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Category Archives: Views

General views and opinions on the gaming industry, Nintendo, and Nintendo Wii.

Nintendo Wii Hateritis – A Condition Sweeping The Interwebs

Hardcore gamer

Epidemics and diseases are generally overrated in their scope and magnitude. For an example just look at the Swine Flu scare. More than likely the amount of people to die from the regular flu will out number those of the Swine Flu. Yet, what caused the more panic and purchases of sterile masks? I think we can all say the media had at a part to play some where down the line.

The media (unfortunately) is the painter of truth in this world which is scary considering how very few of the media members know what they’re talking about. This same fallacy can be found in the video game journalism world as well. Take this article from Destructoid, by Jim Sterling for example. Basically, he rips Nintendo for trying to act like they’re pandering to the “hardcore” crowd and at the same time milking money from what he calls the “casual” gamers. Here’s a good synopsis of his writing:

Whatever the reason, I hate that Nintendo sticks around, tossing down chicken feed with one hand and smacking people around with the other. Nintendo of America ought to have the balls to go the whole way with its attitude. Shit or get off the lavvy. Not act like the two-faced bitch it’s currently being.

That’s not a criticism of the Wii, I hasten to add. The Wii just is what it is. It’s neither good nor evil, merely shaped by good or evil hands. I don’t have an issue with the Wii’s wasted potential, I just wish Nintendo would keep it on shows like Chelsea Lately where it belongs. That’s Nintendo’s core audience now. Still pretending that’s not the case is just adding insult to, well, insult.

Oh but wait, there’s another Mario game! All is forgiven!

Sterling is suffering from what I like to call Nintendo Wii Hateritis ($0.05 anytime someone says it). More than likely you’ve seen this condition pop up around the internet before. Generally, it’s coming from websites that are trying to pander to a certain crowd or enrage it into a slew of comments. Because in all honesty, most sites judge their success by the amount of people that react to their writing. So, here are some symptoms to look out for when diagnosing Nintendo Wii Hateritis…

- Distinct lack of knowledge of the Nintendo Wii software library: This is one of the easiest symptoms to diagnose, as there’s one of two things you’ll find. A.) A mention of three games (Zelda, Mario, Metroid) as the entire lineup that Nintendo has released thus far. B.) They only mention the less traditional games that Nintendo has released (Wii Sports (Resort), Wii Music, Wii Fit). Something else to look out for, though not always the case are ramblings that look like this: ‘Nintendo has nothing on Halo 3, or KZ2, they are teh l33t gamez and r 4 teh hardcore crowdz’. The less that can be discerned from the message, the more likely that Nintendo Wii Hateritis has taken effect.

- Mention of E3 2008: This can be a tricky symptom to attach to Nintendo Hateritis, because in all honesty even Nintendo fans were disappointed by it. A way to discern between the two scenarios is to read the context of the message. If something like this is uttered — “E3 2008 is proof that Nintendo has abandoned it’s audience, and may God have mercy on their souls” more than likely Nintendo Wii Hateritis has taken effect.

- Confusion of Third Party Title Success and First Party Title Success: When looking for this symptom you’ll want to look for Zack & Wiki or The Conduit references. Mostly, The Conduit references though as it’s the newer title and what many “hardcore” fans were referring to as their ‘white knight’. Many people blame third party failures on the big house of N. You read correctly, they blame Nintendo for the failures of other companies. It hasn’t been discovered yet as the time frame that this symptom arrived. What is known is the people who show this symptom have no clue as to the in-and-outs of business. Nor do they have knowledge of the fact that The Conduit sold poorly because it wasn’t that good of a game.

For examples of Nintendo Wii Hateritis, here are a few online postings to sift through. See which symptoms you can find, and perhaps you should have an examination as well.

GamingViceNintendo of America, Fix Your Hardcore Marketing

The SpongNintendo Not Sure Why Hardcore Wii Titles Don’t Sell

ShackNewsLosing Faith: Nintendo’s Ignorance of the Hardcore

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The Art Of Video Game Difficulty

NintendoDPad has an interesting article up about the current difficulty of today’s games, and if we really want games to be as hard as they once were. This lead to me pondering about difficulty in games, and if people really want games to be as hard as they once were. Or if the question is something we can even answer.

I think before diving into the issue, we have to discern exactly what we’re talking about when we say “difficulty”. A game can be difficult for many reasons. Sometimes level design and layout provides a challenge that puts our navigation skills to the test. For an example of this, play Platoon on the NES. If you can traverse through that game then you have some serious video game navi skills.

For others solving nearly impossible puzzles is a challenge that is fun to take on. Having a tremendous amount of dexterity isn’t necessary to tackle these challenges, but having your wits about you makes all the difference. For examples of this kind of difficulty, you can make reference to the Monkey Island series.

Finally, there’s the skill based difficulty that I believe many people allude to when they talk about “old school challenge”. These people want games to bring back the days of Metroid, Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels, and Contra. What made these games hard was the amount of skill and dedication it took to tackle enemies and even just make your away around the virtual world. Most of the broken controllers of the 1980′s occurred because of these titles. For a perfect example of this type of difficulty, seek out Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! on the NES. Then fight Mike Tyson.

Ok, so we’ve established these different types of difficulty and if we wanted to go further we could divide them into sub-types as well. With certain games, difficulty balance is an easy feat to tackle. The FPS genre is probably the easiest genre to address the difficulty problem, because all you need is to create a level based system. Give players the option to choose how hard they want the game to be. Many times these various levels of difficulty change anything from amount of health, to damage dealt by your enemies, and the amount of items in the game world. Unfortunately, this luxury can’t be afforded by other genres and is where difficulty balance can be a make or break decision.

Platformers are the antithesis of FPS’s when it comes to difficulty. Here the difficulty of the game relies mostly on it’s core design. How many enemies do you put in a stage? How hard do you make the enemies? Then you have to create the actual level, and depending on the game can be just as important than the bad guys themselves.

Now that we’ve discussed all the various aspects of difficulty, where does that leave us in the argument between ‘old-school challenging’ and being easy? The answer to that of course lies in the perspective of all the gamers out there. What is challenging to one isn’t all that difficult to another. So, can a conclusion even be drawn?

Since I’ve taken all the time to write this article I’ll provide my personal view on the situation. I think today’s style of challenge comes from the transition of 2D to 3D. With 2D games it was much easier to create a difficult game because it was easier to restrict player’s options and their movements. Once 3D rolled along, the freedom of play style increased but in doing so provided gamers with more options when defeating enemies and traversing worlds. Two of the most challenging games I’ve played this year are Street Fighter IV, and Punch-Out!! These games share a common element. They’re both on a 2D axis. The graphics might be stylized in 3D, but the restrictions of the game force you into limited movements. Thereby increasing the difficulty of the games.

What are your views on video game difficulty? Do you find a massive difference in how hard games are now, compared to the older days? If so, which style do you prefer?

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Most Creative/Original Nintendo Characters Ever Created

There’s no doubt that Nintendo has provided us with a colorful cast of characters through out the years. As we’ve grown up attaching ourselves to the various characters, we rarely take a step back and realize how original they really are. Some of them at least.

Ok, so I’ve given Nintendo a bit of praise but just how original have they gotten with their characters? Has there been a time that the creativity went from original to down right trippy? And is that even a bad thing?

Mario – The King Of Nintendo…and character design

Mario Character

While having an Italian plumber for a hero now seems to make sense; that’s only because Mario has been around for as long as he has. In the beginning though Mario set himself apart in terms of character design. A simple question to ask yourself is if you had seen a character in any form of media don overalls, a huge mustache, and could still call himself a hero?

Along with Mario’s base design he has some of the most memorable and creative power ups in the history of gaming. Again, I ask — would you have imagined that a character in a game would power up by eating mushrooms?

There’s no doubt that Mario will always be one of the most original characters to ever come from the House of N. He might have a slew of games released in his name, but you can’t deny the mushroom fiendin’, princess savin’, plumber gets his marks for creativity.

Kirby – Little Shop Of Horrors Meets Stay Puft

Kirby

I must admit that I’m not the hugest of Kirby fans. In fact my favorite Kirby based game was Kirby’s Pinball Land on the original Gameboy. While I’m not a Kirby fanboy, there’s no denying that his character design is unlike any other.

I think Kirby’s originality stems from the fact that we have no idea what he really his. He’s a morphous pink ball that likes to eat people, and things. Are we sure Kirby is a he; is there a Mrs. Kirby? I like to think he’s a mix between Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors and the Stay Puft Marshmallow man.

Audrey II + Stay Puft = Kirby ????

I personally enjoy There Will Be Brawl’s rendition of Kirby, which takes the character down a much darker path.

Whatever Kirby is, there’s definitely no other video game or movie character like him.

Birdo – Bad Mother or Just Really Loves Eggs?

Birdo

A dinosaur, an anteater, or a genetic experiment? Or perhaps all three. I think if someone used one of those words to describe Birdo, they’d be right. Beyond her looks we know very little about her power. In Super Mario Bros. 2 she spat eggs at the heroes trying to make their way to battle Wart.

Who’s eggs were they? Did she steal them from a nest that she took over, or perhaps she manufactures the eggs herself? If she did create the eggs on her own that’s pretty messed up if you think about it. I’m sure in each of those eggs a little Birdo is waiting to be born which brings up all kinds of ethical questions surrounding the character.

Another interesting aspect to Birdo is how she’s evolved throughout the years. In Super Mario Bros. 2 you really couldn’t tell that the character was female. Gradually, as time has worn on there have been features added that have determined the Birdo’s gender. Which begs the question — where are the male Birdos? Or do they reproduce by another means?

I think it’s time Birdo gets her own game to answer these puzzling questions that make Birdo one of the more ambiguous yet creative characters in Nintendo history.

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I have of course left off some characters. I really want to hear who you think of when thinking of creative characters. This isn’t necessarily a “best” characters list, but just creative designs. We all know that Link kicks ass, but how many times have we seen the small town boy rise to be a hero story before?

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Hacker Shows Vulnerabilities In ‘The Conduit’ Online Code

Before getting into the meat of this story, let’s make one thing clear. There’s a difference between hackers and cheaters when it comes to video games, and just anything general. The word ‘hacker’ many times has some unfair connotations attached to it. What people should understand is that a hacker isn’t necessarily doing anything wrong when he takes advantage of a system, or code. He’s just discovering its vulnerabilities, it’s the cheaters (a.k.a losers) that take advantage of the vulnerabilities that ruin it for everyone.

Nintendo Wii Hacker

I honestly think that people who cheat online in a video game are the lowest of the low. I think it’s more sad to see someone cheat online in a video game than it is to see a fanboy go on a tirade. The question to ask is, ‘How do we stop the cheaters?’

The first step is to start listening to guys like hetoan2, who is a renowned hacker of the Nintendo Wii. He has his own site where he discovers ways to manipulate code in video games. It’s actually very interesting, and there are some pretty cool hacks if you’re into that sort of thing.

Recently, he was interviewed by TheWiire and hetoan2 provides interesting insight into the world of hacking. The discussion is specifically about The Conduit, and here was my favorite back and forth discussion on the matter,

The Wiire: First, how did you discover these loopholes in the game? How easy was it to modify the game?

hetoan2: I discovered these loopholes in the game by using a device to dump the data from the wii, remote debugger, and GeckoOS (a homebrew program) to search and create the codes. The process is simple really, just using a bunch of searches on changes on in-game variables, and once you find where they’re stored you can rewrite the code to make it do what you want, or you can write your own code to make it do what you want.

It isn’t that simple with every game, as he notes, “sometimes you can’t write your own code,” with the important qualifier, “but not for the Conduit.” This is where gamers have every right to be nervous about how the game was developed.

hetoan2: Everything is virtually unprotected. All values can be edited fairly easily, and there’s virtually no sign of an attempt at hiding values, fixing bugs, or preventing online hackers. The online codes are identical to the offline versions because the offline game is the same as the online version. The only difference is in the online mode the game sends the variables in real-time to their server. Keep in mind that there are NO server checks. (If the value instantly changes abnormally, usually the server will boot you from the game or make you desync from the other players.)

What’s funny is that hetoan2 doesn’t like cheaters, and proved so by releasing codes initially that would brick save files if the codes he provided were used online. So, why does he hack then?

He doesn’t specifically say in the interview but hackers I know do what they do to push systems to their limits. Which is an honorable pursuit really. Game developers should start being more careful with their code and finding better ways to protect it. Until someone shows them how vulnerable they really are, why would they take the extra time to implement more safeguards?

What are you thoughts on hackers? Are you an online cheater, and would like to confess now? You know it must be weighing on your conscious.

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Tom Turnipseed Calls For Ban Against War Games

Besides the reference to one of the best movies from the 1980′s in my post title, there aren’t too many positives to takeaway from this post. Tom Turnipseed, a lawyer and activist from South Carolina has come out with a mandate to have ‘war toys and games’ banned from release. He would instead like to see games encourage creativity, dexterity and peace.

Here’s his official statement…

It’s easier for children to play with war toys than to learn how to read or play the piano. War toys teach children aggression. Aggression needs an outlet, but aggression can be played out in a non-violent manner with peaceful games.

Children should know what really happens in a war. People are hurt, maimed and killed. War toys, games, television shows and movies using guns seldom show the real effect of what violence does to people…

Studies indicate a direct correlation between exposure to media violence, especially interactive video games, and increased childhood aggression…

Better alternatives to children enjoying shooting at people and blowing up buildings are games that encourage the use of their minds, skills and physical dexterity in activities promoting the sanctity of life and peace.

I have to say that I’m in agreeance with some of his statement. I would definitely like to see more games utilizing creativity, and dexterity (mainly cause I like twitched based shooters). Wrap your mind around this Turnipseed — how about a game that utilizes violence while being creative and dexterous? Instead of relying on video games to teach our children about the effect of violence, how about parents taking the initiative to do so?

[via: GamePolitics]

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Miyamoto Wants More Individual Zelda Experiences

Zelda miyamoto

It’s pretty cliche’ at this point to say Shigeru Miyamoto is always progressive in his thinking towards games. As the man who created Zelda, we’ve always enjoyed forward thinking concepts in the series. We’ve watched Zelda completely change the way adventure/fantasy games were played on the NES, and ushered in a brand new way to play our games in 3D with Ocarina of Time. In the last post I made concerning Zelda, Miyamoto mentioned how the next Zelda game might not be radically different.

Now,in the latest issue of Nintendo Power, Miyamoto has now come out and said that he would like everyone to have their own ‘My Zelda’ experience,

“Every person’s own individual experiences with the game should be unique and be their own sort of “My Zelda” experience, and I think that’s superimportant, and we have to look at that when we’re creating dungeons and how we can make that come true. So we’re spending a lot of time concentrating our efforts in that area. But it’s not going to become individual: “Hi, I’m this Zelda” or “ I’m this Link!”. The experience will be unique but within the world that we’ve defined.”

Trying to build that kind of Zelda experience has to be a challenge, without completely flipping the Zelda formula on its axis. The reason being is that Zelda games have always had a linearity to them. You must find this item, to unlock this dungeon, and defeat this boss. Even with the changes to the series throughout the years, that same formula has always been shared. So, how could the Zelda team go about making an ‘individualized’ experience?

The most obvious avenue to take is by making the game completely open-ended. The game world of Zelda has always been open ended in a way, but you’ve generally been forced to take one direction to progress. How about creating random dungeon locations, or create optional paths that provide a different experience than someone else might take. For instance, in A Link to the Past you could visit the first three dungeons in any order you wanted. However, nothing ever really felt different besides the order you went in. Instead, how about changing the outcome of the game based on the dungeons you tackle first?

If you didn’t want to change the formula in terms of world layout, then how about the story itself? While the worlds of Zelda have been open and immersive, the story of Zelda has always followed one set path. Find Ganondorf, defeat his first form, and then finally defeat the pig demon within. Instead, how about giving the story many branching paths that occur dependent on the choices you make. This formula has been used in games before, and for many of them it vastly improved the experience (looking at you Chrono Trigger). The problem with this is that Link has never been a talker. Many times a story needs dialogue to convey a strong plot, and would possibly be needed for different story paths.

Link doesn’t talk though, and should never talk. Talking is for communists ;) . You could easily remedy this by allowing your actions to morph the story as you go along though.

I’ve used this bit of news as a brainstorming session. What say you about Miyamoto’s comments? Would you like to see some individual Zelda experiences? If so, how could the game be developed in a way to provide those experiences?

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