Game Tangents Talks with Imagination Vent about Bionic Fighters Kickstarter

In the Game Tangents Podcast Episode 73, we had the pleasure to be joined by Jared Gingerich, founder and Creative Game Director for indie studio, Imagination Vent. He was very excited to speak with us about his new title, Bionic Fighters, and the new Kickstarter campaign they were launching to fund its development. The following conversation was adapted from the audio for episode 73, so it has been edited for length and content, focusing on questions and answers. To hear the entire conversation, please download and listen to podcast 73 (talk about Bionic Fighters begins at around 1 hour and 29 minutes into the show).

G-Tan: Tell us a little about yourself. Jared: I've been an indie developer for a little over seven years, now. It's grown from my passion of playing games on the Nintendo 64, and also my inspiration from Dave Jaffe; reading an article as a puberty ridden young man on his design ideas for God of War 1 really inspired me to definitely get into the industry as something more than just playing, but really experiencing and living out the dream to be able to create a world and build relationships around it.
G-Tan: Can you tell us a little about your team? Jared: Yeah. My team... we are extremely excited to be bringing you our latest game, Bionic Fighters, which is going to be going here, in a couple of days, to Kickstarter. We have a great variety of different individuals and skill sets on our team, all the way from currently in college to past experience people. Our lead animators worked on such fantastic shows such as Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Animaniacs. For anyone who doesn't know, those are some great 90s animated cartoon shows. We have a very widespread team. Our producer is from France, so it's great to have different backgrounds and subsets to really add to the experience as a whole and to really provide better feedback; and also put each person's niche, personality into the game as for intimately designing it. A really great thing is: we have such a great art director; he's really brought our characters alive. One of the big selling points of our game is our mascot characters of licensed indie characters; so to be able to work with our awesome partnerships that we have, and to make their characters come alive – a lot of them, notwithstanding, are from 2D games - so to be able to bring that character from the 2D world to the 3D world is a daunting task, and he's really taken it with pride.
G-Tan: So Bionic Fighters is modeled after Smash Bros.? Jared: Super Smash Bros. Melee. G-Tan: Why did you guys go in that direction? Jared: They're both cooperative games. The biggest thing is I'm a fighting game addict; and also, the way it brings crowds and people together is amazing. If you guys have played Towerfall - that's a hugely popular PS4 game (with) local party style. We wanted to do that both locally and online with Bionic Fighters. It's so casual, like you were talking about Plants Vs. Zombies and Titanfall; it mixes everything that's great about a video game from both a playing perspective to also just a casual experience. You can jump into it and you're probably going to get knocked off the stage constantly, but you're also going to have a lot of fun. Whether you're at the receiving end or not, it's still going to be a blast to play for our casual and competitive players. G-Tan: So you are making your game balanced around the idea that some people are not going to be professionals or experienced (players)? Jared: Yes. Two of our platforms in mind, like Steam and the PlayStation 4: (For) Steam, we are really pushing for the online part; and then (for the) PlayStation 4, we're really pushing for that local experience where if you want to get together on, say New Year's night, or someone's birthday and be like, “Hey, let's throw down Smash!” Then they're like, “Dude, you got Bionic Fighters?” He's like, “Yeah!” It's really about that time of being together and knocking each other off and... having a lot of fun - when drunk or not drunk. G-Tan: How many players can play this game? Jared: Up to 4 players locally and 1 online. G-Tan: Let's talk a little bit about the technicals of this (game). You already said OUYA, PS4, and Steam... Jared: We're going to be releasing on PlayStation 4, Steam, and OUYA; we are really excited about the new OUYA Everywhere will now be supported on OUYA and Mojo. Some of the great technical specifications – we are already currently in negotiations with Sony to come under their self publishing label – but most importantly, we are ready to release it at 1080P, 60 FPS; and one of my favorite parts about some of the added functionality for PlayStation 4, (which) is going to be the definitive version of Bionic Fighters, (is) being able to take your controller (which) has the new LED light on the back; each character will have their own designated color. G-Tan: Where are you in the game? You guys are starting your second Kickstarter campaign; the first one was successful, and you guys managed to start the development with that, or was that just the planning phase? Jared: That was the planning phase. We have been able to get a really amazing team together. Right now we are currently in alpha stage. We are extremely proud of what the team has put together; we have a lot of the game play mechanics in line. We have some fantastic variety - two separate, I feel, visually appealing stages for the Kickstarter campaign going live this coming Monday (3/31/2014); but what's so great about it is you'll be able to see a community inspired fighting game fully embellished by the community. We plan to bring them in on every part: from choosing what indie characters they want, stage designs, (and) weapon item designs. Everyone loves throwing pokeballs or whatever at other people. Not only that, but also if you pledge enough, you can get your own character in the game.
G-Tan: So if I pledged a few thousand bucks, you'll put me in the game? Jared: Yes! You can put yourself in the game, your own stage, your own weapon.... G-Tan: How did you put this team together? Jared: That is a fantastic question. After our first failed Kickstarter campaign - it was me and three other people - two of the three other people quit (we have Brian T. left). But most importantly, getting the team together really took a lot of passion and drive. I almost folded on the idea and just decided to get back into the industry whether with Sony or another company. But at the same time I felt that indie development is so prone and intimately connected to my DNA that I really wanted to stick to the idea. I felt it has a huge potential, and also is very accessible (for) the gaming community. More importantly, Steam needs, from a video game perspective... Steam is a great platform; there are so many games but there (are) no “partyish” games for the Steam platform. A few of the people I directly solicited from... whether in person or from LinkenIn. I actually have a few excellent contacts in the gaming industry from my LinkenIn. The big part was my push in October when I put a couple of job postings up. I really was looking for some interns to come join with me. The reception I had from the community, from people who actually found out about Bionic Fighters, and also the people I interviewed and accepted, was amazing. People were like, “Wow, I would jump at this opportunity to work on a game like this! I grew up with this!" Same as me; I grew up playing Super Smash Bros. on my Nintendo 64, so I am certain I am ready to do this. I am ready to do what it takes to make sure this game is a success.
The hard part was I also hand interviewed every single candidate I felt was of esteem or would be a good fit for the team. My advice to any budding entrepreneurs is definitely you want to find the right team. It's been really difficult finding the team, but I really found it. I am so proud. I want to give a big shout-out to my art director, Jason Nesmith; he's deaf. But his tack for visual fidelity is insane. The amount of passion he pours into his job; like the average person who is not deaf might not even do that. He surpasses them having a disability or disadvantage, you could say, and he's like, “Dude, I am so ready to do this!” He takes everything and shines it up to look brand new. It's amazing. G-Tan: Now you have your members, what comes next? Jared: The biggest thing(s) to maintain the team are: pride for the project, respect for the team, and aggression for succeeding. If you don't have those three key factors, you are going to have a very difficult time - especially with me. To put it kindly, my lead animator has stuck with us, even though he's taken on large contracts, because he says he loves my enthusiasm for the project and my appreciation for him as an individual. So if you don't really value your employees, or if you don't see welfare in them, it's not going to turn out well for an indie team. G-Tan: What has been the biggest difficulty with this project? Jared: That would definitely fall into two separate categories. The first is the (graphics) engine of choice. We chose Unity 3D. We are soon going to be upgrading to Unity 5 once it releases. We are working with Unity 4 right now. We first started with LibGDX. And then we tried using Google encoded layout device, and that didn't really work out to program the game and then self-publish it because initially we were only aiming at PC and OUYA. Now we have changed our idea and want to go to more consoles like the PlayStation 4. The second biggest difficulty we overcame was (with) animations. With a platform fighter game, our game is played in 2.5D. That means you're on a 2D plane in a 3D environment with three-dimensional characters. To get every animation like our character Tidus – he has 65 animations going into our alpha build; that's quite a bit for an alpha build – to realistically think about that, and to really do that, the biggest thing for our animators was learning how to make it for a fighting game. With most animations, especially with our lead animator, he had to learn the character basically for all the animations he stays in place. That was a lot different from his prior work in movies and CG cartoons where the character moves from the other side of the screen than the actual character does. But that animation status in the game that Unity controls... Unity controls everything, the engine controls everything, and you are basically just animating it to just the actual action, and actually the movement. That's a pretty interesting thing for any budding fighting enthusiast. G-Tan: So Bionic Fighters... What is your website? Jared: Our website is On there you'll see full bios for our team. Our Kickstarter is going live Monday, March 31, 2014. Search for Bionic Fighters or go to the “Games” tab, then specifically select "Video Games" sub-section.
For more about Imagination Vent and Bionic Fighters, or if you wish to donate, please visit their Kickstarter page at the link below...

Is Microsoft Starting to Get It? – Titanfall Bundle and Game Deals

It wasn't very long ago that Microsoft found themselves in the middle of a PR nightmare, much of which was by their own doing. When Microsoft revealed their next-generation console, the Xbox One, at E3 2013, they announced a new vision for the future of gaming; a future where physical discs were no longer required, used game discs were a thing of the past, and where your Xbox was always in communication with Microsoft's servers to validate user access. What followed was a veritable avalanche of public discord characterized by bad press coverage, bad PR, and a vocal, angry gaming fanbase perpetuated by a farcical sequence of clumsy corporate folly. Microsoft quickly reneged on their vision of an always-online digital future and reestablished a more familiar, consumer-friendly disc-based business model to appease the vitriolic masses. Since this time, Microsoft has worked hard at trying to rehabilitate a horribly damaged image with varying degrees of success, but the Xbox One's $500 price point and a perceived lack of hardware power when compared to the PS4 have really proved to be significant obstacles in regards to sales. However, recent events seem to indicate that Microsoft is becoming aware of their mistakes. Some recent game and console deals, along with a newly announced value-packed Titanfall Xbox One bundle, have shown that Microsoft is indeed willing to fight for your hard-earned dollar leaving us with this unresolved question: Is Microsoft starting to get it? In just the past few weeks, retailers like Target and Walmart have been offering consumers attractive incentives to purchase an Xbox One console. Target has been offering customers a $50 gift card with the purchase of Microsoft's new console, while Walmart has been offering new Xbox One console customers 1 free game from a limited selection of titles. These deals don't seem to be a coincidence, and they have fueled speculation that Microsoft is planning a price cut for the Xbox One, or at least they are testing the waters. Also, running in parallel to these big retailer promotions, Microsoft has begun a new initiative to attract consumers to purchase digital games. Ryse: Son of Rome can be acquired for $39.99 if purchased digitally on Xbox One, and a recent, week-long Ultimate Game Sale on XBLA has offered Gold members deep, daily discounts of 75%-90% off of multitudes of Xbox 360 titles. These types of deals typically happen seasonally or over a major holiday, so it was a novelty to see this type of sale unexpectedly. It also seems that Microsoft has learned a thing or two from competitors like Steam and Amazon who routinely offer familiar titles for $5 or less. Finally, Microsoft's latest and most significant recent announcement is confirmation of the long-rumored Titanfall Xbox One console bundle, which includes a download code for the highly-anticipated mech FPS title at no additional charge along with the console purchase. Come March 11, 2014, the Xbox One will be more difficult to resist for those contemplating a purchase when Titanfall releases, but who haven't been able to reconcile the value to cost ratio up to this point in time.
Although this overture of good will toward their customers seems relatively new, Microsoft did seem to become aware of their perceived hostility toward consumers after E3 2013 when they quickly reversed their Xbox One policies. The robust and clamorous public outcry following E3 was deafening and pervasive in video game focused media. On some level, Microsoft seemingly had no choice but to reverse their Xbox One policies, but at least they acknowledged and capitulated to what the consumers wanted. Also, Microsoft introduced their Games with Gold program in 2013 which gives XBLA Gold members 2 free games a month. This program is a direct response to Sony's PlayStation Plus (PS+) subscription service which also offers members some free games, with the advantage of allowing Gold members to keep their games after their subscriptions expire, unlike PS+. The merits and perks of each of these programs remains a frequent topic of fanboy debate on gaming forums, however the addition of the Games with Gold service has been welcome and successful, nonetheless. The Games with Gold program was set to conclude at the end of 2013, but it has since been extended indefinitely, and Xbox One owners will begin to benefit from this program sometime in 2014.
It seems the most vociferous detractors out there are those who simply want Microsoft to fail, eliminating any competition to their irrationally favored video game manufacturer of choice. For example, there are still fans out there who express their displeasure with Microsoft after reversing the Xbox One used game and always-online policies simply because the company announced their intent to implement these policies. These people tightly cling to begrudging Microsoft because of the expression of a desire to do something they didn't agree with, but they ignore the fact that the company acquiesced to the desires of the fans, giving power to the collective voices of the people who comprise the heart and soul of the video game hobby. These people will stubbornly deny Microsoft any credit for anything they do, while many of these same people were quick to forgive Sony after the PR mistakes, poor marketing, and exorbitant price of the PlayStation 3. The competition that Microsoft presented Sony with during the last generation forced Sony to improve their marketing tactics and the perceived value of their product. Today, Microsoft is in a similar situation that Sony found themselves in 7 to 8 years ago. The PS4 is generally regarded as the cheaper and more powerful next-generation video game console, while Microsoft is regarded as a monolithic, evil corporate empire who hates the consumer. If you don't believe me, just ask any Sony fanboy who seems to patrol gaming forums more frequently than he/she plays games. By offering a better value for their product, Microsoft seems to be positioning itself to better compete for the very difficult to maintain video game market share, and they seem to be hoping for a rehabilitation of a public image that is in desperate need of improvement. So is Microsoft starting to get it? Recent company policies and decisions seem to indicate that they are, but it is always best to approach these questions with a healthy dose of cynicism. Contrary to popular belief, every corporation, including Sony, exists to make a profit for themselves and their share holders; they don't exist to be your friend. They doggedly pursue methods which best enable them to extricate you from your cash. Microsoft has done a commendable job in showing willingness to compete effectively for our business, but whether these efforts have been enough is still open to rational debate. Microsoft has shown in the past an inclination toward regressing back into old, consumer-unfriendly habits spontaneously, and video game fans seems to be less forgiving of these shenanigans than they are of Sony's historical missteps. At least for now, consumers can enjoy better prices, a better value, and hopefully, some better games as a result of Microsoft's apparent, new competitive initiatives. They still have a long road and steep hill to climb if they intend to earn the trust of discerning video game fans on a global level, but Microsoft's recent deals and programs are steps in the right direction. Titanfall Bundle and Game Deals

Elder Scrolls Online Beta… Was Just OK

Bethesda has finally relaxed their NDA on Elder Scrolls Online (hereby referred to as ESO) allowing beta testers to talk about the game. The following critique of ESO is based on the impressions of the game after playing the beta which may, or may not, represent the final product. I will jump right in.
Combat ESO uses a hybrid active/automated combat system. It is not completely automated where you can simply target an enemy and automatically rotate to hit them, nor is it fully active like traditional Elder Scrolls games where you must aim specifically using your pointer. In ESO, you still need to use your cursor to aim but it has a lot of forgiveness in terms of mouse location. You only need to target in the general vicinity of the enemy for the targeting to be successful. I found that the semi-active targeting system works well but has some drawbacks when fighting more than one enemy. Sometimes, I intend to target one enemy but accidentally target the other, greatly reducing my combat efficiency. Luckily, ESO offers a second way to target using the tab button which locks you onto an enemy and allows all following active target attacks to hit that enemy specifically. As an avid PC gamer, I had no issue with this combat system, and I have seen similar schemes on console games so I don't foresee any drawbacks there either. The system is good, not revolutionary, and gets the job done. Notably, the best combat mechanics of any MMO I have played was in Age of Conan which utilizes full active targeting making combat more engaging. Combat strategy in ESO is employed via the usage of a stamina bar like the other Elder Scrolls games (and many other games). Usage of a power attack, dodge, or block will use your stamina, and when you have none you can no longer use those abilities and can only use light attacks. Magic, of course, uses Magicka as its limiting factor. All combat has an inherent graphical "cool down." There is no cool down bar, but you cannot simply mash a button and expect a swing per keystroke or button press. Each weapon type has a different, inherent animation speed. For instance, a bow or two-handed sword activates much more slowly than a less cumbersome or complex dagger. Casting spells also has an animation that determines the speed of casting. Next, there are special abilities that you can hot key using the hot bar. You can have up to five abilities active at any time to your hot bar and I do not know if there is any way to increase that limit, much to the dismay of all PC gamer's. This artificial limit is presumed to have been added to provide a cheap and easy way to balance combat (like Diablo games) be it PvE or PvP. This limitation is artificial but necessary if they intend to allow PC players and console players to play together, though I am unsure if that is their intent. I can say that it is much easier to balance bosses and fights around 5 skills rather than a wide array of abilities. Several MMO's do this already most notably Guild Wars 2 but even then they allow for a full set of skills per weapon set that changes when you swap weapons along with another set of selectable class abilities. I really did not like the hot key limitations because it makes games repetitive and boring (action RPGs are a good example of this) and devolves the in-game RPG classes into a handful of uninteresting, cookie-cutter builds. Overall, I thought that combat was fine in ESO, but I honestly think that we did not see enough of the game to make an all-encompassing judgement call. I never did battle any sort of difficult boss, nor difficult anything, to really encourage me to push the mechanics to the limit. I did enjoy fighting enemies with the hybrid targeting system, but I have to admit that weapons did not feel balanced in my time playing the game. For instance, I really love using two-handed giant swords, but the fact is that in ESO they stink. The damage done by such swords is only about 20%-25% higher than a normal one-handed weapon but it seems to swing half as slowly. Thus a single dagger (never mind dual wield) kills things much more quickly than the two-handed giant sword. Dual wield is vastly superior to a two-handed weapon in terms of damage output, and the sword+shield combo is superior in both damage and defense. I also foresee the special ability limitations (5 hot keys) as a huge hindrance but overall I would say that combat was a solid 7/10 with the understanding that it can be better with more exciting and difficult engagements or it can get worse if indeed boredom sets in at higher levels and imbalances are not addressed.
Crafting Although you are placed in the Elder Scrolls world, the game most certainly does not feel like an Elder Scrolls game. In terms of semblance to the single player games, I can site just as many similarities in almost any MMO I have ever played as I could with ESO. Obviously, ESO uses Elder Scrolls naming conventions which serve more as a misnomer since the core mechanics of how everything works is much more MMO than Elder Scrolls, which is not a bad thing on its own. For one thing, most MMOs have more interesting crafting systems than single-player games and ESO is no exception to this rule. Crafting in ESO is more interesting than in Skyrim or Oblivion, but unlike those games, it is not nearly as powerful or advantageous. This is what I mean when I say that it is more like a run-of-the-mill MMO than single player Elder Scrolls, underneath the common vocabulary. In games like Morrowind, I had definite game changing goals (true for all Elder Scrolls games btw) when it came to enchanting, alchemy, or spell making, and I had a lot of freedom to do what I wanted (more so in Morrowind than Oblivion or Skyrim). Some of my favorite crafted items were things like a set with 100% Spell Absorption, items with constant Health/Magicka regeneration, spells with both elemental damage over time and weakness at the same time, and powerful potions that let me make even better potions (cough...). Heck, even enchanting items with just plain feather (more carrying capacity) using a Petty Soul Gems was greatly helpful, as was creating more efficient spells and potions with all the ingredients you gather running around. This is not the case in ESO. In ESO, you will never be able to create such powerful gameplay changing items or spells because the options simply do not exist presumably due to game balance issues, and unfortunately, it is exactly these gameplay changing items that make crafting in Elder Scrolls so much fun. Thus crafting in ESO becomes like any other MMO, albeit better than most, but still not as good as EverQuest 2 which employed crafting as a challenging mini-game that could yield variable results based on your efforts. To craft an item in ESO you simply select the item you want, the resources to apply to the item, the "style" of the item, and an optional "perk" (this is not exactly what it was called in-game), then you click the button to automatically make the item. You can create variant qualities of the same base item by applying more resources to it. For instance, you can make an iron sword with 4 iron ingots (refined from iron ore prior) or you can use 10 iron ingots and make it much better. You can also change the look of the sword if you learn other "styles." You can also apply different perks, such as +20 health to items (not to be confused with enchantment), by learning the perk via deconstructing an item that had that perk attached prior. The number of combinations is huge, and make no mistake: it makes a difference in how powerful your character is early in the game but the changes are not so dramatic that it would change your play style as described in the paragraph prior. I am unsure of how it will play out at higher levels due to the level cap on the beta. In the 1st 17 levels, however, crafting was very helpfully, especially since availability of items was limited and drops were random. I assume as the servers age and items become more abundant, most of the crafted goods will lose their value due to ease of attainment and/or become obsolete, and I make this assumption only because it makes sense from a MMO macro-economical perspective. Nonetheless, I enjoyed gathering materials and crafting in ESO just as I have in other MMO's because I enjoy making things. Heck, my birth name literally means 'one who creates' so go figure.
Graphics Graphics are very good, possibly the best of any MMO to date, and the engine is incredibly well optimized. I ran ESO on a mid-line $500 computer with an FX6100 and a Radeon 7770, and the game ran smooth as silk on high settings. There were no hiccups, slow downs, overheating, or anything bad that I could notice. Then again, I never entered an area full of people so it remains to be seen how it will handle in a high population area. Nonetheless, the game looks and runs fantastic and I personally love the more realistic and less cartoonish artistic design, but that's just a personal preference. I should point out that you can set the graphics to ultra high which I did not try (I used the recommended settings) so the game can look even better than I experienced.
Gameplay So this is the most important part of my ESO beta preview and I want to preface it by stating that: 1) I am not grading the game on bugs since it is still in beta; 2) I did not try any PvP in this game nor do I care for PvP in general on any MMORPG. My personal opinion on MMORPG PvP is that it's inherently imbalanced due to the type of players within an MMORPG. Unlike PvP-centric games like Starcraft, League of Legends, or Call of Duty where players are expected to PvP as part of the game, MMORPGs have a huge population of PvE players who simply stink at PvP and cannot compete against organized PvP players nor players that live, breath, and sleep the specific game they PvP in. MMORPG PvP generally devolves into some form of trolling 90% of the time. Thus I simply ignore all PvP in MMOs because I don't want to waste my time. There are other games out there specific to that style of gameplay that attract competitive PvP players and I would rather play them than troll on weaklings or get trolled on by organized guilds or overpowered servers (usually due to player migration), all of which offer no competitive satisfaction at all. To me, a MMORPG is all about a huge open-world with limitless stories, lore, exploration, and the added bonus of cooperating with friends and having an in-game economy (although none have done it well yet).
First the things that I like 1 - Great graphics engine - I don't know why so many other large companies have so much trouble making efficient engines like Bethesda. I also love the art style. Two thumbs up. 2 - I generally enjoyed combat despite small grievances here and there. Sneaking around and backstabbing on my Mage with a bow was great fun. 3 - Character itemization options. My mage wears heavy armor! 4 - Good crafting system.
Despite the positives above, I give ESO average marks and here is why: 1 - Uninteresting characters up to 20 hours into the game that cannot compare to Guild Wars 2, The Old Republic, or single-player Elder Scrolls games. 2 - Very boring storytelling and progression. They need to add a lot more flair to the main story line. 3 - First couple of hours of exploration (assuming you are a new player) are dull and linear. Plenty of MMOs out there do a better job. 4 - Treasure hunts were not nearly as interesting as advertised, or maybe it was just the ones I did. 5 - 5 hot key limit is a huge thumbs down. 6 - $59 + $15 a month is probably no longer reasonable considering it doesn't bring anything new to the genre.
Early in the game, ESO is no Skyrim in terms of opening story, nor is it Morrowind in terms of open-world freedom. It is a bland in-between similar to Oblivion at the start, but even that game had a more engaging starting story and more "gripping" escape (and I say that sarcastically because Oblivion is my least favorite Elder Scrolls game). What is an RPG if not for story, character development, and lore? For an RPG, these are the main catalysts to better gameplay, not a side thought thrown in to appease the twitch gamer, and that is precisely what ESO is missing at this point in time. It's not a bad game, not by a long stretch. In fact, I would say it is probably right there under Guild Wars 2, Rift, Neverwinter, and The Old Republic as the 5th best modern MMO I have played, but the problem is that MMOs have become so generic and repetitive that even being ranked #1 does not mean very much anymore because it means that you are still 90% similar to everyone else on the list. You need to bring something special to the market to stand out, and the only exception to this rule is World of Warcraft due to its legacy and timing into the field (and due to the poor design of EQ2 at launch). For instance, Guild Wars 2 offered no subscriptions at all from launch and has surprisingly good storytelling, as well as other unexpected features like great jumping puzzles and good PvP (I lump World vs. World in here as PvP). The Old Republic offered great storytelling, fun instances, and its currently free to play. Rift is also free and has the best character development system I have seen to date. Neverwinter is free and offers a massive amount of user made content which is interesting, although the rest of the game is lacking. Everquest 2 is also free and has the best crafting system of any MMO I have ever played. Age of Conan still has the best combat system of any MMO, and is also free to play. Even EVE Online (which is a festering troll pit of people with 20 accounts each) has something unique in its economy simulation, albeit the rest of the game is very boring. What does ESO bring to the table that is unique aside from better graphics? This is a hard question to answer and even harder to bypass when you take into account that it requires a monthly fee on top of the $59 purchase. I would love to be playing ESO on release, but I definitely do not recommend paying the full price for the game plus monthly fees on top. I would wait until ESO is free to play and just play one of the many great alternative MMO's available to you. The wildcard here, however, is consoles. This is by far the best MMO to ever hit consoles and that has its own implications. If you are a console only gamer, then ESO is definitely a big two thumbs up. Get it and enjoy your first true, full-featured MMO... not that Final Fantasy Online was horrible, but it just isn't very good in comparison. Elder Scrolls Online Beta

Why The Last of Us Doesn’t Deserve GOTY

Since its debut trailer at the 2011 Video Game Awards, The Last of Us has enjoyed disproportionately positive press and anticipation, despite the fact Sony and Naughty Dog didn't show any gameplay video or explain the game's mechanics and style. All we knew at the time was that the game's setting was a post-apocalyptic America infested with zombie-like spore-infected human mutations while a man and young girl struggle to survive the horrific chaos. Despite the lack of any real, palpable information about the game, the press and internet fan base went wild. In the months that followed, The Last of Us easily sailed into its subsequent release riding upon the back of effusive positive coverage and universal praise. There was never any doubt that this title would yield review scores in the high 9s and 10s given that the pre-release previews of the game read more like positive reviews. Naughty Dog seems to be infallible in the eyes of so many who cover video games on the internet and it isn't a surprise that many have selected The Last of Us as their Game of the Year. After completing The Last of Us, I was left in a state of incredulity and consternation. Believing the game would be something more like Silent Hill and Resident Evil, I was anticipating the game's release with cautious optimism. I am not one to fall for ubiquitous hype, and I reserve judgment until I actually play a game for myself. Initially with The Last of Us, I wanted to be drawn into its world and game mechanics, but in the end, I came out of the experience feeling empty and only superficially entertained. I found the game to be average – it was boring in places, lacking any real appeal or likeability, and it was fundamentally flawed. At best, the game is good, not great, and it most certainly doesn't deserve the distinction of Game of the Year. Why The Last of Us Doesn't Deserve GOTY

This Game is Not “Realistic”

I don't know what I would do if I heard this argument one more time. Let's put aside the game's premise that the world has experienced an event that has begun changing human beings into feral plants, and let's look at some of the specifics of the game's story, systems, and features. Just because The Last of Us has some of the best voice acting and motion-capture technology seen in a video game, this doesn't mean the game is more realistic as a result; in fact, the contrary is true. The believability of the voice acting and physical performances are subverted by the abounding uncanny valley effect seen in every cutscene. Realistic animations are quickly supplanted by robotic, artificial looking animations; affective facial expressions sometimes appear permanently affixed to the character, a phenomenon most noticeable upon the transition from cutscene to in-game character models. For example, did anyone ever notice how Joel's in-game model's expression made him appear to be in a perpetual state of constipation? Because Naughty Dog opted to remove any semblance of levity in The Last of Us, choosing instead to take the game way too seriously, these minor foibles became major detractors to the game's immersive quality. I laughed almost every time I noticed Joel's strained, grizzled facial expression.
Doesn't anyone think that one of the first things a grown man would do in the face of an apocalyptic world filled with monsters would be to learn how to shoot a gun accurately? Apparently after 20 years, the notion of learning how to shoot a gun straight never occurred to Joel. I found the game controls in The Last of Us to be problematic; they were slow and exhibited a little lag, and the constant figure eight Joel would make while aiming a gun relegated gun-play to an almost detrimental mechanic. I died almost every time I tried to dispatch a Clicker using a pistol. Also, ammo is so rare that even carrying a gun seemed unnecessary. I understand that Naughty Dog was trying to enhance the game's “realism” by disempowering the player for the purpose of heightening the game's tension, but when you are the same company who has demonstrated technical excellence with the Uncharted series, this only sounds like a convenient excuse to explain away mediocre design. One final thought regarding the game's shooting mechanics: did anyone else notice when Joel was hanging upside-down after being caught in a trap, that he suddenly had unlimited ammo while trying to defend Ellie from the Clicker and Infected onslaught? Realistic? I think not. Finally, the last salient aspect of the game's unbelievability involves Ellie. Who would have thought that the diminutive youth would be such a proficient murder machine? Toward the last act of the game, Ellie goes on a killing spree of a large group of hardened, trained, murderous hunters to save Joel's life. I actually enjoyed this part of the game, but not in the way Naughty Dog intended for me to enjoy it. I laughed out loud in disbelief almost every time Ellie surprised one of those cannibalistic killers with a shiv to the neck. How is this little anecdote as a testament for the game's “realism?” While within the walls of the cannibals' hideout, I had Ellie hide inside of a bathroom in one of the buildings. Every few minutes, an alerted cannibal would walk into the bathroom, only to meet his summary death at Ellie's hands. As the bodies continued to pile up, the enemies just kept coming. Don't you think with a half a dozen dead bodies to greet you at the entrance of a room, you would think twice about entering said room? Not these geniuses. It appears that in all the effort to produce eminent cinematic quality, Naughty Dog forgot to apply the same level of attention to their A.I. design.

The Game is Buggy

Many of my favorite games are buggy: Morrowind, Skyrim, and Mass Effect, just to name a few. I am usually pretty magnanimous in regards to a game's technical proficiency when the game strives to offer players an expansive, robust play experience or complicated role-playing mechanics. But in the case of The Last of Us, none of these variables apply. This title is quintessentially linear, and as mentioned earlier, it takes itself way too seriously. As a result of these two factors, the impact of any technical shortcomings becomes too augmented to ignore. During my play-through of The Last of Us, I encountered myriad bugs and glitches that relentlessly reminded me that I was playing a video game. Collision detection with enemies was inconsistent: sometimes melee swings would go through enemies ending the encounter with Joel's brutal, and inevitable death; sometimes firing a shotgun at close range at enemies would have no effect and end with the same grizzly result. One time I spent over half a minute swinging away at a human enemy, watching my blows phase through the polygonal model until the collision detection finally clicked on.
I also experienced a few bugs that impeded my advancement through the game. During a pivotal encounter with human soldiers sniping at me while elevated along a wall, the graphics for that wall and the enemies continuously glitched between visible and invisible. Sneaking past or aiming at invisible enemies is a virtual impossibility. Another game ending glitch involved a ladder that needed to be moved in order to proceed to the next location. The context sensitive icon that is supposed to appear when positioning Joel next to the object refused to appear, and I had to reload my save file. The final game ending glitch occurred when I had Joel jump into a body of water (something that happens far too often in the game, slowing the pace of progress to a crawl). Joel somehow managed to fall through the world's graphics, and I was unable to bring him back within a playable space. Again, this resulted in the need to reload the previous save file.

The Story Was Unsatisfying

From the very beginning of the game, I didn't really like any of the characters. Joel was abrasive and unlikable, and Ellie was abrasive and immature. I had hope, however, that as the story progressed, the characters would develop steadily over time. As the seasons passed, and after the game's conclusion, I am not sure if the characters developed in any substantive way at all. In fact, what I believe we were witness to was the regression of these characters and their humanity, not the progression of them. Ellie became a mass murderer out of necessity, and Joel unapologetically carried out his brutality in order to survive. In the end, it was all for nothing. The world wasn't changed in any significant way due to the actions, or inaction, of the game's protagonists, and it would have continued down its entropic path with or without Joel and Ellie being in it. Over time, it became clear to me that The Last of Us was meant to be an allegory about the violence and barbarism that is quintessential to the human condition. The problem with this is: we already know that humans are capable of extreme violence and barbarism; we don't need to be incessantly reminded. After witnessing the first shocking execution, every subsequent brutal moment in the game loses its impact. I became desensitized to the game's violence, and as a result, I began to care less for the world and the characters that struggled to survive within it. What the game ultimately became to me was a platform for a sequence of horrific events that the developers felt the need to bludgeon the player with over the head. They chose not to balance this violence with any glimmer of hope or display of human dignity. The one opportunity they had involving a giraffe was squandered since this scene was relegated to an insignificant afterthought as the game moved forward, yielding little or no subsequent character development. One of the most notable aspects of the PS3's generation of games is how many narrative based games allow players the illusion of being able to shape their own personal stories, despite the over-arching narrative leading to the same conclusion. The Last of Us doesn't even attempt to do this. Instead, Naughty Dog composed a narrative that is as linear as the title's core gameplay. During the sequence in the neighborhood with the sniper, all I could think about as Joel arduously traversed the streets dodging bullets was how I was going to kill that haughty jerk. I narrowed my options down to these two: he was going to get a shiv in the neck, or he was going to get a Molotov thrown on his back. As I made my final approach toward the room the sniper was hiding in, the game shifted to a cutscene, depriving me the satisfaction of killing the enemy myself. It was as if Naughty Dog pulled the controller out of my hands, threw it on the floor, and stomped all over it while waving a finger side-to-side in my face.

The Last of Us is a title that benefits greatly from the stature and universal respect Naughty Dog receives from an adoring fan base. They do do an impeccable job with the production values of their games, but production values alone do not make a good game. If this title were made by a lesser known studio, I firmly believe it wouldn't have received such an outpouring of praise. The game just doesn't advance game design or playability in any significant way. The gameplay is formulaic and pedestrian, failing to represent stealth mechanics as well as other established franchises have been doing for years. As a narrative based game, the story fails to resonate and feels empty and pointless. Although the voice acting and motion capture are some of the best in gaming, the story is steeped in cynical nihilism, dystopian hopelessness, and is generally missing the single most important ingredient for a video game – fun. The Last of Us is good on many levels, but it isn't great on any level that concerns gameplay. For these reasons, The Last of Us falls short of deserving that lofty distinction of Game of the Year.

First Month Impressions of the Xbox One: The Good and Bad

Never in the history of the video game industry has there ever been a console launch that was perfect; some less perfect than others. The Xbox One launch is no exception. With over 2 million sold worldwide - the second best console launch of all-time behind the PS4 - and without the widespread reports of hardware failures like with the Xbox 360, some may say Microsoft's new console has enjoyed a successful launch up to this point. Still, the Xbox One has its share of problems to compliment its many appealing features. These niggling issues are impossible to gauge until the system has had time to take root in the entertainment centers of consumers around the globe. Sometimes the best way to most accurately assess the value and performance of an electronic device is to spend a substantial amount of time exploring its features and observing its quality. After a month with my Xbox One, I have decided that the time is right to give my impressions of my new video game system.

The Arrival and Initial Impressions

My Xbox One arrived in the late afternoon on launch day in the middle of an unusually powerful rainstorm here in Southern California. I was impressed by the the overall quality of the machine's build; it's sleek and simple, and it feels well constructed. I didn't have any games when I received it, and I didn't own a game until I purchased Forza 5 a few days later. Therefore, I was relegated to familiarizing myself with the various features of the system: the Kinect functionality, the operating system, and the cable box connectivity. First Month Impressions of the Xbox One

Kinect 2.0

Having owned the original Kinect for the Xbox 360 since its release in 2010, I am pretty familiar with what the technology has to offer. With the Xbox One, my optimism for the Kinect was quickly quelled with dismay and discouragement. With the rightful expectation of an improved product, especially as it pertains to the voice command recognition technology, what I got was a Kinect that seemed to have a more difficult time complying with my commands than its older, less sophisticated brethren. When the Xbox One's Kinect works, it feels great; it is smooth and fast. Unfortunately, it seems to misunderstand my vocal commands more often than the 360 version, and sometimes it just ignores me, altogether. Another problem is that it seems to reset itself a little too fast. If the user doesn't verbalize a command fast enough, or if the Kinect ignores the user's command, the software will automatically return to an idle state, requiring the user to utter "Xbox" once again. This happens too frequently to be overlooked or ignored, and it is very vexing. Lastly, the Kinect seems to have a penchant for misunderstanding what I say, or hearing things I never said. This is most salient when watching a video in Netflix. Idle chatter in the room during video playback sometimes causes the Xbox One to execute a random command without calling out "Xbox." Attempts at replicating this error is usually met with failure, indicating to me that this is simply a random, yet frequent malfunction. A few weeks ago I was playing Dead Rising 3 for the better part of a Saturday afternoon and early evening. When I decided to stop playing, I called out, "Xbox, go home!" The command was ignored. I tried again and again while projecting varying degrees of loudness in my voice, but to no avail. I then tried pressing the middle button on the controller, and nothing happened. The game was still running normally, so I decided to utter some of the voice commands within the menu system of the game. They all worked perfectly. I ended up having to turn off the system by getting up from my couch, walking over to the unit, and pressing the power button. Another strange occurrence happened a few days ago. I hadn't turned on the system for almost a week when I tried to wake it from its sleep state with the words, "Xbox, On!" It ignored me. I tried dozens of times, and I even tried while speaking right next to the Kinect. Again, nothing happened, and I had to press the power button to make it come on. My initial conclusion about these two anecdotes is that the Xbox One's voice command system seems to stop working when the system sits idly for and extended period of time. This is pure speculation, but it is all that can be deduced at the moment.

The Operating System

After a brief 500 megabyte mandatory system update, my Xbox One was ready to embark on, what is hopefully, many years of faithful gaming service. The initial setup was quick, easy, and intuitive, and before I knew it, I was staring at my dashboard. This is where things started to get complicated. The new dashboard looks mysteriously similar to a Windows 8 PC desktop. Unlike the abundantly comprehensive Xbox 360 dashboard, the One's OS display presents users with a remarkable dearth of windows and menus. I can only surmise that this was done to force users to talk to their Xboxes via the Kinect, since the fastest way to find simple and important menus such as "SETTINGS" is to use the voice command functionality. Upon first glance of my new dashboard, I found myself in a state of consternation precipitated by the lack of knowledge as to what to do next. The voice commands for the Xbox One are very different from the ones used for the 360. There is a big difference between saying "Xbox, go to" and "Xbox, select." Oftentimes, I find myself thinking about what to say after calling out "Xbox!", only to have the console "STOP LISTENING" to me after only a few seconds. After watching tutorials, web videos, and after reading comments on forums, I still don't know how to fully navigate my Xbox One's menus a month later. The dashboard does look very nice, however. They have eliminated the visual clutter, and the colors used on screen are very soft, visually pleasing, and appear aesthetically modern. The "Pin" system on the left-hand side of the screen is a nice addition, and it will allow users to set their favorite menu items on the screen upon start-up, allowing for customized and easy access. And about that start-up - it is really fast. Now if only the software will sign me into my profile when it sees me like it does for my wife. The system seems to have little problem recognizing her, and it seems her profile ends up being the primary signed-in profile, even when I am in the middle of a game. I usually have to sign her out to avoid confusion. I look forward to the day that Microsoft's engineers will be able to match the software quality with the aesthetic quality the hardware and dashboard so proudly exhibit.

Cable Box Connectivity

This aspect of the Xbox One's feature set has been the most disappointing for me. Although the picture quality of cable T.V. running through the console is great, and switching between game, dashboard, and T.V. works as advertised and adds qualitative value, the T.V. video lacks the accompaniment of the necessary audio for me. I have gone through the cable box setup multiple times, and I even followed the instructions on I have also tried reconnecting all of the wires, and I tried rebooting my cable box. Every attempt to get the sound to work has ended in failure. This feature was one of my most anticipated non-gaming features of the Xbox One, a fact that only intensifies my disappointment. I still have not contacted Xbox Customer Service, but I intend to very soon.

Games and Controller

Buying a video game console is mostly about the desire to play good games, and the Xbox One shines brightly in this regard, so far. Forza Motorsport 5 is a technical masterpiece, impressively combining accurate automotive technology data with fun, accessible gameplay. It is also visually stunning. Ryse: Son of Rome has been much better than expected, although I am only 2-3 hours in. Characterized by some of the most photo-realistic character and environmental graphics I have ever seen in a video game, the mechanics are strategic and precise. Although it may get repetitive in the long run, the game is still fun. Finally, Dead Rising 3 is one of my favorites for 2013. It doesn't look as good as the aforementioned games, but the open-world zombie massacre gameplay is a blast to play. It still looks good, however, especially when there are 100s, or 1000s, of zombies on screen simultaneously, and the system's performance remains steady and stable.
My first impressions of the controller weren't very positive. It felt cheap and light, and I was perplexed about the reshaped analog sticks and thumb pads. However, after purchasing and playing Forza 5, the purpose for the redesign became clear, and my affinity for the controller began to grow. The buttons, including the D-Pad, have a better "click" feeling when depressed, and the improved texture on the thumb pads gives players a better sense of grip security; plus they are less subject to wear like the 360's thumb pads are. The Impulse Triggers add a whole new level of tactile feedback when playing Forza 5. I am a better driver as a result because I can feel the tire grip around corners thanks to this feature. This may sound like hyperbole, but the Xbox One's controller helps make the games feel "next-gen." I have yet to hold a PS4 controller so I cannot compare, but as it stands at present, I cannot imagine a better controller than the Xbox One controller.

In the past, video game consoles were designed to primarily do just one thing - play games. Today, video game systems are multimedia hubs designed to provide an eclectic array of entertainment options including video games. As a consequence, console platforms are ever evolving. Because of this current state of gaming, reviewing a console at launch is a veritable impossibility. The only way to properly review a console is to do so near the end of its life-cycle, when its full set of features and capabilities have been optimally realized. For example, the Xbox 360 is a much different beast today than it was when it released 8 years ago. I remain confident the same prospect is in store for the Xbox One; it will be dramatically different in just a few years from now. Currently, one of my favorite non-gaming features of the Xbox One is being able to view contemporaneous gameplay videos using the Upload app. I have spent many hours sampling games I don't own by watching others play them using this feature. In the future, we may be using features we haven't even imagined yet, and through software updates and improvements, many of the annoying issues I have with the system may become a long, forgotten memory. As it stands now, the Xbox One barely manages to exist at the edge of the shadow of its own lofty ambitions. It struggles to perform at the level that Microsoft laid before us during the months leading to its release, and it struggles to meet the expectations of the consumer who paid good money to acquire one. This, by no means, is meant to convey the notion that the system is a failure, rather it is a work-in-progress. The foundation is firm for something great to be built upon. The road is long, expectations are high, and secrets and games have yet to be revealed. It is best to reserve final judgement until there exists something more substantive to judge. My immediate impressions are balanced between enjoyment and disappointment. I am happy I bought one, yet I am cautiously optimistic for the future. The anticipation I felt before the console arrived at my door on November 22nd has been supplanted by an even bigger anticipation for what that future will bring to the Xbox One and its user base.

My Video Game Console Launch Memories – Xbox 360, Wii, PS3

As I anxiously awaited the arrival of my Xbox One to be delivered to my door on November 22, I started to reminisce about the eclectic and memorable experiences I had as I doggedly pursued console availability during the previous video game generation. I didn't manage to acquire any of the three major consoles on launch day, but I did purchase them within their respective launch windows. As I peered into the archived recesses of my memory, I noticed that each console is accompanied by a unique story. So as I waited for my doorbell to ring, thus ringing in the next-generation of games for my household, I decided to reflect upon and share my memories from 7 to 8 years ago; the days I got my hands on the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii.

Xbox 360

I originally did not intend to get an Xbox 360 when it launched. At $400, it was a steep price to justify a purchase, especially with the wife. I had resolved within myself to make due without it despite the fact it was what I had been waiting for; it was the reason why I bought an HD television a few years earlier; and it was the machine that was going to play a Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion in just a few months after its release (without having to purchase a new PC). Almost every new video game console launches during the bustle and temptation of the holiday buying season. Video game manufacturers wickedly time the release of their new toys to be close to Christmas, and in 2005, I agreed to help a few people acquire a 360 to give as gifts. After committing to help my brother get a 360 for his son for Christmas, I started scouring the internet for information regarding the availability of the highly coveted and hard to find game system. I would wake up earlier than normal to check the web, or go to retailers such as Target and Walmart when they would open for the day. The day I purchased an Xbox 360 for my brother was the day I arrived at Walmart a few minutes after they opened. There was already a man walking out of the store, happily with an Xbox in his hands. I knew at that moment I had arrived at the right time in the right place. This was the first 360 I purchased for someone other than myself. The second Xbox 360 I purchased was for my wife's co-worker who wanted to give the system to her son-in-law for Christmas. In my fanatical persistence to keep updated on the system's local retail availability, I would check every major electronic store's website first thing in the morning, including the now defunct Circuit City. One morning I awoke to a big surprise: Circuit City snuck in a few Xbox 360s on their website early that morning, and I jumped on the chance to purchase one... again for someone else. I think my wife felt a little bad for me acquiring 360s for everyone but myself, so she gave me her consent to go out and find another for our household. I don't remember the day I finally purchased my first 360 as vividly as with the previous two, but I do remember that I got it in December before Christmas at Best Buy. In fact, I believe my hampered recollection is due to how easily I acquired it. I just walked in the store and picked one up.


Originally, I didn't intend to purchase a Wii. I had never owned a Nintendo console other than a Gameboy Advance, so I was not very familiar with the brand's gaming franchises. However, my wife was fascinated with the idea of gaming without the fuss of learning complicated button configurations on a controller, and she enjoyed the prospect of bowling with a motion controller. Because of this appeal, our attention was redirected toward finding a Wii in early 2007. The Nintendo Wii set a precedent when it was released; although many video game consoles are difficult to acquire at launch, never before had a console remained consistently out of stock for so many months after its initial launch like the Wii. As a result of its elusiveness, some retailers were announcing stock replenishments in Sunday circular ads. Hopeful Wii purchasers would line-up outside of their local electronic stores on early Sunday mornings, vying for one of the coveted vouchers which guaranteed procurement. On a Sunday morning in early 2007, I attended one of these Black Friday-like events at my closest Circuit City. When I arrived, the line outside of the store was already long, and my optimism quickly waned. I tenaciously pushed forth and secured my spot in line, nonetheless. A few minutes before the store opened, an individual began yelling out to everyone waiting in the line past a certain point that they didn't have enough Wiis for everybody. I was only a few people behind the last to get one of those prized vouchers. As the crowd disbanded, many turned toward the store's entrance and jeered and cursed at the employees in their disappointment. I remember sitting in my car disheartened, yet ruminating about my next move. My attention quickly turned to Best Buy down the freeway in the next city, where it was also announced as having a Wii stock replenishment that day. Without much hope since the store's opening minutes had already transpired, I decided to check out Best Buy. When I arrived, there was a large group of people still outside of the entrance waiting for their chance to get a Wii. Slavishly, I decided to join them. I was only there for a few minutes when a store employee announced to the crowd that they had enough Wiis for everyone. Once inside of the store, I noticed it was like a maze with displays containing Wii games and accessories creating a path for shoppers to follow. The path ended, fittingly, at the cash register. I walked out with my console, a copy of WarioWare: Smooth Moves, and a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. My wife quickly became of a fan of Smooth Moves, and she became the expert bowler she always wanted to be.

PlayStation 3

In 2007, HD DVD was all but dead and Blu-Ray had clearly emerged triumphantly over its technological rival. Since we had an HD DVD player for our Xbox 360, we were faced with this stark reality: it was time to move on from HD DVD and purchase a Blu-Ray player. Unfortunately, Blu-Ray players were very expensive in 2007, and the PlayStation 3 was still $500 at retail. It wasn't until the end of the year when a conflation of variables coalesced together to compel us to finally invest in the PS3. My wife's proclivities toward watching and owning the latest movies proved to be a huge contributing factor in buying the PS3. I remained resistant because of the lack of compelling game software at the time and its exorbitant price, but when my PS2 died leading up to my birthday in 2007, I found myself looking to replace my fallen console. At the same time, my wife wanted a Blu-Ray player, and the PS3 was one of the cheapest on the market. Unfortunately, Sony had decided to phase out the launch 60 gigabyte version of the PS3 which was still backward compatible with PS2 games, but Gamestop was offering enticing bundle deals to liquidate their stock. The pressure was on, and my birthday was approaching fast. We decided to break down and purchase the PS3 bundle from Gamestop to satisfy these three aspirations: to replace my PS2; to provide my wife the affordable Blu-Ray player she desired; and to provide me with a birthday gift. I even got a free copy of Resistance: Fall of Man as part of the deal.
My Video Game Console Launch Memories
Part of the enjoyment of the video game hobby transcends just playing the games; it involves the endless amount of good memories the hobby inspires. No matter the platform or platforms one buys, or the diversity of gaming preferences there are, every gamer has good memories about the games they play and the consoles they own. No doubt many have unique and unforgettable launch memories, as well. Every console launch period is a special and crazy period for the industry and its fans, one that is sure to elicit stories worth telling. So what are your video game console launch stories? Please feel free to share in the comments section below.

Game Tangents Interviews Indie Dev Hinterland Studios – The Long Dark

Game Tangents continues its series of coverage of indie developers with an interview with Raphael van Lierop, founder and creative director of Hinterland Studios, the talented and experienced team behind the anticipated indie title, The Long Dark. On October 16, 2013, Hinterland Studios easily surpassed their Kickstarter goal to fund The Long Dark. Described as a survival-simulation, The Long Dark is a fascinating and exciting looking first-person adventure about a man's struggle to survive in the desolate cold after a geo-magnetic global disaster. After finishing the interview, please head to the bottom of the page and click on the link to view their Kickstarter page so that you can learn more about The Long Dark and view some gameplay footage. Game Tangents would like to express our deepest gratitude to Raphael and the entire Hinterland team for taking some time to answer our questions. Game Tangents Interviews Indie Dev Hinterland Studios - The Long Dark
G-Tan: What was the inspiration behind the artistic style of the game? Raphael: Originally I was inspired by the simple watercolour illustrations of children’s book author Jon Klassen. This led me down the creative path of exploring how to create a beautifully simple design that would capture the atmosphere of the harsh wilderness but without sacrificing the feeling of beauty, the majesty of it. Hokyo (Lim, Hinterland’s art director) took that starting point and added his own flavour to it, to come up with his own unique visual direction. G-Tan: What kind of research went into making sure The Long Dark's focus on survival in the wilderness was as realistic as possible? Raphael: We have a library of survival guides we used as a starting point, but in the end we enlisted the help of Chris Fragassi, a wilderness survival instructor and bush pilot. Realism in the simulation isn't actually a goal, as much as creating something that feels authentic and has the depth to explore individual survival elements -- stuff as simple as how to start a fire -- with a level of detail that makes each gameplay action and player choice interesting. Research is ongoing. In terms of the look and feel of the world, the team has spent time on Vancouver Island, where Hinterland is headquartered, getting a feel for the style of wilderness and sparse in-habitation you encounter in this part of the world.
G-Tan: How will meeting other survivors be throughout the game? How strong will the emphasis be on choice as far as other survivors you associate yourself with? Raphael: We want to create a sense of tension, but also hopefulness, about every survivor encounter. They are not simply fodder or targets for you to dispatch -- they could hold life-saving knowledge about the location of supply caches, or useful landmarks you need to navigate the world, or even skills or supplies you can trade for. Of course, some will actively try to kill you. But The Long Dark isn't an action game. The player’s primary interface with the game is not through a gun, but rather, through the choices they make about how they choose to survive -- both in terms of the mechanics of how they manage resources and navigate the physical dangers of the world, but also how they navigate the moral landscape. G-Tan: We've seen survival elements in recent games, a big one being The Last of Us. How will things like crafting, survival, and even combat be different? Raphael: The Last of Us is a tremendous game with incredible production values, but for me it feels and plays more like an action game than a survival game. Combat in The Long Dark will be something so deadly that you prefer to avoid it at all costs. Exploration of the world and survival against the hostile elements of nature is the heart and soul of the game. The Long Dark is a lot more about what happens leading up to combat than it is about what happens when the guns come out. G-Tan: What will be the overarching focus of The Long Dark? Will players be working to return to civilization or will it primarily be focused on surviving and the area you've become utterly forced to adapt in? Raphael: The immediate focus will be on your survival in your local environment, but over time as you learn more about what is going on, you’ll start to become invested in the larger world to the extent that you will very much need to push beyond your comfort zone. The game and story aren't so much about a return to civilization, but rather, an exploration of the more intimate, the more personal question about how far *you* will go to survive. G-Tan: Hinterland consists of a team that is pretty familiar to the triple-A industry of video games. What is the transition like now being in an independent studio? Raphael: Full of excitement and a bit of fear, definitely. We know how to make games but doing so as independent developers is definitely a new experience for us. Every day brings new challenges and new opportunities to learn. I would say we’re fiercely independent by nature so being on our own is a very good fit for our culture. But I think this is more a state of mind in how we approach our work, than really a specific statement of our funding arrangement or the fact we are responsible for all our own decision-making. I think we’d function this same way in any context. It’s just where we’re at in our careers, and one of the main things that drove us to start Hinterland. G-Tan: You guys were lucky enough to hit your goal but also a little more. Was there ever any doubt, fear, etc., during that last week of not knowing what was going to happen? Raphael: Kickstarter is a strange beast and I don’t think we took anything for granted throughout the process. I think we worked very hard for the funds we raised, but we’re most happy about the incredible community that has emerged around the game and we draw a lot of inspiration and energy from them. I think we went into the Kickstarter expecting to hit our goal earlier, but once we started the process our only goal was to cross the finish line, which we did, so mission accomplished. G-Tan: You've gotten 2 awesome voice actors joining the cast: Jennifer Hale, most known for the female Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect series, and also David Hayter of the Metal Gear Solid franchise. What can you tell us about them joining the team, and what characters are they going to be playing? Raphael: We actually have 4 awesome voice actors -- Mark Meer, Elias Toufexis, Jennifer Hale, and David Hayter. We’re not ready to get into too much detail about their specific roles or the story in general beyond what we've shared, but I think our fans will be pretty pleased with what we have in store for them.

Please click the link below to head over to the Hinterland Studios Kickstarter page:

Why The Xbox One 720p Issue Is Being Blown Out Of Proportion

Why The Xbox One 720p Issue Is Being Blown Out Of Proportion If you have even superficially been paying any attention to the world of video games in the last few weeks, you no doubt have gotten a little glimpse into the controversy surrounding the Xbox One's launch lineup's resolution output. Most games, including Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4, are going to natively run in 720p upon release, a far cry from the expected 1080p benchmark of next-generation hardware. This has become the topic of mercurial debate and fanboy bomb throwing on most gaming specific internet sites. The Xbox One seems to have become this gaming cycle's most reviled system, and after a shaky introduction this past May, Microsoft and their new hardware just can't seem to get a break. The resolution issue is just the latest in a long sequence of PR damaging news, and with only a few weeks before the Xbox One's launch, it may have become the deciding factor for those contemplating about which next-gen console to purchase. But is this resolution controversy really that big of a deal? If we use history as an indicator, all signs point to the conclusion that this issue is being blown way out of proportion.

It's Still Early In The New Console Cycle

Does anyone remember a launch lineup for any new video game console where the first-generation games looked better than the games that released in the latter stages of that console's lifespan? No? That is because this simply doesn't happen. During the transitional period between console generations, the developer's lack of familiarity with the new hardware and their accommodation to the routine of developing games for the outgoing generation's technology, combined with the pressure of meeting launch date deadlines, typically results in first-generation games that look marginally better than what consumers are used to on their current platforms. As time transpires, developers learn new techniques to best exploit the power of the tech they have at their disposal, and for some platforms, this takes more time than for others. You may be asking this question: Why are PlayStation 4 games already running in 1080p? It is important to note that the Xbox One is a very complex and sophisticated multimedia machine designed to multitask whenever powered on. This console has 3 independent operating systems running in parallel while allocating resources to power the Kinect. Now it is debatable as to the benefits of this architectural design during this early stage, especially regarding the Kinect, and the merits of these benefits are impossible to test until the console makes its way into gamers' homes. What is possible to ascertain is that the division of the distribution of the system's resources hampers the developer's capability to optimize certain aspects of their games such as resolution. Given more time and better familiarization with the hardware, along with improvements to driver software, it is likely that developers would have been able to pull off 1080p resolutions, but the frantic and stressful launch period may have curtailed this possibility. The PS4 was designed to ease game development, and it lacks the multidimensional functionality of the Xbox One, allowing developers to focus the majority of the system's computational power to run games. There is little doubt that the Xbox One will be running most games in 1080p in the near future when developers get a grasp of the hardware. If most games are not running in 1080p on the Xbox One in 1 or 2 years after its release, then Microsoft will have a serious problem trying to justify the system's high-end price-tag.

Technical Limitations Never Bothered PlayStation Fans

Does anyone remember a little title called The Last of Us? It seems to be almost a consensus of opinion among the video game community that this game displays some of the most incredible graphics of the current-generation of gaming consoles. Apparently, the fact that The Last of Us renders its graphics in the native 720p resolution doesn't seem to have disrupted people's opinions about the title's graphical prowess; in fact, it never enters into the conversation. This is because there is more about graphics than just resolution. The Last of Us benefits from a combination of factors: a strong art design, impeccable motion-capture animation, a great voice cast, and the fact that the title is a Sony exclusive. The most successful video game console of all-time was, undeniably, the PlayStation 2. It is interesting to note that out of all of the major sixth generation consoles – a generation that included the Gamecube and Xbox – the PS2 was technically the least powerful. This little fact didn't prevent the system from outselling the first Xbox by about 120 million units. What did help Sony easily surpass its competition was the quality of its library of games. Back then, PlayStation fans were well aware of this and the PS2's technical limitations were of no concern to them. They focused on enjoying great games, not technological superiority. This is and should be what the video game hobby is all about – enjoying games. Today, a perceived technical shortfall is cause for a frenzied controversy and irrational vitriol while in the PS2's era this wasn't an issue. It is clear that both the Xbox One and PS4 are very advanced systems that both offer new innovations in the way players experience video games and other forms of digital entertainment. It is unfortunate that the Xbox One is perceived as the weaker of the two at this early stage of the next-generation due to the designers' decisions in how to utilize its power. The PS4 may prove to be more technologically advanced than the Xbox One, however, history has shown that technological superiority doesn't always correlate to a ubiquity of great games; this is a fact that PlayStation fans know well, yet they choose to ignore this when applying the same set of standards they've established for themselves and their preferred console to the fans and tech of the competition.

Most Consumers Won't Notice a Difference Between 720p and 1080p

It is both myopic and a reckless mistake to assume that all video game consumers are technophiles. Most people don't even know what 720p and 1080p mean let alone perceive the difference on screen. The only way to accurately distinguish a difference between the two resolutions is to do a side-by-side comparison, an effort most people wouldn't inconvenience themselves with. Optimizing television settings, connecting game systems, and navigating through complex menus are still like performing rocket science for many mainstream consumers, and a marginal difference in visual fidelity isn't going to matter to them. What most people will perceive, however, are game performance issues such as frame rate stutters and pauses, clipping, and screen tearing. Any impediment to the player's enjoyment of a game will remain most salient to them when casting judgment about the quality of that product. If the Xbox One manages to produce high-quality games devoid of these kinds of performance issues, then shouldn't that rank higher than resolution when formulating an opinion regarding the fun factor of a video game?
With a little over a week before the release of the Xbox One, and only a few days before the release of the PS4, the intensity of the conversation and hateful rhetoric on the internet among console fanboys will only continue to increase. Unfortunately, the brazenly passionate console loyalists pervade the internet, and more unfortunately, they have influence over many people's buying decisions. In an ideal climate, consumers should be able to buy products that they believe will bring them the most entertainment value, and video game platforms they believe will provide them games they want to play, all without the negative scrutiny of the self-appointed authority to video game quality. It is true that Microsoft has a steep hill to climb in proving the value of the Xbox One in light of its price, but it still remains possible that the ancillary features of the system will end up justifying the extra cost. Only time will tell. The lower resolution output controversy surrounding the Xbox One is a pitiful excuse for people to base their buying decisions upon. History has proven that this has never been an issue for successful platforms in the past, and most people won't even notice the difference, anyway. Besides, this technical limitation is more than likely only a temporary issue that will fade away into obscurity when developers better familiarize themselves with the hardware. This debate is currently being perpetuated by folks who have a focused agenda to spread propaganda in order to turn people against Microsoft and the Xbox One. These same people who would praise their preferred game system's library despite its perceived technical “inferiority” in the past won't afford the competition the same benefit of the doubt in the present, proving their disingenuousness. These people should be avoided and ignored. For the rest of us, we should just concentrate on playing the games we want to play, and buying the systems that run them. We are currently standing at the dawn of a new console generation, and the potential ramifications for the future of the industry that both new consoles represent are very exciting to ponder. As it stands now, this Xbox One resolution controversy is one of the most manufactured and overblown debates that I have seen in the history of the video game industry.

My Most Memorable Sega Genesis Games Part 2

With every video game generation that expires, a new one begins and memories of the past rise to the surface. With the PS4 and Xbox One both releasing in the next few weeks, I have become somewhat nostalgic for the old days when game consoles were just game consoles, and game developers were in the nascent stages of evolving the medium into a conduit for more artful expression. In my recent private cogitations, I have been reminiscing about the Sega Genesis, a console I first owned in 1989. Many great titles were created on this venerable platform, and many great franchises were established. The 16 bit era was truly special, characterized by a maturing of the creative and developmental processes combined with the modernization of the industry as a whole; a time when the video game industry became firmly rooted as a legitimate entertainment giant. The following list is Part 2 of my most memorable Sega Genesis games, the ones that had the most profound effect on me during the formative years of my early adulthood, or the ones that left me with the fondest memories. Because this list does not represent any particular order of importance, the list is organized in alphabetical order. Please don't forget to check out Part 1.

Phantasy Star 3: Generations of Doom

I believe the theme song for Phantasy Star 3 is one of the best of the 16 bit generation, and maybe one of the best I have ever heard. While regal, poignant, and moving, this game's theme perfectly segues the player into the virtual fantasy world of the Phantasy Star universe. While many feel the gameplay and graphics took a step back from its predecessor, Phantasy Star 3 introduced a unique generational system that had players assuming the roles of the descendants of the characters the game started with.

Phantasy Star 4: The End of the Millennium

What an apt conclusion to the Phantasy Star saga. Phantasy Star 4: The End of the Millennium is a game that improved on almost every aspect except music over its predecessors. With improved graphics, gameplay systems, and an epic story, Phantasy Star 4 is a fitting end to the series, and one of the best 16 bit RPGs on any console. Even though the theme wasn't as memorable as the previous games in the series, it still rocks. Sadly, due to the massive amount of data stored on the cartridge, this game failed to make its way into as many gamers' homes as it should have due to its exorbitant price.

The Revenge of Shinobi

Shinobi is a classic arcade and Sega Master System ninja action-adventure that, thankfully, flourished on the 16 bit Genesis. The Revenge of Shinobi is an amazing game, so amazing that even Spiderman and Batman inexplicably show up as level bosses. Filled with solid platforming and shuriken throwing fun, The Revenge of Shinobi is best remembered as a game that kept me company through the flu over 20 years ago. Because I was so sick, I was able to slow down from my busy life and actually spend the time needed to finish the game.

Shining Force

Shining Force was my introduction into the world of Tactical Strategy gaming, and what a blissful introduction it was. Shining Force is one of those games that just doesn't get old. I can still find myself addicted to this game by simply starting it up in my Genesis (or my Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for Xbox 360). It is fun just trying to level up characters that originally seem useless until they prove their worth with a little attention. This provides players the motivation to play through the same battles repeatedly just to level grind.

Shining Force 2

This epic fantasy Tactical Strategy RPG is simply a continuation of the original game, with a few subtle improvements. Shining Force 2 is just as addictive and fun as the first game, and it's worth every moment spent strategically battling in a perpetual effort to improve units.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Not a lot needs to be said about this one. Sonic the Hedgehog was one of the most popular mascots for any company in the early 90s, even rivaling the great Mario Mario, and this title helped propel him to stardom. The original Sonic the Hedgehog was fast, fun, and had incredible music. This game introduced us to the legendary “Blast Processing” marketing campaign, and it began the high-stakes console wars we know today because it was the killer app that helped Sega give Nintendo a real challenger for video game console supremacy.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Although Sonic 1 deserves mention on this list, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is my favorite in the series. This game was bolder, faster, and better than its predecessor, and the gameplay was complimented by an incredible soundtrack. I can still hear many of the level specific tunes in my imagination, and I haven't even played the game in years. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 had some great level design, and the introduction of the Spin Dash was one of the most important game-mechanic innovations in the series. Sonic 2 most definitely represents the heyday of this most venerable franchise.

Street Fighter 2 Special Champion Edition

This game reminds me of the days I had a subscription to EGM (yes, the magazine) in the early nineties. After a long wait due to Nintendo's timed exclusivity, EGM finally announced that Street Fighter 2 would indeed be coming to the Sega Genesis, and I don't think I have ever been as excited since. I do miss those days when information dissemination was on a month-to-month basis, allowing for a build up of anticipation instead of being on demand like we have today with the internet. Nevertheless, I didn't hesitate to acquire this game, and I was not disappointed. I couldn't believe how good Street Fighter 2 on the Genesis was, despite the scratchy sounding digitized voices. For many years I had longed for a one-on-one martial arts fighter, and Street Fighter 2 Special Champion Edition delivered an experience beyond my wildest, most lofty hopes.

Streets of Rage

Back in the 16 bit era, side-scrolling beat-em-ups were very popular. Capcom had their Final Fight series, and Sega had their Streets of Rage. The first Streets of Rage is probably most remembered for its soundtrack, which still gets mentioned on occasion over the web to this day. The Genesis wasn't known for the prowess of its sound chip, but in the hands of a talented composer, the system sure could produce some rhythmic beats. Streets of Rage had some amazing music, and the gameplay was deep and fun enough for repeated play-throughs. In retrospect, what other game out there allows you to call in a police car where the driver fires a bazooka to rain down justice and death upon hapless street thugs from anywhere on the screen and from any distance?

Super Hydlide

Many may not be familiar with this title. Super Hydlide is a top down, traditional RPG with a mesmerizing and haunting soundtrack. I still occasionally listen to the theme music for this game on since I no longer have a physical copy. This RPG was the first I played where your character's carry weight and hunger level were important to manage. The game was hard in the beginning because of it, but it was rewarding to overcome those elements through leveling up your character. It's still hard to believe the Genesis was producing such incredible music; the Genesis sound chip wasn't supposed to be capable of this level of quality.

Thunder Force 2

Here is another space shooter that is, frankly, one of the best on the Genesis. Thunder Force and Lightning Force is a legendary series of space shooters, but Thunder Force 2 really stands out for me. Most shooters of this type are difficult and inaccessible, in my opinion, but this game was easy to get into and had some very distinctive sound effects. Like the sound design is integral to the feel and recognition of the Star Wars franchise, so are the sound effects of Thunder Force 2. The crisp weapon's fire and pounding beats really belied the perceived low quality of the Genesis sound chip. To this day I can hear this game's distinctive sounds in my imagination, and I can still feel the thrill of playing this game. Because of the scratchy digitized voices produced by the sound chip, I still have no idea what is being said between levels before the voice wishes the player “Good Luck.”

My Most Memorable Sega Genesis Games Part 1

With every video game generation that expires, a new one begins and memories of the past rise to the surface. With the PS4 and Xbox One both releasing in the next few weeks, I have become somewhat nostalgic for the old days when game consoles were just game consoles, and game developers were in the nascent stages of evolving the medium into a conduit for more artful expression. In my recent private cogitations, I have been reminiscing about the Sega Genesis, a console I first owned in 1989. Many great titles were created on this venerable platform, and many great franchises were established. The 16 bit era was truly special, characterized by a maturing of the creative and developmental processes combined with the modernization of the industry as a whole; a time when the video game industry became firmly rooted as a legitimate entertainment giant. The following list is Part 1 of my most memorable Sega Genesis games, the ones that had the most profound effect on me during the formative years of my early adulthood, or the ones that left me with the fondest memories. Because this list does not represent any particular order of importance, the list is organized in alphabetical order. Please don't forget to check back with us next week for Part 2.

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse

Sometimes a game comes around that ends up occupying a special place in your heart. Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is one of those games. Capturing the magical qualities of the lovable Disney characters and cartoon aesthetic, Castle of Illusion wasn't as long or challenging of a game as it was evocative. The faithful animations, colorful and creative level design, and endearing protagonist, made Castle of Illusion a delightful, lighthearted, and fun experience during the early years of the Sega Genesis. I will always fondly remember the many hours spent playing through this game during the holidays in the early 1990s.

Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf

I didn't think I would like this game because of its mildly complicated controls, but once this hurdle was overcome, Desert Strike became an addictive delight of military destruction bliss. Whether it was rescuing hostages, hoarding hellfire missiles to take out tanks, or exploring the isometric terrain for fuel and ammo crates, Desert Strike was a unique action-shooter that tugged at the hearts of completists like myself. I couldn't finish a level without destroying everything in sight, and the fully destructible environmental objects simply facilitated for this compulsion.

Ecco the Dolphin

Many people, in retrospect, don't really remember Ecco the Dolphin fondly like I do. The game was beautiful to look at, and it had some sophisticated physics and animations for its time. Although the learning curve for the controls was quite steep, learning how to control Ecco with fluidity and purpose was very rewarding. Ecco the Dolphin was a punitively difficult game, and the fact that I beat it ranks this game at the top of my list of brag-worthy conquered titles in my nearly 35 years of gaming history.

Evander Holyfield’s Real Deal Boxing

Buster Douglas was the first man to finally usurp boxing's most coveted crown away from the nearly invincible Mike Tyson. Tyson's ring presence and undefeated record earned him his own video game on the NES – Mike Tyson's Punch Out – and it was great. Beating Tyson earned Buster Douglas his own game on the Genesis, and it was horrible. Sega finally found success in challenging the great Mike Tyson's Punch Out when they signed on Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield and designed a game around his likeness and prestige. Mike Tyson's Punch Out was more of a puzzle game surrounded by the trappings of boxing; Evander Holyfield's Real Deal Boxing was more a simulation of the “sweet science”, and it was my favorite boxing game until the release of Fight Night Round 3 on the Xbox 360.

Golden Axe 2

The sequel to the popular arcade original and early Genesis release, Golden Axe 2 is a continuation of the classic hack-and-slash beat-em-up franchise. This is a game that I had memorized to almost to every detail. I used to hurry home from school to play this game in an attempt to speed through it faster than the last time I played it. Thus was the nature of gaming over 20 years ago; the fun of many games came from the memorization of the A.I. behavior and level design, and beating the game as quickly and efficiently as possible was the main motivator. I used to love making charging enemies throw themselves over cliffs.


Anyone who has been following our weekly podcast or features posted on our website knows that I like space and spaceships. There was a time that I also enjoyed side-scrolling space shooters such as Hellfire. This game was so difficult that I never beat it, but I would spend hours trying. I think I made it close to the end, but the game became seemingly impossible no matter how well I memorized enemy patterns and level design. Nevertheless, I used to hurry home from school daily just to play this game before starting my homework. These fond memories are what qualifies Hellfire as being a part of this esteemed list.

Jungle Strike

Jungle Strike is basically more of the same as Desert Strike, and this is a good thing. This title basically swapped the arid, monochrome milieu of the desert for the verdant, green jungle, then plopped in the same helicopter combat of the first game with the addition of a few new vehicles for a little variety. Sadly, the Saddam Hussein style Madman from the first game didn't make it to the sequel; now there was a comical antagonist who deserved a good hellfire missile in the mouth.

King’s Bounty

This one brings back a lot of memories. For some reason, King's Bounty reminds me of weekends where I would head to the gym to lift weights in the evening after a few hours of gameplay. The strategic turn-based gameplay mechanics of this fantasy RPG are both rewarding and addictive. I enjoyed purchasing hundreds of cheap Sprites for units, then using them to annihilate smaller groups of stronger enemies. Another notable peculiarity about this title involves its save system. Instead of a battery back-up save system, the developers opted to use one the most burdensome and punitive password systems I have ever seen. Writing the password on paper was like writing an essay, and making a mistake could lead to losing your game altogether.


I used to love playing the classic board game Monopoly when I was a child. I think this game had a great influence on my personal faith in our capitalist system. Monopoly has been translated into digital form many dozens of times over, but the Sega Genesis version was the one I acquired, and I loved it. Even to this day, if I were to fire this game up, I would become instantly transfixed. I currently have the PS3 version and it is great, but the Sega Genesis game is the one I will always remember with fondness, and it's the only version I have that I can play on my Sega Nomad.

Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat was quite the craze in the arcades back in the early nineties. With its gruesome and violent fatalities, and with some amazing digitized graphics - a novelty for its time - Mortal Kombat's lack of depth in the technical aspects of the fighting arts were easily forgiven and ignored. Although Street Fighter 2 ruled among the video game fighter purists, Mortal Kombat was still a lot of fun and very accessible. Many didn't believe this title would translate well to the console, but the Genesis port was remarkably faithful to the arcade original. I was so excited about this game that I actually pre-ordered it, something I almost never do. The Genesis port is best remembered for being the version that retained all of the blood and violence of the arcade original, while the Super Nintendo version was sanitized due to Nintendo's policy concerning violence. The Genesis version may have not been as pretty as its competitor's, but it had it where it counts.

Phantasy Star 2

This game is very special to me. Phantasy Star 2 kept me company during a difficult, transitional period in my life where I had little interaction with my peers. I found this game used, and affordable, at a local comic book store that sold video games. After nearly 22 years, this title's theme still has a calming effect on me. Also, Phantasy Star 2 is notable for being one of the first games that had an impactful, emotional narrative that included the sorrowful death of a likable and important character.