In no particular order I have a few bullet points to discuss today:

Nintendo 3DS

Despite the compelling devil’s advocate argument against Nintendo’s new 3DS unit presented by Jeremy Parish, I will still be running down to my local gaming store to buy two units – one for myself and one for my wife -  on March 31 2011 (assuming Nintendo hits their planned release date).  Still, Parish’s list of five perceived flaws could cause some gamers to think twice:

- 3D doesn’t really add anything to games
- The 3D effect doesn’t always work for people with vision problems
- The screen has a terrible, terrible angle of viewing
- Hey wait, it’s pretty much just a DS whose top screen has been replaced by a PSP
- All the colors Nintendo will release in North America are gonna suck.

I’m almost never an early adopter, however Nintendo’s hand held gaming systems have been a part of my life since my parents first brought home a black and white GameBoy many moons ago.  The NDS is the one system that I rarely go more than a couple of days without playing, and it is the best way to consume long JRPGs and tactical RPGs in my opinion.

Ruining Dragon Age

Okay, it’s way too early to say that Bioware is “ruining” the Dragon Age franchise with their plans for the sequel, however as Rock, Paper, Shotgun points out, the “Mass-Effectification” of the fantasy epic is an unwanted and unnecessary change in the eyes of many fans of the original.

Personally, while I like both Dragon Age and Mass Effect, I have a strong preference towards the former.  In particular I loved how the Dragon Age: Origins allowed you to create and roleplay a character.  Mass Effect, on the other hand, is more like a movie and I find it impossible to associate with Shepard in any meaningful way.  Stripping away the rich character options and replacing them with a one-size-fits-all hero is a huge step backwards for Dragon Age.

Furthermore, infecting Dragon Age with the terrible dialog wheel from Mass Effect – which removes most of the moral ambiguity from the choices you have to make by assigning a precise location to each good/bad/neutral response – will only serve to further hinder roleplaying and story-telling, and pigeonhole players into discrete boxes.  One of my primary dislikes in the Mass Effect series (aside form the seemingly endless small glitches) is how dialog works:  you rarely know what Shepard is going to actually say or do for a given selection.  Dragon Age was perfect, and I spent many hours agonizing over what I wanted my character to say in the game’s tougher scenarios.

All in all I wish that Bioware could have left Dragon Age as its own distinct game system, and allowed it to evolve separately from Mass Effect.  Players lose out when rich gaming options are ripped away from them.

When game reviews go bad

The Psychology of Video Games has an article up entitled ‘Hedonic Adaptation and Game Reviews‘.  This heady-sounding title boils down to a fairly simple premise:  when game reviewers force themselves to play through a game in order to meet an imposed deadline, they often come out with an opinion that is more negative than if they had played the game at a more “normal” pace.

A great example of this phenomenon is Alex Shaw’s audio review of Shadow of the Colossus.  I watched in despair one weekend as Alex live-tweeted his burnout as he forced himself to play through the entire game so that he could sell his copy prior to the HD re-release (which, allegedly, will kill the value of the original).  Alex’s tweets started out alright, but quickly spiraled into a self-inflicted loathing of a game that almost all gamers agree was one of the finest games of its time.  Personally I played Shadow of the Colossus in chucks of no more than an hour, and had an absolute blast with the game; the sense of awe, wonder, and passion that I was left with after completing the SotC has lasted years.

While this should come as no surprise to anyone who has studied human nature even casually, the Psychology of Video Games article does a great job at breaking down exactly why “too much of a good thing equals a bad thing”.  Many gamers experience a more long term version of this malaise when they burn out on games that they formally loved: MMO players are particularly susceptible to this, although as I pointed out above, no gamer is immune from the negative effects of burnout if they play a game like it is a job instead of a hobby.

6 Responses to “Of fanboism, unnecessary change, and self-induced failure”

  1. Longasc says:

    What, they also want to copy the dialogue system. Oh my.
    Well, was it not the smart and witty dialogue that was part of Dragon Age’s charm? :(

    I notice this cinematic movie hero style semi-interactive adventure on rails is also creeping into the design of newbie zones and cinematic events in storytelling of MMORPGs.

    I won’t buy any more Dragon Age DLCs, not before they do not finally release a patch for Awakening, which really is in dire need of patching.

    Maybe being a subsidiary of Electronic Arts is simply the certain doom of quality, I can’t help. I also see the highly expensive SWTOR project having a negative impact on other Bioware endeavours.

    • Andrew says:

      It’s hard to tell what’s going on at Bioware these days. Why they would take Dragon Age – which sold more than Mass Effect 2 – and start turning it into the later title is beyond me.

      The low quality of the DA expansion is also a huge shame – I still haven’t played it due to the reports of glitches. I don’t want my experience ruined by a product that was not ready to be shipped.

  2. Tesh says:

    Critics and industry insiders almost always lose objectivity, no matter how much they pretend otherwise. Things that are learned cannot be unlearned.

    For example, my college degree is in movie animation, and now I can’t go watch an animated movie without at least half of my attention spent on analyzing the show. It’s reflexive. Sure, I can sort of think about how I’d approach it if I were innocent and ignorant, but it takes an effort. I’ve seen behind the curtain and it inevitably colors my perceptions.

    Compound that with the “must finish so I can sell it” instead of “must play because it’s fun”, and yeah, you’re going to have severely compromised output.

    • Andrew says:

      Since I’ve been writing about games I’ve found that I have a bit of the same problem – I’m always analyzing, even when I don’t set out to do so. Thankfully I have no deadlines, and I am more likely to “review” a game months after its release than when my review would be “Relevant” according to the industry.

      I’ve never played a game like a job, and I hopefully never will.

  3. Derrick says:

    News re: Dragon Age saddens me. I loved mass effect – and mass effect 2 – greatly, though there were things I didn’t like. It frustrates me that they’re bringing the Dialog Wheel along, unless they do away with the fixed positioning issue. As I’ve said before, I really prefer a very blurred line instead of “This is the good response” and “This is the evil response”, and I *really* hope they don’t take the “response you pick often has very little to do with what your character will actually say/do” thing that Mass Effect uses to great extent.

    Also, while I could certainly appreciate Mass Effect’s cinematic style (I love both equally, they’re different animals entirely but both are very enjoyable for me) I don’t think they’ll blend well. You have to choose one or the other, pick a perspective, or you’ll just annoy everyone.

    For me, a lot of Dragon Age’s appeal was that it was a modern but very old school RPG. I suppose it’s inevitable that that would be diluted, though – that style of game is, alas, far out of style.


    Eh… I think 3D is highly overrated in video games. Obviously, there are those that benefit from it greatly (sims, FPS games, etc) but 2D games can be every bit as gorgeous and entertaining. In many cases, I think the 3D element is doing little other than detracting from the game itself. I fear that in pursuing the gimmick, if you will, they’ll achieve less in the games themselves. I miss that with a lot of older games, facing graphical limitations and processing constraints, devs would spend more time working on making the game itself fun and less time on making it pretty. 3D doesn’t mean better looking either – good art can make a 2D game absolutely outstanding visually. Machinarium? I didn’t really enjoy the game, despite a cool demo, but it looked incredible.

    • Andrew says:

      For me, a lot of Dragon Age’s appeal was that it was a modern but very old school RPG.

      Yes! Exactly. It was like a modernized Baldur’s Gate, and I loved it for that. I would day-one purchase a sequel that was the same style, however a Mass Effect-inspired game is a “wait for a $20 sale” type of purchase for me.


      I’ve never played a “true 3D” video game, but that’s not really why I want a 3DS – it’ll be neat in exactly the same way that a touch screen is neat on my DS – but it is not the motivating factor in my decision to buy.

      Rather, the type of handhold games that I love are always found on the DS, and are much more rare on the other systems. Traditional JRPGs, tactical RPGs, puzzlers, and the odd platforms – Nintendo has the market cornered on these games.

      Also, I have learned not to second guess Nintendo when it comes to making odd technology viable on handhelds – remember how people thought that the DS would bomb, and be fully of gimmicky stupid games? Sure – it has its shovelware (like all successful systems) but by and large it’s home to some amazing titles.

      I trust Nintendo to make the 3DS a success, and when they do all of the handheld games I love will stop being available on the old DS, and instead only be able to be experienced on the new machine.

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