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You know what isn’t great?

I decided to make a post similar to my cross-buy topic except this time I’m just complaining about stuff… so probably not so different from that post. Obvious stuff like DRM and DLC will be skipped over since I must have already mentioned them at some point before.

Proprietary Hardware

I’ve been playing my Vita a lot lately and my memory card/stick/whatever is almost always full so I’m forced to juggle content. You’d think it would be as simple as just buying another, perhaps larger, memory card but for some reason Sony decided to go with proprietary cards and jack their prices way, way up. A 32GB memory card for the Vita costs anywhere from 60-80 dollars and that’s AFTER the price dropped from 99 bucks. That’s just straight up ridiculous since you can get any other 32GB card for under $20. I feel like I can’t buy more space simply out of principle. Even slow-to-change Nintendo doesn’t do this crap but Sony seems to really enjoy doing this since they did the same thing with the PSP.

Another annoying thing is when devices have proprietary cords. I know Apple used to do this all the time but I haven’t owned an Apple product in years so maybe things are different. Right now next to my main gaming location is a bundle of cords, including extension cables. I think I have the largest amount of USB extension cords ever. Anyway, right now I think I have about six different cords but there used to be a lot more before I finally trimmed it down one day. Luckily a lot of different items can be charged via USB so that cut down on the clutter. Somewhat unrelated but what’s the deal with all the USB variants. I have like three extra adapters that I have to keep handy just so I can charge stuff.

Single Save Files

You don’t usually see this a lot but I find this especially irritating. One of the biggest offenders is the Pokemon series which only allows for one save file per cart. That’s just plain crazy in my book. Obviously it’s done to encourage people to buy both versions of the game rather than share one copy. So if I felt so inclined to do a specialty playthrough of the game I’d have to delete my save file with hundreds of hours playtime and specially bred pokemon (Interesting aside: I spent way too long trying to remember the past tense of breed). These days there’s usually some way to store your Pokemon between games except, from what I last remember, I think Nintendo is charging a recurring fee for that. This isn’t just limited to Pokemon though since some console games do it as well.

Poorly Designed Save Systems

Saving your game is done in many different ways. Some games let you save anywhere while others may only save between checkpoints, levels, or some other form of auto-saving. I think that you should be able to save whenever you want since feeling locked into playing is never a good thing. I’m not sure why more games don’t let you do this. The only thing that I can think of is maybe they don’t like save-scumming but that should be left entirely up to how the player enjoys playing.

The problem with some games is they save your progress in a crappy and undefined way. Not every game lets you manually save and I’m sure Keen can attest to the amount of times I’ve said “I have to wait until I see the auto-save animation” or something similar. It’s another way that you can feel forced to keep playing and some games seem to have no clearly defined moment that triggers an auto save. I can’t exactly remember the title of the game but not too long ago I remember playing something that only auto-saved and even then I would lose some progress every time I loaded the game up. Truly maddening.

Pre-order Bonuses & Exclusive Content

This kind of thing didn’t use to bother me but it’s gotten really bad over the years. You used to get something like a poster or some kind of knick-knack for pre-ordering a game but then it turned into bonus content for the game. I really do not like feeling pressured into buying a game if I’m not sure about it. That’s usually how they get me to buy stuff, by using some piece of content to lure me in. I’d feel compelled to pre-order or risk never getting that specific item/object/whatever. I have learned to resist the urge over time since most of the bonuses never end up being worth it anyway but they sure seem to be upping the ante lately.

Then to make things worse there is retailer specific pre-order bonuses which is a total crap. There is no way to get every bonus unless you buy multiple copies or cheat the system somehow. Sometimes they later offer the content for download, either free or paid, but often it’s something you wont see. Oh, it would also be great if they stopped putting embargoes on reviews until after the game has already shipped. Doesn’t always happen but it’s pretty telling when it does.

Another issue I have with in-game content is when they tie stuff to collectors editions. That wouldn’t necessarily be so bad if the price and level of ridiculousness in CEs/LEs wasn’t constantly rising. These things are just getting stupid and I’m always dumbfounded by all the people who drop $150 or more on a bunch of junk and clutter. Of course I’m a gigantic hypocrite as evidenced by all of the collector’s editions and related paraphernalia cluttered to my right (Picture not shown). I’m still bitter about the Destiny CE…

Season Passes

Oh right, DLC… I wasn’t going to mention this.

You know what’s great? Cross-buy.

I really appreciate how a lot of stuff on the Playstation Network supports cross-buy. Cross-buy is when you buy a game once and have it for use on multiple systems, so I could buy Game X on PS4 and also get it on PS3 and even Vita. Not every game on PSN supports it and not all games are always on every Sony platform, but it’s appreciated when it shows up. Actually I did mention two cross-buy games a little while back: Rogue Legacy and Oddworld: New ‘n Tasty.

I would love to see Nintendo adopt a cross-buy policy. Their account system is really outdated and has been for years, which has been the source of complaint from many players. What I find aggravating is the need to re-purchase  things like virtual console games. Back when the Wii came out I bought Super Mario World for 8 bucks or whatever it was. When the Wii U came out you had to purchase your stuff all over again. I think any game tied to your Wii was reduced in price to like a buck or two but that still seems petty. That’s actually another annoying aspect of Nintendo systems. Most of your content is tied to hardware so you are forced to do system transfers if you get a new system. For the 3DS they used to limit these to like 1 a year or something but fortunately they changed that. I do love Nintendo but they seem extremely slow at adapting to new technology and concepts.

One thing that you pretty much never see is cross-system cross-buy. Take Zen Pinball for example. Currently it is released on pretty much every platform imaginable and by now there are a crap-load of tables. It would be really awesome if your tables were tied to your account, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. It’s especially frustrated for anybody who bought tables on the Wii U since they all but abandoned the console outright. That’s pretty much what happened in my case so if I wanted to move over and start purchasing some of the new tables on PS4 then I would need to repurchase every table that I had on Wii U. That’s like over $30 in pinball tables. BUT… the tables are cross-buy within their respective brands so all of your tables on PSN are shared across PS3/PS4/Vita and Xbox 360/One. Still, it would be pretty sweet if you could hop onto Steam and access all of your tables when away from your consoles. A global account would be much appreciated.

Speaking of Global accounts, I think BioWare actually does something to that effect. I believe all of your content is tied to your BioWare account, or at least some of it, and is accessible across various systems. I haven’t tested this out between consoles like PS3 and Xbox 360 but I was able to access a majority of my content in the PC versions of Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2 after having previously played them on Xbox. I remember Keen and I thought that was pretty nifty at the time.

In general I would like to see a lot more cross-buy enabled products and overall it would be great if there were more cross-system compatibility. I’m not completely certain but I think I heard Keen say that the iPad version of Hearthstone uses your same account and cards and I think even lets you play with PC people. If I’m mistaken I’m sure he will probably edit that out. That’s pretty much the end of my ramblings.

How about a Medieval Survival Game?

Being sick for the last 4 days gave me a lot of time to do nothing but sit and watch streams on Twitch (which was just acquired by Amazon for 970 million… pretty cool it’s Amazon and not Google!). I watched a lot of open-world survival games and mods for  Arma III where people take on the role of cops and … everyone else.  It’s was fascinating to watch the dynamic nature of those games and how much more the players, rather than the game mechanics, influence everything.

All of that got me thinking about how much fun and easy it is to jump in and have a unique experience in games like this, and be able to do so at one’s leisure. There are elements of persistence, but very little permanence. That sense of ‘starting fresh’ adds something special and unique. What I’m most fascinated by, and wanting to explore further, is the idea of setting. They all seem to be either modern or post-apoc. What about a medieval setting?

Imagine a game like H1Z1, DayZ, or Arma III mods, but in a setting matching something out of Robin Hood or King Arthur. The quasi-persistent open-world could be a lot of fun in a setting with rolling hills, large forests, townships, and keeps. The idea of vehicles could easily carry over to horses, and the rest transfers just as easily.

We’re seeing a lot of copycat designs and not a whole lot being done to expand or develop the emerging genre. I’m thinking there’s still a lot that can be done to make it better. Just a thought.

WildStar Pre-Postmortem

In the least surprising move this year, WildStar has abandoned the promised idea of monthly updates. Before launch, I remember some of the more hyped up fans stating that Carbine had 6 months of content already prepped and ready to go. Looks like that is simply not the case.

According to the Q2 report from NCSoft, WildStar only sold less than 500k units. WildStar is already bleeding subscribers. Will WildStar go F2P? Yeah, it will. I give it a few months.

All of this has nothing to do with the subscription model. Nothing. This has everything to do with the themepark design model and how it is no longer sustainable in this market.  People do not unsubscribe from $15 a month because of the subscription — they unsubscribe because the game isn’t worth it.

Here’s how you make a good MMO: Make a virtual world that sustains and allows players to sustain themselves with goals and progressions designed to casually scale over time. Oh yeah, and make it fun.

What can we learn from this?

  • People don’t care about end-game raids or how hardcore your promises about end-game will be
  • Don’t promise what you can’t deliver
  • Pre-launch marketing doesn’t sustain a game after launch
  • Nothing else matters if the game is simply not much fun

A nostalgic roadtrip with Graev

super mario land gameboy

The other night I was doing my usual binge-watching of Netflix when I suddenly felt like pulling out my 3DS. I opened it up and searched through various virtual console games that I had purchased, and probably never played, until I finally settled on Super Mario Land. Ah, now that game takes me back. So with The Office playing in the background I proceeded through Super Mario Land at a steady pace. For those of you who might not be aware: Super Mario Land is an old GameBoy game. Most of it is exactly what you expect from a Mario game- Well, that’s not really true at all. SML is actually a whole lot different from regular Mario titles. You do run around and jump on stuff and hit blocks like normal but that is pretty much where the similarities end. You are trying to rescue Daisy (who turns into a bug for some reason), Koopa Troopas leave behind exploding bombs when they die, there are weird bug enemies, sphinx guys, creepy kung fu grasshoppers, rock dudes, rock riding, a submarine vehicle level, and an airplane vehicle level. It’s pretty strange but a lot of fun all the same. Also the Star Powerup music is the can-can song and that’s just weird.

I actually made it all the way through the entire game and only died a couple times. I sat there feeling pretty satisfied when it finally hit me: I’ve never beat this game before. I’ll always be reminded (especially by my family) of the time when I lived back east in Massachusetts. My family would take weekend drives to Vermont and other places; point out leaves and various historical sites all around us. The joke is that while we were supposed to be taking in all of the sights I instead had my face glued to my GameBoy. They joke around and say that all I remember of living there was my Gameboy and that’s not entirely untrue. Some of the best games I ever played were on those car rides. Super Mario Land, Wario Land, Donkey Kong 94, Kirby’s Dreamland, TMNT: Radical Rescue, and so on.

So there I sat having just completed one of my favorite childhood games for the first time. It wasn’t even that hard at all, which is a lot different than how I remember things. I had this moment and feeling that things had come full circle and that my childhood was now, somehow, officially over. It was a strange and sobering experience and something that I entirely made up just now. Seriously though, it’s a fun game. You should check it out.