Friday, October 27, 2006

To the FUTURE!

I have to say that the lack of Wii in those articles I've just read was very disappointing. Only one of them seemed to acknowledge the fact that the Wii even existed. In the others it was just glossed over as if it wasn't a serious competitor.

Anyway, enough of the complaining. It seems the video games industry is becoming a lot more slick, a lot more professional and a lot harder to find your way into if you're a new developer. Money now makes the videogames industry go round and unfortunately that suppresses creativity. Publishers don't want the next innovative game, they want one that will sell. Much like Hollywood films, games are subscribing to a certain formula.

Guns or Cars + Scantily Clad women + Explosions = Financial success!

That's very very generalised. But unfortunately I've seen it happen to some of my favourite developers. Insomniac broke my heart with Ratchet and Clank 4, Ratchet: Gladiator. All the quirky humour from the third game was gone and instead replaced with dark, gritty situations. The weapons were beefed up even further and you had to play through repetitive Unreal tournament style bouts. Hard to believe that this was from the same people who created the wonderful world inhabitted by Spyro the Dragon.

So are games losing their soul? Unfortunately it seems like it. But hopefully Nintendo and the Wii will partially come to the rescue. If innovations in games themselves are being muted, Nintendo's innovation in their hardware might help by forcing developers to think differently about how people will play their games.

Innovations are coming from Sony and Microsoft too. Both are competing to be an all in one entertainment system, allowing you to play media other than games. New technology will hopefully continue to improve games and ensure that people are always interested in new consoles. The capabilities of the XBox 360 and the Playstation 3 are major selling points for many gamers, and the PS3 especially is pushing blu- ray, hoping to attract consumers with the promise of higher quality graphics and environments.

So, what am I looking forward to in all this? Obviously boosted graphics are exciting, but not really the reason I play. I look forward to following my favourite developers from one generation to the next, as well as seeing exactly how the Wii's simplicity and interactivity will be absorbed into games. I think that if Nintendo's gamble pays off we'll see a lot more research into involving the entire person in a game, rather than just their hands and eyes. Who knows, it could even stretch into virtual reality or biotechnology as mentioned in one of the articles.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I miss central London. :(

I really like Leicester, it has a lot of variety and it really makes a change to be able to walk 5 minutes to a decent shopping centre, but I really miss all the little things about London that only spending a year with a travelcard let you appreciate.

I miss cybercandy , a nifty little sweet shop cunningly hidden in Covent Garden which does crazy import sweets and sweets from days of yore (they have Nerds! and Flipz!).

I miss Camden with all its crazy shops with massive sculpture things on the front. If you're a goth, skater, emo, hippy, punk, or just a weirdo you can find what you want in Camden.

I miss the space invaders, little mosaics you can find hidden all over the place by a French artist who put them in cities all over the world. I miss the stencil art of Banksy. I miss just heading off in a random direction and knowing that no matter how lost you get, you won't be far from an underground station.

I even miss the underground. That hot, smelly, dirty transport system is something you manage to get used to. I loved the DLR. You feel just like you're on the transit system from Half Life. Perhaps more about that at a later time....

Friday, October 20, 2006

Video games 80s to 90s.

I don't really remember many games from the 80s, but I remember a lot more from the 90s. Like I said before I played on my friend's NES, and the VNES website has reminded me of a lot of games I used to play around other people's houses or had a PC version of (Puzzle Bobble being one). VNES has lots of NES games you can play in your browser by the way, I've been singing its praises on the message boards.

The 80s seems like it was a time for experimentation. Pushing the boundaries and trying out new formats to see what was most effective and easy for the player to pick up. Wikipedia game examples in RTSs of the unit production menus which emerged from early games and were then copied by many more. It seems like game developers could afford to take more risks and weren't worried about being shoehorned into a category.

One of the most obvious and important developments to emerge from this era is real time 3D gaming. Pioneered by games like Doom they allowed greater exploration and interaction with the environment, as well as being more immersive. The 80s and 90s also gave rise to new formats for video games thanks to home PC gaming. No longer defined by a joypad, games moved to genres such as point and click and text adventures. I really need to get hold of some more LucasArts point and clicks, they're fantastic. I've played Monkey Island 3 and Sam and Max hit the road and they were both absolutely hilarious. Proof here

I first became really interested in games when my brother got a Playstation. It'd been out for maybe a year or two so we knew there were good games out there. We had Spyro, Tekken, GTA, Mechwarrior, Crash Bandicoot. A good mixture of games, I can't remember them all. We had friends with N64s and we used to swap sometimes so they could play the Playstation and we could play their N64. I loved playing Pokemon Stadium and I still love the franchise, as pathetic as that makes me.

I have that pirate song in my head now.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

And now for something completely relevant.

Well here I am, responding to the articles I've just read and I have to say they were very interesting. The fact that at least 4 'inventors' of the video game have emerged from the various articles is telling in itself. What exactly is a video game? Is it noughts and crosses but with lights? Is it a missile trajectory simulator? Does it have to involve a console or a TV? I doubt there's really a definitive answer to that.
The articles did however agree that video games were originally approached from a very intellectual, and sometimes military angle. Many of the first games were designed as a result of people testing what they could do with their code, or to graphically represent something like tennis ball physics in the 50s.

The fact that the first people to decide to use games for fun are academics is interesting. It explains why the games are approached with specific goals or with advanced physics. Perhaps if games had emerged from a more art based background you would have had more focus on a mood or an experience. Perhaps 'arty' games like Shadow of the Colossus would be far more the norm if things had emerged differently. But I guess games have gradually moved away from what the original creators indended for them anyway, much like television gradually changed from being an educational medium into being a dustbin for rubbish reality TV shows.

The first video game I really remember playing is Super Mario Brothers 3, which I used to play round a friend's house. As I could only play it when I was visiting them, I ended up playing the first world over and over again, and became quite a master at the first level. However the first console we actually owned as a family was an Atari, not sure what model. It had blocky graphics to represent tanks or planes that you could use to attack another player. We used to get it out from the cupboard sometimes and sit around playing it as a family. Not sure when the console is actually from though.

The most recent game I've played is Oblivion, and I've only really been on that for five minutes. The graphics are stunning though. I suppose what's kept me playing is that games are fun, and who doesn't like fun?
Games allow a great social experience. Either having someone solving the puzzles with you on a single player mode, or arguing with a strange person you just met on online chat, or gaining a victory over your friends in a multiplayer mode, games offer something for everyone.
Games also provide you with an immersive world. I love books, but sometimes your imagination can't fully immerse you in a fantasy world the way that creating it on a screen can.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Living in a flat full of girls

Don't get me wrong, most of the time it's great. But occassionally....


A general panic has been created throughout the entire flat because of….. A SPIDER. The poor thing was about as big as a ten pence piece and has now been bludgeoned to death by a bedsheet, a shoe and a chair. It was also apparently of the undead variety of spider as it came back to life after its many beatings.

The alarm was raised by Jo pelting down the corridor to the kitchen screeching like a banshee. Everyone else then ran down to Jo’s room hiding behind Julia, who had nominated herself as the slayer of spiders. Then the beatings began. Seven girls versus one spider is hardly fair I think.

Everyone is now avoiding Jo’s room as if it was a plague pit. I don’t know how the dead spider will be removed.