The ARG.

It’s rare to have anything to discuss when it comes to computer gaming. In my mind the thrill and excitement of gaming has lost it’s luster. This is not because I have become jaded after retiring from game development and supporting the game community for nearly 10 years. I am still impressed to see new games come to term, unfortunately many companies and distributors today don’t give a shit about the gamer, but the bottom line. I guess that makes sense, get some dumb bastard to spend $60 bucks on a game, take WoW for example and then charge them a money service fee to play. Better yet, charge the end user for new content. Nearly all games use some component of this today. I know I have been taken in by it with Rockband 2 and well as a few other XBox 360 games recently.

Back in the late 90s, the actual year is fuzzy and I have not been able to search and find the exact title of the game, there was a game that was played real time, in real life by gamers. The only way to describe it now is by calling it an alternate reality game or “an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions.”

I happened to stumble upon this game concept when reading a thread on a UFO hoax at ATS yesterday and they mentioned ARG. I found the concept rather perplexing and decided to give it a further look. Currently, I am reading up on a ARG called SF0 of SF Zero. Your character is “You” and You are tasked to complete objectives, submitting proof when you accomplish a task. There are more dynamics involved in the game, but this is the general principal.

I find the concept rather interesting and definitely off the main stream of computer gaming, yet gaming nonetheless. While computers are involved they are not the primary means of interaction. I am continuing to read about SF0 but the concept does interest me. Just like the original text adventures that paved the way for future games to follow.

** EDIT: Majestic produced by EA was the ARG I was thinking of, which debuted in 2001 and was discontinued a year later.

Milking the Franchise

Sitting on the thinking man’s throne this morning, thumbing through another bad review magazine called Games for Windows I came across the cover story, The Next Battlefield. I am…well, was a supporter of DICE, developers behind Battlefield 1942, Battlefield 2 and a lesser known, but enjoyable title, Codename Eagle, released in 1999.

DICE was able to take MMOFPS to a new level with Battlefield 1942, large, sprawling levels, vehicles and a wide range of weapons. It was a turning point in realism gaming genre. Game play, while not uber strong was on the higher side of good, not great, but with a few buddies, it made for a kick ass time.

Since then the game play value has really gone downhill compared to the graphical value of the Battlefield franchise. Add-ons and special weapons rewarded to those who level up by spending a bazillion hours playing. I lost all interest when DICE/EA started to roll out the addons, like BF: Vietnam and Secret Weapons.

Last year I picked up The Orange Box for the XBox 360. If you have read T6F before, you know I am not a big fan of the console, since many games leave a lot to be desired and cost a pretty penny to buy. TF2 was different. Now I remember back to the late 90s when Valve announced TF2, which (or the era) had some great looking graphics, but it turned out to *poof* vanish, much like vaporware does.

But Valve redeemed themselves with The Orange Box that included an all new version of TF2. While not the strongest game in collection, it did turn my head and I found the styling and game play above many other games that were highly touted. The cartoonish models, each with their own set of weapons and characteristics brought an entirely new look and feel to the FPS genre.

Now DICE…err…EA, whom I am sure pulls many of the strings is looking to continue milk the BF franchise with the announcement of a FREE…yes, a free game called Battlefield Heroes. Of course DICE defends their position saying it was evolutionary development, something they had on the drawing board years ago, but interestingly enough is announced months after a highly success Orange Box release that included a similar styled TF2.

Gamers, even hardcore gamers are not into upgrading their rigs with the impending release of the “next big release” such as Crysis or Unreal Tournament 3. Personally, I am not going to upgrade because neither of those titles really do much for me.

TF2, while not relying heavily on detailed and fancy graphics did do a wonderful job on game play. Unfortunate, as I have said before game play does not sell units, good, highly detailed and fancy looking art assets do. And sorry, demos don’t do shit, expect get you excited for a potential game, only to be let down after the developer and publisher get your $50-$60 bucks in their pocket.

So BF: Heroes, until TF2 will be free. Will the hardcore BF gamer actually loosen up and find interest in this sort of cartoon warfare? Dunno. All I can do is base it off the game play I have experienced with TF2. The article says game play will not be as “realistic” or hardcore for the n00bs. Because it was no fun to drop into a BF game, take two rounds and wait 15 seconds to respawn.

I do think DICE has looked at the success that Valve had with TF2 and is attempting to capitalize on it, regardless of their, “it’s been on the table” comment. Will they be successful? Sure, I think there will be a strong contingent that rally around this cartoon FPS to launch a new sort of genre. I do think others will follow in the footsteps of Valve and DICE.

Working as a mod team, as FrozenSand (formerly Silicon Ice Development) has for 9 years, we were always limited by hardware restrictions. Using the Quake III engine, gamers did not want to upgrade their systems in order to play a mod. Thankfully at the heart of our development has been a very strong game play component, with art assets as secondary.

While neither of these games will have any effect on Urban Terror, I do think we see a new movement in the realism-based FPS. Gone will be the hardcore, highly detailed shooters, to be replaced by a nice, easier version of a similar game. I do think the hardcore gamer won’t be pleased, but when you develop games you must do so with a common denominator in mind. I’ll be curious to see how this new type of shooter fairs.