobile gaming world differs from the Console market because it's less threatening.

I agree, mobile gaming is definitely more accessible. I think the simpler controls and graphics on the handhelds help with that a lot. Maybe it's not so much that handheld games have a higher fun factor, but that the player gets over the learning curve quicker and finds that fun factor sooner.

generalissimofurioso:

heavyfeul:
How would Nintendo fare without Mario and Zelda?

If they still had games like Metroid and Kirby, they'd fare pretty well

Nintendo is the, "House Mario/Miyamoto Built." They have been riding the coat tails of the Super Mario Bros. success and design philosophy for years. It is their signature, their pop-icon, and their touchstone for the consumer. Not to mention a really great game and arguably, the best videogame ever made. If Mario dies, Nintendo dies with him. Mario simply IS Nintendo.

I find this article to be highly typical. I am pretty sure this year that I have had great deals of fun with stuff like Okami, FFXII, Gears of War, Oblivion and so much more. I also disagree with him that there aren't original games with interesting and new concepts on the other consoles. Games like Assassin's Creed, Bioshock, Mass Effect and Alan Wake not only original IP's but they are in fact games that bring new and interesting ideas to the table. More so than any of the purely mechanical games that the author is likely to mention.

I personally am tired of doing random stuff for no apparent reason in games. The games I enjoy most these days are the ones that make me feel something.

heavyfeul:
If Mario dies, Nintendo dies with him. Mario simply IS Nintendo.

Well, he is and he isn't, while I highly doubt that Nintendo will ever stop making Mario games, saying a company would completely disintegrate without a mascot is a bit overboard. Nintendo makes a lot of other good games and while it's true that most people associate the Cheery Red Plumber with Nintendo, I think that they are more than capable of coming up with a suitable replacement (they just haven't needed to).

I agree with a great many of the things said. There have been plenty of good games with fun gameplay released lately. Okami, Stranger's Wrath, and Indigo Prophecy. The reason games of this nature, games that strive to make you feel something and have fun with the far out gameplay, go unnoticed is because people aren't buying outside the established franchises. It's mainly the way the companies market. How many commercials for Madden have you seen? How many commercials for Okami have you seen?

If you want innovative games to be noticed more, preorder. That is how stores determine what games to stock. The more preorders, the more copies they will stock. As far as Mario and Zelda are concerned Nintendo has other characters to fall back on besides Link and the Plumbers. What about Samus? There are many franchises under the Nintendo flag that could keep them moving. Mario is just the most easily recognizable literally everyone knows his face.

ReedRichards:
If you want innovative games to be noticed more, preorder. That is how stores determine what games to stock. The more preorders, the more copies they will stock.

Unfortunately, pre-orders are also a function of marketing as well. A game that is unlikely to sell very well will not likely get many pre-orders either, regardless of how good it might be. Plus, it is just a simple fact of the business that there will be several very good games that will not have a wide appeal and will never sell well, no matter how much marketing is put behind it.

Pre-ordering in general is something I have never done. I am just not willing to give over a my money for a game that has yet to be reviewed, dissected, and described by a large number of users and members of the press. Since a new game costs between $50 and $70, you could end up having a very expensive piece of media that never gets played beyond a few hours. I have learned my lesson in the past to not buy a game until I am sure it will really appeal to me, meaning it is not only very well received, but also has those gameplay elements I like. For instance, I would never buy Oblivion until i could get it for at least half price. RPGs just do not appeal to me anymore, but because it has gotten such great reviews, I would likely pay $10-$20 for it down the road.

I didn't start preordering until recently for more or less the reason you stated. I don't preorder until I've seen and read a review for a game. Reviews are done a lot of the time before a game is released. It may not be a full review in some cases, but it is a review nonetheless. Your point is good, I'd be pissed if I paid for a game and it sucked (which I've done, but not since I started preordering.)

Pre-ordering is for suckers. You're basically giving the retailer a no-interest loan for the right to buy something a certain date, but even that right isn't guaranteed. So you're basically giving them a no-interest loan for the chance to buy something on a certain date, which is pretty damn dumb. Sometimes they throw in a T-shirt, so there's that.

There's a reason game companies think they sell us anything. Because they can.

Much as I respect anyone who personally chooses to avoid preorders, they're not just for suckers. They're also for people who actually want access to scarce stuff. Whether it's artificially scarce or not is a moot point.

As Russ points out in the piece you link to, gamers are now adults too (if they weren't always). One consequence of that is that some of them have serious salaries and think nothing of letting some store hold their $50 for a month to improve their odds of getting what they want on release day.

Indeed, in the case of new consoles some people will even go so far as to pay massive amounts extra for resold units on eBay. It seems a bit harsh to call these people suckers when really all they are is enthusiastic fellow gamers who are a bit less price sensitive than we are.

Dom Camus:
Much as I respect anyone who personally chooses to avoid preorders, they're not just for suckers. They're also for people who actually want access to scarce stuff. Whether it's artificially scarce or not is a moot point.

I can see the logic in pre-ordering a game like Halo 3. It has an impressive lineage and it will have a huge online presence for quite a long time, even if it is turns out to be just Halo 2 with better graphics and some added physics. It is a game I will definitely be paying full price for and soon after launch, so paying for it upfront is really no big deal.

A preorder is an insurance policy against having to buy it from an eBay scalper. For some games, there's no real risk. For some games, that's not a risk you'd be willing to take. But it's good to have options.

The main reason I preorder is because I tend to buy games that have critical acclaim but low sales. Like Okami for example, if I hadn't preordered I would have had trouble finding a copy in stores as I suspected and was later confirmed. The only time I've noticed you are not guaranteed a copy of what you preorder on the release date is if you preorder a console and that is a pretty new problem in my experience. I personally have never had a problenm with preordering a game and going to the store and not being able to get a copy. That would totally defeat the purpose of preordering and serve to piss me off as was said.

heavyfeul:

At the risk of sounding like a Nintendo hater, which I am not, I will reiterate that Nintendo is not the bastion of innovation and originality that people seem to think they are. The implementation of the DS stylus and the Wii's motion sensitive controller do not mean Nintendo is looking to break new ground in gaming. If anything Nintendo is the old guard protecting its library of popular franchises and gives the illusion of innovation by slipping in new types of controllers into their systems. They remain profitable by NOT innovating, but by repackaging old material in slightly different hardware package. How would Nintendo fare without Mario and Zelda?

I don't think you sound like a Nintendo Hater here. I think you point out a general problem that exists with Nintendo and also with almost every game developer. Most games are reiterations of past games. It is true, even Nintendo games follow the same story telling and play mechanics of previous games.

I have to say, however, that attempting to change the mainstream, push-button control style that has dominated the past two decades or so is kinda a big deal(to me at least). Maybe the change doesn't seem like a big deal right now. The games are still first gen for the console cycle (and are subject to all the problems that go along with that). They will get better; and, I hope, they will bring gaming to a new standard of control.

We don't think of it now, but where would we be without the analog stick? It seemed like a small difference at first, but it has made a huge impact in gaming (image Halo with just two D-pads). I expect motion sensitivity and pointing control to do the same.

Blaxton:
We don't think of it now, but where would we be without the analog stick? It seemed like a small difference at first, but it has made a huge impact in gaming (image Halo with just two D-pads). I expect motion sensitivity and pointing control to do the same.

You make a good point. At the very least, maybe Nintendo has finally figured out a way to implement a good look/aim control for shooters on consoles. I would be pretty happy about that.

heavyfeul:

Unfortunately, pre-orders are also a function of marketing as well.

Pre-ordering in general is something I have never done.

after my last couple of pre-order wounds, i told myself i would not pre-order again, and now i may never get a copy of zelda tp for gc...everyone is out and its supposedly a limited run, ive already seen the game being hawked for $70 plus. ha for those kinds of prices i might as well get a wii.

Sorry, this is just indie hype, and like most hype it's full off BS!

There's not much innovation in mobile gaming either - on the whole they're generic copies of games that are 5 to 10 years old or found on GBA - and the biggest selling games are popular licences anyway.

I'm really sick of people saying "Indie this! Mobile that!" when they're still industries and still out to make money, and 80% of output is still crap.

 

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