Review: Splatoon - Staying Fresh [Update]

Original Review: June 28, 2015

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.

Ontario atop Leaderboards for Independent Video Game Development

On August 29, 2012, just after 1 p.m., Miguel Sternberg stared obsessively at his computer in his Toronto home office. He had not slept in days. Sleepless and exhausted, Sternberg finally completed the final touches for the launch of his PC video game, They Bleed Pixels. After submitting the final game build, he watched in haze as the sales figures refreshed throughout the afternoon. He waited to find out if the countless hours, savings and government funds would pay off.

 

Years later, things aren't much calmer for the independent developer as he juggles a new They Bleed Pixels update with two other projects.  Sternberg works alongside programmer Andrij Pilkiw under the studio name, Spooky Squid Games Inc. They hope to hire another employee this year and dedicate time to working on newer projects. "I think at this point we'd like to grow a bit," Sternberg says, "and that takes more money than we have."

Spooky Squid Games and other Canadian developers can expand studios with help from government tax credits and creative grants. Canada's early establishment of video game tax credits helped it become the third largest country for video game development. Quebec and British Columbia now house the world's largest studios and created multimillion dollar franchises such Assassin's Creed and FIFA soccer. Each of Canada's successful video games combined to contribute $2.3 billion to Canada's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014. With most of the large studios in other provinces, Ontario's grants and business incentives transformed the province into the destination for independent game development.

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.

Syndicate content