Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Category

Games – The Gaps In Rock Band

January 13, 2010

Yes, it’s a “bitching about songs Rock Band doesn’t have” post. But this one I’ll actually bother to justify myself and my three selections.

Lou Reed/Velvet Underground

Up to a point, the fact that both of these bands were missing made sense. It’s hard to sell songs about bisexuality and heroin use, and Harmonix didn’t know how far they could push content. Also, I’d be surprised if Lou Reed wasn’t a bit skeptical himself. But I think we’re pretty much past that point, considering some of the metal that’s been released as DLC; in fact it’s kind of appalling a shit band like “Cannibal Corpse” is downloadable while there’s no Underground. True, it’s not like they can put, well, anything from “Berlin”. Or “Walk On the Wild Side.” But is a track from “Transformer” too much to ask? Like, say, “Vicious”?

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Cave’s problem is pretty simple: he’s big everywhere but the US. Also, he uses a lot of piano: I can’t see his biggest US hit, “Red Right Hand”, translating into something Rock Band could use.

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have songs that couldn’t make for epic Rock Band tracks. For example, “Let the Bells Ring”:

“Thirsty Dog”:

or the acoustic version of “The Mercy Seat”. Besides, if Rock Band’s going to feature Cannibal Corpse, they can at least do us the favor of featuring a song that’s fun to sing, too.

Man or Astro-Man?

OK, probably this is the most obscure and least justifiable of my three choices, but if you’ve ever heard them, you know why they’re on here.

MOA? specialized in surf-punk played at blistering speeds. True, not many of their songs featured, well, lyrics, meaning the vocalist is right out of most choices. But those guitar parts are just too damn fun not to feature. Take “Nitrous Burn-Out”:

Don’t tell me you don’t want to play that. Anybody who loves video games wants to play that. Hell, I want to play that, and I play on Medium.

If nothing else, it’ll offer an important way to cater to their base of hardcore players without putting even more metal on the setlist: while I enjoy the game, frankly I think it’s too heavily weighted towards metal. Some more variety and weirdness, please.

Games – “Guitar Hero 5” Is a Butterinterface

December 14, 2009

I don’t generally use fratboy slang to talk about video games, but in this case, the term applies.

There’s not much to say about “Guitar Hero 5”, the game.  It’s got a decent song selection, the graphics are as good as needed, and so on.  I have a few complaints: the kick-pedal line on drums could be more distinct, and the purple line on bass where you strum without holding a fret is an irritating and pointless addition, but none of these are deal-breakers.

No, the deal breaker is the clunky, idiotic interface.

Look, I get it, Neversoft doesn’t want to shamelessly imitate Harmonix or get sued by them, but there’s no excuse for this interface.  It isn’t just bad, it’s broken.  Configuring instruments, difficulty, everything that’s simple in Rock Band is a pause-and-restart chore in Guitar Hero 5.  “Rock Band” simply flows, while “Guitar Hero 5” relentlessly trips you up.

If you’ve got one group of friends who are playing the same instruments at the same difficulty, by all means, “Guitar Hero 5” should be fine.  But be ready for a frustrating experience if you try to use it at a party with different skill levels.

Gaming – Why Movie Tie-In Games Are Going to Suck Even More Than They Already Do

November 20, 2009

There’s nothing Hollywood loves more than a movie tie-in game. Gets the kids into it, don’t you know, and they pay $60 for the privilege. Well, not usually, but these games really exist to cater to the dottering old grandmas and clueless parents. Little Johnny likes this movie, and this game console, which means he’ll be getting this crappy game for Christmas.

It’s a problem, especially in terms of marketing because a crappy game can genuinely dilute the brand. And, in fact, it’s going to get worse. Much worse.

Generally, the kind of movie that gets a game usually takes about two years to make. There’s a very distinct target date that the studios want this movie out on, which is why release dates for sequels are announced before scripts are written. So basically, once they know the movie’s a go, they start working on the game.

This was fine in the NES era, because, really, there was a limit to the technical complexity of the enterprise. The problems were more a lack of interest in making a good game combined with not much time to code it.

This isn’t to say there haven’t been good, even classic, games based off of movies: they’ve just tended to either have nothing to do with the movie or not actually released day-and-date. “Goldeneye” didn’t hit stores the same day the movie hit theaters, for example. And I have a soft spot in my heart for “The Lawnmower Man” for the SNES, a great game with a wide variety of gameplay that remains sadly largely unremembered.

But now, things have gotten substantially worse, solely due to technical complexity. Now you’ve got to do a lot more than code some sprites and a hitbox. You’ve got to create an entire world out of a stack of production art and get it out day-and-date. Have fun in QA!

And it’s just going to get worse as gamers get more demanding and consoles improve. Now it’s not just creating a world. Now it’s creating a finely detailed world. Then it’ll be creating a finely detailed world with multiple gameplay types. And so on.

I bring this up because, like it or not, movie-based games are most people’s first, and probably only, experience with modern console gaming. People go for the properties they’re familiar with. That’s why we’ve got licensed games in the first place.

What does it say for gaming that their first experience with a beloved character is a miserable pit of suck?

Games – “Loom”: A Great Idea Abandoned Too Soon

October 29, 2009

You might remember, in my previous post about adventure games, how I complained about the inventory and the verb interface. This was before I downloaded “Loom” and discovered the perfect interface for adventure games.

This is probably the perfect fit between genre and game design. Instead of toting around items, you learn actions and type them in as musical notes. The spells are perfectly straightforward, which makes the puzzles more interesting (hint: if you’re playing “Loom”? Double click EVERYTHING.) In short, this interface is absolutely perfect for adventure games.

Plus, the game itself has a fascinating story and a dry sense of humor (plus a taste for horrible puns). The voice work is rock-solid. In fact “Loom” is damn near perfect except for one minor problem.

It ends on a fucking cliffhanger. And there’s no (official) sequel, not because of lack of sales, but because the lead designer lost interest.

Seriously? Why did this potential franchise die? “Loom” is more than just a great game: “Loom” is a great idea. Maybe now that it’s on Steam some interest in a sequel will happen: I’d pay five bucks an episode for a sequel to this, screw Monkey Island.