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By Nate VanLindt On 28 May, 2017 At 04:24 PM | Categorized As Editorials, Featured, Opinion, PC Games, PlayStation, ROG News, Xbox 360/Xbox One | With 0 Comments

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13,925.  693, no platinum trophies.  5,906 XP – Level 29.  These numbers are meaningless out of context.  The fact is, they’re pretty much meaningless in context as well.  Chances are, you already know what I’m talking about if you’re reading this, but for the few that don’t, the above numbers are gamer scores and achievement statistics.  Specifically my personal gamer statistics.  I had to look them up because I had absolutely no idea what they were and I didn’t really care.  They are from Xbox Live, Playstation Network, and Steam respectively if you’re wondering.  That’s the point, however.   Why have people become obsessed with their personal statistics?

Gamerscores and stats started almost at the same time as gaming with the advent of the high score.  The very first high score was in Sea Wolf, way back in 1976.  Most games of the early gaming era featured scoring systems of one kind or another, whether it be the number of points scored in a Pong game or the points from the number of alien ships shot down in Galaga.  High scores stuck around until the mid to late 80s, when the NES reigned supreme and longer, more complex games at home became the standard.  Even then, many games still had score tabulation functions, whether they were the game scores in R.B.I. Baseball or a run n’ gun like Contra by Konami.   In other words, high scores have always been kicking around, but as gaming advanced, high scores slowly disappeared and became less meaningful, excluding a handful of genres like SHMUPS (SHoot eM UPS such as R-Type, Gradius, and Raiden for those who aren’t familiar with the term). 

But then, something odd happened in 2005.  Microsoft introduced achievements on the Xbox 360.  All of the sudden, every time you completed a specific set task in a game, you got a digital attaboy.  A little notification would pop up on screen and tell you you’d completed a task that you didn’t even know you were working towards and it added to what Microsoft calls your “gamerscore”.  Suddenly people were trying to have the best gamerscore, competing with their friends, doing things they’d never bother to do in a game before and spending lots of extra time in a game to do it.  Companies noticed this.  Nearly every game had achievements in short order.  In 2007, Valve added their version of gamerscores, badges, to Steam.  The next year, Sony added Trophies to the PlayStation Network as well.  Suddenly, everyone had a scoring system to track how much better (or worse) you were than everyone else you knew.  People bought into it.  Companies offered rewards for the highest gamerscore and Microsoft even gave away a lifetime membership to Xbox Live Gold in 2013 to the player with the highest gamerscore.  The entire concept had entered the collective consciousness of gamers and they have accepted it as a standard.

Should we be paying attention to our gamerscore and our trophy list, however?  Perhaps we should not.  In 2006, Gears of War was released for the Xbox 360.  It was one of the first games I played that had achievements.  I’d seen the achievement notifications pop up before, but I generally just tolerated them.   As I played Gears of War, I reached the end of a section and defeated the Berserker the first time, earning the trophy “My Love For You Is Like A Truck”, a reference to a fairly obscure song called Berserker by a band called Love Among Freaks.  Unfortunately, the trophy notification popped up prominently onscreen in the middle of a cinema sequence, blocking me from seeing the cinema fully and destroying my immersion in the game instantly.  On top of that, I couldn’t go back and see the cinema again without replaying that entire section of the game.  From that moment on, I was dead set against gamerscore in all its iterations.

In case you didn’t know, you can actually turn off achievement notifications on both Microsoft and Sony consoles.  On the Xbox One, it’s under Settings,  All Settings, Preferences, Notifications.   For the PS4, the option is under Settings, Notifications.  I did this as soon as the option became available on each network (as far as I know, it still isn’t available on Steam unfortunately) and I never looked back.  As a gamer for over 30 years, I ask you to consider it this way.  Games are designed to have fun.  They’re a form of escapist entertainment.   We generally play games to try and either finish them or get a high score.  But with achievements, we play through tedious grinding activities just to get an ephemeral payout of gamerscore so we can brag to friends and strangers.  That’s not only weird, it borders on pointless.  Take Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End for example.  I played Uncharted 4 right after it came out.  I blew through the game in my spare time (about a week).  The pacing is fantastic, the story moves just the right amount at a go, none of the gameplay holds you up too badly, but you still feel challenged.  It’s one of the most well-crafted games I’ve played in years in terms of pacing and structure.  I finished the game, had a blast, and came away fully satisfied with my experience.  I can’t speak highly enough of the game (keeping in mind that to enjoy it fully you must play the entire series in order).   Now, take a look at my personal trophies on the PS4 for Uncharted 4.

That’s right.  I got a measly 14 bronze trophies playing through a game that I raved about as one of the best games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.  A game that I just stated I was ‘fully satisfied’ with.  There are sixty-eight trophies in this game.  Sixty-eight!  Essentially, I didn’t ‘play the game’ according to the current thinking in gaming.  How could I possibly call myself a gamer?  Obviously, I don’t take gaming seriously enough, right?  Wrong.  Gaming is for fun, and I had fun playing Uncharted 4.  A lot of fun actually.  I don’t want to waste my limited free time finding 109 treasures that have no bearing on the story in my well-paced story-based game.  I am not interested in spending hours hanging from ropes to get the trophy for making 20 headshots while hanging from a rope.  And I certainly don’t want to buy an apple just to let the lemur steal it in chapter 11.  Because that’s not fun.  It’s tedious make-work in a game I’m playing for entertainment.  And achievements, trophies, and badges get much more ridiculous than that, up to and including repeating a specific activity or action thousands of times just to get that pop-up payoff.   Let’s call it what it really is, a Pavlovian response pattern that reinforces obsessive-compulsive tendencies in a mostly antisocial social sub-group.   In short, they are a prize with no value.

And yet there is a large and vocal demographic online that openly mocks anyone who dismisses the value of achievements.  Gamers often minimize the impact of these psychological tools, resorting to simplistic responses such as ‘if you don’t like them, just ignore them’, or ‘only people that suck at gaming hate trophies’.  Who is missing the point here?  Obviously, games are designed for both types of gamers now, the trophy hunters and the purists.  There’s no arguing that.  But are game designers themselves compromising their vision to provide a game that appeals to a wider audience due to the frothing demand for achievements?  It seems like they are.  Adding online content, online trophies, and various other extras to games that don’t really need them seem like pandering.  Some games force you to go online to get some of the achievements, necessitating play against others as well as paying for premium network access in the form of Xbox Live or Playstation Plus.  And gamers are falling for it.  In a recent discussion with a colleague, he informed me that he was replaying a game after finishing it so that he could “platinum” it because he loved the game so much.  When I asked him about the achievements though, he related that many of them were tedious and difficult to achieve.  After this discussion, I asked him about his game backlog and he admitted that he has games that he hasn’t even opened yet.  In other words, achievements are artificially inflating the average gameplay and dissuading gamers from moving on to the next title, regardless of the next game’s quality, even after they’ve finished a game and have stopped enjoying it.

It seems to me like this is an issue that gamers should actually take seriously.  Not because it matters whether you play for score, but because game developers take it seriously and they design games based on the trends of the market and the input they receive online.  The best games, the ones that everyone raves about for years or even decades, are the ones that provide an uncompromised creative vision.  These games are at the top of everyone’s list for a reason.  They were designed to enjoy, not to appeal to every single person, and that makes them rise above.  Too few of those games exist these days, and fewer are released every year.  Maybe if we focus a little less on finding every flag or using every weapon for a thousand headshots or revealing every single tenth of a percentage point of every single map and a little more on just immersing ourselves in the fun a game can provide, we’ll all get a bit more enjoyment out of gaming.   Try turning off your notifications for a game or two and see if you have more fun.  If you don’t know you’re missing out…maybe you aren’t.

 

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By Jonathan Balofsky On 21 Apr, 2017 At 04:00 AM | Categorized As News, NINTENDO, Nintendo Switch, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No GravatarHere is some unexpected news that I doubt anyone saw coming.

Konami has announced Super Bomberman R is going to get some Gradius, Castlevania and Silent Hill-themed characters in a future DLC update.  These include the Belmont Bomber, Vic Viper Bomber and Pyramid Head Bomber.

 

This is really cool DLC, especially for old school fans.  Konami did say they would look at this game and how it performs, to determine more series revivals. This DLC is definitely a good sign for that.

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By OtakuDante On 28 Jan, 2012 At 04:05 AM | Categorized As Featured, Reviews, Xbox 360/Xbox One | With 0 Comments

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Otomedius Excellent is the sequel to Konami’s 2007 arcade game of the same name. It has similar gameplay mechanics, and features that the “Gradius”, and “Parodius” series of shmups (shoot ’em ups) had. Unlike Gradius or Parodius, “Otomedius Excellent” features female pilots who are basically tribute characters to various other Konami video game franchises (TwinBee, Gradius, Salamander, Castlevania …). The core game comes with a set number of available pilots, and ships that all have unique attributes and appearances. For the most part the girls of “Otomedius Excellent” are eye candy. Don’t let this fool you though, the cuteness of Konami’s ladies definitely masks the hardcore nature of the game. If you’re looking for an easy shmup then you may want to pass this one up, because every mode in the game is very difficult in nature. In fact you can expect to die often as you play through any of the available modes.

The graphics, and sound quality of “Otomedius Excellent” are fairly impressive, but not too grand. The fact of the matter is that the graphics are a tiny bit dated to be an Xbox 360 game. You only get brief 3D glimpses of the female pilots before, and after each round/stage of the game is complete. These visual displays are not very detailed, but do retain the anime style associated with the game. The graphic highlights of the game are definitely the 3D rendered backdrops/backgrounds. The screen sized boss ships are also somewhat impressive. What I really enjoyed about “Otomedius Excellent” though was that it kept true to it’s original Japanese release with Japanese audio that accented the anime style gameplay quite well. The animated anime characters that were shown before each boss fight were a nice touch as well.

During my playthrough of “Otomedius Excellent” I found that the weapon system was very similar to the Gradius/Parodius games. The difference was that you could select the types of weapons you would use during the game from a list of available/unlockable choices. As you play through the game’s story mode more weapon types will be made available, and at different power levels. Aside from the customizable weapons system the game also featured an RPG style leveling system for the characters you played as. The leveling/RPG rank system featured ranks associated with various types of angels, and went in order of their hierarchy.

Otomedius Excellent is basically a game with a a single player campaign, a score attack mode, and a co-op Xbox LIVE multiplayer. The main reason I got the game was, because of the score attack mode. I’m all about getting those high scores in shmups, and “Otomedius Excellent” seemed to be a worthy game in that area. When I actually began playing score attack though, I found it to be extremely difficult to amass any sort of respectable score. In this game you will die many cheap deaths simply because the bullet hell sprays are unfair as are the level designs. Aside from my initial interest in the score attack mode I was also interested in playing online co-op with others. Unfortunately “Otomedius Excellent” is kind of on the rare side making it almost impossible to find any online matches. I was actually unable to find anyone playing online. I also ended up checking the leaderboards and the last highscore was recorded at the end of last year. This was a little disappointing to say the least.

I did found out that “Otomedius Excellent” definitely has a lot of DLC. The DLC you can get for this game is quite impressive, but it really adds up in points if you want to get all the extra bells, and whistles (figuratively speaking). The current available DLC includes new characters, new costumes, new stages, and new music if I remember correctly. The downside to buying the DLC is that it’s mainly used for showing off in the online mode. With hardly anyone playing the game I can’t really see any reason as to why I would spend that kind of points/money on something I couldn’t show off to friends, or random players.

In conclusion I found “Otomedius Excellent” to be a major letdown. While it had what I was looking for in a shmup, the intense difficulty of the game makes it less enjoyable. The cheap deaths I died while trying to defeat bosses, and simply make it through stages were definitely unnecessary. The fact that the online mode was not really there at all took away from the game as a whole. The DLC is basically pointless to buy, because of how many people actually bought the game. Otomedius Excellent will likely become one of those hard to find games (which it is already) that fetches a hefty resell price due to rarity, but I’m just not seeing how this game is worth having at all. It is good but not Great. There are better shooters out there.

OtakuDante

Here are more screens of the game.

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By Shawn Wilson On 22 Apr, 2011 At 09:12 PM | Categorized As News, Previews, Xbox 360/Xbox One | With 0 Comments

No GravatarKonami has released new details for the upcoming US release of the Xbox 360 ‘shoot’em up’, Otomedius Excellent.

Otomedius Excellent is the follow up to the Japan only release of Otomedius Gorgeous. The series is categorized as a ‘cute’ em up’. This is the process of taking an already established game, as in this case Gradius, and changing the ships into young girls or other ‘cute’ characters. All while still keeping the classic game play intact.

Released this week in Japan, Konami of America has stated that the US release will follow sometime later this year. The Japanese release includes a DLC code for an extra character. Unknown if this will also be included with the US release.

The following is the official screenshots and Konami’s press release:

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On the heels of its release in Japan, Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. today announced new details and screenshots for Otomedius Excellent, coming to Xbox® 360 entertainment system from Microsoft later this year. Sequel to the Japan-exclusive hit Otomedius Gorgeous, Otomedius Excellent brings the side-scrolling shooter action made popular by its predecessor to North America for the first time. Also included are local and online multi-player, new artwork and a pulsating soundtrack.

Key Features Include:

  • Classic Gradius-style gameplay gets a stunning update. Experience 2D side-scrolling shoot-em-up gameplay like never before.
  • Brilliant graphics and an excellent soundtrack. Environments are rendered in hi-definition and complemented by thrilling music.
  • Lovely characters to pilot through an expanded world. Choose from nine characters on-disc to battle through all-new stages of thrilling shmup action!
  • Three’s company! Team up with a friend or two over Xbox Live® Arcade or on one Xbox 360 to have help obtaining hard-to-get items!
  • Eye-popping Gallery mode. View your unlocked stills and graphics in a new Gallery that grows as you progress through the game.