Monday, January 21, 2013

Don't Starve Review - NO SPOILERS!

(Exploration without the kid gloves. It may hurt a bit at first to play but it's impossible to describe how rewarding the game is. You learn things in one way, trial and error.)

Sandbox games are some of my favorite types of games because they give you the freedom to explore, take chances, find new things, and have unique experiences. I think the days of linear gameplay are slowly coming to an end or at least being revolutionized in such a way that gamers never feel the gameplay itself has become linear. Don't Starve thrives in this environment where the creators plop you into the game and wish you the best of luck.

Don't Starve is one of a jumble of games that have been testing that out lately, just throwing gamers in and letting them figure things out on their own. Journey does something similar, and through sheer will and intellect, the player through trial and error, will stumble to the right answer.

That feeling of success, when you don't know what to do, but you're playing the game intuitively, thinking about what you should do, and wondering if the game will play along, is amazingly thrilling. It's important to note though that you do get subtle hints at crucial moments, such as when you experience your first night and the game says "....(play the game to find out :) )"

Don't Starve technically hasn't been fully released yet and is still in Beta, but it seems to be following the success of fellow indie game Minecraft. One of the hallmarks of the early Minecraft was constant updates on a tight schedule that propelled the game forward and rewarded the players with new goodies encouraging them to buy the game early and support the developers. Like Minecraft as well the final release date isn't as important as watching the game grow before your eyes.


You get a lot when you buy Don't Starve. For 12 dollars you get two copies of the game, each with Steam keys that are unlockable immediately. This is for a game that I have played for almost 8 hours, including 40 minutes with the Demo, and barely scratched the full End Game. The amount of sheer value here is phenomenal given that most $60 dollar game releases charge 10 times more than your 6 dollar license and barely scratch 8 hours on average on the story campaigns. That's 10 times the value of regular games I've already received without mentioning the regular addons that will keep adding content to the game.


After you get past the amazing amount of content that the game exudes you have an amazing presentation placed in front of you, with beautiful art direction that makes me reminisce on games like SuperBrothers: Sword and Sworcery.

It's one thing to enjoy a game's mechanics, enjoy the story, and enjoy the adventure, but it's a whole other thing to enjoy the presentation, art form and graphics. You simply can't knock the art direction of Don't Starve, as even small  objects are focused on with minute detail to give the world a grim, rugged, and happy look that makes the game both beautiful and unique.


The sound is wonderful and has trigger that go off depending on your actions. If you're right about to hit someone or get attacked, the fighting music initiates and gives you a real sense of excitement. The sound effects of the spiders and creatures really make the game jump out at you and immerse you in the environment.

At times the game does get a bit silent, and it's why I slightly knocked the sound score a bit, but I'm hoping as newer updates are released, more sound effects, creatures, and music will be rolled out. Again like Minecraft, the music knows that it takes a backseat to the gameplay, sound effects, and immersion, and so it only kicks in when it's needed, so as not to distract you.


The gameplay isn't entirely unique but it does bring a lot of elements of gameplay together that haven't necessarily seen themselves in the same place at once. Sure you can create items like Terraria, but those items will degrade just like Minecraft, and unlike both games, there are recipes for the most important items and mystery's to be solved for the rest. The game also rewards and punishes you for discovering new things, as you go on your adventures, forcing you to be on your toes as you try to survive.

The gameplay is definitely punishing and you'll have to get used to dying and starting over, but there are perks to playing that stay with you from one gameplay session to the next. That's what keeps you coming back, because you do get better, your unlockables do stay with you, and your points do travel. I'm being vague on purpose btw, so as not to spoil anything.

The Gameplay can be extremely deep as well, just like Terraria where from the outset you don't expect it to have all that much content, until you start scratching at the surface and the idea dawns on you.

For the naysayers that may call the game too shallow, simply ask them the difference between renewable items and finite ones. That discussion alone and the implications will hugely affect your Mid and Late game in Don't Starve. Your early choices will affect that gameplay and there will be no way to go back except die and start over. This game demands multiple replays to feel its true intensity and richness.

A big issue I have with the game though is a lack of multiplayer support and I think the potential for robust multiplayer support and the potential for 3rd party mods and servers is huge.

The maps should also be bigger and a seed generator would also be nice. For those reasons the Gameplay score gets docked slightly, but still reigns higher than most games get.The best part of all of this though is the game is still in beta and like Minecraft is constantly releasing updates and new content supporting its player base.

Technical Excellence

There are very few bugs in a game this early in development surprisingly and the developers really have done their homework for the game. I've personally only had one bug occur and there was an easy fix to get rid of it which was to simply restart the game. That bug after 8 hours occurred twice and nothing since has crashed, lagged, or interrupted the immersion of the game

But because it's still in Beta, there are many features the game is screaming to add, like multiplayer, and because you will have to wait for that content, possibly for a significant amount of time, this score does get docked but will get better as the game releases more content in the future addressing these issues, any other bugs that may be out there, or any other player concerns about the general gameplay.


For any serious PC gamers, such as myself, this is a must own. The value, the lack of really fun survival games, and another open world Goliath all call out to the gamer. It's a beautiful game to enjoy just for the Art, to enjoy for the thrill of survival, and to enjoy for the exploration. Most of all this game will leave you with a feeling of accomplishment and will reward you for every day you tick onto your total.

It keeps the gameplay fresh by adding challenges as you go, and you add challenges yourself as you explore and try new things. The sheer amount of time you sink into the game before it even gets a whiff of staleness is also impressive, with the promise that more content is being added, and a strict release schedule is counted down on the main menu of the game.

The game is a must buy, thoroughly enjoyable, and will be beloved by anyone that played and loved games like Minecraft or Terraria. It's a solid A and at the very least you should give the Demo a try here:

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Perfect MMO - A Guide to Creating it

  (There are important elements to an MMO that current games studios are just ignoring. Will they ignore them forever?)

Is there such a thing as a perfect MMO? Aren't people and gamers different themselves and don't we all have different tastes? How can one game appeal to all of us? How can the MMO make a comeback especially after having so many failures these past couple years and having the successful ones slowly crumble?

Wishful thinking

So yes it may just be wishful thinking but after having played a number of MMOs I think there are features that would appeal to a mass audience that are simply being neglected right now. You see some of these features in games here and there but never all in one place.

Finally after much frustration I want to go through the main elements of an MMO that should come together to create a great gaming experience.


Why are they playing this MMO? What is at the heart and the soul of an MMO? It's persistence. Persistence is what makes MMOs stand out differently than any other game. An MMO is there to persist or continue living on, long after you log off. Things happen while you're away and the game keeps your character ready whenever you want to come back to it.

Persistence is why having land is so important. Virtual land, the ability to battle for it, and the ability to have a map that shows who owns what and praises the guilds that own it, is at the heart of why people want to play and MMO.

After creating such a powerful character, you should use the character to some tangible end. Sure monsters and quests are fun and dandy but the end game has always been and will always be PVP. A way a game can address this so that non-PVPers are happy is they can have land where PVP is impossible and players not wanting to PVP can simply live there. Other players can venture forth and claim land for themselves. Having done so, they must defend it, or lose it.

Land, it's the most valuable resource in our modern world yet it's simply absent in most MMOS. There is high potential for land as a means to make money for the game and for the players to enjoy. Imagine building nice homes, collecting taxes, and coming home to a nice and warm cottage by the ocean; prime real estate other players would die for.

Games like Second Life show that people will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for virtual land. The demand is there. MMO makers NEED to fulfill this demand and create persistent maps that can be conquered and controlled. Powerful Diplomacy actions need to be present as well to emulate the real world, and alliance systems need to be put in place.

Land that you fight for and control needs to be in nearly every MMO. What guild doesn't want their own guild hall taken after a successful war?


Every item should be up for sale at whatever a player wants to sell it for. Items should deteriorate and be repairable so as to stop items from being horded and incentivize players to keep getting the items they need to progress forward.

Scamming should be monitored by the Game and there should be a zero tolerance policy for such acts. The Economy needs to be fairly regulated so that scammers don't take hold of it and ruin the game experience for others.

But beyond that it should be totally free and if a person doesn't research the price of their item and sells it for too little, they should have no one to complain to but themselves.

A rich and diverse economy is what should be at the heart of every MMO as well, so that these virtual items can be properly traded and people who need them can get them by trading, currency, or working. This way a players time can become currency.


New land should always be added to the map. This new land would cause tension and give the game a fresh taste as people venture out and try to claim it for their own. This new land should be both in easy to obtain areas and hard to obtain areas, this way the whole player base gets excited; not just the top players.

The best land should be inaccessible except by permission. This way players that may want to see a beautiful town or city may only be able to do so if they are part of a certain guild, have explicit permission,  or view that land on a test server. This would make that land even more valuable and exploration even more fun.

People should be both rewarded and punished for exploration. Those that are the strongest or the smartest can created groups where the costs are lowered and the benefits are easier to obtain.


The story should be immersive. Currently the player base takes little part in the lore of the game.  Imagine that the Devs of the game make an event where a person of special interest is placed in a heavily guarded fort. They create the backstory of the game, create a beautiful world, narrative, and mythos, and then the PLAYERS drive the story forward with in game events.

A camera records this fortress and whoever successfully saves the person of interest becomes part of the games lore forever. The game is shaped by you, your guild, and your choices. In this way, you feel more immersed in the game, and your time seems better used as now you've been placed in the annals of history.

These events don't have to be very often but even once a month or once every three months would be huge and they could be open to anyone in game willing to take up the challenge, helping to push the narrative of the game forward. Why can't games have a narrative that keeps going, keeps being written? Currently wrestling does this by hiring Hollywood writers to create ongoing plots. Why not have the same writers create interactive plots in MMOs?


Building and creativity is what made Minecraft, Sims, and other games so popular. MMOs don't have to allow you to destroy the terrain, but they should allow you to make a house into a home, with various items, and various ways of crafting them.

In this way, you can make unique beds, customize the colors, or shrink their size as they see fit. See games like Sims 2 and Sims 3 to get an idea of the customization I'm talking about. This game should also allow you to craft weapons and items that aren't spawned or gotten by destroying monsters.

Crafting would also label the crafter on the item and thereby raise recognition of the best creators in the land. Since items would degrade as well, crafting could be a job of its own, that one would need to train to fully perfect.

Creativity and the ability to express one's self needs to be part of the MMO in some way.

No Developer or GM interference

If you work for the game, you can't benefit from it in any way. Every game that has their Developers or Game masters openly playing it, and profiting from it, has lead to corruption. Every single game.

If you have a GM account, you only use it from 9-5 to fix issues in the game. When you get home, if you play the game, you play on another account.

The Devs and the creators play on separate accounts. The Business NEVER EVER conflicts with personal gaming lives. This leads to corruption, tyranny, and unbalanced characters because greed is a part of the human condition and humans should not constantly bombard themselves with greed.

Take yourself out of the equation, never mix the business with pleasure, and enjoy your game on a personal account. There are so many horror stories games could have avoided and so many tyrannical GM's and Devs that simply would not exist if this ONE rule were followed.
Final Thoughts

So imagine your house in this game, imagine being rich beyond your wildest dreams, crafting the best weapons in the land, and leader of the most powerful and prestigious guild on the server.

That would be a sense of real accomplishment, to use your power for good or evil as you choose, and to enter the history and lore of the game by taking part in in-game events.

Land would be up for the taking, and you would always need to be vigilant to guard your home, hiring security when needed. As new land came in, your home may be exposed to new people, which would require you to build new trust with them or build new alliances. Possibly it may lead to wars.

An ever diverse game, with a strong economy, strong player base, and true immersion is the goal of every MMO. It's time for MMOs to implement these changes, make their games more immersive/interactive, and give us the game we've always wanted.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

First Quarter VideoGame releases of 2013

(A great video showing all the games and their box art)

1. Jan 8 Anarchy Reigns
2. Jan 15. DMC New Devil May Cry
3. Jan 15. Sniper ghost Warrior 2
4. Jan 17. New Borderlands 2 DLC
5. Jan 22. Ni No Komi Wrath of the White Witch
6. Feb 5. Dead Space 3
7. Feb 5. Sly 4: Thieves in Time
8. Feb 5. Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2
9. Feb 12. Aliens: Colonial Marines
10.Feb 21. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
11.Feb 26. Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires
12.March 5. New Simcity
13.March 5. Tomb Raider – New installment
14.March 12. God of War Ascension
15.March 12. Starcraft 2: Heart of the Storm
16.March 19. Gears of War: Judgement
17.March 26. Bioshock Infinite
18.March 31. Star Trek
19.April 23. Dead Island Riptide
20.May 7. The Last of Us

Missed one:
* Feb 19 Crysis 3 arrives

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Thoughts: Sony stops production of PlayStation 2

(Selling 150 million units, the PS2's dominance is unchallenged and writ in the pages of history forever. Sony, in this way, has been immortalized.)

The best-selling console of all time and the console that really defined my mid-gamer generation, is about to meet the great bin of heaven. Sony is officially, after 13 years, calling it quits with their PS2 console and is stopping production. People have rumored that the PS4 is coming out next fall and if so this may be a way to free up resources so that Sony can ramp up production and be prepared for the imminent launch next fall.

This may not be huge for retro gamers but for the children of the late 80's, like myself, we grew up on the NES, SNES, Sega, and Playstation. This is our bread and butter. To finally see it put to rest is a bittersweet moment showing that our consoles have grown up just as we have.

The PS2 also did something the PS3 wasn't able to, which is completely dominate the gaming market and create such a powerful successor that people rarely talk about the PS1 nowadays. It was such a strong step up graphically and had so many titles that to not buy one was selling yourself short as a gamer.

Sony even released a popular slim model which is currently available on Amazon for $135 dollars. That's an amazing price point to enjoy 11,000 plus titles of some of the greatest gaming moments in history. I'll definitely treasure my PS2 slim a bit more knowing that they've finally stopped production and maybe go back and play some of my favorite games from those days.
 Final Thoughts

As a final point, the loss of the PS2 shows us the important of backwards compatibility. When we pay for a game, we want to be able to play it for the next 20-30 years, and maybe longer. Consoles will not last that long, at least not with the hardware we have now, and so the only way to keep their legacy alive is to do what Nintendo is so good at; amazing backwards compatibility.

Sure there are Roms and Emulators that can bring back those memories, but what about those of us that kept the discs of our favorite games and maybe, just maybe, want to see them with GREAT graphics and Amazing new hardware on our new televisions, in the living room, on our PS3 or PS4? What about us?

This news, besides giving us nostalgia, should be a united call from all gamers to console developers that we want our games to stay with us for at least 2 decades. Humans live on average for 8 decades, and they get nostalgic for games around 6 decades. If you could shave down those 6 decades where we are older and nostalgic, to 4 decades, maybe we could move on easier or appease ourselves with roms and emulators.

At the end of the day, we love our games. That's what makes us gamers; a love, and a passion for Gaming. Nothing more. Nothing less.