My view on Gaming

Author’s Notes: I actually wrote this over a week because of work. My opinions and thoughts have not changed between the time I started and finish.Please remember that everything here is my opinion and and my views alone. I am not affiliated with any member of the press or anyone in the Video Games industry. Nothing here should be taken as fact unless there is a reference. Which there will not be. As it is all opinion.

As I awoke this morning, I kept telling myself I would get around to doing a game review today. What game it would be, I had no idea.
As I was being pelted by shower water, I kept thinking. Should it be my current favourite, a classic that will always have a place in my heart or a game that will always find it’s way back into my play-list?

This caused me to think about the amazing RPG’s by Bioware, Obsidian and Lucasarts; Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 1 & 2. This in turn pushed my mind to thinking about Star Wars: The Old Republic, Bioware and EA’s lackluster MMO, and whether or not it’s first expansion pack had been released.
I just couldn’t decide on a game to review so as I lathered up the short black hair that resides on my head, the most wonderfully strange idea jumped at me;

“Why not review gaming in general?”

It would obviously not be a review, more of a rambling of thoughts and opinions. I am not a journalist, as much as I would like to be one, so the article, THIS article will not have a proper structure. Nor will it contain any useful insight into the video games industry or any major news or revelations.

So lets start with the genre that Knights of the Old Republic falls under, Role Playing Game. Bare in mind have only ever really played RPG’s developed within or aimed at the Western Market.
Role Playing Games, otherwise known as RPGs have been popular for as long as I can remember. There is just something special about starting off with a character with nothing, that you mould to your own vision and play style. This character develops and grows as you play and becomes part of you. Attachments are formed and emotions are played with. It is an overall satisfying experience.

Although, RPG does get thrown around kind of a lot these days. A high volume of games are either classed as an RPG hybrid or contain RPG elements. For people who have played older RPG games like Icewind Dale, Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights, these “elements” don’t feel very RPG like at all.
Games that have character attributes should not be classed as having RPG Elements.
Games that have character traits should not be classed as having RPG Elements.
Games that have character skills/abilities should not be classed as having RPG Elements.
There is a decline in the complexity of RPG games. From what I can gather, to be an RPG a game must have at least the basic Strength, Dexterity and Willpower attributes, a couple of useless companion characters and a morality meter. While these are all good features, they are generally flat and basic. The last (non-MMO) game I remember to properly implement this is Dragon Age: Origins. The Fable series is big on morality too but attributes, traits and abilities gradually fade away with the Second and Third entry. The original was a corker of a game yet did not feel as fleshed out as it could have.
I shall leave RPG there as I just started to rant a bit.

I may seem cynical now but I do actually like gaming.

Lets move on to FPS.
Ahh First Person Shooters. How stale you have become. All you seem to offer is linear levels where the only objective is to run in a straight line holding the fire trigger slaughtering a mass amount of re-spawning generic enemies.
Not all FPS games are like this though.
I never actually played old classic FPS games like DOOM, Quake and Wolfenstein. The first I played was Goldeneye followed by Perfect Dark. These games offered me endless fun and I became a fan of First Person Shooter.
For a while First Person Shooters were fun. The early entries in the Halo, Medal of Honour Honor and Call of Duty series all provided a great experience but soon became tedious and repetitive, adding new features mainly to the Multi-player which still became rather bland.

A few good games over the years have stood out;
Borderlands and Borderland 2 are some of the most fun FPS games around and I class them as pieces of Art. They are beautiful games, have amazingly music that touches your very soul and, especially for the second, are written better than MOST blockbuster movies that are released.
Bulletstorm took me by suprise as I thought it would be another generic Run and Gun but the Leash and the over-the-top and gruesome ways to kill things make it a hit in my books. Plus it’s gorgeous to look at and well written too.
There is also the Dark Force/Jedi Knight series, Crysis 1, the FarCry series with Painkiller, Serious Sam and Unreal Tournament providing the ultimate slaughter mayhem.
Other games of note are the Half-Life series with both Portals. I see these as cinematic experiences because you REALLY feel like the protagonist they draw you in and hold you there, pulling at every emotion you have.
There are a lot more FPS games to mention but I think you get the idea.

On to RTS. Real Time Strategy.
I cannot remember the first RTS I played. It may have been Z in Playstation. I do remember it was one of the first I played. It will always stand out for its bloody hilarious writing and engrossing gameplay.
Other an Z I only ever played early Command & Conquer games, Star Wars: Empire at War and The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth. Nothing in the RTS genre really grabbed me as capturing large scales battles and I started to play less and less. That was until I came across Rome: Total War.
I had never heard of the Total War franchise before and only grabbed Rome because it was the Gold Edition on offer. At first I was not a fan out the Campaign Map and the way you always seemed to have an advantage by moving before the AI. This opinion was short lived though as I soon found out that the AI could always gain the upper hand.
Say you moved a sizeable army from one of your towns to attack an enemy’s army but didn’t quite reach it, their army may have more movement points than you and manage to travel past you and commence an attack on the town you just left unguarded.
When it came to the Battle Map, I was overwhelmed. The sheer scale of the battles made me so stunned, I was not paying attention to the battlefield. I would be in awe at each unit perfectly rendered and animated. Thousands of unit, moving and fighting. I lost myself in the sea of marching soldiers. Before I knew it there was a carpet of corpses. My men had been decimated, my army destroyed and any deserters were hunted down. All of this while I was too busy admiring how amazingly details every aspect of the game’s battles were.
From that day RTS games and Strategy games in general have always had a special place in my heart and I own each Total War game released since Rome and play at least one of them weekly.

Total War is not the only Strategy game I play. There is a variety of games in my playlist. Turn-Based games like Civilisation, Free-Building and Management like the Age of Empires series, and even 4X (explore, expand, exploit and exterminate) like the Sins of a Solar Empire series. I also have a fondness for the Black and White series as they combine God-Sim with RTS. They are the Spiritual Successor of the Populous franchise, the game that defined God-Sim for me.

Action Adventure games have always been an interest because they have so much in common with the Platformer games of old. Action Adventure has been around just as long as the Platformer, don’t get me wrong, it is just most people played Platformers as their first game. That said, everyone has played Platformer games, even if it is just Mario or Sonic.
Rayman was my favourite. I just found it so amusing to play and I don’t even know why.

As Platformer games became more advanced and progressed into 3D, they became more like Action Adventure games and the genres merged for a lot of games.
Furthermore these gave way to an even greater genre of game, the Open World or Sandbox. These are games where everything takes place in a giant  open world made of just one map or multiple levels that can be freely travelled between. The most popular of these is Grand Theft Auto. It has large open world that can be traversed with a variety of vehicles, full of pedestrians that go about their life and react to the player’s actions.
After Grand Theft Auto III was released to critical acclaim, many studios started working on games with similar formats. These were dubbed “GTA-Clones”.
Now not every “clone” of a game is a bad thing the Saints Row franchise has defined itself as very wild, silly and over-the-top take on GTA, each getting increasingly more fun to play. Crackdown, again, used the Open-World Sandbox formulae and was a great hit because of how much it differentiated itself from GTA, focusing on Powers and Heroism.

Action Adventure also leads onto TPS games. Third Person Shooter, just as First Person Shooters have again become stale. A vast majority seem to be made using the Unreal Engine. I know it is a tried and tested game engine but each game is starting to play exactly alike. Run to cover, shoot from cover, run to cover, shoot from cover.
Occasionally a game shines through. More recently, this would be the Mass Effect series. These games combine a rich, deep storyline with great character customisation and development, a large amount of skills and abilities, great and sometimes difficult tactical combat, and extensive database of Lore.

I know that the past section of this blog feels rushed but it is because I do not have all that much to say on those subjects and genres. This is about opinions and thoughts, not facts so I will obviously cover my favourite and most loathed genres in greater detail.

Now we shall move on to Sports.
Sports games tend to get very repetitive with each release, just like the FPS. Most games like FIFA, Pro Evolution Soccer, NFL, Tiger Woods PGA Tour and WWE tend to get a new lick of paint, updated roaster and one or two new features and are booted out to the customers at the same time each year.
They compete with each other to be the most realistic sports game out there so much that they forget about being a game overall. They become nothing more than boring, dull, photostatic simulations that have no concept of the word fun.
I remember, back in the day, when I would play FIFA 98 and Tiger Woods 99 with my dad. After that, I played each and every FIFA and Tiger Woods game up to the 2003 editions. That is when I realised each was the same just with the updated graphics and new roster. After that I only played sports games if I had an urge too.

Racing games are a favourite of mine but I have waited until the sports section of write about it.
With the sheer amount of racing games that are released, you would think that there would be no originality within the genre. Sure some games seem to borrow from others but there is such a wide variety of them that you can’t help but get brilliant features that are excellently executed.
Lets take Mario Kart for example. It is a racing game that revolves around combat  while racing. You get a plethora of fun weapons that help you climb your way to first place. The tracks are just as crazy as as the weapons. Each new release uses the same concepts and track themes but new layouts and designs come into play. This helps keep the game fresh each time.

My favourite Racing game has to be Race Driver: GRiD. It is a game that evolved from the TOCA: Touring Cars series. I love it mainly because of the realistic crashes/crash physics, gorgeous graphics (even for a 6 year old game) and the fact it can be played as a not-so-realistic arcade racer or a semi-realistic racer.
This game itself paved way for two of my other well loved and well played racing games; Colin McRae: DiRT 2 and FUEL.
DiRT 2 is a more stylised version of Rally based upon the X-Games rally competitions. It steps away from the conventional rally games of the Colin McRae  series and in my opinion it gives it a fresh new feel and packs A LOT of fun as the sacrifice of a small amount of realism. DiRT 3 was realised with a little more focus on conventional rally but was still highly stylised and not was well received by critics and more recently DiRT: Showdown, a Self-destruction Derby-esque game was released. This was seen more as an arcade racing game than a racing simulator.
FUEL is an arcade style racing game set in a MASSIVE post apocalyptic open world where you have to travel to race locations and each race does not have a set track. You have to get from point A to point B however you can. The variety of vehicles is massive, from motorcycles and quad-bikes to trucks vans.
The world is full of dangers and obstacles to pass but this does not bar any fun, just adds to it.

I would like to point out, however, that a certain series of Racing game has fallen into the year-by-year release trap. Need for Speed.
EA seem to think that Need for Speed should be released annually. In doing so they need have run out of new ideas for each game and are either revisiting old ideas or using the same one as last time.
I must admit that I do like the Shift series because of its semi-realism but each other NFS game after the original Most Wanted felt shallow and rushed.
The revive of Most Wanted was a good game but whenever I played it I could not think of anything other than it being “Need for Speed: Burnout”. I miss Burnout. It seems EA will have Criterion making Need for Speed games from now on. Maybe one day we will see a new, true, Burnout game but under the name Need for Speed.

One last thing to mention is Indie Games. Sure these are not a genre but they deserve a mention. To me it feels that these games have more heart, more soul, more time, effort and thought put into them than most Triple-A games.
Indie developers think up the most original and exiting concept for games yet rarely get recognised until they get major press coverage. I have bought each Humble Bundle since number 3 in support of these developers and will always have fun playing their games. In fact one game alone holds a lot of my gaming time;
Dungeons of Dredmor.
I have no idea why this game is so fun and addictive. I just love it. I keep coming back to it. I think its the pure stupidity wit of the writing and how no two games are alike. Ever. Every time I play a new game, it is all randomised, the world, the loot, the enemies. It gives it a high replay value and a fun factor that flies higher with each expansion.

So my final words are not anything profound or groundbreaking, just a wish.

I wish gaming can pull itself from the circular draining gutter it has fallen in and find a new lease of creativity with these fabulous Indie Devs on the ways up.
They need to or gaming will become a dead form of entertainment, a dead form of art.

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