The 360 Has Come Full Circle

I bought my original X-Box 360 more than half a decade ago. Six years ago, I was in awe of the system and just couldn’t wait until I could get my hands on one. I vividly remember sitting in my high-school band class gawking about the system to my friends. “Oh my gosh, Need For Speed looks so awesome on the 360!”

Then things were taken up a notch.

Gears of War was announced and no one could believe their eyes.

Every video game system has a game like this. A game that comes out at launch and attempts to push the boundaries that existed at that time. Gears of War was the 360 one. Developed from fame and style of their hit Unreal Tournament series, Epic Games brought to the gaming community a game that was just as frantic as their other games, but used a cover system. Cover systems were unheard of at this time. The game also was fused with pure violence. Elements from the Warhammer 40k universe were brought into the game with enemy types with nods here and there to the Tyranids as well as the bread and butter weapon of the CoG: The Lancer.

An automatic machine gun with a CHAINSAW on the end

Gears of War was my first AAA title experience on the X-Box 360. That was five years ago.

Yesterday, Gears of War 3 was released. With it comes enhanced gameplay, better graphics, and a more streamlined interface.

The end of the trilogy is also something that comes along with it.

Which means no more "BOOOM BABY."

It represents more or less the end of a period of my teenage/young adult life. But it also means that the 360 is nearing it’s end now more than ever.

Bungie’s epic Halo arc is over (yes I know Halo 4 is in the works, but not from Bungie), and the Gears of War trilogy is over. The two initial staples and original exclusive juggernauts of the system are complete. Years ago, 2015 (the projected end of X-Box 360’s life cycle) seemed like a long time. Now, with Gears of War 3 here, that date doesn’t seem too far away.

I’m curious to see how much time will pass until there becomes an official announcement of a new system tech from Microsoft. Next Summer? A year or so? It’s hard to say.

But I believe that the release of Gears of War 3 is the beginning of the end of Microsoft’s Sophomore year in the video game industry.

Gabe Newell and the Curious Comment

Yesterday, Gabe Newell,  co-founder of the video game company, Valve, stated that Portal 2 will be the last stand alone single -player game the company will make.

But what about Half-Life 2: Episode 3? Or, for that matter, Half-Life 3?

Valve is known for their amazing single player experiences. Half-Life 1 and 2 hold a place in many people’s minds as being two of the greatest games of all time. And now they don’t want to do single-player anymore?

Hmm.

What’s interesting about this statement is that Portal 2 isn’t strictly a single-player game. Valve included a full fledged co-op mode in it so that you can play through puzzles with a pal.

Does this mean their future games might consist of more of a co-op mode compared to a solely single-player mode? Are they just going to include the option to play the game single-player while the game is meant to be played with others? (i.e. Left 4 Dead 1 & 2)

I trust Valve. They’ll make an amazing experience no matter what they do, single-player or multi-player.

But they do not need to go in the path that Blizzard has. Release your games. Don’t scrap them at the last minute after letting thousands play it at video game conferences and conventions. Stick to your word. Release Half Life 2: Episode 3.

I can wait for everything else. Team-Fortress 2 has started to lose it’s flavor with the Mann Co. update. Counter-Strike: Source has been dead to me for awhile.

Just verify the future for your fans. Let us know for SURE that Episode 3, Half Life 3, Counter-Strike 2 (Newell commented on this awhile back) are being worked on and will eventually be in our hands. Portal 2 is amazing, and we need more.

The good 'ol days...

The New Arcade

There was an interview done with Ed Boone (the creator of Mortal Kombat) earlier this year. In short, he said that online gaming on consoles is essentially this generations Arcade.

He makes a valid point.

Online gaming has been around for a good while now, especially on the PC. But, the console online scene is still relatively new. X-Box Live has flourished, as well as the Playstation Network.

And, as we’ve talked about before, Arcade’s are dead.

I can see his point though. Especially with fighting games. All fighting games have a mode that really brings the feel of the arcade back to life. You have eight people in a game. One guy fights until he loses. If he keeps winning, he continuously plays more and more players until he loses. People can enter and leave the game while these fights are going on.

Just like standing at an arcade machine.

Fighting games are really the best example I can think of though.

Racing games sort of have that similar feel to them, but racing games online tend to be pretty dense. Some large scale racing circuits go on, ranking systems. It just gets complicated.

Fighting games can to, don’t get me wrong, but they are also a much more simple type of creature.

I’m not sure if on-rail shooters are going online now a days or not. I can only think of a hand full on the top of my head, most of which being on the wii, so I really doubt they do. I could be mistaken. But if that was the case, that would be a good arcade experience by keeping your game online at all times so that anyone can hop in a join your game at will, just like they would at an arcade,

Need help with this level in Time Crisis? Let me just insert some quarters… and there.

And with fighting games being all the rage now, I think Ed Boone had it right. Want to get that good ‘ol arcade feel again?

Get a slushi, and go play a fighting game online.

The Return of Kombat

Last night, the return of a childhood favorite made it’s way back into my life.

I had to work the midnight launch of Portal 2, Mortal Kombat, Socom 4, and The Conduit 2.

We received a playable copy of Mortal Kombat to put into one of the demo units so that people who came could try the game out while they wait to pick it up.

I clock in, and my boss tells me to go over and try it out.

I put my hands on the controller, and I was in love.

Apparently, the main story from what I gathered from my short time playing, is that Raiden is going back in time in order to warn the other tournament fighters of the future so that they can change it.

Levels from my childhood that have been imprinted in my memory have returned. So the level with Shang ‘Tsun sitting in his throne behind a crowd of monks is back. Only now, the monks are there, but there are two monks with spears that follow the two fighters as they fight (meaning there’s no escape I suppose. Either live or die.)

The haunted forest level from Mortal Kombat 2 is back with the trees with faces. The bridge level with the spike pit is back, and even the street level from Mortal Kombat 3 has returned.

All of my favorite characters from all of the games have returned, even secret characters such as Noob Saibot.

But the combat is where it’s at. I was so impressed with how fluid the game was. I was worried because in DC v MK the combat was sluggish and the gameplay seemed slow overall. This has been fixed. The combat is fluid, and it’s more gory than ever.

I personally have not bought the game yet, but it will be one of my next purchases, along with Portal 2 eventually.

It’s really interesting to see that fighting games have returned. Super Street Fighter 4, Marvel v Capcom 3, and now Mortal Kombat.

Feels good. Street Fighter v Tekken comes out later this year also. So there’s more to come.

Also, to tie in to this fighting games post, Thursday’s post is actually going to based on a quote by Ed Boone.

So, check back Thursday!

Aaaaaand you need to download a free version of a game called Words With Friends on your smart phone. It’s a blast. Get some friends to get it with you, and you’ll all be addicted!

Music and its Impact on the Gaming Industry

Does a video game’s soundtrack go hand in hand in making a game succesful?

Yes.

Music can influence emotions in such a drastic way that it’s amazing really.

My first memory of a game with a memorable sound track would have to be the phenomenal Final Fantasy VII.

Even now, I find myself humming a song from the game unknowingly. But the soundtrack to that game, as well as the story telling and the dialog, made that game a success. The music of Final Fantasy VII has been turned into orchestral arrangements and symphonies play them around the world. The same can be said for the Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. The music of that game haunts me on occasion and brings back great memories of my brother and myself playing through it together. The sound track to that game also influenced it’s success too I believe.

But today, I think we are beginning to see a lack of the emphasis on the importance of the video game sound track. Games now are not really about the music while they are more about the intense realism of the graphics and game play. How many times can we hear a generic war theme in every Call of Duty installment?

This saddens me, because game music is just not what it used to be. There are still a handful of companies that still keep their music on a high standard, such as Blizzard, Bioware,  Bungii, and Rockstar when we talk about original scores. But Nintendo tends to just re-use the same scores over and over again and just remix them. I don’t think I have heard an original Mario song since back in the day with Super Mario World. How many times can you just re-use the typical ba-du-ba-da-ba-ba– ba?

Right now as I write this, I’m listening to the Minecraft sound track by C418. Absolutely phenomenal stuff. It’s all synth based mixed with piano, but it suits the game so incredibly well. It makes me want to go build.The sound track is so simple, but like Final Fantasy VII and Ocarina of Time, it encompasses the essence of the game that makes it so addicting and wonderful.

Music has a surprisingly large impact on video games, and I hope that video game companies now recognize this when creating their games. The music potential now is so much greater than it used to be just fifteen years ago. We don’t use anymore 8-bit, 16-bit, or 32-bit music anymore. Now, the music is symphonic based. Epic. Large. Impactful.

But is this better than what can be found on the Super Nintendo or Playstation? Are we losing the tight and simple theme music that we once had because of this?

It’s an interesting thing to think about.

Dooo be doobie doooo

I know, I’m late. But save some cake!

Last night I beat Portal.

What a little magnificent gaming gem.

I’ve heard it was good, and I’ve seen all kinds of things about it online, but I just never got to playing through it.

I did it last night in one sitting. The game is a pretty short game, I believe I clocked in completion at right around two and half hours or so. But it was a fantastic experience.

For those who have not played it, you are a “test subject” in the labs of Aperture Science. You are set through a course of nineteen tests in order to test your skills in puzzle solving when dealing with portals.

Your “guide”, GlaDOS, talks to you as you progress, and drops a few subtle hints about having a “party” once you complete the tests.

This is where, as many of you I’m sure have heard already, “The Cake is a Lie” comes from.

I’m not going to say anymore because if you haven’t played it already (like me as of last night), you should.

Also, when I first heard of Portal two years ago, I did some research and found that the company that created Portal (which were bought by Valve) created a game prior to Portal that compasses the same idea.

Barnacular Drop.

You still have a portal gun, except think of a more fantasy setting. You are a little girl (possible a princess, I forget) that is captured and put in a castle. You must escape, and that’s where the portal gun comes into play. Almost exactly like Portal.

But, if you’d like to play through it, it’s free.

https://www.digipen.edu/?id=1170&proj=501

Play Portal. Savor it and enjoy it.

Get ready for Portal 2 which comes out next month.

Grab a buddy, because there is coop in it! (last video)

The Art Medium of Minecraft

The independent phenomenon Minecraft has exploded amongst gamers world wide. Gamers have recreated many iconic geek structures such as the Enterprise and the Death Star.

But what makes this game fun?

Your character awakes on an island. Alone. Giant spiders and green menaces named Creepers roam the world in the day time which put your life in constant danger. You roam around, find an area, and decide to build a shelter. Halfway through the shelter, the sun begins to go down. Zombies and skeletons begin to arise and appear in the darkness. You dig a hole, and hide until day break. Once the sun comes up, the zombies and skeletons have disappeared. Feeling safe, you continue building your shelter until completion. You’re hungry, and wild pigs can be seen nearby. You go hunting to get some pork to survive. Heading back to your shelter, you see a Creeper. It sees you and chases you as you run into your door. A hissing sound can be heard, and then a loud explosion. Your shelter is halfway gone. The creeper destroyed self destructed. You decide you need better materials to keep your shelter from being destroyed. You make a makeshift pick-axe from some sticks and wood you find outside. You begin mining into a nearby hill, and begin collecting cobblestone. You go back to your shelter to begin setting up the cobblestone, when a Creeper catches your eye…

Does this sound fun? No.

Is it fun? Yes.

Minecraft is one of those games that you can sit down and play from the afternoon until the break of dawn. it’s oddly addicting. Similar to the addicting manner of Animal Crossing. You’re doing nothing but working. Hard manual labor. But something about Minecraft leaves a very accomplished sensation once you build your first outstanding man-castle, mansion, tower, or underwater city. Some people go as far as to building recreations of real cities or towns.

Now, they’ve added music blocks into the game. So while people have built amazing constructions, people are now composing music.

Basically the creative possibilities of Minecraft are becoming near endless.

Absolutely amazing stuff.  And just to think that Minecraft is ONLY in beta currently. It’s not even in it’s final retail version and it’s already this popular.

If you haven’t tried to play, you can always go to http://www.minecraft.com and play it for free via creation mode. It doesn’t include the survival modes live I’ve spoken of, but it’s fun just to see what you can create.