Gaming thoughts... 4/12/11

The importance of internet in gaming.

That's the topic on my mind tonight. It's prompted by me staring at 'loading asset' in Dragon Age Legends on Facebook, while downloading a game demo and blogging about it all. As I type this out I just go: Wow... it's become such an integrated part of the gaming community. I remember when I picked up a network adapter for my PS2. I was so excited to be able to hop online and play Madden against people I didn't know or play Twisted Metal Black. It opened up a world of accessibility. I beat hundreds of games through the years, and often found that the only time I got a good challenge was when I played against one of my buddies.

I've spent a lot of time building franchises and playing them with friends - one in particular would come over almost every weekend and we'd play a handful of games on our franchise. The PS2 network adapter promised me live competition whenever I wanted it. Sure, back then you were connecting via phone lines, and the game stuttered horribly and people found tricks to exploit the system because rank/achievement meant more than playing the actual game (that's a topic for another time in and of itself) - whether it was pausing a match and walking away or rapidly unplugging and plugging in their connection - rumors and glitches abounded. But it was an exciting new era.

I've been waiting for the Mortal Kombat game to release. It's a known IP and I would have been excited anyway. But seeing the videos, pouring over images and being able to download the demo makes it all just that much more exciting, doesn't it? It puts a lot of pressure on the game developers now. Remember on the NES you just waited for your favorite developer to release something new, or maybe got excited when a sequel to a beloved gaming franchise came out? Now there's reviews on IGN two days before you even have a chance to shell out money for the game. Developers have to spend more and more time selling you on their game before it even can be physically purchased, by making demos and trailers. And 'physically purchased' opens up its own can of worms now as companies are pushing digital download, trying to sell it as a convenience to the gamer who doesn't have to leave their sofa now, but has no physical game to trade in to a Gamestop if they want. And then you wind up with issues like my recent one where I was buying a bunch of digital games and using Netflix a ton and my ISP carrier, Broadband, had a conniption.

Computer gaming has always been a bit ahead of the curve here compared to console gaming, but now it's all on the table. We made huge leaps and bounds with this generation of consoles, whether it's playing Halo with friends online, or getting the latest game patches for a buggy game like Fallout: New Vegas. It's also been interesting to see the other side of things. Hackers really gummed up the works for Sony this week, and a lot of players were up in arms over their loss of connectivity. The flip side of that coin is while people who play Wii games primarily do so offline would not be as affected by something like this, does Nintendo's limited online approach hurt them? Does it impact game sales? What about games like Metroid: Other M that can have huge bugs like the 'red door' bug that can wreck an entire adventure. On the 360 the company would push a patch and the matter would be fixed in a week. For owners of Other M, they have to save out their data to a card and send it to Nintendo to get fixed and then wait for it to come back. Almost seems archaic now, doesn't it?

Gaming has become a much more social hobby. A lot of kids I knew in junior high had NES systems, but they didn't play them regularly. They would beat a game and often be done with it. Now you beat the campaign mode and play the online for months longer. And then there's games like World of Warcraft that build their entire premise on social interaction.

Even my blog reflects this now to a small degree as I recently added some 'gamer cards' for my 360, PS3 and Steam accounts on the left side. It'll be interesting to see where it all goes in the future. I thought the Dragon Age 2 marketing push was impressive. And based on the high sales despite many people feeling the sequel was inferior to the first game, I would say it largely worked. They integrated with Facebook, with their own website's newsletter, other games EA sold, and then as a 'thank you' for such impressive sales, they offered a free download to Mass Effect 2 on the PC. If other companies see this as having been a success, will they try to follow-suit? Gues time will tell.

Now, my asset is loaded. Back to Dragon Age Legends on Facebook.
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4 comments :

  1. It really is pretty wild how integrated gaming has become with the digital world. The two have a lot in common, it is true, but as you pointed out, there was a simpler time when multiplayer was a novel idea rather than an expected feature, or when internet gaming was unfathomable.

    "Wait... That thing that beeps and hisses at me on the computer while the "America Online" logo spins? THAT internet? How can that help me play games?"

    It really was a different era, and frankly... I miss it a little. I love online gaming, don't get me wrong, but my favorite games are ones that had no online OR multiplayer component. Guess I'm just old-fashioned... :)

    Good article! Got me thinking.

    -BitNick

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  2. I tend to be the same way. I am pondering a related topic or two: achievements and actually playing with others. For example, I don't usually care too much about achievements, but one of my buddies used to go out and purposely rent and play every game he could get his hands on just to max out achievements. Also, I played world of warcraft for years, but I leveled up almost completely on my own despite being in guilds who would have helped. I like online options, but most of the time, like you, wind up playing games that don't have or emphasize them.

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  3. "For owners of Other M, they have to save out their data to a card and send it to Nintendo to get fixed and then wait for it to come back. Almost seems archaic now, doesn't it?"
    I remembered reading about that when it was first going on, and couldn't believe it.

    Nintendo is really, really, really, behind the times as of patching their games, at the least...
    When a certain community that has the word "brew" at the end and "home" at the beginning, creates patches and workarounds for Wii games, it really just makes me think Nintendo is nothing but lazy.

    Now, call me a hypocrite though, because in a way, I like the idea of developers not having the choice to "patch" their games after they release, because I would hope that would make them more likely to release a solid title, because they know word-of-mouth could kill sales if it was riddled with bugs/glitches and the like.

    There needs to be a happy medium, and I don't like how certain games get released, and the developers say, "JUST WAIT...the next patch will fix it!" then twenty patches later, it's finally fixed, but the patches resulted in more problems.

    As for the local multi-player versus online, being that we're in 2011, and Microsoft really started pushing home consoles online with the original Xbox, not to mention Sega doing it with the Dreamcast pretty decently also, I would think developers should know by know what games work, and don't work with multi-player and their options.

    I would prefer online support of some sort, in all games, even if it's just leaderboards.
    When I see FREE iPod Touch games with leaderboards, it really makes me wonder if/when Nintendo will implement some standards for online.

    This generation though, I've probably had the most fun playing through New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Donkey Kong Country Returns with Mrs. Coffee, the co-op experience in those games was just infuriatingly and hilariously fun.

    Sorry if the previous paragraphs rambled! I'm chasing my son around making sure he isn't destroying stuff, while making sure he doesn't hit the laptop's power button!

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  4. Man... Blogger is screwing up my comments a lot lately. Anyway - as I tried to say before...

    @coffee - nothing to apologize for; I liked both of the lengthy replies because it means you found it an interesting topic - and I have some related ones in mind.

    Two of your comments in particular @coffee:

    "I like the idea of developers not having the choice to "patch" their games after they release, because I would hope that would make them more likely to release a solid title, because they know word-of-mouth could kill sales if it was riddled with bugs/glitches and the like."

    I agree here as well. My son wound up with a broken game in Fable 3 he couldn't complete without starting over after logging about 18 hrs into it. They fixed the bug going forward with a patch, but it wasn't a retroactive fix so he was still hosed.

    Then again, sometimes they still don't fix it. My playthrough of Fallout: New Vegas was ended early because of a storyline breaking bug near the end that's still not patched, despite hundreds of forums posts about the topic when I looked it up.

    I do think some sort of a leaderboard would be cool in most/all games. Heck, Record of Agarest War was one of my earliest reviews, and it's a turn-based strategy game and even it had leader boards.

    Thanks for commenting guys!

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