Misc. Blog 10 – Team Speak: Our Favourite Games

Ahoy!

With our new little blog set up we decided that we should try and do a series of related posts for certain things, so you can see how different elements build up over time. We also have a random blog to fill, so here’s the first installment of Team Speak!  

The premise is simple: We set a topic, I ask for a paragraph and get a few essays in return.

 

So this week I’ve asked:

“What’s your favourite game? Or series as you’re picky buggers like that.”

And here we go~

 

Andy Tait - A complete copout

I don’t actually have a favourite! I like all sorts of games no matter the genre and because I’ve been playing them for so SO long it makes choosing a single game impossible. I like RTS games like Total Annihilation because it was those sort of things that me and my friends would play together on our LAN nights. I have fond memories of them. Probably because I steam rolled everyone most of the time. I think they got sick of TA. We played not just TA but all sorts of RTS games and some FPS games too – Swat 4 being quite a prominent memory!

 

Simon – Warcraft 3

Yet again, Jaime insists on trying to make me choose a ‘favourite game’ to write a ‘short paragraph’ about, which just isn’t fair. So to screw with him here’s several hundred words about how Warcraft III is a beast.

It gets single and multi-player right.

Single player wove the kind of high fantasy epic world-in-peril tale I was a complete sucker for at 12 years old. A group of bad ass demon lords attempt to overthrow your world after decimating it with an Undead plague and only your rag-tag assortment of Orcs, Elves, ‘I-have-no-imagination’ Humans and massive Cow-men can save the day? I’m in.

I actually feel that despite the pretty ridiculous premise the story section holds up rather well and was quite progressive. Who needs white phosphorus tricks when you can essentially coerce players into believing purging an entire city of innocents was probably a decent idea. Not only that but you play from everyone’s perspective over the course of the tale. Unlike a lot of other strategy games this didn’t just teach you the unique units and strategies you could employ in multi-player but that in the World of Warcraft each side has their own motives and beliefs, heroes & villains. Many of which I actually ended up rather attached too.

 

What, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooooooo!

As for multiplayer it was slick and well-paced, the early game you had to level your hero and farm creeps which avoided the usual RTS grind of “sit and click workers until you have enough resources”. Although if you do fancy giving that a try many of the characters will break immersion with comedic lines on the 4-5th click questioning your mental capabilities or sobriety. It was also much more noob-friendly than Starcraft at the time ranking similarly skilled players together meaning that I – again I’ll mention I was 12 – didn’t have to put up with being repeatedly shafted for three months by Koreans before winning a game. This doesn’t mean that the game didn’t allow a similar level of mastery for hardcore players just that getting started wasn’t daunting.

Its world editor convinced me to get into game dev.

Perhaps most importantly, personally anyway, without Warcraft III I wouldn’t be writing this.

The world editor that came with the game was the first dev tool I’d ever used, I didn’t even realise they existed until this point and I quickly went about creating fantastic RPG esk dungeon crawlers and MOBA’s in the vein of DOTA. Haha no, like I said twelve, the first thing I did was use it to absolutely destroy the population cap, field a 1000 man dragon army and burn my PC to the ground.

Baby steps…

Eventually I did make my own RPG using it, largely played by me, but it taught me a lot balancing classes, creating quests, using triggers and basic functions. By the end I even understood why pop caps can be a good idea.

I can’t understate the value of this experience, until this I didn’t really beleive that I could ever make game development a profession. My life would be completely different. I would probably have seen a lot more sun light.

Work, work.

Peter – Dark Souls

My favourite game? A game of misery, death, and despair: Dark Souls. To me, the main appeal of Dark Souls is that it handles combat and enemy encounters in a way rarely seen in games these days. It requires you to pay attention, adapt your skills, patiently wait for opportune moments, and to strike only when you feel safe to do so. If you attempt to rush this game, or rest your fate in the hands of luck, you will die. Time and time again.

Not just to the enemies, either (as tricky as some of them are). The beautifully crafted environments will provide more than their fair share of instant-death-by-falling, should you not be paying attention to where you’re going or where you have decided to fight a particular enemy. Certain attacks can knock both you and your opponent backwards, so the environments can be used to your advantage, too, but it is at your own risk.

I know what you’re thinking: “How can lots and lots of death possibly be fun?”. The sense of accomplishment when you best each tough enemy, each boss battle, and conquer the difficult situations presented to you is incredible. It makes you feel such victory and power. The systems at work in this game have such synergy with each other that, once you get your first taste of success, you just want more and more, and you will strive to obtain this grand feeling.

I could write so much more about this game, but Jaime wanted me to keep it short-ish. So I feel that succinctly covers the main reason why Dark Souls is my favourite game. So go out and buy it.

 

Steph – Ratchet and Clank series

I can’t really choose a favourite game series because there are a good few that I just can’t pick between! My top 3 series are Ratchet and Clank, Kingdom Hearts and Zelda. However, the first series that introduced me to gaming and running around amazing 3D worlds like a headless chicken is Insomniac’s Ratchet and Clank. I just loved throwing Ratchet’s wrench at everything and collecting each bolt that dropped to the ground. As a kid I would spend hours trying to reach a golden bolt far off into the distance and not understanding invisible walls. The weapons in this series are the best. The morph gun has provided hours of entertainment and the Ryno makes you feel unstoppable!

Pewpewpew!

I’m still twiddling my thumbs and waiting on the Ratchet and Clank movie and Kingdom Hearts 3. Until then Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright will have to do!

 

Adam - Fallout Series

I need a new Fallout game. As much as I love the newer fallout games, it bothers me to no end that characters don’t have a proper 3rd person 45 degrees running animation. Having the character float across the wasteland when running at an angle ruins the immersion for me. I can’t wait till they release a new fallout game using the newer Creation engine rather than the old Gamebryo one that they used in 3 and New Vegas, so that it can looks as good as Skyrim. (All those smooth animations and shadows!) Swords and spells just don’t cut it for me. I need laser guns and music from the 40s!

I was shattered when I found out that the teaser site for the next Fallout “TheSurvivor2299.com” was a fake. I just need to be patient.

Soon Adam. Soon…

 

Judy – Okami

I have a few favourite games but the one i find myself going back to play again and again is Okami. There’s so much about this game that I love I can barely find any faults with it. Firstly, not only do you get to play as a wolf god (which in my opinion is a pretty damn cool character to play) but you get the power to create THE SUN, fix bridges, control water, wind, fire, lighting and make bombs appear out of thin air just by ‘painting’ them. If your into art this is a pretty cool gameplay mechanic. I love the story and the art style is gorgeous. This game gives the player lots to explore and lots to do. With its combination of puzzles, combat, platforming, story and side quests it’s provided me many good hours of entertainment.

 

Andy Bean – Minecraft

I loved building sandcastles, constructing dens and trying to dam up little streams with my friends as a child, so Minecraft was a very natural progression for me, allowing me to express my intrinsic desire to dominate the natural environment around me.

But Minecraft goes further than this. Minecraft turns your ideas for constructions in to an elaborate puzzle, a puzzle in which there is no one right answer, a challenge in which one ponders how to ensure one’s castle’s merlons are evenly spaced whilst maintaining the beautiful symmetry of gate on the front wall. Can I connect this toggle switch to the door without spoiling the ornate corridor I spent the last 5 hours crafting? Should I build out of wood, the obvious aesthetically-pleasing choice, but risk my friends and family ‘visiting’ and burning it to the ground? These questions, and many like them, will be answered for yourself when you play Minecraft.

 

Gary – Metal Gear Solid series

Tactical. Espionage. Action.

That’s right, I am of course talking about the Metal Gear Solid series. This series has always had a place in my life ever since I picked up and played the original MGS on the PS1. It was unlike any other game that I had played before and I found it hard to stop playing. I had previously played games that were fun and challenging but for me it was Metal Gear Solid that brought it to a brand new level. If you wanted to make it through that game perfectly without being spotted, without dying and without killing anyone it took a great amount of skill and patience. Something that to this very day I have still not been able to accomplish, but it is still up there on my to do list.

Metal Gear Solid is a game that was not afraid to try anything new and push its boundaries. Some of these brought great success and admiration, but others bring groans. 30 minute cut-scene anyone? You either love or hate the game series for its storytelling, personally I enjoyed it. However other experiments that the game tried brought us some of the smartest and most enjoyable boss fights from any game series: The End (MGS 3: Snake Eater), Vamp (MGS4) and the Revolver Ocelot final battle from MGS4 to name a few. But, there is one character which blew my mind when I first encountered him, Psycho Mantis:

Psycho Mantis really pushed the limit with boss fights. Before the fight even starts he tries to intimidate you by reading your mind. He could tell you how you had played the game so far, he could tell you what other games you had played before and move your remote across the floor. If that wasn’t enough when you started the fight he “breaks” your TV signal for a few seconds and you can’t even hit him! He just moves out of the way with every shot you do. He was insanely difficult to figure out. After endless attempts at trying it dawns on you that the only way to beat him is to switch your controller from port 1 to port 2 so he couldn’t telepathically read your moves. What even? What makes this genius gameplay mechanic even better is that many many years later when Metal Gear Solid 4was released there was another Mantis fight with a similar character. So I think and I immediately switch the controllers over again and of course it doesn’t work. The game then tells you via codec: “Snake, do you really think they would try that old trick again?” A video game actually trolled me. Fair play Kojima. It is reasons like this that I will always love the Metal Gear Solid series which makes me anxiously waiting for MGSV to be released later this year.

 

Grant – Metroid Prime series

I would probably have to say my favourite game series (because picking one game is insane) of all time is the Metroid Prime series. Why though?

Gameplay!

The gameplay of the Metroid series, for those of you who don’t know, is about being dropped on beautiful and seemingly derelict alien worlds, exploring them, acquiring upgrades, and avoiding being killed by the almost always hostile native lifeforms. The original Metroid games were 2D sidescrollers while the Prime series, developed by Retro Studios, applied the formula to a 3D world.

Even the grass will try to kill you.

Each world has large areas of different themes, varying drastically from one another. One minute you might find yourself fighting your way through the intense heat of magma filled caves, then the next calmly strolling through a winter wonderland. Each themed area is inhabited by unique and consistently lethal creatures.

Graphics!

When I first played Metroid Prime, the visuals of the game blew my young mind. Though the actual graphics are dated by today’s standards, what the developers really nailed was the feel of the world. The dense jungle area is not just covered with green, but misty, and raining. The long abandoned temples have been infested with bug nests, are half flooded and overgrown with plants.

Which, as mentioned before, will try to kill you.

I also cannot talk about the look of these games without mentioning the visor. The main character of the series, Samus, wears full body armour including a helmet with a glass visor. This allows for some really cool effects, for example when looking up in a rainy area raindrops will collect on the screen. Walking through steam or a waterfall will fog it up and upon a sudden bright flash you can briefly see the reflection of Samus’s eyes.

The Muthafuckin’ Audio!

Having to share this blog with my colleagues I will keep this section brief. The audio in the game is great. The environmental sounds really sell the world and contribute greatly to the (Sorry Jaime, I know you hate these buzzwords) immersion that the series is famed for. The music of the series is a combination of original tracks and re-imaginings of pieces from the earlier 2D games. It is all terrific at setting the mood, but don’t take my word for it, listen:

 

Jaime – Final Fantasy 6 (and others as he’s old and likes to ramble)

I have a trio of favourite RPGs, all from the same time period, that pretty much defined what I love about games and also turned me into one of those 16-bit loving bampots that everybody hates. They also have one or two key plot points that’re still not that common in RPGs today (spoiler alert: things die) but even after that still stand as unique even within their own series.

The first of which is Phantasy Star 4 on the Mega Drive, which eschewed the common fantasy themes for a more futuristic, sci-fi approach. And some cosmic horror, eldritch abominations and potentially ruined solar system after one of the planets exploded in an earlier game (yay continuity!). Even today its mere setting separates it from the stream of JRPGs, even if the gameplay is fairly similar. Also the soundtrack is straight up Mega Drive goodness, going from poppy synth style tracks that were quite common to some pretty evil and dark songs that give Super Metroid a run for their money. It’s a shame that there seem to be no plans for Phantasy Star 5, given it’s transmogrification into an MMO.

Next up is Chrono Trigger on the SNES (and PS1, with a definitive version on the DS). Time travel, multiple different endings with a final boss that you can choose to fight at almost any point in the game and a series of characters that are all really solid. Wrap that up in what’s probably one of the best written stories in a JRPG (and probably outwith that too), with each character fleshed out and having their own background issues and subplots and the visible effects of things happening in the past shining through in the future (Mild spoiler: there are chests that you can open that are in multiple time periods. If you open them in the past before their future counterparts then… tough luck I guess). Also gives me an excuse to post this again:

And finally there’s the granddaddy. My actual favourite game: Final Fantasy 6 on the SNES, PS1 and GBA (and mobile, I suppose…). Or 3, if you want. Some wonderful person did a breakdown of the game’s design that showcases all of why it’s magical (http://thegamedesignforum.com/features/reverse_design_ff6_1.html) Oh yeah: MASSIVE spoilers within. Y’all been warned.

It’s ensemble cast really feels like such a thing, instead of one main leader and their ragtag followers. The big bad who’s a constant and blatant antagonist throughout the game, providing a central node that said cast can crowd around while weaving through their own issues and plot points. Also you have a PLAYABLE MOOGLE GUYS.

Gameplay wise it breaks down the “traditional” job roles of the series (warrior/white mage/black mage/etc.), as every character can cast magic and for the most part can deal alright damage on both spectrums. The slight less typical jobs (see those from 3 and 5) such as the Monk, Berserker, Blue Mage and others are instead applied to individual characters, meaning that everyone still has their own different uses. Such as suplexing a train.

Awwwwww yisss.

And they all have their own musical themes and variations too. case in point, Terra’s theme is a variation of the overworld.

Press play to feels.

The story, which breaks down into something completely non-linear after a certain major plot point. Yeah, a non-linear JRPG. In the 90’s. And you wonder why people were so angry at FF13’s first 20 hours “before it gets good”. I really want to talk more about it but that twist is something I really don’t want to spoil even for a nigh 20 year old game. The theme of loss that runs through all of the major characters (and I mean ALL of them, including the big bad).

But even with all that, the game finds time to inject some humour and lightness into the pot as well. From Ultros, the recurring enemy of the game and reason for the Ultros Boogie, to the opera scene that’s become one of the most famous moments of the entire series. Even Kefka in his role as prime villian serves as an evil jester, especially early in the game. It serves as a much needed balance to the doom and gloom that runs through out the game.

The amount of content in the end game is pretty substantial as well, making it and its world seem huge and expansive. Multiple sub plots and quests need resolved, some that have lingered throughout the rest of the game. It manages to tie up a lot of loose ends rather neatly. If you want to. 

There’s also the music. FF6 has an outstanding OST, and is probably one of Nobuo Uematsu’s best collective works.
Check the boss theme:

Organs!

And Dancing Mad:

ORGANS!

And also the Phantom Forest:

Ghosts don’t have organs :(.

Basically I like this game a lot, and trying to explain why with a (sort of) word limit and avoiding spoliers is a bit trickier. Just go play it. Also what’s a paragraph?

 

And there you have it! Do you agree or disagree? Let us know!