Seriously, What Happened to Co-op?


Does anyone else look back and reminisce about co-op? I have such fond memories, having a friend or two over and turning on the Xbox and working together, exploring worlds together, rather than simply racing or fighting or shooting one another. Why is co-op so rare now a days? Does no one else enjoy playing with someone rather than against them? The only game I can think of that has come out recently is Diablo that offers a co-op experience. The focus of multiplayer has changed to competitive, pitting players against each other. Don’t get me wrong, I have zero problem with this, I thoroughly enjoy games like Call of Duty, Battlefield and Titanfall, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy co-op.

Dorkly’s – The Age of Multiplayer

Why are developers ignoring co-op? A game like Assassins Creed seems like a perfect co-op type game to me, there is a multiplayer aspect to it as is, it seems to me, it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to include a co-operative section to the game. The most recent installment, Black Flag could have been especially interesting, imagine traversing the vast open ocean and coming across a fellow player’s pirate ship only to team up and begin pillaging the high seas together! Sounds f**king awesome no?

UPDATE: AC Unity will have co-op, apparently Ubisoft realized how right I was, and decided to include it in their most recent addition to the massive franchise. Which reinforces this idea of co-op being a good thing, which we need more of.

Some of my favourite co-op games include, Gears of War, Borderlands, Minecraft and Diablo. These games all do co-op well and it never feels shoe-horned in, which is definitely important. There are however many games which co-op could be included and it would add to the experience rather than take away. I used to consider myself a lone-wolf type of gamer, especially with shooters, however last year I began to play in a group, five or six of us would play together fairly regularly and it was so much more fun. I had no idea what I was missing out on. Now I almost always play with at least someone else because it’s just so much better. I love playing with a couple friends, why not make it so that we can work together?

Diablo 3’s main characters

Borderlands 2, 4 main characters

Borderlands both 1 and 2 did a great job of making co-op easy and awesome, similar to Diablo. Playing with people was not only more enjoyable but it helped your character, you gained experience faster and had a better chance of finding upper tier items. Why these types of games are not more common baffles me, hopefully in the coming months and years we will see more games like this or at least including a form of this. Games like Assassins Creed and Battlefield and even Skyrim could become even better with an inclusion of co-op.

Online multiplayer seems to be the main culprit for the decline in couch gaming (playing with friends on the same couch). The rise of online gaming should not mean that splitscreen or local multiplayer is not important. My favourite gaming experiences often involve a group of my friends and I playing together all on the same couch, whether it be against each other or working together. I think that co-op gaming online is good, however I don’t think it is as good as the local alternative. Too often online co-op is offered with no local option, this simply does not cut it. I don’t want to have to have multiple consoles and copies of a game in order to play with my friend, if they don’t have the console then we can’t play together.  Online co-op and the idea of playing together through the internet is basically what ended local multiplayer, I guess the idea being why bother leaving your couch to play on someone else’s. I see the appeal, but at the same time, it’s just not the same. There are singleplayer games and there are multiplayer games, social gaming has transformed from people being in the same room to no one playing in the same room. The social side of gaming is one of the best aspects of the pass time, I really hope games like Diablo 3 and others like it show developers it should not be done away with.

Diablo 3, 4 people one screen

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The Big E


E3 only comes once a year, this week it has been in full swing and basically all my attention is focused on it. I just can’t get enough of all these new and exciting games. I have watched all the major briefings and there is just so much to be excited for. I new the near future was full of games but this is crazy, I have seen 20 games which I feel like I have to buy! My wallet hates me right now, and it’s going to hate me more in the next few months.

If you play games or consider yourself a gamer… and you DON’T know E3 check it the fuck out right now!

Gaming as an industry is definitely not dying, if there was ever a worry of that (which there was a few months ago, around the time of the new console launches) it is certainly not true. If E3 is any indication gaming is bigger and stronger than ever. I am so happy and so looking forward to the future of the industry.

 

Are Games Getting to Easy?


I run, sprinting along a rooftop, jump, just barely make it, look around, a guard is about to fire, I jump down. Suddenly I find myself surrounded, I draw my swords. Within a minute or two, ten bodies lie at my feet and the few that are left turn and flee. I felt like a badass, but then I looked at my health bar, I had only gotten hit once… I the feeling of badassery left me, the game made it too easy.

5 guards? no sweat

Recently I have noticed a lot of games seem to hold your hand while you play, they coddle you, make sure you understand everything and then make sure nothing is to challenging especially not right away. If you ever get stuck or lost, the game makes it all too easy to find your way back. I understand why developers do this, they don’t want the game to alienate a potential player by making the game too challenging. However an argument could be made that they are in fact doing the opposite. Games are becoming too easy, without a challenge you lose a sense of accomplishment, Assassins Creed is one of the most notoriously easy games in my opinion. To make things worse, this series seems to get easier with each installment, guards are incredibly easy, they all take a turn attacking with a very obvious set of movements. The difficulty level is easy to start with, but as you progress through the game your character gets better equipment, making it even easier so by the end enemies offer no challenge. This frustrates me, I remember games being difficult, you had to be good at the game, or at least have some skill.

Fighting your first dragon in Skyrim

Games like Skyrim and of course the famous Dark Souls series are some of the few that do not fall into the easy category. Skyrim is not necessarily difficult, but if you change it to the highest level it can definitely be a challenge, enemies like dragons and trolls and the like do not seem much of bother when you are level 50… until you ramp up the difficulty to master, then a dragon becomes a terrifying sight once again, reminiscent of the first time you encountered one, It flying around above you, raining death. Dark Souls is probably the most famous for being difficult, both games are notorious for causing gamers to fly into a rage. A friend of mine, who I must say is incredibly calm (I have never ever seen him even raise his temper towards a game) was playing Dark Souls, he ended up getting so frustrated he ended braking his PS3 controller in two.

Dark Souls – Off to try and kill this stupid dragon for the 15th time

Dark Souls is a bit extreme I must say, it is incredibly challenging, but rarely have I experienced such a sense of accomplishment within a game. Now don’t get me wrong I am definitely not saying that all games should be like Dark Souls, definitely not. I am simply saying that a challenge once in a while would not be terrible. Games like Assassins Creed should stop holding our hands, let us take a crack at it, don’t make it so easy anyone can play, or at least have different difficulty settings. I am tired of being able to sleep through games without even trying I end up often beating them too quickly or easily.

Shadow of Mordor – I can’t wait to go back to Middle Earth


There is finally a Lord of The Rings game I can get excited about. It’s called Shadow of Mordor and does it ever look good, the game puts you in the shoes of Talion a warrior of Gondor who while defending the Black Gate (before the events of the movies, before Sauron re-inhabits Mordor) is overrun and killed along with the rest of his battalion. He is then brought back to life by a wraith (similar to the nazgul in the movies) he thus gains the power to move between planes, he can see the wraith world and use wraith like powers in battle but he is still mostly human. The game has RPG elements including a large open world, you must travel throughout the land of Mordor killing your way through the ranks of the orcs, trying to avenge your brethren.

Talion using his wraith powers on an orc

The game looks great with gorgeous visuals, dynamic lighting and a very diverse set of enemies. This is not the most exciting part of the game however, the nemesis system has me most excited. This system promises that enemies will remember you if they manage to get away during a fight. During the demo, Talion is trying to kill off a high ranking orc officer which he battled before (leaving him with a half-burnt face). This event happened earlier in the game and when Talion encountered him for the second time the orc remembered the previous encounter even making a remark about it, this is a promising system because it is based on your actions.

Talion looking out over the massive open world of Mordor

There are a lot of games that brag about how your actions influence the game and your choices are meaningful, however most of those are a limited and either influence the game in one set way or another. In Shadows of Mordor you don’t necessarily make a choice, you simply act and depending on your actions the game will change. This is the kind of influence a player should have, just like in the real world you cannot always foresee the consequences of your actions. If the nemesis systems works as well as Monolith promises then we may see future open world games include a similar system. Imagine the next Elder Scrolls including something like this, where in game characters remember you and your actions and this changes the way they interact with you, more than just a statement or two about how you did that one thing that one time. This is an example of the next generation in gaming.

 

The Inadequate State of Gaming


I have played almost every Xbox One game that has been released, Fifa 14, Forza 5, CoD Ghosts, Battlefield 4, AC Black Flag, NFS Rivals, Titanfall and Thief as well as others. Of these games only Forza and Fifa have been games I keep going back to, this is a problem I have noticed with a lot of games recently. I buy a new game and I love it, for about a week, by then I have basically beaten it and am all but completely finished with it. I find this disappointing, especially since my wallet is starting to hate me. I want more games like Skyrim, I put at least 200 hours into that game and rarely was I bored. I want more open-world games or at least more games with more to do or more to unlock. This revelation has become even more clear after playing Titanfall. A shooter such as Titanfall needs lots to in the multiplayer section of the game, especially since there isn’t even a singleplayer. Unlocks are a driving force for multiplayer especially in shooters, Battlefield 4 for example had over a hundred different unlocks, Titanfall has I think 15 weapons in total, not a lot, and even less in terms of attachments, I want more, I want more choice, not one of each type of weapon. I want to enjoy Titanfall so badly and it is really fun but after 10 hours I find myself bored, I want to keep playing but unless I’m with a friend I find it difficult without something to work towards. Even if it’s something like the medals in Battlefield something would be better. Titanfall was and is a great game, but when compared to its competition I am finding that it falls short in some ways especially when considering that it is a next gen title. I see the “next gen-ness” in gameplay but not in scope, or graphics for that matter.

Titanfall is not the only game I am getting bored of, Thief and CoD and NFS Rivals, all of them were a letdown, I finished most in less than a week and moved on. I find myself constantly looking to the months ahead where the big open world titles will be arriving, they show such promise for hours and hours of fun. Games like Destiny, Watchdogs, Dragon Age Inquisition, The Division and Dying Light, these all are terribly promising and as much as I want to be excited I’m also nervous. I want to be excited but I was excited about most of the games that have been released in the last few months and been let down in some way or another. I want to stop having to look ahead for the next big title; I want a few games that I can play for months or at the very least weeks rather than days.

The Console War


The console debates have been raging on for years, this pointless argument is the realm of fanboys/girls trying to prove that their console of choice is the best for one reason or another. When I was just a young lad in high school I was admittedly somewhat of a fanboy, thinking that my Xbox 360 was the only console worth buying. However, this attitude of course was a foolish one. In recent months the talk of the next generation has rekindled this debate into a roaring fire of a dispute bringing it to the for-front of the media’s attention. Sides have since been picked as the consoles survive their second month of release. But why have so many people felt the need to tell everyone which console to buy, which one is better than the other?

Consoles especially now, are extremely similar they do basically the same thing, with the exception of the Wii U (although Xbox Kinect and Playstation Eye are changing that) they all play games and they all use a controller to do so. It is even difficult to argue with the basic features, often Sony fans used to say Playstation was the way to go because it was free to play online. Now however that has changed both the Xbox One and PS 4 require a monthly subscription to play online. What the discussion has come down to is not the technical differences between consoles but which exclusives are available, although the hardcore fans would beg to differ choosing to argue about processing power and other numbers and stats. When picking a console your really picking the games you will be able to play, for Xbox, franchises such as Halo and Gears of War (and Titanfall which looks extremely promising) come to mind, whereas Playstation has the Uncharted series, God of War and Little Big Planet.

 What this means is that instead of looking for a hardware difference to argue about, gamers both hardcore and casual alike should look at what games will be released for each console (I’m not saying however they should argue about them). I doubt the debate will change much, fangirls and boys will forever argue that their console is better for one reason or another. The key to picking a console is to look at the games you want to play and ask your friends what console they are thinking about getting or which one they already have. Gaming isn’t always about playing alone. My friends are split down the middle, some chose the Xbox One like me and some went with the PS4. The reason I chose the Xbone was because it had better (not better, more like better suited to me) exclusives (in my opinion) and my friend who I play with regularly was also getting one. If all my friends had gone with Sony and the PS4 I most likely would have chosen that as well, this is one instance where South Park is right, this is the one time to cave to peer pressure.

 What I’m trying to get at here is that the supposed console war is unnecessary; everyone has their own preference and favourite games. What gamers need to remember is that it’s all about personal preference and in some cases the social preference of your group of friends not what random ranting fans on the internet claim.

The “Girlfriend Interruption” Difficulty


Relationships can be tricky sometimes, especially when one person spends time doing something that excludes the other. This can be somewhat problematic. Guess what? I just so happen to have experienced this before, when I am playing a game for extended periods of time (upwards of 4 hours) my girlfriend becomes frustrated because I seem to be ignoring her. This can lead to, I’ll use the word difficulties. What I have found is that trying to include her can help, asking her what she thinks of the game, or if she would like to take a turn. Simply including her in your activity can change her opinion of the game. The act of including her may even change her mind about games. A common opinion among women is that games are stupid, but if you try to show them why you find gaming enjoyable they may understand why you can spend hours and hours playing. Once they realise gaming isn’t a stupid mindless activity they may even want to try, and in my opinion this is something to encourage. If you can get them playing then it is easier to play yourself without them getting angry, because they understand how fun and addictive a game can be.

My girlfriend never hated games or anything so extreme but sometimes she will get annoyed when I play by myself for a long time without talking to her (which I completely understand and sympathize with). When I try to include her by asking for her opinions and asking if she wants to play seems to help, she engages with the game and she doesn’t get frustrated because I’m not ignoring her. Often she declines my offers saying she would rather watch me play, but this act of inclusion really seems to help. Her declining might just be a polite reaction but it also allows you to keep playing which honestly I have never minded. As a gamer I can say that it can be difficult to watch a beginner (noob) try to play a game you are experienced with. At the same time though if she does decide to take up your offer and try out the game you can practice your patience skill by teaching her and having fun watching her play. This is also a chance to let your frustrations with the game go.  Too often have I gotten frustrated and angry with a game, yelling at the screen some swear words in a nonsensical manner, letting that frustration go can be a difficult task. Watching her play might remind you not take it too seriously because it is a game after all and meant to be fun.

When my girlfriend does decide to play we often have a lot of fun together. I like getting the opportunity to include her with something I enjoy, especially when she has fun as well. Doing something I like with her and having us both enjoy ourselves is always a good thing in my mind…

The Good, the Bad, and the Next Generation


Next Gen Gaming has been all we have been hearing about in the last few months especially in gaming circles. Next gen has been on the radar for a long time, the Xbox One has had rumours swirling around it for more than a year, remember when it was called Durango? Anyways, I thought I would share my opinions on Microsoft’s new console. I would like to be able to do something similar for the Playstation 4 but alas I could not afford to buy both, however I did play the PS 4 for about an hour at a friend’s house and all I can say is that they fixed the controller! Otherwise I do not really have an opinion on the PS4.

Obvious no?

The Xbox One or as it is commonly referred to the Xbone, is Microsoft’s newest piece of gaming hardware. First off I would like to say that yes it does share a certain resemblance to an old VCR but that is the only similarity it has with old technology. This is a state of the art gaming machine. Even though it looks bulky the outer finish says sleek and when the console is turned on you forget about the bulky black box. The menu and operating system is sleek and snappy, everything works very well, everything is all about efficiency and simplicity. The console turns on and off quickly, when turned off the console goes into a stand-by mode allowing it to be turned on by simply telling it to, and when it does turn on it only takes a few seconds. The dashboard is obviously inspired by Windows 8 but this is not a bad thing, the home screen is easy to read and understand, and with the help of the Kinect’s voice commands it is very fast to navigate. Yes that’s right, the voice commands which were a huge part of the advertising campaign actually work, and work well! I turn my Xbone on with voice commands, I often use it to navigate the menus and I turn the console off with my voice as well, that’s how easy/well it works.

Now the controller, this is the key component of any console, this is the way the player interacts with almost every game. We hold it in our hands for hours and hours so even a tiny insignificant problem can make or break a controller. Luckily the greatest controller ever made (Xbox 360 controller) has been improved, yes I said it, Microsoft managed to improve the best controller. The Xbox One controller is in a word, fantastic! The 40 plus changes that were made to the controller have made it perfect, the sticks are slightly smaller and much more comfortable, the triggers are more comfortable and have rumble motors in them, the d-pad finally works and works really really well, and personally I think it looks cooler than the previous iteration. I could go on, but in the interest of time I will simply say that it is a wonderful controller that you can hold for hours.

The ‘Perfect’ Controller, courtesy of the Xbox One

Xbox live is still working well, and now updates download while you play and even when the console is in stand-by (when it’s not turned completely off). I have had no problem downloading new apps or updates or anything. To me live is worth paying for.

There are a few small problems I have come across, the Xbox One I bought came with a semi-broken Kinect, the dashboard and menu system can be slightly confusing, and there are a few things that were on the Xbox 360 dashboard that weren’t included on the Xbox One. So about my Kinect, the one I had would work when the Xbox was first turned on but in a few minutes it would simply stop working for no reason. This was very frustrating, so I got in touch with Microsoft and they sent me a replacement right away, suffice to say it was hard to stay angry with such excellent customer service. Now about the dashboard, it is confusing at times, and overly complex, in order to get to the settings you have to go to the home, then apps, then settings and then finally you have a list of different settings to change. However there is one thing missing from this menu… the status of your hard drive. To me it seems like common sense to include something like that, so you know how full it’s getting as you install more and more games but nope, it’s not there or anywhere. The menu system can also feel redundant, everything is accessed from the home screen, so you are continuously going back to it. The other thing missing is the status of your controller’s battery, on the Xbox 360 you could simply tap the home button on the controller and the battery status would come up with the dashboard menu. Of course these problems will likely be fixed soon, Microsoft has confirmed that dashboard updates are not far away, and based on previous experience with the Xbox 360 the dashboard will keep being improved over the course of the Xbox One’s lifespan.

Xbox One’s Dashboard

The Xbox One is a great step forward for Microsoft’s gaming franchise, it is an awesome system with some awesome games and more on the way. It has had a much smoother launch than its predecessor; there has been little talk of machines dying unlike the days of the red ring of death. The Xbone is an great system and if you want to play Halo or Titanfall you’re going to need to get one. I can promise that you will not be disappointed with the console, I can’t make that promise with the games however.