Friday, January 30, 2015

Pay To Play: Worth The Investment?



Downloadable Content: Is it necessary?

Pay to Play? What does this mean? In most cases, gamers initially purchase games at fairly low prices considering the content that is in the original versions of games, but then as time goes on packages will be offered by game development companies for the gamers to add on to their initial gaming experiences. We are in a day and age now in gaming where different avenues of technology are utilized and of course game companies are going to take advantage of these avenues. However, recent experiences with this method of "Pay to Play" have made gamers a bit sour for the most part, leading one to wonder whether or not this method is sustainable over a long period of time.

Downloadable content initially served the purpose of properly adding on to the original build of the video game that you bought, but there was a catch. You had to pay a little extra in order to obtain this new content. Perhaps the origins of this payment method were innocent, but as time has gone on, it has become obvious that this method is now a fractured way to entice gaming audiences to invest in a single game. Some gaming companies in particular go so far as to charge gamers for the most trivial parts of gaming content, and it's not to the point where most of us gamers should question why DLC packages really exist now.

In an unfortunate twist to this story, it appears that DLC packages have done more harm to the Replayability Factor of some games than good. Unless a gamer has enough money and resources to purchase the extra content that is needed, that gamer will most likely lose interest in playing a given game in general knowing that he or she only has a few limited times to play said game. The general gameplay experience of said game slows to a halt and soon comes across as boring and too niche for that gamer, so that gamer simply moves on to something else.

The sad truth to tactics such as DLC packages and Pay to Play programs is that some of these game developing companies see these things as parts of their own oil fields, so to speak. They can't have enough of this oil. You will know just how greedy a game developing company is when they obsessively keep charging you here and there for separate packages that didn't come with the original game that you bought. These companies will spin these situations around to make it sound like you, the gamer, are actually benefiting from emptying your wallet for features that could have easily been implemented right from the start.

Mobile games are most likely hit the hardest with such tactics. Since mobile games are free-roaming and more independent compared to console games they are more susceptible to offering gamers DLC packages or Pay to Play programs to entice them with features that they really want to use. The problem? Why weren't these enticing features available for the original game? Why did there have to be a wait to implement these new features? Why do these kinds of tactics need to be implemented to slow down or even stop the fun that the gamers were originally having? There is something not fundamentally right about this.

I have previously discussed the dangers of intellectual dishonesty, and this is yet another glowing example of what happens when intellectual dishonesty is taken too far. If a game developing company already has something in place to be implemented in the original game, then that company should put that feature in the original game without hesitation rather than wait a few months and then present that feature as a DLC package or a micro-transaction. Gamers may get overly passionate about certain things but they are educated on business practicality, and there's no practicality with the obsessive reliance on DLC and Pay to Play just to get by economically.


This picture is one way to look at the DLC controversies.

Below are quotes from other gamers who had their own thoughts on the matter of a recent Need For Speed game charging players to pay for gas refills of their vehicles. Something that can be so trivial as to having a virtual vehicle needing a refill of gas can be made into a Pay to Play situation, and this is just one part of the heart of this entire mess. Check out the quotes below.

Soldierone 
THIS is why mobile games can never be taken seriously. Just like social games, people will get fed up with it and leave. Why is it so hard to find decent mobile games that don't pull this card? "Oh you actually wanted to play the game? Well you have to pay by the hour....." Heck some of the options for these are absurd too. Their sim city one has options like $100 and it didn't even give you enough items to play for an hour......Yet here I am more than willing to pay 30-40 dollars just to play a standard SimCity, but I'm not paying for that pay to play [nonsense]. 

Think about it.
I HATE the freemium model. I prefer to buy a game and then play a balanced game instead of a free game which then just begs me for money. That is annoying. 

Michael 
No other industry treats its customers so poorly as the video game industry. People who have been playing games a long time can see so many terrible trends that didnt exist before. Its getting seriously out of hand and will continue to as long as idiots keep paying their (parents) money for [nonsense] that developers and distributors put out. I'll just touch on a couple trends that bother me.

1) Freemium [Nonsense] - This stuff is designed for LOW IQ people, I don't know why anyone with the intelligence to hold down a job would pay it.

(Steven: ^ I wouldn't support this kind of response.)

2) Additional content (DLC) - Back before DLC was a recognized term, the majority of high level game studios would release FREE additional content from time to time. That's right.... FREE. The new content consisted of much of the same thing DLC's provide now. New characters, weapons, equipment, etc. On top of that, most games had mod tools that allowed people like you and I to create and share new content with other players. The result was tons of extra content, not costing the consumer a single dime.

3) Pre-purchasing / Beta access - This is just the WORST trend to ever hit gaming and I hope it dies a painful death. When you pre-purchase a game you remove the one thing that keeps the developer motivated to make an excellent product in good time. Incentive. Incentive drives people to make things better and quicker. When the developer already has your money, he has nothing to gain from pushing out the product as described and on time. This is yet another way for game makers to dodge the dreaded game review process, which around 90% of the time, decrease the sales potential of a game. And that brings me to an even worse variation of this, which is paid alpha/beta access. You buy a game, possibly at a slight discount, to receive access to the alpha or beta version of said game. Not only have you given the developer your money upfront and removed the incentive for them to do a good job, you're now PAYING THEM to help test out and improve their product. You see the irony here? 10 years ago, if you said "paid alpha/beta access" you'd be laughed out of whatever room you were in. Same goes for a handful of other trends that are now commonplace in this age of anti-logic.

Chelle Anderson 
EA is just a bad company that tries very hard to milk their customers and then mock them when they say something to them in a negative review. EA is the worst gaming company ever. I stopped buying from them for their give me, give me more and more with each game they come out with. Then their treatment of customers is awful and rude. Had a post deleted telling them in a nice way that they should stop treating their customers like poop. This was after their CEO and devs openly mocked their customer base.

Example of bad customer service (even worse than their out look on their customers):

Fiancé came home one night and found his account had been hacked somewhat. A game was purchased he did not purchase (not even his style of game and we don't live in Spain)..So he went into live chat, which he waited hours, only to get someone that didn't speak enough English or read it to understand what was going on.

One day gamers will catch on to EA....One day!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

General Mumblings: Ratchet and Clank

Ratchet and Clank: Space heroes with space for nonsense! Get it?
I have mentioned this video game franchise a few times before on the Gaming Journalist Gazette blog, but I believe I should go into more depth about my thoughts on this franchise. I would like to discuss some of my thoughts on the Ratchet & Clank series, and it would be appropriate to do so anyway since a new movie is going to come out some time in 2015 that features Ratchet and Clank.

I honestly didn't know what to expect when I first popped in a Ratchet and Clank game to the good old Sony Playstation 2. People still play the PS2? If you love and respect vintage games, you most likely do still play PS2 games. I honestly didn't know how my general gaming experience was going to go with a Ratchet and Clank game since at the time (and we're talking about late 2014) I had never played a single Ratchet and Clank game before in my life. I know, when you experience some things in life similar to the way I have you would know why there would be such a huge time gap in between playing video games. To my pleasant surprise, it wouldn't take long for me to realize what exactly I was missing when it comes to a game like this.

In the overall scope of things, I absolutely love the gameplay mechanics and the gameplay flow of Ratchet and Clank games. The transitions that you can make while in the heat of gameplay are seamless and the gadgets and weapons that you apply over the span of the game work together in harmony. Whatever you collect along the way on a planet or in a space station has some sort of purpose, and when you have a game that has items with purpose, then you will have me buying into your game.

Most of the gadgets and weapons that Ratchet, a Lombax (an intergalactic cat species of some sort), can use involve having to blow up stuff, and when you have a ton of things blowing up sky high, you will most likely have an explosive gameplay experience for all the right reasons. You have obstacles to overcome and you have bad guys to get past, so what's the best strategy to use in a Ratchet & Clank game? Blow everything up and ask questions later! Yeah, that is basically the gist of the situations that you will face in these games, but that is what makes these games fun.

Captain Qwark: The big silly fool who was once a space hero!

The Ratchet and Clank franchise was early on mainly known for its ridiculous sense of humor as the comedy spots in scenes were very prevalent. This was definitely the case in the original PS2 trilogy of the series, but as the series has continued on, it appears that the franchise has matured in many areas, taking itself a bit more seriously in comparison. Even so, we can't forget about the antics that involve a formerly unquestioned space hero in Captain Qwark, the kind of character that you think you have dealt with for the last time, and then you realize he somehow comes back to deliver more nonsense.

In the first Ratchet & Clank game, Ratchet and Clank themselves are enamored by the success of Captain Qwark as they were initially big fans of the guy. They wanted to meet him and interact with him, but of course, some things got in the way of that. After some adventuring and discovering some revealing plot twists, it becomes apparent that Captain Qwark grew jealous of Ratchet's and Clank's success as a duo. To make matters worse, Captain Qwark ended up helping Drek in attempting to blow up Ratchet's home planet of Veldin. After his initial defeat, Captain Qwark was sent to prison, but he ended up breaking free for no good reason at all. He reappeared as the main villain in Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando but in the stealthiest way imaginable. He disguised himself as Mr. Fizwidget to gain access to the Megacorp headquarters so that he could take control of the protopet situation. This plan of his obviously backfired.

Of course, Qwark reappeared again in Ratchet & Clank 3 where the heroes realized that Qwark had somehow lost his memory and had the belief that he was a jungle warrior of some sort. Ratchet and Clank rescued Qwark from himself and took him back to the Starship Phoenix where he would have his memory restored. Finally putting his grudges against Ratchet aside, Qwark would work alongside Ratchet in taking down the mischievous Dr. Nefarious and destroying the Biobliterator. Captain Qwark redeemed himself as a hero with this act of teamwork.

One of the burning questions about this franchise over the years has been "Is this a Platformer game series?" Technically, the answer would be no but with an asterisk. Let me explain. The Ratchet & Clank franchise has always been about pushing the limits of the normal Platforming genre of gaming, and Insomniac Games have admitted it themselves that they like to experiment with Shooter genre elements. It's very obvious how the game mechanics of Ratchet & Clank get their inspirations from. There are definitely Platforming elements that are noteworthy, but the bread and butter of gameplay here would be the weapons that Ratchet takes with him to battle. Aside from having a long wrench to whack enemies with, Ratchet has a wide variety of guns he can bust out at any given time and destroy enemies with.

Ratchet & Clank games have from time to time strayed away significantly from just solely being of the Platforming genre and it shows. Without buying any weapons from the vendors, you will most likely not advance past the 1st planet of the game. This is a game series that marches to the beat of its own drum, and this is the kind of concept that I love for any game game series to adopt.

Angela Cross: It would be wise to bring her back
There are plenty of characters to talk about in the Ratchet & Clank franchise, some of which are deeply beloved by gamers, but there is one character I would like to talk about here. I mentioned this in my entry titled "Gaming Industry: 2014 Year In Review" but I honestly believe that it would be a wise move for Insomniac Games to bring back Angela Cross, the female Lombax who started out as the Mysterious Thief in Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando but ended up helping Ratchet and Clank. When you talk about a character that has so much potential that it can become a mainstay playable character in games, then you should be able to mention Angela Cross as being at the top of that list.

The exchange in dialogue between Ratchet and Angela flowed so well and if only Insomniac Games were to keep Angela in the mix I believe that Ratchet and Angela would have been able to develop a stronger friendly bond between them. Let's not even factor in romance here, but just the idea of working together as a dynamic duo plus Clank is very appealing to a game writer like me. You expand the possibilities of gameplay if you allow gamers to control Angela Cross similar to the way they already control Ratchet, but with a few tweaks, of course. Insomniac could give Angela her own distinct physical moves and abilities that make her different than Ratchet and she could be allowed to carry Clank on her back instead of Ratchet for some missions.

Angela was briefly mentioned in Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus but it was part of a humorous news report that had no direct impact on the game. It remains to be seen if Insomniac will give characters like Angela another chance in rising to the occasion in gameplay.

R&C Reboot: This could go either way
Now let's talk about something that's on the horizon for the Ratchet & Clank franchise. A new movie is scheduled to debut in theaters sometime in 2015 (at least from the latest reports I have received) and this new movie is supposed to be a re-imagining of the original Ratchet & Clank game. On top of this the Ratchet & Clank franchise has been said to be going through some sort of rebooting process, to the extent where the original games are going to be viewed differently. This new game is said to be a different interpretation of the first Ratchet & Clank game, just like the new movie.

In the case of this franchise, I honestly believe this reboot idea could go either way. It will really depend on how well Insomniac Games handles this rebooting process because if they don't handle this well enough and there are enough banana peel slips, then I don't think we are going to have many happy gamers on hand, especially not many happy Ratchet & Clank fans. I am generally weary and cautious of any gaming franchise attempting a reboot because I am of the belief that only more harm can come from a reboot than good. When a game development company is stuck on what they should do to move a franchise forward and when they feel like they are running out of ideas for a certain game franchise, it's very easy for them to quickly snap their fingers and resort to rebooting that franchise. However, is this always a good idea exactly?

I am not of that mindset. I do understand why game developers reboot some franchises because in their view they are trying to extend the lives of those franchises and their content. I understand that view but I am overall not a fan of that view. Especially when you are conducting a complete overhaul of a franchise, as in a hard reboot where everything about the original series gets wiped out and you paint on a blank canvas again, you definitely run the risk of making long time fans of the original series angry. You are basically telling the fans that got you to where you are today that everything they experienced back then no longer matters and will never matter again. I can't support that kind of message.

No matter what kind of reboot the Ratchet & Clank franchise will have, it's essential for Insomniac Games to know what they are doing with this rebooting process and to not break what didn't need to be fixed in the first place. The last couple Ratchet & Clank games may not have been as solid as the previous titles but depending on who you ask, it doesn't feel like the original series didn't get so stale that there was this huge need for a reboot. Of course, Sony is the one pulling the trigger and ordering the code red at the end of the day as to what happens to a franchise like Ratchet & Clank, and clearly the new movie will play a role in this.


You might want to get out of Ratchet's way...


In the overall history of gaming, the Ratchet & Clank franchise has certainly left its mark on the Video Game Industry and it was hard to miss any of these games when they were competing straight up against the likes of Naughty Dog and their breakout franchise in Jak & Daxter. A funny truth about this Ratchet & Clank/Jak & Daxter rivalry would be the fact that both Insomniac Games and Naughty Dog actually shared an office building together where Insomniac would be in one half of the building and Naughty Dog would be in the other half.

Ratchet and Clank as characters are certainly recognizable and influential. They are both hilarious with their dialogue (although I am not a fan of every kind of comedy they use) and they come across as genuinely friendly. These are just two dudes who want to hang out with folks and don't want to stir the pot, so to speak. It's only when stuff happens to them, like to Clank's robotic body or to Ratchet's home planet, that they have to take things seriously. Let's hope that there will be more creativity from this franchise soon.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thoughts On Role Playing Games

Role Playing Games are infamous for their specific game mechanics and they are well known for giving the player the ability to roam through game worlds as freely as possible. Most RPG's allow players to wander off and go in any direction, and it's up to the player how many dangerous traps and enemies they want to encounter. RPG's simply play differently compared to other genres because they are more strategy-based, detailed and methodical. RPG's are not every gamer's cup of tea, but considering the high volume of players that gather for MMORPG's, it's not unusual for one to think that this genre is highly influential.

Role Playing Games originated not in video games but on board games. These kinds of RPG's featured players taking on the roles of characters that were pre-established, having their own sets of features such as strengths, weaknesses, interests, weapons of choice, etc. and it was up to the players as to how they would configure their characters. How would players position their characters for victory on the game board? What would they be willing to sacrifice on any given turn? How often would 4 players play 2-on-2 variants of RPG's? These are just some of the varying questions you would normally hear about board game-based RPG's.

Nit exactly "that" kind of quest you were thinking of!
In the scope of video games, however, RPG's have proven to be much more expressive and detailed in comparison. With the addition of gaming technology, RPG's are able to tell deeper stories within their own worlds, giving players expanded experiences whenever they play these kinds of games. There is a large range of options for players to use in Role Playing Games such as determining how much strength your character will have, how much speed your character will have, or how many skill points your character will start out with. You always give the players options when you are developing a game written script, but it also helps when the general game mechanics themselves give the players options right from the start.

Perhaps that is part of the ongoing appeal of RPG's, the fact that when you begin the Story Mode of such a game you are given a wide variety of things to do to help your character progress through the world. You have a ton of things to account for and you have a ton of things you can alter before you even start your journey. You help make your own experience in an RPG. You help make the story of the game. You as a player factor into the building of the story depending on your actions. So... is it any surprise that millions of gamers participate in online RPG events?

Video game RPG attacks relate to board game RPG rolls
For me personally, I am not a huge fan of Role Playing Games, but it's not because I don't like the general concept of RPG's. In theory, a game developing company can make an awesome RPG provided that they have the right resources and content to put all the puzzle pieces together. I believe there is potential to make truly interesting and innovative RPG's that gamers will enjoy playing. You just have to know what kind of themes you want to hit on before you dive into the development of an RPG title.

What I do like about RPG's is the fact that the turn-based style of play that gamers get into once they engage in battles against enemies comes across to me as interesting. The turn-based style catches my attention with the main reason being that unlike other gaming genres, you don't need to go all out in one swoop and defeat an enemy. With the turn-based style of fighting that RPG's are best known for, players are given some time to adjust their strategies and think about whether or not it's worth it to keep fighting a certain group of enemies. Most RPG's feature the option of running away and leaving battles, which always helps.

Now Here's What I Don't Like About Role Playing Games...

The gigantic overemphasis on the element of mysticism. I see this way too often in RPG's and I find this extremely troubling. Basically being used as the calling card for at least 90% of all RPG's that have been made in the Video Game Industry, the element of mysticism (or to be plain, the use of magic) has run rampant as the primary source of entertaining gamers throughout RPG experiences. I understand where this originates from. The board game phenomenon known as Dungeons and Dragons pretty much began the craze as people literally dressed up as their characters in order to "play out" what was going on in the game.

I don't think the Video Game Industry is overall sending a healthy message to the masses by basically saying that without the use of magic there can never be a reliable and legitimate Role Playing Game. I don't think game development companies get creative enough when it comes to the RPG genre because most RPG's blend in with each other. You see one RPG that contains mysticism and then you see another RPG that contains mysticism. Then you see another, and another, and another... It's funny because we often warn people not to repeat themselves when it comes to making business-related decisions, and yet, here we are with RPG's that have remained unchanged and stuck with this same stigma of "It must be about magic or else it's not a true RPG".

I would like to go into detail on the core reason why I don't approve of most RPG's, as I specifically have spiritual beliefs that oppose the core values of RPG's, but I won't be going into detail here. I don't believe this is the right time for me to discuss this core reason.

RPG: Lack of a True Identity for the Genre

Fundamentally speaking, I don't believe the RPG genre has ever established a true identity for itself, as in core gameplay mechanics may have been established for titles, but I don't get the sense of anything stable being secured for this genre. Let me explain. For an RPG it's very easy to get caught up in experimentation because of the fact that players are given so much freedom to dictate where their journeys are taking them. This in theory isn't a problem. However, it's the execution of these RPG's that I find to be underwhelming and unappealing. Remember what I just stated about the gigantic overemphasis on the element of mysticism, and that RPG's often repeat themselves and each other? The RPG genre suffers from tons of copycat titles.

Mainly because of the fact that the core of most RPG's is the use of magic do we see the same things in these games. If everything is the same in their core, how can we tell the difference between this RPG and that RPG? You can create as many different characters as you want, but the same core still exists, and that to me is a big problem. Why do we need to tell an RPG story and include mysticism? That's what I don't get. It feels like it's an unwritten rule of some sort, and honestly I don't agree with that rule.

A general setup of RPG play
Overall it's still about creativity...

Being in the Video Game Industry, we are in the business of getting creative with our video game content, and whatever we decide to add in our developed games comes down to whether or not this game we make will be creative enough to capture the attention of gamers. It shouldn't be about what we can do to match a competitor's interpretation of a gaming genre. It should be about what we can do to stand out from the competition, to offer something different for gamers. Just because the RPG genre has remained unchanged in its core values doesn't mean that there will never be a time for us to transform this genre into something different. I believe the industry needs the RPG genre to change its core and get away from just the one theme it's known for.

I am very tempted to write a game story for the RPG genre that doesn't involve any kind of element relating to mysticism. 0%. None whatsoever. Not a single trace. Some gaming insiders and RPG enthusiasts will probably call this tactic of mine barbaric, but I know it can be done. I believe it already has been done in a few obscure RPG titles that hardly anyone knows about. I believe game development companies should be willing to redefine what the RPG genre is all about and try different themes. Consider the following ideas. An RPG game takes place in the setting of the Wild West, or in the setting of the world we live in today, or perhaps in the Revolutionary War times, or even on colonies established under the sea or on the moon... Apply a different core value to this kind of RPG and that's where creativity will kick in.

There are positives to take from the general mechanics of the RPG style of play and the statistics that come with the characters we create or are given in these games, but the negatives stem from the unchanged core values of the RPG genre that are holding it back from its true potential. You can be creative with an RPG and not stick to the status quo.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Video Game Idea: Extreme Croquet

Croquet: Not as boring as you may think
I consider this to be a very unique topic because this is something that has caught my interest before in the past. Here is a little backstory of my love for the idea of extreme croquet. During the mid 2000's I was searching on the internet for something interesting, for a custom game that was unique enough that I could possibly experiment with. I initially searched for croquet and found that the normal way to play croquet was pretty bland and boring. Normal croquet is basically a game you would see around the country club, a game normally played by wealthy folks.

To my surprise, however, numerous variations of croquet existed, and once I found extreme croquet my imagination started to run wild.

Consider that I was a teenager still trying to find things that truly interested me at the time, and for whatever reason, thinking about extreme croquet just stuck with me. It was an otherwise normal blah game that was transformed to become something fun, cool and entertaining. That's what sparked my interest right from the start. When you check out some of the websites that are made for specific extreme croquet groups (and I only recommend the more professional-looking websites) you will notice that each extreme croquet club (or organization) has a different set of rules that they abide by when they play. Extreme croquet doesn't sit under the same restrictive umbrella of rules that normal croquet does.

No matter the terrain or condition, extreme croquet is played

Extreme croquet is more expressive and subjective in the manner in which players play. Perhaps it's even artistic in the way that the custom playing fields are set up. You can place the wickets next to trees, behind bushes, in sand traps, right next to water puddles, and wherever else. You can even create your own wickets and allow those custom wickets to be meaningful in a game. You can also place the end posts (that's what I'll call them) wherever you want as well. Some extreme croquet clubs keep track of scoring every time a player sends a ball through a wicket. Other clubs only record wins and losses. Some clubs even attach "style points" for "bonus wickets" as fun additions to their croquet experience.

Now don't some of these things I just mentioned relate to what game developers would do to jazz up a gaming experience for gamers? Customization brings out the best of some items, and when we consider the media form of video games, who is to say that we couldn't make an awesome video game out of extreme croquet?

Croquet in the snow? Unthinkable!
Let's begin by fleshing out what we would like to have in our custom extreme croquet video game. For starters, we have to determine how "out of bounds" we want the customized rules of this game to be. Remember, we are not making a normal croquet game, but rather an extreme croquet game. Due to the enhancements that game development could bring to this game, we would have to consider putting in some random items that would make some sense in adding to the gaming experience. I believe customization is the key to this extreme croquet video game. I would probably recommend an extensive Level Creator Mode.

For the Level Creator Mode, I believe we could give the gamer options such as whether the playing field would be that of an urban city setting, a rural neighborhood setting, a forest, a desert, a beach, a sub-zero paradise (like the picture above), or even a sports stadium that would be converted. Next, we could determine how many wickets we would like to play with. We could play with 6 wickets, 9 wickets or even more. For extra features, would we want to put in ramps to launch the croquet balls off of? Would we like to put in a trampoline just for kicks? How about a loop that's big enough to support a croquet ball all the way through? Some features could remind us of miniature golf in a way because of the added obstacles.

For basic visuals, here is how I would compare this extreme croquet video game's mechanics to...

Mario Golf

Marble Madness
Super Monkey Ball
MVP Baseball
I propose to take bits and pieces from the mechanics of the games featured above and mold them into the kind of mechanics that would be fitting for extreme croquet. We could establish the mechanics for how to swing the croquet mallet as a cross between a golf club swing and a baseball bat swing in one sense, and even after the ball is hit, we could allow the gamer to control the rotations of the croquet ball as it moves. We could experiment with the control sticks on the console controllers to move the croquet ball so that it will go through the wickets. Plus, depending on how much speed a launched ball has, controlling the croquet ball can either be very easy or very difficult. We need to make sure the player is in control of this option, that the player determines with a mallet swing how fast or slow the ball is going to go.

Just like with any other sports video game, this extreme croquet game would feature competitive modes to keep the players interested, such as Tournament Mode, Elimination Mode, Timed Matches, Knockout Matches, 1-on-1 Duels, 2-on-2 Team Play, etc. You don't want to limit the possibilities for an expressive game like this. You want to get in touch with the extreme croquet (like watching some videos online) environment a little bit before determining where to go with this video game. You could focus on things like momentum, tempo, mallet-to-ball detection and playing surface effects to capture the feeling of extreme croquet.

One thing that I think could be put out on the forefront in this custom video game would be the act of implementing incentives. Players would sometimes need to be given something else to play for other than to win a game of extreme croquet. For example, in Mario Golf, Birdie Badges are always featured to encourage players to shoot for a birdie at a hole. The more Birdie Badges a player collects, the more likely it is for that player to unlock another character or golf course in the game. Also think about Super Monkey Ball and how players are always timed to get their characters across the finish line before time runs out. We could put up timed challenges where players would need to clear the entire extreme croquet course within 3 minutes or so. If you want to factor points into the equation, measure extreme croquet's scoring system similar to that of the MVP Baseball series and how those games kept track of players' stats.

Now when it comes to a Story Mode or a Season Mode, I believe it should remain subjective. Extreme croquet is obviously not a professional sport so we can relax the playing schedules for these kinds of modes. If you want your extreme croquet calendar to start in January (not that I would in real life), then you could place the starting point of the season then. If you prefer March, April or May, then that's fine too. Even if you start in October for whatever reason, that's also cool. You could schedule just how many extreme croquet games you want to play for the season, hold your postseason tournament events and then crown a league champion at the end of the season.

It saddens me to see that extreme croquet has pretty much died down considerably in popularity ever since the mid 2000's. There's no real good explanation as to why extreme croquet has faded from the public scene other than for me to speculate that former extreme croquet enthusiasts have just lost interest or they no longer have the time to play so much anymore. Even when new extreme croquet clubs emerge it doesn't seem like they will last for very long anyway, probably at best lasting for 3 years.

Even so, I hope this custom video game idea for extreme croquet caught the imagination of my blog readers.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What's Wrong With The Writing Industry

Writing: A profession that's not respected
It has taken me a while to muster up the courage to write an article as in-depth as this one, but I feel like my most recent adventures as a writer have made it clear to me that I need to start speaking up about some of the issues that I am encountering. It appears obvious that some people (clients/employers) in the field of online freelance writing simply don't understand all of the variables that go into what writers are looking for. Maybe these clients are truly clueless as to what writers are looking for, and maybe they intentionally don't want to know the truth of this profession and they want to stay firm to a certain set of rules that a writer must follow.

I make it no secret that I try my best to be a visionary for certain topics like this one. Writing is a gift of mine and it's a profession that I take seriously. Writing is what I'm good at and it's something that I don't want to take for granted. Unfortunately, many employers in the field of online freelance writing do take a writer's worth for granted, and they make it no secret as to what their stances are on any given writing projects.

I am trying to establish a foundation of a writing career that I can call my own. I am trying to create a long-lasting relationship with a trade that I know I'm good at and that I know I love. I know I can write and I know I can write well. Now why is it that when I apply for writing jobs online, my accomplishments are taken for granted by many employers?

Don't get me started on the prospects of writing for small scale video game projects because those aren't even a dime a dozen. These kinds of opportunities are more like a penny a thousand, if that makes sense. Whenever I do come across a job listing that asks for a writer to help out with a game project, that writer MUST have previous experience working on video game writing. Otherwise it's pretty much a guarantee that a writer, such as myself, will never get a crack at writing scripts for video games, as far as online job listings are concerned. No matter how much passion I have for writing custom game scripts and no matter how much love I have for that practice, as I have described to you in the past that I write my own custom game stories on the side, it will never factor into a job listing. So here I am, still waiting to get my first crack at writing a script for a video game, even if it's for a small scale mobile game that may be obscure to the masses. I've had this dream since 2008, and now 2015 has just started, and still, nothing to show for it.

I loved reading Calvin & Hobbes back in the day
I have heard of the term "content farm" before but I never really realized how strong that term appeared to be until recently. When you have been on freelance websites like elance.com, odesk.com and guru.com for as long as I have, and we're only talking 6+ months here, you eventually get warning signs that some things about these websites just don't feel right. Depending on the criteria that these websites use, you can either be making a lot of headway with writing jobs or you could get screwed over before you even blink.

By saying "content farm", I mean it in the plainest way possible. Some of these freelance websites mainly feature job listings where they seek writers to produce specific content that they want. Churn out content like it's butter out on the prairie, if you will. "We want this content done within 3 days and we need you to write around 1000-1500 words. Please use the specific information that we give you. Write it in this tone. Blah, blah, blah..."

For game writers who aren't exactly familiar with this system, let me just say that you wouldn't find many of the topics that you would write about to be all that interesting. I mean, I managed to write 10 articles on hospital-related topics, mainly healthcare, and these are topics that I'm not thrilled about at all. I'm not a healthcare expert by any means, but I took this job because I believed I could do the job. I did the job well, thankfully, but my point still stands that if you're looking for something that even somewhat interests you, be prepared to be at least somewhat disappointed.

If I had things my way, I would make ghostwriting illegal. Period.

I put the above sentence in bold on purpose. I am highlighting an opinion of mine that I know is going to anger some people, particularly people who love to be ghostwriters.  Let me explain my reasoning for this opinion first before tomatoes are thrown at me. If you are trying to firmly establish yourself as a well known writer, what is the most logical way to obtain sufficient recognition? You would rather receive credit for the writing work that you do and get a pat on the back, rather than to write an article for a person or a company that will intentionally take your work, spin it around to fit their liking, and then call the final product theirs when it's painfully obvious that they have done nothing to deserve any credit for that written article that YOU worked hard on.

I find the general principles of ghostwriting intellectually dishonest from their roots and I don't condone the practice. In my brutally honest opinion, if you want to become a respected writer in the world, then you need to start respecting yourself first and foremost. You need to keep things in proper perspective. How are readers ever going to know about you if you hide behind a different name, or worse, behind the names of different people whom you know never put in the work that you did? I am yet to see an official long-time ghostwriter ever put his or her name out there for the mainstream media to report on, and guess what? There's a reason for that. Why do they call it ghostwriting to begin with? As a ghostwriter, you are basically invisible and your name is locked away from receiving the true credit of the articles you write.

I'm not a fan of ghostwriting, and the more I read about what goes into ghostwriting the more I have grown to hate the idea of ghostwriting. In the grand scheme of things I don't believe ghostwriting helps writers because credit is being taken away from them, and writers are allowing this credit to be taken by their employers and by other people.When you give away credit to a company, you are basically giving them the license to micromanage your workload, undermine your representation as a writer and to put it bluntly, treat you like dirt.

Need a writer who will work hard? stevenvittewriter is one of those guys!
Either pay me $20 minimum for a writing project and give me credit for it, or NO DEAL.

The above sentence in bold is as concrete as my stance will get. Either I get paid at least $20 for a writing project and I receive some credit for that project, or I will NOT work on that writing project. It's just that simple. I would certainly never allow a gaming company to belittle my standing as a writer and throw me a job where it pays only peanuts ("We pay only $1.25 per 500 words! Aren't we so economically understanding? Hee! Hee!") because I have more respect for myself than that. My words are worth much more than peanuts and insulting lowball offers. It's WAY too often that I come across online job listings where writers get paid only $5 here or $3 there for a job that's worth more than those prices. Where's the long-term gain in any of these peanut-paying jobs? Can someone please answer that for me?

The Writing Industry Within The Video Game Industry

I briefly mentioned this earlier, but it is becoming a fact that unless you have any official experience in game writing, you will probably be waiting an incredibly long time before you ever get your first chance in writing even a part of a script for a video game. You do have to prove that you can do the job, of course, but even after you have proven that you can write in various other forms, you are still sitting on the bench waiting for your first time writing a small script for a game. Even after you ask numerous questions as to what it takes to be a game writer and after you do your best to apply that new game writing knowledge to your custom projects, the waiting period is right there.

Being brutally honest again, it appears to me that some companies in the Video Game Industry intentionally set up this barrier for writers where even though you have the passion to learn how to write for games and develop your skills for game writing, it will never really be enough to impress these companies. You will be cast aside by these companies with the idea that one day you will write for them, but then years go by and nothing ever happens.

You gotta have the right connections. You gotta be able to properly network with people who are associated with game development companies. You have to convey your messages as a writer the right way to your contacts. You have to let game companies know that you are in it for the long haul and that your love and passion for game writing are genuine and sincere. That's pretty much me in a nutshell. I know what my intentions are as a writer. I am writing various obscure articles right now but I don't want to be doing just that for 20-30 years straight. I know where my ultimate goal or finish line resides, and that is in the Video Game Industry, inside (and outside) a game development company studio where I can freely express my ideas at appropriate times and also taking in the input that my bosses give me. This is where I want to be in the long run. I don't intend to contradict this message. I want in on the game writing action.

More Calvin & Hobbes again
Game writing is challenging but it isn't the Calculus of writing, and game companies that treat game writing as such need to lower their expectations just a little bit. Game writing is an extended branch of expression, aimed at giving gamers more freedom when they play games. Game writing should be an extension of the ideas that are presented by game development companies. All game stories excel in different avenues. Some stories are emotionally driven. Other game stories are simply unique joy rides in adventure. Some game stories are completely comedy driven and make gamers laugh. Other game stories take themselves seriously and send important messages to gamers when the gameplay experience ends. Whichever kind of game story that you write, you need to be consistent with the messages that you send and you need to make sure that the narratives fit in with the gameplay mechanics. Be mindful of the interactive experience.

Do I sound like someone who doesn't know anything at all about game writing?

Some writers who have never written for video games previously have been given a chance to write for games, and these writers have been well established and famous for writing other media forms like comic books, novels and magazines. How am I drastically different from these writers aside from the fact that no one knows me? I want a chance at game writing and I'm going to stop at nothing to get that chance.

Professional Writers: Definition?

What can we say about professionalism in writing? We hear all sorts of stories relating to plagiarism and miscommunication regarding copyright issues, but what does it really mean to be a professional writer? Why should any company be given the license to label some writers as professional writers and others as misguided unprofessional writers? Depending on what the writer does, professionalism is an issue. In my case, I know I work hard to write articles. I know I put out my best effort to make sure that the articles I write have legitimate quality to them. I would find it insulting and disrespectful if any client of mine came back to me and told me that I was not a professional writer. I already have a portfolio to speak of, and I can show my readers on this blog the stuff I have already done, so why should anyone tell me all of a sudden that I'm not a professional writer?


I have commented on video game reviewing companies in the past, and I have commented on them for a reason. I have reason to believe that companies like IGN, Game Informer, GameSpot and the like are being intellectually dishonest and that they are intentionally swaying gamers away from games and to games. These companies make reviews on games that they themselves play, but in recent years the reviews haven't been accurate to what these games actually are in quality. It makes me believe that these reviewing companies are being paid under the table here and there by game development companies to write reviews that are not 100% accurate, and I definitely have a problem with this possibility.

When you review a video game, be honest about it. It's really that simple. I don't want to go into specifics about what is politically correct about a video game and what isn't, and neither should these big name game reviewing companies. If a game is good, then it's good. If a game is bad, then it's bad. If you want to pick apart a game in a review, then you can do so but don't do it to the point where you are trying to stretch the truth about a game. Those are the kinds of tactics I won't tolerate as a fellow writer.

Writing In General Needs To Change Soon

In closing, since I've rambled on long enough about writing topics, I believe the entire Writing Industry needs to change very soon, and the signs of needing more sufficient changes in the way that we view writers and the art of writing have never looked more obvious. Look around you. Look at writing job websites like elance.com, guru.com, odesk.com and others and tell me what's wrong with the general attitudes of clients and employers. Tell me what's wrong with how they put ridiculously low value in their writing assignments, only being willing to pay $1 per a few hundred words and then forcing people to believe that this mindset is acceptable.

Where's the respect for writers in general? Writers occupy a role that not everyone can do, and yet, writers are treated almost on the same level as your local janitor, cleaning up the messes that someone else made. Try to tell me that there's nothing wrong with that mindset. Try to tell me that the Video Game Industry is perfectly healthy in tossing writers aside on the fly, and in other cases, hiring the same writers over and over again when it's obvious that those writers haven't justified their position. Try to tell me that it's okay for a game development company to hire an accomplished soap opera writer who does a good job in that genre, but doesn't understand the language of game writing one iota. Try to tell me that a game developer would rather hire that soap opera writer than an aspiring game writer who wants to be a student of the game, so to speak. Just try to justify that.

When I was younger, I used to value the opinions of video game critics. I used to be a subscriber to the Game Informer magazine, believe it or not. I subscribed to their magazine for years, but after a while it became obvious to me that the writers who wrote the game reviews for this magazine just didn't care about what they wrote. They weren't serious about what they were talking about. These writers were very vague and helped intentionally sway gamers away from games that didn't deserve to get bashed. Once they found a game series to use as a punching bag, they would punch the living daylights out of that game series for the sake of entertainment value. It was this coupled with me just losing interest in game reviews in general that led to me unsubscribing.

Words are valuable to a writer, but as the saying always goes, actions speak louder than words. When companies intentionally shun writers from being able to do what they normally can do and force them to do the most bizarre things writing-wise, then who can blame us writers for being upset or feeling insulted? The words that I write matter to me and they shouldn't be treated as something that you can dispose of within 3 minutes. Those words are my work. Those words help symbolize me as a writer. Those words represent the time that I devote to this craft of writing. Whatever I write should belong to me.

By the way, this article was written by Steven Vitte and not by some random ghostwriter.