Category Archives: The Chindividual

Nintendo and its lack of creativity

So, this morning, I was wondering what Nintendo is up to during the final months of this year. Which big releases will drop for their consoles before and eventually during the holiday season? Well, here’s a collection of their highlights for the 3DS:

  • Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
  • Super Smash Bros. 3DS
  • Yoshi’s NewIsland
  • Pokémon X & Y

Next to the fact that all these games will be released for the 3DS in the coming months, all these games have piqued my interest in both a positive and a negative way. I’m positively interested because, frankly, these are all new titles in promising intellectual properties. However, what rubs me the wrong way is that these once again shows how unoriginal Nintendo is.

Seriously, every time I take a look at the release schedule of Nintendo, I think to myself: “Really? More sequels / spin-offs of franchise X?” Granted, other brands do it to: Microsoft milks the hell out of Halo, while Sony isn’t afraid to create another part of the Tekken franchise. However, as I see it, there’s no one cashing in on big names like Nintendo does.

To be fair, Nintendo does own a lot of famous franchises in gaming. If you owned a classic like Super Mario, wouldn’t you keep on making games about it simply because the brand is well-known and loved? If I owned the Zelda franchise, I would have already created Zeldaland, a theme park with rides where you use your own plastic Master Sword to cut bushes and collect rupees. I don’t want to name and shame Nintendo for doing what every business with a succesful product does, but I do want to point out how they are losing when it comes to creativity.

You shouldn’t re-invent the wheel, but in Nintendo’s case, they should at least try another tire from time to time. With their approach of just re-painting and known name, adding a few new mechanics and selling it through their monstrosity of a marketing machine, I fear for a chance of ever seeing a new Nintendo brand that can find its place among the other legends. I know that I still enjoy riding on the Zelda or Pokémon bandwagon, but I sure would love to see my kids riding new cars, with brand-new tires.

How about you? Do you think Nintendo should bring in some new names, or do you prefer them sticking to their guns? Let me hear it!

 

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Why Garrosh is just what WoW needs

garrosh featured

If you have only the faintest interest in the lore of Warcraft, you will know about what’s going on in World of Warcraft right now. Essentially, Garrosh Hellscream has gone bananas with power, and after alienating, like,  the entire Horde, has decided to start his own Horde (not so much with hookers and blackjack, but with Old Gods and Sha) and will be the final boss in the next big patch, dubbed Siege of Orgrimmar. Take a look at the trailer if you haven’t already, and bask in Garrosh’s madness.

Garrosh is kinda a poor guy, isn’t he? His life is actually one big sob story, He never knew his father (who’s life was also not that unemotional), was considered a weakling until his coming-of-age, and has been portrayed by the community as the worst option for Warchief. Heck, even a basic campfire was more popular! It kinda sucks to be Garrosh. Though you might say most of the recent hate is due to his really stupid actions (and yes, he’s been portrayed as a power-hungry moron through most of Mists of Pandaria), he was already extremely unpopular in late Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm. Understandable, considering his warmongering nature, but I want to take this chance and tell you why Garrosh is just the thing Warcraft needs.

First of all, Garrosh is an instigator of conflict. Having him as Warchief ensures that the conflict between the Alliance and the Horde remains an important part of the story. This is in turn important, since it supports an important part of the game. If absolutely everything would be sunshine and rainbows between Blue and Red, why is there still so much fighting? Well, Garrosh’s racist attitude and lust for a long, bloody war is the reason. All you PvP’ers should thank him already: without him, Arathi Basin would be used as a summer retreat for aging Night Elf couples. Ew, the thought alone…

Second, Garrosh foresaw his own grand failure. When we meet him Nagrand, Garrosh is depressed and doubts his abilities to lead his tribe. Why? Because he thinks he will “repeat the mistakes of his father”. Understandable, but back then, we thought he might be that kind of character who redeems the family honor and steps into Thrall’s righteous and wise footsteps. Well, we were wrong, and Garrosh was right: he is repeating the mistakes of his father. He allows himself to be filled by both an earthly (his hatred and anger) and a supernatural (the Sha) force, corrupting him to his Orcish bones. There’s no redemption for house Hellscream here, only another dark stain on their bloodline.

Finally, Garrosh creates so much change. As I described in my first argument, the axe-swinging dictator loves himself some conflict and isn’t afraid of crushing his opposition. He has slain the Tauren’s chieftain, has pissed off Vol’jin and most of the other intelligent beings of Azeroth. His actions force others into action, which opens up so many possibilities. For a moment, it seemed like Jaina could convince the Blood Elves to join the Alliance. This was only possible because Garrosh had created a really hostile environment for them in the Horde. Now imagine all the other possibilities his madness opens up. Who might unite against him? Which unlikely allies find in him a common enemy? Who might return from his absence to re-unite the Horde? Yes, he’s a bloodthirsty homicidal maniac, but he leaves plot hooks and potential for interesting drama in his wake.

Don’t just simply hate on Garrosh Hellscream because all the cool kids do it. Take it from a guy who has left WoW behind now, and just believe in the importance of this wacky Warchief for the plot and coolness of Warcraft.

Hardware upgrades: the bane of PC gaming?

Last week, my PC died. Well, a part of it died. A quite essential part, namely the motherboard. What should have been a routine RAM replacement turned into a spontaneous shopping spree for a new board and processor, causing some gaming and blog-posting downtime. Fortunately, my gaming rig is back with a vengeance, sporting a way faster six-core processor and eight gig of RAM. My games never looked so pretty!

Anyway, last week’s computer resurrection adventure reminded me of the problems PC gamers have to deal with. Next to terrible console ports, one of the most frustrating parts of PC gaming is the need to upgrade hardware. Where a console gamer just buys his console and plays on it for six or more years until the next generation arrives, PC gamers have to replace parts at least once every other year to keep up with the times. Many gamers choose to buy pre-configured rigs, put together by an expert who installs graphic cards while being blindfolded and chased by taunkas. However, a majority of the gamers I know decide to do the upgrading without the help of any professional, which can lead to many problems. You wouldn’t be the first gamer who throws out his computer after it just won’t boot because of a new GPU!

I don’t want to dramatize this, but I believe this is one of the reasons more and more gamers transfer over to a console. Call it laziness, but I can understand any casual gamer who doesn’t want to bore himself with the specs of the newest Nvidia card, or who just doesn’t dare to touch the inside of a machine. As my RAM replacement of last week has shown, just a tiny push or wrong touch can kill your entire system, which means that you have to fork over a respectable amount of money. I won’t name any exact prices, but let’s say that from the money I used to get myself a new mainboard and processor, I could have easily bought a PS3 (without any games or additional controllers). I’m quite sure that PS3 never needs a RAM upgrade.

Maybe the permanent need for upgrades is not the “bane” of PC gaming, but it is surely something that puts people off. Though I’m still a loyal PC gamer because my favorite genre (MMORPG’s) is still primarily accessible on a desktop PC, the easy “plug and play” use of consoles is attractive. After this traumatic death of my loyal piece of hardware, it only takes a few good console MMO’s to see me switch sides and join the console kids. Odds are low that I will kill my console with the need to upgrade its hardware…

The things you just don’t do in a game

Earlier this week, I’ve been surfing my favorite gaming sites like I do every day, just to be reminded of the existence of WildStar. How could I forget about you, you beautiful potential messiah of the MMORPG genre? With your innovative setting and approach to character customization through your “Paths”, how could your upcoming beta and near-future release (where “near-future” is a really broad term) have slipped my mind? Before I knew it, I was browsing its site again, checking out all the updates I had missed. Did the setting sound so awesome the last time I’ve been here? Did their PR talk have the same, seducing effect on me when I heard it for the first time? I don’t care!

Anyway, sooner or later, I came to the classes you’ll be able to play once the game hit. There’s the gun-and-sorcery-wielding spellslinger, the magical esper, the good ol’ fashioned warrior and…the Stalker. I’m writing that with a capital S because it stands for Supercool Class. Essentially, a Stalker is a super-powered assassin with nanobots and all that future stuff packed into his body, ready to kick some alien ass. The Stalker is about sneaking up to your target, killing them up close and…wait a second! The Stalker is nothing but a rogue! Cancel! Abort! Eject!

For some reason, I just don’t do rogues. I mean that in a way that I don’t play them in videogames. If there’s a lightly armored, melee class available, you can bet that it will bore the heck out of me. Does it have plate armor and a shield to bash faces? Yeah, I’ll play that. Does it summon elemental spirits and dance around totem poles? I’ll play that until a boring expansion set ruins the game for me. Does it just use knives and swords to just stab people? Ahum…boooooring!

Yeah, it might be childish and narrow-minded, but as I said: I don’t do rogues. Luckily, many other gamers don’t do certain things as well. Some don’t play entire genres, other just don’t understand how you could play a character of the oppossite sex. This week, I wanna know what your “don’t” is. Share it in the comments, and we can find out about each others weird mental blockades!

Why tabletop roleplaying beats video games any day

You know what one of my fondest teenage memories is? It’s that time my friends and I made our way to a forgotten mountain town, where we saved the villagers from two minor gods battling over the divine resources the town held. After convincing the deities to call it a truce, we helped fortifying the town to defend from an army that had been chasing us through half the country. We erected a temple that channeled the divine energy of the place, trained the villagers, gave the town an actual wall and faced off against a host of highly skilled killers. Once all of this was over, a dark secret of one of my friends was revealed, but that’s another story.

Of course, the above anecdote didn’t really happen. At least not in this world. It did however happen in the world of the minds of my high school friends and I, as we played one of our sessions of Exalted. Back then, Exalted and a slew of other tabletop roleplaying games drew me into a hobby that is still a part of my life. To this day, not a single video game has come close to the wonders I experienced in games like Dungeons & Dragons, Vampire: the Masquerade and even indie titles like Fiasco. As fond as I am of the digital arts, my love for the “mind’s eye theater” will always be stronger. Why? Well, sit down at my table, roll that d20 in front of you and compare it to your Lore skill. If you succeed, the Dungeon Master will tell you all about why the pen and paper are mightier than the console and controller. Yeah, that roll will do.

First of all, no matter how open the world of a game like Skyrim will be, it will never be as open as the world that you imagine. In tabletop roleplaying games, the players decide the boundaries of their world, while in a videogame, the developer makes that call. You want to go beyond the great ocean? Too bad, there’s nothing there! In a pen & paper RPG, the players could set out to find a distant land there, without buying an expansion pack you’ll be waiting for too long. Sky’s the limit, and you’ll never hit and invisible wall.

Second, it’s the best co-op multiplayer game out there! You don’t need to by your own copy of the game, you can play it both local and online, and there are no weird connectivity issues. Tabletop RPG’s combine elements of good old fantasy action games with cooperative storytelling, and I haven’t seen a single video game yet that tries to do that.

Last but not least: your mind is the best engine ever. Don’t you just hate frame drops, or a gaming rig which decides to implode the day that new badass game hits the shelves? Well, don’t fret, ’cause tabletop RPG’s run on your powerful internal piece of hardware called your brain, and that takes more than a hot summer day and some weak parts to overheat! Sure, modern engines and the right hardware can render some pretty images, but nothing can create more visceral, personal and touching vistas than your own mind. It becomes even more powerful when you build that image together with friends, adding layer upon layer of images, blending together to create epic, dramatic and plain beautiful sights.

Don’t get me wrong: I love video games. However, I think that no matter how advanced they become or how complex they will be, they will always have limitations, while my fantasy will not. Sitting together with friends, as we pierce together a tale of heroes, monsters and dramatic choices will always be a creative and emotional experience video games just can’t provide. That’s okay though. After all, they are different media with different goals, but I know which one I choose when I want to tell my own story.

Don’t worry video games. It’s not you, it’s me. I just need a d10 and a natural 20 from time to time.

How to not go bankrupt during the Steam Summer Sale

Guys, it’s that special time of the year again! That’s right, it’s the season to take out your wallet and buy stuff because it’s sixty percent off! You will ask yourself why the hell you bought it, but at least it was cheap! I’m not talking about Black Friday folks, I’m talking about the Steam Summer Sale, my favorite time of the year to be reminded of my lack of funds and need to have money on my bank account to pay for food and other primary needs!

Now, the Steam Summer Sale is not just fun and games. Alright, it’s a lot of games, but not so much fun when you notice that you’ve already spent way too much on all these spectacular offers. In order to save your purses and make sure all of us can pay next month’s rent, here are my top three tips to minimize your financial damage, but maximize your gaming pleasure.

Tip #3 – don’t buy what you don’t need
Look, just because that title that sounds semi-okay and that gets a decent score on Metacritic has a nice discount, doesn’t mean that you’re gonna play it. And that special offer of that game you got sick off, but that’s now being offered for a quarter of the price with all the expansions? It won’t get suddenly better just because it has additional content for you to explore. So before you buy any title, ask yourself if you will spend more than five hours in it, or if it will catch virtual dust in your library. Though a big collection looks impressive, it feels to know that you haven’t touched half of it.

Tip #2 – a good price doesn’t make a good game
The Steam Summer Sale is the ideal time to offer not-so great games for very great prices. However, a game doesn’t get better when it’s cheaper. Sure, you will feel less robbed once your realize it’s still a crappy game, but you will still have wasted $15 on it. You know what $15 is worth these days? I’m too lazy to give you examples, but I’m sure you can think of something good.

Tip #1 – there will always be a better deal
This is the best tip I can give you. If more than 4 years on Steam have taught me anything, it is the harsh truth that the price you paid for a game will always be trumped by some massive sale a few months later. If you don’t have to have a game at this exact moment, just wait and see if there will be another sale. Trust me, there will be, and you might get some extra perks with it (like a dozen other games from the same developer). Good things come to those who wait.

That’s my wisdom on this topic. Whatever you do during this sale, make sure you get the games you want and play the heck out of them!

Chin out!

Reviewing Magic 2014

Wanna know a secret? I’m a terrible person. Even worse: I’m a hypocrite, and my excitement about the release of Magic 2014 is proof for that. Everytime one of my “bro friends” gets hyped about the release of a new FIFA, NBA, NFL or other generic sports title, my reply to their enthusiastic talk is: “isn’t it just the same game every year, with somewhat better graphics?” My friends hate me for that, but it gives me a feeling of superiority. I’m better than these simple-minded part-time gamers, who can be satisfied by playing the same game over and over again. My refined tastes long for new, innovative gameplay, daring plots and rich worlds, stimulating all my senses to–

BAM! MAGIC 2014 ANNOUNCED! NOW WITH SEALED PLAY! BUY THIS GAME!

Whaaat?! Magic 2014 will be the exact same game than the previous editions, but now it has a limited deck-building functionality through Sealed Play? BEST GAME OF 2014!

Okay, the reaction above is somewhat exaggerated, but it shows the hypocrisy that I feel ashamed of. I have become a victim of whatever mind tricks my FIFA-playing friends have fallen for, and I do not even mind! Magic is Magic, so you can’t change the game that much. Why would you even bother buying Magic 2014 then, if you own any of the previous versions? In order to answer that question, and to proof to myself that there’s more new things in this game than in any future NBA title, I’ve spent my last night playing it for you. Spoiler alert: I’ll still be a hypocrite by the end of this review.

For those who have never heard of Magic, let me help you out from under that rock sum it up for your. Magic: the Gathering is the mother of all trading card games, boasting about twelve million players worldwide who invest money in cards, building decks and battling each other with them. The game has evolved a lot since its humble beginnings, and is still the number one trading card game. Since 2009, Wizards of the Coast publishs Duels of the Planeswalkers, video games that capture parts of what the game is about, offering a good start for new and great pastime for veteran players. There’s no fancy visual representations for the battles, focusing on the visualization of the “real”, physical card game. So if you’re looking for epic battles in the style of Yu-Gi-Oh, you better pass up on this one. If you are an experienced player or want to learn what Magic is about, Magic 2014 is a good place to start.

The game plays like, well, Magic. You pit your deck of choice against that of your enemy, unlocking cards and new decks along the way. The cards are a mix from recent sets, along with a few reprints and new cards from the upcoming Magic 2014 set. Experienced players will enjoy this as a way to preview those cards, while returning players will recognize a few cards from back in the days (though they might wonder why Serra Angel is now an uncommon card). I always liked that the video games focus on the classic and “timeless” cards, leaving possibly confusing and very set-specific mechanics and synergies out of the game. Veteran players will get a chance to revel in nostalgia, while new players will not be confused by a deluge of keywords and complicated strategies.

m14 magic 2014

This brings me to my gripe with this game. It is clear to see that M14 (yeah, that’s what we’re gonna call it from now on) focuses on the beginning player. Cranking up the difficulty helps a lot when it comes to the AI, but veteran players will be bothered by the biggest problem of the game: there’s no real deckbuilding. Sure, there’s a bunch of different decks to unlock, and you can customize them within their assigned card pools, but you can’t mix and match decks. The reason for this is simply to draw players to the real game, which is where Wizards of the Coast earns its money. It’s that one limit that has always annoyed me in previous games, and this one is no exception. Luckily, the developers gave us Sealed Play, which is in my opinion the coolest feature of M14.

Sealed Play has you build a deck from the content of six booster packs, and field that deck against your opponents. Next to the fact that Sealed Play allows you to create entirely unique decks, it also teaches you valuable lessons about the fine art of deck construction. This is an essential skill if you plan to play the “real” game, and it’s also one of the coolest parts of Magic. When playing a Sealed Play campaign, you will earn new boosters along the way to fine-tune your deck, giving you more possibilities to crush your opponents and see them driven before you. What, if I can make a Conan reference, I’ll make one.

Next to this big addition, M14 boasts dozens of tiny changes. Multiplayer hasn’t changed that much (though you can also use your Sealed deck online), and the different singleplayer modes are also unchanged. In that sense, M14 is just like, say, FIFA 2014: the same game as last year, with a few changes.

Still, I enjoy the gameplay very much, will probably spend too much time with Sealed Play and ask myself in the end why Magic is still such an awesome game. I can’t wait until my FIFA-playing bud watches me playing, and simply says: “isn’t it just the same game every year?” A sigh will leave my mouth, and I will meditate on the contradictions in my life…right after I’ve finished another match.

Pro’s:

+ Great introduction for beginners, entertaining game for veterans

+ Sealed Play adds tons of replay value

+ For ten bucks, you get a lot!

Con’s:

– It’s like Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013, but with Sealed Play

– Still no real deckbuilding

– It reminds me of my hypocrite statements, giving me a bad feeling in my tummy.