Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bossfight Game of The Decade : 40 to 31

40.Indigo Prophecy
Though the adventure genre is reported dead ever so periodically, there's always that one title that comes along to make everyone sit up and take notice of how wonderful adventure games really are. Indigo Prophecy was an important experiment in 'the game as interactive movie' - featuring a great, mature storyline, multiple endings, and interesting use of split-screens for storytelling. It had a bushel of new ideas for interface, conversations, and action sequences. Not all of them worked, and the game had some technical issues, but it remains one of the finest adventure games ever made. Let's hope next year's 'Heavy Rain' from the same developer does takes the promise of 'Indigo Prophecy' to the next level.

39.Okami
Even by Japanese standards, Okami is an unusual game. It looks like a Japanese painting. You play as a wolf-god. And you defeat enemies and solve puzzles by using . . er . . calligraphy. So better not run out of ink. The best tribute to Okami is that it's not a game that is easily described to anyone who hasn't played it. But those who have had the pleasure of playing it will never forget the experience.


38.Legend of Zelda : The Twilight Princess
The Wii's first Zelda game was the best looking Zelda yet. It was a darker, more mature Zelda than usual (making it the first Zelda game to receive a T rating from the ESRB). As always, it had its share of cool features - context sensitive controls, chicken-gliding, and - wait for it - Link turning into a vicious wolf! Yay! That's two wolf-based games in a row in the top 50!




37. Farmville
What's a facebook game doing in a Game of The Decade list, I hear you ask? Well, 70 million users don't care about what you ask. Farmville pulled off the staggering achievement of bringing fairly hardcore tile-improvement gameplay (think Civilization) within the scope of casual gamers, who would otherwise play word-games or match-3 puzzles. For this alone, it makes the cut. But don't forget - Farmville featured some imaginative and beautifully implemented real-time and multiplayer aspects that make it more addictive than today's average hardcore games. Don't believe us? Give it a shot.

36. Gran Turismo 3 : A-Spec
In the days when the Ps2 was the world's most powerful console, Gran Turismo 3 was the definitive racing game. The self proclaimed 'Driving Simulator' was precisely that -  featuring realistic handling that hasn't been surpassed even today, a slew of tracks, cars and game modes, it set the standards for simulation based racers that are being followed almost a decade later. GT 3 was also the first console racer where the developers worked with hardware manufacturer Logitech to create a force-feedback enabled racing wheel just for the game.

35. Diablo 2
Blizzard's sequel to their all-time classic Diablo took the whole addictive click-fest thing to another planet. The skill trees and multiple unique character classes added a whole new dimension of fun to Diablo's I-can't-stop-playing gameplay, and made Diablo 2 a game that most people were addicted to twice, or even thrice over. It also fine-tuned the battle.net multiplayer gameplay. Anyone else remember those long, dangerous treks to retrieve your equipment after dying?


34.Dr.Kawashima's Brain Training
This was the title that propelled the initial sales of Nintendo's now ubiquitous DS handheld - with the promise of reducing your 'Brain Age' through a daily dose of puzzle solving. It had some great, imaginative puzzle design, a great hook, and showcased the best of the DS' features such as the touch screen and microphone. 'Rock beats Scissors' FTW!

33. No One Lives Forever
Of all the shooters that immediately followed Half-Life, The Operative : No ONe Lives Forever is perhaps the game that took the genre truly forward. Featuring a great protagonist (Cate Archer was the hottest videogame babe before Chloe Frazier. Yes, including Ms.Croft), laugh-out-loud writing, and splendid level design, this Austin-Powers of videogames takes its rightful place among the decade's best games. The level where you have to leap from a plane and wrest a parachute from one of the falling bad guys remains one of the most exciting set-pieces from any game we remember.

32. Braid
Jonathan Blow's classic platformer from last year reminded us of so many wonderful things - chiefly that it was possible for intelligent, top quality independent games to be commercially successful. Its ingenious puzzles, breathtaking art, and heartbreaking twist-at-the-end were triumphs of game design. So never mind the pretentious hot air that surrounded the game's supposed 'inner meaning' - give Braid a cookie for being simply one of the best games we've ever played.

31. Rock Band Series
We're actually wondering why Rock Band isn't higher up on the list - but it's probably because the Guitar Hero series was more influential in breaking music games out into the mainstream. But Rock Band fine tuned and took the whole concept of 'band play' forward - causing millions of 'air' rock stars (and, to be fair, actual singers) to form virtual bands and rock out to their favourite tunes, both offline and online. The Guitar Hero series took a while to catch up. And then Rock Band signed up The Beatles. Unless there's a Guitar Hero : Keith Richards in the works, we don't see how that's going to be topped.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Zeitgeist GOTY 2009

As a prelude to Bossfight's final GOTY awards, here's our annual Zeitgeist Game of The Year, the only GOTY feature in India's mainstream press (it appeared in the New Indian Express). We're so proud, we're going to eat cookies, and strangle the ox Megan Fox wanted to murder.

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

Bossfight Game of the Decade : 50 to 41




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



48. Portal
What can we really say about Portal? Other than that it was the creepiest, funniest first-person puzzler of all time? That it featured a crazed AI antagonist, GladOS, who made SHODAN seem like she was going to bake you some cookies and give you a blanket? That it had the most emotionally resonant six-sided solid object ever (move over, Rubik's cube) ? Short, sweet and completely mad, Portal is one of the most original videogames ever made, and one of those you play with a continuous silly grin on your face.


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.


46. Unreal Tournament
This is the game that dethroned the global church of Quake as the world's premier multiplayer shooter. It featured some of the most iconic weapons, maps and game modes seen in the genre – gamers' eyes still mist over when mentioning Morpheus, the Redeemer, the Flak Cannon and the Ripper. It showed that multiplayer could be more than just deathmatch, featured the first actually useful bots in an FPS, and is still played at LAN parties today. It also spawned the Unreal Engine, the present version of which powers many of today's best looking titles. Respect.

45. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (2  & 3)
THPS did something unprecedented – it brought extreme sports into the spotlight like few other things, and made Tony Hawk a household name in . . .er . . households all over the world. THPS 2 was pretty much gaming perfection – a superbly designed learning curve, great, responsive controls, and hours and hours of addictive gameplay. It's a rare game that can appeal to people who aren't really interested in its rather esoteric subject matter, and THPS 2 and 3 did precisely that – actually contributing to the real sport the games were based on. Too bad the series went all downhill and underground after that. Pun unintended, of course. What? What?


44. Super Smash Bros. (Brawl & Melee)
There's a Tamil world – 'galatta' – for absolute mayhem. Which is what the Super Smash Bros. Series is all about. There is no better party game. If you dispute this, then you obviously have never used Wario to fart on an opponent, and then pull a motorcycle out of your pocket and run over him when he's down, overwhelmed by the stink. Word. Plus, it features the best roster ever in a fighting game. Which other title would present Waluigi, Kirby and Solid Snake as equals? We're all for that sort of insanity.


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.


42. Company of Heroes
There is no game that captures the essence of World War II the way Company of Heroes does. The destructible environments, physics effects, cover system (we kid you not) and historically-accurate-yet-cinematic presentation of the campaign make CoH awesome. The multiplayer makes it phenomenal. Trust us, if you've not played a 4 versus 4 skirmish in Route N13, King of the Hill or Montargis Region, then you've not experienced PC strategy gaming at its finest. However, we must admit that the real reason why we dig CoH so much (and think it worthy to be featured on this list) is the near-preposterous attention to detail. Oh, and bundled grenades. We love bundled grenades!


41. Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Every Zelda game is a classic in its own right, but the DS' first Zelda game assumes great significance, since it came carrying a boatload of expectations. Thankfully, Phantom Hourglass didn't disappoint. Featuring a stylus-only input system, ingenious puzzles, and clever use of the DS touch screen and microphone, it showed that the Nintendo DS was not going to be deprived of Ninty's second-greatest franchise. While features like this have become gimmicky now, when we first called out to NPCs to summon them, or actually blew into the DS to blow out burning torches, we were delighted. Like kids with new cookies. What? Kids don't dig cookies anymore? Blame videogames.





Bossfight Game of The Decade : Kickoff

Putting together a '50 best games of the decade' feature isn't easy. Even in the process of drawing up our final lists, we've had to deal with heated arguments, diverse opinions, and suggestions that games such as 'Zeus' and 'Football Manager' should be in the top 10. Like we said, it isn't easy. So, before we begin, a few things to note :

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. There is no 'item 3'.
Oh - and some of this applies to the GoTY as well.

All right. Here we go. The fun begins in a bit.

Bossfight Game of the Year 2009 : Special Awards part Two

















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

The Next-Gen Decade : An overview of perhaps gaming's most exciting decade yet.

by Anand Ramachandran 

For an industry which is less than forty years old, a decade represents a very large and significant slice of history. The last ten years have been arguably the most exciting decade for videogames since the heady days of the eighties – with great leaps forward in every conceivable sphere. For those of us who are old enough to remember the early ATARI 2600 days when we though 'Enduro' was hyper-realistic and 'Raiders of The Lost Ark' featured a huge gameworld, there's an inescapable sense of wonder when we look at games like Forza Motorsport 3, Oblivion or Grand Theft Auto IV. At least, there should be.




 

Battling dragons in videogames has come a long way indeed.




This was the decade of the superconsoles – a period when the XBOX, PS3 and Wii became household names worldwide. Microsoft boldly entered the console gaming world, and shook up things so badly that a complacent Sony and a sleeping Nintendo were forced to bring their A-games back into the arena. The result? We, the gamers, have three great console platforms to play on, and thousands of great games to play. And videogame consoles have truly broken through into mainstream consciousness – as Christmas presents, as entertainment systems, and as cultural references. It's a rare point in gaming history that none of the three major players are going through a weak period. Consoles are promising to do new and wondrous things – motion gaming, face recognition, immersive 3-D – and if the last ten years are anything to go by, we're in for a wild ride.


Of course, this was a decade when the industry realized that there were millions of people who would play games, if only game makers would bother making gamnes that appealed to them. Will Wright, that mad genius, created a most unlikely game about ordinary people doing ordinary things (baking cakes, mowing the lawn, taking dumps), which promptly went on to become the best selling PC game franchise of all time. Nintendo, with the wonderful Wii and DS, brought millions of people into gaming's fold. Zynga, with their blockbuster facebook games Farmville and Mafia Wars, showed how relatively hardcore game mechanics could appeal to casual gamers. Apple showed the way for mobile games, demonstrating that their iconic iPhone was really a great device to play games on, with resounding success.







It was a decade where people played unexpected games, in unexpected ways.

The Wii, propelled by the 'Wow' factor of how their motion controller worked with the Wii sports title had people all over the world whooping with delight as they played virtual golf, tennis, bowling and boxing, gleefully swinging their Wiimotes in frantic joy. 10 million consoles sold, and the Wii shows no signs of slowing down. Rivals Microsoft (with the much anticipated Project Natal) and Sony were forced to respond, and will introduce their own motion controllers soon enough – only time will tell if they will find the same widespread appeal.


The Music genre was also responsible for taking gaming in a refreshing new direction, and to completely new audiences. What started off with Guitar Hero, the air-guitarists dream come true, has evolved into a genre that offers gamers the chance to play together as full-fledged rock bands – with guitar, bass, drums and vocals. And, in one of gaming's greatest coups, the Beatles : Rock Band featured the first time that the music of the greatest band of all time was available in a digital format. Now, everyone could vicariously experience the journey of the Fab Four, from Liverpool to world fame. The game sold millions of copies, and completely changed the landscape of the genre. For non-rock fans, DJ Hero soon followed, and 'air-DJs' could now spin their own mixes at the world's top nightclubs to their hearts' content.


The resurgence of casual gaming did not mean the end of hardcore games – in fact, it was quite the opposite. Hardcore games grew in popularity and influence – many casual games benefited from adopting design ideas from their more hardcore counterparts. The decade saw games reach a new level of achievement altogether – games like Baldur's gate 2, Metal Gear Solid 4, Super mario Galay, Half life 2, Uncharted 2 and Bioshock settling the 'are games art?' debate once and for all. With narrative making a strong comeback, games continue to grow as a fantastic storytelling medium, and the smart money is one games equalling or even surpassing cinema in terms of delivering immersive narrative experiences, in the next ten years. Case in point – James Cameron's sensational Avatar used a game-engine-like system which allowed Cameron to control the camera and direct the scenes as he pleased. Imagine that control in the hands of the end-user – enabling you to experience and explore the world of Avatar however you liked. The mind boggles.


As with many other things, gaming too went social thanks to the Internet. Games like Counter-Strike, Unreal Tournament, Halo and Call of Duty 4 took online multiplayer to whole new levels, with millions of players forming worldwide communities. World of Warcraft broke open the floodgates originally breached by Everquest, and changed the map for what is known today as 'massively multiplayer' gaming – where thousands of people from all over the world populate the virtual gameworld as elven wizards, dwarven warriors or human knights, interacting and adventuring together. With over 11 million active players (that's more than the population of Sweden, for instance), World of Warcaft is a phenomenon that has redefined gaming, and indeed, online social interactions. People meet on World of Warcraft, make friends, and even get married. And then they divorce, fighting over issues that are purely in the game. It's quite sensational, and rather scarily powerful. Online multiplayer has become the primary gameplay mode for shooters and sports games – still among the most profitable of genres – ensuring that players stay interested long after the single player experience has ended. Indeed, playing with and against other humans is infinitely more interesting than computer AI opponents, and is definitely the future of gaming.


The PC platform, like Mark Twain, gleefully announced that reports of its death were greatly exaggerated. Firmly establishing itself as the platform of choice for the truly hardcore and gaming's elite, modern PCs sped away like Usain Bolt with a tail-wind behind him, delivering graphics performance that made console gamers weep with envy. PC hardware continues to drive the hardware and software cutting-edge, and is taking the audio-visual aspect of gaming surely and steadily towards the holy grail of true realism. Titles like Dragon Age:Origins and Company of Heroes demonstrated why there are some things you can still do best on a PC.


Looking back, gaming has never been in better health. The market is rapidly growing. Innovation is everywhere. Gaming experiences are becoming exponentially better – more engaging, interactive, social and creative. Here's to the Knoughties, then – and let's drink to an even better decade coming up.




Bossfight plays next-gen games on Intel Core i5 .




Friday, December 18, 2009

Bossfight Game of the Year 2009 : Special Awards part One

Special Awards Part 1

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

Announcing the Bossfight India Game of The Year / Game of The Decade awards!

As the year 2009 (which mildly sucked) and the 'knoughties' decade (which totally pwned) come to a close, what better thing to do than celebrate the momentousness of the occasion by . . . er . . . making lists. Think that sounds lame? You're wrong - because our lists are AWESOME! There, that should clear it up.

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.
 

Dragon Age Special 01 - General game overview, and fanboy rant.

by Anand Ramachandran. This article first appeared, under a different headline, on my weekly Game Invader column for The New Indian Express. It is the first in a series of detailed Dragon Age based series that we will be doing in the coming weeks.


I actually carry a physical scar on my body that reminds me of Baldur's Gate 2. It was an argument at work over how I was spending too much time playing it, and needed to focus more on work, or something along those lines. I smashed my fist through a glass door in anger, found that my wrist had been slashed, and rather sheepishly rushed to hospital. The scar's still there. The game was THAT awesome.

Now, Dragon Age : Origins has finally arrived as its successor. And I've removed all glass objects from the vicinity. Just to be extra safe, I've stopped talking to people as well. This game is THAT awesome. In an earlier column, I had wondered if Bioware would finally deliver the classic their fans wanted. That question has been answered rather emphatically.



A glimpse of the battle that kicks off your journey in Dragon Age : Origins.


If, like me, you're a fan of the Infinity Engine games, then you've been disappointed by the lack of a true, next-gen sequel to those classics. The original Baldur's Gate titles, the Icewind Dale games, and Planescape : Torment were easily among the greatest CRPGs ever made, offering truly hardcore role-playing, great adventuring, and classic, addictive, tactical combat. To the true fans, no RPG that has come since then matches the supercharged chess-on-steroids like battles that the infinity Engine delivered based on the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons ruleset. Only those that have carefully plotted, strategized, stocked up on equipment, spells and potions meticulously to bring down a dragon or Demilich can understand.

Not that there weren't any great RPGs since then, indeed, there were several of the highest quality. The Elder Scrolls games such as Morrowind and Oblivion, Fallout 3, and Bioware's own Star Wars : Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect took role-playing and adventuring in exciting, fresh new directions. However, the combat didn't quite cut it. Of the games mentioned, only KOTOR came close to delivering an experience close to Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale.

Thankfully, Dragon Age scratches this very itch.

This is the game I've been waiting nine years to play. It's Baldur's Gate 2 with next-gen graphics and presentation, a great new role-playing and combat system, and quintessentially Bioware storytelling. I've been playing for a mere five or six hours, and have already been swept up into the game's world of intrigue, politics, evil, treachery, heroism, romance and high adventure. Bioware's game design and storytelling have always been top notch ( Baldur's Gate 2 is easily one of the greatest high-fantasy experiences of all time ), but now they have the technology to deliver a level of immersion that takes it to a different planet altogether. The world of Ferelden feels truly alive – grass sways as you run past, armor shines and glistens as you stride into battle, blood spatters on to your face as you hew your Darkspawn foes, your companions endlessly chatter and bicker amongst themselves. It's the perfect vehicle for the extremely solid role-playing system and the refined, brilliant tactical combat to truly shine through.




Dragon Age Origins is Baldur's Gate 2 on steroids. It's the game I've been waiting for for almost a decade now. Woo-Hoo!

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.

Thank you, Bioware. After nine years, I finally can lose myself in a game for hundreds of hours, just like I did with BG2.



Bossfight plays Dragon Age on Intel Core i5 .



Classic PC games get new life at Game4u.com

In a great development for PC gaming veterans and newbies alike, Milestone Interactive has introduced a great new line called 'PC Essentials', which features some bona-fide PC classics at amazing prices. It pleases me no end to see games like the Fallout titles and the almost-forgotten gem MDK available in stores today for an entire new generation of gamers to enjoy.


If you're a relative newcomer to gaming, chances are that you've never played Interplay's original Fallout games that paved the way for last year's blockbuster hit Fallout 3. The first two Fallout games are widely acknowledged as being among the finest role-playing experiences of all time. They featured enormous gameworlds – arguably even more detailed and nuanced than that of Fallout 3, amazing characters, and an intricate, detailed and engaging role-playing system. The tactical combat was also extremely addictive and deep, and it was the first time gamers were introduced to the V.A.T.S. System that Bethesda reinvented so well in Fallout 3. These are absolute must-play experiences for any self-respecting role-player, and indeed for any gamer even remotely interested in the industry's roots and history.


The 'Fallout Trilogy' compilation now available includes both these games, and the excellent combat oriented spinoff Fallout Tactics : Broherhood of Steel for the incredibly low price of Rs.499/-, making it easily one of the best deals available today. I cannot emphasize this enough – these are all-time classic games, which offer experiences that will effortlessly trump much of the superficial, overpriced, overhyped rubbish that we come across all too often these days. If you're a real gamer with the intelligence to look past useless physics or gratuitous graphic overload and recognize top-notch ganmeplay, you owe it to yourself to try these games.


Another sweet deal is Shiny Entertainment's old but forgotten classic MDK, one of the funniest action adventures ever made. It's a third person shooter in which you alternate between playing as a super-hero, a mad scientist, and a robotic dog. Do I really need to say more? It was received in it's day as one of the most spectacular single-player games ever, and continues to be most entertaining, over ten years after it was made. It's available for Rs.199/-, and you'd have to be crazy not to pick it up.


The 'PC Essentials' series also features titles like the strangely haunting 'Messiah' and the vastly underrated FPS 'Kingpin : Life of Crime'. Milestone has promised to release more titles, and I personally can't wait to experience my gaming boyhood all over again.


This is a great initiative, because it keeps a generation of classic games alive and kicking –  an invaluable service to the gaming community. These games deserve to be played by today's gamers, and the gamers in turn deserve the chance to enjoy the classics of a bygone, and arguably purer era of gaming. Additionally, these are titles that will run on practically any old computer – ensuring that almost anyone can enjoy top-quality gaming experiences on a rock-bottom budget. Of course, some of them may need a bit of tweaking before you can get them to run on modern operating systems, but there is plenty of help available on the Internet.


The games are available both in stores, and on Milestone's online store www.game4u.com. The site also offers offline payment modes, including a useful cash on delivery option. Sweet.


It's nice to see distributors here bring in innovations like this to spark the gaming market in India. Cheers to Milestone Interactive, and more power to further initiatives like this.

Does Uncharted 2 herald the future of storytelling ?

by Anand Ramachandran. This article first appeared on my weekly Game Invader Column for The New Indian Express

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

The hidden hardcoreness of casual games.

Farmville. Mafia Wars. Even if you've never played them, you've surely been annoyed by those incessant updates and notifications – it's like you're the only one among all your friends who isn't playing at least one of these games on facebook. They're taking the world by storm, and converting millions of people who don't normally play computer games into complete addicts.


At first glance, you'd probably be quick to identify this as a 'casual game' revolution, and assume that these games are successful because they're very different from the more traditional 'hardcore' games that none of your Farmville-playing friends would ever play. There are hardcore games and casual games, right? Hardcore gamers don't play casual games, and vice-versa, right?


A closer examination actually shows that this may not be completely true, after all. Take a long, hard look at Farmville and Mafia Wars – they both take core gameplay concepts from established games and genres in the hardcore space, and adapt them to appeal to casual gamers. Welcome to the new 'gaming', folks, where the lines between hardcore and casual are getting blurrier, and everyone has more fun.






Both Farmville and Civilization are games where you use up resources to improve tiles, which in turn generate better resources for further improvements, in an endlessly fun loop.



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.


Mafia Wars borrows its core gaming system from another hugely successful, and possibly most hardcore genre of them all, the role playing game. Think about it – Mafia Wars essentially consists of levelling up your stats and becoming more powerful, gaining cool new equipment as you progress, getting more loot to buy more powerful items, and fighting enemies. Exactly like a traditional hack and slash RPG, such as Diablo, Wizardry, or any Dungeons and Dragons based game. Even the combat is almost exactly similar – victory or defeat is decided in terms of mathematical calculations based on the various attributes of the two combatants. Sure, Mafia Wars doesn't play nice animations when you fight an opponent, but that's just fluff. Any true RPG fan knows that it's the number crunching that counts. Again, it's clear that it's a simplified and more accessible version, but it's undoubtedly a role-playing system that appeals to its fans for the exact same reasons that Diablo does.


The designers of these games have simply taken great, proven gameplay models and given them a shiny new coat of fun, friendly paint – making the games easy and accessible in terms of subject matter. But it's undeniable that, at their core, these new wave casual games have truly hardcore gaming DNA.


It's actually easier to understand this phenomenon if we take a short trip down memory lane, and look at the evolution of gaming into 'hardcore' and 'casual' streams. When computer games first started seeing commercial success, the concept of a 'hardcore' game didn't exist. The early games from Sierra, Infocom, Origin and Microprose were just that – games. The people who bought and played these titles with so much enthusiasm wouldn't fit today's definition of hardcore gamers – most of them were playing and falling in love with games for the first time. Games like Civilization and Ultima were among the most successful of the time, and people didn't complain that they were too 'hardcore'. First time gamers simply adored the gameplay, just like they now adore Farmville and Mafia Wars. See a pattern emerging?


As the gaming industry grew, game developers started making games harder and more complicated, packing in more features and complex control schemes and harder difficulty levels. This suited long-time fans looking for more from sequels to their favourite franchises, but before long, the trend distanced first-time gamers who were put off by the overwhelming complexity, confusing controls and high difficulty. The 'hardcore' game was thus born.


And when people stopped buying games because they were too hardcore, the industry, instead of looking to the past for lessons, decided to create a completely new category they called 'casual' games, which mostly consisted of pattern matching, puzzles, and simple reflex based gameplay.


The two streams thus caused a completely needless divergence, and created an artificial divide among gamers – the hardcore would scoff at the casual, and the casual would ignore the hardcore. Of course, a few classics like Tetris and Peggle managed to appeal equally to both segments, but by and large, both segments of gamers missed out on the joys offered by the opposite side.


However, luckily for us, the division couldn't be kept up for too long. Casual gamers started discovering old classics like Pac-Man and Defender which are among the most hardcore games ever made. The hardcore set was charmed by the genius of developers like PopCap, and began demanding minigames and such diversions in their gaming diet. Nintendo pitched in happily, with the DS and the Wii cheerfully breaking down all manner of barriers. Hardcore driving games such as Forza Motorsport added features that made it fun even for the most casual of players. And social networks have given games like Farmville the chance to recreate gaming's happy history all over again.


Which just goes to show that great gameplay is great gameplay – whatever the audience. The only barriers to a fundamentally good game appealing to a player (whether hardcore or casual) are difficulty and accessibility. A game like Farmville worked with the casual crowd because you were improving a farm, not a space colony like in Alpha Centauri. Tell the hardcore set that, in Bejwelled, you're actually trying to unlock a secret gem puzzle code that contains an ancient secret, throw in the words 'rune', 'dragons' and 'quest', and they'll be playing for hours together. Once you have the gameplay, the packaging decides who your audience is.


This happy convergence of hardcore and casual games will hopefully lead to a significant migration of players in both directions, encouraging more people to try and buy games in greater varieties and numbers, creating a truly mass market for videogames. And then, the fun can begin in right earnest.

Beating The Mythology Hangover : My talk at the NASSCOM Game Developer Summit

As promised - here are the slides I presented during my talk entitled 'Beating The Mythology Hangover' at the NASSCOM Indian Game developer Summit on November 7th at Hyderabad.

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

And now to download something completely different.

The Internet and Monty Python turn 40 this year. An appreciation of both.


Anand ramachandran


It's funny, really. How Monty Python and the Internet were both born in the same year, forty years ago.


It was 1969, the year Jimi Hendrix played 'The Star Spangled Banner' at Max Yasgur's farm, the year the Beatles broke up, the year man landed on the freakin' moon. It was the year Honduras and El Salvador went to war over a football game, the year the Boeing 747 first took to the skies, the year Led Zeppelin burst onto the scene and changed Rock n Roll forever.


In the midst of all this excitement, John Cleese thought it would be a good idea to invite Michael Palin to join Graham Chapman and himself to create a brand new television series for the BBC. Across the pond, US defense scientists used a cool new technology called 'packet-switching' to establish a network connection (They called it ARPANET. Scientists. You'd think they'd have come up with something cooler) between computers located at the UCLA, the Stanford Research Institute, UC Santa Barbara and the University of Utah.


As a result of these two seemingly unrelated events, today we watch episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus on YouTube, excitedly send the link to our friends over e-mail, Facebook and Twitter, and waste the rest of our working day LOLing at the antics of the greatest comedy team in history. It's a complete #WIN.


Today, forty years later, it's almost impossible to wrap our minds around the impact that the Internet has had on our lives. It's like trying to describe how our lives have been affected by the invention of the wheel, or language, or processed food. Today, most of us live in a dizzying swirl of instant, always-on connections that criss-cross so many aspects of our daily lives, it's hard to imagine what life was like before the Internet.


One way to try and define the impact of the Internet is to look at the situations that it has made extinct. When was the last time you spent days trying to remember the lyrics to a song on the tip of your tongue, or the author of a book, or the winner of a sporting event? When was the last time you pored over old newspapers to find the advertisement you suddenly want to respond to? When was the last time that getting information from a college meant writing a letter to them and hoping for the best?


Yes, we don't receive warm, personal greeting cards on our birthdays anymore. But we do get hundreds of wishes from friends we haven't seen for years, and that's pretty nice. Yes, the excitement of finally finding a rare music album or movie is a thing of the past. But we do get to watch or listen to anything we want to, whenever we choose, and that's pretty cool. Suddenly feel the urge to watch Monty Python's famous 'dead parrot' sketch? No need to scour video stores, wait hopefully for TV reruns, or badger relatives in the UK. You can't tell me that's a bad thing.


We find jobs without having to leave our homes, reach hundreds of people instantly when we need help during a medical emergency, quickly verify the truth in rumours and don't have to risk buying products without learning what the world thinks of them first.


If you have any sense of wonder at all, you can't help but marvel at the amazing sci-fi-ness of it all. Science fiction writers teased us with tales of vid-phones (skype), mass broadcasting of thought streams (twitter), virtual avatars engaging in gladiatoral combat (multiplayer games) and all-knowing computer oracles (the world wide web). But they didn't warn us that it would all happen in our lifetimes. Guess they didn't know.


And those of us born in the sixties and seventies, we caught the crest of the wave. We're the ones who are old enough to remember what it was like before, and are young enough to be in the thick of what it's like now. And I hazard that we're the ones having the most fun, grinning like idiots as we live out what were merely fantasies when we were kids.


Even as I write this column in my home office, in my immediate vicinity there are eight devices which are connected to the Internet (two computers, three videogame consoles, two handheld gaming units and a smartphone) – I can almost see a John Cleese sketch called 'the Needlessly Overconnected Man', in which Eric Idle smugly explains to an increasingly stressed-out Cleese how he uses one broadband connection merely to check if the other one is working properly. Cleese then downloads a pistol and shoots Idle in the head, saying “What a senseless waste of human life.” Sounds far-fetched? Wait another twenty years, mate.


Until then, Happy 40th Anniversay, Internet. It's nice to have you around. And you too, Pythons.


This piece first appeared in the 31st October edition of The Financial Express

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bossfight at NASSCOM Game Developer Summit !

I've been invited to speak at NASSCOM's Game Developer Summit, which is a part of NASSCOM Animation and Gaming Summit 2009. I've attended the event for the past three years, but this is the first time I'll be speaking. (the thought of me speaking at the same event as Ernest Adams is truly amusing, but hey, I'll take it ;)

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.

A reckless disregard for gravity.


Among the many delightful independent games available on Steam, Valve's online game distribution service, comes one that is undoubtedly the most imaginatively named titles in recent memory. It's called AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! - A Reckless Disregard for Gravity, and , at less than eight hundred rupees, it's one of the best value for money games you can buy this year.


Developed and published by Dejobaan Games (an impossibly serious voice announces “bringing you quality videogames for over seventy-five years” during the game's intro video), Aaaaa! is everything videogames should be – amusing, original, innovative and heaps of fun. To get an idea of the sense of irreverent humour that Dejobaan has brought to this title, just visit their web site and see for yourself.


Basically, this is a game about jumping off extremely tall buildings, hurtling towards your tiny landing pad target, opening your chute in time, and land without any broken bones. It's played in first-person, so you'll basically be looking down as you free-fall through the skyscrapers that make up the game's levels, trying to hit targets, collect points, annoy spectators by showing them the finger (really) and open your parachute as late as possible for maximum points. Falling close to building surfaces, and even brushing them, get you additional score bonuses. But get it wrong, and you'll painfully bounce from wall to ledge to overhang, and break a lot of bones on your way down.



It's a game played almost completely at breakneck speed. You begin each level standing on the rooftop of a building, walking around and looking down for the best possible route to the landing. But at some point, you have to jump off. And then, the game becomes magical – you will hurtle towards the ground at blinding speed, accelerating all the time. The walls of buildings, beams, ledges, neon signs, roofs and spectators whiz by in a blur – you'll have to make split second decisions and choose your path – or wind up as street pizza. It's a bona-fide adrenaline rush.


Adding to the game's already high WTF quotient are special items – an espresso shot that will slow down your surroundings, a glove that will help you flip off spectators, a spray can that helps you paint grafiiti on the walls as you zoom past them. It's all quite completely insane, and a blast to play.


The visuals are a neon-futuristic-techno-cyberpunk genre of classics like WipeOut XL, Rez, Geometry Wars and the old arcade classics. It's all high contrast, brightly glowing, pulsating, strobing madness, and it moves by in a whirling, twirling dance of dazzling brilliance.


A game such as this lives or dies by its level design. There are too many examples of a great concept being completely deflated by poor level design, but this isn't one such instance. You'll replay each level multiple times trying to rack up the highest possible score (or, in the game's terminology, get mazimum 'teeth'. Don't ask.) and you'll never be bored.


Most importantly, Aaaaa! is unapologetic about being what it is – a game. There's no attempt at story, or narrative, or anything more than the most wafer-thin of contexts to the gameplay. It's our art form at its purest – a harkback to the glory days of Tetris, Pac-Man and Breakout where gameplay alone decided the success of a game in the eyes of critics and fans.

Aaaaa! is an unqualified triumph of unfettered, imaginative game development. If you care about games at all, you should support developers like Dejobaan by buying it. More power.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Finally - my graphic novel comes to life.

Here - a special sneak preview of a project I'm working on for the Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore.

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

The Kalmadi - Hooper Papers


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.

Sincerely,

Suresh Kalmadi.



Mr.Kalmadi,

I'm not useless. You're only useless. You always make things very late. Your party will be late and boring.

Yours,

Mike Hooper




Hooper,

Shut up. You always tell bad things to my friends and use bad language. You're a bad boy. I tell to principal.

Suresh




Su-su boy,

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.

Fuck off.

Mike




Hooper,

Hooper, mein su-su karoonga thumhare sar ke ooper.

Kalmadi.


And so on. I think all of them should be sent to detention, and the party cancelled.

A console-free gaming world? Just maybe.

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.