Top 14 Console and Handheld Games of 2014

There were a crap ton of awesome games released in 2014, here are the 14 best. The list doesn’t include PC-only title, but does have formerly PC-only titles that saw a console and/or handheld release this year. Sports titles and re-releases will have their own separate categories. Enjoy and let us know what you think.

 

 

Game of the Year

supersmasbros

Super Smash Bros

System: Wii U/ 3DS

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Namco Bandai

Genre: Fighting

Summary

Coming Soon

 

 

The Other Top 14 Games of 2014

bayonetta2

Bayonetta 2

System: Wii U

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Platinum

Genre: Action

Summary

Coming Soon

 

 

bravelydefault

Bravely Default: Fairy Flight

System: 3DS

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Silicon

Genre: RPG

Summary

Coming Soon

 

 

danganronpa2

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

System: Vita

Publisher: NIS America

Developer: Spike Chunsoft

Genre: Adventure

Summary

North America was treated to not only one Danganronpa game, but two. While Danganronpa may lack the pure gameplay of some of the other titles, its engaging mystery adventure storytelling is superb. While we recommend playing them in order, Danganronpa 2 ratchets the setting set by the first to 11 and that makes it in Top 14.

 

 

darksoulsii

Dark Souls II

System: 360, PS3

Publisher: Namco Bandai

Developer: From Software

Genre: RPG

Summary

Coming Soon

 

 

dkctropicalfreeze

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

System: Wii U

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Retro

Genre: Platformer

Summary

Many a gamer groaned when Nintendo’s ace Western development studio’s next game was revealed as a sequel to their excellent Donkey Kong Country Returns. While people still debate whether it was Nintendo’s best use of Retro, there is no question Tropical Freeze turned out to be more than a worthy successor. The fantastic music, tight gameplay, and challenging levels make Tropical Freeze a must-own for Wii U owners and another Retro triumph.

 

 

dragonageinquisition

Dragon Age: Inquisition

System: XB1, PS4, 360, PS3

Publisher: EA

Developer: BioWare

Genre: RPG

Summary

Coming Soon

 

 

farcry4

Far Cry 4

System: XB1, PS4, 360, PS3

Publisher: Ubisoft

Developer: Ubisoft

Genre: FPS

Summary

Far Cry 4 features lush gardens, snowy mountains, and solid variety of missions combined with great gameplay. Much like its predecessors, Far Cry 4 combines slow stealth with high-flying action. Your trip to the Himalayas is fraught with danger, but you’ll keep coming back for more.

 

 

mariokart8

Mario Kart 8

System: Wii U

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Nintendo

Genre: Racing

Summary

Mario Kart 8 flips the tracks in anti-gravity defying ways and, in-turn, flipped the racing genre on its head. The online multiplayer improved and their is an array of new characters and customizable kart parts. Mario Kart 8 pulled off the difficult task of being a GOTY candidate and one of the best in the long-running series.

 

 

shadowofmordor

Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor

System: XB1, PS4

Publisher: Warner Bros

Developer: Monolith

Genre: Action Adventure

Summary

Coming Soon

 

 

roguelegacy

Rogue Legacy

System: PS4, PSN, Vita

Publisher: Cellar Door

Developer: Cellar Door

Genre: Rogue-Like

Summary

One of the best recent trends in gaming is the resurgence of rogue-like games. The mechanic Rogue Legacy uses to differentiate itself from the one life and restart formula is that when you die, you come back as one of your (uniquely gifted or ungifted) children. The game is so addictive that gamers sunk 100s of hours into it without batting an eyelash. That’s when you know its a true GOTY candidate.

 

 

shovelknight

Shovel Knight

System: Wii U, 3DS

Publisher: Yacht Club

Developer: Yacht Club

Genre: Platformer

Summary

Coming Soon

 

 

southparkstickoftruth

South Park: The Stick of Truth

System: 360, PS3

Publisher: Ubisoft

Developer: Obsidian

Genre: RPG

Summary

After several lackluster South Park games, Obsidian teamed up with South Park scribers Trey Parker and Matt Stone to craft the ultimate South Park experience. You play as an original character teaming with the cast of the show. With all the humor you’d expect and Paper Mario-esque gameplay, its a true GOTY candidate

 

 

sunsetoverdrive

Sunset Overdrive

System: XB1

Publisher: Microsoft

Developer: Insomniac

Genre: Shooter

Summary

What happens when an energy drink turns people into monsters?  A lot of fun apparently.  Insomniac crafted a self-aware and over-the-top action game with the humor, action, and style you would expect.  Sunset Overdrive offered plenty of joyus and creative ways to destroy your opponents and Xbone owners had plenty to rejoice in.

 

 

More to Come!

 

 

Top 14 Console and Handheld Games of 2014- Honorable Mentions

There were a crap ton of awesome games released in 2014.  Before we reveal our Top 14 Console and Handheld Games of 2014, here are some great titles that just missed that list, the honorable mentions.  The list doesn’t include PC-only title, but does have formerly PC-only titles that saw a console and/or handheld release this year.  Sports titles and re-releases will have their own separate categories.  Enjoy and let us know what you think.

 

 

alienisolation

Alien: Isolation

System: XB1, PS4, 360, PS3

Publisher: Sega

Developer: Creative Assembly

Genre: Survival Horror

 

 

azurestrikergunvolt

Azure Striker Gunvolt

System: 3DS

Publisher: Inti

Developer: Inti

Genre: Shooter

 

 

bindingofisaacrebirth

The Binding of Isaac: ReBirth

System: PS4, PSN, Vita

Publisher: Nicalis

Developer: Nicalis

Genre: Rogue-Like

 

 

codadvancedwarfare

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

System: XB1, PS4, 360, PS3

Publisher: Activision

Developer: Sledgehammer

Genre: FPS

 

 

captaintoad

Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker

System: Wii U

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Nintendo

Genre: Puzzle

 

 

childoflight

Child of Light

System: XB1, PS4, Wii U, XBLA, PSN

Publisher: Ubisoft

Developer: Ubisot

Genre: Adventure

 

 

d4darkdreams

D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die

System: XB1

Publisher: Microsoft

Developer: Access

Genre: Adventure

 

 

destiny

Destiny

System: XB1, PS4, 360, PS3

Publisher: Activision

Developer: Bungie

Genre: FPS

 

 

dontstarve

Don’t Starve

System: PS4, Vita

Publisher: Klei

Developer: Klei

Genre: Rogue-Like

 

 

theevilwithin

The Evil Within

System: XB1, PS4, 360, PS3

Publisher: Bethesda

Developer: Tango

Genre: Survival Horror

 

 

fantasylife

Fantasy Life

System: 3DS

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Level-5

Genre: Simulation

 

 

forzahorizon2

Forza Horizon 2

System: XB1, 360

Publisher: Microsoft

Developer: Playground

Genre: Racing

 

 

frozensynapseprime

Frozen Synapse: Prime

System: PS4, PSN, Vita

Publisher: Double Eleven

Developer: Double Eleven

Genre: Strategy

 

 

geometrywarsdimensions

Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions

System: XB1, PS4, XBLA, PSN

Publisher: Sierra

Developer: Lucid

Genre: Shooter

 

 

hyrulewarriors

Hyrule Warriors

System: Wii U

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Team Ninja

Genre: Action

 

 

infamoussecondson

InFamous: Second Son

System: PS4

Publisher: Sony

Developer: Sucker Punch

Genre: Action Adventure

 

 

kirbytripledeluxe

Kirby Triple Deluxe

System: 3DS

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: HAL Laboratory

Genre: Platformer

 

 

littlebigplanet3

Little Big Planet 3

System: PS4, PS3

Publisher: Sony

Developer: Sumo Digital

Genre: Platformer

 

 

luftrausers

Luftrausers

System: PS4, PSN, Vita

Publisher: Devolver Digital

Developer: Vlambeer

Genre: Shooter

 

 

outlast

Outlast

System: PS4

Publisher: Red Barrels

Developer: Red Barrels

Genre: Survival Horror

 

 

personaq

Persona Q: Shadows of Labyrinth

System: 3DS

Publisher: Atlus

Developer: Atlus

Genre: RPG

 

 

proflaytonazranlegacy

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy

System: 3DS

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Level-5

Genre: Puzzle

 

 

pushmoworld

Pushmo World

System: Wii U

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Intelligent Systems

Genre: Puzzle

 

 

scramkitty

Scram Kitty and His Buddy on Rails

System: Wii U

Publisher: Dakko Dakko

Developer: Dakko Dakko

Genre: Action

 

 

shantaepiratescurse

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse

System: 3DS

Publisher: WayForward

Developer: WayForward

Genre: Platformer

 

 

stealthinc2

Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones

System: Wii U

Publisher: Curve

Developer: Curve

Genre: Puzzle

 

 

supertimeforce

Super Time Force

System: XB1, XBLA

Publisher: Microsoft

Developer: Capy

Genre: Shooter

 

 

theswapper

The Swapper

System: PS4, Vita

Publisher: Curve

Developer: Facepalm

Genre: Puzzle

 

 

theatrhythmffcurtaincall

Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy: Curtain Call

System: 3DS

Publisher: Square Enix

Developer: Indies Zero

Genre: Rhythm

 

 

titanfall

TitanFall

System: XB1, 360

Publisher: Microsoft

Developer: Respawn

Genre: FPS

 

 

transistor

Transistor

System: PS4

Publisher: Supergiant

Developer: Supergiant

Genre: RPG

 

 

valiantheroes

Valiant Hearts: The Great War

System: XB1, PS4, Wii U, XBLA, PSN

Publisher: Ubisoft

Developer: Ubisot

Genre: Action

 

 

velocity2x

Velocity 2x

System: PSN, Vita

Publisher: FuturLab

Developer: FuturLab

Genre: Puzzle

 

 

walkingdeadseason2

The Walking Dead: Season Two

System: XB1, PS4, XBLA, PSN, Vita

Publisher: Telltale

Developer: Telltale

Genre: Adventure

 

 

wolfamongus

The Wolf Among Us

System: XB1, PS4, XBLA, PSN, Vita

Publisher: Telltale

Developer: Telltale

Genre: Adventure

 

 

wolfensteinneworder

Wolfenstein: The New Order

System: XB1, PS4, 360, PS3

Publisher: Bethesda

Developer: Machinegames

Genre: FPS

 

 

Gaming Topic of the Week- PlayStation Memories

Every week (or as often as we can), we will get a group of great writers to contribute their thoughts on a particular topic about video games. Each author can address the issue how they please and give their own unique opinions. Please stay tuned to one-hitkills.com and @onehitkills for updates. Please feel free to give us any feedback you feel is necessary and enjoy.

 

By Francis McCabe- @onehitkills

I was late to the party on the PlayStation.  All I knew growing up was Nintendo and the N64 with Mario and Zelda consumed me.  Plus, PlayStation wasn’t featured in my monthly gaming mag, Nintendo Power.  But as I grew older and the internet boomed, my interest in Sony’s consoles (and the Xbox) only grew as I decided to broaden my gaming horizons.  The game that pushed me over the edge into my first PlayStation console was Kingdom Hearts.  The fanboy-drenched blend of Disney (my favorite) and Final Fantasy was just too much to resist.  As I worked and earned money for myself, I bought myself a PS2, and a copy of Kingdom Hearts.  I don’t know if it was the new console smell or the immersion of Kingdom Hearts, but it was love at first play.

I quickly bought Final Fantasy X and continued to add much more to my collection.  Since backwards compatibility was still a thing, I also would go to Gamestop every so often and add PS1 games to my back catalogue.  Since Dragon Warrior VII hasn’t appeared again in NA, it has become one of my most cherished gaming possessions.  For the simple fact I can still play the game at my leisure.  I rediscovered my love for Final Fantasy and many other unique games I didn’t know even existed.

The PS2’s insane sales worldwide saw a nearly unprecedented variety of games.  Even the quirkiest Japanese titles that would never leave the other side of the pacific ocean were localized.  In addition to playing epic and beloved RPGs like Final Fantasy XII, Dragon Quest VIII, and Kingdom Hearts II, I discovered some of my now favorite RPG series like Shin Megami Tensei (and its spinoffs), Disgaea, Shadow Hearts, and Xenosaga.  That’s not even mentioning games so crazy, you’d be wondering what the developers were on.  Katamari Damacy was one of those.  It’s music and challenges were addictive and it is still one of my Day 1 buy series.  I even own Mister Mosquito, a game where you play as a mosquito looking to suck the blood of every member of a family.  It was stuff you couldn’t make up and I loved it.

Sony’s own 1st party lineup combined its Japanese origins with the booming western development scene.  God of War, Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, Sly Cooper, Team Ico, and more.  I played them all too.  They beefed up a lineup that is nearly unparalleled.  Not to mention PS1 staples Gran Turismo and Wipeout continued.  Even with owning a Gamecube and Xbox, the PS2 instantly became my most played console and I ended up owning nearly 100 titled.

I bought the PS3 when it came out in 2006.  Despite the high cost, I knew I would get a ton of great exclusive games.  It didn’t quite give me the total high that the PS2 did, but it provided a ton of great games.  I not only bought new games, but the HD versions of tons of classics from the previous generation like all-time favorites Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Final Fantasy X/X-2, Kingdom Hearts series, and the Sly Cooper series.  I rebought even more on the PSN store to duplicate my PS1 collection and grab games I missed out on.  Seeing that games like the classic Suikoden II are still coming is a great sign.  I never got a chance to play it and wasn’t willing to shell out $100 for a copy.

The PSP and Vita gave me a ton of niche games and ports, but those niche games and ports were awesome.  With the exception of the PS4, I’ve come to own every PlayStation console.  In their own ways, I’ve mined countless hours of enjoyment out of each one.  I want to own every console, but PlayStation consoles will continue to be a priority.  Hopefully, there will be 20 more years of PlayStation consoles and 20 more years of re-creating that moment from the first time I turned on Kingdom Hearts.

 

 

By Chris Scott- @kariyanine, Website

20 years of Memories

In some ways it is hard for me to grasp that the Playstation has been around for 20 years. I mean, I was there since the beginning and had already been playing games for a decade plus beforehand. But when I think back on the Playstation it seems like it wasn’t so long ago that I was contemplating trading in my Sega Genesis for this new magical Sony device that would in fact go on to revolutionize my gaming lifestyle.

20 years is a long time to look back on and there are a ton of great gaming memories that I have had with Playstation but the below are a few of my favorites.

Late night gaming sessions have always been a thing with me but the best, most memorable ones always featured friends. One late night I found myself and a friend in a darkened room playing the original Silent Hill on an old Commodore 64 monitor. We’d trade off playing various sections of the game while offering each other commentary and help as we tried to figure out the twisted puzzles that we came across. At one point we were tasked with going to the school in the town and my friend handed over the controller for my turn at driving the game. The school was, as it should be, extremely creepy and with the lights in the room out and just the glow from the monitor the atmosphere was set for some excellent scares. I walk into an atrium and out of nowhere comes a little ghost child walking directly towards me. I screamed, panicked, and emptied an entire clip into the apparition before it disappeared.

After both of us realized it wasn’t something that could hurt us, we got a good laugh. But we turned on the lights after that. It still stands to this day as the scariest moment I’ve ever experienced in a game.

Another time, with the same friend from Silent Hill, we played an entire tournament of NFL Blitz, which I won by using the games busted mechanics to make Dan Marino into the most awesome running quarterback ever. Anyway, not the point… after this tournament my other friends left and we were hanging out in the basement when my friend pulls out this racing game, Gran Turismo. At this point in time I wasn’t much of a racing game fan, in fact my interest probably lived and died with Mario Kart. But he says he wants to show me this game. And he does, and it is amazing looking. Easily the best looking game I had seen to date and better yet, it played great too and I found I had a knack for it. We started a new career mode and took turns running through the license tests and cup progressions. One of us would drive, while the other would navigate. Navigation wasn’t really necessary but it was fun to imagine we were part of the crew helping to win the races. We played for about six hours straight and when I left his house as the sun was rising, I left with a love for racing games that has stayed with me since that time.

While many of my favorite memories of the Playstation revolve around playing with friends, including countless hours of NHL hockey, NFL Blitz, and WWE Warzone, not all do. I’m not even sure I’d classify the next memory as a favorite but it is one that will never leave me. My grandfather had been suffering from cancer for quite some time and eventually he succumbed to the disease. My mom rushed up to Massachusetts to be by her mother and sister’s sides but left my Dad, my brother, and myself behind. We’d eventually head up to attend the memorial service but there wasn’t anything added to having us up there at the current time. The whole situation left me feeling useless and depressed. So while everything was being taken care of six hours away from me, I locked myself in my room and started a fresh run of Final Fantasy VII. And over the next three days, I destroyed it. The constant random battles helped me to just zone out and help me through what was a really sad moment for me and my Playstation helped me through it.

The Playstation has meant a lot to me over the years. It has made me closer to friends and helped me through trying times. I’m glad to have had it for twenty years and I hope to have it for another twenty.

 

 

By Nick DeLong- @MGNickD, Website

The original Playstation is interesting for a variety of reasons, though it’s mainly loved for its nearly peerless library of games. It’s absolutely one of the consoles of choice for JRPG fans like myself, with countless brilliant RPGs peppering its library over the 5 years of its hardware generation. I would even dare to say that, with the exception of Nintendo’s early consoles, no other game system has spawned so many brilliant, revered franchises for gamers of my tastes.

I could easily rant and rave about the original Playstation all night long but, in my eyes, the best way to share my own Playstation memories is to list my 5 favorite PS1 games . It was no easy choice, given the amount of brilliant games on Sony’s fledgling console, but I somehow managed to pull it off! Go me! Anyhow, here’s my top 5. In order to avoid making it JRPG: the list, I’ve limited my selection to one game per franchise, including spin-offs. Let’s get to it, shall we?

5 – Mega Man X4

Capcom’s Blue Bomber has always been a favorite of mine, having starred in many of the games I coveted as a child.  As I aged with the series, I found myself enjoying the slightly more “mature” Mega Man X titles a little more, and there is little doubt that X4 stands tall as the best of that bunch. I could never forget the countless hours my friend and I put into this game, scouring it for secrets and figuring out the most efficient boss order. It made for the perfect single-but-totally-multiplayer experience. Really though, it’s the perfect sprite graphics (that still amaze me today) and challenging but fair gameplay that ensure repeat visits from gamers like me.

4 – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

If it’s not already apparent from my fifth place game,  I love the classic 2D games of days long gone.  It is for this very reason that the Castlevania entries from Symphony and on stood out to me as absolutely brilliant works of gaming art. Helping pioneer the excellent “Metroid-Vania” spin that I’ve completely fallen in love with, Symphony of the Night was everything that a Castlevania game should be: challenging in all the right ways, addictive, and amazing to look at. Even if some of the voice acting is hilariously bad to today’s standards, this is one game that can be played again and again.

3 – Suikoden II

If there is one franchise that I would say is criminally overlooked (something I say all the time, I know), I would definitely pick Konami’s brilliant Suikoden series.  Sure, the 3rd and 4th installments are kind of garbage, but the two that hit the original Playstation are absolute masterpieces. The biggest draw of this game is its ridiculously large cast (108 playable party members!) and the cool, innovative castle system. Early in the game, you gain control of a dwelling for your army and, as you recruit characters into your cause, the dwelling expands into a massive, active castle. A great story, fun characters, addictive battles, and one of the bets paces in gaming keeps the game going from the intro right through to the credits. Absolutely brilliant stuff.

The original Suikoden can be found on PSN for a paltry few dollars so, if you have a pulse and any interest in JRPGs, get out there and grab it up!  It’s worth every dime and will surely sate your appetite until the vastly superior Suikoden 2 appears on PSN.

2 – Parasite Eve

Ah yes, Squaresoft’s “Cinematic RPG”. Parasite Eve arrived with that strange billing, promising deep RPG gameplay, unprecedented cinematics and a horror themed adventure. It could very much be seen as a combination of Final Fantasy, Resident Evil and the loot collecting antics of the hack and slash genre, creating a completely irresistible experience for RPG and horror nuts like me.

What really draws me into this game is its interesting, addictive item customization system. While working your way through the main quest, you come across items simply known as junk that can be brought into the precinct that serves as the game’s main hub. From there, you can add slots to your weapons and armor to be filled with unique abilities and augments, creating an addicting sense of power and customization . All of these customized items are then carried over into subsequent playthroughs, allowing players to build an absolutely monstrous arsenal to take into the immensely challenging bonus dungeon. Really addictive stuff.

It may have aged rather poorly on the polygonal vomit engine that the PS1 was capable of producing, but it’s still one of the most unique, playable games available on that masterful console.  Given the strength of that particular library of games, that is saying A LOT.

1 – Final Fantasy Tactics

Even though The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past dominated my childhood and can never be ousted from its thrown, no game has sent me into an addicted frenzy like Final Fantasy Tactics did. Coming hot on the heels of the massive success of Final Fantasy VII, Tactics introduced the beloved series lore to the relatively new strategy RPG genre.

Adopting the venerable, innovative job system first introduced in Final Fantasy III and V, Tactics featured thousands of combinations of jobs and abilities among your squad of 5 fully customizable party members. Though a little dated by today’s standards (and with a sloppy translation), the tale weaved in Final Fantasy Tactics was an incredibly compelling one stuffed with strife and betrayal between warring factions set in the fascinating world of Ivalice.

Players can and will easily spend hundreds of hours in the game simply leveling up their party and mastering the jobs available before being able to put this one down. The unstoppable combination of the Final Fantasy universe, compelling narrative, endlessly customizable battles, and incredible music puts this title on top of them all as an enduring PS1 classic and, for me, the greatest game of all time.

 

 

By Wally- @TempleofRetro

I was completely and instantly hooked by the advertising and marketing of the Sony Playstation. The intensity, the ‘cool’ factor…it was all there, and upon playing the PS1 for the first time, I wasn’t disappointed.
In fact, the first time I played Sony’s first console, my brother and I had to rent it. We wanted to play it a couple of times before we decided to put our money together and buy one. We rented the console, along with Air Combat.

We were blown away.

Was Air Combat any good? Not particularly. But the sharp graphics and rockin’ CD quality soundtrack was far from any Super Nintendo or Genesis game we had played. An hour in, and we were ready to make the purchase.
My fondest memories of those early years centered around one game in particular: Twisted Metal.
Those who played Twisted Metal during that time know exactly what I’m talking about. Fast-paced action, explosions, and rock music? It was a recipe for success.

Speaking of success, the ability to have crystal quality REAL music had a major, if not overlooked, impact on the Playstation. Those who played Tony Hawk, Smackdown, or pretty much any other PS1 game remembers hearing musical soundtracks that were comparable to anything you could buy in store, and in some cases, were compilations of artists that lended their music to a game. No more chip tunes or synthesized midi sounds. This was the real deal and it had a serious impact on game play.

In fact, take Battle Arena Toshinden for example. It was bundled with my PS1 when I purchased it, and after playing it, I was delighted to discover that I could put it in my CD player, and listen to the game’s soundtrack in my bedroom. Doesn’t seem like much by today’s standards, but at the time, it made a huge difference in a gamer’s experience.

Think about Resident Evil. Without the sound capabilities of the Playstation, how much less intense would the experience be? Go back and play Resident Evil with the volume cranked up. Then try and tell me that the sound and effects didn’t make that game what it is.

For as many innovations as the Playstation brought to the video game industry, the adaptation of CD quality sound and music in gaming is what helped to push the PS1 as the leader of a generation. It’s an often overlooked detail, but shouldn’t be.

 

 

By Pierre Goguen- @Atsinganoi, Website

Until a few months ago when my mother-in-law found a PS1 in her basement and gave it to me, I never owned one. She thinks it belonged to my sister-in-law’s ex-boyfriend. All I know is that I finally got my hands on a console I’d always wanted.

A month after the PS1 came out in North America, I turned 15. I wasn’t into video games as much by that age and I honestly remember none of the marketing for any of the 5th gen consoles. Those were also the years that I started PC gaming more than on console. Plus, I still loved my Genesis. So it was my two younger brothers who saved up their money to buy our household’s next console. They went with the N64: the 2nd worst console I’ve ever owned (don’t worry, Wii, you’re still the worst).

So when people were playing Crash Bandicoot and Final Fantasy VII, I was playing Diablo and Heroes III. It was only maybe in 1999 or the early 00s that I’m first got to play a PS1 game. I had a friend who would often call me over when he’d get stuck in a game. He’d borrowed the console from another friend and couldn’t finish a certain battle in a particular RPG. I went over, played a game I’d never played before, finished the battle, watched a few cutscenes, and then got very confused when he started crying. I’d just seen some girl get stabbed straight through her chest by some emo dude. It was weird.

Around that same time, I played a bit of Symphony of the Night and Wild Arms at another friend’s house. I immediately loved Wild Arms and immediately forgot all about SotN for about half a decade. While still in university, my roommate dropped out but left his PS1 and a few games. I beat Syphon Filter, Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, and got to the emd of the 3rd disc in Final Fantasy VIII, which was already, and remains, my favourite FF game of all time (I’d previously played it on PC, got to the end of the third disc, but then moved away for university).

I had no idea if any of these games were considered good or bad, classics or forgettable. I thought they were alright, except for MGS, but it was only once I got my PS3 that I started to appreciate the PS1. I borowed SotN from the same friend with whom I’d first played it. It quickly entered my top 10 favourite games list. I beat FF VIII (FINALLY! Still my fave). I’ve gotten fairly far in FF VII and am liking it. Same goes for FF Tactics. Crash Bandicoot is awful, and MGS still is as well. I discovered that my favourite genre, RPGs, made themselves at home on the PS1 like no genre seemingly had done so completely before, so I’ve got a couple Wild Arms games, Legend of Dragoon, and Disgaea already bought, with stuff like Suikoden, Grandia, games from the Shin Megami Tensei series, Legend of Mana, Chrono Cross, Final Fantasy IX, and Xenogears at the top of my wishlist.

Besides RPGs, I’ve already bought a few Gex and Spyro games, plus the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games I’m loving. PaRappa the Rapper, Parasite Eve, Abe, Vib-Ribbon, Mega Man X games, Mr. Driller, Twisted Metal, Klonoa, Arc the Lad, Legacy of Kain games, Silent Hill, Rayman, and a tonne of other games are on my wishlist.

Looking back now, 20 years after its Japanese release, the PS1 is far and away the console I didn’t own growing up that I wish I’d had the most. To me anyway, and no disrespect to the N64 and Saturn, it was clearly the superior 5th gen console.

 

Gaming Topic of the Week- Day 1 Patches

Every week (or as often as we can), we will get a group of great writers to contribute their thoughts on a particular topic about video games. Each author can address the issue how they please and give their own unique opinions. Please stay tuned to one-hitkills.com and @onehitkills for updates. Please feel free to give us any feedback you feel is necessary and enjoy.

 

By Francis McCabe- @onehitkills

It was just a few years ago that I would be cursing out a publisher/developer for delaying a game I highly anticipated.  For the most part the finished product was delayed for the better.  There were less glitches and it ended up being an enjoyable addition to my gaming collection.  Now, looking back on that feeling of disappointment in game delays, I see a classic case of be careful what you ask for, you may get it.

With the latest problems plaguing games that are on strict holiday deadlines like Assassin’s Creed Unity, Destiny, and Halo Master Chief Collection, it is easy to see more and more publishers rushing games out the door for the holidays.  Oh the game wasn’t ready and has multiple bugs and other issues, don’t worry, we’ll eventually fix it by way of a long downloadable patch.  And we’ll keep doing it until we get it right, or at least the consumer complaints subside.

Even large gaming media review sites like IGN have begun delaying reviews (or at least their final summaries and scores) to allow for the game to be tested under the same conditions consumers face.  Ubisoft also recently embargoed the reviews for the bug-ridden Assassin’s Creed Unity to not make an impact on their Day 1, sales.  Without the ensuing consumer backlash over the $60 product, this practice of delaying the final conclusions might’ve become more commonplace with major publishers beyond Ubisoft.  Game sales are heavily frontloaded so digital and especially retail pre-orders are at a paramount.  No publisher wants to take a hit on hundreds of thousands are even millions of unsold games that retailers want to clear out because the consumer waited or decided against buying their game.

In addition, its a really frustrating practice.  There is nothing like loading up the newest, hottest new game, putting it in your PS4, and seeing the update screen.  You just sit there, waiting, waiting, waiting.  Your enthusiasm starts, waning, waning, waning.  By the time, your game updates and restarts, your either playing a game on your 3DS or your on Twitter complaining about it.  That doesn’t even mention the system updates.  While gaming has come a long way in the last 2 generations with online integration and downloadable content, bug fixing, and multiplayer, I still long for that Wii U game Nintendo just delayed.  That game they delayed so people could enjoy right out of the box, without a Day 1 patch.

 

 

By Chris Scott- @kaiyanine, Website

The last ten years or so have driven us into a digital revolution. We have nearly everything we could want instantly at our fingertips. Music, movies, books, games, information, it is all there for the us provided you know where to look for it. As consumers, we are living in the ultimate age of convenience.

But consumers aren’t the only ones operating in this age, those that produce the content we consume do as well. While we can easily identify the digital revolutions benefits to the consumer, content producers see a handful of benefits as well and not all are necessarily great.

Once upon a time, when a company wanted to deliver a product to market they had to make sure it was just right when it hit shelves. Now, particularly with games, this doesn’t always happen. Patches on launch day to fix known bugs, enable locked modes, and do a variety of other things are now commonplace.

On the surface, a day one patch that makes the game you just bought a better experience than what it would have been without it seems like a great idea. And in some cases it is but more often than not, these day one patches are last minute adjustments and fixes denoting development wasn’t necessarily done when primary development was done. It reeks a bit like, “We had to get this game out at this time regardless of if it was done or not.”

Too many games over the last few years have shipped to consumers in an unfinished or broken state. Sim City, Battlefield 4, Driveclub, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, are some of the more high profile ones recently. All launched with broken or unfinished in some regard and all launched with day one patches that did little to fix anything. And because we keep buying these broken and unfinished games, we allowed this to happen.

The days of just popping your cartridge or disc into your console and the game just working are over. Publishers and developers have taken our purchasing of these products as acceptance that this is just the way things are now. This of course doesn’t make it right but it is also not going to change.

But we aren’t helpless in this fight. By voicing our dissatisfaction at the publishers and developers over these issues was can hopefully make them more cognizant of them. Our complaints against Sim City and Battlefield ended up with EA granting players Origin games and promises to be better on future games. Sony has promised Driveclub fans free bonus content. And both EA and Sony provided refunds for their shoddy merchandise. When we speak out on these issues, we aren’t speaking into a void and these companies do hear us. And more importantly their shareholders hear us and nothing motivates change like a hit to the wallet. This is why Microsoft is shaking in their boots right now over the state of Halo: The Master Chief Collection because its failure to work well for most players since launch has shaken consumer confidence in Halo 5, a product much more important in Microsoft’s grand Xbox plan.

Day one patches don’t have to be bad though. Even in the old days, games had bugs and glitches that slipped through to the finished product. The difference was they generally weren’t major bugs that caused the overall experience to suffer. Even so though, I’m sure that developers would have loved to fix some of them after the retail release but couldn’t due to technology. We have that technology now though and if used properly day one patches should make our gaming time better. It is just a matter of us making sure that developers and publishers understand that releasing things broken with the promise to fix it all on day one isn’t acceptable. If we can get that then we can have the best of both worlds.

 

By Douglas Carter- @ThatZooooooooo, Website

Oh boy, you’ve got a new game and ready to play it! Let’s pop it in and

“Downloading update(s)

But the game is brand new… It just came out today! It seems they released a patch already on release day

Playtesting is important. Making sure your game functions and doesn’t do anything it shouldn’t is pretty vital. Sometimes, you don’t catch all the issues during playtesting. This is where patches/updates come in handy in modern gaming. It lets you fix what’s wrong and make the experience better!

Sometimes, the devs catch something wrong between the first print/distribution and street date. It’s too late to recall it, so they’re stuck with it. This is where patches also come in handy. The devs can develop a patch to fix the issue so that when players put in the game on Launch day, they can update to fix the issues!

Personally, I have no problem with Day 1 updates. As long as it fixes things and makes the game better, then I’m all for it! As I said above, sometimes they catch something after they send it off to be printed, but want to fix it. They develop the fix and have it ready while it’s printing!

My issue here is when devs release a game that’s so far broken that they shouldn’t have released it yet. They needed to spend more time working out bugs, but decided to rush it for one reason or another.

For this, I always cite Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, Superman 64, or Big Rigs, 3 games highly notorious for how buggy/incomplete they were. It was clear they needed to spend more time working on them. In the case of Superman 64, there was no way to update it, so that’s what you got. Back then, what was shipped, you got. In rare cases, they may have made a batch of updated cartridges to address certain issues, like how Ocarina of Time had 3 cycles (v1.0, v1.1, v1.2).

Because of that, many companies made sure their games worked. Sure, there could still be glitches, but you can’t expect to find every single little thing. Companies took their time to make sure their games functioned well. Again, I cite Ocarina of Time, Super Mario 64, and Sonic 3 & Knuckles here. On the surface, from a bugs standpoint, they operate perfectly fine on a normal playthrough. Most players probably won’t encounter any problems. But, if you start screwing around, you’ll see all the bugs the game really has. But, for the most part, you have to be actively trying to invoke these and shouldn’t happen in most normal gameplay. But yeah, at least companies tried to make functional product because they knew they only got 1 shot at it back then. Nowadays, with the advent of digital distribution and such, you can fix problems on the fly by releasing updates for people to download, which is all fine and dandy.

This is where my issue comes in.

A lot of devs seemed to have gotten into this “patch it later” mentality. They’re too busy rushing games out to meet deadlines and make money that they let more things then they should slip thorough. Take Assassin’s Creed Unity. It is apparent they needed more time to get all the bugs worked out, but they decided to rush it out anyway.

This is where I get my britches in a knot, so to speak.

Personally, I’d rather wait extra time for a product that’s 99% functional from the get-go with trifling issues that don’t affect much rather than have a buggy mess now that needs to be fixed before I can continue to play it.

Then there’s also people that can’t connect to online for one reason or another. How are they supposed to patch their copy? If you release a game that has a game-breaking bug, then those people will never be able to finish the game because they can’t update it to fix it.

It’s a bit off the topic a bit I suppose, but that’s my stance.

My issue isn’t with Day 1 patches, it’s with devs rushing games out and not taking their time to test their games appropriately.

I know this might be a bit on the short side, but I hope it was insightful nonetheless.

 

 

By Randy Keiser- @LiberalLion06

Video Game Problems

Halo: Master Chief Collection. Battlefield 4. Assassins Creed: Unity. Grand Theft Auto V. NBA 2K14 and NBA 2K15. Drive Club. What do these games in common? Awesome multiplayer modes, definitely, but they also share a unique quality, each game has had game breaking problems when launched. While some games suffer from glitches, such as the occasion hiccup in a map or the like, but games have suffered from completely game breaking problems.

Now, before you stop reading because I seem “entitled”, as I have read many comments on message boards and reddit, but we as consumers have expectations, we expect when we purchase goods that they will work as they are intended. I will admit and state, that these games (for the most part) do currently work.

There are two games that I have played extensively and would like to discuss their problems. I intended to purchase Halo: MCC, but due to problems with the online capabilities, I have held off until the game is working. The two games I have this experience with are Battlefield 4 and Grand Theft Auto V.

I purchased the Xbox One and Battlefield 4 in November of 2013. The campaign, which is arguably the least popular first person shooter campaign, worked fine. The online features, however, the most popular aspect of the game, was a mess. If you were successful in starting the game up without difficulty, only half the battle was won. Once in a multiplayer match, at the conclusion of it, the game would restart to the dashboard. To play another match, you would have to restart the entire game. It was not only frustrating, but infuriating.

Another example is Grand Theft Auto V. I will admit, I loved the campaign, and in my opinion, it deserved the high scores that it received from a majority of gaming websites. Grand Theft Auto: Online, on the other hand, was advertised as an interesting match of online free-roam, with RPG elements. Please note, this game mode was released after the launch of the game, presumably to allow more polish. This was not the case. While this is harsh, the introduction of the online mode, was a colossal failure. Upon entering the game mode, you were required to enter into an introduction. I went through this “introduction” at least a dozen times, because the game would always freeze. If you were successful in surviving this battle, the game was plagued with resetting all of your online progress.

These two games are just a few examples of some of the more prevalent problems plaguing the game industry this generation of consoles. I admit, I am not an insider, and lack the resources to investigate whether the heart of this issue is in the new hardware and reliance on the “cloud”, or if this is a developer software side issue. But, one cannot deny that these problems are much more prevalent this generation, than ever before. Assassins Creed: Unity, was just released and is very buggy, containing some of the more hilarious glitches that I’ve seen in a game in some time.

After that introduction, the real problem I have with the gaming industry is the unfinished feeling of several games. In 2013, sources have indicated software sales of nearly $15 billion1. With sales that large, one must pose the question, why are games being published in an unfinished state? If you want to purchase a car, you expect the car to run, and 99.9% of the time the car runs (I’m making an assumption for the purposes of an example). For video games, when problems persist, they are not usually small issues, but large, wide-scaled issues plaguing the entire game. I understand that there are unexpected issues that are unseen. However, these is no reason that games should be released when they do not work. There are alternatives to the current state: releasing alphas, betas, or demos. Unfortunately, many of the game developers refuse to do this. Games then are released without bug-testing or without testing the servers. These problems are not only foreseeable, but completely preventable.

At this point, you may ask, what is the significance of the car industry analogy? Well, the video game industry, is the only industry in which products are released including bugs, glitches, or even server-side issues, without major pushback from the consumers. The car industry and the video game industry is not a complete match, as they are two completely different markets. While it is no doubt true that gamers quickly express rage online through forums, reddit, or the like, the lack of voice that gamers have to correcting the problems within the games is arguably less than in other areas of consumer products. Not to sound stereotypical, but gamers lack the persuasive and financial ability to push back towards the game developes. Unlike the car industry, where investors can simply sell their stock, in the video game industry, companies frequently maintain stable levels of stock even when the game is broken.

Without a voice, developers “may” decide to push games out of the door in order to meet the deadline set by publishers. It really is a shame that this continues to occur, and that developers would rather release the game as is, rather than delay games or even open the games up to the public to test them.

In my opinion, the real problem, can be minimized to one thing: a lack of respect to the consumer. These developers release the games, because they know the consumer will purchase them, and that in the future, they have the ability to fix any issues. In the car industry, if there is an issue, it is understandable for there to be a small fail rate, but in the video game industry these issues are system-wide, and even among every game they.

While these issues in games may be temporary, there is no reason that consumers should serve as the testers for the game. The consumers deserve more respect than that.

 

 

Gaming Topic of the Week- Storytelling in Video Games

Every week (or as often as we can), we will get a group of great writers to contribute their thoughts on a particular topic about video games. Each author can address the issue how they please and give their own unique opinions. Please stay tuned to one-hitkills.com and @onehitkills for updates. Please feel free to give us any feedback you feel is necessary and enjoy.

 

By Francis McCabe- @onehitkills

‘What can games learn from film? Nothing’- Shigeru Miyamoto

Just one recent comment from gaming legend and Nintendo executive Shigeru Miyamoto has completely summed up this up swelling of “cinematic” games.  For every game that mixes a compelling narrative with great gameplay, such as cult classic Spec-Ops: The Line (a game with a profound ending that made you reexamine the choices you made throughout), there are heavy-fisted, story-oriented games like Beyond: Two Souls that struggle to engage neither the gamer nor the cinemaphile in me.

Storytelling in games started simply.  There was the “damsel in distress” in Super Mario Bros, the “save the world” in Legend of Zelda, “good scientist vs evil mad scientist” in Mega Man, “why am I so cool” in Sonic the Hedgehog, “whoa, that’s a girl” in Metroid, and the “why is the Red Mage so useless” in Final Fantasy.

Even if you chose to erase terrible FMV “movie-like” experiences with little gameplay like Night Trap from you memory, Narratives started expanding with the SNES and Genesis.  Series like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Phantasy Star, and Shining Force combined a compelling narrative with great gameplay.  They turned the RPG genre in to the go-to genre for storytelling.  Mario didn’t need a story beyond saving the princess, but a RPG wasn’t worth your time unless it had to have interesting characters too.  Otherwise, the 30+ hour slog would bore you into losing interest.

As gaming evolved, the narratives overall still come down mostly to save the world or save this person (who may or may not be the key to saving the world).  Even Mass Effect, a series lauded for its narrative and choice system, came under great fire for the ending to the trilogy in Mass Effect 3.  It was an ending the developers and script-writer sought fit, but not the audience.  It was the equivalent to having a bad series-finale of your favorite TV show.

While certain games are able to scratch the gamer itch while providing a good compelling story (like Spec-Ops) and games can be fun without a story (Mario is still king of the platformer genre), I haven’t found a game yet that aspired to be “movie-like” that I enjoyed.  David Cage, who with developer Quantic Dream, have been trying to accomplish this for over a decade.  Another Sony series, Uncharted, for example, is like delicious popcorn with a delicious butter and cheese flavorings.  The script jells with the fact that your still playing a video game, and the game is fun while giving you short pauses to tell the enjoyable story.  Uncharted scribe Amy Hennig is one of the best in the industry thanks to her ability to work with the develop team to make this delicious popcorn.

Examples like Cage and Quantic Dream, on the other hand, is like McDonalds trying to release a filet-mignon burger.  It just ends up being disappointing as a burger with a meat not properly prepared to be best savored, a fried meat that defeats the purpose of filet mignon.  Their stories, held on their own merit, don’t scratch my cinemaphile itch.  They just end up being over-bloated.  And the game elements are well, just not fun.  I’ve had the same experience with Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain, and, most recently, Beyond: Two Souls.  Most people will point to Telltale’s The Walking Dead as the antithesis to my point that “movie-like” games can exist just on story, but The Walking Dead’s gameplay is minimalist at his best and just doesn’t intrigue my gamer itch.  While developers keep trying to make more “cinematic experiences,” the Miyamoto quote should be in the back of their mind.  Games can’t learn anything from movies, they need to forge their own path of storytelling.  And sometimes, a Big Mac is just all what people want.

 

 

By Andrew Cook- @MasterMastermnd

Video games are important to me as an art form and always have been. The instincts I’ve taken as a writer from game storytelling are invaluable, even though that flies against the conventional wisdom about stories in games. Whether I’m fighting to protect Hyrule, uncovering the mystery of the Metroids, or saving the world in Final Fantasy, there is no shortage of great experiences to be had. That being said, playing video games as a writer is a guilty pleasure, akin to adults reading YA books for fun. One of the most fascinating aspects of storytelling in games is how it’s at once immediately satisfying and has so much unfulfilled potential.

Video game stories are often told through cutscenes. This isn’t a problem in itself, but usually they butt against the gameplay in a way that segregates the two, rather than allowing them to embrace and comment on each other. Some understand the core component of a video game that makes it unique is its gameplay, and have tried to break down storytelling barriers by mixing the two, but so far we haven’t progressed far beyond QTE’s and story beats where you keep control of the character. There are two video games in particular I believe have reached the zenith of combining story and gameplay into a seamlessly integrated whole. These are my two favorite stories in video games.

The first is Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Sons of Liberty is a dark and complex game, wrapping a grim story about manufactured consent, sham democracy, and America’s tendency to destroy in other countries the democratic ideals it purports to stand for into an elaborate post-modern comment on the form and expectations of sequels and video games in general. The game has substance and wit without being humorless, and often uses gameplay to make its points. Note the pointed difference in character between Snake and Raiden, challenging the power fantasy most games rely on, and painting an effective portrait of the distance between the player and the characters in the fantasies they enjoy. Note how the game purposefully robs you of the satisfaction of finishing bosses, relegating their defeat to cutscene if they’re defeated at all, calling to attention the rote adherence to an outdated convention. From how it compares and contrasts to the story beats of the first game, to having Raiden choose to disobey your commands and embrace a whole new control system for the last hour of the game, nearly every aspect of Sons of Liberty unites into a cohesive vision, setting up, then calling out and tearing apart nearly each and every video game rule. This approach made an immeasurable impact on me the first time I played it, and continues to every time. Metal Gear has long-stayed one of gaming’s boldest series’, the rare military game willing to eschew the standard jingoistic narrative of the genre and actually examine the cost of war and western imperialism’s impact on the world, but it has yet to match the insane ambition of Sons of Liberty.

Killer 7 is a swirling surrealist indictment of American and Japanese politics on a global scale, pointing out their hypocrisies through dense allegory and a collision of eastern and western storytelling technique. It takes the minimalist crime narrative of French New Wave cinema and infuses it with an anime aesthetic and metaphysical storytelling. Its cryptic and byzantine structure, at once about about broken people, broken countries, and the supernatural resonance of trauma, is surprisingly flexible, allowing one story to have multiple levels of symbolism. This core tension is well-buttressed by the gameplay, as it captures the same insane culture clash. Killer 7 is a first-person shooter primarily played in third person and all the enemies dive-bomb you. It has large levels with branching passages but you run through on rails. There’s an RPG element allowing you to power up your character, but only so many times per stage. The game establishes and breaks rules with reckless abandon in order to reinforce and draw attention to the core cultural conflicts at the heart of the story.

These games, for me, represent the most powerful ways to convey story in gaming. Storytelling is an art in itself but its also a conduit to help creators explore what makes an art form unique. Gaming should embrace this and move forward, aiming to deliver experiences that just can’t be had or replicated elsewhere. These two games have thrown down the gauntlet, its time for more games to take up the challenge.

 

 

By Nick DeLong- @MGNickD, Website

I’ll never forget the moment that I found out that Golbez and Cecil were brothers. There we were, countless despicable acts and manipulations later, and this evil arsehole was trying to tell me we were family? For its time, in the early 90s, it was a mind-blowing revelation the likes my young mind had never seen before.

It was precisely then that I realized how special video games really were. It’s even safe to say that that’s where the love affair really started to grow.

I of course had played and enjoyed plenty of games before Final Fantasy IV, but it wasn’t until the glory days of the SNES that I really fell in love with the hobby and started investing myself into it. Final Fantasies, as I called the entirety of the JRPG genre as a wee lad, were my favorite from then on and now, nearly 25 years later, that still holds true.

Final Fantasy IV wasn’t the first game to try to tell a story by any stretch, but it’s the first one that really broke through to me. Before that, I never really understood why I was jumping on things or shooting countless enemies, and I didn’t particularly care. It never crossed my mind that the little people I was controlling would ever represent something more.

These characters and their stories are now arguably as important to gaming as graphics and mechanics. A good plot increases immersion and satisfaction ten-fold, and strong characters can make all the difference between success and failure. Imagine Uncharted with anyone other than Nathan Drake? Or Super Mario Bros. with anyone other than chunky plumbers? In no world would any of that make sense.

On the other hand, bad characters can severely impact my enjoyment of a game as well. Bayonetta 2 is the perfect example of this. It was a beautiful, crazy, fun game that felt great to play, but I HATED the majority of the game’s characters. Loki especially drove me insane, and I couldn’t wait for his scenes to finish. It took it from a potential game of the year contender to just a good experience in that aspect alone.

Games that are completely about telling stories have even rose in popularity in the last ten years or so. Heavy Rain is a great example (though by far not the first) of a game that successfully became an interactive movie. It wasn’t particularly fun from a gameplay standpoint, but the story and characters were so strong that I couldn’t put it down, much like any other good detective story. My girlfriend, who is not at all into gaming, recently gave it a try and completely fell in love with it, to the point of requesting that I find more games like it for her to play.

She went on to complete it in only a pair of sittings, because she was so involved in the characters and their journeys. We had a great time discussing her theories on who the origami killer could be and trying to piece together the backgrounds of the game’s cast that the hours just melted away. THAT, to me, is the mark of a brilliant game. You get so involved that you become completely unaware of the time ticking away on your session until, suddenly, the sun is gone and you’re falling asleep.

Perhaps narrative is the best way to rope in the casual masses? Never mind throwaway gimmicks like motion control and crappy phone games, let’s start sharing our favorite game plots with those we’d like to immerse in our hobby. Games like Final Fantasy IV sparked my ridiculous love of video games, and more realistic fare like Heavy Rain created a great opportunity to share that love with the lady of my life.

Gaming really is the perfect hobby.

 

By Douglas Carter- @ThatZooooooooo, Website

Have you ever played a game and wondered…

“Why am I doing this?”

“Why should I care?”

Just like with most audio-visual mediums, video games thrive on hooking the audience with compelling plots, characters, and settings. They engage the player in an engrossing narrative and world for the player to interact with, which involves, in the case of games, participating in direct involvement with the plot at hand.

Whereas the person takes a passive/observer role in the plot in media such as movies or books, video games, as mentioned above, are different in that they let the player interact with and move the plot directly. Because of that, storytelling in video games has to take a different approach to storytelling than a book or a movie.

I’m really not the best person to talk about stories in games, honestly, but I’ll give it my best shot. I’ll try to give my point of view on how a story in a game can succeed and how they contrast with other media.

I’ll try to cover a few different games, but you’ll probably find that I’ll site Horror and Adventure games a lot here.

Firstly, we should consider the genre of the game. Just like with books and movies, a different genre of game calls for a different type of plot. For example, a Horror game will typically have a different mood and tone than a Fantasy RPG. In a lot of games, the genre can help influence the overall plot, but shouldn’t shackle it. Just because a game is a horror game, for example, doesn’t mean it necessarily mean it has to be dark and fear inducing, it can be light-hearted with maybe some more casual scares; it all depends on what you want to get across in the end. Compare Silent Hill and Dead Rising. Even though they are booth Survival Horror games, Silent Hill is a lot more creepy, while Dead Rising is a lot more light-hearted. It also goes to show the versatile nature of video games and the numerous amounts of different stories that can be created. Think about the type of mood and tone that should be established and what you want the player to feel.

A story needs to take place somewhere, right? Setting can be a great tool to provide a bit of driving force for the story. Using the modern technology available, a truly fantastic world of any type can be created for the players to see. The setting can be a good driving force, but doesn’t need to be locked into its tropes. A graveyard doesn’t need to be dark and spooky, for example. Take an amusement park; compare their uses in Silent Hill and Super Mario Sunshine. One amusement park is dark and creepy, while another is light and fun.

Also a thing to keep in mind is to design the setting and environment to entice the player to explore or highlight areas the player should look towards by drawing their eyes towards it. This is a challenge unique to video games as opposed to other media, and care should go into designing areas that are fun to navigate and explore and provide a sense of discovery. The setting provides the detailed backdrop to the narrative and should enrich the experience and use the plot to its advantage.

Another key feature of any story is the characters that populate the world. A world without any characters will seem pretty barren, although depending on the game, that might be what you want. A host of all types of characters is needed to help the player to keep engaged in the world and the story these characters are a part of. Again, as above with setting, character archetypes shouldn’t be shackled because of who they are. Compare Dr. Light and Dr. Robotnik. They’re both scientists, but their motivations and personalities are different. And compare both of them to a “mad scientist” like Dr. Frankenstein. Characters can be just as diverse as environments, and care should go into making them believable and likeable, or a “love to hate” type.

The most important characters are probably the Player Character(s), Sidekicks/Helpers, and the Main Antagonist, but especially the Player Character. The player will be guiding this character throughout the whole game and experiencing the story along with them. Again, this is a challenge unique to video games. The Player Character is an extension of the player. The player is the character. The player should be emotionally invested in the character and the struggles they go through in the plot. The character can even be the player themself, and a different approach to the plot is slightly different because of that. The player needs to know “why am I doing this?” and “why should I care?” through this character and the plot. Maybe one of the Player Character’s sidekicks needs help, or the Main Antagonist is doing something evil to the player. Also, the Player Character may not necessarily be the good guy/hero either, and again needs a different approach to the story. A bland, boring, or badly written Player Character can really take the player out of the experience.

And now we finally get to the Plot proper, after all the rambling above. Hey, a good story can’t stand on its own, and the above factors (setting and characters) in conjunction with the plot itself overall make a good story. Use the setting and characters to the advantage of the story. Set out why the Player Character should be doing certain things, using the setting and other characters to help guide the player along. It’s like writing the plot for a book or a movie; why the characters and Player should keep going to the end. Again, a myriad of approaches and styles are available each with their own synergies and perks. The plot, characters, and setting should all compliment each other.

The biggest obstacle, other than a good story, is pacing and how the story is presented. Bad story pacing can kill a plot, let alone the whole game. Again, video games is a unique challenge in that the player can dictate how slowly or quickly the story can progress to a degree. A good story shouldn’t have the player dwaddle around too long wondering what to do, but not have the player rush through it either. The story generally follows the same arc as other media too, with a beginning, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion; the standard 5-act structure. Again, stories aren’t limited to the 5-act structure, but it is a decent tool to help make a story. The player shouldn’t feel that one part of the story felt too long or too short, or deliberate or unnecessary. Every point in the story should have some purpose to it and encourage the player to keep going through it.

Another challenge unique to games here is designing a story to have multiple viewpoints/character, choices, and endings if it calls for it. While gameplay challenges arise here as well, I’ll focus on what it does to the story.

The player should feel like their choices in the story mattered; if a decision in a game ever feels inconsequential to the player, then it was an arbitrary choice. Even if the game has only one ending, the player should feel like what they did affected the plot in some way, even if it was inconsequential in the end. For example, having some of the characters mention to the player something they did or changing the environment slightly just to show the player affected something keeps the player from feeling their choices were moot.

Designing a story for multiple Player Characters is difficult as well, as you can have them all directly or indirectly intersect, or maybe have them all segregated. I always cite Heavy Rain here, as the Player had direct control over 4 unique player characters with different goals that all intersected and interacted with each other. The characters should compliment each other and drive the plot together, and allowing the player to have a different perspective on the plot can drive the player even more.

The most important part to me is designing the ending, especially if a game has multiple outcomes. If a game has only one ending, the player should feel satisfied about the story’s conclusion and be in agreement with the plot they and the Player Character had to go through. If the ending ever feels nonsensical, it wasn’t a well written ending. It can be a downer ending but again, care should be taken that it makes sense. Multiple endings are a bit trickier. As above, the player should feel like their choices mattered and that they drove the story to this conclusion. The player should feel like things would have turned out differently if they choice different actions previously. All the endings should be satisfying and make sense; the player should feel like they changed the plot to get that conclusion. It should leave the player wondering if they did something else they would have changed the outcome. The plot can have more varying degrees of grey to fill a whole suite of different feelings in multiple outcome, such as some endings being more down than others.

What would I cite as examples of good story telling?

I’m a fan of the Silent Hill games in this regard (the earlier ones, at least). The setting and the characters complimented each other so well and made the plot of the stories so creepily satisfying, especially the Player Characters. Having multiple outcomes was near for me because they all made sense and were a direct result of actions you took. They did storytelling right.

I have a special friend to thank for introducing me to Silent Hill, but I don’t want to embarrass him. If you ever read this, then you know who you are! There are other things I want to say to you too, but I’ll just be quiet now!

Other games I feel have good storytelling were Heavy Rain, The Last of Us, and The Walking Dead. There may be others I’m missing, but those are the ones I have experience with.

So yeah, that concludes my thoughts on what I feel makes a good story in a game. I hope I was able to provide something worth thinking about.

Gaming Topic of the Week- Call of Duty

Every week (or as often as we can), we will get a group of great writers to contribute their thoughts on a particular topic about video games. Each author can address the issue how they please and give their own unique opinions. Please stay tuned to one-hitkills.com and @onehitkills for updates. Please feel free to give us any feedback you feel is necessary and enjoy.

 

By Francis McCabe- @onehitkills

No game is more synonymous with the AAA, blockbuster games industry than Call of Duty.  It is a yearly instant billion-dollar seller.  Whether positive or negative, most people have an opinion on the series and Activision’s handling of it.  From its initial PC roots, to the game that took it to the stratosphere, and one of the most influential games of all-time, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, to the Infinity Ward exodus and lawsuit, to the EXO suit in Advanced Warfare, Call of Duty series has had a roller coaster ride beyond the game itself.

As a mostly single-player gamer, I’m certainly not Call of Duty’s audience.  While the single-player beyond Modern Warfare has been hit or miss, it is always linear.  You move from A to B, stop, shoot, kill all the enemies who run in your crosshairs, rinse, repeat.  Add to the fact it is only a few hours long and COD is only one my radar as a video game observer, not a player.

There is, however, an undeniable hook for many people to the multi-player.  I have dabbled in the multiplayer in MW, Black Ops, MW2, and World at War.  The gun play feels great and the game runs smooth.  My personal gripe is linked to my own skills.  I suck at multiplayer FPSs.  With the exception of Halo 2, which I poured 100s of hours into online, I’ve never been even mediocre.  Getting into a game, some with friends who have high ranks, put me against other high ranking COD addicts.  Just getting killed on a consistent basis is not fun.  And if a game to me isn’t fun, I’ll move on.

In closing, there is nothing wrong with Call of Duty as it is.  It does make only a few improvements, but it has to keep appealing to its core audience who buy the game and the season pass of map packs every single year.  The single-player is a throw-away, but that is true of most multi-player focused games.  Battlefield 3 is the worst campaign I ever played.  It is consistently polished and its biggest competitors in the military-themed FPS (looking at you Battlefield) can’t even get that right.  Like Call of Duty or not, it is what it is.  It’s not going to really change.  Just bear in mind, as you might not like the game itself, the COD “dude-bros” probably don’t like the game your playing.  But as long as your both happy, that’s all that matters.

 

 

By Ryan Norum- @Chainedsniper, Website

My story with Call of Duty started like quite a few others, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I wasn’t an early adopter of the game because I was still playing Halo 3 with my brother. But as time went on, my brother started to play Call of Duty 4 with his friends. Sooner or later I migrated over to Call of Duty because the biggest reason I played Halo 3 was to spend time with my brother. It wasn’t an easy move because Halo has been apart of my gaming history for a long time, but I slowly found my love for Call of Duty 4. Since my brother and I were late to Call of Duty 4, we didn’t bother with World at War. But by the time Modern Warfare 2 came out, we were ready to move on.

Modern Warfare 2 was a game my brother and I played a lot. MW2 is actually the only game I have ever went to a midnight release for. When we got the game, it was a constant back and forth with my brother and his friend talking about our favorite guns, maps, and good scores we had posted. It’s honestly a pretty memorable experience for us and I’m sure we aren’t the only ones to have similar memories. But then, as Call of Duty moved on, so did we. We continued with the franchise through Black Ops and Modern Warfare 3, but I had started to slow down before Black Ops 2. I don’t believe my brother even picked up Black Ops 2 and I only got it for local play with friends and family. With the yearly releases of Call of Duty, I, like many others, got burned out on the franchise and have stopped playing it. Is there anything Call of Duty could do to bring us back? I don’t know.

I always found the situation Call of Duty is in to be interesting. Each year, Call of Duty needs to reinvent itself without changing itself. New systems, guns, time periods, and more were used in hopes of keeping Call of Duty fresh while keeping its large mainstay. Call of Duty might be under the biggest microscope in all of video games. Call of Duty will be attacked on adding new things and also staying the same. Call of Duty is criticized for coming out yearly despite there now being a 3 year cycle for each game. Its a game that always wins and loses at the same time. In the end, I’m personally happy Call of Duty is apart of the gaming culture. It gets a bad reputation from many people. Some of it is deserved and others is baseless. In the end, people enjoy the game and it did bring us some really cool innovations.

 

 

By Andrew Cook- @MasterMastermnd

My opinion on Call of Duty adheres to the ancient hipster proverb: I liked the early stuff better.

I don’t generally game on PC so I never played Call of Duty or Call of Duty 2, but I had some solid fun with friends playing Call of Duty: Big Red One and Call of Duty 3. As much fun as they were, though, they never upset Time Splitters for my gang’s multiplayer shooter of choice.

That changed, however, with the advent of the next console generation, when the series hit its zenith with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Modern Warfare was exciting and visceral, its scale and intensity blew away its contemporaries. Really, it had it all: an immensely satisfying (if a little short) single-player campaign, and a lightning-paced, revolutionary multiplayer mode. The story isn’t especially deep, but it is briskly told, and moderately more responsible than most of its jingoistic brethren.

Modern Warfare, for me, easily stands as one of the best shooters of its generation, so you could imagine my anticipation for where the series was headed next. Call of Duty: World at War was passable at best but I knew it was a side game so it wasn’t a bother. Then Modern Warfare 2 dropped. The oddity of its title, Modern Warfare 2 as opposed to Call of Duty 5, didn’t register at the time. I got the game, slid the disc into my system, fired up the campaign… and stopped about an hour later, bored out of my mind. What was inspired now felt like pointless, perfunctory exploitation. Eventually I continued, but the magic was lost.

Starting then, and continuing today, Call of Duty had transitioned into an e-sport, yearly releases of barely tweaked iterations for its large but cultish multiplayer fanbase. Though I have played a few rounds of Black Ops while hanging out with friends, this kind of game just isn’t interesting to me. But really, I don’t begrudge it much. It’s no worse than Madden, or FIFA, or World of Warcraft, games compelling more for their sporting and social aspects rather than particularly thrilling design. I understand lamenting a once proud series denigrated by the leeching grasp of the AAA game industry, but at least it’s just about competing and talking smack with your friends rather than, say, Assassin’s Creed, a basically single-player experience ruined by that same vampiric paradigm.

Activision is as shady a publisher as any, but at least they sold out a series well-suited for it anyway, allowing it to be an easy non-entity on my radar. So, basically, au revoir Call of Duty, it’s not you, it’s me. But also it’s you.

 

 

By Nick DeLong- @MGNickD, Website

As gamers, it can be really hard to step back and accept that, at the end of the day, the games we play are products. They’re produced to generate revenue for the companies that make them, and those companies are always looking for the next big thing. In my eyes, no game better represents this concept than Call of Duty.

Call of Duty has become something of a whipping boy in this industry for that very reason. There is no denying that there is something cynical about its seemingly endless release cycles, but there’s also no way to argue that we continue to vote yes for these games with our wallets. Yes, sales have dropped recently, but it’s still one of the biggest franchises in gaming and will remain as such in the new generation of consoles. It may not regain the footing it once had, but it WILL be there near the top.

Personally, I don’t particularly care about the franchise one way or the other. I’m not at all into competitive multiplayer, and that’s where I feel that Call of Duty really fits in. I play games to have fun, and really don’t care for how stressful and insulting that arena can be. It’s actually the much maligned tacked-on campaigns that I partake in. I love the theatricality of them and how they’re just big, dumb fun. I see them very much in the same light as Summer action films; there just to turn my brain off and enjoy. Still, I just wait until the price drops below $30 before I pick them up, so I’m really not the target audience.

That said, I AM glad to see that Activision is trying to introduce more narrative into the franchise with Advanced Warfare, and that’s the main reason that I’m more excited for AW than any other Call of Duty before. Their use of Kevin Spacey is hopefully indicative of their investment into believable characters moving forward. The new 3 year development cycles should prove to be beneficial for the franchise as well.

To me, Call of Duty also represents another troubling trend in gamers. The need to force our tastes on our gaming peers has been something I’ve really noticed with the popularization of social media. I absolutely can’t believe the amount of tweets or Facebook posts I’ve seen that attempt to shame people for what they buy and play, or the types of games they aren’t interested in. Nowadays, you’re apparently not a genuine gamer if you’re playing anything but indie titles, and I find this absolutely ludicrous.

Sure, indie games tend to be built with more heart and soul than their triple-A cousins, but they’re no more or less a video game than anything else. I’d even wager that some of them are just as cynically produced as the Call of Duties of the world. Hell, how many times has “retro graphics” appeared prominently on a game’s highlight sheet? Pixelated graphics, 8-bit soundtracks, and simplified, hyper-focused gameplay are just as much a fad as anything that Call of Duty offers.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a lot of those games and tend to spend a lot of my gaming time with these smaller titles, but I also don’t use them to shame those that enjoy gaming in the triple-A sphere. In fact, I believe that these two markets complement and justify each other beautifully, and may even need each other to thrive.

Ultimately, I just like video games. I don’t care if they’re massive, big-budget games or tiny little garage games. I don’t care if they’re on new consoles or on my older machines. I don’t care how big the teams that made them are. All I care about is how fun they are to play. In that sense, as long as I enjoy my time with it, Call of Duty belongs on my shelf as much as anything else.

 

 

By Chris Scott- @kaiyanine, Website

“A Shot in the Arm”

As a society we take great pleasure in watching the mighty fall. We actively root against them. Be it sports, celebrity, tech companies, you name it and if it is at the top of the hill, we revel in cheering for it to fall down. Obviously games are no different and for the past few years a level of hate has continuously grown around Activision’s monster franchise, Call of Duty.

For some, Call of Duty represents all that is wrong with the game industry and its continued success angers them to no end. They actively cheer against each annual installment virtually standing on the corner proclaiming this as the one where it all ends. Except each year the franchise shines bright, leaving them more and more bitter at its continued success.

Last year though the first crack in the armor of the mega-franchise began to show. Call of Duty: Ghosts was a disappointment on many fronts. Instead of pushing the series forward with new gameplay, the developers seemed more interested in showcasing the physics of the virtual fish in the game. And this lack of drive for the gameplay resulted in a mostly uninspired effort and it trickled down to the critical ratings scoring the lowest aggregate score for a Call of Duty in recent memory.

The Doom & Gloom Crew used this as proof the series was in a downward spiral. They highlighted new games like Titanfall and Destiny as the heir apparents to Call of Duty’s vacated throne. The thing is, no one told Call of Duty it had lost its crown because this year’s entry in the franchise, Advanced Warfare, is a legitimately great game.

If you don’t like Call of Duty already, Advanced Warfare isn’t going to change your mind. But for those that do like Call of Duty, Advanced Warfare is the best game in the series since Modern Warfare 2. It is, on every level, a complete package that pushes the series in fun new directions.

The single player campaign is, as always, a well paced thrill ride that stands at the top of its class this year with Wolfenstein: The New Order. The competitive multiplayer is rivaled by only Titanfall this year in terms of gameplay (I’m discounting the existence of Halo as the collection isn’t new content). And in terms of progression, loot, challenges, customization, and other options, it blows away its closest competitors, Titanfall and Destiny.

Advanced Warfare is the shot in the arm the franchise has needed for a few years now. And it is going to make the haters really sad but Call of Duty is going to stay the king for at least a little while longer. But that’s OK, at least they don’t have to change up their mantra for another year.

 

 

By Douglas Carter- @ThatZoooooooooWebsite

Call of Duty.

It’s a name that everyone recognizes, gamers and non-gamers alike of any ilk. Even if they never played any of the games, chances are people will be familiar with what the games are about.

I’ll admit off the top, I’m not the biggest fan of Call of Duty, or played many of the games. My experience is limited to Modern Warfare, World at War, Modern Warfare 2, and Black Ops. I haven’t played anything before or after, so I can’t give a completely appropriate synopsis of the whole franchise, but I can try my darndest.

I’ll mainly only talk about the 4 games mentioned above, but I will mention all the games I know of in passing at least.

What I call the “First Arc” of CoD is the first 3 games. The ones set in WW II and started on the PC. Again, I don’t have much experience with these ones, so I can’t say what they’re about or what I think of them. All I can say is that they set up the foundation for what is arguably the best game in the franchise, CoD 4. They got all the core elements In, and was a solid enough game, but being limited to PC initially didn’t let it blossom as much as it could. CoD 2 and CoD 3 did have console releases, and so did the original CoD years later, but CoD didn’t really become popular on consoles until the next game…

The “Second Arc” began with CoD 4: Modern Warfare. In my opinion, this was when Call of Duty exploded and became the big franchise we know today. CoD became a mainstream success on consoles as well as PC, and ensured that more sequels were to come. CoD 4 was a solid enough game. Even though the games are far from realistic, it felt fine to play, and the extra bonus mission at the end of the story was a nice surprise. The multiplayer mode was where all the action was, and how CoD exploded. Everyone flocked to it like candy, because it was solidly built.

They went back to WW II in the next game, World at War. While it wasn’t as well received as CoD 4 was, it introduced a new mode that would be present in quite a few of the games.

Nazi Zombies.

It was basically a survival mode where you held out as long as you could against an endless wave of Zombies. This was probably the mode I played the most. Even though I only had the one map (no internet back then), I just kept playing it. I found it fun and challenging. The Co-op Campaign was a nice bonus too, I just wish they kept that in the other games.

Then, Modern Warfare 2 came out, which definitely exploded CoD into the massive popularity it is today. While I personally think CoD 4 is where the high point is, MW2 was where the biggest explosion was. It became a global sensation with MW2. A lot of people enjoyed the campaign, which continued the story from CoD 4. A new mode, called Spec Ops, included special challenge missions where you could also play Co-op, which I liked playing a lot. The biggest feature was probably the revamped Multiplayer. MW2’s Multiplayer is probably the multiplayer everyone remembers. It allowed for customization of nearly everything about your loadout, and made for some deeper strategies. I have minimal experience with this multiplayer, so I can’t comment too much on it. From what I gathered though, usually everyone claims MW2 to be the best.

What I call the “Third Arc” began with Black Ops. While I might put this in the “Second Arc,” I decided to put it here instead, which I’ll get to. Black Ops took place in a different era and made a different story, which some people liked. I never played the campaign of Black Ops, so I can’t comment on that part. They brought back and improved Zombies mode, which I quite enjoyed again. They also included a “Smash TV” style mode in Dead Ops Arcade. I know I spent quite a bit of time playing Dead Ops Arcade and the Zombies mode. Black Ops’ multiplayer is the one I have the most experience with. Again, all the plethora of customization options from MW2 came over… As well as most of the same general gameplay.

Depending on who you are, you started to split at this point. This is where I started to see the most divide. There were two types of people forming:

Those that liked the gameplay and continued to enjoy it.

Those that saw the gameplay as getting stale and quitting.

While both sides have their point, I’m not here to argue them. Plus, I’ve gotten so sick of both sides, it makes me not want to talk about games at all sometimes. In short, some people continued to embrace it while some people continued to pan it. That’s why I classify Black Ops as the “Third Arc,” because this was when I feel the base started to break. I personally stopped playing the games after Black Ops, so you can take that as you will.

Modern Warfare 3, Black Ops 2, and Ghosts were the next games. I personally know next to nothing about these games, so I can’t even comment on any aspect of them. To me, this continued the “Third Arc,” as I kept seeing the same argument that happened with Black Ops about each game.

And, finally, the catalyst of the “Topic of the Week,” Advanced Warfare released recently (as of this writing). Again, I know next to nothing about this game, so I can’t comment that much.

What I can say is that this may be the beginning of the “Fourth Arc.” Some people I’ve seen pan the CoD franchise for the past couple games are starting to rethink their stance on AW. A lot of people I’ve seen also generally believe this is the best game since MW2. Again, I can’t comment since I know nothing about AW, that’s just what I observed.

If this is still the “Third Arc” or now the “Fourth Arc” is still in the air for me, but I’m seeing that a lot of people are liking it. Has AW turned around what some believe to be a “tired franchise”? Only time will time.

And with that, that’s my take on the Call of Duty series. Again, I’m probably not the best person to ask about CoD, but I hope it was insightful nonetheless.

Gaming Topic of the Week- Physical vs Digital Games

Every week (or as often as we can), we will get a group of great writers to contribute their thoughts on a particular topic about video games.  Each author can address the issue how they please and give their own unique opinions.  Please stay tuned to one-hitkills.com and @onehitkills for updates.  Please feel free to give us any feedback you feel is necessary and enjoy.

 

By Francis McCabe- @onehitkills

I’ve been gaming since the NES era and, personally, opening a brand new game and smelling that new game smell brings back the memories of Christmas morning nearly every time.  There is nothing like the experience of opening a Hyrule Warriors or Bayonetta 2 and popping it into my Wii U.  You get an instant (although not as instant with the advent of Day 1 patches) feeling of satisfaction.  But as time has moved on and my life priorities have changed, boxed games can become more of a burden after that new game smell wears off.  More and more, I’ve been converting over to the emerging digital side of gaming.

Maybe it started with the incredible discounts on the Steam Sales.  I was buying lots of cool games I knew or had never even heard of.  I was a disciple at the alter of Lord Gaben.  The Wii Virtual Console helped me relive some of the best moments of my childhood with out any of the aggravation of setting up and old console or even putting in a cartridge.  Sure, all the Marios and the Zeldas were there, but I had access to titles that never made it out of the original consoles like River City Ransom and Tecmo Bowl.  It gave me all the nostalgic highs without spending minutes blowing into the cartridges and consoles.  GOG fulfilled the same feelings for classic PC games.  The evolution of games on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network both broadened my gaming tastes and exposed me to new experiences.

I still buy plenty of new games, but it’s getting harder and harder to find space for all of it.  Coupled with the fact that publishers are putting less and less effort into including little more than just the disc in the retail packaging, and the compelling reasons for going all physical media whenever possible is loses its appeal.

The pros of the digital media age are obvious.  After download, games can be accessed in an instant and the prices, for those who can exercise patience for certain titles, can be significantly lower thanks to better sales on a product that is where retailers are worried about their cut of a sale.  While I initially viewed Sony’s PS+ system as a desperation tactic on the struggling PS3, their commitment has given me 100s of retail and download-only games just for the price of $50 a year.  The value can be different depending on how many systems you own, but once I acquire a PS4, I will have a dozen games already.  This is in addition to all the games I can download for PS3 and Vita.

The biggest concern, of course, is the demise of the operation selling the product and losing ownership over a product I paid my hard-earned money for.  While a system like Steam is not restricted by hardware cycles, I have legit concerns about how long Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony will maintain they’re service on last-gen consoles Wii, Xbox 360, and PS3.  With the expansion of hard drives and the abilities Nintendo and Sony give you to expand them, I can download every possible game and keep them as long as that hard drive doesn’t die, but Microsoft doesn’t offer that option.  At that point, however, physical media games will still be widely available on the internet via Amazon and EBay and at B&M stores like Gamestop.

As with the next cycle, that concern can only grow.  Microsoft’s full-on attempt at control of the games by bought by their customers is something that has gone away for now, but may eventually be introduced piece-meal by Sony or another future competitor.  As someone who stayed away from mainstream PC gaming for years because of the need to tinker with your computer to play the newest games, I was naïve to how draconian DRM can be.  I wish this aspect of the industry will learn from the PR disaster and sluggishly selling Xbox One console became and veer away from that path in the future.

In closing, I have now found equal joy from both digital and physical media.  I will celebrate getting a new hot title from Amazon or from the a store in the same way I just celebrated GOG getting access to LucasArts’s back catalog of classic adventure games.  Outside of buying good games at dirt cheap prices, digital purchases for me must be games I would never want to re-sell.  A shining example is my 3DS with my background populated with instant access to Zelda, Fire Emblem, Bravely Default, and Super Smash Bros.  Actually, ummmm, that reminds me, I have to go.

 

 

By Ryan Norum- @Chainedsniper

When I think of the physical versus digital media debate, I stand on one side pretty firmly. The digital era has brought upon convenience. Programs like Steam and Origin makes buying games easy, quick, and in most cases, it’s cheaper. I wasn’t one of the first to jump onto the bandwagon, but I plan to stay on it and am ready for the long ride. There has even been multiple occasions where I bought a digital version of a game I already own physically. The convenience doesn’t just stop at the buying phase. Not having to manage a bunch of disc is also a plus. Overall, I have been happy with my change to favoring digital media, but I do have to admit, there is something nostalgic and real about the physical media era.

There really was something special when it came to buying the newest game from the store. The whole thing was a process, but as a kid, it was more fun then not. I remember the drive to the store building up my anticipation. I remember speed walking towards the gaming section and being greeted by the wall of games with their beautiful box art. Buying the game and instantly opening it before even reaching home because I just had to absorb everything I could. Whether it was reading the back of the obx or instruction manual it didn’t matter. Then finally reaching home and playing the game for the next few hours. The process is long and tedious when compared to the digital purchases, but as a kid, it created memories. I would never choose to go back to this style of buying games, but I do not regret having it in my past.

It has been a while since I bought physical media. Ever since I stopped playing my consoles, my game collection for them also stopped. This meant that after transferring all the discs to a giant CD case, I had a bunch of game boxes filling up space. I had kept them around for a while to showcase them like books on a bookshelf despite mostly being filler. Not too long ago, I had an idea to reuse the box art as a poster. This would allow me to get rid of the boxes while keeping the memories; my main reason for keeping them around for so long. While I was making the giant poster, a bunch of memories popped up. While the games themselves created the memories, the box art was the trigger of nostalgia. That is something I won’t get from a Steam game. When I view my Steam library, its just a bunch of names. Even games I hold near to my heart is just a bunch of letters on a screen until I actually open it up. I don’t believe memories make up for the benefits of digital media, but physical media has its benefits if this type of stuff is important to you.

 

 

By Wally- @TempleofRetro

Hardware vs Software vs Noware

In today’s ever evolving world of video game collecting, there are many ways to compile and grow a gaming library. From hitting the streets and thrift shops to find that ‘retro’ cart you enjoyed as a kid, to owning one of those classic titles with a simple download, the options to gamers are more vast and expansive than ever.

But what’s the right direction to take? It’s getting harder and harder to find specific titles in gaming shops or out in the wild, and as some retro collectors have found over the past few years, the excessive prices that come with trying to attain these games is getting more and more ridiculous.

That being said, by moving into a ‘digital only’ world, there’s no guarantee that the game you’re looking for is actually available for download. So where’s the happy medium?

Here’s some pros and cons to consider when gaming in the 21st century:

PHYSICAL MEDIA – PROS

Without question, the best part about owning a physical copy of a game is the fact that it’s original. For retro gamers, holding a grey Nintendo cartridge in hand has a very nostalgic, but honest feel to it. Sliding a cart into a classic NES console is a very satisfying feeling, but also brings back a rushing sense of nostalgia. Is that reason enough to purchase the cart? No, but for some it may be.

There’s also the simple joy of having the physical collection. Being able to display your game proudly on a shelf amongst many others is also a satisfying feeling; a trophy case for gamers. But the benefits of owning a physical copy of a game go beyond the visual optics.

There’s a certain level of trust with owning a game. For example, Nintendo’s digital world doesn’t involve a networked account. If you download a digital copy of a game for your Wii, Wii U or 3DS, your game is tied to that specific machine. If it blows up, so does your game, and you’ll be paying a second time just to play the game again. By owning the actual cart or CD, even if your console DOES go down, you have the freedom to continue playing your game on a new machine.

While it’s true that not all gaming companies operate in the same vein as Nintendo when it comes to digital downloads (Sony, Steam…games are linked to individual accounts) the fear of a corrupt ‘file’ or download is something that can be concerning to some gamers.

One of the biggest advantages of being a gamer who enjoys physical media is that there’s never (in theory) a shortage of access to specific titles. By that, I mean to infer that if there’s a game you want, there’s probably a good chance you can own that title. Yes, you may have a hard time finding the game you’re looking for and yes, you may have to pay an obscene (and unnecessary) amount of money to acquire it. Still, you CAN acquire the game. And in some cases, for much less than you’d pay to download it.

In the digital world, just because a game exists, doesn’t mean it’s available for download. If I want to play Contra (NES), there’s no guarantee that Nintendo is going to have it on their Virtual Console. But you CAN purchase the original cartridge. The process may be longer and more expensive, but at least it’s available. The same can be said for games on the Playstation Network and Xbox Live. Sure, they have digital games for download, but their inventory is considerably less than being able to own the physical copy of your choice.

PHYSICAL MEDIA – CONS

As great as it is to own the physical copy of a game, there are some definite drawbacks to collecting this way.

As referenced earlier, it’s not always easy to find the game you’re looking for. Through a combination of game shops, online stores and personal selling sites, you MAY be able to find your game, you may not. And if you do, what is the price you’re paying? For every copy of Coolboarders (PS1) that you can buy for 50 cents, there’s a copy of Snow Bros. (NES) going for north of $200. Retro collecting, specifically, has become a very popular hobby. For some, it’s been a profitable (albeit unfair) source of income, operating on the “buy low, sell insanely high” method of business.

Of course, all the games in the world are great, but if you don’t have the capable console to play the game on, they don’t amount to a hill of beans. With many consoles of past generations getting older and older, the guarantee that the hardware still functions isn’t there. How many retro gamers constantly have to rip apart consoles to replace pin connectors, fans, and other random cogs just in hopes that they bring it back to life? While it’s a fun challenge for some, the ability to ‘plug and play’ becomes a bit of an uphill battle year after year. Cleaning carts, contact pins, consoles and other aspects can be a pain.

Oh, and how many times have you played a game on an older console, and the gameplay freezes? Or the battery save no longer works? Or the CD is scratched beyond repair? Just like that, your game can be rendered useless. And it isn’t always readily replaceable.

Any gamers whose significant others/roommates ‘tolerate’ their gaming collections can attest to the amount of space physical media occupies and the arguments it can create. Whether its loose carts, complete in box, or just an original case, these games take room. And shelving. Lots of it. If you live in a small space, or just don’t have a whole lot available to display your gaming collection, this can be a problem.

DIGITAL MEDIA – PROS

In today’s gaming landscape, digital downloads have become very popular, and it’s the direction the industry is heading. Not only are they easy to distribute to consumers, but its relatively accessible to anyone with an online connection. There’s no limit on the amount of digital copies are available, and there’s no lining up and camping outside your favorite gaming store for midnight releases. Download the game, it’s on your system, and its ready to play.

There’s also the advantage of not requiring numerous consoles to play games from various platforms. Using Sony as an example, accessing their digital library allows gamers to purchase and download games from the PS1, PS2, PS3 and now the PS4…all on one system. That’s pretty handy.

Shelving? A non-issue. One shelf for one system. Pretty simple from a storage standpoint.

Gamers have also been able to grow their collections and purchase a higher quantity of games for a much lower price. ‘Humble Bundles’ and other offers through Steam and online gaming software allows gamers to purchase titles at a greater discount, and many times a lot cheaper than purchasing the physical copy of each game on an individual basis. While some consoles have compilation titles, downloading digitally allows gamers to hold hundreds of games, and in many instances, for a lot less.

For example, Earthbound for Super Nintendo. MINIMUM $200 for the loose cart, or $10 for the download? Same game. Easy decision for most.

Oh, and indie games. Enough said.

Along with independent games, features like Sony’s Playstation Plus allows you to pay a yearly subscription and download games ‘for free’. More often than not, there are some pretty decent titles available and as long as you’re a subscriber, you can keep the games on your machine. While not for everybody, it does allow the opportunity to play games you’ve never tried before at a minimal cost.

As it pertains to downloading titles from the examples I stated earlier, gamers can acquire titles that are linked to their account. A onetime purchase, but could include additional downloads if necessary. A huge advantage, especially if your Playstation suffers the dreaded ‘yellow light of death’. Personally, my original PS3 died with digital games downloaded, and I was very relieved to learn that I could re-download them onto my new console.

DIGITAL MEDIA – CONS

If I pay for a game once, I don’t want to have to pay for it again. Enter Nintendo’s digital philosophy where titles are tied to consoles, not accounts. That’s a big issue. Although it’s something that can change in the future, it’s disheartening knowing that I can have $500 worth of video games that I ‘own’ on my console, but if the console becomes defective, I’m not only down a console, but my entire library (and the associated dollars) is gone.

There’s also no guarantee that you’re going to be able to download all of your favorite titles from years gone by either. Between Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, they’ve released many titles on their digital networks but it’s amazing how many games have not been made available to gamers. It’s somewhat puzzling considering the outcry from publishers and developers around re-selling titles and third party companies generating revenue from it.

Again, getting back to ‘content’ and it’s availability, you’re at the mercy of Nintendo, Microsoft or Sony, as it pertains to releasing games available for download.

No cover art…no satisfaction of a physical collection…no manuals to flip through…for a nostalgic gamer, it just isn’t the same.

Honestly, I thought I would have more cons for digital media, but I just can’t think of any. However, these are pros and cons that I’ve thought of, and I’m sure I’m missing elements on both sides for both physical and digital. Personally, I’ve been a fan of owning physical media, but as the years go by, it seems more and more that digital makes more sense. Now, that’s just ME and the circumstances in my life.

 

 

By Andrew Cook- @MasterMastermnd

On the question of digital vs. physical I prefer physical media for several reasons. For starters, I think of myself as a casual collector. I’m not the hardcore type who buys two copies of each game and keeps one in the shrink-wrap, but I do like to have a library I can directly handle and admire. Perhaps devoting space to a monument for your own taste is a little egotistical, but it also makes it easy for me to share my favorite experiences with my friends. I don’t have to sell them on anything; I can just lend them the game.

And, to be blunt, I buy physical because I do not trust game publishers or hardware manufacturers and physical media gives me a measure of control over what I own. From the beginning I was afraid the rise of account-based networks would become a way to wrest control of our purchases away from us, and digital sales to charge us multiple times for the full experience. For the most part, especially from major publishers like EA, I believe my suspicions were confirmed. As such, through the entire seventh generation I bought not one game over Xbox Live or PSN, and only downloaded three packs of DLC (all for Mass Effect, and the last of them didn’t download correctly and messed up my game, thanks guys).

I’ve loosened up a bit since then, what with the rise of indie developers and the bountiful support they provide Wii U. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Nintendo embraced DLC and digital with gusto and typical generosity. That being said, I still prefer to buy major releases on disc, that way I know if push comes to shove I can just disconnect and have a disc that plays in a machine. That feels right, and it’s kind of the point, isn’t it? The days when I could just pop Final Fantasy VIII into my Playstation and have fun seem a lot more honest than the current era of patches and day one DLC, and that’s more than just nostalgia speaking.

On top of all that, truth is, I’m just old-fashioned. I don’t have a smart-phone. I don’t use the cloud. I’m 25 years old and I’ve been gaming most of my life, my first memory is playing Super Mario Bros. when I was four or five. We bought cartridges then, so I imagine that purchasing ritual is deeply ingrained into my idea of what exactly gaming is.

For all these reasons, I don’t really see a shift in my behavior unless the choice is made for me. I imagine it will be, we’ve made a lot of advancement since I was a kid for good or bad. It’s important to remember, however, that no matter how we choose to play, as consumers we control the direction the medium takes. It can only be as honest or craven as we allow.

 

 

By Nick DeLong- @MGNickD

I won’t beat around the bush. I am a devout physical media snob and likely always will be. Not because I believe that digital media is any less worthy of my money than physical, especially considering that they’re typically the same product simply being delivered differently. The real benefit is that I LOVE having my various collections on display in my home and thumbing through them looking for the day’s time sink. Flipping through the CD binder for something to listen to on my commute. The experience is almost entirely lost when scrolling through lists of intangible items on some product page.

Even when browsing for movies to watch on Netflix, I miss the days of heading down to my local video store and browsing their collection, flipping the cases over to check out the screens and synopsis, handing it to whatever partner and gauging their reaction to see if we have a winner. This is exactly the sensation that Netflix, Steam, and their ilk (admittedly excellently) emulate, but it loses its appeal somewhat when the tangible element of selecting the item is removed from the equation.

Coming back to games, I of course have a Steam account and a library full of the disparate titles they offer. In fact, I preach the gospel of the service as often as I possibly can. The deals on offer there are insane at times and completely irresistible, making for an excellent companion to my physical collection. I have a Netflix account and turn to it for something watch very regularly, I have an iTunes account full of music, a few eBooks, and piles of games on PSN, XBLA, and eShop. However, when given the choice, I always have and always will choose the physical version of any product over its digital counterpart.

Ultimately, I believe it comes down to the fact that I grew up in the 80s and 90s, when digital media was still essentially a pipe dream. All of the items I have had for the majority of my life have physical products, so that is my comfort zone. I definitely believe that the digital age is coming (if not already here) and that, soon, physical products will become less and less available, but I’m not looking forward to this revolution. I fully expect to be dragged kicking and screaming into it, desperately hanging on to one of my many shelves of goodies.

Long live physical media!

 

 

By Chris Scott- @kaiyanine

For years I have had stuff. Piles of stuff. Stuff everywhere. Books, games, CDs, you name it and it probably cluttered up certain sections of my living space.

And then iTunes and the iPod happened. I stopped buying massive amounts of overpriced music from the local record store. I transfered my collection to digital and began carrying my complete collection of music with me everywhere I went. And then I sold my CDs.

Soon my library of PC games followed the same path as I moved to buying all my games digitally via storefronts like Steam, GOG, and Origin. My DVDs weren’t far behind as I started getting digital versions from places like iTunes and Amazon. And when I got a Kindle my new book buying went nearly exclusively digital. But physical console/handheld games still cluttered up my space.

There are many different reasons for this but the biggest was that being able to trade those games back in. With that credit received, I’d cycle it back into new game purchases. New game purchases were almost always done at a discount because of this, and who doesn’t love a discount?

Every other digital venture presented me with the same product I’d buy physically at a cheaper price when I got it digitally. Music and books were nearly half off. Movies were generally 25% or more cheaper. And while PC games were not generally cheaper than their physical counterparts upon release, finding physical copies of most PC games was time consuming at best.

But digital versions of PS3 and XBOX 360 games did not have these benefits, at least not outwardly. Over the last few years both Sony and Microsoft have done a very good job of enticing people to buy digitally. Weekly and monthly sales on the two platforms offer some great deals on both new and old games and I’ve seen myself buying during these sales amassing a quite a large digital library. But it wasn’t until the Xbox One and PS4 (the WiiU is a different story entirely) that I decided to go fully digital.

Through programs like Xbox Rewards and the point system on my Capital One Playstation card, I get rewarded for making digital purchases from the respective storefronts. Xbox Rewards gives me a 10% rebate on every digital purchase on Xbox Live and Capital One grants me 3X as many points when purchasing on PSN. Coupled with the weekly/monthly sales and programs like EA Access and Playstation Plus, my starting price for most games begins below the suggested retail price.

I will admit that there are concerns with going digital for others that just don’t apply to my situation. I pay for a very fast internet connection and it does not have a bandwith cap. I also early on bought a 3TB external hard drive for my Xbox One, which heavily soothed the storage capacity issue many worry about. And while they don’t affect me, they are very really concerns for many but I’m happy with my choice to go digital only.

Being able to quickly boot up any game I have without leaving my seat is a wonderful feeling. And doing so without feeding the used games culture, whatever you think of it, makes me feel a bit better about my hobby. But it’s mostly about me not having crap everywhere and being lazy. So take that as you will.

 

 

By Douglas Carter- @ThatZooooooooo

Video games have come a long way over the years, from being arcade games and simple niche home games where you spent time after school to the multi-million dollar masterpieces that rival modern movies in cost and scope. With this great gap in time, there has come advancements in the technology used to make them as well, from simple 8-bit graphics to smooth 60 FPS 1080p HD video. Starting with the Xbox 360 generation of consoles as well as the rise of Steam, digital distribution has started to rise to coexist with physical releases as well. Many Independent developers and big name developers alike have been supporting sales of digital content with greater gusto than ever before.

While I personally think the argument of “Physical vs Digital” is a moot point, as both have their place and can coexist peacefully, I’ll still take a scholarly look at the debate to the best of my ability. I was also pressed for time, so I couldn’t do as much research as I wanted, so if I get something wrong, I’m sorry.

So… Which is better? Physical or Digital?

Let’s look at the pros and cons at each…

Note: For the time being, I’m not taking into account DLC and patches. I’m strictly examining the distribution method itself.

Physical Games:

Physical games are the ones we know and love, that come in a hard jewel case, plastic case, cardboard box, or what have you. These are your cartridges, disks, and anything else you can hold.

Pros:

-You have the game on hand and can easily transfer it between consoles with minimum hassle, such as lending and borrowing games.

-You can easily sell physical games to other people, and buy previously owned games easily, with previously owned games being usually discounted

-You have a weapon in a fight.

-That new game smell.

Cons:

-Higher cost to produce all of the disks/cartridges, casing, and related materials for the game in the long run, thus a slighted higher markup on physical games.

-If the cartridge or disk breaks or something, you’re out of luck and need to buy another copy outright. In cartridge based games, this could mean loss of data as well.

-You’ll run out of space to store all those games.

Digital Games:

Digital Games have started to become more and more prominent in the past 8-9 years or so, coinciding with physical games. Their appeals have led to many developers to embrace digital.

Pros:

-Generally lower cost to produce for, thus favored more by independent developers, and usually cheaper to buy.

-You can lose your console or even delete the game, but so long as you have access to the internet, you can always download the game again at no cost so long as you purchased it before. Some games also have cloud saving, but data loss can still happen.

Cons:

-No way to sell the game to somebody else, so no recoup if you want to sell it at some point.

-Hard to let people “borrow” games without generally having access to your account

-If you lose access to your account or have no internet access, and you don’t have the games downloaded on your system, you’re screwed. You have to buy them again if you lose the games.

-Not as easy to transfer games from system to system.

-You’ll run out of space to store all those games.

I may be missing a few things, but as I said, I’m pressed for time, and this is what I can think of right now. This is also shorter than what I usually write.

So… Which do I prefer?

Call me old school, but I personally prefer Physical distribution. I just like having physical things, and being able to just bring my crap with me to other people’s houses for fun times. Digital Games are very convenient, and cheaper in some cases, and some games are exclusively digital, but I just like having things to hold.

And, that new game smell. I could get high off that all day.

Again, I like both methods of distribution and they both have their place, and it’s up to you to decide which method is better for you. I’m in favor of having both available for convenience for everyone!