Monthly Archives: August 2014

Crimes & Punishments (Sherlock Holmes) Trailer — Finally a true investigation game?

How do you make a true investigation game? On one hand, it has to be about discovery – the player uses his or her observation skills and wit to find clues and solve the puzzle. But the game also has to be playable. Can’t be so difficult it frustrates players. In The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, the player inspects items, which basically guides you to the next step. It seems Crime and Punishments (Sherlock Holmes) uses essentially the same gameplay. In the new trailer, time freezes while Holmes takes stock of a person or place, makes mental notes, which keeps the game moving. Gameplay like this gets repetitive and after a while, it becomes trial and error, just going through the motions.

Shigeru Miyamoto recently said Nintendo won’t focus on casual gamers. His games will cater to the real gamers out there, and not the mobile-device F2P crowd. In other words, Nintendo couldn’t compete and so they’ll go niche. Comments like his are ridiculous and pretentious. Why would a business rule out anything? However, I do wish more games did give gamers more credit. We’re more patient and intelligent than some of these games make me feel.

So, if you are working on the next investigation/mystery game, don’t spoon-feed us. Place the clues, and that’s it. No pulsating fingers or flashing circles or drop-down menus. Like some of the ‘80s adventure games like King’s Quest, create and populate the world, and let us figure out what to do with them on our own. Yeah, you may not sell as many copies, but you will have created a better product for your core client base.

Mission Majority — Giopi vs Kim Jong-un, who wins?

The NRSC’s Mission Majority is rad, in a North Korea kind of way. It’s 8-bit, which to some gamers has retro power like vinyl or tie-dye. And it has a squishy round protagonist: an elephant named Giopi. Wait a minute, Giopi is like G.O.P. – dude, that’s clever!

I have to admit, it’s not as fun to play as Glorious Leader, and it doesn’t have Dennis Rodman, either, but it still kicks butt. Why?

No, seriously, why?

Well, it has an elephant dodging and pouncing on taxes. There are also democrat mudslingers who don’t sling anything. And there’s jumping, and multiple levels, and ten minutes of straight shameless propaganda gameplay. If you like North Korea, then you’ll love this effort.

There’s even a trailer for it. Check it out below, then play the game here.

The Caretaker on Kickstarter — Will it Cross the River Styx?

The Caretaker is an action indie “about a guy that starts his new job as a cemetery caretaker”. A fantastic concept with a ton of possibilities! There’s fighting, puzzle solving, mystery, and ghosts. The most intriguing conflict with the most potential is that both Jake, the caretaker, and the ghosts need cash — the latter to pay the Ferryman to enter the next world, and Jake to pay for equipment upgrades to keep the ghosts at bay.  What’s not to like?

Well, the game itself is an apparition right now, and it might take an occult ritual to bring it to life. It’s currently on Kickstarter, at about $700 of $10,000 with 11 days to go. What’s the problem? Check out this gameplay video and you’ll know why….

It takes time and money and lots of late night pizza to get a game off the ground. But I wonder if it’s worth testing crowd-funding when something is still so raw. Pre-mature launches leave a bad impression on funders as well as first dates. The excuse is that the two-man team couldn’t find time between day jobs. I would like to see this game made: it’s just a too cool of a concept. But perhaps it’s a job for someone else with a little more time to begin with.

Giftgaming — Will it truly disrupt the free-to-play world, or is it just Botox?

I’m not a fan of the free-to-play business model, but I could be, especially with giftgaming. Giftgaming is a start-up that connects brands with publishers – a b2b. From a gamer’s perspective, it’s a way to get free stuff. I like free stuff and anything that will get me free stuff is cool. But will giftgaming do what it says it will do? Their tagline is, “We make gamers love brands”. Let’s look at that from a gamer’s perspective.

Just to note, there’s no cash flow yet. According to giftgaming’s site, it’s currently in private beta. It’s gotten love from TechCrunch and others. So there are smart people who see this as a legitimate disruptor.

The way it works is this:

1)      Brands and game companies decide to work together.

2)      The game developer integrates giftgaming service into the game.

3)      When players interact with a giftgaming-charged ad, they get free gifts like in-app purchases and coupons paid for by the brand.

The objective is to help brands optimize their ads and game companies to retain gamers. And gamers get free stuff. So, win-win-win?

The key stat they’re using is that 50% of games are FTP, but only 1.5% of players make in-app purchases. When faced with a situation where players need to purchase or quit, many quit the game. So, giftgaming is supposed to help retain that gamer by providing a platform where s/he will get that key in-app purchase for free.

I love the idea, but at the same time, it feels artificial. Like Botox.

Ultimately, I play a game because it’s fun. If it’s not fun, I quit. If it’s more frustrating than entertaining, I quit. If the game is top-notch and replayable, then I will happily spend money on it. The key factor to remember is that there is a TON of FTPs out there. I mean A LOT and more keep entering the market. I play multiple FTPs at a time. When I get to a point where I have to spend money, I play something else. A gift might keep me playing a while longer, but after a while, I might still move on. How many gifts will keep me playing an average game? How many gifts will brands purchase?

Customers want good products. If the product is good, it will attract customers and generate revenue. The FTP model is flawed because with a few exceptions, FTPs are not good products and competition is fierce with very minimal barriers to entry. So, it seems there is some wishful thinking about the potential success of giftgaming.

However, I love the drive here. Perhaps an improved method of monetization will lead to better products in the market. I’m all for it and can’t wait to see how it rolls.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Gameplay Trailer — Too Many Bread Crumbs?

The Astronauts’ Adrian Chmielarz walks us through 13 minutes of gameplay in the new trailer for The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

The first-person mystery game (released September 14 on Steam and GOG) combines elements of noir, CSI, and even some X-files.  It was “inspired by the weird fiction (and other tales of the macabre) from the early twentieth century”.

The trailer shows a beautiful open-world landscape.  It looks like a Kincaid painting.  Late summer sun, a lake, trees, and so on.  But of course, we get our first clue that it’s not as serene as it appears.  And then a second, and then a third….  There’s an old wooden rail bridge on the verge of collapsing.  There’s also a sign that says “Keep Out”.  And if that’s not enough to tell us things ain’t right, there’s internal monologue that actually tells us it ain’t right.  And of course, we get our first blood sighting.  The game’s title itself tells us there’s something that ain’t right.  So, why the bright flashing neon signs?  Based on the trailer, I get the feeling this game is full of them, start to finish.

The commented trailer continues and we get to a bloody railcar.  There are two things you can do – inspect it or enter it.  When you inspect, it doesn’t tell you exactly what you need to do, but it asks questions, which is what detectives do, but the problem is that the questions are not really questions but answers with question marks.  So what’s the difference?  Again, these are signs that guide the player in the direction the game wants you to go.  It’s an open world that’s not really open.

Essentially, the puzzle is this: reconstruct the scene from the past, and once you’ve done so, it’ll replay and you get a piece of the puzzle, which ultimately will lead to the big picture.  The protagonist is “occult-minded” and can interact with the dead.  The trailer didn’t fully flesh out what that really means – it seemed more like a CSI guy or profiler reconstructing the crime scene in his or her head.  The occult aspect could be cool – just didn’t see it in the trailer.

There are also some side missions, it seems, to value-up the game.

Overall, it’s a beautiful game and I love the concept.  The trailer makes me believe it’s too easy, though.  Just follow the yellow-brick road.  I want games like these to have a huge payoff with each discovery.  Gamers are smart.  We’re patient.  We want to be detectives, not just play them.  So create a world, and simply let it happen….

Ten Reasons Why Korea is Awesome!

Koreans are excellent gamers and Korea is a top-notch place for gaming.  Here are ten other reasons why Korea (South, of course) is awesome.

10) No tip.  No need to pay an extra 15-20% at a restaurant.  Service is still great, much better than in America.  Virtues of extreme competition.

9) It’s Wired.  Wifi in every café and bus.  A long ride home on the train isn’t so bad watching the Doosan Bears battle it out with the LG Twins on your phone.

8) Taxis have TV.  Sometimes the drivers are watching the game more than the road, but it still makes a ride more entertaining.

7) You pay what you see.  In American restaurants, a price on a menu isn’t what you pay.  You have to add tax and tip.  In Korea, if it says 5000 Won, then you pay 5000 Won when you leave.  No tip and tax is already included.

6) Everything is delivered.  I mean, everything.  Pizza, yes.  Chinese food, yes.  But also McDonald’s and chicken and basic groceries.  And free of charge.  We bought a box of peaches a couple blocks from our apartment.  We didn’t want to carry it so we asked them to deliver it.  We went straight home and a guy with the peaches were waiting for us at the front door.

5) Free coffee.  Like 90% of the restaurants have a free coffee machine.  It’s not espresso or anything fancy – it’s the instant variety, but it’s still good and still caffeine and it’s free!

4) Pedestrians yield to cars.  In America, drivers gotta wait for every slow-walking zombie to crawl out of your path, but in Korea, you zip ahead of them and if they get in the way, it’s their fault.  Yes, the disabled and the elderly still should get a little love, but normal agile individuals need to watch out and let the cars go first.  It’s a much more efficient system.

3) Healthier.  You walk a lot in Korea.  Even with a car, you end up walking.  And the country has a ton of hills and mountains.  And the food is healthier.  Lots of veggies.  Kimchi is one of the healthiest foods on the planet.  Most meals don’t come with soda like in the U.S.  Yeah, there’s some unhealthy fried and salty stuff, but nothing compared to the crap they have in the States.  Just look at the people on the streets.  A fat person in Seoul would be an average-sized person in Los Angeles.

2) CCTV everywhere.  In parks, on buses, every corner, everywhere.  Say what you want about privacy rights, but I don’t plan on doing anything wrong.  I feel 100% safer when there’s a camera watching my kid in the playground.  And if there’s a crime, I’m covered.

1) Video games, of course!

Survive the Nights on Kickstarter – Creativity is a Survival Trait

We play the game of survival every day.  Work, family, friends, and so on, we’re all just trying to get through the day, save enough acorns for tomorrow, and be happy doing it.  And also creative.  The problem with many “survival” video games is a lack of creativity.  The developer may give you some options but ultimately, there’s a path you have to follow.

Survive the Nights seems to be that rare sandbox that truly delivers creativity.

It has survived and thrived on Kickstarter, kicking well past its goal of £12,000.  With 5 days left as of today, it’s at £86,285.

So what’s the draw?  There’s a whole lot of stuff you can do.  It’s probably the closest to Robinson Crusoe you can get in a game these days.  It’s a zombie world, and to survive in it, you have to take advantage of daylight to scavenge supplies, improve your shelter, and fix up vehicles and so on.  Every building is inhabitable and modifiable.  You use what you scavenge to make traps, fortify your crib, create weapons.  Of course, I don’t expect total MacGyver (a machine gun out of bottle caps and nylon stockings), but it seems you can get pretty creative, or at least, very scrappy.

It’s multiplayer, so you can work with others or kill and loot, just like in the real world.  And just like in the real world, there are a ton of things that’ll mess you up.  If you don’t eat, you get woozy.  If you kill the innocent, your marbles get rattled.  You can go crazy, which I’m sure would happen a lot more than what you see on The Walking Dead.

The awesome-looking game will be out on Windows and Mac sometime next Spring.