Save Point

Money can buy everything except “love”, “friendship” and “exp points”.

The Price Of Keeping Up October 22, 2008

Filed under: Consoles,Metagaming,The gaming industry — haounomiko @ 10:47 am
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Comments on my prior blog entry about the price of games have me thinking. There are at least two upcoming PS3 games that I would love to purchase (The Last Remnant and Heavy Rain), and various others that I’d love to give a spin. It’s gotten to the point where, if the PS3 were the price of the average console, I would say it’s time to buy one. But– ouch. The price difference takes it from a range where I’d easily choose to purchase it, into a range where it’s not as easy of a decision for me. If Sony didn’t charge an exorbitant price for their console, I would shell out for it right now. Would they rather risk that I not do so? This is the direct impact of their decision, which they may have thought wouldn’t matter that much. Right here, right now, it is mattering: I definitely want one, but I won’t just run out and buy one now.

I suspect that because the Playstation caters more towards the older sector of the gaming crowd than the kids, Sony thought they could set a high price since it is a “mature” console. A high price for a working adult is more than a high price for a child, it’s true– but what they may have overlooked is that the price is simply a lot. Even without the downturn in today’s economy, the average American would have to be serious about gaming to buy a PS3.

Would Super Mario Bros. 3 alone be worth $100? I believe so, given what it delivers– but perhaps not to someone, even a serious gamer, who hasn’t played it. When buying a new console, gamers take the risk that there might not be any games on the console that captivate them enough to make it worth the price; perhaps they’ll neglect it and play mostly on some other console. It’s a lot of money down, betting that the reward will be worth the price. Even though there’s a good chance that the bet will pay off, how much money does the average gamer want to stake on that risk? There’s a certain price that gamers are used to staking; when that abruptly rises with no more guarantee of payoff than their usual price, it asks them to put more down for the same quality difference as they always get.

Maybe I’m biased because I’m so used to handheld games right now, so I’ve been buying less expensive games, but I feel like I’m getting just as much bang for fewer bucks that way. On the other hand, I’m going through DS games so much because it’s my only current-generation console, and it’s getting more releases than my old systems right now. The galling thing is that I don’t care a whit about graphical superiority– I just want to be able to play lots of fun new games, and it won’t be long before my TV consoles are obsolete.

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The Worst of All Good Things October 19, 2008

Filed under: Metagaming — haounomiko @ 8:45 pm
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Occasionally, when I blog about games such as Hotel Dusk or MillionHeir that I find to be not particularly great, I find myself thinking, This game isn’t so bad. After all, I did want to finish it. And yet when it doesn’t win a place in my heart, my primary focus is on my frustrations and its flaws, perhaps because the gaming experience is inherently designed to make an enemy of the player. Getting stuck, getting frustrated, wandering around lost looking in all the wrong places: these are all part of gaming, and something would be missing without them. But players learn to think of these parts of the game as obstacles that get in their way, rather than as a cherished part of gameplay– it’s part of the attitude of tackling an enemy, and tearing the obstacles down is part of the triumph of success.

Sometimes I enjoy a game that is mediocre for the heck of it, for the satisfaction of finishing it and exploring all of it, even if it isn’t the greatest hit since Super Mario Bros 3. But often there isn’t much to say in its favour because the good part was very simply that it was a playable game, whereas there are plenty of things to criticise because games inherently throw negative things at players so that there’s something to overcome.

Perhaps I should give the games I play a rating, or at least a “recommended/not recommended” status. The trouble with that is that it’s usually far more complex. Recommended for who? Rated with what baseline? I’ve tried to stick to descriptions, but that still leaves me feeling that I’ve only conveyed part of the picture. Gaming is a holistic experience that’s very hard to break down. In the end, I think gamers just have to see for themselves.

 

Simulation: Bored and Unhappy October 17, 2008

Filed under: Specific games — haounomiko @ 8:46 am
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Hotel Dusk is the closest thing to an old point-and-click adventure game that I’ve seen on a console. It’s certainly atmospheric, but the atmosphere doesn’t work well for a slow-moving game like this one.

When the gameplay isn’t fast-moving or exciting, such as a point-and-click where one has to take time to investigate everything, there has to be something engaging about it to keep the player interested anyway. It could engage the player emotionally, or by being very unusual, or by being stunningly beautiful, or via humour and delight, or any number of other ways; but it does vitally need something to keep the player from wandering off, to incite them to pick the game back up later on, to wade through slow-scrolling dialogue boxes or accidental repeated messages, and to keep playing even when they’re stuck because they want badly enough to succeed. And Hotel Dusk fails at this.

In keeping with the crime game genre that’s been so popular lately, it’s got a film noir atmosphere and involves a lot of searching for clues. The problem is that the film noir atmosphere may be romantic, but it’s laid-back and slow-paced, which can be problematic for a game that already plays slowly. Film noir also tends to be emotionally detached, with protagonists who ignore or dislike their own emotions, and a supporting cast that we only get to see from the outside, usually in an off-putting and harsh light that tends to focus on their flaws. The world is rarely beautiful; instead it focuses on unpleasant realities and the ordinariness of even the most dramatic events. Translate this into a game, and you get a boring world full of unsympathetic people, in which your ultimate goal is to solve a mystery that no one wants you to care about. Film noir detectives aren’t fun to roleplay because it isn’t actually fun to be one.

Now, I like point-and-click adventures, I like exploring game worlds in detail, and slow-moving gameplay usually isn’t a problem for me. But when the game isn’t a place that’s fun to putter around in, I just don’t have enough incentive to keep sinking more time into the game, or to persist when I’m stuck. The sum of all this is that Hotel Dusk is an impressive simulation of being bored in a hotel, and that is not something I want to experience in a game.

 

Sweet Mother of Eagleland! October 15, 2008

Filed under: Retro games,Specific games — haounomiko @ 10:15 pm
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Holy moly. I’d heard rumours of a Mother 3 translation patch, but I never got my hopes up because things like this so often fizzle out and don’t come to fruitition. And suddenly, the next thing I hear about it, it’s done! I simultaneously can’t wait, and yet want to queue it until I can give it my full attention. Such a dilemma.

In other news, I’ve had a busy weekend, but I’ve been poking at an assortment of things: a second playthrough of the latter two-thirds of Ar tonelico to follow a different plot fork, an ambivalent affair with Hotel Dusk, and Final Fantasy IV DS. I’ll probably have something to say about Hotel Dusk soon, but I’m carefully saving up my thoughts on Final Fantasy IV until I’ve finished it– that game has been close to my heart for nigh on sixteen years now, and my reaction to this release won’t be certain till the ending credits play.

 

No Word In Hymmnos For “Wait” October 2, 2008

I want to clarify some of what I said about Professor Layton and the Curious Village. I said that the plot was “kid-simple”, but in retrospect I feel I may have given the wrong impression. It’s not that it’s dull or a bad plot, but rather that it’s easy enough for a child to understand, and some of the characters’ motives are the sort of motives you get in children’s cartoons; one of your first tasks is to find someone’s missing pet cat, Layton often reminds his young apprentice to be a gentleman, and there’s a bad guy whose entire motive seems to consist of being The Villain in a “Curses! Foiled again!” sort of way. Having finished the game, though, I certainly found the story satisfying for what it was. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t a realistic adult story because it certainly wasn’t trying to be, and the plot resolution was just creative enough to feel like a fitting end. I hope I did not give an unduly negative impression of it in my earlier post by skimming over this detail. In contrast to MillionHeir, or, say, Kurupoto Cool Cool Stars, it certainly delivered plenty.

On another note, I seem to have gotten another of my friends hooked on Ar tonelico, simply by showing him the beginning. Again I say that it is a shame that no one has heard of it, because it really is a quite excellent RPG. It started out mildly surpassing my expectations and ended up far surpassing them. If only Atlus would promote their games a little more, this could have been a major hit instead of a very niche cult classic. Ar tonelico 2 is apparently coming out in the US in December, and I’ve already pre-ordered from the company’s website. Get it while it’s so hot it’s still in the oven. After all, there’s no word in the game’s conlang for “wait” (a fact that really amuses me, since it’s also a dating sim.)