Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday afternoon tidbits

In an attempt to cram in as much snowboarding as possible before the season ends, this weekend I head to the great white north. People keep talking about how winter is dragging on and on, but I feel like it's slipping away. So no video games for me. Before then, though, some good links from the past week.

-Jorge and Scott dedicated this week's episode of the Experience Points podcast to discussion of "the fightstick question" with Street Fighter IV, as well a broader discussion of peripherals in general. What I'm afraid to do is hypothesize about playing with the stick. I can guess that playing with the stick is better, but by how much? I can't say. Therefore, I probably shouldn't. But I can say that using a gamepad is tricky. At this point, though, not a dealbreaker. The game is darn fun.

-Also on the SFIV tip, check out David Sirlin's critique of the game for some mindblowing insight. You can count me in with the people who have found this game more accessible than most head-to-head fighters these days, at least compared to the last one I played, Soul Calibur IV. But his point is well taken that there's an awful lot happening here: Focus moves, EX moves, super combos, ultra combos... Truthfully, I've yet to encounter many players who use a lot of these advanced techniques. I'm sure they're out there, but they don't need to reach up that high on the shelf for what will defeat me.

-Last on the subject, a typically solid GameSetWatch op-ed. Nayan Ramachandran wonders: Where do fighting games go from here? Fighting games, moreso than most genres, are amazingly specialized. As Sirlin intimated, what hardcore gamers call "accessible" really isn't. Ramachandran boils it down even more:
Street Fighter IV is a surprisingly accessible fighting game, and seems designed to bring back those who fell off the bandwagon years ago, but throwing a simple hadouken or shoryuken -- both of which must be mastered to be of any use when playing -- takes more practice than most new gamers are honestly willing to put in.
Probably also true. This stuff's not easy. Not only that, but in the culture of games like Street Fighter, n00bs aren't even welcome. It's as though you shouldn't be allowed to play unless you're an expert, but if you follow that logic back to the beginning, then nobody would ever have been allowed to play. There needs to be a low barrier to entry for new players, if only from a business perspective. Maybe this game's is sufficient, or maybe there are enough people who remember how to throw a hadouken to move millions of copies.

-From Kirk Hamilton, a look at the future convergence of music and software. Kirk rightly cheers on the democratization of music, which is helped more by programs like Garage Band than by Guitar Hero. Nobody thinks that playing a music game will replace actually creating music, but might our definition of creating music change as the years pass? Probably. It already has, really -- there was a time when electric guitars seemed like heresy. There are a million ways to make music these days, and that's resulted in more people celebrating the possibilities of music, not less.

-MTV Multiplayer's interview with John Carmack about Quake Live is good reading for a couple reasons. Carmack's perspicacity has always impressed me, even back in the day of .plan files. You get the sense he's got all the angles covered. It reminds me of the discussion we had recently regarding web browser games and casual games versus high-end console games. Here's what Carmack says:
Well, when people think browser-based games, they usually think about what are fairly low-end games, like Java games and Flash games. And there is a market there on the casual gaming sphere. Some people have done fairly well with that but that’s not at all the type of game that “Quake Live” is. “Quake Live” is taking something that at one time was an absolute top-notch, triple-A, very high-end title. And it is still a competitive action game. It’s not necessarily the casual game in terms of what most people would think about a puzzle game or Sudoku or whatever on that.
Sounds like a dream for the hardcasual player. I'm excited to try it myself, but apparently the open beta has lines out the door.

-One more from GSW, an interview about the audio in Flower. The aural component to this game is huge. Each color of flower emits its own chime when you open it, which feeds into the ambient soundtrack perfectly (similar to shooting enemies in Rez). Sound plays a big part in the transportive effect of the game, and it's fascinating to read about the thinking that went into making it work.


Dave said...

Snowboarding eh? Have fun. I'll be headed to Whistler-Blackcomb myself next week.
I've got SFIV in my GameFly queue, but I'm thinking I may not be 1337 enough to have any fun with it. Hmmm...

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