Sunday, February 24, 2013

Can cooperative survival horror work?


Developers diving into the realm of horror have always followed a few specific guidelines if they ever hoped to create a successful game. These guidelines, such as minimal amounts of health and ammo, grotesque enemies (whether it is due to their physical features or their actions) who remain hidden until the opportune moment and creepy, claustrophobic areas that build heart-pounding tension, are all very important in creating a terrifying experience for the player.

However, if there is one rule that has been applied to almost every single horror video game in the history of the industry, it’s isolation. Our survival horror protagonists have almost always gone through their adventure alone.

Why is that? Well, the answer is simple: isolation is a scary thought. Very few people want to be alone which is why this tactic is used so often by developers. The sense of dread increases immensely when a player realizes they don’t have anyone to speak with or back them up.

This is why players have rarely seen a survival horror game feature any type of cooperative mode. Ever since the rise of the genre began with the releases of the original Resident Evil and Silent Hill this formula has, for the most part, stayed the same due to its proven success.

Unfortunately, this has also engrained in many minds the belief that video games cannot be scary if there’s cooperative mode. I simply don’t accept that. After years of gaming (and my recent play through of ObsCure), I think such a feat, with the appropriate amount of time effort and money, is entirely possible.


As I mentioned earlier, there are several guidelines developers, consciously or unconsciously, follow. Yet this is an age of innovation. Rehashing the same video time and time again (unless it’s a sports franchise) is a surefire way to kill a series. This is why developers take these guidelines into account, and then mix and match what they want to use.

Take Resident Evil 4 for example. It contains grotesque enemies and creepy areas, but in no way does it have a lack of ammo or health for the player to use. Even though the game throws enough provisions at the player to supply a small army, it’s probably the most successful game in the franchise!

Developers have altered or removed whatever they felt necessary in order to create a good game countless times. What does this all mean? It means that, no matter the genre, not every guideline, rule or feature from previous games is needed to make a successful game.

So, why exactly is going solo a must for survival horror?

“Games can’t be scary if you’re playing with someone else.” I’ve heard this quote said and written many times in many different ways but I don’t agree with those who stand by this. Let’s take a quick look at films.

Horror films have almost never presented a solo act; and I only write almost because I haven’t seen every horror film out there so please let me know if one exists because I’d love to see it. Instead, they focus on a group of two or more people trying to survive the evil that pursues them. Take a look at these examples: Halloween, Friday the 13th, Evil Dead, 28 Days Later, [REC], Paranormal Activity, etc.

The point I’m trying to make is that many people still found these films scary even though the characters were never alone until the latter moments of them. Even most of us were with family or friends when we watched those films! Why can’t that synchronized feeling of terror be replicated in a video game? Is it because it simply can’t be reproduced, or do collective minds refuse the possibility due to the changing of a well-structured formula?

Yes, I do understand that films are a different form of entertainment than video games, but video games are interactive! In some ways, it should be easier to recreate that terror since it is us being placed in those horrific moments.


Of course, a project such as cooperative survival horror would be no easy task. It also doesn’t help that the few video games that do support this feature are far from shining examples of how to properly pull it off; Dead Space 3 and Resident Evil 6 being the most recent examples. Even though I don’t agree with them, it's because of these games I understand why people believe cooperative survival horror can’t exist.

The major problem with those games in regards to this topic is that survival horror was not the focus. People claim cooperative play as a contributor to the fall of survival horror in these games but that is not entirely the case. Instead of survival, the developers placed intense action on the forefront.

How can a couple of people be terrified of encroaching enemies when they’re given powerful weapons with endless amounts of ammo and a health bar the size of a zombie’s appetite? That’s not surviving, that’s obliterating all opposition.

Another problem with these games, in terms of survival horror (because I do enjoy these games for what they are), is the amount of enemies thrown at the player. Seriously, the amount borders on ridiculous. While playing Dead Space 3, there was one part when I yelled at the game, “Are you done yet?! Can I move to the next area? Oh, of course not; there’s another three waves of enemies I have to fight!”

When you see the same enemies over and over and over again they lose their original scare factor. This is where games such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent succeed in more ways than one. Even though the game boasts just a few different types of enemies, players only run into them on rare occasions. This makes each confrontation absolutely terrifying.

Adding to this development of fear is the fact that players are defenseless. An encounter with these monsters creates instant panic as players sprint towards a hiding spot and praying they weren’t spotted.


If these concepts were incorporated into a cooperative survival horror adventure, I believe it would flourish. Hear (read) me out as I suggest an idea about a two player cooperative survival horror adventure that has the capability of being a success.

Imagine two players adventuring the dark halls of a mansion; please excuse me for the clich√©. The two of them must work together, solving puzzles and finding specific items to progress further into the mouth of madness. The eerie, distant sounds inch closer; the two know they’re being watched. Suddenly, the evil, tormented being appears. The two players, defenseless, must seek some sort of shelter from the terrifying soul pursuing them. Unfortunately, only one makes it to a hiding spot. The other gets cornered, shouting for help but to no avail. Then… silence. Now the surviving player, accustomed to partnership, is now truly alone increasing the sense of dread by tenfold.

It’s a very basic concept, and there are many kinks that would need to be worked out; an example being communication. Allowing players to communicate freely would give them the means to converse about tangent topics which could diminish the tension the atmosphere is attempting to build. On the other hand, restricting communication (√† la Resident Evil: Outbreak) can lead to a barrier between players resulting in a loss of teamwork and strategy.

Either way, I believe that somewhere out there is a company who can create an amazing cooperative survival horror experience. I highly doubt any AAA company would ever be able to create something like this since publishers have their hands tied. This leaves it in the hands of indie developers who have the freedom to create what they choose.

Accomplishing a feat like this would be difficult, and they would need to start small before working to a larger project; somewhere around the size of Slender. Nonetheless, I believe they have the ability and the creativity to develop a cooperative survival horror game worthy of recognition.

I understand that for many of you the idea is still hard to believe. Although the odds of something like this working out favorably are slim, I hope to open your minds to its possibilities and the fun that it would (or wouldn’t) be. If the proper amount of time and effort are put into making a co-op survival horror game—that follows the guidelines which have helped fashion many other horror franchises—I think it could be a monumental achievement for the genre. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

SuperGameGeek Plays: Mark of the Ninja - Ep. 14

Our final mission? Yeah... don't count on it.

Mission six (pt. 1): Hessian Castle - An Ancestral Home



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SuperGameGeek Plays: Mark of the Ninja - Ep. 13

You're going down, Kelly; and I don't mean down under.

Mission five (pt. 3): Oshi City - The Fall of Hessian Tower



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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The disappointment called PlayStation Meeting


I had another topic planned for today, but after watching Sony’s press conference for the PlayStation 4, this cannot wait.

Among the many games shown, the revealing of the new controller, the promises of immediacy and simplicity and the beautiful progression of visuals into a new generation of consoles, Sony did one thing to upset me. Seriously, my hype for the PS4 has been ruined due to Sony refusing to commit one action.

They never showed the console! How could Sony think this was a good idea? I understand that Kazuo Hirai mentioned they were waiting for Microsoft to reveal their console first, but this isn’t the way to do it. With the announcement of this meeting, everyone (including myself) thought Sony had matured and decided to make the first move. I can see that this was not case.

I know that because of this conference the PlayStation 4 has been officially announced, but that news was basically leaked on the internet. We all knew that there was going to be a PS4; this meeting was supposed to tell us everything about it. However, Sony failed miserably in this regard.

Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely excited to hear about the 8 GB of memory and the x86 CPU. I was also happy to see the "final" design of the PS4 controller. The thing is, those reveals are just the tip of the iceberg. I wanted to learn about the PS4 inside and out, from what makes it tick to how much it costs. However, much of this wasn't even revealed. Demanding a price and a release date may be asking too much, but putting the console on display for viewers to take in should have been paramount.


Instead, after they spent an abnormal amount of time on social networking, they decided to show video game after video game which is a task to accomplish at E3; not at a Sony press conference announcing brand new hardware. What makes this entire situation worse is that some of the games shown were not even playing on the PlayStation 4. As a matter of fact, the WATCH_DOGS demo was actually being played on a PC with specs close to the still mysterious console.

Maybe Sony thought this meeting would draw out Microsoft into announcing their respective console (rumored to be the Xbox 720). If so, this was still a bad idea. I’m not the only one expressing my disappointment in Sony’s actions. Feel free to check the internet, Twitter, blogs, etc. to find many other people expressing the same emotions as I. Microsoft can use this backlash to their advantage by putting on a show worthy of a next generation console.

Imagine this: Microsoft puts on a conference in a month or two—just before E3—and reveals their console, its specifications, a few games in development, the price and the release date. As long as the “720” offers what gamers want, consumers will be much more likely to flock over to Microsoft because they will know what they’re getting.

I don’t like being toyed with, Sony; but that’s what you did. You built the hype for this console a month in advance and failed to deliver. Sure, some of your presentations were entertaining but it was not what many of us were looking for.

I understand that Sony wanted to keep some mystery surrounding their new console, but this isn’t the way to do it. I mean, after tonight it seems as if they were actually worried about revealing too much information to their competitors. Get your act together, Sony. Prove yourselves the mature business you strut around claiming you are. Don’t wait to see what competitors have to offer.

For now, all I can hope for is that Sony doesn’t take too long to reveal the information gamers with strict wallets really want: an actual look at the console with the knowledge of what makes it tick, the retail price of this beast (for the love of God, do not make it $600) and a confirmed release date. Well, what are you waiting for? It’s still your move, Sony.

SuperGameGeek Plays: Mark of the Ninja - Ep. 12

So... we're gonna pretend that never happened.

Mission five (pt. 2): Oshi City - The Fall of Hessian Tower



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SuperGameGeek Plays: Mark of the Ninja - Ep. 11

While they deal with the fire, I'm just gonna slip right in.

Mission five (pt. 1): Oshi City - The Fall of Hessian Tower



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Friday, February 15, 2013

Bastion on handhelds would be a dream come true


During the holiday sale on this this past December, I always continued checking up on what game I could lose myself in at a cheap price. Every day I would open up the store on my PC and scour the many discounted games. One day, my eyes came across the immensely popular title, Bastion.

I had never played the game before. I remembered seeing clips back when it debuted on the Xbox Live Marketplace, and it looked interesting, but money was tight so I moved on. I did regret the decision at times as I heard people proclaim how great and innovative the atmosphere and gameplay were.

Well, there Bastion stood teasing me with its $3.74 price tag. Something tried to hold me back—most likely the fear that the game wouldn’t be for me and I’d have to force myself to finish it—but I ignored it and I investigated whether or not to throw down for this adventure. After looking through the game’s community hub, and the numerous titled “Should I get this game?” threads, I decided to go for it.

However, before I clicked that “ADD TO CART” button, I stopped. Not out of hesitation or anything like that. My finger couldn’t press down on the left mouse button because I noticed that the soundtrack edition was only two dollars and fifty cents more. I remember seeing a lot of critical acclaim for the music of Bastion, as well as a few songs being nominated for awards, so I said to myself, “To hell with it! Supergiant Games, take my $6.24!”

Well, needless to say, I loved every second I spent playing Bastion. The sensational narrator, action-packed gameplay, and alluring music are just a few of the things I pulled me back to the broken world of Celondia. I needed to know how the Calamity affected every part of the world, and I was intrigued by every detail that showed it to me.

I could go on, and I would really like to, but that would ruin the review I’m writing for everyone. This post is about something else; something I would love to see happen.

You see, I was playing Kid Icarus: Uprising on my Nintendo 3DS this past weekend (the blizzard of 2013 had the audacity to keep me away from my PC and consoles), and a thought hit me. Bastion, having the excellent role-playing elements and replay value that kept me coming back for more, would be a perfect game for handhelds.


I could see myself away from home, pulling out my 3DS, and journeying through the mines and forests of Celondia. Each level long enough to allow for extended pay sessions, yet short enough to accommodate handheld gamers who are always on the move.

I also believe that today’s handhelds can handle running the game extremely well. While the game features astonishing top-down isometric visuals and combat containing numerous amounts of enemies, the Playstation Vita showed what it’s capable of with Uncharted: Golden Abyss, and the Nintendo 3DS still exhibits some untapped potential with Kid Icarus: Uprising and the upcoming Castlevania: Lords of Shadow — Mirror of Fate.

Yes, I know I could be wrong. Maybe there is something I am missing that entirely negates my idea. If so, let me know. If it is possible, though, I would like to see it happen. I want to give more of my money (at least more than $6.24) to Supergiant Games and this illustrious world they created. A port to handhelds would secure that and keep me playing for hours.

I wish I could make this suggestion to them personally, but I feel it would take a number of fans to get a project like this into fruition. Still, a gamer can always dream.

Well, after all of this, I’d like to know if this is something you’d all like to see. Also, to those of you with programming and developing experience, is a port like this even a possibility? Lastly, are there any other titles out there that you wish could make it to handhelds? Let’s discuss these answeres in the comment section. As always, thank you for reading!

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I love the soundtrack. My wife and I listen to it quite frequently. She even learned how to play Zia's Song on her acoustic guitar! That's how I truly know the music from this game is amazing.

SuperGameGeek Plays: Afterfall InSanity Extended Edition - Ep. 21

Finally! The epic finale! Well... actually, epic might be stretching it a bit. Okay; more like stretching it a lot.



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SuperGameGeek Plays: Afterfall InSanity Extended Edition - Ep. 20

This saboteur must've taken lessons from Neo.



I hope you enjoyed the video. Please take a moment and follow my blog/subscribe to my YouTube channel if you did. Also, feel free to comment below. I appreciate any feedback. As always, thank you for watching. See ya next time!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

I’ve realized I have not been writing on the blog as frequently as I would like. I have been frequently writing articles and reviews for GameDwellers.com, but I noticed that this blog just looks so lonely. However, that is all going to change! Today, the day of love (or brutality according to the history books), is my start. I am going to try to post at least every other day. Is it going to be a long, meaningful, artistic look into the video game industry? No, not every day. I’m going to let y’all know how I feel about certain things in the industry along with the reviews and Let’s Plays. Heck, a post might just be me saying “Hi!” and asking what you’re playing.

I’m excited to turn over a new leaf, and improve upon my writing as well as the excitement of this blog. I hope y’all are willing to take this adventure with me… in a completely heterosexual way, of course. Not that there’s anything wrong with—Okay, not going there! This is a video game blog!

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I’d thought I’d post some funny video game themed Valentine’s Day cards in case you want to give a little something extra geeky to your significant other (no matter who or what he/she/it is… that’s the politically correct way of saying that, right?).

Enjoy!



This is the one I gave my wife!



These are a couple of Skyrim-themed Valentine's Day cards that made me chuckle.



Oh, Kirby. I didn't know you could be so cute and dirty at the same time.



Last but not least, this one here is my favorite! AFFECTION! And yes, I gave this one to the wife as well.

SuperGameGeek Plays: Afterfall InSanity Extended Edition - Ep. 19

No doubt about it; Tokaj is definitely insane.



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SuperGameGeek Plays: Afterfall InSanity Extended Edition - Ep. 18

A baby-faced transformer and a bunch of Casper wannabe's ambush me... This game just lost so much respect.



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Monday, February 11, 2013

SuperGameGeek Plays: Afterfall InSanity Extended Edition - Ep. 17

It's all a lie! The entire city is fake!



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SuperGameGeek Plays: Afterfall InSanity Extended Edition - Ep. 16

Could we get a clean-up in aisle 3?



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SuperGameGeek Plays: Afterfall InSanity Extended Edition - Ep. 15

It's time for a boss fight with some ugly, Captain America wannabe.



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