Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ways to Keep Gaming Fresh

As a Gamer there's no denying that there will be times that you will hit a wall - a slump if you will. Games that you've grown to love just won't do it for you like they've had in the past. Your worst fears have come true - you're burnt out. Don't worry it happens to us all. I'm no exception, especially as someone who reviews games, it seems there is always a month or so where I feel so burnt out. And it sucks, because at the same time I want to play games - I just can't find anything to captivate me. I figured I'd share with you all some of the things I've found that have helped me when I feel my fire starting to dim.

Naturally, I feel like the birth of the internet and online capabilities of our consoles are such a bonus to gaming. It adds so much to a hobby that was once so solitary. For instance, I play NHL 11 like it's my job. Honestly, if I got paid to play I'd be making one hefty salary. My favorite mode is be a GM mode, but I play all the games myself instead of sim them, because I want to feel like I'm the driving force behind my players' successes and failures. However, sometimes playing season through season, I start to get a little burnt out, so then I start to play online matches against other players. Oh man, adding a little friendly competition into the mix definitely adds a spark inside me that makes me get addicted to NHL 11 all over again. I think it's because it's forcing me to play the game differently - adjusting to other people's play styles and it's more satisfying beating a real person opposed to the computer. Since a real person actually picks up on how you play and adjusts to your play style and then you have adjust your strategy all over again. And don't even get me started on playing fighters online competitively, if that doesn't get you into a game, I don't know what will.

Another good thing about the internet is that you're able to game with others (not only against them). Whenever I'm feeling burnt out on gaming on my own, I get a group of friends together and we hit Xbox Live, usually playing L4D. It's just fun to game with somebody you know and this can no doubt revive any drought you may be feeling in the gaming department. I'm not sure exactly why (although I can probably think of a few reasons), but having the social interactions breed life into gaming. Grab a friend or significant other and suddenly a game can become fresh and new - it's just fun to have a buddy to laugh at things in the game with or when you die in a absolutely stupid way (something I'll admit I've done more times than I can count).

If the social thing isn't for you, I've also found that if I go back to an old favorite game - something nostalgic - this, too, can bring me back. Maybe games now can be too complicated for their own good. Sometimes it's nice to go back to something more simple and familiar. The VC, PSN, and XBLA all are great resources for connecting to old favorites. In fact, right now I'm playing Kirby's Adventure and loving every minute of it. Now, if Maniac Mansion would just get a VC release..but back on topic - sometimes it's nice to break from these more complex, 50 hour long games - to something that you can beat in under 10 hours.

Going back to old favorites isn't for everyone, sometimes the games are too archaic, and for this, I have another suggestion: going completely out of your element and trying something new. For years, RPGs and racing games like Mario Kart are all that I would touch. I always stood clear of shooters, because I was never that great at them. Well, when this generation's consoles first came out, RPGs weren't coming out in large numbers, heck, they still aren't and I wasn't about to give up gaming, so I bit my tongue, and stepped out of my element and tried some FPS' and now I play a whole lot of them. L4D is one of my favorite games. I'll admit I'm still not the best at them, but you know what? It was refreshing to actually try something different. The more options we give ourselves of different games to play the better off we are in the long run of not getting burnt out. Stepping out of our comfort zone with games into something a different genre is one of the best ways to keep gaming fresh. It's also one of the best ways to challenge yourself. So, you're not experienced with the genre and it may take time to get used to - that's even more of a reason to give it a try! Hey, believe it or not, I was actually not the best - at first - at NHL. NHL was also something that I picked up that was out of my comfort zone, but I kept playing it because it challenged me, and you all know what happened there - it became an addiction that will never stop!

Anyway, getting burnt out here and there is only natural. These are some ways I try to combat the fizzle. Feel free to share with me some of your ways, I'd love to hear them. In the end, we're all just trying to keep the gaming love alive.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A week that needs discussing: Parasite Eve The 3rd Birthday, NHL 11, Alundra!

Since I've been away, I have a lot to jam into one post. Let's start with my biggest disappointment of the week: seeing actual gameplay footage of Parasite Eve The 3rd Birthday. I was delighted to see the footage via 1up, click to see for yourself. While I like the look of the game and it is visually impressive for a PSP game, how generic and bland does that gameplay look? Talk about a boss battle that just feels stale. I never let myself get too excited for The 3rd Birthday because I was worried about this. I do appreciate the old school shooter feel, but I can't help but think that the game could have been pushed to another level while still making it feel old school. I dunno, sometimes things are better left off in your memories, keep the nostalgia, and let the series live on that way. The problem when it has been a good amount of years since we've seen an entry is that developers get caught in trying to make the game feel like it did years ago to fans, while still making it feel fresh. It's a tough situation, but as it stands it looks like The 3rd Birthday will play out rather generic and I'm hoping that boss battle isn't the highlight of the game.

Now on to the reason this blog hasn't been updated: NHL 11 has taken over my life. I was a big fan of NHL 10 and it's no secret about my love for hockey and all things Blackhawks, but, damn, I'm really impressed with all the improvements: better graphics, the physics engine (checking has never been so fun!), sticks breaking, goal reviews, just to name a few additions. The game has actually managed to make it feel like you're playing real hockey - the goals aren't as easy and clear cut like they were in '10. Each check feels different and deflections are a mixed bag - you never know if they're going to be a good thing for you or not. I enjoy how far they even went as to make the goaltending feel so real. Every puck bounces off the goalie differently and the goalie tries different tactics every time to make a save. It never gets dull or boring. I'm a big fan of the Be a GM mode and the growth of players and trading just works so much better. In NHL 10, if you had a veteran he had no trade value or worth, in '11 it gives props to the old guys and although they will depreciate at a faster rate - there still is value about having them on your team (just like in real life). Players also don't become All-Stars overnight like they did in NHL 10. The game isn't predictable and I like that. The other mode that tries something completely new is the EA Ultimate Hockey League. You get card packs randomly (you can earn cards by playing or purchase them), with these packs you create your team, play games, earn experience, distribute stat increases, extend contracts. The cards really are luck of the draw. It's fun and it brings in a strategic card game element to it. Plus, there are tournaments and you can play online against others. The only thing is people can abuse the system by purchasing their packs, but other than that it's an addition I more than welcome.

And last, but not least, I am so stoked to hear the Alundra is making its way to the PSN in North America! AHHHHHHHH! That is one of my favorite games - I'm very nostalgic about it. I remember back when there were FuncoLands and I just saw this RPG on on the demo PSone to play. I started playing and I couldn't stop. Lost in a ship storm and you wake up lost. It was one of those games from the PSone that stands out for me. I remember those hard as hell puzzles and being a little tot frantically trying to figure them out. I'm excited to see if being older and playing through it again via the PSN will ease some of those tough puzzles. Now if only I'd see a VC release of Earthbound I'd be a happy girl, but I'm not holding my breath. I think instead I'll put all my hope into seeing Suikoden II, Vagrant Story, or Xenogears hit the PSN.

Until next time, folks!

Friday, September 3, 2010

RPGFan Feature - The Top 20 RPGs of the Last Decade

So, I recently participated in RPGFan's Top 20 of the Last Decade feature - check it out: here. It was one of the most interesting and debatable features we've done, in my opinion. We all submitted a Top 10 list and from there our top 20 was constructed. The results? Took everyone a bit by surprise. The JRPG and SMT dominated. At first there was discussion to alter the list - make it more balanced. To be honest, I thought about it, but just couldn't see why we'd change the results. No list will ever be 100% perfect and everything is debatable, what it all comes down to is opinion. People tend to proclaim that journalists should try to be as objective as possible, but I think when you're mapping out some of your favorite and best games that's entirely impossible to do. And it'd be a disservice to yourself to simply put a game on there because everybody else thought it was great, but it wasn't your cup of tea or there were other games you played that you felt did more.

This is where I love RPGFan. When we all did our top 10 lists, I don't think anybody put a game on there just because they thought others would look at their lists and comment why wasn't ____ game on there. For instance, Dragon Age is very a well liked game by many, but I've tried to play that game time and time again, and while I see its strong points (dialogue and options galore!) - I can't sit here and say it should be on my list because it didn't grab me or draw me in. Does that mean it's not a great game? No. It just means it would never make my list. And believe me, I've tried the game time and time again because I want to like the game. Honestly, I feel like I should. <--- and that right there is what is wrong. So many times we go along with the masses and are afraid to go against the grain and do something out of the ordinary. Well, with our feature - we didn't do what was typical. We decided not to alter the list the present it as it was. If we put every game that was expected to be on there on it, well what fun would that be? There were curve balls. Hell, there are games on there, that I don't like, but in the end, we have something different.

I guess, what I like most about the list and it didn't really dawn on me until the results were shown was how SMT dominated the last decade. All their games are held in such high regard. Look at the individual staffers, you can't escape that at least one SMT game made each of their lists. And some even had SMT games on there that didn't make the site top 20 list. SMT was the package, the quality RPG experience of the last decade. Will it continue to dominate? Who knows. I sure hope so, as the SMT games are some of the most fun I've had with games, but the future is never predictable. SMT always went against the grain, always changed things up, tried something unique - I'd like to say our list takes a cue from SMT by trying something unique and giving SMT games the props they deserve. People can argue the list is slanted and unbalanced. I'm sorry, would you prefer us to water it down and try to detract from SMT's influence over the last decade? We're not here to please everybody. This is how the cards fell and I absolutely love it.

Another note that can be made is the lack of WRPGs. However, if you go past the top ten, you do find plenty of WRPGs. People have to remember we are taking an entire decade here. And let's face it, the WRPG didn't start its domination until later in the decade. Sure, there were some stand out games: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, but when you think of the last decade - what crosses your mind? The dominance of the JRPG.

The PS2 was a JRPG machine. I don't think we'll ever see a console so dominant again nor do I think the JRPG will ever be a clear winner in the JRPG vs WRPG match. I think now it is becoming more about the WRPG and less about the JRPG. WRPGs are dominating the consoles more, where the JRPG has really found its home on handhelds. So, while the JRPG isn't dead, we aren't seeing them control the massive console games. I think our list represents well that the last decade had a JRPG dominance that can't be denied and that as the decade went on the WRPG started giving it a run for the money.

So, in the end, no body will agree with any list. I'm happy that we tried something different. We presented to you how the cards fell without compromising anything. The trends in the list are actually quite interesting and maybe if we got you talking then that's all we can ask. As a journalist, I'd rather have you debating my opinion than simply having something boring that is predictable and doesn't spark you at all. We've definitely ignited a spark - let the fire spread!