Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bethesda and Bioware Own My Soul

I've been reading a lot lately about game developers and publishers. I can never tell the difference. Some people only buy from one company or the other. But really, whats the difference? Over the next couple weeks, I will be breaking down some of the highlights of some of the biggest names in video game development.

Bethesda Softworks -USA. 1985. Best known for their works on the long running series Elder Scrolls. They also recently acquired and were responsible for the transformation of console-crossover hit Fallout 3. Bethesda originally began developing exclusively for the PC, but switched to multi-platform in the early 2000's. While they have more recently found success in RPGs, they have a strong history of gaming titles based in both sports and movie franchises. They are credited with being the first developers to use real physics-based sports simulation. So every time a player has an epic fail of a shot in a sports game, you can thank Bethesda for that. Traits of Bethesda games in recent years have been: RPGs, First/Third person interchangeable, intricate level systems, and huge, interactive, non-linear maps. Here at Game-On, we love Bethesda. Or at least I do.

Bioware - Canada. 1995.Although they have been in the game for 15+ years, Bioware has a limited list of games. However few, the titles are still impressive. Bioware has created several engines to support the gaming landscape. Their latest endeavor is called the Aurora Engine (cool name right?). The Aurora Engine allows for a simultaneous control of real-time lighting, shadowing, and surround sound. So every time you control your character, this game makes its visual and audio interactions intensely more real. Popular titles include Baulder's Gate, Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age. Some common themes in Bioware games include massive, open worlds, intricate leveling systems, and the dual persona template. Meaning, they are the latest and greatest pioneers of giving you two games in one. Play as a good guy or a bad guy. Each giving you different experiences and endings.

Both Bethesda and Bioware are amazing game developers. I personally tend to lean towards the Bioware side. Their graphics seem to be more smooth and manageable. Bethesda has had more games be successful that Bioware. But a higher percentage of Bioware's games have been obscenely major hits. Ultimately, both developers produce amazing games. The stories are great and the play is amazing. You cant go wrong with a purchase from either company.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dirty Little Secret

So I have a dirty little secret, and if you're going to be completely honest, I bet you do too. "What is it?" you wonder. "What could she possibly be ready to openly admit on the interwebz where the information is available to one and all?"

It is this: I game...on Facebook.

Come on, you know you do too. It's just's starting to take up a lot of my time. Like, more of my game time than anything else. It started out innocently, maybe even intelligently, with Scrabble. Always fun. Always a crowd pleaser. And then the novelty of farming - FarmTown here I come. Then someone got me to start Mafia Wars. And then a Happy Aquarium. Next, begged into starting a Pirates: Rule the Caribbean. And today my daughter begged me to "get a kitty" so Happy Pets is now part of myrepertoire . I'm not sure how faithfully I'll maintain that though, since it's the exact same game as Happy Aquarium but less fun. This is the reason I gave up Pirates, because it is the exact same game as Mafia Wars, except worse somehow. And I mean exact. I also no longer play FarmTown. It got old, and even with their updates I lost interest.
I have always been a sucker for Flash games. I can not tell you the hours I have lost to Diner Dash or Pizza Frenzy. Insaniquarium? Zuma? Chuzzle? I've played them all. (Also do I have some kind of obsession with digital fish tanks?) I also can not tell you the amount of frustration that my husband feels when he sees me spending yet another five minutes training fake fish to do tricks. He can not understand how I have all of these awesome games at my disposal and I would ratherzone out and click-click-click. And, quite frankly, neither can I sometimes.

What is the draw? One thing I enjoy is that I can play these games in 5 minute increments. If I am on the phone and just want to zone out, I can feed my fish. If I have read all the blogs I follow and checked my email and still have a few minutes to burn I can use up all my energy on Mafia Wars. I can't play The Sims 3or Little Big Planet for 10 minutes. Ok - I could, but I don't want to. If I log into a game like that, I want to log in for the long haul and spend some time on it.

Flash based games, now proliferating and procreating all over our favorite social networking sites, are trying to gain credibility though. EA purchased a publishing company to spend some of their time and focus on getting their name out on Facebook. Xbox has opened up Live to being on Facebook. Facebook + Gaming = A match made in Heaven? I wouldn't go that far, but I feel like they're definitely pushing for this relationship to happen.

What zone-out games do you play? And why?

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Between subscription services for online gaming; games themselves; additional downloadable content; purchasing updated and upgraded systems, new controllers, necessary peripherals - gaming has become a downright expensive hobby. And I, for one, cannot help but feel like sometimes we are just straight up nickel-and-dimed to death.

This blog is mostly stemming from my thoughts on reading issues 200 and 201 of GameInformer today. There was a lot of discussion about the cost of the main systems (PS3 especially), and a particularly interesting comment on DLC. A reader had submitted a comment about being upset when DLC is available on a game's release date, feeling that it's not fair to pay $50-60 dollars for a game and then have content that seems withheld and costs an additional $5-10+ dollars to get. GameInformer took the stand that purchasing the game doesn't guarantee you all of the content, and releasing DLC early in a game's release just proves the publisher's dedication to the franchise. I have to disagree. I feel for the reader in this situation -- if they have content that early in development, why isn't it included in the game? Or just hold it off for a month or so - let us play through and feel like we could maybe use a little something fresh. Don't expect me to put out $60 for a game and an additional $10 for a map pack or something along those lines.

There was also an article about co-0p gaming and it stated that something like 13-14% of people would be willing to pay an additional fee for co-op gaming to be included, to cover the costs of development. Are you kidding me?? I'm sorry, maybe I'm cheap (frugal?) but now that games are regularly $60 I feel like adding any more cost to this is absurd. I'd rather have a fully formed and completely fun 1-player game, and purchase a completely seperate fully formed and fun multi-player game than pay $10 for a lame split-screen function version of a 1-player game. Luckily the publishers and developers that commented on this article said that they weren't looking into going in that direction. Thank goodness.

A PS3 was recently acquired in my house, and so now I have the ability to compare Xbox Live to the Playstation Network. And can I just say that Xbox Live kicks PSN's butt? Like, completely. I've only been an XBL member for 2 years, and at first the $50 subscription totally ground my gears...but after experiencing what a free subscription gets me on PSN I am totally rethinking my standing for Live. Yes, it's $50 - but that's a whole year of entertainment. If you break it down that is so incredibly cheap on a daily/weekly/even monthly basis. It's the same cost as going to 5 movies, and I assure you it's going to get you more than 10 hours of fun. Not that PSN isn't cool - it is wonderful to have online gaming there and it is wonderful that it is free -- but good night it, in my experience, is so user un-friendly. I am having a really difficult time wrapping my mind around the PS3 anyways though.

And finally, subscription gaming. WoW, I'm looking at you. Although I'm also drawn to a comment in an interview in GameInformer where they asked the Xbox Live GM why there isn't an MMO on Live, and if it has to do with subscription. Are you kidding me? Additional fees to play a game on Live? *sigh* This is how I feel about WoW sometimes too. I mean, I love that game. That's right - I put that out there. It is so fun. It is consuming. There is always something to do. It has, in my opinion, unlimited replayability. But man, that $15 a month is killer! How can I say this when I am all about breaking down the time vs cost? $15 really only breaks down to 50 cents per day - so cheap! I guess that's just it - I'm just cheap. I love that WoW is constantly patching and updating their software and making it better. I love the game. But it makes me sad that I have to buy the software, buy Burning Crusades, buy Wrath of the Lich King....and buy the right to play monthly. I'm cheap. Idk what to tell you. I'm hard to please. I suppose it's hard to pay that much monthly and then if there's something going on and I don't play, I feel guilty. Do I really need psychological warfare (wallet-warefare?) to inspire me to spend more time gaming? (a tiny voice whispers, yes!)

I just want it all, I guess. And I want it now. What are your thoughts on the monetary costs of gaming?

(This is such a rambling entry. I'm sorry! I'll definitely try and post something more concise and interesting in the very near future.)