All About -Saigo-
Ok, no offense to the other topics in Chalk Talk's glorious past, and no disrespect to the previous (and illustrious) community editors of the past, but this week's Chalk Talk is a good one for the logical and creative alike.
As the vibrant dawn of a new age of consoles breaks over the horizon, rumors, specs, and speculations begin to slowly cast their lengthy shadows across the realms of our digital lives. Though information is sparse, and more questions arise daily, gamers have begun scavenging for whispers of truth as old grudges fade into obscurity and new lines are drawn in the forlorn ashes of the fanboy burns and taunts of old.
Yet, imagine if you will, a new age of perfection: One console, pristine and magnificent, destined to rule them all. Imagine a console without fault, glorious in gameplay, with features capable of uniting the world in a utopia of pixelated splendor. Image, if you dare, a console worthy of the gaming gods themselves.
What would this console be called? What features would it include? How would it be played? What games would highlight its release and why would it be successful when others have failed?
If you could design the perfect console for the next generation, how would you do it and why? Be as imaginative, idealistic, or as logical as you please and remember to have fun!
Your assignment (and personal favor to me) is to write up an editorial focusing on what would make the perfect game console and why?
The deadline to have your entries submitted is Friday, March 22nd by 2:00pm PT. (I know, this is crazy quick, but if you have time, please write something up and let me know you've posted it via email or with a link to your work below.)
Also, for all of you aspiring writers out there, getting featured in the Chalk Talk is the quickest way to earn a soapbox emblem! So get to it! Oh, and check out the new GameSpot endorsed writers union here.
The battle has begun. As developers begin to squeeze the dying pixels from a fading era of consoles, the inevitable cold war known as the next generation lingers on the horizon. Here, reputations are at stake, fan loyalties wax and wane, and precious consumer dollars dangle from the wallets of the undecided. Make no mistake: This is war.
As Nintendo's Wii-U sales continue to hobble, Sony has eased swiftly into its play for the throne with the masterfully hyped announcement of the PlayStation 4. Will the last giant left to enter the fray succumb under the tremendous pressure? Or will the esteemed designers and programmers of Microsoft answer the call with a deafening retort to silence the industry with a console destined to rule them all?
Not if the rumors are true.
Now let's not get ahead of ourselves here, I'm not writing this with insider information or as a time traveler from the near future. Yet, as rumors buzz like caffeinated bees from one website to the next, at least a few of these whispers are worthy of our attention (even just for entertainment's sake), until something more substantial is released. So why will the next Xbox fail? Let's break it down rumor by rumor.
The Rumor: The Next Xbox Won't Play Used Games: This is the big, fat, glaring, nasty rumor that has diehard Microsoft fanboys and GameStop employees alike praying to the gaming gods like sinners on judgment day. So what's the big deal? Well for one, people like the option of keeping or selling a game once they've played it, and since keeping up with the latest and greatest has never been a poor man's pastime, many gamers turn to trading in old games to subsidize their habit. In fact, the importance of this freedom was assessed when used game supergiant GameStop conducted an in house survey on the likelihood of customers buying a console based on its ability to ban used games. The results were tallied and found (surprise, surprise) that three out of every five GameStop customers would avoid purchasing such a console. Now, I don't put much faith in such a survey for obvious reasons (since GameStop conducting a survey regarding used games is the equivalent of surveying cows on the merits of eating beef), but if you were to look at this as a statistical representation of the market, Microsoft is essentially eliminating 60% of their consumers right out the gate. Would you be willing to sacrifice your freedoms as a consumer to guarantee the success of your favorite developers and publishers?
Why it Could Succeed: I can see this working two ways: First, if all the major console developers were on board (they're not), and second, if Microsoft can manage to persuade major developers into developing exclusively for the next Xbox. Think about it. The used game industry is a multibillion dollar industry that earns the vast majority of its funds from the pockets of both publishers and developers. Sure, they both get paid on the initial sale of a new game, but who makes the money when a game is resold (especially when it's bought for pennies and sold again for dollars)? Game developers aren't earning a red cent off used game purchases, and if GameStop is making billions, that's billions the rightful creators are missing out on. If Microsoft can convince developers that developing solely for a console that prevents this kind of third party loss is better, it could provide enough incentive for many brands to hop aboard. More developers making exclusive content essentially creates a greater appeal for the console, which evolves into an increase in sales, resulting in more appeal for developers to develop strictly for it. But are developers willing to turn to a console that has their best interests in mind at the cost of limiting the freedoms of their fans? Or will tradition prevail as developers seek the greatest audience while continually innovating new ways to regain their hard earned money back from the middleman vultures of the used game industry?
The Rumor: The Next Xbox will require a Constant Internet Connection to Play: The internet seas must be rampant with piracy if punishing honest gamers with a forced online connection seems like a viable solution to anyone. Sadly, I can just imagine some bigwig stopping a board meeting at Microsoft to say, You know what, gamers love it when they need an internet connection to play games because servers shutting down for reaching capacity is epic and having to queue for a single player experience is a blast!
If the rumors are true, then say goodbye to the simple days when all you needed was a console and somewhere to plug it in, and roll out the red carpet for an online experience handicapped by connectivity issues with a lifespan limited to a company's commitment to their servers. Forget the inconveniences of not having the internet or the embarrassment of having a connection only suitable for email--once the servers go down on an online-only game, all you have left is a useless disc and a broken heart full of memories.
Why it Could Succeed: It can't. Don't get me started. Constantly connected games are a trend that needed to die yesterday. If you support the notion of always online-DRM (Digital Rights Management), please stop reading, go outside, and walk into oncoming traffic. Actually don't, I don't want your mother suing me when she discovers you've left her basement to follow the advice of someone you met on the internet. Honestly though (and yes, that was sarcastic, I really love you and I'd never say anything that mean), if you can legitimately defend always online-DRM, I'd love to hear your thoughts because, after the Diablo 3 launch and the Sim City fiasco, the always online idea seems like the digital start of the Black Death. Maybe if companies sold heavily chained DRM titles at half price, or even offered incentives for playing online (while still offering the option of an offline single player experience), it could work, but you're still going to have to sell me on the idea before getting me aboard that Titanic. No sir, no ma'am, no thanks!
The Future of Gaming?
The Rumor: The Next Xbox will Require the Kinect 2.0 be Enabled to Play: Big brother is watching you references aside, the Kinect is little more than a decent idea that's been poorly executed. Could it succeed? Absolutelyif you can forget about the mandatory airline-hanger-for-a-living-room that's required to enjoy it, and the fact that not everyone wants a workout when they sit down to play. Sure, it's innovative, revolutionary, and cutting edge while voice commands are fun (until someone walks through the room while you're playing Madden 13 and calls for a spike on 3rd and 1), but the Kinect generally serves as little more than an entertaining party trick that just isn't necessary in most games. So why make it mandatory?
How it Could Succeed: The Kinect has always had the potential to be something special, though traditionally hindered by the limitations of its own capabilities and design. Microsoft has undoubtedly made significant improvements since its conception, and rumors of the new Kinect being capable of detecting movements from inches away are promising, but the Kinect 2.0 still has miles to go before venturing out from beneath the shadow of its less-than-perfect predecessor. Still, the possibilities are undoubtedly there, and the results could be spectacular if Microsoft managed to implement it properly. Imagine a fighting game that legitimately tracked a player's movements and speed against another combatant? Or a fantasy title that accurately tracked sword-wielding reflexes or spell casting prowess against single player foes or online adversaries? Regardless, if the rumors are true and Microsoft intends to force the Kinect down our throats, they'd better bring a perfected product to the table. No justifications. No work in progress nonsense. No exceptions. If you're going to force gamers to incorporate something new into their traditional habits, you'd better do it as smooth and as gently as possible. Sugarcoat that medicine Microsoft! Or don't feed us a problem we would have lived happily without.
The Rumor: The Next Xbox will Feature 70 dollar Games: Just when the good news of an increase in minimum wage rang through the halls of slums and campus dorms alike--the cold rumor of games increasing to 70 dollars a title has come whispering from the darkness like the icy breath of a shadow. Coincidence? Perhaps. Good move? Absolutely: If you're the one developing or publishing the games and not the sucker paying to play them.
Videogames are already pricey, and the average consumer has to be wise with their purchases, but a ten dollar increase could very well be the breaking point for many. Is now the time to stop our ranting on GameSpot and Facebook and finally let our wallets do the talking? Who do we support? Which is the lesser of two evils? Or does the new $70 become the old $60 as we line up like sheep for Call of Duty 25, Madden 82, and Assassin's Creed 14?
Why it Could Succeed: If gamers are willing to throw cash towards day one DLC, micro-transactions, and digital advantages, why wouldn't they be willing to part with a little more money for the games they love? That's partially the logic behind Microsoft's thinking if the rumors are true, and I'm willing to bet they're banking on the horrible spending habits of gamers and society's need to have the latest and greatest as well. If Apple can manage to sell overpriced phones and computers like snake oil, I'm willing to bet that raising the cost of a game by a measly 10 dollars won't impact a consumer's decisions any more than a speed bump in a parking lot stops them from frequenting their favorite store. If gamers keep inhaling their beloved games like spoiled children eating candy, I'd say a price increase isn't just a good business move, but an obvious evolution only a fool would hesitate in making. Welcome to the future ladies and gentlemen: We reap what we sow.
The Rumor: The Next Xbox will be Less Powerful than the Ps4: The reason I mention this, (and mention it last for that matter) is not as a deal breaker itself, but as another strike if any of the other rumors are true. Sure, the current Xbox and PlayStation are neck to neck graphically now, but Microsoft has managed to appeal to consumers through offers and other incentives that seemingly make it a viable option in relation to its competitors Blu-ray featured console. With the Kinect, a full lineup of multimedia distractions, and a large library of Live Arcade games and other multiplayer features, the current Xbox can afford its graphical similarities and slightly limited functionality while still remaining a successful force in the market. But what happens when you strip away these selling points, add limitations, and throw graphical disparity into the mix? You're left with an inferior system that won't sell unless it's at a dramatically reduced price or marketed to an incredibly susceptible audience. Either way, it's another potential strike in a fierce game that Microsoft won't want to lose.
Why it Could Succeed: Any credible gamer can tell you that graphics aren't everything. The current generation showcases a perfect example with the Wii, which is graphically inferior to both the Xbox 360 and the Ps3, but managed to outsell both systems worldwide. By lowering the graphical output of its next generation contender, Microsoft is decreasing the cost of the system, increasing their profit margins, and essentially making their model friendlier to fans and holiday shopping parents alike. Besides, if the difference in visuals is minimal, while the difference in price is enough for a few more games, many gamers would spring for the option that netted the bigger short-term payout verse the better long term value.
So, what are your thoughts? If any of the rumors are true, are they enough to keep you away from the next Xbox? If not, why? What is your breaking point and when is enough, enough? And if you do support any of the possible changes, I'd love to hear your arguments why.
Thanks for reading.
When we as humans are brought into this world--kicking, screaming, and drowning in the blinding light of our first few breathes--we enter this existence knowing only two inherent fears: The fear of falling, and the fear of loud noises. We laugh, we cry, and we experience as our consciousness expands into the world around us. Our minds, enlightened by an illuminated world of opportunity and possibility, evolve by a need for survival honed evolutionary by the success of our ancestors. We grow, we learn, we adapt, and in the light of our everyday life, fears and phobias silently take root and blossom from the shadows of our traumas and insecurities.
The nature of fear is elusive though many phobias can be traced back to some triggering catalyst. A fear of heights, for example, could be the result of a traumatic fall while a fear of water might stem from a bath-time burn or frightening submersion. Even the act of witnessing fear in others could be enough to trigger a lifelong phobia. While the process is seldom clear, with effects defying the logic of the unafflicted, fear, at its root, can be summed up as a primitive emotion, biochemical reaction, and a learned behavior.
So what makes a book, movie, or videogame scary? We aren't personally experiencing the event and even witnessing it occurs through an altered sense of reality. Yet, we've all had moments in games and movies alike where we've jumped from fear, gripped the sides of our controller or seat in anticipation, or felt the cold rush of adrenaline as we put the lights out, walk terrified across a foreign room with new shadows in every corner, and crawl into a bed that no longer seems safe. Can fear be controlled, channeled, and crafted into the stories we write or the games we play? Can horror be cultivated and molded through a master's touch to rival the living experiences of eating, sleeping, and breathing life? Or does fright ascend beyond the realms of categorized limits and human boundaries, bound by neither, through a mastery of art and prose?
To understand horror in both storytelling and gameplay, we must understand fear at its root. We must acknowledge that beyond the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises inherited as birthright, fear is both a learned and conditioned behavior, and subsequently, can be altered to fit our needs as readers, storytellers, developers, or gamers. While many experience personal fears including, fearing the dark, heights, death, spiders, and aliens on a space station, they remain individualized phobias while fearing the unknown, abandonment, and the prospect of losing control are far more universal and psychologically damaging in nature. While we may fear a spider or snake because of the physically threat they represent, our fears of the unknown or of losing control cut far deeper into our mental and emotional states. Understanding this explains why AAA games like Resident Evil or the Dead Space series can offer the occasional jump of the joystick with their overplayed gore, heavy reliance on dim settings, and ungodly sound effects--while smaller titles like Fatal Frame (Project Zero in Europe and Zero in Japan) or Amnesia: The Dark Descent, offer up something more visceral and haunt us on a much deeper level.
Fatal Frame, which is by far the scariest game I've personally played, haunts and horrifies for multiple reasons. I loved it. I hated it. I never finished it. Perhaps playing alone in the middle of an unlit and unfinished basement was overkill, but the game was horrifying from start to panicked finish. If you haven't played it, the story revolves around Miku Hinasaki, a schoolgirl clad in stereotypical Japanese uniform, armed with an old camera and her physic touch, as she wanders through a demonic mansion in search of her missing brother. Sounds horrifying, right? Like a little Pokemon snap with ghosts? You'd be surprised. Here you face something beyond the realm of the physical, under a distortion of falsified perception, where neither gun, plasma cutter, or professional training matter. You are driven by the believable ambition of saving a sibling as you unravel a history rooted in historical claims and urban legend. You are alone, facing the unknown, and losing control with every step forward. Prepare yourself, and keep a pair of clean underwear nearby because Fatal Frame attacks at the core of life and death and the world that exists between.
So why does it work? Fatal Frame succeeds where others fail by understanding the nature of fear while supplying pseudo moments of calm in a rollercoaster ride of terror. Though you can fight back with your camera in an exposed, tunnel vision manner, the effects are often temporary and vanquished spirits can return through walls, ceilings, and even the floor beneath you. Unlike games where a monster's movements are limited by their environment (windows, doors, and the ventilation), the denizens of Fatal Frame perversely break our physiological boundaries by defying our definitions of reality. Forget the occasional jump or sweaty palms of suspense, Fatal Frame grips in a way that takes weeks, if not months, to pry loose.
Another great example of true horror, though I'm still in the process of completing it, would be Amnesia: The Dark Decent. Amnesia is an Indie game developed by Frictional Games that follows the protagonist Daniel, a gentleman mysteriously stuck in a foreboding castle, as he descends into darkness in search of both his memory and sanity. I know, you'd never guess with a title like that, right? Regardless, the game is terrifying in ways similar to Fatal Frame while creating a character utterly vulnerable to every psychologically whim of the imagination. In Amnesia, even shadows are dangerous as hallucinations break way from paranoia to pure insanity as darkness, or even the close quarters of the castle, begin to close in around you. Forget a gun, knife, or even a camera for that matter: Daniel is completely defenseless in a game that commands suspense through anticipation, uncertainty, and dread.
So why does it work? The horror of Amnesia: The Dark Decent is capitalized by a gradual increase of suspense as the unknown is slowly unraveled to reveal a truth far more frightening than the perceived realities of the game's opening scenes. Here the enemy is unknown, your purpose, mission, and background are equally unexplained, as the atmosphere of emptiness consumes until heightened suspense breaks way to the psychological horrors of the imagination. You are constantly expecting something, and as seconds give way to minutes, that suspense rises like bile in your throat until every sound echoing through the empty corridors becomes another doorway in the halls of your own deepest fears. Amnesia ruthlessly attacks the insecurities of the uncontrollable--the horror of losing our mental cognition and drifting slowly into madness--while driving us forward in torment at a Jigsaw pace. Here, our only hope lies in doing what we fear most: Moving forward, exploring the next room, and facing the horrors of an ever growing sense of insanity.
While experiencing fear is part of human nature, and the elements of horror exist on many levels of the physical, spiritual, and emotional realms, understanding the phenomenon is neither brain surgery nor holy clergy. So why then is the aspect of capturing fright so elusive to mainstream developers and AAA titles while lesser or independent developers excel with tighter assets and limited resources? Both Fatal Frame and Amnesia: The Dark Decent are master strokes in the genre and yet big named companies continually fail with their offerings. If fear is so readily understood, why aren't game or movie studios pushing the envelope rather than overcompensating with gore and shock tactics? Do software giants fear creating games too scary for the million dollar masses when the medium has far more potential for fright by virtue of forcing the viewer to participate in the horror? Even when big name games like the original Dead Space manage to get it right to some degree, the following sequels abandon fear for accessibility or multiplayer options. Is corporate greed, parallelized by the inability to take a financial risk, killing the genre by making games more accessible to the weak willed and terror sensitive? Now, that's a frightening thought indeed.
Please, post your thoughts. And thank you for reading!
Also, what is the scariest game you've played and why? What worked and what didn't?
My Recent Reviews
Apr 18, 2013 3:25 am GMT-Saigo- began Following The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past 3DS
Mar 26, 2013 10:08 pm GMT-Saigo- posted a new blog entry entitled Posting without manually fixing Apostrophes? Help!
Mar 26, 2013 1:31 am GMT-Saigo- began Following The Elder Scrolls Online
Mar 21, 2013 5:34 am GMT-Saigo- began Following Transistor
Mar 19, 2013 8:02 pm GMT-Saigo- posted a new blog entry entitled Come One, Come All, To the Greatest Chalk Talk of All!
Mar 19, 2013 7:21 pm GMT-Saigo- posted a new blog entry entitled If the Rumors are True: 5 Reasons Why the Next Xbox Will Fail