Eliza and Tekken Revolution downward spiral

22 March, 2014 at 1:49 am | Posted in editorial | Leave a comment
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Since 2012’s underwhelming sales performance of Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Namco have been in a quandary about how to manage their precious Tekken IP.

The following year in 2013, not one but two free-to-play Tekken games were released. One of them was a collectible card game I reviewed on this blog (Tekken Card Tournament) and the other game was a regular fighting game exclusive to the Sony Playstation 3 (Tekken Revolution).

Tekken Revolution is essentially a tweaked version of Namco’s magnum opus, Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Tekken Revolution has a smaller cast of characters, less stages, and is generally a more digestible game – especially for newcomers to the Tekken series.

If Namco’s “less is more” approach wasn’t inviting enough; the price certainly was. Like many other free to play games, its possible to play without spending any real life currency but if you want a more complete experience you are encouraged to take them up on their offer of microtransactions.

Do you want to play as a character that is not in the original roster? You can pay to unlock them instantly. Do you want a competitive edge and a character who can do slightly more damage? You can pay to do that, too. Do you want to play the game for more than half an hour at a time? Welcome to the future of free to play fighting games as they resemble their coin-operated arcade past.

There is but one thing you can’t buy in Tekken Revolution: the new exclusive character, Eliza.

Tekken-Revolution-Eliza-790x444

Eliza can only be unlocked by accumulating a particularly rare in-game currency of blood seals. I opted not to pay any real world money and after 3 months of clocking up somewhere in the region of 50-60 hours of gameplay (spread out in 30 mins bursts, of course), I have finally unlocked this new character.

I remember triumphantly going to the character select screen and selecting her. Eliza is a very special character because she can conjure projectiles and perform other wiccan feats. I went through her moves list and found out that she could float, and do other magical attacks that send her opponent hurtling around the fighting area like a cheap toy.

But very quickly, the magic wore off. Eliza feels like an unfinished character. For all her showy moves, she doesn’t have anywhere near the same range of moves as the rest of the cast. Her options are limited from crouching or side stepping (she doesn’t even have special side throws). Her pokes are limited. This is a character where you have to go ‘all in’ and clunkily attack your opponent and hope they get suckered into your aggressive onslaught.

Tekken is a game of subtle nuances. How your character moves is important. Spacing between you and your opponent is important. Selecting a move for the right situation is important. Anticipating your opponent is important. When I was a newcomer to high level play in this game, with a sense of wry irony I described the game as a dance. But really, it is very much like that.

Eliza is a fun character, but ultimately very linear and unsatisfying. The introduction of projectiles and invincible moves into this version of Tekken disrupts the delicate balance of the game.

Tekken Revolution is undoubtedly more instantly accessible than Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and even Tekken 6 before it. But it’s lost something in the process. The game rewards you for mindless aggressive play and hasty invincible move counter attacks. The game fails to be “simple, without being simplistic”.

Newcomers to the game will find it frustrating that they can’t play it how they feel it should be played, because Tekken is a very unique 3D fighting game. Seasoned veterans find the game frustrating because it no longer plays how previous Tekken games have played.

This potentially implosive direction of the franchise can be represented by Eliza. Alluring from far, but not satisfying enough to keep you coming back for more.

Errant Signal – “Keep Your Politics Out of my Video Games”

20 October, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Posted in editorial | Leave a comment

I recently watched this youtube video about games and politics, and I really liked it.

I am about to say some sweeping general statements. Politics are meant to be serious. Video games are meant to be fun.

These type of assumptions mean that there are rarely agreeable overlaps between the two areas. I think that this video uses humour and funny images to bridge the gap and make some interesting arguments.

It briefly examines some political themes in GTA5, Civilisation and Bioshock Infinite. The video also admits that if we want to open the door to “games as art” then we must also open the door to “games as political artefacts or symbols”.

I don’t think this means that we should assess the political implications of every game we play at all times, but that we should at least show an awareness and take some responsibility for our entertainment.

More than just a party game: Smash Brothers

15 October, 2013 at 7:53 am | Posted in blogging | Leave a comment

I didn’t sleep last night. I got completely caught up in watching this comprehensive 9 part documentary about Smash Bros over at eventhubs.

Smash Bros is a popular fighting game developed by Nintendo. You select a character from one of their famous franchises, such as Super Mario or Pikachu, and you are put inside a 2D box arena and have to fight your opponent and force them out of the playing area. It’s simple, easy to learn (a beginner can play the game using only 3 buttons) but difficult to master.

This well produced documentary series from East Point Pictures explains the formation of a competitive gaming scene centred around this game. I’ve embedded the first video below, but for the complete list, follow this link to eventhubs.

Smash Bros has a very special place in my heart. Not many know this, but I even have the game’s circular emblem as a tattoo on my right arm. The game is lovingly crafted, and there are so many homages and references to the other games that it encapsulates.

I didn’t find out about the competitive Smash Bros scene until 2005, and at that point I was living in the UK. I met up with other ‘smashers’ a few times – I even hosted a few casual smash sessions in London. The game still remains one of my favourite games of all time to this day.

I hope you enjoy the documentary as much as I did. And remember: you don’t have to watch it all in one day!

‘Video Games and Learning’ course

14 October, 2013 at 11:08 am | Posted in blogging | Leave a comment

I’ve recently enrolled in an online course about video games and learning over at coursera.org.

This is the first time that I have ever tried a MOOC course, and so far, I am really enjoying it. There are plenty of video lectures (conveniently broken up into bitesize chunks between 2 and 10 mins) and some reading material as well.

For the first assignment, I had to play a game for at least 30 mins and then record a 60 second youtube video about it. I chose to talk about a game called Fuz Rush. The fruits of my labour are below:

I drastically underestimated the length of time it would take me for this assignment. Playing the game was obviously, the easy part. Thinking critically about how it related to the course was a litle bit harder. But for me, the hardest part was actually producing the video.

The youtube video above does not include any gameplay footage. Although I did film myself playing the game, I was unable to edit the video to include this. At the time of writing I’ve just switched over to using a Mac and I didn’t have enough time to learn how to use iMovie’11 before the deadline.

I also found it difficult to literally speak to the camera in a coherent way that made sense. It took several attempts to film that 60 second segment because I was hesitating and forgetting all of the things that I wanted to cram into the video. The actual speaking part is something that I definitely want to work on in the future!

I am Street Fighter – 25th Anniversary Documentary

8 September, 2013 at 3:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I’ve just finished watching this youtube documentary about Streetfighter and along with it, fighting games culture. The documentary is over 1 hour long, but I found to be worth watching.

You must have heard of Streetfighter, but if for some reason you haven’t – Streetfighter is a 1 on 1 fighting game originally released in the late 1980’s. You must select your character (each character has their on set of special moves to defeat their opponent) and fight your way to defeat all other opponents be declared the world champion.

What I love about this documentary is: it’s not really about the story of Streetfighter. It’s about the story of anyone has been affected by Streetfighter. The gradual development of the game over the past 30 years is not really part of this documentary at all. The introduction of new characters, special moves, and gameplay dynamics are completely ignored unless they are connected to an individual story.

A brilliant example of this is a story about special moves and how in the early days of the game, well before the internet, they had this incredible mystery about them. In your local arcade, perhaps there would be someone who can consistently do them… but the majority of people had no idea how this was done.

The documentary also prominently features Justin Wong and Seth Killian. Justin Wong tells his story about how he was immersed in the fighting game culture from a young age and how it is really an integrated part of his life.

Seth talks in great detail about his love of the game, and how he was so excited to be part of the development of Streetfighter 4.

If you watch this video, perhaps you will understand that Streetfighter is so much more than simply a fighting game.

Android Ice Cream Sandwich

25 February, 2013 at 1:48 am | Posted in blogging | Leave a comment
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I recently lost my phone. Which is bad.

However, when I replaced it I also bought an Android tablet running the 4.03 “Ice Cream Sandwich” OS. This means that I now have access to all sorts of new apps and games!

android

So this blog could have more of a focus on casual gaming for tablets in the near future! The first game that I installed was Tekken Card Tournament – I seem to be really hooked on this game at the moment!

But of course there are many other games that I can now easily play 🙂

A look “under the bonnet” of Tekken Card Tournament

20 February, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Posted in blogging | Leave a comment
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A brief word of warning: this post is NOT about gaming. It’s about the technology used in the Tekken Card Tournament game.

From what I can tell, there are two main components of how the game works.

Unity – is the main engine of the game. This has all the assets such as 3D characters, sounds, art, etc. Unity also contains the actual code for the game functions Continue Reading A look “under the bonnet” of Tekken Card Tournament…

Tekken Card Tournament Review

11 February, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Posted in reviews | Leave a comment
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Is it really fair to review a game which is still in early beta? Probably not. However I haven’t reviewed a single game on this blog for literally years, so let’s do this.

Tekken Card Tournament (or TCT) is currently a browser based card battling game, which borrows characters and stages from the Tekken universe, specifically Tekken 6. It’s powered by the cross platform Unity engine, and graphically it is quite impressive for a browser based game.

tekkencardtournament

It uses a free to play business model: that is the game is absolutely free, but the in-game currency is a real life paid commodity. Or perhaps I should say that one day it will be – at the current time of writing, even if you are compelled to whip out that credit card and buy as many virtual items, this is a feature that hasn’t been implemented.

The way the game works is incredibly simple. It is turn based, and you can choose to block, attack, or focus. You start without the ability to attack. Every time you focus, you store up the ability to attack once, but you are vulnerable to being attacked. If you choose to block and your opponent chooses to use their stored attacks, the first two of those attacks are rendered completely ineffective but the rest will land as normal.

This gameplay was best described on a Neogaf blog post as “FOCUSFOCUSFOCUSFOCUSATTACKFOCUSBLOCK” and, in the early days it is pretty much like that. At low levels the game plays very similar to rock paper scissors. You just click buttons and guess what your opponent will do. Cards in this game are almost always face up, so you and your opponent can both see what options you have available.

Once you are a few hours into the game, some depth does appear to it. You have to create a deck of cards for each character, and you can pick and choose each attack. This is where the game becomes deeper, because attacks can chain together and you can really put together some good strategies.

Each character in the roster’s movelist suddenly becomes like a list of spells. I play as Paul Pheonix in the regular game of Tekken and I decided to follow suit (no pun intended) in this card game also. Just like in the normal game of Tekken, Paul has a very straightforward playing style. His moves do lots of damage, but they by and large predictable. The card game version is no exception – Paul’s moves do lots of damage, but you kind of know what you are getting.

Contrast this with the playing styles of say, Lily or Yoshimitsu, and their cards have rules which nullify other opponents cards or allow them to draw additional cards without focusing, or in the case of Yoshimitsu his cards may even be hidden from play, really leaving your opponent guessing what will happen next.

I originally entered into the open beta with morbid curiousity, as I had heard nothing but bad things about this game and I was curious to see for myself what it plays like. But I have to admit, I actually like it!

Each match in the game lasts approximately 1-2 minutes, and you can only play up to 5 matches at any one time. So it is perfect for dipping in and out of. In the future when it is on smartphones and tablets, I can imagine this game being perfect to play during the downtime while you are waiting for a train, bus or if you have a few minutes spare here and there.

The future plans for this game development is also quite crazy – there are plans to release real life playing cards, that you scan in using a smartphone to add them to your virtual deck. But you can also play this game offline using real life cards! It will be interesting to see how that turns out!

For a game that I was honestly expecting to be really unplayable and a complete disaster, I must admit that I am impressed! I look forward to playing it a bit more when it comes out of beta and I will even look at buying some actual cards when they are released later in 2013.

7/10

Line Pop! Thailand’s MRT casual game of choice

9 February, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Posted in blogging | Leave a comment

In Bangkok, on the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit – it’s their subway system) you can see lots of people playing with all sorts of gadgets. It’s common to see people using tablets, smartphones and even the occasional PSP, PSP Vita and 3DS.

The cool thing about the MRT is that you can receive wifi while on your underground commute. It’s a big thing for me, because in my hometown of London if you travel underground it is a complete blackout of all wifi and phone signal.

So naturally people use social networks and instant messaging, but a common sight while on the commute is something called LINE pop. It’s part of LINE’s instant messaging app, and it looks something like this:

linepop

This game is very popular! It’s basically a skinned version of Bejewled Blitz: you have a few minutes to match up as many coloured blocks as you can and compete with your friends. You can tell that the commuters are avid players of this game! The screen is a blur of exploding coloured blocks.

Tekken Card Tournament

31 January, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Posted in blogging | Leave a comment
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Tekken is known for having a crazy storyline. It has robots, animals, supernatural entities and certain characters who don’t die or age.

Although the games are about fighting, the original Tekken Tag Tournament famously had a bowling game – imaginatively titled “Tekken Bowl”. Tekken 3 had a popular volleyball-style game, “Tekken Ball”.

But the most recent decision to make a Tekken turn based card fighting game has to be the craziest departure for the franchise yet.

I haven’t played this insane card game, but from what I can tell on the website it is a free to play game powered by Unity engine and has cross platform play between PC’s, tablets and smartphones.

So the free to play business model is: they give you a free sample of part of the game, and you need to use a real life currency to help buy rare items and stuff like that.

My favourite part of the website is the FAQ’s section:

"Can I play offline?
No. An internet connection is required to play the game. If you disconnect, Heihachi will come in person to reconnect you (if available)."

Well, at least they have a sense of humour about what they are doing!

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