Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gaming and the challenge factor

We all have heard it being brought up in several gaming-related discussions: games today aren't as challenging as they used to be. Rarely, though, do people stop for a moment and try to think about what happened along the way. 

During the mid 80's games were mostly played on arcade machines, and were only a rough prototype of what they are today, but that's where the culture of "challenge" began. Since the games weren't very long and quite limited, it was a common habit for the early game developers to make them... hard. Once you ran out of lives, you had to "buy" your continue with real money, so as long as it was within reason, the harder the game was, the more profitable it would turn out being. 

In the early 90's 8-bit consoles were released, and a few years later, 16-bit. People would start waiting for their favorite games to be released for their own consoles instead of arcade machines, and that's where the "challenge factor" stopped being a necessity, but rather a tool to increase the longevity of a game. In short, that's how games turned from "Very challenging" to "Mildly challenging", and that's also when the save feature was invented (with the very first chapter of The Legend of Zelda) and the use of passwords started becoming much more widespread. 

While there were still many arcade-ish games on 8-bit consoles, you could say that from the 16-bit generation on games became "user friendly", and they started to appeal to wider masses. With the evolution of technology the developers started having much more freedom and some were able to tell real stories through their games, sometimes making them a main feature of the product (I'm talking about you, Metal Gear Solid) while before the plot of a game was only a rough sketch, if there was any. 
Metal Gear Solid for the PSX was one
of the first games with a complex
plot, albeit linear. The game was still fairly
hard for new players, even on
the easier settings.

So, games turned 3D, had more realistic graphics, many had a real plot, and they finally became widespread. It is rare today to find an individual living in the Western world who has never played one at least once, and almost impossible if we're talking about the recent generations. With such a wide audience, it is only natural, business-wise, that those products must be enjoyable for the majority of customers.

Many of said customers, as of today, do not come from what many call the "hardcore" gaming generation though, or simply were already born but didn't care about games at all, and more often than not they don't have so much time to dedicate to games. How do you solve the problem?  

Remember when I told you about how challenge was one of the main means to make a game last longer? Well, many, many companies dropped that philosophy. The focus of successful games now is different, be it a great plot, possibly with branching consequences depending on our actions, or beautiful graphics, or unique gameplay, or even top-notch multiplayer features. As you can see, all those factors are enjoyable for both the "old-hardcore" audience and the "young-casual" one.  
Modern Bioware games such as the Dragon Age series are
famous for their quality storytelling. Players can often choose to
play their games on the easiest possible mode without
missing any content. 

The problem with people who often whine about games being easy "so that the companies can gain more profit from casuals" is that they don't understand that games used to be challenging for the very same reason back then. Games are a product, and companies make them first and foremost because they want money. 

So, my proposal is this: stop for a while and enjoy the good aspects of today's games. Don't buy and start playing a game with the expectations you used to have 15, 20 years ago. There is still much good to be enjoyed in most of the more recent ones, but they have changed. Time changes things, and you can either adapt, or be left behind. 

CV, over and out. 

Game on!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Vindictus EU open beta starting today

They may call it "Pre-launch phase" but that's what it is.

Vindictus is a Free-to-play (F2P) MMORPG from Nexon and Devcat that was first launched in Korea in 2009, then in the US the 1st of January 2010. The European official release is scheduled to be during this October, although no precise date has been given yet.

Now, I usually stray away from F2P MMOs because most of the time they have you paying much more money than you would pay for a Pay-to-Play (P2P) one on the long run, but while there will indeed be a cash shop, I've noticed that even after a whole year the American audience praises Nexon's ability to balance said cash shop, making it almost completely optional and not an important requirement in order to enjoy the game fully. 

Fighting in Vindictus is definitely fun and entertaining at first,
but some people tend to find it boring and repetitive after a while.
Vindictus is also revolutionary in other aspects. In fact, this game is not your typical online RPG, but rather an action game with RPG elements, which are mainly the usual level system and your average "equipment progression". The rest of the game, however, tries to break the mold by introducing action elements such as twitch based fighting, with active attacking, dodging and blocking, making the game much more engaging and definitely easier to solo if you've good reflexes.

The game does also become quite grindy later on, and if you will still enjoy it or not depends entirely on your tastes. From my personal experience in Closed Beta, fighting was fun enough to keep me grinding even at the later stages of the game without getting bored, but many people feel it becomes dull after a while. I suppose the only way to know for sure is to try, right?

So, if you are bored and feel like playing something different, maybe while waiting for the release of something better (see yesterday's post :D) I suggest you to give this game a shot. It's free to download and the game file is not overly large, but make sure your computer can handle its graphics, as the game can become quite demanding in crowded areas or when fighting in large groups. Also, I promise that I won't be talking about MMOs for a while now. Really. Trust me. See you tomorrow!

Game on!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic - Where does the hate come from?

If you're into PC gaming, and especially if you are into this genre, you probably have already heard of one of the most ambitious projects in the history of MMOs: Star Wars: The Old Republic, also known as simply "SWTOR".

Bioware's latest -and largest- baby is the spiritual successor of their critically acclaimed Star Wars game, Knights of The Old Republic (aka KoTOR). Many KoTOR fans out there got their hopes high when they heard about this project for the first time about three years ago, yet many of them were greatly disappointed during the past few years by the way the game was shaping up, and some even went as far as claiming that they will not even consider trying it once released.

Now, we all know how gaming forums are, and I'm not here to discuss the validity of such claims, but rather, I want to analyze with a little more depth the core issues with this game and with its development.

SWTOR will let you choose how to handle most quests,
leading to different outcomes.
Remember, everything has consequences...
First of all, a summary, in case you are haven't been following this game as closely as I have. SWTOR is a Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) which will let you choose between a total of 8 different classes, 4 for each faction (The Republic and The Empire) that somehow represent the main archetypes of the movies. The Republic's Smuggler has a "Han Solo" feel to it, The Empire's Sith Warrior is more like "Darth Vader", and so forth. Early on in the game, each class splits into two Advanced Classes (ACs), each with its own playstyle and unique talent trees, allowing a great amount of flexibility when compared to other games of the same genre.

Now, we all know what Bioware is famous for. The quality of their storytelling is exceptional, and apparently SWTOR will be no less: every single NPC will be fully voiced by professional voice actors and every class will have a main storyline with different outcomes, depending on our decisions. Wait, that's not it! Every class will also be given 5 unique companions during the course of the main storyline, with their own, unique stories, and sometimes they will even be romanceable.
One of the many "mounts" that will allow you to move
around much more quickly than on foot.

There is much more to it, but this gives you a rough sketch of what SWTOR's strongest point -or pillar, as they call it- is: story. Sounds perfect, right? Why then, for how much this game has already been praised to no end, there is an almost equal amount of criticism?

  1. Many MMO players who are into the Star Wars universe come from another, much older MMORPG called Star Wars Galaxies (SWG). SWG used to be a great sandbox experience before an update streamlined its content to make it more similar to their greatest threat, World of Warcraft (WoW). SWG lost a great portion of its subscribers and it has been slowly dying since then, and it is going to close completely this December. SWG players hoped for a new, modern sandbox experience to bring back the "Good old times", but SWTOR turned out being a heavily theme-parked game due to the massive amount of story, and some just can't get over it. 
  2. Some players coming from KoTOR are not familiar with MMORPGS and simply wanted another single-player game, with modern graphics and features.
  3. An even larger amount of players comes from WoW, and is looking for an innovator of the genre as they are tired of the usual MMORPG mold. 

Of course, there are people who simply do not like the game for different, unique reasons, but most of them belong to one of these categories. Let me tell you then, what SWTOR is NOT and what it actually IS.

Blizz will be one of the 5 companions for the
Bounty Hunter class, and is already one of the
community's favorites. 

  • A revolutionary MMORPG which will turn the genre upside down.
  • A sandbox game which gives you an almost unlimited amount of freedom.
  • A game to be played alone, unless you are happy with enjoying only a portion of it.
  • A product with extreme graphics comparable to the latest single player games. Bioware wants the game to be accessible for a wide range of computers. 
  • An MMORPG with a deep, fully voiced plot.
  • A polished product that tries to bring together all the best ideas from other MMORPGs while leaving out the downright bad ones, all with an unique Bioware touch to it.
So, this is my take on SWTOR and its criticism. It's not a game everyone will like, and I'm not sure it will dethrone WoW, but I'm damn sure excited about it and have preordered my CE already. In-depth info about the game can be found at, and my profile is at The game will be released just a few days before Christmas so you're still in time to subscribe to beta and snatch a pre-order if you are interested!

Thank you for reading! Comments are always appreciated. 

Game on!


Monday, September 26, 2011

Greetings fellow gamers!

Hello, anonymous visitor! Welcome to... an almost empty space. Disappointed? Well, this is how every fresh blog is bound to start. Be patient, and enjoy the beauty of the void while it lasts.

You might have noticed that this blog is called Alter Ego Gaming. Specifically, this blog will be about videogames. What videogames you may ask? Pretty much any, ranging from my the ones from the good ole grey box of 8-bit goodness (aka NES) to the last generation products.

I will discuss the latest news, review games from present and past, and generally talk about the wonderful world of gaming. What do I expect from this blog? Well, I will not lie: it's great to have a place where you can voice your opinions, no matter what people think. But there is also to say that if I wanted to talk to myself, I could very well have bought a personal diary. In fact, I hope that some of you people will be interested in my future posts, and feel like discussing them, be it to praise, criticize, or simply comment them.

Now, something about myself, if you're interested in such petty details. I am a gamer from Italy, currently studying what can be translated with "Sciences of cultural and environmental goods". It does sound complicated and that's because, well, it kind of is. I hope you will forgive my occasional grammar mistakes, as I have never studied English seriously at school and simply learnt it "on the go" while playing MMOs. Sigh.

Well, that's it for now then! I will be posting every day when possible, so stay tuned for more!

Game on!