8.07.2017

Easy-Mode Players Are The Real Gamers (GUEST POST by @Nintendo_Legend)

“Everything ain’t hardcore, you know.” -- Jay-Z.

At the time I am writing this, the current water-cooler topics of discussion include Harry Potter now being 20 years old and the SNES Classic releasing in the fall. Pop culture is a merry-go-round, an exercise in tempting bystanders through a cyclical display of the same bright lights, colorful motifs, and enchanting musical ditties.

Among the spokes on the spinning wheel of gaming topics is the intractable morass of difficulty levels. When Nintendo included an invincible Tanooki suit in Super Mario 3D World as an option for players who die five times in a row on the same stage, some people found this to be quite an objectionable thing, positing that including this item “destroys everything that playing video games is all about,” because the whole point of video games is “challenging yourself, improving your skills, and finally applying those skills you’ve learned to defeat the stage. Failing is an essential part of any video game. You have to fail to get any sense of accomplishment when you finally do win.”

One could wonder if having fun could be a worthy purpose for gaming.

I recommend reading Nadia Oxford’s piece at USGamer on the topic. Also, this Jimquisition video on Zero Difficulty, concerning reaction to an Easy Mode in StarFox Zero. While we’re recommending items on the subject, here’s a Kotaku article by Jason Schreier on the idea that maybe all games should have a ‘very easy’ mode. Here is a meaty piece on Dark Souls and how its identity is closely tied to its difficulty, among other sentiments. Finally, here is a long Twitter thread on (among other things) how even the meaning of the term ‘hardcore’ has shifted over time as the demographics of the hobby have changed.


Honestly, I do not want to rehash the entire discussion. It should be fairly clear, to anyone with common sense, that it is unreasonable to object to a feature being included in a video game that does no harm yet enhances enjoyment for others. Concerning yourself with how others conduct themselves in their gameplay to the extent of whining about it online is asinine, especially when it has zero affect on your own experiences.

Yet, even in recent days, we see the same old behavior dug back up for a new target, the SNES Classic. “Why don’t you just get a Raspberry Pi?” they cry, ignoring the fact that countless thousands within the target audience of the novelty have no clue nor interest in how emulation works, while also ignoring… the simple fact that it is perfectly fine for others to enjoy something you have no interest in. Again, it is a troll viewpoint, not worth covering in too much detail.

Simply: It is silly, at the very least, to care what difficulty level other people play at, or to scoff at how casual they are. Any half-decent human being with four brain cells can recognize that ‘hardcore’ and ‘casual’ players have equal value, and that worrying how someone else plays a video game is a waste of energy. To be a member of the gaming community yet hate on features that would only serve to include more people is a slimeperson position to take. Yet, I want to go a step further.

I want to say: Easy-Mode Players are the real gamers.

Yes, Easy-Mode Players are the ones who should have the cred, be looked up to, and have their opinions sought after. Why did it take me several paragraphs to reach my premise? … I don’t have an answer for that, ha. Instead, let’s take a not-too-serious look at why Easy-Mode Players are the real gamers.

They Are Different

On a simple, literal level, Easy-Mode Players are different. They take the path less traveled, they march to the beat of a different drummer. They take the scenic route, and do not concern their pride on such matters as violence and speed and competition. They are mold-breakers, and their type is still not thought of as The Default by developers or fellow fans.

Which is fine, mostly. But there is value in recognizing the ideas that a different sort of mind can contribute, and how these voices can help constructively craft the scene. Let them be taken seriously, and be appreciated for their distinct perspective. At times, it may even seem refreshing.

They Appreciate The Craft

Consider motivation: Why would anyone bother playing a game at its hardest difficulty, anyway? Sure they may enjoy the heightened challenge, but why? Does it not always come back to a personal point of pride? Having to conquer the game, having to beat someone else, having to prove something.


Now, consider the Easy-Mode Player, the player who is taking their sweet time to truly soak in the journey, to dive full-bodied into the story and lore that has been crafted for them, to let themselves be immersed and invested in the setting and characterizations. Just as there are connoisseurs in other fields, is there not room for gamers who really take measure of the artform we are so fond of?

Would Easy-Mode Players not more readily support games as an artform, since they are removing their ego from the equation and more readily embracing the total venue of experiences that the hobby can offer?

I am not saying that speedrunning is somehow bad, or there cannot be a healthy place in this world for esports tournaments. However, consider the artistic merit of these pursuits applied to other subjects of study. What would we think of a reader who speed-read a book? Of a viewer who watched a film in fast-forward? What if a listener made music more difficult, trying to listen to a track while punching their own ears underwater?

Should we not treasure the keen insights of those who truly involve themselves with the games in a real way? Those who really do regard gaming as an interactive art form, and see more clearly their narrative capabilities?

All I’m saying is that I bet people who play Easy have a sight for the craft of games that many others lack, and this is probably pretty cool.

They’re Nicer People

Look, um, I admit, this is a gross generalization, and totally unscientific, but -- if you put the hardest-core FPS player next to someone who likes visual novels, I’m just saying, I would wager on the visual-novelist being the kinder person if I had to pick. Kinder human beings are, generally, human beings I would rather associate and communicate with.


Okay, I am beginning to drift away from any legitimate point I could have had. At the end of the day, all I am trying to say is -- let’s celebrate and champion the easy-mode players, because they add a distinctive wrinkle to the community that should be appreciated. Let’s support and affirm one another, rather than… get bent out of shape because now even a baby can play a Super Mario game (I mean seriously, why the hell do you care wh-- never mind, sorry, sorry).

I do want to include a word about accessibility. The idea of having more play options for more people includes the benefit of opening possibilities for those with cognitive differences or bodily challenges. If including these players means a form of play that could be seen as an Easy Mode, can you really feel good about taking issue with that? Or feel malice for letting these players play at all?

I know some people find children annoying, as another example, but what objection can you truly have to a setting that finally lets a child enjoy a game? Feel free to tackle the issues of appropriate choices on a title-by-title basis, but the overall idea remains: Gaming inclusion beats gaming exclusion, and it is not a difficult debate.

Communities work better when people act more like friends and less like enemies. This seems like a simple-enough idea to me, but we have a bit of work to do yet. So, let’s do the work. Let’s stop turning our noses at folks for playing walking simulators, stop trying to push people into playing in ways they don’t really want to play, and conduct ourselves upliftingly toward those who slide the difficulty scale all the way down.

Here’s to you, Easy-Mode Players. I think you’re the real gamers.


     Guest post written by Eric Bailey [ @Nintendo_Legend
          Admin of [ skirmishfrogs.com ] [ @SkirmishFrogs ]

     For Eric Bailey's last Guest Post click [ HERE ]

DC Unchained: DC Comics' Mobile Counterpoint to Marvel Future Fight

     It looks like Korean publisher 4:33 Creative Labs announced at a recent Comic Con that their development studio Thumb Ageis has been officially working on a DC Universe based mobile game, called DC Unchained, and it looks like worthy competition for Netmarble's massively popular Marvel Future Fight.


     Much like the Marvel Future Fight, players will choose a team of 3 characters- such as Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman- out of an initial 30 heroes and villains, for a variety of modes including story, PvP, and even real-time co-op.  There's been hints that there are still a couple modes yet to be revealed, and there's always the potential for the DC roster to expand greatly after the initial launch.

     Not much else is known at this point.  It looks a little choppy at points, but overall it could easily become the best DC Universe game available once it launches as titles like DC Legends or the mobile versions of Injustice, the 3rd person RPG fun just hasn't been matched nearly as well as Future Fight nailed Marvel's characters.

     I'm seriously looking forward to this and will be updating here as more information and news comes in.

     DC Unchained is expected to hit Western shores in 4Q 2017.

     For related posts [ Future Fight ]

     SOURCE [ EDaily ] via [ 2P ]

7.19.2017

Morphite: A Second Trailer Arrives and a Release Date Announced

     I've been following Morphite for over a year.  It's one of the best looking games that is heading to mobile, and it is slated to arrive in about a month and a half.  Developers Crescent Moon Games and We're Five Games had originally planned a late spring release, but announced a delay so they could port the game to other systems, and now we have a release date for all but Android devices.


     Morphite is a gorgeous sci fi action-exploration game described as:
     "Myrah Kale will voyage to the furthest corners of space and explore uncharted procedurally- generated planets, each with diverse landscapes and teeming with exotic flora and fauna. With the help of a scanner, Myrah will sell biological information for ship, suit and weapon upgrades. She will explore hand-crafted worlds as part of the main storyline.  
     Inside Myrah’s vessel, players will engage in random encounters with real-time space combat, trade with other travelers across the galaxy and navigate outer space with Morphite’s easy-to- use Starmap system."
     Morphite releases on September 7th for the Nintendo Switch, X Box One, PS4, iOS, and Srtam.
     Of course, Android is left behind, and will release "A little bit later."

     My previous Morphite coverage [ 1 & 2 ] and on Droidgamers [ 1 & 2 ]

6.07.2017

Stained Issue 2 Review (451 Entertainment)

TECH-NOIR

     After Stained #1 hit the comic stands, it did well enough that it completely sold out at distributors, and will have a second print run featuring alternate cover art by Victoria Gedvillas! I can definitely see why Stained sold so damned well, as in my review I said, "In a market over-saturated with science fiction bounty hunter stories this book stands out due to the fact the main protagonist is so damned well written."

     451's newest book Stained is a sci fi, tech noir alongside time-tested giants like Ghost in the Shell and Blade Runner.  Writer David Baron and artist Yusuf Idris have brought us the tale of Emma London, a cybernetic bounty hunter in the near future trying to make ends meet in day to day life.  She worries about rent and taxes, and is willing to do whatever it takes to pay the bills.

R3D D3VL

     Following the path of police procedurals, and set in a dystopian cyberpunk world, Emma's story is packed with action, attitude, and criminal activities.  This issue takes a fresh start with two stories, an abduction and an art heist, each crossing into each other, with implications of something far more sinister beneath them both.
     Our bionically enhanced heroine is tracking an a man she refers to as a "classic movie villain," due to his appearance- a debonair, white-suited crime boss with conceited license plates on his fancy car reading R3d Devl- as he is transferring his stolen art.  In attempting to retrieve a particular painting, she finds an underground auction for artistic contraband.  During this reconnaissance and retrieval mission, she finds herself in a tough predicament by finding a crate in the art thieves' storage.  Leaving her in a situation where she needs to either finish her job, or help the individual being held captive with a swiftly depleting timetable for the art to be shipped away.  A great cliffhanger ending if ever there was one.

SPY MOVIES

     Much like the first issue, Stained #2's writing is well done in keeping the flow and maintaining a believable cyberpunk world. Baron makes sure nothing is too over the top, nor anything too heavily tech focused.  It rides that fine line down the middle.  It's a simple story given depth through proper characterization, atmosphere, and plot.

     Yudris' art flows well again, not quite as smoothly as the first issue, but still well enough.  And I would like to remind readers that he's a newcomer, so he's still breaking in his skills and may need a little time to hit his stride.  Baron's double-duty on coloring keeps the pace and bolsters Yudris' illustrations.  What they do best together is the action scenes.  They look very cinematic and could easily be seen as one of the spy movies they are emulating.

     Overall, Stained issue 2 isn't quite as awesome as the first, but makes up for it with a great ending leaving readers wanting to know more.  Many comics do drop slightly in intrigue for the second issues, only to slow build to a tremendous finale.  I fully expect that will be the case for this series as well.  Every single series 451 Entertainment has put out has followed this track, and every single series has been phenomenal- so once again, I'd definitely recommend readers check out all their comic series', starting with this one.

     Stained #2 is available today! [ On Comixology ]

     Official Sites [ 451 Entertainment ] [ Twitter ] [ Facebook ] [ Youtube ]

     451's Other Comics on [ Comixology ]

     My 451 comic reviews [ HERE ]

*Review copy provided, thank you!

5.17.2017

Freeway Fighter #1: Review

     Freeway Fighter began as a Fighting Fantasy gamebook way back in the 80's by renowned creator Ian Livingstone, and has been updated and adapted by writer Andi Ewington (451 Entertainment's Red Dog, Sunflower, and Six, as well as his creator owned series Overrun).  It's illustrated by Simon Coleby (The Authority, Judge Dredd), colored by Len O'Grady, and published by Titan Comics.

MAD MAXINE

     There's no way to avoid a Mad Max reference due to the similarities, but that is not a bad thing.  You can easily tell where the inspiration came from, but Freeway Fighter paves it's own path with a post-apocalyptic dystopia, complete with harsh living conditions and awesome car battles.

     The story begins with De La Rosa as a race car driver trying to match her father's legacy, and shows her to be ruthless in reaching her objective.  It starts fast and keeps the pace as it rockets towards the end.  There's an extremely brief opener setting up her character that brilliantly segues into the "present" (2024) with her demolishing another tricked out and weaponized vehicle, and being chased by others.

     There isn't a lot of story here yet.  We get only the most basic facts- De La Rosa's a badass that gets the job done, and the job here is survival.  We don't know what the virus that killed off most of humanity was, we don't know where De La Rosa is going or what her goals are, and it really doesn't matter.  The sparse story is a commendable thing in Freeway Fighter's case.  We only get what we need in the first issue, leaving us wanting more.

FULL THROTTLE

     Simon Coleby's art is highly dynamic very befitting of the material.  Panels move and flow, creating well thought out, clean transitions that both tie the story elements together, and guide the eye along.  Honestly, it's something that perfectly encapsulates high-tension chase sequences of action movies- but in comic book form.
     Making this effect work even better is the fact that the illustrations are really fleshed out with the Len O’Grady's colors.  They are vivid and vibrant for the past, and in the present are primarily the typical muted palettes of post-apocalyptic tales, but with some splashes of the former world, shining brightly through.  It sets a tremendous tone for the story.

RACE CAR 44

     Overall, the issue is just a bit short in length, but feels much shorter because it is so well done.  It reads so smoothly it's like water slipping through your hands- an effect only the best comic books can claim.  Freeway Fighter is in no way a mere Mad Max knockoff, but rather, it's a glorious homage to the grim and gritty, gasoline-fueled destruction in mankind's fight for survival in a wasted future.  It's a quick, action-packed, car-smashing thrill ride that has a ton of potential and I can't wait to see where the story goes from here.

     Freeway Fighter 1 hit stands today. [ For the issue on Comixology ]

*Review copy provided, thank you!

5.16.2017

Morphite: Upcoming Metroid Prime-like Mobile Game Gets Delayed

     With many mobile gamers anxiously awaiting the release of the amazing looking, Metroid-esque space adventure Morphite, we are in for a small bit of sad news today.  Morphite has been delayed again.


     Originally set to release in late spring, that won't be happening now, and we also don't have a set time period now.  Over on the Touch Arcade forums, one of the developers (from Crescent Moon Games and We're Five Games) have posted the news and the reason why.
     Apparently the delay is so the game can be ported to "other console platforms."  What's even better news is the core development team is not handling it, a completely different group, Blowfish Studios, will be tackling the porting duties- meaning the main team is still focused on making the best mobile game possible. [ Reference ]

     I've been following and covering Morphite for a long time, and I would gladly wait for the game to get a proper work over than a rushed, bug-filled mess.  I'm sure no one wants this game to pull a No Man's Sky, and wind up nothing like the promises the trailers made it out to be.  I trust the developers to get this done, and get it done well at that.

     My previous Morphite coverage [ Here ] and a couple on [ DroidGamers 1 & 2 ]

Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm: First 15nMinutes of Gameplay Trailer!!!

     It's been a few months since I last reported news on Cornfox & Bros.' Oceanhorn sequel, but today they've released a new gameplay video, and it looks every bit as good as we could expect.  The video was captured directly from an iPhone 7 Plus, and is quite stunning.


     Since the first game they've completely overhauled the mechanics making it a 3rd person adventure game instead of the top down previously used.  A very bold and smart move, as there aren't many games like this available on mobile devices- potentially creating an iOS/Android kind of Legend of Zelda analog.

     As of yet, developers Cornfox & Bros. have neither given a release date, nor have they officially announced what systems the game will release on.  We can only hope that Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm will arrive sooner rather than later.

     To follow as the game develops check out their official links [ Oceanhorn ] [ Twitter ]

5.02.2017

Stained Issue 1: Review (451 Entertainment)

HURT THE PEOPLE, 
          PROTECT THE DIAMONDS

     451 Entertainment's newest book, Stained, is a sci fi wonder in the same vein as Masamune Shirow's classic comic Ghost in the Shell.  Stained is brought to us by newcomer artist Yusuf Idris taking care of illustrating it, and David Baron doing double-duty with this being his first foray into writing, while keeping with his memorable coloring talents on the book.

     Stained is the story of Emma London, a bounty hunter with an attitude and lots of skill.  The book itself is hits just the right cyberpunk dystopian future tone, heavy police noir elements, and it's really quite reminiscent of Blade Runner.  It's loaded with action, violence, and cool technology all wrapped in a grim criminal underworld.

     What works well for the book is the simplicity it begins with.  The writing is snappy and quick.  All the characters sound real and the story flows quickly.  Nothing sounds forced, or absurd.  We get to see the Emma London being a regular person (albeit a bionically enhanced one).  She has to worry about day to day things like the high cost of living- she worries about paying the bills, making rent, and exorbitant taxes.  She has emotions and reactions to the people around her.  It feels natural and grounded in a real world.  Even the little actions, like Emma's evening where she makes dinner only to throw it out because she doesn't need it, but still longs for that ritual as it gives her a bit of comfort.  Conversely, she knows what her job is, and she will get it done- hurt the people, save the diamonds.

"STAINED"

     My only real complaint about the book is what isn't explained.  We know something happened in Emma's past, but absolutely no clue as to what it was.  Whatever caused her to get her cybernetic parts, and we know that the term "stained"is a slur, but why that is is not even hinted at.  We neither know what caused Emma's situation, nor why "stained" is such a terrible slur to cause her to react so aggressively to being referred to as that.
     In addition, usually readers can kind of tell where a plot is pointing to for the future, but Stained doesn't give us any hints.  There aren't any leads on what will come next, and though this issue stands well enough on it's own, which does have some good merit, it feels kind of like a stand alone issue.


     I believe 451 did well in pinching Baron from Valiant for his previously untapped writing talents.  We know he could more than pull his weight with coloring with his outstanding work on big titles like Divinity, Doctor Mirage, and Bloodshot Reborn.  So this is one of those cases where utilizing a creative person's other abilities is a good turn.
     As for Idris' illustrations, I'll cut him some slack.  He is a relative rookie, and there's some small things that change appearance, like the looks of a couple faces, but they are small annoyances.  His style fits the book, and as such, it works really well- making him someone to watch.  He actually reminds me a lot of early Bryan Hitch (Marvel's The Ultimates) before his style become ultra cinematic, or even a bit like Travis Charest before he hit his stride with Wildcats.  What I'm trying to say is, Yusef Idris is definitely an artist to keep your eyes on.

     I've said it numerous times before, and I'll say it yet again, 451 has yet to have a bad series.  Stained is no different, it's off to a great start, and I eagerly await what's to come for our rebellious bounty hunter friend and finding out what makes someone "stained."  In a market over-saturated with science fiction bounty hunter stories this book stands out due to the fact the main protagonist is so damned well written.  Emma feels like a real person, and because of that I want to keep reading just to see what she'll end up doing in the next issue, and what new and dangerous cases she'll come across.  Stained is an easy book to recommend, so go check it out.

     Stained #1 will be available this Wednesday, May 3rd.

     Official Sites [ 451 Entertainment ] [ Twitter ] [ Facebook ] [ Youtube ]

     451's Comics on [ Comixology ]

     My 451 comic reviews [ HERE ]

*Review copy provided, thank you!

3.13.2017

RiME Gets a Release Date!

     RiME has had a rocky production since its announcement at the at Sony's Gamescom 2013 Press Conference, but Tequila Works' game has finally received a set release date!


     Rime appears to be an amalgam of Journey, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and the Team Ico games and set on a strange Myst-like island.  The story is of a boy needing to find a way off the island and away from its terrible curse.

     What has me most excited is that it sounds like the game has a few procedurally generated elements, or it may change depending on how you play it.  In an interview with Polygon, the game's creator, Raúl Rubio Munárriz, said, "-"Every time you explore this island or islands you are going to experience it differently."  So not only might there be more than just one island, but it changes.
     Going on he says:
     "The island is a paradise, but that does not mean that what you see at the start is the same as what you see at the end. This is not a game about black and white. It is not about good and evil. We are trying to play with what the player takes for granted. This is a puzzle adventure game but that doesn't mean that you are going to enter houses and start gathering stuff. I see this environment, it is beautiful, but something is wrong. Who built this?"
     RiME will arrive on PC, PS4, and XBox One on May 26th, and at a later date for the Nintendo Switch.

     I also wonder if odd capitalization on the name probably has ties to the tower featured in the game.

     For related posts [ Rime ]

Streets of Rogue: Short Review

     I've had my eye on developer tinyBuild's gem of a game called Streets of Rogue since last September, and this weekend I finally got to it.  Taking a top down rogue-like approach to stealth shooters, the game is a procedurally-generated sandbox world game tasking players with completing a series of missions in each level on a quest as a member of a resistance.


     How you complete those missions is completely up to you.  Need to steal a tooth from a safe? You can set off the alarms, poison the air supply, bribe guards, or just smash your way through the walls.  What amazes me is the sheer absurdity of what you can do in the game.  Considering there's 40 characters (not all unlocked initially) there's a lot of opportunity.
     So a hacker can hack computers to open doors and not rudely read peoples' emails, doctors may tranquilize someone, and soldiers can blast their way through mobs of people, where a scientist might use a shrink ray or a growth serum to get the job done.
     Though each character also suffers a deficit in some area so they aren't all powerful.  As the gorilla, I was really tough and strong, but couldn't speak English and it eliminated the possibility of  talking to any other characters (other gorillas would follow me however).

Nobody expects a gorilla with a hard hat and a wrench to be the bad guy.
     The only negative I've found with Streets of Rogue is the multiplayer is all messed up.  I couldn't get either local co-op, nor the online to work.  Granted it's still in the early release stage so I'd give it time to really get the bugs worked out for the full co-op experience.

     There's a brilliance in the way tinyBuild has somehow reduced a game to basics, but expanded it's depth of experience that is kind of staggering.  I highly recommend giving Streets of Rogue a chance, it's worth every cent.  It's got great gameplay, great music and sound effects, and what I like best is how brief the experience can be.  Once you understand the fundamentals, you can dive in play a few levels, and quit.  Then jump in again at a later time without an issue.  Trying out new characters just to see how the world reacts to your silly antics is a sublime kind of enjoyment.  Streets of Rogue is just loaded with silly humor and crammed with fun gameplay.  I honestly haven't had this much fun with a rogue-like game for a long time.

     Streets of Rogue on STEAM for $14.99 (get 10% until March 17th- $13.39)