I feel like I’ve said this a hundred times, but it’s inevitable that someone will comment on this post labeling me a thief, hacker, modder, etc. But I’m really not, I just have a really cool job. I work at Blockbuster Video and I get to “preview” movies and games a few days before their street date. It’s an awesome perk, but lately my store hasn’t been getting any noteworthy games early, which would explain my extended hiatus from this series of blogs. (I previously did a first impressions blog on Crysis 2 andBulletstorm.)
I wish I could say that I was as impressed with Madden 12 as I was with Crysis 2 and Bulletstorm, but I simply can’t. The game seems to lack in areas where, just a year ago, it got high marks. As Gameinformer’s own Matt Kato so eloquently put, “Past Maddens either delivered new features or fixed old problems, but this year you get neither.”
The title screen looks great and features the standard fare of options, but it seemed like every game mode was hidden under layers of stuff that could have been left out. Think of those hour-long sessions at Gamestop, where they ask for everything but your social security card, then ask questions about pre-orders, trading used games, taking surveys, etc. All of which you answer with a cold, almost undead, no. Well, that would sum up the menu system of Madden 12. Option after option had me scratching my head before I even took the first snap. This is a small thing to point out, but that is exactly why I mention it. If it seems like a small problem, it could’ve been a quick fix for the developers. Laziness must be the culprit here.
Once I began my first game, glitches were plentiful and a new camera system bewildered me. The defense would jump a few feet at a time, which surprised me for a Madden game. Glitches as harmful as this aren’t common with the series. This lasted for only the first game, and my 10 or so following games were glitch free.
Player control is no different from Madden 11, all buttons are the same and there are no new features worth mentioning. However, the camera system changed drastically, favoring new, TV-esque camera angles. For example, kickoffs are seen from a camera that looks like it could be close to the ceiling, whether you’re kicking or recieving, and standard plays use a camera that is somewhat fixed to the center of the field. So even when you’re eluding defenders on the sideline, the camera is just slightly off. This gave me a weird sensation, as if my controller was faulty somehow, but I just had to compensate more for the changed camera angle.
In the 10 or so games I’ve played so far, this is what I’ve seen as noteworthy. I just wish I could’ve listed something positive.
Madden 12 will be alright for those of us who must have the latest roster or maybe even that new way to tackle someone, but for those of us who value our money and a great gaming experience, do yourself a favor and invest elsewhere.
Gamers have become more and more involved with multiplayer over the years, but Major League Gaming (MLG) has provided an incentive to keep coming back for more. By offering an outlet for not just competition, but community as well, MLG has formed an entire gaming sub-culture, one that is growing rapidly and breaking records in the process.
From July 29th-31st, 35 million views were logged on the live stream of MLG’s Pro Circuit stop at Anaheim. This shattered previous records with the help of over 1,000 competitors and 20,000 spectators.
We all know Major League Gaming is where to go if you’re looking for some competition, but they also produce clothing, virtual goodies such as gamer pictures and themes, and gaming accessories such as their state of the art Astro® A40 headset, available via their online store. As a result of their Pro Circuit events and the aforementioned online store, MLG has become somewhat of a lifestyle to professional gamers and amateur hopefuls.
Sundance DiGiovanni, co-founder and CEO of Major League Gaming, is optimistic about his organization’s future, and hopes to change the MLG event schedule to allow for more content. In an interview with Forbes’ John Gaudiosi, he said,
“If you look at what happens in Southeast Asia, it’s regularly scheduled matches and leagues and the players have built up over time because there are historical match records and every day or every week there’s meaningful competition. Our plan is to move towards a model which supports that next year, so that we will be able to pump out content far more regularly.”
DiGiovanni was also questioned about the detail of next year’s season structure and whether New York, where MLG is based, would be their “central hub” for events. He couldn’t comment on either question “yet.”
Even though the details of MLG’s future are still just speculation, it’s presence in the gaming community is cemented and only showing signs of growth.
If you want to possibly be part of another record shattering turn-out, MLG’s next stop on their Pro Circuit is August 26th-28th in Raleigh, North Carolina. Passes are available in their online store, or live streaming is available via mlg.tv.
All of us here love video games. Some play them only occasionally, some play for an experience, and some just play for the fun of it. Surely we’ve all thought about cementing our hobby into our future by making it a career. So I’ve made a guide to the most popular video game careers today.
Now before we begin, I want to make clear that I’m not necessarily certified in the field of giving people career advice. However, being a high school senior last year, one obsessed with finding the best career for my interests, has certainly helped my knowledge of the video game industry’s pick of careers. Remember while reading this that there will always be circumstances that can make finding a job in the industry either easier or more difficult. This blog only reflects my personal understanding and opinions.
Also, I think it’s necessary to lay out a few tidbits that will give you a better understanding of each career path. First of all, these jobs will almost always be available in high cost-of-living environments. Los Angeles, Seattle, and the Bay area, for example. There are a few studios and companies available around the country, though. Game Informer is located in Minneapolis, MN, for example.
Second, these careers usually require a steep learning curve, which is usually underestimated by idealistic (and sometimes lazy) gamers. New hardware and software is something that you’ll have to get accustom to. Mastering the software and hardware of any given generation usually doesn’t happen until the end of it’s lifespan, if it happens at all, and by that time it’s usually back to square one.
Lastly, and probably the most well known point, is that the hours associated with most of these jobs are grueling. On the job horror stories are becoming weekly headlines in this industry and it’s something that will just have to be dealt with. Weekly hours of 70-80 are commonplace and even 100+ hour weeks have been reported. That might not be something you’d want to deal with, especially considering that many game industry employees are exempt from any type of overtime pay. “Crunch time” is not your friend.
Those last few points weren’t written to scare you off, it’s just the reality of the business. It’s hard work, but many interviews I’ve read feature people who discover that the hard work is worth it, describing it as fulfilling, exciting, and a rush to be working on something that you’re passionate about. If I didn’t scare you off, let’s get down to business.
Game Testing (Quality Assurance)
This is among the most popular ways to break into the industry, but it’s not the job that one might think. When I first heard that game testing was a real, viable way to get into the industry I was pumped. But this entails playing half finished games, if that, and not for the enjoyment. Testers explore every nook and cranny in hopes of finding bugs and other problems that simply must not make it into the final version of the game.
As stated before, this is a viable way to get your name out there. If you have a portfolio built, whether it be of concept art or code, it can be shown off to the many contacts that you make along the way, hopefully securing a job that paves the way for your future.
This entry-level job has the lowest paying average salary, but $49,009 is nothing to sneeze at.
Art & Animation
This is a niche of the industry that can be hard to break into. You need style and skill, and above all, persistence. My only advice would be to keep building a portfolio to show off to someone already in the industry. As I mentioned, game testing is a wonderful way to make contacts, as well as attending industry events like E3.
A friend of mine is soon off to college for 3D Animation and Media Arts, he described the programs used as something “like computer aided drafting.” They use a lot of adobe software, obviously including photoshop to produce textures, concept art, etc.
I’m not an artist by any means, but I’m sure that your art is what matters, a degree is just icing on the cake. Artists and animators average a whopping $71,354 per year!
Programmers are tasked with various things regarding the function of the game. Depending on your position, you could be building a game engine, working on how the game controls, how it feels or acts, etc.
Learning how to manipulate games and software in general isn’t an easy task. You must become fluent in a number of “programming languages.” C, C++, Flash, and Java are popular and good to know if you’re interested in making games, but it all depends on what platform you’re developing for.
In college a programming hopeful will likely pursue a computer science degree. Good computer science programs can be found around the country, but noteworthy colleges include USC, Digipen, and California - Berkeley. And as stated before, build an impressive portfolio before and during college to maximize efficiency. You naturally want to score a job as soon as possible when your degree is in hand.
Programmers are also among the highest paid in the industry, averaging $85,733, a number that is increasing by about $5,000 a year (except for entry-level positions.)
Ahhh, journalism. Probably the one I’ve researched the most, and still the one I’m most unsure about. (Job security-wise anyways.) This is actually what I’ll be going to school for soon.
Aspiring video game journalists have multiple routes available for them, but that doesn’t make the trip from “Blogger” to “Editor” any easier. The traditional path to a journalism job is to: blog/write ferociously, (developing a unique voice in the process), secure a job/internship at a local or school newspaper to gain some professional experience, go to college and get a journalism, english, or creative writing degree, and hope that an opening somewhere is available upon graduation. This is probably the safest way to get a job writing for somewhere like Game Informer or IGN, but if Dan Ryckert’s experience getting a job at GI is any evidence, it’s not the only way.
Aside from the traditional “write, write, write, college, internship, write, land a job” approach, there are some editors who have landed their jobs by writing freelance and doing things like attending trade shows. Above all, you must keep writing. It is imperative that freelance hopefuls write a ridiculous amount. It’s usually the only way to get your name out there, make contacts, improve, and eventually make a job out of it. For those of you who don’t think college is for you, well, then writing for freelance websites and publications is the way to go. Also, Dan Ryckert suggests buying a shark suit.
The best journalism programs are at Stanford, Princeton, and The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. If you don’t have the marks in high school to make it into an ivy league school, the U of M - Twin Cities is an awesome choice. Considering it’s only four hours away from my hometown and also in the same city as the Game Informer offices, the U of M was the obvious choice for me.
My research didn’t find me an exact average salary for video game journalism, but most reliable sites said $50,000+. Whether or not this is accurate, I’m sure the exact salary is enough to keep you comfortable, (obviously more with promotions and as the job becomes more demanding.) However, playing games, writing about them, and being in a gaming environment should be pay in itself. It’s not always about the money, it’s also about doing what you love, which can be said about any of these careers.
Perhaps the most sought-after of all is the task of design. Video game designers literally make all of the pieces of a game into an experience; something playable, entertaining, and fun.
To fully understand what designers do, you must break them up into their respective categories: lead designer, game mechanics/systems designer, level designer, and writer. The game mechanics/systems designer works on the playability aspect, including underlying rules and patters, and how the game functions. The level designer works on the game world’s content and interface, while the writer works closely with the lead designer to produce a narrative for the game. The lead designer, as I mentioned, works with the writer on the narrative, as well as creating a backstory, setting and prevailent/underlying themes.
Game design is taught by a variety of schools, but I think Digipen is worthy of mention. The average salary of game designers is $70,233, and steadily rising.
So, I think it’d be a silly question to ask if you’ve been interested in a video game industry career, so I’m just going to ask what your future career goals are. Do they involve video games? And are there any companies/studios that you would love to work for?
*All salary statistics are as of 2010, via Gamasutra.
Anyone remember the G4 of a few years ago? The one that launched in 2002, with the goal of providing news and entertainment focused primarily the video game industry? Yeah, I wonder what happened to that.
The last time I really tuned into G4 was at least a year ago. I couldn’t stand the reality T.V. marathons, the ditzy hosts that couldn’t tell Mario from Master Chief, or the lack of video game/technology content. Everything seemed wrong, and I recently found myself wondering what exactly caused it’s transformation from a hub for gaming and technology, to a hub for all interests of the stereotypical male.
As I mentioned, G4, formerly known as G4techTV, was once the station to watch if you were into gaming. It launched with thirteen original series, all of which covered some aspect of video games. Whether it was game culture, reviews, news, tips, or even art, G4 was the place to find it. The station built upon it’s original shows, and even gave some the axe in favor of more popular shows such as X-Play and Attack of the Show, (which would later be the shows that kept the network on it’s feet.) However, despite it’s separate successes and failures, it all was about to change.
On May 6th, 2006, the entertainment magazine, Variety, reported that G4 would be changing drastically. A G4 executive stated, “Guys like to play games, but not necessarily watch a bunch of shows with games on the screen. So what we’re doing now is expanding G4 from a network solely defined by video games to one inspired by them.”
This expansion was more of a transformation than anything. Three of the original thirteen shows lasted past the 2006 “expansion,” of which only “Cheat!” maintained it’s original form. Although, it later condensed down to a measly feature on X-Play. Slowly, video game shows drifted from the lineup, replaced by reality television programs like “Cops” and “Cheaters.” With this shift also came harsh criticism from G4 viewers who didn’t appreciate the network’s lack of video game content. It’s understandable that G4 made the change in hopes of competing with other male-oriented networks, namely Spike, but many would argue that G4 lost it’s unique identity in the process.
Obviously, G4’s expansion didn’t work out for them in the long run. Lost in their hopes to obtain a broader male demographic, a large portion of their video game-centric demographic was severed. DirecTV must’ve took note, because in late 2010 the television giant announced that it was removing G4 from it’s lineup. Reasons cited included low ratings, and “low subscriber interest.” I guess that’s what G4 gets for ignoring the audience it was built upon.
To myself and many others, the DirecTV drop really didn’t come as a surprise. If you’re a DirecTV subscriber and have been wondering where you can get your G4 fix, the network is now available exclusively from Dish Network and two internet television services, AT&T’s U-Verse and Verizon’s FiOS.
What G4 could’ve been is really a hard question to answer. Would they have continued to grow and eventually prosper alongside the rest of gaming as the place on television for video games? Would they have died out before the birth of our current generation of consoles, the period where the video game industry began it’s exponential growth?
I believe the first of the two possibilities is most plausible. With the advent of the next generation of consoles, many programs from the original G4 would’ve likely skyrocketed in popularity. “Portal,” a show focused on multiplayer gaming would’ve been able to cover Xbox Live and Playstation Network during their prime, and possibly even sprinkle some Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection into their headlines every few months. “Pulse” was focused on delivering the news of the video game world, and what better time to be covering video game industry news during the PSN debacle, the Modern Warfare 2/Russia fiasco, or even just the release of any of the outstanding games introduced in recent years.
Shows that featured the intelligent discussion of video games could’ve been implemented, featuring the insight of journalists that would be bursting at the seams to express their opinions. The best in the industry could discuss things like, video games as an art form, gameplay vs. cinematic cutscenes, microtransactions, choice & conflict, and the game reviewing process. Yes, I’m aware that a plethora of podcasts cover these topics, but why not have the industry heard by a broader audience, one that would help the industry grow in number and diversity?
Major League Gaming could broadcast their news and events live on the network. Cinematech could make a return, advertising games with trailers, video game art and music. (Portal 2 Soundtrack, anyone?) A show centered around classics, possibly showing replays or documentaries, could pull in the more cultured gamers. The possibilities are literally endless.
And yet, we’re left with 1 hour of Attack of the Show, 30 minutes of X-Play, 1 hour of Cheaters, 2 hours of Cops, an hour of Web Soup, and a few more hours of Cops or Cheaters to end the night.
We may never know what G4 could’ve been, but my guess is that it’d have been something far greater than the reality TV and viral web videos we’re provided with now.
Let’s face it, there has always been a bit of an achievement hunter in all of us. Until just before I wrote my most recent blog, I was one as well, and my achievement sabbatical has encouraged me to think of the worst achievements out there. Even ones that seasoned achievement hunters won’t want to see. Here’s a list of types that range from irritating, to exhausting, even to impossible.
To some gamers, multiplayer just comes naturally. Along with the help of a $200+ headset, modded controller, Kontrol Freeks, 72 inch HDTV, and their tryhard sweatband, they’re easily capable of racking up a crazy amount of kills each round and claiming their title of MVP. To others, it’s a bit harder to compete online, especially without implementation of a well designed ranking system. Aside from online multiplayer’s grueling nature, some achievements can be tiresome in themselves. Achievements like Gears of War’s “Seriously …” require players to accumulate a ridiculous amount of online kills, in this case 10,000. It’s estimated that if a player averaged 1 kill per round, it would take a whopping 400 gameplay hours to accumulate 10,000, and that’s not counting time spent in multiplayer lobbies waiting for a match to start! This is but one example of many ridiculously tough multiplayer achievements.
4. The Pointless
These achievements really don’t make you feel like you’ve achieved a dang thing. For example, The Simpsons Game features the easiest achievement of all time, entitled “Press START to Play,” No trickery here, it’s really that simple. But to be fair, it’s probably satire on achievements as a whole. However, some games don’t just fork over a single achievement in a short amount of time, they’d rather give you every achievement in the game. For example, Avatar: The Burning Earth only has five achievements, all of which can be obtained in the opening minutes of the game. This crappy Avatar game reigns supreme when it comes to easily completed games, but some iterations of Madden and other EA Sports titles have featured similarly easy achievements.
3. The Impossible
Yes, there are in fact many unobtainable achievements. Either due to a glitch that hasn’t been patched, poor development, or, most commonly, an online server has been shut down, making said game’s online achievements truly impossible to get. (Unless you cheat, of course.) EA has been most commonly scrutinized for this, choosing to shut down their online servers shortly after a new iteration hits store shelves. Thanks, EA.
For a full list of unobtainable achievements you can check out this thread here.
2. Timed Achievements
Some of the worst achievements in gaming are timed. There is no more stressful, irritating feeling than having to race against a clock or AI. Even if they aren’t necessarily tough to do, this type of achievement takes valuable focus away from narrative. For example, Grand Theft Auto IV’s “Liberty City Moment” challenges players to beat the story mission in under 30 hours! This achievement isn’t tough by any means, but it may feel like a punishment to those who would rather explore Liberty City to it’s fullest. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood did this as well, implementing rewards for those who managed to receive “full-synchronization.” All missions are coupled with arbitrary challenges, usually time constraints.
In my opinion, collecting random items is the worst of the worst. I honestly think that developers throw these in as fillers, last-second garbage that adds “replayability,” or, in other words, busy work. Being told to collect X amount of gems, feathers, coins, or bananas is a product of lazy development and we shouldn’t tolerate it. Of course, there will always be the completionists out there that add fuel to this type of development, but games, and the gamer, deserve better than this. I’d rather see achievements that are creative and inspiring, even if they’re easier to do. Take note, developers, collectables should be the first type of achievement you work on getting rid of, for good.
Over my three or so years with my Xbox 360 I’ve had a recurring conflict concerning achievements. You see, I’ll bring a new game home, but not before firing up xbox360achievements.org and checking to see what the achievement list is like. Are they simple or difficult, story related or online, time-consuming or a quick 1000? I’ll carry on, playing through the game, but not without checking the achievement list a few more times to see if there is some achievement, any achievement, that I can pick up on my way towards the end credits. I often find myself wondering if I’m devaluing my experience by “achievement-hunting.” Some friends of mine believe that my mild addiction is pointless, yet some are as intensely concerned with obtaining achievements as I am.
Well, let’s weigh the pros and cons.
While achievements are most easily earned during story missions, good achievements encourage gamers to play in a different manner. Grand Theft Auto IV’s Liberty City is far too expansive to see everything there is to offer by just playing through the story missions, so to prod players into exploring the plethora of side missions, easter eggs, and just causing overall mayhem, achievements are designed as such. The achievement “One Man Army” challenges players to survive five minutes on a six star wanted level, a wonderful way to award the inevitable mayhem that gamers cause in the Grand Theft Auto series. The achievements “Courier Service” and “Manhunt,” (among others) encourage players to experience the side missions the game has to offer. If you explore enough you might even find the heart of Liberty City, literally!
These achievements are great. They provide replayability, challenge, new experiences, and even competition between achievement-seeking friends. But GTA IV’s achievement list is far from perfect. Achievements like “Endangered Species,” require you to endlessly search for a high number of items, in this case, pigeons. Yeah, Rockstar will give you a whole 50 gamerpoints if you scour Liberty City of it’s pigeon problem, all 200 of them.
It’s a common problem, though. Call of Duty games send you looking for 30 pieces of enemy intel, (not really intel, just something to search for and press a button at), Assassins Creed has you search for feathers, and most adventure games have you collect something along the lines of coins, gems, or something else that you otherwise wouldn’t care about.
These types of virtual awards do little to further the medium, and I’d like to see that change in the future. I’m tired of developers telling you that you haven’t completed their game if you haven’t shot X number of pigeons, collected X number of items, or completed a given mission in a certain amount of time. Rather than adding challenge, replayability, or fun, these goals undermine the story and take valuable focus off of said game’s narrative. I don’t want to mix Niko’s goal of the “American Dream” with a 30 hour time limit, I don’t want to grab enemy intelligence off an insurgent’s bed while a nuclear missile strike is imminent, and, above all, I don’t want the emotional impact video games can so often produce to be hindered by an achievement list that I can’t get off of my mind.
Sometimes I think that I’m due for a Matt Helgeson-esque reset of my Xbox Live profile, and I’m seriously contemplating it now. I know some of you love to think that achievement hunting is a new part of gaming “culture,” but it’s not. At least not when I find myself simulating years of Madden franchise mode or getting an achievement for pressing the start button. That’s not challenging, or competitive, and it certainly doesn’t give me a new and valuable experience. It’s just pushing buttons.
I’m about to journey into a new and exciting, albeit frightening, stage of my life. Three weeks from the time I’m writing this will be my first day as a college student, and I’m not entirely optimistic about it yet. From my early years of high school I’ve been told that college defines you, which is daunting to think about when college is this close. “Where you go to college, what you study, and what your grades are will shape the rest of your life.” But these scare tactics obviously didn’t get through my thick skull, immediately anyways. It wasn’t until my Junior year of high school that I took these warnings a bit more seriously. Coincidentally, my Junior year also gave way to where I am now, writing. I had always enjoyed writing, always loved everything about video games, and I wanted a job that would allow me to preserve the two in my future. Now, two years later, and I’m writing video game related blogs and readying myself to study Mass Communications in college, hopefully leading to a career in video game journalism. I’d like to think I’m well on my way, but with my idealism also came an internal struggle. I would think to myself, “Is this really the best option for me?,” or “Would I really be able to do this?”
My optimism towards this career was halted by a few people’s stern doubt. An article I read picked fun at video game journalism, declaring a few flaws in hopes of turning people away from it. Problems mentioned included low pay, PR lines (trying to incorporate “back of case” worthy quotes into your writing), and lastly, he said that it would probably suck the fun out of video games due to working around deadlines, playing games with a critical eye, and playing bad games.
First of all, deadlines would suck, but they’re obviously expected. If you don’t want deadlines, make your own publication. Second of all, I love playing games with a critical eye, as a matter of fact, I do naturally. (My friend and I will often find ourselves picking fun at the ludonarrative dissonance that plagues most games today.) And as far as playing bad games.. I love tearing apart bad games. I guess that article wasn’t directed towards someone who was so intensely focused.
My family wasn’t exactly overjoyed upon hearing that I was going to write for a living, let alone about video games. (They still would like to see me make serious cash by becoming a lawyer or doctor, both very, very far from anything I would enjoy.) At school my College Writing teacher was giddy upon hearing I write for recreation, but I was given warnings after telling her that I’d like to pursue a career in journalism. “Be careful about choosing the print media route, it’s not the best,” she said. Even my Student Services Advisor (formal job title for someone who is responsible for sending high school students off to college prepared) told me that I would be wise to choose an English or Creative Writing degree over Journalism. “It’s just the safest thing to do,” she said with a smile.
Well, I believe that sometimes the “safest thing to do” isn’t always the best option. Despite everyone’s unwavering doubt, I think that I can find a happiness by sticking with my passion, happiness that would be unobtainable to me in the world of law or medicine, because to me, video games are much more than just mindless fun. From a very early age I found solace in all sorts of video games. For example, long stints in the hospital were brightened by a complimentary N64, my fondness of solitude was reinforced by my first console, a Gameboy Color complete with Pokemon Yellow, which allowed me to immerse myself into a new and fascinating world, and my less than stellar athleticism was balanced by my ability to destroy everyone at Super Smash Bros.
Since childhood video games have been a huge part of my life, and I think it’d be crazy to axe them out in favor of something that I have absolutely no interest in, something that would bring me wads of cash but ultimately no sense of fulfillment.
I hope that everyone who blogs here on GI can at least partially relate to what I’m saying. I’d like to see all of you aspiring video game journalists gunning for the top, (by that I mean Game Informer, of course.) Hopefully your friends, family, or even a prudish College Writing teacher or won’t convince you to do otherwise. I’ll leave you all with one of my favorite quotes, one that I try to remember in hopes of keeping that fiery passion burning.
“It is a fact often observed, that men have written good verses under the inspiration of passion, who cannot write well under other circumstances.”
Among the myriad multiplayer games introduced to consoles over the last few years, my all-time favorite has been Call of Duty 4, (Halo 3 being a close 2nd). Since it released 4 years ago during the 2007 holiday season I have logged 28 days of playtime, killed 57 thousand enemies, and experienced numerous thousands of wins and losses. Call of Duty 4 fueled an addiction to online shooters in myself that I have had a hard time breaking. Only great single-player adventures provided by games like Fallout 3, Mass Effect, and Oblivion persuade me from a great online session of gaming. Call of Duty 4’s ingenious and addictive prestige system had me playing for hours every day. I was ranking up every couple games, unlocking guns and perks along the way, only to start over and do it all again 10 more times. While recent Call of Duty iterations have piled on a dauntingly expansive amount of guns, attachments, perks and challenges, Call of Duty 4 had a class system that always seemed just enough to keep you coming back for more.
Call of Duty 4’s multiplayer experience was top-notch, and it even eclipsed Halo 3 as the most-played Xbox Live title for many consecutive weeks back in it’s prime. But it did have it’s flaws. Boosting 1v1’s with friends for the luxury of new camouflages for your guns or a few experience points from completed challenges was without a doubt the worst of the bunch. The privilege of having a golden gun, (acquired by achieving the X amount of headshot’s for each weapon class) wasn’t much of an accomplishment after long, because everyone who wasn’t touting a golden gun was accusing others of boosting. Other notable exploits were the leaderboard hacks, where the top 2000 or so players across the score, kills, and wins leaderboards were named variations of “COD4HACKS” or “Worldmodzcom.” There were even glitches that allowed people to get out of the maps boundaries, or acquire perks that would normally take 40 more rank-ups to use.
These glitches and exploits were annoying, but not by any means a justification to stop playing the oh-so addictive game. I continued playing regularly, even after the release of Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops (also plagued with exploits.) However, the current multiplayer experience has changed drastically from it’s golden years. Nowadays, upon entering a game, the first thing you’ll usually notice is a neon-colored wall of text scrolling in the upper-right corner, spamming everyone in the game with a message like “JOIN CODMODZ . COM FOR FREE HACKS.” This message is annoying, yes, but it obviously isn’t what has broken the gameplay experience for myself and others. The annoying display up top is an indicator, a warning to some, of cheaters present in the game. The cheaters will often ruin the experience by spawning in areas of the map that give them a tactical and unfair advantage (e.g. on top of otherwise unreachable buildings, or even just right behind your spawn.) They can make the game’s speed 300% of the default, allow semi-automatic weapons shoot as if they were automatic, (making noob-tubes that much more infuriating,) they can teleport to other pre-determined areas of the map at will, often to evade certain-death situations, and to top it off, they often have a constant upper-hand courtesy of a radar that doesn’t ever go away. Rage quitting, whining, and foul language ensues.
Other games have fallen prey to online scum as well. Halo 3 and Halo: Reach (among others) are well-known for host-booting, a process that can kick players from the game. The technical term is a DDoS attack, where someone uses a program to flood another person’s internet with thousands of useless packets of information, ultimately resulting in a poor connection (at best) and a complete loss of connection (at worst.) If you think this sounds like a fun thing to do, I would refrain. It is a federal offense and punishment would likely be severe, although, I’m unaware of whether or not the law is enforced to it’s potential.
Personally, I would love to see more security in today’s online games. It doesn’t seem like too much hassle to update or patch a game once in a while if your game is exploited, especially to the degree of Call of Duty 4, Call of Duty World at War, etc. I think that developers should put a few more resources towards the security of the games that people enjoy right now, rather that using all resources for releasing their next iteration every November. I know people are selfish by nature, but consumer happiness should be a top priority, or those who have been ignored may not be customers in the future.
It’s sad to think that I will probably never play my favorite online game the same way again. But when you can no longer play a game the way it was intended to be played, many people feel there is no choice but to put the disc back in it’s case for good.
Kontrol Freek is a company dedicated to bringing accessories that either give gamers a competitive edge or alter the gaming experience in some way. Their new product, Rcade Freek, does just this. As apposed to other products like their overwhelmingly popular FPS Freek and Speed Freek accessories, this set of analog stick extensions have been tailored to a more specific and (now) less common niche of the gaming market—arcade junkies.
Rcade Freek is an accessory that you snap onto your traditional analog sticks, raising their height and changing their feel in your favor. This particular addition to the already wide range of Kontrol Freek products brings gamers an option to get that joystick feeling under your thumbs without emptying your wallet on an expensive arcade emulator. Compared to some arcade emulators, which would take up massive amounts of space and usually run consumers $100 or more, the Rcade Freek will run you a mere ten dollars.
The initial feeling will be uncomfortable for those who would be making the jump from standard Xbox 360 or PS3 analog sticks, as the height is raised even higher than Kontrol Freek’s FPS sticks. (Find my review of them here). However intimidating this raised height may seem, it’s easily overcome with minutes of playtime or even changing the positioning of your hands. You can position them traditionally, which will be necessary for many games such as Trials HD and Mortal Kombat. Games that require small amounts of button presses such as Pacman and Geometry Wars can be played with your hands grasped around the analog sticks—arcade style. Both methods work well and are comfortable.
Playing actual arcade games from the Xbox Live Marketplace like Pacman and Galaga greeted me with a welcomed and joyous nostalgia. But make no mistake, these aren’t designed to improve player skill, only to provide a wider range of motion and emulate the arcade feel. If you’re looking to get better at the aforementioned arcade games, your remaining options are practice, practice, and..erm..practice.
I particularly enjoyed using them with Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2. Being a game that only requires analog sticks to shoot and an occasional bomb set off my a trigger, it was a perfect accessory to have.
The build quality is the only component of the product that worried me. They are very light, and are made out of hard plastic. The lack of hard rubber or a textured surface to prevent sweaty hands from slipping in the midst of the game may be a con for some gamers, myself included.
The Rcade Freek product may worry consumers, initially, but despite the slippery feel, the Rcade Freek will be a worthy investment for any console arcade junkie or for those looking to build their stock of gaming accessories.
The online gaming community is always looking for ways to get an edge over the competition. Well, here’s your answer.
The FPS Freek brand of analog stick extensions were made with competitive gamers in mind. I was heavily into first person shooters for years, but unfortunately I’ve only had these extensions for about four months. Over that time I’ve definitely been convinced of their worth.
First Impressions: I bought the FPS Freeks after reading on their website that the accessory “improves both accuracy and decreases thumb fatigue,” hoping to get an edge over other Call of Duty players. I was attracted by not only the boasted performance increase but the price as well. They cost me only $10 and would arrive in under a week. After I received them in the mail roughly a week later I immediately put them to the test with some Black Ops multiplayer. Snapping on the extensions was no problem, and the tight fit doesn’t wear away your original analog sticks (Although, my friend tried the FPS Freeks out on his third-party Tron themed controller, which resulted in his analog sticks being slightly damaged.) The increased height feels very awkward on the thumbs, initially. After getting somewhat comfortable with the feel I jumped into a game of Black Ops multiplayer. I did no better than usual and I didn’t find that the sticks benefited me much, only made it more cumbersome to go from analog stick to the A,B,X,Y buttons. I continued to use them, as they were getting more comfortable after every game. After 3-4 games or so I felt completely comfortable playing with the FPS Freeks attached and even found it easier to aim.
Current Impressions: After roughly four months of use, I really can’t go back to the standard Xbox 360 analog sticks. I’ve grown fond of the extended range of motion, the vastly improved grip, and my ability to play on higher sensitivities while maintaining accuracy.
Do they really help? From my personal experiences the verdict is a simple yes. The Kontrol Freek website claims that the FPS Freeks provide a 40% wider range of motion, increased grip, and less thumb fatigue which should in theory improve your kill/death ratio online. This is what I experienced:
Improved Grip- Without a doubt the FPS Freeks increase the grip over standard analog sticks. As seen in the picture, there are 12 bumps on the FPS Freek extensions compared to the meager 4 bumps on the standard Xbox 360 analog sticks. These bumps make it easier to control and prevent your fingers from slipping off when making quickchanges in direction.
Decreased Thumb-Fatigue- First of all, I never have experienced thumb fatigue from playing a video game. So I didn’t notice any difference in this category. Seems to me like this was just something that they threw in there to promote its usefulness.
Increased Accuracy- Don’t be fooled, this product will not make you a Call of Duty juggernaut overnight. The idea of it actually increasing your accuracy is silly, because it only helps you aim. The accuracy of your aim is determined by you and you only. The raised sticks give you a 40% wider range of motion, which makes it much easier to aim on high sensitivities. Because of this, if you move your thumb too much you won’t over-aim as easily.
Overall, for the price of $10, the FPS Freeks are an absolute steal. This price point makes it easy for people curious of the product to go ahead and make the purchase without the risk of losing a wad of money. Being an above average player when it comes to first-person shooters I highly recommend this product to anyone who wants an edge over their competition.
A Few More Details
They are available for both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3.
There are many other variations of analog stick accessories made by Kontrol Freek, including ones geared towards those who prefer racing games or sports games.
For those of you interested in buying these, the ones I own are the “Vipr Ultra FPS Freeks.”
If you have any questions about something I didn’t cover in this review feel free to ask!
With the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. still in our recent memory and The Legend of Zelda’s 25th being this year, I thought it’d be appropriate to write a blog as a tribute to the genius behind these gems, Shigeru Miyamoto.
He is without a doubt the most successful video game designer of all time and regarded by some (including myself) the best. Characters such as Mario, Zelda, Fox, Yoshi and Donkey Kong are just a handful of his beloved characters that have spawned countless sequels and spin-offs that we still play today. All of his games have survived the test of time and are the foundation of the best games you can find on Nintendo’s console.
Mario. Not long after the Donkey Kong sensation hit the arcades, the video game industry tanked for a variety of reasons. Consumers were given a reason to invest their money in video games once again with the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System and a little game called Super Mario Bros. The game turned the carpenter, Jumpman, into a plumber named Mario. Unheard of gameplay elements were introduced, and the little known concept of “easter eggs” was brought to an entirely new level, giving gamers replayability even after saving the princess. This simple yet addicting classic single-handedly revived the video game industry, and it hasn’t slowed down since.
The Legend of Zelda. The Legend of Zelda series is timeless. The original laid the foundation for numerous sequels, all of which are great. They’re so great they’ve spawned some of the most discussed “Which one is best?” debates in video game history, including a debate by GI editors. Some people have clamored for a series overhaul in recent years, but I don’t want it to. I’m happy with the subtle changes from game to game, while sticking to the same formula we’ve all grown so familiar with.
Shigeru Miyamoto is a creative genius. One that deserves a book of praise, rather than this puny blog that only showcases a couple of his masterpieces. His games will go down in video game history as some of the best ever. But that is another debate altogether.
You’ll have to excuse me, I’m off to get my nostalgia fix with some WindWaker.
The sequel to the 2007 PC sci-fi shooter Crysis is releasing to the public on March 22nd. I, however, have played through roughly half of the single player campaign.
When I fired up my Xbox 360 and tossed Crysis 2 into the disc tray, I was expecting a game with gorgeous visuals and an uninteresting storyline. While my assumption was correct, the unique mechanics and player customization system compliment the already exciting gameplay, making up for the somewhat unoriginal storyline. I had never played the original Crysis, but the premise of the sequel is: New York City is infected with an alien disease of some kind, you being the only force able to stop it. Aliens are causing mass destruction and you offer stiff opposition with the help of your nanosuit. It is by no means an enthralling story, but fighting the alien scum was fun nonetheless.
My favorite gameplay mechanic was the overall utility of the nanosuit. It comes fully equiped with a visor that allows players to tag hostile targets, find “tactical routes”, and find unseen enemies via thermal vision. It also features customizable features for your nanosuit. These features make certain gameplay situations easier to manage and are split into four categories, one feature being usable at a time for each category. The nanosuit really levels the playing field against the somewhat overpowered alien force. There is also a lean in-lean out option when in combat. While a good idea, the controls were confusing at times and the fast paced nature of shoot outs in Crysis 2 didn’t coerce me into using it often.
Fun to use and helpful Visor System.
A fresh FPS genre for those who are growing tired of Call of Duty, Battlefield or Halo.
Frustratingly smart AI
So are you guys excited for the game? Or are you saving up for next month’s blockbuster titles Portal 2 andMortal Kombat?
*Remember that I have not finished the story and haven’t even attempted the multiplayer. All of these observations are based solely on the parts of the game I have finished.*
I can’t even begin to describe the joy that fills me when someone ignorantly spouts off in a blog, press conference, or some other form of communication and I can think to myself, “This person really should just stop speaking.” For no reason other than it gives me the opportunity to point out their foolish mistakes, or in this case, irony.
The most recent example being President of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, and his speech regarding his concerns with the video game industry. He points out a single concern that I can agree with, and two more concerns that served me more as comic relief rather than what he intended.
He is worried about the scale of the current generation of video games. They are becoming colossal projects for developers to undertake. He states that this growing trend will have to stop at some point for games to stay manageable. If they don’t stop their rapid expansion in scale, small details will be overlooked and detract from the overall quality of said game while making the goal of perfecting a game disappear.
Iwata believes that game design is becoming too much of a specialized affair. Artists are strictly artists and programmers are strictly programmers. Mr. Iwata, did you realize that this may be necessary to create the behemoths of games we enjoy? We need specialization to ensure that the quality of each aspect of the game is paramount. There isn’t a complex response to this “issue.” Everyone simply cannot excel at programming, design and art.
Now while I disagree with the previous two points, we found some common ground with his next concern. He states that social and mobile gaming is making the video game industry diverge from where it once was. In other words, the quality of games will suffer due to the social and mobile platforms’ obsession with releasing game after game, app after app.
Now there is something very wrong with this picture. The president of Nintendo is stressing quality over quantity.
Alright, Mr. Iwata, if you are so concerned with the future quality of the software that is released in our industry, why do you proceed to compare the Xbox 360’s 700 games with the Nintendo Wii’s 1000+ or the Nintendo DS’ 1000+? Why don’t you stop third party developers from making games for your company unless they meet your standard? I already know the answer; it puts money in your pockets. The Wii has appealed to a different audience(a very well-paying one), at the displeasure of the Nintendo fanboys of course. Former Nintendo faithfuls, myself included, will most likely not jump back on the Nintendo bandwagon until Nintendo makes drastic changes.
I don’t know about the rest of the gaming community, but I won’t take Mr. Iwata seriously until he can express his concerns without his own company coming to my mind.
First off, you’re probably wondering how the fuck I’ve already played the game. Well, I work at my local Blockbuster, where the employees can rent games and movies a few days before the official release date. So a few more blogs like this may be possible if the feedback is positive.
Now that that is all cleared up..
I played Bulletstorm for a few hours and over that time it inspired me to think about where developers are going with the first person shooter genre. Personally, I think that developers are using cheap gameplay mechanics to give the impression of originality. I really did enjoy playing Bulletstorm, but nothing new and exciting presented itself.
Through my time with the game I’ve experienced the following:
A particularly irritating glitch that rotated my point of view 90 degrees and inverted my controls, making it nearly impossible to navigate. Only after 10 minutes of getting almost nowhere and finally trying to slide (double-tapping the A button), did the glitch correct itself.
Another game belonging to an oh-so stale genre, that Epic Games has attempted to spice up with: A “leash” (actually just a whip), some pretty fun “Skillshots”, and a points system for kills. (The points are used to buy ammo and weapon upgrades.)
A really intriguing story that I’m excited to delve deeper into.
This is usually what I get out of every FPS that I buy lately. A story that I can appreciate, minor upgrades to gameplay, and new gameplay mechanics that really don’t do much to spark interest.
Developers better start brainstorming. Because I don’t know how many more iterations of Call of Duty I’ll shell out $60 for. Especially when it seems like I’m getting nothing new aside from more guns, more customization and more 5 year olds to mute.
What do you guys think of the current FPS genre? What do developers need to do if they want to really stand out in the current age of shooters, where Halo and Call of Duty reign supreme? Discuss.
I have a problem with the gaming community. Not necessarily those who are reading this blog, but a particular type of gamer. Before I begin ranting, I’m going to tell you guys a bit about my weekend. (Don’t worry you’ll realize why.)
A youth event was held in my town to raise money for our local “Youth Advisory Commission.” The event was open to all high school students and we were lured in by live music, a dodgeball tournament, recreational basketball, food/ drinks, and of course video game tournaments. I took part in the Call of Duty: Black Ops tournament with my good friend. We made quick work of the competition early on, as expected, and we weren’t really challenged by the teams in the finals either. We walked away victorious. And with each of our new 3 month Xbox Live membership cards in possession, we enjoyed the rest of the night.
Happy ending right? No. Let’s rewind to about half-way through the tournament, when a freshmen at my school (who had promised to “destroy” us in the tournament) alongside his partner, lost to another sub-par team. The scrawny little guy was more than angry. His face grew red, he forcefully put the controller he was using (which happened to be mine) onto the table, and he proceeded to raging his way out the door.
It doesn’t just end there. The next day, my friend and I got on Xbox Live in the evening and were bombarded with messages from the kid who raged at the tournament. He spewed insults that were both unnecessary and untrue, about my friend and myself. He commented on my friend’s glasses, our “lack of lives”, my girlfriend, my friend’s height, and so on.
Let me run you through just how this argument went after he joined our party.
Him: You guys have no lives! You play this game so much!
My Friend: You have more playtime than me…
Him: Well, you brought a headset!
My Friend and I: Yeah, it was in the rules. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of that? And it’s not like we were the only ones who had headsets there..
Him: Well you went to a CALL OF DUTY TOURNAMENT! (He really used this as an insult.)
My Friend and I: HAHAHA you definitely did too, the difference is you lost.
He continued the argument, despite his inability to give us valid reasons for why we “didn’t have lives.” We asked him how his life was more eventful than ours. He is a freshman in high school, with no girlfriend or job. But I’m not going to speculate on what qualities give you a “life” in the gaming community.
This brings me to the problem that I have with not only the angry kid at the tournament, but the gaming community in general. I think everyone can agree that most people play video games. People who don’t seem like the type are often the ones who are addicted to Angry Birds and Bejeweled, never getting off their phone because of it. Now with this surge in gamers you would think that it would be easier to accept people as “gamers.” Gamers aren’t seen as the greasy people with a pocketful of quarters anymore.
Despite this, I’ve noticed that people are hesitant to let their hobby be known. People aren’t willing to admit that they love playing video games to friends or possibly even themselves. For example, the kid at the tournament who said that my friend and I were “nerds” for going to a gaming tournament for a game in which we are skilled at. He went as well. By his definition of “nerd” that he had just given us he would be labeled “nerd” as well, but it seemed like he didn’t even want himself to accept that. Another example is a guy I know who literally wasted away on Halo 3 a few years ago. He walks around school wearing his under armour and football hat, laughing at those who mention video games. As if those who play them are lesser than he is.
Bottom line, gamers need to be proud of who they are. If you’re the occasional gamer then sure, go ahead and spew your terrible jokes about those who enjoy their digital entertainment of choice, we all know that you’ll go home that night and play Call of Duty for hours behind the comfort of your digital persona.
To those who would wear a triforce shirt to school, to those who talk about their dominance of Halo at lunch and at work, to those who love video games and aren’t afraid of people knowing and possibly judging you for it, I applaud you. Thank you for being true to yourself and not being afraid of being judged for something that so many people value.