February 26, 2014

How I've changed as a gamer

I was just idly pondering my navel and I wondered when we were going to get some new intel on Halo 5. I would love to get my hands on Halo 5 I thought. And then I thought, but I want to play a new Mass Effect game first. And that surprised me as I’ve been a Halo nut ever since an old flat mate said, “Here Jimmy Jangles, try this Soccer game.” And “I went, cool but who is that dude on THAT game?” Or something like it.

Whilst I played Combat Evolved across the following week I realised I was having dreams about Halo. I was the Master Chief in my dreams.

But that was some 8 years ago and many Halo games have come since then. Some good. Some great. Other games have come into my life two. I fell hard for Gears of War. And then I  picked up a cheap copy of Mass Effect and bamn! video games were not only about killing alien hordes, they were about killing alien hordes AND talking to blue Asari aliens as part of an attempt to lure out some broker who lived in the shadows. And elevator rides. Who doesn't love elevator rides?

And that’s how I grew up as a gamer. No more Tetris or Leemings or Duke Nukem 3D for me, I expect my video games to tell me real stories. Stories that make me want to come back and read (play) them again and again. I want the run and gun but I also want my Arthur C Clarke tales too. I want the big boss battle but I also want some secrets to be found out over time. I don’t want to be hearded ‘back to the battle field in 10 seconds or the Guardians will kill me’, I want some joker to fly to the next battle field in the next system.

So while I’m hanging out for Halo 5 as a mid 30s aged dad with a mortgage, I know I’m a different player now. Not so much time for multiplayer as you can’t press pause on that when a little boy needs his dad. So maybe that’s it, as a campaign player, I need varied and interesting experiences.

So now I’m more open to video games that are a bit different. If money and time allowed, I’d explore further than the Bioshocks of this world. That Titanfall looks pretty interesting. As for Destiny...


But Halo, you had me at Hello. 

February 20, 2014

How Bungie has already guaranteed the (initial) success of Destiny.

It is your ....Destiny.
When Bungie was making the original Halo game, they didn’t know they had a world beater on their hands. They may have of course suspected it… They’d had a strong run with games like ONI and Myth - so much so Microsoft liked what they had seen and picked their code as the flagship game for the original Xbox.

They were well placed to launch to infinity and beyond but it wasn't guaranteed.

Luckily Halo took off and then Halo 2’s great game campaign and even better industry changing multiplayer cemented that status. Bungie could do no wrong and Halo 3 proved to be one of gaming’s best ever game releases – Bungie had matured as a company, they had the skills and they had the built in fan base that would buy Halo 3 no matter how bad a review it got from anyone.

But Bungie no longer makes Halo. They are making a game called Destiny. An untried, unseen game. They don’t have a sequel that the fan boys will sell their mothers to get a copy of. They have nothing but their reputation to stake it on. While form is temporary and class is permanent – and Bungie has class, how has Bungie already guaranteed the success of Destiny?

They have tackled this on several fronts. Some are hard, industry strength machinations that will be levered across a range of companies. Some are marketing strategies that have been in play for several years and some are honest working relationships with their Halo fan base.


We’ll cover these three areas as the pillars on which the success of Destiny is assured.

Industry Strength Plays

Activision

Bungie has teamed up with a partner that has a long history of being in the business of selling video games. They know how to do it and they will have the reach that Bungie needs to get their game into as many fingers as possible.

Speaking of Reach…

Halo was an Xbox exclusive, and still is. Destiny will be cross platform making the leap to the Play Station side of the fence. Is the grass greener? The games will be the same, they will look mostly the same as each other. So what’s in it then? It should be obvious that there are millions of Play Stations out there, just waiting for a decent new game to come their way. Millions.  

Xbox is the spiritual home of Bungie and the new Xbox One will serve as an incentive to purchase Destiny. Case in point this writer. I have a child and a mortgage so a new Xbox One is not a priority right now but I guarantee you, I will be buying Destiny for Xbox One. If I am going to play around in this Destiny’s realm for 4 – 6 years then I am going to do it on the best machine I can – don’t bother with arguments that PS4 is better, I’m an Xbox player 4 life!

Marketing – Tiger, tiger, burning bright 

The slow burn reveal

It's a tiger, man.
After Halo: Reach was successfully let loose, Bungie went dark. Everyone knew they were working on a new game for there was a ‘brave new world’ to be made;  T-Shirts were worn. Denials were made. Faint whispers down corridors were heard. Fans speculated. And speculated. And then this happenedTigers were mentioned

All the while, the Bungie fans played into the of the company. Websites were made. Lion men were mentioned. Fan art was created. People even wrote fan fiction about an unreleased game. In short, Bungie marketed the game to the fans by offering them a glimpse of something and made them want it.

Bungie have also done the rounds of the video game developer conferences and the comic con type events gamers love to promote the game. The judicious use of announcement trailers and game play and character development videos and has meant that everyone who loves to know about what’s coming out already knows about Destiny before any real marketing campaign has begun. These people will buy the game and their chatter will influence other people to follow suit. 

The Real Marketing campaign

Just as Halo 4 had David Fincher making videos to promote the game, Activision will turn up the marketing to eleven, if not twelve or thirteen. There will be mass media to promote the game.

Bungie will trot out all the usual suspects by way of interview and ‘vidoc’ as they call them.

I’m quietly predicting Destiny will have the biggest marketing launch in terms of cost EVER for any video game. Activision has backed Bungie's Destiny to come in first, and they’ll need to spend even more than GTA V had if that’s to happen.


Fan base

Community is Key

So the tease had been happening over a long time. It was time to open the Kimono up a bit and suddenly Urk and DeeJ were everywhere. Random videos featuring in jokes with stuffed tigers were released. They gave fans codes to the Beta. 

Weekly updates actually started happening weekly. Fan letters were answered. Random staff were proudly paraded to the fans who lapped it up.

This was awesome community involvement and it helped cement the holy trinity of Bungie, Bungie's fans and Destiny.

Despite that some players thought Destiny being on the Playstation was a betrayal, most people wish Bungie well and will simply buy the game to see what they’ve come up with.

Social Media

Make no mistake Bungie understands their fan base and will utilise this as much as possible. Keen eyes will have noticed their Facebook and Google Plus accounts have been quietly drawing in the fans by asking them questions about the game. 

When the time is right those streams will be hit harder by Bungie than a Devilwalker landing on a Shrike from a great height.

But what about the long term?

Destiny is expected to be a big hit. It should be, especially if what I wrote above is true. But that’s only for one game. For the continued success of Destiny, the original game must offer a fantastic gaming experience that leaves players wanting more. But no Halo 2 cliff hanger style ending please!

February 12, 2014

Meet the Shrike from Destiny.

shrike vehicle destiny



Not unlike the Speeder Bikes that could be found on the floors of the Endor Forest in Jedi, the Shrike is one of the ways Guardians will be able to get around in the Destiny universe.

Unlike the vehicles in your world, Bungie’s Tom Doyle promises us that the Shrike will only get better as you pack on the mileage. “The Shrike is something that you’ll upgrade over time in Destiny,”. The Shrike should not be confused with the name of the character from the Mortal Engines books.

Right off the bat, the Shrike has three distinct paint schemes that correspond to your particular Class.”

So the Skrike will have customization abilities. I’m putting red racing strikes on mine.

If Destiny has a forge like mode, imagine the fun that will be able to be had with these babies!


If the concept designer’s name of Issac Hanaford rings a bell, it should as he had a massive design influence on Halo.

Here's a couple more pix of the Shrike:
Get your Shrike on

February 9, 2014

JJ reviews: Fable III


Fable III was kindly offered as a free download via XBL. Here's my review:

WORST GAME I'VE PLAYED IN A LONG, LONG TIME.

THEY TRIED REALLY HARD TO MAKE IT WORK BUT THE MECHANICS OF IT ALL JUST SUCKED.