Review: Splatoon - Staying Fresh

1-up mushrooms mean nothing in modern Super Mario games. If you run out of lives, a negligible 'Game Over' flashes on screen. A meaningless lives counter, like many other Nintendo ideas, shows their stubbornness to change and adapt. It's why their hardware still uses Friend Codes and lacks digital license ownership.

When Splatoon, Nintendo's online third person-shooter, lacks basic party systems, region filters and voice chat, I can't I'm surprised. But just like a pointless lives counter, I grudgingly deal with the unintelligible multiplayer design. Splatoon drips with imagination when you customize Inklings and spread ink everywhere, making the unnecessary restrictions an even greater blunder.

Review: Bloodborne - Veteran Paradise and Novice Hell

Since Bloodborne won't teach, you must then discover. Before playing, you need to create a character and select an Origin - a template with preset statistics. Brief descriptions explain each Origin, but why create a character with higher Bloodtinge? What exactly is Bloodtinge?  After the character creation, I discover the help menu detailing the statistical effects. It's the only help menu available. I'm not asking for advice on efficient equipment or combat strategies; I at least want basic information. With or without a tutorial, Yharnam's mystery won't dissolve if message prompts told me I can level my character after encountering any boss. Ambiguity fills the plagued region of Yharnam, which makes Bloodborne both a compelling and unwelcoming game to explore.

The Souls franchise built a reputation of difficulty and fairness, not unjust punishment. Death - an unavoidable thing in both life and Bloodborne - happens from mistakes and overconfidence. I never died because of an unavoidable ambush or random pitfall; I died of my own fault. When you reach the boss after exploring a large area, it often means death. And with death comes a punishment in lost Blood Echoes (souls), progress and confidence. Just like Demon's Souls on the PlayStation 3, Bloodborne's punishment leaves an opportunity for a second chance to regain lost items.

Review: Super Mega Baseball - A Grand Salami

I stopped playing sports games when EA stopped making the MVP Baseball series. After MVP Baseball 2005, newer baseball franchises sprinted towards realism and complexity. Developers introduced start-stop throwing meters and fighting game analog stick pitching motions. Then MLB: The Show added pulsing pitch targets, which made throwing one pitch a multi-step process. Over the last decade, the separation from simplicity didn't make baseball games better.

I don't want to guess pitches or control fielders to catch pop-ups - I want to get batters out and drive in runs. Super Mega Baseball eliminates the boring parts of modern baseball games and returns to the simplicity of the MVP Baseball series. While complexity can add depth, the team at Metalhead Software Inc. achieves depth by removing unnecessary hitting or pitching systems. Super Mega Baseball lacks hyper-realistic graphics or MLB licenses, but gives players the simplest, most exciting baseball game in over a decade.

Shawn McGrath Interview - Developing Dyad

This interview with Shawn McGrath was conducted in early 2014. The feature was written for a university assignment and I'm publishing it now for easier access. 

One-year-old John (real name changed for privacy) sits in his playpen looking up at his father as he points the spray bottle in his direction."Pewsh, you're dead," Shawn McGrath says and John laughs as the mist lands on his perfectly round face. McGrath heads back to the kitchen where the tea water boils where he continues explaining his trip to Toronto to help develop N++.

McGrath spent the last few days working on N++, the next game from his friend's studio, Metanet Software Inc. But McGrath only helps with the development of N++ and prefers to work alone on his games. At age 31, McGrath knows he can't work a normal office job - he tried many times before.
 

Upstairs in his Mississauga home, power tools lie on the exposed wood floor leading to his office. McGrath, his wife Kuini and son John moved in a few months ago to live closer to Kuini's parents. In his office, textbooks on graphical rendering pile up on the corner of the desk beside the PlayStation 4 controllers plugged into his development computer. On the furthest desk corner, a Macbook sits on another pile of textbooks. He's anticipating an email from Sony representatives.

"I have a great relationship with Sony. I love the people there," McGrath says. His most recent game, Dyad - a tunnel racing game - released in July 2012 for the PlayStation 3. Throughout the development of Dyad, Sony helped in every way they could. If McGrath ever needs specialized help, Sony would easily fly someone to his home.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War - The Inactive Parts of War

World War I is boring. Trench warfare meant soldiers more often battled mud soaked socks and disease carrying rats, not enemy soldiers. In a battle of attrition, armies won trench warfare through continuous air attacks and cannon bombardments. Soldiers knew that no man's land, the empty space between trenches, meant death by gunfire or barbed wire. A war of attrition makes for boring video games. While waiting, no one wants to wring out socks and dig tunnels for a dozen hours. Valiant Hearts: The Great War doesn't try to show the boring, candid part of trench life, it succeeds on its own.

The German's Blitzkrieg tactic in World War II put soldiers at the front lines behind ally armour to push forward, not defend ground. Developers loved to replicate the attack and defence of major strategic points such as Carentan, France. WWII's notable fights, mobile armor and airborne attacks showed the destruction people wanted from games. A soldier's psychological erosion in the flooded trenches of WWI doesn't excite people, shooting does.

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