Swing Copters, clones and the dismal failure of the 'open' app store

This morning I went to install Swing Copters, Dong Nguyen's latest iOS game, and the follow-up to Flappy Bird. I put the words "swing copters" into the search field on my iPhone, and the first hit was Tube Revenge - Swing Copters.This is how quickly individuals and companies now jump on games they want to clone. The idea is to get their version of the game out as soon as possible, and then try to piggyback on the success of the "real" game. They just need to backwards engineer something that looks a tiny bit like it, get the name close, and then release their product. If enough people are confused, the revenue from ads or even in-app purchases apparently makes it worth it. It's worse on other platforms. Hey @GooglePlay, you are a part of the problem. pic.twitter.com/VPPtCQM4nh —...

Demos are dead, long live demos

A game demo is marketing. It's meant to get you to buy the game. The point of a demo is not to allow you to try the game. It's not meant to give you a taste of the whole experience. It's meant to sell you the game. It's a carefully culled slice of the game designed to leave you with a very specific impression of the game, one that may or may not match up with reality. That's the problem with demos, whether they're something you play at home or something the press plays at a show like E3. They should not, but not always are, a representative piece of the game to give you a sense of the whole thing. The industry calls that sort of video or playable section a "vertical slice," a piece of the game that gives you a taste of what it is and what it's offering. It slices through all the layers...

Want to save time and money? Stop buying games at launch

“I have a confession to make,” a co-worker said in hushed tones yesterday. “I have never played a Diablo game.” The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 editions of Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition have just been released for $60. For that price you get the full version of Diablo 3, a bunch of social features, the Reaper of Souls expansion, and visuals that are much improved from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version. I’m happy to report that it’s the best version of the game so far, as I spend my evenings wrecking shit with my Demon Hunter. It goes further than that, though. The original PC version was a bit of a mess. It needed to be online to work, the real-money auction house was a controversial choice, and the loot was overwhelming. Every aspect of these flaws has been addressed in the...

1080p will come to Xbox One games, but at a cost

Games displayed at 1080p, while running at a smooth 60 frames-per-second, has become part of the marketing for many new games.It's a magical bullet point on a list of features that proves that your game is next-generation, and there are groups of players online who sneer at anything that can't quite hit that goal. Diablo 3 on the Xbox One, for instance, couldn't quite get there. The original response was to drop the resolution down to 900p and keep the frame rate. A smooth game, many would argue, is worth sacrificing a few lines of resolution. The problem is that this solution created a PR problem for Microsoft, a company that is scared of consumers seeing the Xbox One as a less-powerful console compared to the PlayStation 4. "That's what we demoed and were showing around E3 time. And...

The police aren't an army: the problem with Battlefield Hardline

Electronics Arts thinks it can bring Battlefield's military gunplay home. It's not that easy.Battlefield Hardline moves the Battlefield series from international battlegrounds to a realistic domestic setting: As tricked out police, the player in Hardline uses heavy weaponry, armor and vehicles to kill criminals in Los Angeles. Despite the move, the series' fetishization of military weaponry, gear and lethal combat remains. Cops and soldiers are not the same thing. They serve different purposes. Soldiers often serve in war zones, in direct conflict with our nation's enemies. The police serve in our cities, protecting and policing our nation's civilians. And so Hardline is an uncomfortable role play within a role play: the player pretending to be a cop pretending to be a soldier. At...

Silent Hills 'pants soiling' scares won't measure up to P.T.

Warning: this piece contains spoilers for P.T. and Eraserhead.It took 90 minutes for my friends and I to finish the playable teaser for the upcoming Silent Hills. There's no combat, no mechanics outside of walking around and looking at things, and the entire experience takes place in one environment. It's a self-contained "game" that only needs a single hallway to scare the shit out of you. How did this collection of mundane elements become so much scarier than most full-length horror games? Turning the familiar on its head You walk through a messy, but more-or less mundane looking house in the opening moments of P.T. It's well-lit, there are familiar-looking family photos and boring framed art. This could be one of any number of houses you've visited in your life. Things start to...

Gaming is not the most important thing in my life

"What’s your favorite video game?"This is what people ask when they find out what I do. I have a stock answer: Super Mario 64. It's probably not my favorite game, but it satisfies people. It's a game they've heard of and that we all can agree was important. It's one of my favorite games, sure, but that's where my love for it ends. What I'd like to talk about is Crypt of the Necrodancer, and how it made roguelikes fun for me again. I'd like to bring up Crawl, and how being the hero makes you "it" and why I think local multiplayer games are an important thing for players who don't often see other people playing games in the same room. I want to talk about my problems with how people call virtual reality antisocial and why I think that's the wrong way to look at the technology. But I...

On its 25th birthday, which Sega Genesis games did you love the most?

The first time I saw a Sega Genesis, I was working for a computer magazine company in England.Someone, on a way higher wage than me, purchased a Mega Drive from a Japanese importer. It looked like the future, in which arcade-style graphics might be available in the home, had finally arrived. Mega Drive was built on Sega's own 16-bit arcade board, and a 68000 Motorola processor. This was heady stuff. Renamed Genesis for North America, the machine launched in the United States 25 years ago, today. It arrived in Europe in late 1990. It was a sensation. I bought one immediately. Everyone has their own tastes in games and, looking back at the titles I bought and played the most, it's clear that mine were conservative and mainstream. This has the one advantage of being able to look back and...

Here's why I won't be playing Journey on PlayStation 4

Within one minute of playing the PlayStation 4 version of Journey, before the opening credits even came up, I understood that I would never download this game.I was attending a Sony event, where the company was showing off games that make up its Gamescom push. I put my name down to play the biggies, like Bloodborne and Until Dawn, and I was genuinely excited to see an updated version of Journey. Back in 2012, I had played thatgamecompany's gentle little exploration-puzzle adventure on PlayStation 3, and I had adored it. Journey is a perfect thing, a magical experience that whispers both inspiring and melancholy notions. Last year I spoke to Journey's director Jenova Chen. It was clear from talking to him that this was a carefully constructed work of art, that the feelings I and many...

A life spent gaming while black

It's difficult to look at the world through someone else's eyes, and even more difficult to grasp their basic morals and ideas. But ideas come from experiences, of which we only know our own. I'm here to present you with a lens through which I viewed my life; a memoir on gaming while black.It’s brought me lots of memories, I remember years of video games without a single character of my skin tone. I remember loving light-skinned and slender bodies. I remember thinking "If only I could wake up one day and be Japanese, or at least white. White would be good enough." I didn't know better, all my favorite heroes were white or Japanese: Ash Ketchum, Hiro, Dexter, Mega Man. All the black people I saw were big-lipped, they died first, they were a part of jokes about rap, or they were the bad...
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Oracle is a beautiful, bizarre, trip to ancient Greece

Oracle, a new small game from ceMelusine heartsu of Glitchhikers fame, lets you interact with a sentient flame — an ancient oracle — that tells the future. Check out the gameplay footage above for something that makes sense out of that statement. The gameplay is simple. You basically choose prompts, like "stars," or "the air itself" and the oracle will weave a prophecy for you, complete with abstract 3D imagery of trees, wells, hearts, and other appropriately ancient objects. Oracle is part one of a proposed four game series, the east van EP, and heartsu told me via email that the collection is an attempt to make games that resonate on different levels: "Basically I've decided that games ought to be a bit more like music, so this is me pretending that they are." I have personally...

Sony takes a victory lap with PS4 and indies, doesn't invite Vita

Sony had a rapid-fire series of announcements during its press conference at Gamescom, and we're going to sift through the mountains of trailers and announcements to try to talk about some of the meat. So what are the trends here? Sony doesn't really care about the Vita There was next to nothing about the PlayStation Vita, which isn't surprising due to the hardware's relative lack of sales in recent days. It's an amazing machine with a wide variety of content, especially if you like indie games, but if you have a limited amount of time to get people excited about things, it's understandable that Sony shifted into "all PS4, all the time" mode for its press conference. They did announce, however, that the PlayStation TV is coming to the United States in October, in case anyone wants to...

Making games as a family taught us to ignore work-life balance

I quickly learned that the direct honesty that served me well as Art Director was a poor fit for business meetings. My producer would kick me under the table to get me to stop talking once they finally allowed me into important meetings with publishers."Time and place, Mister Stark," my producer would tell me. "Time and place." The creative process is split up into pieces in big-budget production. Design is separate from production is separate from marketing. Messaging is tightly controlled. Non-disclosure agreements place a sharp limit on what we can talk about. Our opinions are not the opinions of our company. Our company was adamant that we never work on the same team My wife, Nicole and I had spent years absorbing the same AAA philosophy. We worked at the same studio, though our...

Microsoft's Xbox One message: Kinect is dead, long live exclusives

Microsoft came out swinging with the first press conference at Gamescom, and the news certainly showed some interesting insight into the company's latest Xbox One strategy.We've talked about how Microsoft has basically admitted that the competition has put it on the ropes, and this is what it looks like when they begin to fight back. Let's get started. Kinect is dead Microsoft has finally removed the Kinect as a mandatory bundle and dropped the price of the hardware, which has already had a positive impact on the hardware's sales. At Gamescom Microsoft announced three new bundles, complete with games. And of course not a single one comes with the Kinect. It's time to admit that the peripheral is dead. PR will hem and haw about how it's still an important part of Xbox's strategy, and...

PlayStation Now is ripping some people off, but Sony can fix it

PlayStation Now is a hugely exciting idea that feels like it comes directly from the future: a big library of games streamed direct to your console with little to no waiting. It's idyllic in concept, but my own experience (and the experience of many of our readers) has been far from perfect. After my PlayStation Now experience, I'm $8 poorer with nothing but frustration to show for it, and I'm not the only one. Right now, as a result, the service is impossible for me to recommend, but that's something Sony could fix with one little addition. The Aborted Odyssey PlayStation Now puts players through a check of their available bandwidth before they rent a game, and I passed this check without issue. I average speeds around 24 mbps down and 5 mbps or so up over Wi-Fi, which far exceeds...

League of Legends critics are trying to sell themselves, not fix the game

League of Legends is, by an objective measure, the largest game in the world.It has a monstrous base of players, and those players log into the game often. It's also one of the most spectated games in the world, if not the largest. "Over 32 million fans watched SK Telecom T1 earn the Summoner's Cup in front of a sold-out Staples Center. At peak, more than 8.5 million fans were watching at the same time," a Riot-penned blog post claimed. "To put those numbers in context, the Season 2 World Championship was watched by 8.2 million fans, with 1.1 million watching at the same time. In short, we're beyond humbled by your passion for and commitment to League of Legends." There is no metric by which League of Legends isn't a huge success. Which means of course it's time for consultants...
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