What is Interconnected Game Play? And does it Work?

In the last couple of years, interconnected games in which player actions in one game affect options or situations in another have started to pop up more frequently than usual. Mass Effect: Infiltrator launched for mobile platforms simultaneously with the console and PC release of Mass Effect 3, and the Intel collected in the mobile shooter could be used to increase a player’s Galactic Readiness score in ME3 (which helped open new ending options), rewarding players who checked out the spin-off title. Mass Effect: Datapad was also released as a free iOS app, which let players/users read up on various elements of their Mass Effect 3 situation and the ME universe, get messages from characters, and play mini-games that also improved their ME3 Galactic Readiness score. Cloud Gaming & Interconnection How Cool is This These interconnected cross-platform experiences allow players to take Mass Effect with them and engage that world on...

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Rarer than Unicorns: Escort Missions That Deserve Saving

As I discuss in a related post, I discussed how escort missions are usually terrible, bringing otherwise fun games to a screeching halt with shoddy mechanics, annoying characters, and terrible AI. So when escort missions go right It’s about as close as most of us will ever get to winning the lottery. But it shouldn't be! Both, you know, because I’d be happy for you if you won the lottery, but also because with so many talented game designers out there making great games, they should be getting better by now at making escort missions less of an ordeal.  To begin with I should point out that many excellent recent games have, on the surface, been really long escort missions: The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite, and Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season One. Each of these narratively compelling games involves caring about the survival of a weaker NPC, so why don’t...

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Trust Me! Play Video Games Anywhere, Tailored Games follow

Where we game has changed a lot in recent years, not only with the success of the Nintendo Switch as a system where games are played in a space, not just on a screen.  Also, as mobile devices led to a huge wave of casual games and as increasingly powerful and affordable laptops and cloud servers let PC gamers take AAA games around the house or even out of it. With such variety, gamers are more aware of where they are playing And the relative perks and drawbacks of those spaces – than ever before. So are game developers. In April, Microsoft unveiled a prototype technology called IllumiRoom, which involved a projector sitting on a coffee table projecting images around your TV to supplement the game on the screen, so the game seems to expand and take over your room, immersing your field of vision in the experience. Last month, Microsoft announced...

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Escort Missions, 5 Reasons Why they Suck & How to Fix it?

Escort missions. Few things in video games can elicit a Khan-like scream of despair from players so quickly.  You’re progressing through an entertaining, tense, action-packed game when suddenly, for reasons known only to themselves, the designers force you to replay the same five-minute (if you’re lucky) section over and over, trying to prevent natural selection from improving the human gene pool by letting your hated escortee remove him/herself from it through rank incompetence. Not all escort missions are disasters See, for example, my article on when escort missions go right —but most are awful, and while designers have tried to learn from the mistakes of earlier games, sometimes that just results in new kinds of escort dysfunction. While the internet offers list after list of worst escort missions ever. So what are the worst escort mission mistakes game designers can make? 1. Make the escortee dumb as rocks The absolute worst kind...

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Video Game Remakes - What Old Games need a Facelift to Replay?

Remakes have to walk a tightrope between pleasing purist fans of the original and finding new audiences (and the cash in those audiences’ pockets), and the game that pleases both camps entirely is rare.  From one perspective, this is surprising. Games chosen for remakes are usually the best of the best! So how hard could it be to update the technology and fix a few small, universally acknowledged flaws from the original? On paper, not that hard. But updating ten- or twenty-year-old graphics, soundtracks, and gameplay mechanics aren’t as simple to bringing a blurry camera lens into focus. You have to redraw new sprites and backgrounds, reorchestrate new musical arrangements, and determine how gameplay will work with new control schemes (and modern gameplay expectations and levels of patience). It’s unlikely that the people brought on to such projects will be the same A-teams who worked on the classic originals or even the...

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How Great Game Play, Can Strengthen Halos In Game Narratives

I never owned an Xbox system until I bought a 360. I was almost exactly ten years late to the Halo party when I fired up a hand-me-down copy of Halo 2 that fall. Halo 2 was showing its age by that point, of course, but it still made an impression in a couple of ways. First, it was clear that this was a shooter with an unusually elaborate universe and backstory. Second, I was surprised by the large investment seemingly required to get much out of that story. As I continued on to Halo 3, Halo 4, and then (backtracking). I was struck at each point by How difficult and nearly irrelevant it was to figure out what was going on. Should Halo Expanded it's giant Universe going forward? Or Not? I played most of these campaigns local co-op Is Local Multiplayer on Its Way Out—or Its Way Up? (on Legendary)...

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JRPGs And Imports Should Offer Subtitles Just Like Movies

I’ve always been someone who prefers watching foreign movies with subtitles instead of dubbed. I didn’t figure out why, exactly, until after I’d lived in Japan for two years and then, back in the States, watched a bit of a dubbed anime with a friend and realized Why the English voice actors were so weird sounding As they had no idea why they were saying what they were saying. So we Need Foreign Subtitles in JRPG's as it will give us the Best Story! But it wasn’t their fault – when a movie, TV show, or game is localized to a new language, the process very rarely involves a director giving the actors extensive coaching, let alone a director fully versed in the original culture and language who therefore gets all the nuances of the original performances and can try to bring the same things out in the dubbed version. So the dubbed version...

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Balancing the Old and the New in Video Game Sequels

I started playing Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones for GBA yesterday, and while on the Fire Emblem Wiki I glanced over the summary of the game’s reception, which went something like this: “This game isn’t different enough from the previous Fire Emblem game on the Game Boy Advance, but it’s still good overall because the first one was good.” This got me thinking about the weird task game developers have when making sequels. Because audiences for sequels largely want them to be different, yet the same, right? So, you know, that’s all you have to do, game developers – make it different but the same. Playing through The Sacred Stones, I can see exactly what they mean – I basically needed no refresher whatsoever after having played the previous game, Fire Emblem, last December – the combat system is pretty similar. There’s a World Map that gives you a little freedom...

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In Game Advertising Does it Work or is it Just Annoying?

Between 2005 and 2007, the U.S. game industry passed up first the movie and then the music industries in terms of overall revenue, clearly staking its claim as a major media player for anyone who was still unsure. The Forbidden Truth About in game advertising And when the business world sees money being made, it figures, usually correctly, that there is more money to be made through indirect methods like in-game advertising (In game advertising). In game advertising is not new – it started at least in the late ‘70s with ads for developers’ other games, and ads for products had appeared by the early ‘90s (possibly late ‘80s). But the bigger the business, the bigger the ad market, so we’re in a different world of in-game advertising today, a world expected to do over a billion dollars in annual business by next year (after all, you won’t fast-forward through your...

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Grand Theft Auto IV Review: A great game...but with a catch

I recently finished a play through of the amazing (if flawed) Grand Theft Auto V. It got me thinking about why my experience of it was so, so far away from my disappointment with Grand Theft Auto IV. This post is about why, despite my desire to like it, Grand Theft Auto IV finally drove me away. A follow-up post will explain why Grand Theft Auto V won me over as an amazing, if still sometimes maddening game. For Some Reason, I’ve never been a huge fan of Grand Theft Auto. I remember watching someone playing one of the early top-down entries years and years ago and thinking it looked alright, but not particularly exciting. Then I remember watching my 14-year-old cousin playing Grand Theft Auto III at my grandma’s house over Christmas of 2001. Within three minutes of my watching, he was showing me that open world’s most infamous allowance...

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Why The Home Gaming Console is Still the King!

Every few months or so, I see another article about how the home gaming console is at death’s door. I don’t buy it. Most of my gaming happens on consoles, or handheld gaming console, and I expect to keep it that way for the foreseeable future. Here’s why. New Technology Doesn't Influence Me: I don’t have to keep up with the newest tech to play. I just need to know the name of my console(s) and I’m good to go. Once I buy a console, I know that there’s a whole library of games that will not only play on it, but play on it well. My console doesn’t barely meet the minimum requirements for play, it is the machine the game was designed for. “But,” I hear you argue in my head,” a lot of console games are ports from PC, so they’re actually not the machine the game was...

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The effects of Sexist and Racist stereotypes in Video Games

In another post, I argued that video games (like all expressive media) influence the world but that, cumulatively, their influence is more likely to be positive than negative because games can show us new.  Good ways of thinking and acting that we can then rally around, whereas the bad ways of thinking and acting depicted in video games are news to no one and so unlikely to spur mass adoption by naïve, impressionable gamers. Today, though, I want to consider the minor, individual negative effects that I’ve conceded games can have on players. Specifically, I want to consider the effects of sexist and racist stereotypes in game characters, plots, and mechanics. Video Games do more good than bad They have the potential to encourage negative stereotypes, and some games definitely do. Grand Theft Auto V called it a flawed masterpiece, the flaw being the dull, stupid sexism and cynicism weighing down the many, many things...

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6 benefits of video games and the Positive Effects in Kids

Video systems like PlayStation and Nintendo were once the kind of video game consoles that had people locked in their rooms alone for hours on end.  Now they've brought the world inside by connecting gamers over the internet.  The impact of video games can have positive long term effects on our children. Technology has changed the traditional ways that people interact, especially young people. The good news is parents don't need to fear the effects of gaming. Many studies have shown that gaming builds character and improves cognitive skills. Growing up is a difficult time for any kid, and a hobby like gaming can actually help kids cope.  So let's go over Why Video Games Are Good For You & Your Kids! From hand eye coordination to problem-solving skills, games can help kids grow. Leadership and co-operation skills are needed to be successful in most games. The good and evil themes...

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Why Storytelling and Video Games are the Perfect Match!

In 1941, the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote a story called “The Garden of Forking Paths” that was basically a “wouldn’t it be cool” vision of a story that could include all of its different possible outcomes—when a decision was made, the story could follow each of the forking paths that result. Nearly 75 years later, Borges’ vision has come to glorious in the medium of video games. Games that give the player the agency to make story-impacting decisions are commonplace, popular, and dramatically interesting and represent the biggest innovation in storytelling since the rise of film as a narrative medium for telling stories with moving pictures (and, later, matching audio). Forking-path games (a genre often called “interactive fiction”) Like Adventure and the commercial Infocom games (Zork, A Mind Forever Voyaging, etc.), which featured optional content, variable sequencing, and often multiple endings and subplot outcomes. In the 1980s, multiple paths...

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Can Gameplay Mechanics Have Spoilers Like Stories Can?

I remember how stunned I was when I played through Final Fantasy Vii for the first time and got to the part where, in a cutscene, the player-character and fan favorite Aeris/Aerith was impaled and killed by the villain Sephiroth. I had invested in the character, both in terms of story and gameplay/RPG character development.  I didn’t think this was something an RPG was going to do to me Which is why it worked so well. When I’d pitch the game to friends who hadn’t played it, I told them the story was compelling, but I avoided spoilers. This is not an uncommon experience – I hadn’t yet gotten involved enough in Internet discussion forums to know the phrase “spoiler alert,” but I had my own expletive-oriented term at the time for people who spoiled things in movies, games, or books indiscriminately. I’ve been thinking about similar moments I’ve had with...

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Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol.2: All 10 Games Reviewed

4 days ago, SNK tweeted an announcement that had retro-gaming nerds like us drooling in anticipation. Today, November 9, 2022, we see that promise fulfilled. SNK has just released its second volume of 10 long-lost Neo Geo Pocket Color games on Steam and Nintendo Switch. If you’ve read our recent account of the original console’s tragic failure, this is very uplifting news indeed. Even better, the 10 titles included in Neo Geo Pocket Color Vol.2 make up an awesome collection. This selection exhumes many exclusive spin-offs of familiar franchises, like SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters’ Clash. There are also sports games, a puzzle game, and one rare oddity that finally gets a worldwide release. Using our extensive nerd knowledge, we’ve reviewed each of these titles in detail. Read on to see why we’re super excited about Neo Geo Pocket Color Vol.2. 1. Rockman Battle & Fighters Rockman Battle & Fighters is...

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The Benefits of Choosing A Male or Female Gaming Character

A lot of role-playing games (RPGs) new and old let you pick the sex of your character (male or female) before you start. Which is awesome. I’ve played Mass Effect with both Maleshep and Femshep characters and got two games’ worth of quality voice acting for the price of one.  (We could have a similar discussion about choice of race or species in RPGs, but that’s an article for another day.) But aside from just letting you have more options for what kind of character you want to create and role-play, So how does allowing both male and female protagonists affect story, gameplay…and meaning? You might be surprised at how far—and how subtly—the effects go beyond simply choice of romantic partners. Choosing the sex of your character goes back at least to Resident Evil 2, which gave you the choice not to create a character from scratch but to play as either Chris...

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Here's Why Retro Gaming is Harder, Than playing Modern Games

I remember a time in about 1991 playing one of my favorite childhood video game, Super Mario Bros 3. That I borrowed from a friend for a weekend. I wanted to beat it before I gave it back, but this being the relatively early days of console gaming. Super Mario Bros 3 had no save feature of any kind So in order to reach the end, I just left my Nintendo on overnight a couple nights in a row to maintain my progress until I could come back to the game. When I finally beat it on day three or so, there was an added sense of triumph – not only had I beaten the game, I had beaten the system by managing to finish it before I had to turn off my system and lose all my progress. As far as ten-year-old me was concerned, Raccoon Mario and I had...

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Do You Like Playing Video Games w/ Karma & Morality Systems?

Is there a revenge element to the plot?, so there aren’t any direct plot spoilers here. You only need to avoid reading the post if you don’t want to know whether a character or game’s situation is morally ambiguous or complicated. In the early days of games, when narrative wasn’t much of a concern for most games Plot structures were generally like Super Mario Bros or Doom – you play the good guy (usually male, then as now), the game points you at the bad guy, and off you go. No one plays Pokémon and wonders if they’re the bad guy.  As games and game narratives got more complex, we began to see some anti-heroes, player-character protagonists whose values and actions are morally problematic. Max Payne is after criminals for justified revenge but, in classic noir fashion, doesn’t concern himself too much with keeping his hands clean. Kratos in God of...

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Why I Quit Final Fantasy Tactics War of the Lions on my PSP

I’m a pretty big Final Fantasy fan. I came into the series with VII and have played everything since besides the MMOs and the two sequels to the lackluster XIII. I’ve had conversations with friends about what the Final Fantasy musical RPG that never was would have looked like (I would totally play that—good or bad, it would be hilarious). Here at The Old School Game Vault, I’ve gone back and played and reviewed Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI. And last year, I finally picked up the PSP update of the cult classic tactical RPG Final Fantasy: War of the Lions. And then, thirty hours in I walked away to play another —and so far much better—PSP remake of a classic TRPG, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. Here’s why I won’t be firing up my PSP version of Final Fantasy Tactics ever again. In 2007, ten years after its...

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