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4 Reasons Why You Should Play Pokemon Right Now

With the recent release of Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire (ORAS), it’s a fine question to ask whether you can or should get the new Pokemon game to experience it for the first time or to re-live some nostalgic moments. However, I’ve always come across people who simply refused to pick up the game. “I’ve not played Pokemon for so long! There’s too many new Pokemon and moves!”, “It’s for kids!”, and “It’s just the same game with a different story isn’t it?” are some common statements I hear when I ask why.

As a self-proclaimed Pokemon fanatic, here’s 4 reasons why it’s a great time to get a Gameboy and pick up one of the best games of all time.

It’s a turn-based combat game

Let’s forget for a second that Pokemon is about cute creatures. It’s essentially a turn-based combat game with different attacks that have different elements. There are plenty of turn-based combat games like Heroes of Might and Magic, Final Fantasy, etc. They essentially say that the genre isn’t obsolete yet. Pokemon is just a simple RPG that includes a compelling storyline, leveling, item hunting, and some vanity side quests. It’s a fun game for intelligent thinking and there is plenty of flexibility when it comes to building your team. Despite all that, the game is not overly complex and you can have fun looking at new and old Pokemon along the way.

It’s just the same thing, with a different storyline!

Pokemon has been around since the 1990s, with the gameplay being essentially the same. While some may argue against spending money for a similar experience, why fix something that isn’t broken? The gameplay and its style has been consistent for the last few years and it has been loved by its fans throughout. Jazzing it up with new Pokemon, storylines and some additional fixtures seem to resonate well with new and old fans alike.

Balancing the appeals across all levels

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I’ve come across some people who refuse to play a game that does not reward hardcore players. They feel that the reward-effort ratio should be justified. An example would be World of Warcraft, where people would spend hours grinding for their gears so as to get better. These people feel that the gears belong to you simply because you spent the time to get them. However, there are others who feel that gaming should be kept casual, and any obsession over the game is considered quite unhealthy or ‘lifeless’.

Taking these into account, Pokemon has a special appeal for all gamers. I even daresay that it has the best balance of this level of appeal to the casual and the hardcore fans alike.

Casual fans get to enjoy the story of a hero or heroine travelling across towns and (usually) end up saving the world. Old school formula yes, but always effective. Furthermore, you can get to choose 6 Pokemon to carry from the endless array of Pokemon to choose from. The progression is steady and the gameplay does not involve much grinding for levels, especially with the new and improved EXP Share where all Pokemon gain EXP from battles.

For the hardcore fans, Pokemon Wifi Battles are really thriving these days. In order to take part in battles, you need to first breed a Pokemon to ensure it has the perfect Individual Values. More on it here: http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Individual_values. Next, you need to breed the egg moves you want (http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Egg_move) and then farm for EVs (http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Effort_values). Repeat it 6 times for your perfect team. Anybody can see that to take part in these competitive battling, there’s a high amount of commitment needed.

They’re kinda cute

Are you really going to be so ignorant to say that Pokemon aren’t cute?

So what games can I play?

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For the first time players saying, ‘Which Pokemon game do I play? There are so many to choose from!’ For a very brief summary of the timeline of the Pokemon game, it started off with Red/Blue version, and the story continued on into Gold/Silver/Crystal Version. Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald was a spin off and more spin offs include Diamond/Pearl, Black/White, Black 2/White 2 and now X/Y (all in chronological order). Red/Blue was remade into Fire Red/Leaf Green. Gold/Silver remade into Heart Gold/Soul Silver, and now Ruby/Sapphire is remade into the latest ORAS. Each versions grouped together have the same storyline and are essentially the same save that you can only get specific Pokemons in different verions.

Choosing the latest ORAS would throw you into a lot of cool new stuff that Pokemon has introduced like Mega Evolutions and Pokemon contests. Probably its best to start at what I believe has the greatest changes of all time: Pokemon X and Y.

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Pokemon is an incredibly complex game, but all its complexity is hidden beneath a simple story you going out and catching them all. It appeals to the casual and the hardcore, and it is simply one of the best games ever created.

Watchdogs: A Review

I feel this is a bit overdue, but I’ll post it anyway: A review of Ubisoft’s Watchdogs.

I do not deny that this game was over-hyped up, which could only lead to one of the two things: you either live up to expectations or die trying. In a sense it’s not a win-lose situation but an ok-lose situation. Watchdogs certainly had a lot to account for.

To be fair, I’ll present that negative side of the argument first, which can be simply summarized into one sentence: Watchdogs did not measure up to its hype.

Graphics

Graphics were, in short, bad. There’s also a claim that when Watchdogs was first announced, there would be surreal graphics and realistic physics plus AI. As more footages of the game were shown throughout the years since the announcement, the quality dropped. It didn’t help that the actual game was buggy as well.

Gameplay

To the naked eye, the gameplay was repetitive. You were effectively doing the same thing every mission and the side quests were even duller. Driving was also a horrible nightmare as the cars were excruciatingly difficult to control. The shooting scenes were generally all right, but were mostly a rip off from GTA.

Another point is that the gameplay was arguably too simple. In GTA you need to engage in high speed chases to outrun the cops. In Watchdogs, all it needs is a simple press of a button to ‘hack’ the traffic infrastructure to take out the cops (from changing the traffic lights to erecting barriers). My personal favourite method was to hack a train to stop it. I’ll then board the train and speed off into the night, since cops would rather not chase public transportation despite knowing the next bound location.

Voice-Acting and Character Development

I do not usually include this portion since I’m no expert, but the protagonist Aiden Pierce’s voice was terribly monotonous. There was no expression of anger or hatred, despite the fact that his family was brutally murdered (mostly Aiden’s fault though) and when his extended family is in any sort of trouble. While he claims that he was angry and wanted vengeance for his daughter, his voice, however, sounded indifferent instead.

Even Aiden himself had some weird motivations. While he started off as a thief, he became a vigilante after that incident. However, unlike Batman, Aiden felt that killing was necessary at times to gain what he needed. However, it gets boring when Aiden ended up fixated on nothing but vengeance. Compare him to say, Ezio from Assassin’s Creed 2. Ezio then was fixated on vengeance but that didn’t stop us from seeing what an awesome and quirky individual Ezio was.

All in all, Aiden could have received much more character development and voice acting.

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With all those negative comments, it may seem that Watchdogs has almost nothing left to offer. Don’t be mistaken though. 

A new reality of video gaming lore

Instead of hampering itself in the usual trappings of shooting and violence, Watchdogs added a new twist into the game: Hacking and technology. This new addition made the whole experience different from other open-world shooting games. In Watchdogs, you can hack almost anything with a computer chip: Traffic lights, lifts, security cameras, etc. It creates a whole new dimension of gameplay, where instead of just being a regular street thug and rushing in guns ablaze, there is some intrinsic motivation and reward for setting up traps and hacking certain infrastructure before the shooting starts.

Stealth

As a person who generally avoid shooting unless necessary, I welcome the increased use of stealth in the recent games such as Batman Arkham Series, Assassin’s Creed, etc. Watchdogs implements stealth in its game by allowing you to hack certain objects, therefore creating traps that can take out enemies without you being there. In fact, all these can be done while you’re outside the perimeter of the area. It uses ‘Camera Riding’ where you can hack into a camera and look around from the camera’s point of view, hack into another from there, and again. You can effectively travel around the entire area without leaving your car. It makes a stealth enthusiast like me excited even when I’m doing a normal side mission.

Improvements

Sure, there’s plenty that can be improved on. But with a new genre of game and a new style of gameplay, that is sure to be expected. Assassin’s Creed didn’t start off as the blockbuster it is today, and I am fairly sure that I would support any sequel from Watchdogs. Once Ubisoft fixes the bugs and some hiccups along the way, Watchdogs 2 is bound to be the new blockbuster of the year.

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Even though the action and the story is weak, this shows that the old stuff still works. Throw a little change and keep the gameplay fresh, and people will still like it. Watchdogs is still generally rough around the edges, but all you need is some good tweaks and enhancements, and Watchdogs 2 is bound to be a hit.

Goblin VS Gnome Review

So if you had been playing Hearthstone the last few days, you would have realized that the new expansion ‘Goblin VS Gnomes’ (GvG) is out in the arena. Call it Blizzard’s money-making scheme if you will. The hype-train for this is crazy. The slow and steady release of the new cards in the expansion and the subsequent release of all the cards at one go thrilled players new and old. I’ll be covering large general reviews of the new meta, without making this post seem long and draggy by reviewing every single card out there since most players have already done their research and their comments. Note that these are based off my own opinions on the expected changes in the current meta.

I am sorry

Paladins are apparently the worst hit by this new expansion. The obvious evidence points to one of the less useful legendary in the game: Bolvar Fordragon. While an iconic character in the lore, this card leaves more of a disgusting taste in the mouth. A useless topdeck and a dead draw at the start. It certainly does not help the Paladins which are already slowing seeing less use. While the paladin gets some good cards like Quartermaster, its cards are generally worse off its current meta (Coghammer vs Truesilver Champion, Muster for Battle against other weapons, etc)

EDIT: Right now I’m playing a Paladin Rush deck, and it seems pretty fun! Sword of Justice + minion swarm + Divine favour to refill your hand

Mechs There’s a new type in town, and these are the mechs. Till this date, I have not seen a full mech deck, but I am certainly excited to see what a fully completed mech deck could do. There is so much potential, such as harnessing spare parts or even Mega Windfury. Blizzard certainly has added much flavor in the already colorful mix of Hearthstone. Anticipate more from this type soon!

Balance

The next question would be: Is the game now balanced? While there is some debate over the whole thing, I always have a belief that the game balances itself. For instance, when Miracle Rouge was the top winning deck, people ended up putting cards in to counter that deck. Therefore, to say that any card is imbalanced is just a little ignorant.

Randomness!

One aspect that is really likeable is the additional of more randomness into the metagame. Cards like Crackle, the Ogre cards and the Mech cards that spawn minions on death add a whole new scene of randomness into the metagame. You either embrace it, or let is cause your downfall.

Fun

Building on the previous point, randomness of a card game certainly makes the whole gameplay more fun and entertaining, instead of the usual hard strategy against hard strategy. The need to embrace randomness when making decks or when playing also serves to further differentiate good players from better players.

While the paladin review was harsh, it is hard to say that in a general sense. They have their good cards and their bad. It takes a good player and a fun personality to bring all the new cards together to form a new deck to kick butt. Overall, the new expansion makes the new meta fun and colorful. There may be some balance issues here and there, but that’s what a card game is all about.

The Science of Daily Quests

Daily quests, or dailies for short, is not a new concept in the MMORPG genre. It’s prominence was mostly depicted in WoW, where the quests had significantly better rewards than repeatable quests. According to WoWwiki,  dailies are repeatable quests that can be acquired and completed once per day.

I’ve been recently playing Hearthstone and HotS, and the dailies certainly played a huge role in my commitment to play the game at least once each day. ‘I got to clear my dailies at least!’ is always my cry when I squeeze in the last 30 minutes of gaming just before sleeping at 2am before waking up for school the next day.

But dailies has not been a new concept. In fact, probably the most prominent feature from dailies come from the renowned game called Neopets.

RIGHT THERE. That feeling is called Nostalgia.

Everybody who played Neopets when they were a kid remembered saying ‘I got to get my daily omelette, jelly, etc.!’ This was daily quests in its greatest peak back then with dial-up Internet. And they didn’t even patent the idea yet.

Fast forward to today, where many games these days have dailies. Archeage, WoW, even the mobile game Spiderman Unlimited which I’m totally addicted to.

So why are daily quests such a great aspect in a game?

Continued Patronage

Let’s face it: The biggest win of dailies is that they compel you play at least once everyday. If you are sufficiently committed to the game, the rewards from the daily quests are enough to keep bring you back. Again and again. A game that you would play once in 2 days would make you play it once everyday.

The backlog of quests, especially games with daily quests that refresh itself everyday (the epitome of evil) forces you to log in at least once a day.

The Feeling of Accomplishment

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The feeling when you accomplish anything is great, be it big or small. With dailies, the game satisfies our compulsive need to accomplish something everyday. The feeling of logging in and then subsequently gaining something that can be used makes you feel good, and you will then want to do it everyday. It’s simple psychology, really.

Does this mean anything for us? Not really. If games still make daily quests a feature, its quite hard to stop playing. It’s like Satan tempting us with fried chicken everyday (provided you love fried chicken).

What Makes A Good Mobile Game?

What makes a good mobile game? For this article, I will be discounting marketing and budget limitations. This formula considers graphics and sound, genre, pricing model, and gameplay simplicity.

Aesthetics

Clash of Clans

To achieve good aesthetics, we are concerned with choosing either ‘realistic’ or ‘cartoon-like’ interfaces for graphics and sound. A ‘cartoon-like’ game is likely to have better aesthetics as it is easier to incorporate vibrant colours, quirky sound effects and identifiable character designs. In contrast, a game that strives for realistic graphics faces greater scrutiny from players. Cartoon-like graphics leave an impression and tend to be more popular than games with mediocre realistic graphics. We believe that this is the most important aspect of games.

Genre

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Arcade games, characterised by short levels, consistently occupied the top most downloaded list in 2013 and January 2014 (Wagner, 2013; App Annie, 2014). This high demand for Arcade games can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, they were able to attract players besides traditional ‘gamers’ (Plant, 2012) with simplistic and quick gameplay. Furthermore, they generate social interaction (Werner, 2014). By comparing high scores, they stimulate interest and competition.
Next, by incorporating social media in games (e.g. Facebook Login and multiplayer mode) we can introduce social interactions despite players being physically apart. This creates opportunities for competition that humans appreciate (Reboul, 2010) and creates a process where one can increase his or her social status using less money and effort than in real life (Wang, 2010). There will also be a two-way communication between users and developers to facilitate better feedback processes.

Simplicity

Clash of Clans

Another factor is simplicity, defined as being easy to play, and user-friendly. A simple game can still be fun and addictive. Creative games with beautiful aesthetics attract a lot of attention but if instructions and mechanics are difficult to grasp, it is unlikely to succeed. Moreover, as humans dislike complexity, simplicity leads to greater uptake of the game.

Freemium

The Freemium pricing model, which allows consumers to play for free with an option to make in-app purchases to aid their progression, seems to be the best way to price games. Freemium games have greater publicity and therefore higher download rates. Some common methods are subscriptions, in-game advertising, downloadable content (DLC), etc.

In addition, we will analyse games that follow our formula and did well, games that follow but did not do well, and games that do not follow but still did well.

Candy Crush Saga is a freemium Arcade game, has cartoon-like graphics, incorporates social media and is simple to play. It corresponds to our formula and was the most downloaded app for the iOS and Google Play in 2013 (App Annie, 2014).

However, Clash of Clans is a Strategy game and Minecraft is a Sandbox Role-Playing game, but they still performed well. Clash of Clans has engaging gameplay, but we argue that it was an outlier (9th most downloaded iOS game in January 2014) (App Annie, 2014). Minecraft’s success could be attributed to the success of its PC predecessor.

Another example is Beat the Boss 2, which fulfilled our formula and yet did not do well. We attribute it to external factors such as bugs and glitches. This falls beyond the scope of our discussion, but we attribute such underperformance to poor performance by the developers, and not the formula.

Therefore, our formula of a good mobile game still stands. Although it is not fool-proof, we believe that it provides a template that an aspiring mobile game app developer can follow.

The Emergence of Card Games: Something You May not Know

Hearthstone

From 2013 onwards, there has been a tremendous surge in the number of card games for the mobile platform.  Apart from the giant known as Hearthstone, there are other card games in the app stores that are a great hit with mobile users.

Some examples include:
Ayakashi Ghost Guild by Zygna
Valkyrie Crusade by Nubee
Guardian Cross by Square Enix

Indeed, these few years have set the ‘Card Games’ genre in motion with its popularity and sometimes simple to learn gameplay.

In this article, I will cover why ‘Card Games’ are popular these days, and what is in store for them in the future.

To put things into perspective, let’s examine the popular mobile app trends of the past.

For a period in time (2008-2009), games like Bejeweled Blitz were a great hit, especially if it were based on speed. Bejeweled Blitz was one of the top downloads of the past.

Next in line (2009-2010) was the games where you had to commit to certain timings to play. This involved reporting back at fixed ‘timings’ to harvest crops, collect money, build buildings, etc. This would probably be the most profitable the mobile app industry has been, since users would rather pay the money instead of waiting.

Finally, we see the champion of mobile games (2010-present) with games of a mixture of both elements. Candy Crush and Farm Heroes are examples of these games. They combine Bejeweled gameplay with the element of waiting to get things you want.

Now, there is an emergence of ‘Card Games’, where players are involved in strategic duels between others players or AIs.

Hearthstone

Gameplay
One reason why card games are so popular is that the gameplay is relatively easy. There is no need for micro skills, ‘rhythm-based’ skills or even the speed needed for Bejeweled Blitz. It was simply how strategic you think and how you form your decks before playing. The learning curve is easy as well, where there is an abundance of tutorials and plenty of opportunities to practice with AI opponents.

Competitive Element

Another reason for its popularity is that it incorporates the competitive element of games. Humans like to challenge each other, and this is accomplished with the multiplayer functions in each game. This pits a player against another and you can see whose deck and strategy triumphs the other. As compared to single player games such as Plants Vs Zombies, the competition between friends makes the whole experience more enjoyable. This can be further seen in other games such as Flappy Birds, where even without a multiplayer function, people compete against high scores.

Social Interaction

Card games allow people to socialize with each other. You are able to talk to in-game players and even communities that exist outside of the game. More often than not, games are fun because of the social element it entails. Card games give people a common topic, and even facilitate discussions as there is not only one way to play it.

Flexibility

Building on the previous point, there is no ‘one way’ way to play the game. A good card game gives a lot of flexibility in play style and this certainly attracts players who want to play a popular game and yet want to find a personality that distinguishes themselves from others. Flexibility in gameplay is important and this can been seen by MMORPGs, where the distinguishing factor is and has always been the classes you can be when you play the game. Similarly, card games give each player a choice on what road they want to travel (by building different decks).

Free

Probably what made the ‘Card Game’ genre so prevalent is the fact that cards are generally free. There is no need to physically go out to buy booster packs using your own money. You could pay for in-game purchases, but each game is generally free to pick up. This can attribute to a lot of players giving the game a shot. After all, the opportunity cost is low should they find out that they do not like the game.

What’s next?

The next question would be whether card games are here to stay, or whether they are a passing fad. This may be applicable especially for the mobile game developers out there.

While there is no doubt that there mobile card games are here to stay, it should be noted that card games have existed since decades ago, beginning with the likes of Pokemon, Magic the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh!.  The only difference is probably that the games are free and easily accessible. Even without those factors, games play Pokemon and Magic the Gathering have survived even till today. This is definitely something to take note of. It could mean that this is not the ‘creation’ of a trend, rather than a technological advancement that made a popular trend even more popular. This, of course, is pure speculation.

Test Your Sanity with Flappy Bird’s Successor: Swing Copters

Swing Copters

Smartphone owners beware. Prepare to test your sanity with Flappy Bird’s Successor: Swing Copters.

The legendary creator of Flappy Bird Dong Nguyen did it again. Instead of navigating a bird sideways, you now need to guide an adorably cute helicopter upward without hitting any of the hammers that swing from each gate. You get a point for every gate you pass through. Basically, this is Flappy bird, except that you’re doing it vertically this time.

This article will compare both Swing Copter and Flappy Bird, talk about whether Swing Copters will create a hit comparable to Flappy Bird, and what this will potentially mean for the future of mobile gaming.

As mentioned, the mechanics, graphics, and even the physics of the entire game is the same. The sprite is still unbelievably difficult to control and the point scoring system is the same. The copter moves faster than the bird in Flappy Bird, and this time round there are swinging hammers to make you question whether you’re indeed the calm person you once told yourself you were.

What will probably differentiate Swing Copter is the novel new concept of gameplay that says “It’s the same thing, but different.” We have seen too many clones of Flappy Bird in the app store these days, and a new game will definitely bring some freshness in the casual gaming industry.

Swing Copters

This leads me to the second point: Will Swing Copter create a huge phenomenal hit, just like its predecessor?

One argument would be that the market is always looking for novel concepts. Despite the app store overflowing with games, mobile users are still hungry for cooler and better games that they can get addicted to. Mobile users want something that fits into their lifestyle: Something challenging, yet easy to learn, together with a high score that they can compete with other friends. Flappy Bird has indeed achieved that. Together with the expertise of Dong Nguyen, there is no reason why Swing Copters will not create a huge hit, since it already satisfies this model.

However, we could also argue that the world has already experienced the marvel that is Flappy Bird. Together with the multitude of clones, the world can be said to be bored of this high score genre of games. Mobile users are looking for games that are novel, but more novel than what can almost pass off as a mere copy of Flappy Bird.

Once again, we have to see how well-accepted Swing Copters will be in the next few months.

There are, however, just a few dubious claims that I will lay on the table for now. Firstly, Dong Nguyen withdrew Flappy Bird because he could not take the popularity of the game’s overwhelming success. People dismissed it as a normal human tendency. If that is so, then why the release of Swing Copters?

Furthermore, what are mobile gaming users truly looking for? Companies spend big bucks trying to develop a comprehensive and interactive mobile game, just to lose out to a game with took a developer a short amount of time to build. Is there a certain formula that should be followed?

If the success of this new mobile game ensues, this could potentially change the whole mobile gaming industry. It just goes to emphasise that big budgets does not always equate to better games.

How Swing Copters play out in the next few months could potentially affect the mobile gaming industry more than anybody would think it would. We would just have to wait and see.