Month: May 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: Week 4 of May

Welcome back gamers, we made it through another week and coming to the end of another month.  As we come to a close, the preparations of E3 is becoming evident.  That however, is a head of us; let’s, instead, look back at what happened this past week.

Young and old can enjoy the thrills of being a wizard.

WB Interactive announced that Harry Potter for Kinect planned for Xbox 360.  Harry Potter for Kinect  will take players through key events from all eight film and put them in control of those iconic scenes.  What is truly going to set this game apart is how the Kinect will be utilized.  One example of a game mechanic is during a wizard battle, players will use hand gestures and call out the name of spells, similar to those actions in the movies.  Another unique position the game will have is, it will take photos of the player’s face and apply it to the in game avatar.  “Harry Potter for Kinect will engage Harry Potter fans old and new by bringing them into the wizarding world as truly active participants,” said WB’s Samantha Ryan.  “Kids and parents will enjoy recreating their favorite Harry Potter adventures, from flying a broomstick in a Quidditch match, to battling pixies and duelling other wizards.”  Harry Potter for Kinect will release in fall.

38 Studios posted the untimely news that it is laying off their staff and are closing their doors.  “The Company is experiencing an economic downturn,” read a layoff letter posted on WPRI. “To avoid further losses and possibility of retrenchment, the Company has decided that a company-wide layoff is absolutely necessary.  These layoffs are non-voluntary and non-disciplinary. This is your official notice of layoff, effective today, Thursday, May 24, 2012.”   The suspected reason for the layoff is Kingdoms of Amalur sold 1.2 million copies in a three month period, which is less then half of the sales needed by the developer to simply break even.  Best wishes to the employees and their families in the times to comes.

A revival of a classic

Sega plans to launch Jet Set Radio for the Playstation Vita.  The update coming to Vita will see the HD upgrades that the consoles received in addition to the new touch controls which will allow for spraying graffiti and camera integration for creating new graffiti tags.  Sega has been digging in the vaults for take their classics, been giving them a face lift then relaunching the titles on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network; Jet Set Radio will be the first of those re-releases that finds its way to the Playstation Vita.  Jet Set Radio HD is set for release this summer on PC, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and PlayStation Vita.

In-game view of Diablo 3

Blizzard‘s highly anticipated Diablo 3 found its way back to the headlines this week.  Despite the headlines it had previously, this time nothing but good news can be shared about the popular dungeon crawler.  Blizzard announced that Diablo 3 had become the fastest selling PC game of all times.  Within the first day, Diablo 3 had sold 3.5 million copies of the game, and brought in an additional 1.2 million players as part of the World of Warcarft annual pass promotion.  A week later, Diablo 3 has had over 6.3 millions gamers log in and explore the caverns and underworld of the game.  “We’re definitely thrilled that so many people around the world were excited to pick up their copy of Diablo 3 and jump in the moment it went live,” revealed Blizzard’s Mike Morhaime.  Despite launch issues,  Morhaime wants to have an optimistic look at the game moving forward. “I want to reaffirm our commitment to make sure the millions of Diablo 3 players out there have a great experience with the game moving forward, and I also want to thank them for their ongoing support.”

That’s it for this week, check back to Zero1gaming for news review and more!

Online Communities VS Single Player

We’ve all seen recently that the more we’ve progressed in terms of technology being used within our consoles, we’ve also seen the increase in multiplayer.Going from split screen on the same TV, to linking consoles via a cable, to the rise of Xbox Live and Playstation Network but do people enjoy the communities that are being brought to our headsets and what’s our views on the experience of online gaming VS good old single player?

As I’ve mentioned before, the rise of technology being introduced to the upcoming consoles, we’ve seen the prices go up in price as well to the normal RRP for an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 game is around £40. The question I constantly find that I ask myself is “is this really worth the money?” Me personally, I am more of a single player person. Why? Well part of the reason is that find that the online community by itself is never much fun for me. There are the odd days where I will sit and play online games but within a few hours, I’m back onto single player games. Unless I am sitting in a party chat with a couple of friends, I simply cannot enjoy the online experience when it comes to games as much as what I can.

Now this is down to several factors for me. Firstly, I’m a girl who games so automatically, I can be getting taunted for my sex as some gamers have still got  the images that girls simply cannot play games (mostly they can be little Joe whose got his mother to purchase the latest Call of Duty for him since he’s 6 years under the age limit, but that’s another topic in hand now isn’t it?) or are just being seen as sex symbols that are being used to chat up. We’ve all experienced this in online gaming lobbies in some form whether we’ve witnessed this or just been on the receiving end of it. With this in mind, gaming lobbies can become a place for bullying against people of different sexuality, race and beliefs. Some may raise the point that “Yes, but this can happen in everyday life if you walk down the street and put on display your beliefs for the rest of the world to see” but, when playing online, everyone is hidden behind an avatar that can act as a barrier in the fact that, unless we are friends outside of online gaming with the person – you don’t know who they are apart from their username and what games they play so this poses the question , are gaming lobbies acting as a enticer to bullying and only igniting the flame that we’re trying to dampen down on that is called bullying? Is this barrier of having an avatar and not really getting caught out on the bullying just the reason that we’re seeing so much bullying being allowed? Alright so most of you will be saying “So what, just mute them all before starting a match?” by this point, as would I if I was reading this but surely the point of a multiplayer online game would be the multiplayer portion of it and by muting all of these people, you’re essentially isolating yourselves from everyone else. Not much of a ‘team’ player then are we? Can we win with online communities then? Well let’s look at that next.

In saying all of these negatives about the online gaming community, online lobbies can be considered as a good place to meet new people who have similar gaming interests as you. As we’re seeing more and more of the CoD’s and Battlefield’s, the more clans that are forming where friends are getting together on a regular basis online and doing more team vs. team competitions on these games which are obviously displaying the act of more team work and enjoyment compared to someone joining a lobby by themselves with a group of random people. As well as this, I’ve also been a witnessed to people coming together through online forums to help other gamers out with achievements on certain games and working together to help each other out.

As I’ve already mentioned, I am more of a single player gal myself. Not only because of my view on the online gaming communities but because I find that it provides more of an enjoyable experience. No worries of getting abused by strangers, no waiting around to get matched up in a game and definitely no lag! (Unless you have a really old console where there would be some waiting around for the game to load up). I find single player campaigns more immersive on the better games and after recently getting into some RPG title’s such as Dragon Age, this has only strengthened my love and belief that there are still really good single player games being created but, I do feel they’re getting overrun by the multiplayer aspect. Again, as I’ve briefly touched upon earlier in this article, the price tags are rising for these games, so is there really the need to pay £40 for a game that’s single player you’ll play perhaps 10 hours on? Another question I find myself asking is, “why are they adding on multiplayer, it’s already an amazing game by itself?”. This has mainly been with the Assassins Creed series which I think anyone who knows me, I am a massive fan of but, my point still stands in that they’ve already got a very good base of a game with the single player aspect of it and I do feel that the multiplayer is just an unnecessary add on to the game.

One final mention of a game type that is a way of somewhat meeting the two parallels in the middle is co-op. Co-op offers about the best of both worlds within the single player and the multiplayer. Where this would have normally been carried out on the same TV, same console and two separate controllers in the early 90’s, not only can we still play with our friends but it can be done within the comfort of our own homes and also is providing us with another way on meeting new people that could potentially be less abusive. Still offers the same experience of single player with the intense action and emotion behind it however you can enjoy it with friends or create new friends from anywhere in the world.

In conclusion, I think that even due to the rise of online gaming and more and more money being invested into the multiplayer portion of upcoming games can sometimes be a disadvantage for those who either do not wish to partake in the multiplayer aspect of these games and could be seen as being somewhat punished by receiving a mediocre single player campaign compared to five or ten years ago although, online communities can provide a way of meeting new people and creating new connections with other gamers.

However, we at Zero1Gaming want to know your thoughts on the matter. Leave a comment below on your thoughts, views and opinion.

Weekly Wrap Up: Week 3 of May

Welcome back gamers, and if you didn’t run into an Error 37 issue you’ve done better then most of us this week.  Despite that, let’s take a look at at what else has happened this past week.

Crystal Dynamics earlier this week announced on their site’s official forum, the refresh of Tomb Raider has been pushed back until 2013.  The company is set to release the game during its fiscal Q4, which is actually January 1 to March 31.  As part of the announcement, the studio head  Darrell Gallagher had this to say, “Our priority now is to make sure we fully deliver the very highest quality game. In order to do this, we have decided to move the game’s release date by a few months, from Fall 2012 to the first quarter of 2013.”

“We’re doing things that are completely new to Tomb Raider in this game and the additional development time will allow us to put the finishing touches into the game and polish it to a level that you deserve.

“We believe this is the right choice and I guarantee it will be worth the wait. The game is looking amazing and we can’t wait to show it to everyone at E3 in a few weeks,” he added.

There is no set date for Tomb Raider in ’13.

Metal Gear Solid HD Collection for Playstation Vita has a release date of June 12 in the US.  The news of its release comes as a surprise to some as the Japanese version is set for weeks later on June 28.  Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is going to include previous installments, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.  Both of the games will feature enhanced graphics, trophy support and a control scheme that is optimized for Playstation Vita.  Playstation 3 owners will also have the option to transfer game data between the home counsel and the handheld device.  The last change to the Vita copies is it will not include the PSP original Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, which was included in the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the title.

If there’s a desire to do additional dungeon crawling, Runic Games  is in the final stages of beta testing Torchlight 2 and is conducting a stress test this weekend.  The official statement from Runic Games states that the beta began Friday, May 18th at 11:00am PDT and go until Tuesday, May 22nd at 11:00am PDT.  Invites for the beta will be sent staggered to the participants to not clog servers for the download client.   After the stress test is done, the beta is complete and the development team will have the rest of the data they need to complete the game.  The development team did make it clear in its announcement they want to have the game ready for release as soon as possible.

Lastly, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will know that Blizzard released its highly anticipated Diablo 3.  However, the game’s release did not come without its problems.  The most notorious issue is Error 37, an issue with too many players trying to log into the game at the same time.  Issues continued through the rest of the day including an emergency Battle.net shutdown that took Diablo 3, Starcraft 2, and World of Warcraft all offline until maintenance was complete.  With the heat of rage Blizzard has been recieving from their fans, the following statement was issued:

“We’d like to extend a very sincere thank you to everyone who joined the global Diablo III launch celebrations this week, as well as to everyone who was ready to jump into Sanctuary the moment the game went live.  To that end, we’d also like to say that we’ve been humbled by your enthusiasm — and we sincerely regret that your crusade to bring down the Lord of Terror was thwarted not by mobs of demons, but by mortal infrastructure.   As many of you are aware, technical issues occurring within hours after the game’s launch led to players experiencing error messages and difficulty logging in. These issues cropped up again last night for the Americas and Europe servers. Despite very aggressive projections, our preparations for the launch of the game did not go far enough.  We’ve been monitoring the game 24/7 and have applied several optimizations to help our systems better weather the global rush. As of late last night, specifically 11.50pm PDT on May 15, all systems have been online and running relatively smoothly.   We’re continuing to monitor performance globally and will be taking further measures as needed to ensure a positive experience for everyone. This includes some maintenance to implement additional improvements for each region.”

That’s it for this week, check to Zero1Gaming for more news, reviews and more!

3D Killed the Videogame Star

Whatever happened to Sonic The Hedgehog?

For anyone who grew up during the 1990’s Sonic, along with everyone’s favourite plumber, stood as a visual representation of the gaming world. Where Mario was plodding along in the Mushroom Kingdom, Sonic was whizzing through Green Hill Zone. He was cool, hip, wise cracking and boy oh boy was he fast, it seemed like nothing could stop this speedy little guy, but something went wrong along the way.

Why has Mario gone from strength to strength while Sonic has fallen on hard times? Why have other characters overtaken the little blue blur? What went wrong with Sonic The Hedgehog?

Sonic’s first outing was in 1991 on the Sega Genesis (Megadrive for UK readers!). He was Sega’s third attempt at creating a brand mascot after Opa-Opa and Alex Kidd. Sonic was created to challenge the might of Mario and for nearly 10 years he did.

Sonic the Hedgehog & Sonic the Hedgehog 2 were massive successes. The thrill of blasting through levels at break neck speed was breathtaking; the games made Mario’s adventures look practically sedentary. I remember watching Gamesmaster when I was growing up and seeing competitions between people to see who could get through a level or finish the game quickest. Speed Running with Sonic 2 is still a considered a worthy challenge; the current completion record is 18 minutes and 12 seconds.

But, by the time Sonic the Hedgehog 3 rolled around in 1994 gamers were starting to notice a familiar pattern. Sega, in a rush to keep the momentum going, was turning out Sonic games on an annual basis so after the first two games people started noticing the same kind of level design. Sega didn’t seem to be putting in that much effort and in some cases appeared to be making things particularly difficult. I’m sure most Sonic gamers can name a few incidents where they have collided with an unavoidable set of spikes or baddie.

The increasingly frustrating level design seemed to become a staple of Sonic games and some would argue that it continues even today, in fact some would argue (myself included) that since Sonic jumped to 3D the levels have only gotten worse.

The gaming shift from 2D to 3D was a difficult time for a lot of developers and gamers. How do you keep that familiar gameplay whilst opening up a new world to explore? New players like Sony & Microsoft were able to design from the bottom up and embrace 3D as they didn’t have the same 2D legacy that Nintentdo & Sega had but while The Big N showed the world how it could be done with Super Mario 64, Sega floundered.

 

 

Sonic Adventure was a launch title for the Dreamcast and while it was hailed as the best 3D Sonic game at the time, it also had many flaws. Sonic games were designed for speed. In 2D environments this is an easy thing to process as the path you can take is laid out for you and never changes, in 3D however the need to create an open world means that you have multiple paths to choose from and not all of them will be the right ones. Controlling Sonic also became more of an issue. How do you make sure that he is going the right way and not veering to the side when you have a full 360 range of motion? Sega appeared to have acknowledged these issues when they announced a return to classic Sonic with Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1 & Episode 2.

Another thing Sega wanted to make sure everyone was aware of with Sonic 4 was that the game featured Sonic and only Sonic. Over the first 3 games and Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic was joined by his best friend Miles ‘Tails” Prower in Sonic 2 and Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic & Knuckles.  The reaction to these added cast members was quite warm so Sega thought they would add more, and more and more.

Apart from Sonic, Tails & Knuckles, Sega have added a further 17 ‘friends’ over the years. On my recent play through of Sonic Generations after I rescued Tails & Knuckles I increasingly became more and more bewildered at who the hell these characters were, Cream the Rabbit?? Mighty the Armadillo, Who?? Blaze the Cat, Huh??? And Rouge the Bat, WTF!!??. Christmas must be an expensive time of year! Thankfully I’m not alone, over the years players have tired of games tending to focus more on this seemingly never ending roster of friends than on Sonic, especially when some of them are lumbering brutes and can barely speed up to a swift jog let alone blaze a trail through Emerald Hill!

When you look at the cast members of a Mario game you see that Nintendo have stuck with the same 5 main characters. Mario, Luigi, Toad, Princess & Bowser. Occasionally they will add different characters such as the Koopa Kids or Baby Mario/Luigi but for the most part the core characters in the main games are the same. This has allowed Nintendo to evolve them and allow you to ‘bond’ with them, the same cannot be said for Sonic & Co – in fact I would personally say that my dislike for Sonic started when they gave him a voice!

 

So, what was the reason for Sonic’s fall from grace? Was it the predictable and frustrating level design? The inability to transition from 2D to 3D? The endless hangers on that Sega felt we needed to be made aware of? Or was it something else?  Many would argue that Sonic is a representation of Sega and when things went bad for Sega they went bad for Sonic. Others say that the character has become so watered down that he is just a name now rather than an idea and the only reason he is still around is due to a misplaced sense of nostalgia.

Sega’s most recent attempt at reviving the Sonic brand was with it’s “Greatest Hits” game, Sonic Generations, but for me, all it did was highlight how good Sonic was compared to where he is now. The thrill I had blasting through the remade 2D Chemical Plant zone and then battling a HD Death Egg Robot with the same music playing was immense!

My suggestion to Sega? Remake Sonic 2, keep it 2D and for the love of god, shut the Hedgehog up!

 

 

The Future of Kinect?

This first few weeks of this month have produced some spectacular announcements from the R&D teams using Microsofts Kinect accessory, and most of these have been reported in depth on the Verge’s website. Sadly none of these involve gaming directly, but a couple may have features that could enhance the gaming experience for Xbox 360 owners, and future Kinect for Windows owners too.

First off there came a story of 3D holographic teleconferencing using a cylinder topped with six Kinects which you stand in front of to get “mapped” in 3D, and then beamed to another cylinder elsewhere in the world, creating a full 3D rendering of the caller that can be walked around and viewed from a full 360 degrees. This would undoubtedly prove useful in the workplace, but I don’t foresee this expensive set-up proving all that useful in the gaming world.

Secondly, the use of augmented reality in the topography sandbox (a literal box of sand, not the gaming term) means that young visitors to museums can interact with the sand, creating hills and dips that are mapped by the Kinect and represented by projectors as a topographical view, to which virtual water can be added to view how the physical shape of the ground will affect water flow. Again, this is a very neat idea, but not much practical use for the gamers amongst us.

Thirdly, a slightly more useful addition of Premium Agency’s LiveAR software promising interaction between Apple iPad’s and Microsoft’s Kinect. Initially, the video shows only what appears to be visual effects on the TV screen following screen taps on the iPad and some hand gestures aimed towards the Kinect. A little underwhelming at the moment, I think this could be an incredible opportunity to introduce tablet games onto home consoles. Am I the only one imagining a head-to-head with Fruit Ninja on both the iPad and the Kinect versions? It may even be the step Microsoft need to take to compete with the similar tablet/movement combination promised by Nintendo’s WiiU console. (Full video is viewable here.)

Finally, and infinitely more interesting to this gamer, is the MirageTable concept creating an astounding interactive 3D workspaces, which can provide useful video conferencing tools, but could also impact the gaming market with interactive gaming, of the board or casino game variety.

Take a look at the videos, and see if you can foresee the gaming potential of these projects.