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Power Member - Level 10
Well, it is that time again, another episode of Member Herding is upon us. This is my sixth episode since taking the reigns, and I hope you all have enjoyed reading them as much as I have been enjoying making them. The community here is so great, and it has been an honor highlighting some of the members that make it so.
Most of you have probably seen this episode's member commenting on various articles, or read one of his numerous blog posts. He certainly doesn't stray away from any topics, and he won't hesitate to give you his view on matters. Ultimately, though, that is what drives a community, passion, and he has that in spades. Some may call him tough-nosed, some may call him controversial, but I'll just call him this episode's Herdee. Without further ado, it is my pleasure to introduce to the Herd...
GIO Name: RezidentHazard (Skeptical Inquirer)
GIO Rank: omg! level 15! - Level 15
Gaming Experience (Years playing): 20+
Last Game Completed: ...Ikachan. I was trying to remember, but I'm pretty sure it was Ikachan.
Currently Playing: Constant rotation currently including Bravely Default, Steel Diver: Sub Wars, Call of Duty Ghosts (Wii U), Dragon's Crown (Vita), Surge Deluxe (Vita), Retro City Rampage (Vita), Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling Adventure (DS), Splinter Cell (Wii U), Castle Storm (Wii U), Gravity Rush (Vita).
Origin of GIO Profile Name: This should be obvious, and wordplay I've long used. What's the Japanese name of Resident Evil? I once, very long ago, went by the username "unakaczynski" because the "Unabomber is..." It was, eh... a different time.
And now for everybody's favorite part of Member Herding..the questions!
Your profile indicates that you are a game developer, and your studio released their first game GravBlocks. How was the experience? What role did you play in development? Can we expect future projects from From Nothing Game Studios?
My role was that of conceptual designer, graphics, level designer, and director, essentially. We had a meeting where we planned to arrive with at least one game idea each when we started out--only I did, and I brought three. GravBlocks was the most basic and "safest" to do. Currently, we're upgrading it for the Wii U, which has the unfortunate side effect of putting our second game temporarily on hold. GravBlocks+ is now a Wii U exclusive because there are enough upgrades to qualify it as such. We added two new guys and my duties now revolve around direction, animation, and organizing everything. We're not talking much about the next game, but it is a strategy game. If we can stop hitting hurdles, GB+ will be a Q2 release.
The overall experience was both fun and stressful. We did it in our free time, and we are doing the same now, but the difference is that I am working in an office at a "regular" job now, when during the original development of GravBlocks, the main programmer and I (we did about 90% of the work because my management style was "crappy" at the time, and I found it easier to just "do everything" than task things out). At the time, I was going to school and living off GI Bill money, so only worked part-time, if that. GravBlocks was pirated a week after release, and we've sold maybe around 50 copies which coincides with us "knowing about 50 people with Android devices." Mobile gaming is a pit. Its tough not to feel like a failure with this, and if I have one fear in life, it's of being exactly that. In my view, I've been a failure for long enough. I refuse to let it happen here.
(I've always been fascinated by game design, and the work it takes to get all those moving parts in sync. It's pretty impressive that you managed to take on all those roles, and still get the game out. It's crazy; you hear about pirating all the time (and more people actually do it than would like to admit to it), but it really does show you the toll when it happens to you, and takes money out of your pocket. However, getting a game to come to Wii U is no small feat, so if nothing else I would consider that a victory for such a new and small team. MIllions of people dream about making a game, but you actually did, so you will always have that.)
You seem to be a fan of the horror genre. Are there any games out there that do horror particularly right? What do games need to learn about adapting horror to the video game medium?
Eternal Darkness, Resident Evil 1, Resident Evil 4, Alan Wake, and Dead Space 1 all did horror right. In my humble view, horror is done well in gaming when it relies on mood and tension--when you skirt death and lack items. Resident Evil 5 turned into a shooting gallery, and so did Dead Space 2. They replaced the horror atmosphere with frustration of having to shoot constantly spawning enemies while ammo reserves diminish. This wasn't horror. It was stress. Eternal Darkness remains a personal favorite with it's daunting horror atmosphere, thick music, and incredible audio and settings.
True story: I was once visited by the police for playing it. Three huge, burly police officers came to my apartment door apparently expecting a raucous party. But it was just me. At one in the morning, playing Eternal Darkness by myself on a Saturday night, with the surround sound cranked because it was just too awesome not to hear.
(Those are all excellent choices for great horror games. Eternal Darkness is such a criminally underplayed title, and one that totally handles horror like a game should, by completely messing with you. Some other titles, like the first two Silent Hills, Fatal Frame and some of the SCP games hit the horror note pretty well. And ha, I bet that was an interesting conversation.)
You have a blog talking about a one console future. Do you see that as a legitimate possibility? What could motivate console companies that are now competing to unify? If this scenario does come to fruition, who are the winners and losers?
I noted that I think the major blockade is Nintendo. If someone gets Nintendo on their side, the others will form alliances or fall by the wayside. However, I don't expect MS or Sony to go willingly to this. But Valve is already showing us how it should ideally work, and rumors are already swirling about Samsung, Amazon, and Google possibly designing consoles. I expect if true, they may follow Valve's example. I also think developers and publishers could force this. Games simply cost too much to make and the available audience is too small.
As I routinely state, "We have Hollywood budgets but not Hollywood audiences." And that is a recipe for disaster. We live in an age where a single poorly-received game may be enough to sink a company, and we've seen it. Factor5 with Lair, THQ with the UDraw fiasco. Major studios are increasingly dependent on sequels that are less and less innovative with each new incarnation. People hate Call of Duty, but Activision simply cannot afford NOT to make it. It could be that major publishers and developers simply choose to drop the old ways, and we're finally to a point where it is technologically feasible. On an Xbox One, you can only buy Xbox One games. On a Steam Machine, you can get Steam, Origin, GOG, etc. If that included Nintendo, for instance, with no dedicated Nintendo console anymore, that console would be an undeniable bargain--and there are enough different models (like DVD players) that it's a consumer's market. This isn't that I want Nintendo to go third party--I want everyone to. If no one else is going to do it, then Nintendo shouldn't either. I have an all-or-nothing view on this.
I'm intrigued that Nintendo is hinting at this for their next generation--I think combing the operating systems of the portable and console sides are a long time coming for them. I hope they do it. They almost need to.
(I just don't know how feasible it is. While it would obviously be nice to have one go-to system for all our favorite games, Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft all want that important consumer dollar. And, obviously not Nintendo, but the other two companies are much bigger than their gaming divisions. They are in direct competition right now for the all-important consumer, the third-party here if you will. I just don't see them putting that by the wayside just to give us an "ideal" gaming console, for the same reason that Taco Bell and McDonalds aren't teaming up for McDollarTacos or whatever (note: I now want a McTaco. Just saying.) But I could not agree more about Nintendo. With their business model and the current nature of the handheld market, the time is long past for them to synchronize those two divisions, completely and for good. Of course, I think Nintendo should really get into the smartphone business, but that is a conversation for a different day.)
What do you think about the state of the Wii U? Is it a doomed console? If not, how can it be fixed? What would you like to see in Nintendo’s next console?
As a gamer, I really like the Wii U. I don't love it. It hasn't earned that praise yet. It's flawed, but they all are. To put it bluntly, to defend every good and asinine decision by Nintendo or Microsoft or Sony equally would be fanboyism, and I'm so tired of that crap. There are people here who defend literally every thing about the Xbox One. Honestly, if you can't muster a single criticism, you're a fanboy. You're biased, so shut up.
The Wii U is flawed. But the Wii U is fun. Is it doomed? Nah. The people who say that want it to be doomed. Anyone familiar with gaming in even the slightest bit should know better than to ever discount Nintendo--love 'em or leave 'em, this is a company that performs the corporate equivalent of miracles time and time again, and can even turn dismal selling consoles like the GameCube into financial successes. The company is struggling now and I think it'll ultimately be good for them. David Jaffe said Iwata has earned the right to fail after all he's done for Nintendo and gaming. That comment made me step back from how much I was growing to call him a problem. Maybe Iwata does deserve the chance to correct this. I felt for a while that MS needed to "fail" this generation so that they could clear their ego and set them on a more positive path. They stumbled, but it wasn't bad enough for them to really learn hard lessons, and I don't think they're going to actually turn around the way Sony did after the PS3 launch fiasco. Yes, they changed their policies, but they walked away hardly learning anything. It's largely still the same Microsoft that sold you a defective Xbox 360. And that has me apprehensive.
That said, I think this horrible stumbling for Nintendo will be good for the company so long as they learn the proper lessons from it. I want to see them merge with or acquire someone. Take some chances, and play hardball. I don't know the proper way to "fix" it, people who claim they know frequently annoy me. I can think of things that might help, but to fully fix it? But I do know what will only make things worse--completely abandoning it for a new console would destroy investor and developer relations. Dropping the GamePad would be stupid (it might break, don't do that). Adopting some of the better ideas of Sony, MS, and Valve would be good--but to just "completely do what they do" would guarantee failure. We don't buy Nintendo consoles to be like everyone else, we buy them because they're different. They need to keep selling that difference, and I want to play Call of Duty with that difference.
But the biggest problem that I've highlighted time and time again, and that has sadly been proven by sales time and time again, is the lack of support their fans give to 3rd party developers, which ultimately harms the console and company as a whole. There are some that buy 3rd party games, but the majority clearly do not. Nintendo needs to find a way to change that. The Nintendo Enthusiast site recently spotlighted over 120 indie games coming to the Wii U. They deserve that support. Its time to buy something other than Mario and Zelda.
Ideally, I want the next console fully integrated with the portable. Not as some lame accessory the way Sony cruelly treats the Vita, but integral. Say, in early 2016, they release their new portable. Then in late 2017, they release the home console, and lo and behold, the portable is the default controller for the console. They have the same OS, they share a lot of games, but they still have exclusive titles to fully justify owning them. That's what I would like them to do. Sort of like the Nintendo Fusion rumors that sprang from nowhere, but I thought of it first. Literally, I responded to Tim Gruver(?) with this exact idea about a week or so before those rumors appeared. I don't remember the article, sorry.
(My problem is counting on that "miracle". I agree that Nintendo deserves the benefit of the doubt, but whenever a company is banking on past success or pulling another rabbit out of the hat, I just don't now how sustainable that is. It isn't a question of whether Nintendo can be "fixed" or not, but whether they can remain financially viable. Those two are related, but I think some people tend to view Nintendo with a lens of nostalgia. As the kids that grew up on the "best" Nintendo games get older, Nintendo will possibly lose some of the automatic goodwill they have. Maybe. Or they redefine the industry again, you never know. I don't know how I feel about linking the destiny of a handheld and home console so closely to each other, despite the obvious benefits it could bring, but I think it is clear that, in the current landscape, Nintendo needs to do something.
Handheld gaming has come under a lot of scrutiny lately, with many saying the rise of smartphones may leave them out in the cold. Is this true? Is there still room for a dedicated handheld gaming console? How could game makers innovate in this space?
Phones and tablets have peaked and are beginning a decline. Look at the most talked about mobile games these days--Flappy Bird, a broken Dungeon Keeper, always Angry Birds. Mobile is clearly no threat to portable consoles. Mobile gets a crappified Final Fantasy VI. The 3DS gets Bravely Default and the Vita gets Dragon's Crown. Tell me which of those is a better option. I bet you don't think it's mobile. On top of that, and another blog I wrote elaborates on this, but the mobile gaming bubble appears to have burst. Over 50% of developers make no money at all on there. It's a good place to prove you have talent and a concept--my team did it. But it's a terrible place to make money selling games. I'm a huge gamer, guess what I play on my phone? Solitaire and Sudoku. And it's a Galaxy. It can play a lot of games. I prefer the Vita and 3DS. Yes, I bought my own game. My girlfriend and Mom each bought it twice.
Suffice to say, I think there is a place for portable gaming on dedicated machines. And I think Nintendo has brilliantly innovated in this--StreetPass and SpotPass have allowed Nintendo and other devs to create games and experiences that literally cannot be done anywhere else. Where else can you find games where meeting other people is important to the game? Mii Plaza, Bravely Default also does it. It's incredibly addictive and it pretty much guarantees you'll carry that thing with you everywhere. I went to the Minnesota State Fair last year, and part of my excitement there was seeing how many people I could meet while eating deep fried food on a stick. It's weird, but damn it works. I want to make a StreetPass game.
(I absolutely get what you are saying, but quality doesn't always equal sales. Yes, handheld games are of much better quality than your typical mobile games, but I'm not so sure it is just a trend that is now dying. SOme of last year's biggest money-makers were mobile games, including Candy Crush, Minecraft: Pocket Edition, The Simpsons Tapped Out and Clash of Clans. These games pulled in money hand-over-fist, far exceeding any handheld gaming title. Nobody is arguing that these games are "better" than traditional games like Bravely Default and Dragon's Crown, but right now, that just isn't what is driving sales. I think the majority of people are looking for a do-it-all device than can also play games, as opposed to a gaming device that can do other things. Persoanlly, I think mobile gaming will get even bigger as opposed to declining, but only time will tell. I do love the idea of StreetPass though, and hope to see more titles (maybe yours!) utilize it.)
Tim Gruver asks: As your username states, you say you're a 'Skeptical Inquirer.' In the age of online fanboyism and even harder-nosed critics, what similarities and differences would you say there are between the Pewdie Pies and Michael Pachters of the gaming community? Is there a seeming disparity between consumers and investors as they've related over the years to the perception of the gaming industry?"
Oh geez, I don't even know how to look that up to provide insight to an answer. I don't think critics are harder-nosed. I think they're just as fanboyish, unfortunately. Major titles get priority in reviews, reviews don't reflect products (Battlefield 4, SimCity, etc), and I've felt for a long time that the current review system is largely broken. Gamers cling to them, as if anything below 90% is crap. I don't know exactly how to fix it, but it's clearly broken. When you're reviewing games for page views and not for the game review itself, you're doing it wrong. I don't care if it's business, its disingenuous. Especially if those big reviews aren't going to tell me how utterly broken half of a game is.
I guess I'm not familiar with the Pewdie Pies term, and that other term you use looks like an ancient demonic curse of some kind. When summoning forth the demon Patcher, I am not impressed. He is a television psychic. He has no powers and his career is made on blind guessing and clear bias. He has given two contradictory predictions on the Vita--that it will rule the roost and conquer the 3DS, and now that it will die slowly violated in every way by the 3DS. I want to know how he got his job, because if getting paid to talk out of your ass is this lucrative, I can probably do that in spades. Sign me up.
Is there disparity between consumers and investors? Man, I really don't know. Consumers vote with their wallets that they don't want anything new or different--the top selling games on the XBO and PS4 are freakin' Call of Duty and Fifa. That means most people bought those machines to simply play the same games as before with slightly prettier graphics. Yes, I bought Call of Duty when I bought the Wii U and added to this mentality, but at least personally, it was my first time actually with CoD, and I needed a game to really put the online through its paces, and to try the unique multiplayer set-up. I also bought ZombiU. Essentially, I bought the one "different" version of CoD. Anyway, this possibly means investors are going to be less likely to want their money spent on riskier endeavors. I think one may feed the other. In the end, we vote for the future we want with our wallets. I must apologize, I don't believe I answered your question. Perhaps that's above my pay grade.
(Hmmm, Call of Duty gets a lot of flak for releasing the "same game every time" but I've always thought a lot of games do that, to some extent. Take Mario: While the new games (Galaxy, 3D World, etc.) are excellent, they are fundamentally not all that different from older iterations. I've never understood hoe, despite CoD being at the top of the sales chart, everyone seems to hate it. Either the numbers are wrong, or somebody out there is a hypocrite. Or perhaps it could just be chalked up to a very vocal minority. Regardless, people will buy what they want when it comes down to it. Sure, industry expert commentary and reviews may shade it a bit, or maybe more than a bit, but people will find what they like, and buy it. Minecraft is a perfect example. Not many industry analysts would have played that when it first released and expect it to blow up like it did. Trends are hard to predict, otherwise they wouldn't exist in the first place. However, I think that there are enough "honest" game reviews out there, especially in this day and age, to get a fair assessment of a any game you want, as opposed to some over-arching conspiracy to bump the AAA games up despite their flaws.)
John Wrek asks: What, in your opinion, was the most redeemable quality of Chain Blaster that made it both replayable and entirely faithful to the oldie-genre of games? And what was the strongest factor in giving it the pretty good score of an 85/100 that you gave it as well?
I wouldn't call it faithful to old-school shmups outside of "you can shoot with your ship." The difficulty grows so gradually, and the way to create chains so well implemented that it becomes an addictive challenge to keep going. Your high score constantly taunting you on the bottom screen is very old school, but it works. Essentially, I found the game to be smooth, it looks great in action, and addictive. This is in the vein of "I can get just a little farther this time..." kind of game. Its a game that held my attention because it so demanded it. I can watch TV while playing, say, Bravely Default. I can't with this. Very simply, the game is fun--it works. I am most interested in functional gameplay and gameplay concepts. Shigeru Miyamoto has been known to state that a single game concept should be able to solve numerous problems or create a variety of gameplay. This game takes creating bomb chains and does exactly that. It was literally about my third or fourth time firing it up that I realized I was supposed to be smarter in using bomb chains against bosses. Early on, I was trying to clear out the enemies so I could shoot at the bosses. That was wrong.
(Interesting. I have never played Chain Blaster, so I don't really have anything to add here, although I'm a sucker for retro games. Might have to check this one out.)
Finally, ask me anything and I may just answer.
The first thing I can think to ask you, you probably have been asked before, which is the "why do you do member herding?" But instead, your quizzical nature inspires me to instead ask if you are interested in journalism or if you have been working towards that?
(Well, the first part is easy, and in fact you answered it yourself. My quizzical nature. Plus, it helps me get to know the community around here a bit better, which is always fun. On top of that, it is such a great thing to do, and with Saint's time at a premium, I thought I could help keep this thing around. I've certainly enjoyed it, and as long as people seem to like them, and until Saint wants to take it back, I plan on keeping them coming. As to the second part of your question, yes. I have been with a site Leviathyn for over two years now, going from staff writer to editor and I now hold the position of News Editor. Some other GIO mebers, such as Chris Mrkvicka, Eric Watson and Tim Gruver, have also started working at the site recently. My goal is to one day write for Game Informer, and counting my stints at a couple of other news websites, I have over 500 articles worth of material. Seems crazy now, but I've certainly enjoyed it.)
A special thanks to RezidentHazard (Skeptical Inquirer) for spending some time with us while divulging a few details about his gaming personality. To read more about RezidentHazard, view his GIO profile here.