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So much more than war...
By shandog137
Posted on 04/18/14
The recent blog, Peace in the Era of Call of Duty  really made me think about war games that dig deeper than simply a kill streak reward. The first game that came to mind was Spec-Ops: The Line and although I haven’t played it, I began to wonder if it did the war genre as...


shandog137 shandog137's Blog
X-Com: I know my enemy
Posted on Friday, August 23 2013 @ 13:00:00 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

Well I was going to do a really nice piece last week on the “GaymerX” Convention and had all types of insightful responses to BTS and yet something went terribly awry…or amazing. I received my $14 used copy of X-Com: Enemy Unknown (“EU”) in the mail. It truly wooed me over the next several days. Much like my days working on a farm, I named not my soldiers for fear they may have ended up alien meat at some point in the not-so-distant future. I had read Daniel’s review of the game and general praise the game garnered from the community and after my first hour, I understood.
Now this is a blog entry, not a game review, so I won’t go into the pros and cons etc…but rather focus on how they could have expanded on the ideas and concepts in that game. As I played through the tutorial all I could think about was Fallout Tactics for PC released in 2001. I spent many an hour playing that game and specing out my ideal squad. So many fond memories brought back to the surface by EU…but that’s the point! Maybe it’s time to revisit some of the older gaming models that were once considered stale…turn-based strategy games still have a significant following and you now have a more widely spread vehicle to reach your audience: the "home console".
I was skeptical of how the transition would work from mouse/keyboard -> PS3 controller but was pleasantly surprised and felt quite comfortable with the configuration with the exception that the camera could definitely be tweaked a bit with regard to panning/zoom controls.
EU’s developers released a DLC called “Slingshot” which was to extend the single-player campaign but got meh-reviews…come on, guys, you have gold here don’t give me crap DLC. This is what I would have easily paid $10+ for; take a note from Borderlands 2 and Mass Effect 3 and build out your character classes, enemy types, and rebalance accordingly adding new environments and maybe environmental conditions. Add new quest types. This is only the first $10 worth of DLC and yet there is so much more potential.
Think of Red Dead Redemption’s zombie nightmare campaign and you could have used the X-Com assets to set up all types of different story arcs…give me a pirate version, give me raiders and Mad Max, give me ninjas. Basically use some of the storylines from our most cherished franchises and adapt them to a turn-based strategy. You could be the “Lego” of turn-based strategy. I look at EU and instantly felt like the single player is great but you are not going to get the micro-transactions of an online heavy ME3 but you could get them from $1.99 additional character classes for single player, new story arcs $2.99 - $4.99, and maybe even selling uniquely speced characters (since the focus is on single player it doesn’t create an unfair advantage and also doesn’t negate Trophies/Achievements).
As I start to think about the games that could benefit from this formula, I also think of how awesome a “Walking Dead” game could be based on this structure. I understand you don’t have the IP rights to many of these ideas, but much like Saints Row IV, call a damn rose by another name and pump out the homage to receive the cash.
I also understand you have a new project releasing shortly and that it looks to play more like KoToR than EU, but please for the love of God, revisit what makes EU great…the simple…some would call archaic (Square Enix) formula of a solid turn-based strategy game. Bottom line, you could have and can still make a lot more money on EU if you take it in the right direction and for the right price point. I could also see based on the models described above basically using a Magic the Gathering: Planeswalker business model, pumping out variations on a story arc with minor tweaks to gameplay annually with a $20 price point.
Finally, if you are able to do it, you can also pair your releases with “AAA” releases such as a pirate version release around Black Flag or a zombie version released around the season start of The Walking Dead…with so much potential I simply hope it does not go to waste.
Thanks for sucking up my time but please give me more of what I like, not just what you still owe bills on. 

For fans of Fallout Tactics and as Daniel already stated in his review of EU, "Try this game." Lots of friggin fun!!

The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of Game Revolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick Tan

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Damn...Damn...Damn...I think I might be a "Gamer"
Posted on Friday, August 2 2013 @ 08:38:20 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

I was reading through some of the comments in the article Identity Crisis: What Makes Someone A “Gamer”, and I found the definition which resounded most with me was provided by Yossarian29:

I feel like when I strike up a conversation with someone ABOUT a game instead of just what HAPPENS in said game, I've found a gamer. Many people go the movies every week and could give a **** about any kind of quality or depth. Like when I say "How was the brand new crazy looking movie you just went to?"
"It was o.k. ..............."
  Now I didn't just meet a movie buff. A movie (or game) buff can talk about something at length without giving away plot points, could reference similar titles, are interested in the mechanics and execution, and, the most important, WANTS to have a dialogue about it. Parallels gamer or game enthusiast, connoisseur, addict, patron, critic...
Yossarian (“Yo”) only received 1 thumbs up, but if I could give you more, I would bud. What I like about your definition was that it reminds me of discussions I have with my cousin; both of us consider ourselves “Gamers” but relative to him I tend to actually follow more of the industry news. As we chatted today I inquired as to whether he would be getting Dragon’s Crown so we could play it together. We have somewhat similar taste in games, but we vary to an extent: I thoroughly enjoy the Devil May Cry series whereas he likes games like Quantum Conundrum but we have a lot of middle ground, such as Ratchet and Clank multiplayer, Resident Evil, Uncharted, Dead Island, etc…so before purchasing a preferred co-op game we tend to consult with each other regarding interest so we know if to buy early or wait for a bargain.
He had not heard of Dragon’s Crown and I was tasked with explaining what it is…which gets me back to Yo’s definition. I first said, “well it’s a bit like Champions of Norrath but cartoonier and a bit slicker…” (Note 1. First step was to consider games we have played together to give him an idea of what the game is like even if it is not really very much like that) (Note 2. Need to keep description somewhat short due to communication being in the form of text messages.) I thought about that message for a couple of minutes and then sent back, “no champions was 3d and this is 2.5d…so mix champions with Shank, add some RPG character classes, side scrolling, loot collection and old school quarter arcade game style ala Simpsons”. I concluded with, check out the review on GR when you get a chance. This brings me to a couple of different points: I think our conversation inadvertently speaks to Yo’s point about the reference of similar titles, mechanics and execution. I guess we are “Gamers” because we want to have a dialogue about it, but furthermore get frustrated when we can’t seem to find the best way to communicate what type of game we are experiencing to someone yet to experience it. Wanting to explain a game you haven’t played based on the review opinion of someone you don’t know and getting frustrated that you can’t quite put it into a neat box…may in my opinion lead you to be considered a gamer. When I think of our past conversations regarding different games we always look to elements of previously played games to try to find that perfect description of what we are experiencing. I recall him asking me how was Sleeping Dogs, my response being, “It’s a cross between…True Crime, Shenmue, and GTA” *DING*!!! He knew he wanted it and in less than a sentence I was able to summarize what the experience was like for me and sold him on it…he purchased it, concurred on my opinion, and thoroughly enjoyed it. That was an easy one…now trying to explain Echochrome for me was difficult, possibly due to my lack of experience with puzzle games so I had very few points of reference other than, well it’s a puzzle game and you kind of turn the camera to…F*ck if I know.
I guess that is the nature of the “Gamer”. You can be a gamer with a wealth of knowledge in a specific niche while being at times abhorrently ignorant to other aspects of the industry and culture. From the posts in the Identity Crisis article it seemed that quite a few people had a negative perception of “Gamer” as a moniker. I couldn’t help but think…really…? I guess it is a bit relative when you consider all the other things people can call you but the quantity of responses to that article was pretty damn impressive and seemed to be an issue of contention. We could run off a list of derogatory terms but “Gamer” never once actually came to mind with regard to my list of those terms.
Hypothetically, if we were to have a general consensus to go with Yo’s definition, would the moniker “Gamer” still be considered that offensive? It seems like being offended by being considered someone who is knowledgeable about a specific form of entertainment and has a genuine interest in furthering that knowledge through experience and discourse isn’t that bad. It is interesting the things that are perceived offensive on the internet particularly when individuals are given a voice without personal disclosure. What I mean by that, is that if you were hanging with your friends (in person) and one of them called you a “Gamer”, would you really take offense? If you were walking down the street and someone yelled out the slur, “F*ing Gamer”, would you be more offended or puzzled?
I guess I am getting at two points: (1) I think after some thought I am just fine with being considered a “Gamer”; and (2) I am not sure the term should warrant offense at this time because in our offline lives seldom is the term used to mean something derogatory in lieu of more common derogatory terms. For me I find that people give words meaning. Words do not define the individual but if the shoe fits…you know how that goes. It’s profoundly amazing how much more power words and statements are given on the internet if only to spur more discourse and garner attention. The Identity Crisis article really made me want to conduct a case study on the perception of innocuous words on the internet.

The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of Game Revolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. He has provided links of his own in the article. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick

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PS4...Xbox1...yada yada yada...Let's talk about the games!
Posted on Wednesday, July 17 2013 @ 14:14:35 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

With all this “who ha” about next-gen hardware it seems that one fundamental aspect of gaming is being overlooked…the idea that certain game mechanics will be perfected in the next generation. Wait what, “perfected” game mechanics…what the hell does that mean…can a gaming mechanic be perfect…can perfect be considered relative?

I have been thinking about this for quite some time as the idea of graphical prowess simply doesn’t mean as much to me as a game being fun. Simply put, I understand that PCs are graphical beasts and using a high end PC to play Crysis 3 will put both the graphics of the PS4 and Xbox 1 to shame…this is fact…not arguable. Is a high-end PC going to be priced at $399.99? Nope! I understand that it’s a different beast altogether, but for the sake of seeing graphical potential all you need to do is go to a dedicated gaming café (if you have one in your area) and sample what is to be expected from PS5 and Xbox2 (but now)…so graphics-wise, for me, it is kind of like meh… I am not a PC gamer but I see the graphical potential and accept that I won’t be getting my hands on that level of pretty via console anytime soon. Well what am I left to be excited about?

I am excited about a fundamental aspect of game development that’s been around since the start of the industry the thing that makes you finish that “C”-rated game…that one novel or ideal use of a gaming mechanic that keeps us coming back for more. When we look at reviews, we tend to review the games as a whole yet we can’t help but identify certain features that just had us wanting to play more. For example, the first time I played Batman: Arkham Asylum, I thought the game was great, but the slick new fighting mechanic that I hadn’t experienced prior had me repeatedly going back to the arena mode to see how long of a combo I could string together uninterrupted. That’s what made that game even better in my opinion…a singular aspect.

One way to view this in retrospect is that I looked forward to how the next game in the “series” would push the envelope…man, I can’t wait until the next Batman comes out so that Rocksteady can expand on this mechanic…oh, that next Batman is going to be good one…are they going to add more character types, more combos?…oh the potential. Now, I think a lot of folks play a great game and can’t wait for the next iteration to expand on what made the prior iteration great, but after much thought and consideration, I became more interested in how other developers would tweak and implement this gaming mechanic. I haven’t seen a better version of this specific gaming mechanic yet, but using some alternative examples of recent releases, let’s get a better idea of how I define “perfected” for the purpose of this piece.

I recently played through the new Tomb Raider (TR) to completion, followed immediately thereafter by The Last of Us (TLoU) two great games in their own right. What made TR great to me was that it seemed as though the creators had played Uncharted meets Gears of War (with regard to the feeling that every move has weight to it, darker story, more visceral). Nathan Drake was a sprite fellow with a Disney vibe, while Lara was struggling to take every friggin step. The idea that the designers of TR took the parkour-esque environmental navigation mechanic found in Drake's, reduced it to a more realistic pace with a feeling of weight, and then paired the same type of adventure story with more mature themes made it better than Drake's in my opinion. Nothing novel… simply taking a tried and true mechanic and tweaking it in a way in which to me, became more significant and better executed than the source...which probably borrowed it from Prince of Persia or something.

I hear the outcries of lack of industry innovation but those cries are not coming from my corner…I don’t necessarily need a ton of innovation if you improve upon the things I value most in a specific game…note: I think developers get this…see Call of Duty’s ever increasing multiplayer focus. But it’s not so much how the incumbent uses the mechanic, but I guess the innovation stems from how others use it, rework it, and hopefully perfect it into something special.

TLoU received significant praise yet it wasn’t particularly novel. It reminded me of a more gamer-focused version of Heavy Rain which showed that games can have amazing stories to the level of cinematic quality…but gamers need a bit more interaction than what was given in Heavy Rain to keep them coming back for more, so it became a catalyst for more narrative emphasis by developers. TLoU seemed to find that balance between an engaging story and solid game mechanics…seemed a bit like they reworked “detective” vision introduced by Rocksteady, the weighty feeling and somber mood found in TR, and well those infected reminded of what…wait for it…the industry’s ever popular zombie or a rose by another name in this case "Infected".

One more example before I summarize the point I am trying to make is that the first GTA to let me jump out of a plane with a parachute was novel and fun… AAA titles at their best, but the best parachuting out of a plane mechanic actually came from a rather mediocre game some of you may have heard of: Just Cause 2. It simply added a tether/zipline mechanic to the traditional parachuting mechanic which led to all types of fun! We see the bastardization of some game mechanics (see GTA IV shooting mechanics...could have been so much more but the game as whole makes up for that in the opinion of many) while others in my opinion are perfected. GTA may have created the sandbox but games like Scarface and Mercenaries took that mechanic to another level even in the PS2 days. Of course, the latter iterations of GTA continued to push the envelope and by no means am I saying that Mercenaries or Scarface as a whole was better than GTA but in parts…definitely.

So the point I have been eluding to is that the next-gen hardware is great to get excited about, but the way in which some of our favorite gaming mechanics of this generation are further fleshed out, implemented, and perfected in games to come has me far more excited. GTAV’s character switching reminds me of a perfected and expanded version of Killer 7’s persona switch mechanic. This isn’t a matter of lack of innovation or laziness; it seems to be indicative of the fact that regardless of what studio you work for, the creators and developers are playing the same games we are Xbox, PS, or PC the inspiration comes from the idea not the brand. This point is reiterated by Hideo Kojima's awe but depression associated with his viewing of GTAV first gaming trailer. That story today was inspiring because it speaks directly to the point of what drives his standards and innovations...the ideas and innovations introduced by his peers. 
So in conclusion before you get all riled up about which console will sell its first “X” million units, maybe take a moment and think about the last great game you played, what made it great, and how some of your favorite gaming mechanics may be incorporated not only into new IPs but to successor projects. The GTAs, Metal Gears, Halos, and Half-Lifes of the industry have the time and resources necessary to introduce phenomenal new gaming mechanics, but what gets me excited most about the new GTAV gameplay trailer is how others will expand on the aspects that make it great…see Vanquish as an example of another low-mid-level budget game that simply brought together solid game mechanics found in other games to make something that cost a fraction of a AAA title yet still was amazingly slick and fun to play.

Bring on the next gen and then bring on more of what made my favorite games of this generation my favorite. Your launch lineup, sales figures, and social media functionality do not elicit a Pavlovian effect in me, but man, just one solid game that plays like I like and I am drooling with the best of them!

The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of Game Revolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. It has been submitted for our monthly Vox Pop competition. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick

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The Great Migration: Current Online Communities
Posted on Monday, March 4 2013 @ 13:49:29 Eastern

Late in February, it was announced by Sony that the PS4 would not support backwards compatibility. Well, what’s going to happen to my clan, elite status, the war on Tachanka, etc…? When we transitioned from the PS2 to the PS...   read more...

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Season Passes...for every season?
Posted on Tuesday, February 26 2013 @ 12:34:23 Eastern

When Rockstar Games introduced the first season pass via L.A. Noire, it seemed to be quite a novel and great idea. In essence I would get a discount on all future DLC for what was going to be another epic Rockstar title. Blinded by the l...   read more...

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Modern Warfare Games and Artistic Liberty: What side to portray?
Posted on Friday, October 26 2012 @ 13:29:59 Eastern

So I bashed Medal of Honor: Warfighter for the plethora of bugs needing to be addressed via a day one patch, but, the following day I read an article regarding a terrorist training sequence found in the early stages of the game. In th...   read more...

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Dumbed Down Games… Dumbed Down People…Or Simply A Matter Of Habit?
Posted on Friday, October 5 2012 @ 14:33:49 Eastern

[This blog was actually posted on Sept. 24, so it is referring to an article during that time. ~Ed. Nick]

Dear Jonathan,
       I took the opportunity to read your article...  

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The Sleeper Game Phenomena And A Diabolical Way To Use It
Posted on Tuesday, September 4 2012 @ 11:12:01 Eastern

I was reading the article today about the season pass for Borderlands 2 and perused some of the comments which were as expected, with gamers somewhat frustrated at content being made, marketed, and sold separately yet in tandem with a...   read more...

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