Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Edit : Our bad on the 'only mainstream GOTY' claim - Krish Raghav points to his GoTD piece in Mint. Go, mainstream press! In ten years, there will be ONLY a gaming press - and politics, business and sports news will be BEGGING to be let in.
Click on the image for a larger size :
Thursday, December 24, 2009
by Anand Ramachandran and Videep Vijay Kumar
50. Soul Calibur 2 (and series)
We hate games that reward button-mashers. That's why we absolutely love Soul Calibur. The finely tuned weapons based fighting system focussed more on careful timing, maneouvering and outwitting your opponent, as opposed to memorizing senseless uber-combos and super-moves. Soul Calibur 2 raised the bar for console fighters, and looked every bit as good as it played. Plus, the XBOX version featured Spawn, who is so badass, his body is made of necroplasm. Ring Out! Um . . I have no idea why I said that.
49. Far Cry / Crysis
Far Cry and Crysis showed than open-ended shooters could be made, and if you had a high-end ATI graphics card in 2004 and an 8-way Nvidia SLI setup in 2007, they could look really, really, really good. But flexible loyalties and gear-whoring aside, both were solid shooters with great replay value and modding potential. Crysis had some brilliant lag-free multiplayer (an achievement for such a graphics-heavy game) that supported 32 players. These games belong on the list, if for nothing else, their technical excellence
47. Pro Evolution Soccer 4 & 5
PES 4 & 5 are still the highest rated football/soccer games on Metacritic, and rightly so. PES 5 is a favourite at Bossfight (although 4 has been played the crap out of as well) for it's sheer superiority over other football games designed by chose cheeky Canadians in Vancouver. Konami showed the world that there, in fact, was alternative to FIFA and that it was probably better. So credit is due to these games for turning a one-horse race into a TWO-horse race. Note: PES was also responsible for the hiring of several Britons (including current lead designer, David Rutter) and other non-Canadian/American staff (you know, the guys who have actually seen an international sport) at EA Canada.
43. GTA Chinatown Wars
Chinatown Wars is arguably the best 'hardcore' game on the Nintendo DS. For starters, it's got 'Grand Theft Auto' written (literally, one could argue) all over it, plus there are tons of innovative DS-specific ideas and mini-games, and most significantly, a true technical achievement on Nintendo's handheld. Chinatown also reminded us that Rockstar (like Bioware, Blizzard and one other company – can't remember which) can do no wrong. The game would subsequently find its way to the PSP, but it's the DS version that stands tall at er... number 43 on this list.
- This is OUR list of what WE think are the 50 finest games of the last ten years. It's also limited to games WE have played - and obviously we haven't played every single game to have been released in the period.We can't rank games we haven't experienced. Your opinion of what constitutes the best games could of course differ completely. If you think 'Extreme PaintBrawl' is the game of the decade, it's cool. Have a beer. And pay for it yourself.
- In some cases, such as Halo and Grand Theft Auto, to avoid the futile exercise of repeat entries into the list, we have evaluated their quality as a franchise. In such cases, we've included what we believe is the game that was most crucial in qualification, and grouped the others together into one single entry. However, if the games are competely different games on different platforms, such as Zelda on the Wii and DS, they count as separate entries.
- There is no 'item 3'.
KVLT-est easter egg award : Dragon Age Origins
The 'If all else fails, go for the eyes' message that appears during loading screens in Dragon Age : Origins. If we have to explain this to you, you probably won't get it.
Game we wish was made in 2009 : Rock Band - Wilbur Sargunaraj
Surely the Beatles can't compete with the world's greatest living musical genius ? The Blog Song and Cobra Cobra should be in every single videogame. Pity we didn't see them this year. But hey, there's always 2010.
Game we totally didn't play due to retarded pricing : Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
Nice going, Infinity Ward and Activision. Real smart. Price your game at a good twenty-five to thirty percent higher than every other game in India. Just what we need to promote games in the country. There may be COD loyalists / n00bs who will pay that much just to play a videogame, but we don't fall into either category. We're happy playing Halo 3, Killzone 2, and oh lookie - the first Modern Warfare! Idiots.
Happy trend of the year : Hardcoreness is back.
Street Fighter IV. Demon's Souls. Dragon Age : Origins. Forza Motorsport 3. Punch-out. Modern Warfare 2. Monster Hunter : Freedom Unite. 'Twas a great year for the tr00 h4rd023 indeed, with demanding games that rewarded true skill and didn't feel like dumbed-down fodder for casual gamers.
Game we wish we had played : Scribblenauts
This one slipped by us. Sounded extremely interesting, and the one game that could save us from the general handlheld suckage that was 2009 (except for Chinatown Wars, of course), but we never got around to it. Oh well, at least Videep Vijay Kumar got a free iPod.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
1. Best contribution to video gaming: Claudia Black (Morrigan / Chloe Frazer / The only good thing about the Spike VGAs / Sexy / English). Fact: did voices for games as far back as 2005 -- in God of War, no less.
2. VGBoTY (another 'o' would be apt, methinks): Chloe Frazer, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves -- remember those 'co-op' sections where booty-watc... er... ladder climbing was involved?
3. Best/Greatest 'Best Of / Greatest Hits' compilation: Hans Zimmer, Call of Duty: MW2, for the most generic military orchestral score ever produced.Elton John's 'Candle in the Wind' album had more variety.
4. Best game featuring a celebrity who has a lightsaber license: Batman: Arkham Asylum featuring Mark 'Luke Skywalker' Hamill. Note: Bossfight seriously considered Afro Samurai: The Game (featuring Samuel L. Jackson) for this award because of SLJ's kvlt-ness and bad-ass-mofo image. In fact, we would have given it without hesitation to AS: TG if SLJ had threatened to go Mace Windu on our asses. He didn't.
5. Best game featuring battle tank-throwing (non-mod): Prototype. Imagine if there were physics mods for Prototype? Wait.. don't.
6. Most confused accents: Assassin's Creed II. This is only game set in renaissance-era Italy where all the people sound like Hispanics from the bronx (Golly gee, that wasn't racist, was it?).
7. Most zombies in a videogame: FIFA 10. Take that, L4D2! Take that, Resident Evil 5! EA Canada has made a game featuring 31 leagues and over 500 licesnsed teams made up entirely of real footballers' undead cousins!! Oh, and Xavi is in the game too. The only thing missing was a survival mode.
8. Best movie ever made: Uncharted 2 (even better than Slumdog Millonaaaayyyre). Of course, in an ideal world, Mario should have been the 'anti-villain' (voiced by Anil Kapoor) in Uncharted 2. Note: 'Anti-villain' archetype also made famous by Kapoor (definition: a questionable character with interesting motives) .
9. Best videogame name: Pirates v/s Ninjas Dodgeball (beating Stalin v/s Martians). We're fans of epic battles here at Bossfight. Both these games did not give us epic battles. But how can you lose if you don't participate?
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Beginning today, Bossfight India will honour the games of the year (and the decade) with a slew of awards ranging from the conventional (game of the year, game of the decade, genre awards) to the unusual (genre of the year, platform of the year) to the downright bizarre (game that would have been most improved by the presence of Rajnikanth, game that needs to totally apologize to penguins, game that Videep Vijay Kumar quite unreasonably hates for being 'not realistic') and so on.
So keep dropping by to see what maniacal mubbery (see, the feature hasn't even begun, and already we've invented a new word. \m/ ) we've whipped up each day. We'll also be doing a bunch of polls and discussions, so do participate.
And while Dragon Age : Origins is available for XBOX 360 and PS3, the PC is by far the best platform on which to experience this epic game. If you have the rig to run it, this is easily the best PC gaming experience of the year. Console owner's, don't fret, though. It's still a great game on consoles, and suffers only in comparison to its PC version.
Naughty Dog's seminal PS3 game, Uncharted 2 : Among Thieves is already being hailed as an all-time videogame classic. It's a superbly immersive eperience that effortlessly slips between storytelling and gameplay, delivering the closest thing to being in an action movie we've ever seen.
This video provides a glimpse into Uncharted 2's cinematic gameplay experience. This is actual gameplay, not a video. Word.
The significant thing is this : gameplay-wise, Uncharted 2 offers few innovations. The platforming and acrobatics have been done in the Prince of Persia trilogy and in Assassin's Creed. The shooting and cover mechanics are clearly inspired by Gears of War. Even the settings – ancient temples, mysterious ruins and the like – could arguably be attributed to games like Tomb Raider which came many years earlier.
If it's so derivative, what makes Uncharted 2 so damn special ?
Many things, mate. Many, many things.
Firstly, Naughty Dog has taken gameplay features that have been done before, but polished and improved them to deliver a gameplay melange unlike any seen before. Ken Levine, creator of the incredible 'Bioshock', once said that he considered himself a kind of Chef, who merely mixes together existing ingredients to create a surprising, delightful dish. This is exactly what Naughty Dog has achieved with 'Among Thieves' – while you will surely find many individual components familiar, the overall experience is wholly unique and thoroughly original.
Secondly, through a combination of skilful narrative, superb dialogues and expertly crafted set-pieces, Uncharted 2 is that rare game which effortlessly flits between being a narrative and participatory experience. Many games have tried this, with varying degrees of success. Some of them have even claimed to be 'the ultimate interactive movie' or 'the most immersive virtual world' and the like, but Uncharted 2 has taken this to a completely new level. I've played lots of games, but this is the closest thing to being in a great action movie that I've ever experienced.
The absolutely top notch writing plays a major part in this. In terms of story, 'screenplay', and dialogues, Uncharted 2 is on par with the best action adventure films of recent times, and easily better than tripe like '2012' or all those stupid films featuring Matthew McConaughey or Nicolas Cage. Sure, it's tightly scripted and completely linear, but this works in the game's favour. At every point in the game, you really want to know what's going to happen next – and the plot twists and red herrings ensure that you're never disappointed. Essentially, the gameplay exists just to move you from plot point to plot point – but it's great fun on its own, and helps develop the emergent story that the player creates. Videogaming as a narrative form at its finest.
Which really makes you think how so many games might benefit from some good, professional writing from a storytelling standpoint. Games like Assassin's Creed or Halo, which had amazingly fun core gameplay but frankly boring, irrelevant and fairly ridiculous storylines. Wouldn't they have been immensely superior games if they had storylines that actually engaged you to complement their fabulous gameplay? I certainly believe so.
Uncharted 2 is a singular achievement that shows how games can contain world class narratives without sacrificing gameplay. It answers the age old gameplay vs. story question in an unexpectedly emphatic fashion – you don't have to choose. If more games follow this lead, videogames could finally hit that sweet spot between story and gameplay that can appeal to the widest possible mainstream audience, and put gaming on an equal footing with movies and TV. . And the venerable Roger Ebert would finally shut up.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Take Farmville, for instance. You start off with a small patch of land. You keep improving it. As you improve it, you get more resources, which can then be used to build better improvements, which lead to more resources, and so on. Sounds familiar? It is – because Farmville could well be gaming heavyweight Civilization in a friendly and casual disguise. Farmville's gameplay features a neat 'subset' of the gameplay found in any tile-improvement based strategy title, the most famous of which is Civilization. Both games give you visual feedback of your progress – you see your small, empty patch of land grow into a nice, lush, thriving farm (or a sprawling global civilization). Yes, Civilization is far deeper and more complex than Farmville, but yet, at their core, they are both very similar games, demanding similar skills and being fun for similar reasons.
Beating the Mythology Hangover - Anand Ramachandran
For those of you interested in more details, Gaming Xpress has the full details here. The reporter has taken a few liberties with interpreting exactly what I said, but it's mostly accurate and fairly comprehensive, if not always grammatically immaculate :)
I was also on the Jury for the gaming super pitch. Gaming Xpress covers it pretty well, so I won't go into the details of the event.
Do feel free to get in touch if you'd like any more details on the presentation, or couldn't catch up with me at NASSCOM.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
My talk will be on the creative aspects of game development - and will look at possible ways for Indian game developers to create cool, original game content that has the potential to find global success.
Should be fun. I'll keep posting stuff on this blog as I collect info and feedback from you guys for brain-fuel.
And do let me know if any of you are going to be there in Hyderabad for the summit.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
It's a 100 page comic book on IP rights, copyright, piracy and all that jazz. It features futuristic technology, mind-altering gadgets, laser-blasters, doors that open vertically, conspiracies, jailbreaks and lots of more cool stuff. Starting next week, it will be serialized on the CIS web site, and this blog will act as a companion site, where I'll put up rough sketches, scripts and general background information.
The idea is to throw light on lots of issues surrounding intellectual property, patents, copyrights and trademarks, accessibility of content and technology, open standards and the like.
So, in the spirit of open-source, I'm going to invite anyone interested to collaborate on the project. Initially, I'm asking for suggestions for a name for the book. As we go along, anyone will be free to take the characters, situations and worlds I create, and run off in interesting new directions, creating back-stories, additional content to flesh out the universe, short strips - whatever.
So I'm just putting up the first two pages for you guys to get a sneak peek before anyone else. I'll also be shortly putting up the script for the first ten pages, and a concept note.
Do pitch in with comments, suggestions and the like.
Friday, October 16, 2009
By Anand Ramachandran. Some of you will recognize the inspiration for the title, some of you won't. That's fine, right?
The Suresh Kalmadi - Mike Hooper spat has degenerated into 'beyond ridiculous'. Kalmadi has always been a great source of entertainment over the years (anyone remember the Afro-Asian games, and the speech he gave there?), but this time, he's got some competition from one of his colleagues, A.K.Kesri. Here's a scan of a letter Mr.Kesri wrote to the chairman of the OCCWG, from today's INdian Express. (Thanks to @abithaanandh for the keen spot. She has an eye for this kind of thing, she's the one who discovered Hungama for us.) Do click on the image for a full-size version. Trust me, it's worth it.
Among my favourite parts are "fortunately I escaped from damage to my spectacles" and "always whistling during his movements in the office building", but you will surely find many others to your tastes. Stunning stuff.
Actually, the whole affair seems to be an adult version of a 'Miss! He's taking my pencil box, miss!' type of incident so commonly experienced during the primary school years. To be fair to Hooper, however, I must admit that it is Senor Kalmadi, Herr Bhanot and others who are leading the childishness sweepstakes at the moment.
The reasons given by Mr.Kalmadi calling for Hooper's ouster have been, in a nutshell, that Hooper has been of no use, he has been rude to OC personnel, demoralizing them with negative feedback and that he has been an impediment to work on the games.
This can be roughly reworded as follows :
"Miss! He's useless boy miss!"
"Miss! He's talking bad of me and using bad words, miss."
"Miss! he's not letting me do my work, miss."
But since the gentlemen, and I use the term very loosely, who are involved in this unsightly brouhaha are only corresponding through letters and press-releases, I think it would perhaps be more appropriate to look at the issue from that POV.
My dear Mr.Hooper,,
You are useless. You are spoiling my birthday party. So please leave our school. Go back to your old school.
I'm not useless. You're only useless. You always make things very late. Your party will be late and boring.
Shut up. You always tell bad things to my friends and use bad language. You're a bad boy. I tell to principal.
You shut up. Principal is my uncle, so you can't do anything. I'll tell him you're stupid and you're always late for everything everytime.
Hooper, mein su-su karoonga thumhare sar ke ooper.
And so on. I think all of them should be sent to detention, and the party cancelled.
by Anand Ramachandran. This article first appeared on my weekly Game Invader column for the New Indian Express
Predicting future trends in gaming is every videogame boffin's favourite pastime. In the future, we shall have games so realistic, we won't be able to tell them from real life. We'll have AI so advanced, it will behave exactly like humans, making mistakes, acting unpredictable, and sowing emotion. We'll have chips and nanobots embedded in our bodies. Yeah, whatever.
I'm more interested in a rather more believeable, and much more exciting trend. And it's not all that far away, either.
When a little known service called OnLive demonstrated their 'game streaming' service, observers were greatly excited with the possibilities. Basically, OnLive used a combination of a custom set-top box like device and blazing broadband speeds to deliver a service where you could play any game you want, on any platform – so long as it was there in their library.
The technology is charmingly simple – the only signals that need to travel between the server and your receiver are your controller input, and the real-time AV signal from the game. All the processing is done at the server end – and the video and audio output is streamed to your TV set. It's almost like your games are just another TV channel, which you can control.
By centralizing the processing needed for today's heavy-duty games, and depending on broadband to receive controller input and deliver the audio-visual feedback, services such as OnLive can be genuine game-changers, completely redefining the gaming industry landscape.
For one thing, hardware platforms will become irrelevant from a consumer standpoint. It could even eventually see gaming move to one convergent hardware platform – since gamers won't have to choose between platforms anymore, and it just might suit game developers and publishers to break free of the clutches of console manufacturers. The PC has always been the most open and democratic platform, and we may very well see its return, albeit in a more 'server' like avatar.
For another, it will completely eliminate the need for developers to create content for multiple hardware platforms. Whatever the platform, it won't make a difference to consumers anymore – they will be able to play games regardless of platform – since the onus of maintaining the platform will be shifted to the service provider. The console wars will no longer be a roadblock for good quality content to reach the widest possible audience – and situations like single console owners missing out on quality games like Halo, Super Mario Galaxy or Little Big Planet will be a thing of the past. Ultimately, consoles are merely a delivery mechanism – people care about games, not about hardware. If there's another viable delivery mechanism, consoles will die. And good riddance.
Think about it – a future where you will be able to play any game you choose on any internet-enabled device, whenever you want. No more pre-ordering games at exorbitant prices or standing in long queues to get your hands on a copy. No more constantly upgrading your hardware and software just to play new titles. No more missing out on annoying 'platform exclusives' just because you chose the wrong console to buy.
Admittedly, it's still some way away – the broadband speeds required for the service to be viable are way too expensive for end consumers at the moment. But cheaper broadband is something we're bound to see sooner than later.
And then, we'll be able to play Killzone 2 on our mobile phones if we so wish. Brilliant.