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A partnership not unlike Bonnie and Clyde, Rodrigo and Gabriella, Simon and Garfunkel. Malone had known the scent of many a fine spirit in his years. The material-laden workdesk, the rule across his drawing aisle used for accurate and precise strokes, bringing together the framework of what would become Bridgewater Place, south of Leeds City Station. His weathered and aged hands show workmanship, their lines and ridges signs of the years of projects he had undertaken in his career.

Wearing D & G glasses, a dress shirt, cashmere pullover and trousers with pronounced seems, Malone's dress sense reflects the organised and minimalist manner of his workplace and flat. A a crystal tumbler rests upon the desk of his latest work assignment, filled heartily with Jack Daniels rum. One of Malone's favourite tipples, signs of his profession and his addiction intertwined.

Illustrating accuracy is still present but shaky at times. Taking a sip to quell the jitters of old age, Malone feels eased as he works, bringing together the structures that create his paycheck and means to persevere. Midori to absinthe, sake, Jack Daniels and rum are all on rotation, their presence a necessity for work progress in Malone's mind.

Darkness. The slow opening of eyes and recognising the sound of ambulance sirens, Malone barely observes the area around him. He identifies the ambulance's interior, wondering why he is on the patient's bench under morphine, a medic attending to his needs, speeding to Leeds General Infirmary. He feels the weight of being rushed to a hospital bed, nurses and a doctor talking around him, then passes back into unconsciousness.

Becoming used to the comfort of a hopsital bed after three days, Malone tries to remember what took place. Working fervently at his desk with the ususal J & D to hand to aid the shakes, he had a project deadline that evening. The vaguest memory of the technical pencil slipping from his hand, falling to the left out of his designer chair, then darkness. After that it was all just a blur. Nurse Rene brings a pen and pad to his bedside, allowing his skilled hands to keep busy, practicing the basics, roughing a concept of that lost project. The oscilator acts as a metronome, letting Malone keep time in his head as he joins the lines on the sketchpad.

Returning home following discharge four months' later, the seasoned architect turns towards mentoring. Young and training architects look towards Malone for guidance, drawing upon his knowledge and experience. His fine-trimmed grey beard and heavily-weathered hands impart his age, his ever-keen eyes peering through his designer glasses, not missing a detail. Sipping a cup of jinseng tea, the days of absinthe, sake and rum belong with his past. Malone's reliance on them fading away like his age, a firm and welcoming reminder that they are not to be depended upon anymore.

Martin, one of Malone's most eager students, finds him on the floor. He checks for a response. Nothing. A pulse? Faint at best. The sounds of the ambulance are highly mute and almost unrecognisable, medic's voices mere mumbles and sound. Hearing like being submerged under water, Malone struggles to distinguish the situation around him, quickly slipping back into slumber. Dr. Khan and fellow surgeons work on the operating table for seven hours, their intricate methods not unlike Malone at his work desk. He drifts in and out of consciousness, wondering why those figures in green scrubs and facial masks are so manic, barking out orders and putting various surgical tools into his body.

And then darkness...

Saturday, July 13th, 2012

Malone Harrow, 65 years of age. An architect by trade, winner of the Gretsch award for his design of Bridgewater Place. A dilligent worker with a shrewd mind and high attention to detail, he was commited to his cause and known for enjoying his drinks. The photo on the casket displaying his designer glasses and a reserved smile, signs of cheerful times for a designer in his prime. His favourite drinks are offered in memory; the display of rums, vodkas, gins and various other high-quality spirits aligning his resting place. Firm reminders of his two favourite things in life; drawing and drink.

Raise a glass to the memory of Malone.



Yakuza. Notorious Japanese gangsters, chronicled in everything from film to classic plays. Their severity, heavy. Their dedication, unquestionable. Their presence in gaming? Here and there until one Toshihiro Nagoshi and his team decided that players should be allowed to enact their desires to be their own Japnese crime don. A new series on the PS2 and four iterations later, Yakuza 4 has fans take control of Kazuma once again in the semi-fictional local of Kamuro-cho. Only this time, he's joined by a few friends. Is the latest iteration able to draw gamers into its world all over again?

The Second: Pier Side Reunion


The sea lapped the pier's side, small waves brushing up against the wooden beams that supported the walkway. The mid-afternoon sun was in the distance, its red hue marking the skyline with various flashes and stabs of subtle colour.

Stood at the pier's end, looking out to the sea, a tall, slender and gaunt  man of appearance wearing a brown trenchcoat, mid-40s, short greying hair and stubble; his face weathered with age, drinking and years of concerns. By his side, a younger lady, around her mid-20s, curvacious, 5"4', blond hair styled into a crop and a matching 60s-style black and white checked one piece dress to boot. She appeared melancholic, subdued by thoughts of something elsewhere.

To give him a name, well, most would call him Jonah. Swallowing a mouth full of sea breeze, he turned to his companion, emitting in a dulcid tone "Marriete, I'm glad you came. After all my requests, you finally acknowledged one of them, came to this location and well, here we are now."

Mariette looked Jonah in his weary eyes. Born with heterochromia, an incident three years ago meant this rare genetic change left the young lady peering into one green eye, the other a mixture of blue and grey, almost unlike anything she had seen before. And yet, she knew Jonah from years ago, his then charming smile illuminating this unique aspect of his person.

"It had to be done eventually. There was no way to postpone this indefinitely." Mariette spoke whilst swallowing hard.

Stepping into her near vicinity, Jonah was inches away from Marriete's still youthful and beautiful visage, his breath impacting on her cheeks. Speaking once again in dulcid and measured tones:

"Well're quite right about that. There most certainly.....was no way to postpone this forever."

A minute passed as Marriete embraced Jonah, her grasp reviving thoughts and feelings of happier, painful and agonising times; the vibrant youth Jonah and  enjoyed through their time together. The feeling was as before, that comfort that one never wants to let go of yet secretly knows wont last forever.

Loosening her embrace, Mariette looked up towards Jonah's face, unassuming and accepting of that which had gone and what may come. Not a smile nor sadness, his expression presented 'being', a state of acceptance achieved without always knowing.

Cuffs were placed on Jonah's wrists, their hard steel shackled around his aged person. He looked down upon them and let out a little chuckle, causing Mariette to react with a slight of surprise. Jonah once again spoke in his measured manner, muttering:

"To think, I was the one who was out to lure you into my web. Lack of foresight is a dangerous and funny thing."

Mariette paused for a moment, looked into Jonah's face once more to locate his train of thought but then allowed it to be. Looking out from the pier edge to the sea once more, she then hollered over to the Boston Police Force cars that were near by.

"Jonah Tellsmith. I am arresting you on charges of fraud, embezzlement, deception and perversion of the cause of justice. You have the right to speak but anything you do say can and will be used in the courts of law as evidence."

Jonah looked at Mariette, and looked, and looked.

"O'Donagghy, take this man aw-"

Mariette was about to finish calling her fellow officer to take Jonah away in one of the BPD's vehicles.

"Love. Just love for you. Wrong or right, it won't go away. Love."

Jonah added his departing comments as O'Donagghy grabbed the collar of his trenchcoat, a firm sign this would be the last time Marriete would be seeing Jonah outside of secure walls and a prison cell.

As the vehicle door was opened, Jonah took one last look towards Mariette. This would remain unreturned, instead gazing out across the pier edge towards the red-dipped sun.

Chuckling once again, Jonah felt O'Donagghy's coarse hand push him down into the back passenger seat, adding "Good riddance to fucking scum like you. I hope the inside treats you nicely for the time you go down for, if you even make it that far you fuck." Not from happiness but a smile all the same, Jonah sat in the BPD car, waiting to be taken away, knowing what lay ahead.

Staring out towards the distance, no tears are to be shed by Marriete. A mixture of discomfort and resolution, uncertainty and anguish, she thinks briefly of Jonah's future and knows the likely path. It passes and goes to the back of her mind. She is still unsure but it doesn't show. She spends a while longer staring out as the red-tinted sun moves down the horizon to bring about the dusk.

Going through the motions as if throwing a dime into the sea, wishing for free. Mariette throws nothing though. Those times with Jonah are all she lets go of to the best of her ability.

The small waves continue to lap the pier sides.



Review coming soon

Good day there. I will put up a review of Ryu Ga Gotoku 4 soon. However, with life going at 1,000 mph right now, don't hold your breath for the day I post it.

You'll enjoy reading it, I'm sure.


The First: Main street stroll

A subdued, rainy day. Cars swishing through the fret, droplets splashing from their wheels and dispersing upon impact of fast car windows. Unmbrellas in their hundreds, painting a picture not unlike a thousand flowers in the sky. The holders of those protectors from the elements dressed in various bussiness shades of black, beige and grey. Car lights shine as they glint over the windows of lofty skyscrapers, the grand skyline dreary and thick with the weight of many grey clouds.

Out walks a young lady in a jeans skirt, designer frilled-blouse, Calvin Klien three-quarter length woolen jacket, knee-length boots, a pretty crop of hair and a happy-go-lucky demeanour. Her presence and appearance offsetting the sea of workforce that flows behind her. She strolls seperately from the crowd, knowing she can remain independent from the norm. One day she may have to conceed. Until that time comes, she will stroll with pride and know independence and freedom in her mind.

It lasted six months. Sunny day, the source of energy high in the sky. Those in business atire are strolling along the same boardwalk, this time in dress shirts and coats carrying various shades of blue, sunset yellow, teal and white. Their demeanours still slightly sullied but optomistic. Traffic speeds by, sunbeams glinting off their windscreens and vehicle bodies like dancing energy. Our independent young female is nowhere to be seen. What is the cause? Did she fade into the crowd like so many before?

By the boardwalk is a plaque. Closer observation reads:

In memory of Saema Mertigo, 23. A cheerful and upbeat girl who will always be in our hearts.”

No one thought this individual spark would disappear so early. Had the rain kept up, maybe she would still be here. Sadly this is not the case along the main street. It holds no sympathy even for the unique ones in the crowd. Becoming an office temp., Mertigo realised why those shades of grey, beige and black were in abundance in the rain. She will never feel the same again, or be able to. Her elegant body a grim memory of the markings from that day. The last steps taken from the roof of the building above. A faint reminder of young independence.

RRP versus pocket change release. The cost of purchasing portable games


I read an opinion piece on the MCV website this morning, discussing the challenges of portable game RRPs in the current climate. An interesting topic, sure, and one worth debating over.

The article highlights that 3DS titles will retail for higher than current portable releases (£30-£35 for the uninformed). It also suggests that Sony may follow a similar path with its upcoming PSP2, due for release later this year.

Providing the iPhone's game download service as a counterpoint, it highlights the quality of titles avaialble with Apple's popular mobile compared with dedicated games portables. Price is considered, comparing the 99p-£5.99 iPhone offerings with the dearer fair of Nintendo and Sony.

MCV also considers the frequency of users playing games portably today, suggesting the numbers are fewer than those of 2005. Quoting Nicholas Lovell in an article over at Gamesbrief, he reckons that “The iPhone has taken price expectations down to somewhere between $0.99 and zero,” creating a difficult arena for the PSP2 and 3DS to compete in.

Mark Howsen, sales director for MCV SCE UK offered his opinions on the matter, explaining that consumers will buy-in to the costs of hardware but will pay very little, or if possible nothing at all, for a machine's software. An investor call held by Nintendo of Japan CEO Iwata in October this year over declining software sales would help to add weight to Howsen's suggestion.

The President for Nintendo of America, Reggie Fils-Aime and Satoru Iwata, have spoken of their fears of the iPhone's presence in the handheld games market. Iwata has also discussed digital approaches the company hopes to take upon the 3DS' launch. Does anyone expect a counter to the cheap pricing of iPhone games in the games industry soon?

Consideration should be given to the money spent versus free time. It may be said that £30.00 for a handheld title is worth every penny. Alternatively, it may be better invested or spent on necessities. MVC's Ben Parfitt highlights that if an iPhone game such as Flick Kick Football can take 17 hours of his time, why not pay £1.79 over £30.00?

One important question is left hanging in the air. Will iPhone competition or recent market circumstances force the major games companies to bring their prices down? Or will we see a splitting of hardware on offer along the likes of iPhone game releases? Observing the development of RRPs for the 3DS and PSP2 post-launch will be highly interesting for the next few years ahead.

Any thoughts on the cost of portable game releases versus the likes of donwloadable phone games? Feel free to post what you think in the Comments section below.


Gaming giant and developer Nintendo is due to unveil its newest console, the 3DS, at a press conference in New York next month in preparation for the machine's release in Japan in February and the US and Europe in March. It can be expected that the games giant will pull out all the stops to promote its upcoming machine when the event is held, showcasing its features and the software that will be released upon launch. Will the machine be handheld gaming's revolution or will it end up being another machine with a gimmick that comes at a high price?

The 3DS will retain the dual screen idea that was introduced with the DS, carrying a 3D screen on top and a regular touch screen at the bottom. It will also allow players to use its in-built cameras located on the outsides of the device, letting users take 3D photos and capture 3D video. Players will also find a camera positioned above the 3DS' top screen which will allow them to take 2D photos and capture 2D video.

Backwards compatibility will come in the form of supporting Nintendo DS (and DSi) software. The 3DS cards that will launch with the device will be able to carry up to 2GB of game data, akin to those of the current DS. A virtual console service allowing download of Game Boy, Game Boy Colour and titles in 3D will also be available from the machine's launch. The handheld will even allow for playback of 3D films such as How to Train Your Dragon and Tangled.

Lots of features, lots of capability. Surely the screen functionality on the 3DS will not turn out to be solely a gimmick to sell the machine at ¥25,000 in Japan and a rumoured $250/£180 in the UK when it is launched? This gamer here would certainly hope that this is not the case.

Any thoughts on what you are expecting when the 3DS is launched early next year in Japan, the US and Europe? Any thoughts, feel free to post them in the Comments section below.


Money for old rope. Is pre-owned big business these days?


Sounds like an obvious thing to talk about but none-the-less an important one in the current climate. The pre-owned games market is quite possibly bigger than ever these days with stores such as GAME and Gamestation, HMV and now even Argos offering gamers the ability to trade their old titles in for credit against newer titles on the market.

One only has to take a peak through the doors of those stores to see the multitude of titles on offer, allowing gamers the ability to switch last week's Dead Rising 2 for this week's Dead Space 2. Quick trades on titles usually yield the best trade prices, seeing a quick turnover and several copies of FIFA 11 littering the shelves mere weeks after official release.

So what's the bone of contention here? How come publishers get upset that high street stores resell their titles in their droves, recouping profits that would otherwise go into the hands of the likes of Rockstar, Ubisoft and their ilk? Are they entitled to the value these titles sell for when the same can't be said for the likes of old furniture, cars and DVDs? Is it also not understandable that the resale of said titles means that publisher's games are being promoted twice with one title going back into another customer's hands, allowing free promotion of said game?

Not to rock the boat too much on this but what do you think about the whole pre-owned situation? Are publishers in their right minds regarding their approach with the retailers or will it continue to be a volatile relationship in the vein that has been ongoing to date?


Too many games in the marketplace?

A little controversial but maybe that's just me. Anyway, have a read of the short opinion piece below. I will write a review again eventually, honest...


Someone had to ask it. Now its out in the open. Hands up if you feel there are too many games in the marketplace? I see many hands raised. That says something.

So, what changed between now and the last ten years? When did there become a throng of titles all around us? Were the days of the 16-bit era that much different? Count the number of sequels for the likes Mario, Sonic and Rockman as examples of titles that had various numerals proceed them.

Admittedly, then there were only two main machines at the time. Look around now and three machines dominate the gaming space.The multitude of titles that spill from them are plenty. The Wii could be guilty of generating enough shovelware to fill a landfill.

With ever busy lifestyles these days, how does a gamer find the time to experience all the genre has to offer? Not even two games industry fellows I know have the time to sample all its delights, and they go from sticking to one title to sampling several at once.

Let's also remember DLC titles that come in various means and sizes. Their availability speaks for itself, their variety vast and plentiful. Add these to the mix and what is a person left over with? Far too many titles to filter down what they will play, lest they attempt to play everything that ever gets released (no one person has that much time nowadays).

Do you think the games market will see a retraction in the number of titles available in the near future? And do you get the time to play everything that you want to when it is released? Any thoughts, feel free to post them in the Comments section below.


Do games have to be 'long' when their gameplay suggests otherwise?


Games are an enjoyable pastime for most. Their level of involvement high, enjoyment thorough and plentiful. The time players can commit to a title depends on the genre, amount of content, available spare time and other worldly commitments (they do exist). In our ever-busy world, what compels developers to create titles that have players dedicate their loyalty to one game when there are so many to experience?

Think of the first incarnations of Donkey Kong, Mario and Zelda. Their length, short. Their gameplay, everlasting. Games you can return to and play over and over. Similar titles in the arcade genre such as SEGA Rally, Virtua Fighter, Street Fighter and their ilk carried this simple, absorbing quick-fix nature of gameplay, appealing to every gamer's inner child like toblerone.

Simple, unadulterated fun. Looking at the current games market, we have stories woven into titles from the expected RPG genre through to fighters, puzzle games and even iPhone games that cost you a mere pound. Valiantly attempting to lengthen the player's time with each title, yet how many skip those 'cut scenes' to get to the meat of the experience? The developers' efforts and 40-hour work stints crafting the threads tieing those games together, gone in the click of a button. It could be asked if it is necessary for such scenes if the option to skip them is present, something gamers may have welcomed in story-heavy titles such as Metal Gear Solid 4.

Let's not forget of multiplayer and where does it sit among this conundrum?  A main feature in titles among the likes of Call of Duty through to FIFA and a means to keep gamers engaged, could this be seen as adding 'length' to titles that are otherwise pick up and play in nature? Or, is the feature an essential part of the mesh that harbours modern titles, providing players with enough bang for their buck if mum can only buy little Jimmy one title for Christmas?

Unless you choose to walk around with your eyes closed, last time I checked people seem busier than ever these days. Recession, technology, change. It all appears to be hitting fast and rapidly, showering individuals as they survive from day-to-day. The iPhone, iPad, PSP and DS are increasingly providing titles catering for individuals' fast-paced lifestyles, allowing them to have a blast on Angry Birds before the day's planning meeting gets underway. This short-burst gaming fits with professionals' modern lifestyles, finding little time to spare for the likes of Fallout: New Vegas and Resonance of Fate. Have long and immersive titles had their day in the modern and rapidly shifting market? I'll leave that open to the Comments section.

Could the day of the long game be a thing of the past? Do you see the market turning towards shorter experiences or will there always be a place for the likes of Zelda, Final Fantasy and their brethren? Any thoughts, feel free to post them in the Comments section below.


Could games reach the level of interactive movies?

An interesting topic to say the least that is not unique but still valid, over the gaming generations the question has been raised from time-to-time of can games reach the level of interactive movies?


Now sure, it sounds pretentious to suggest that something where a player controls the on-screen actions through pressing buttons and directions on a joypad could reach the level of emotional and intellectual depth that some of the greatest pictures in cinema history such as Citizen Kane, Schindler's List, Dead Man Walking, The Deer Hunter, Pan's Labyrinth or the recently released Inception have been able to entice from their audiences. And yet, those very same films make connections with the audience's emotional base through the same means and mechanisms to reach their empathetic epicentre, becoming absorbed in the story unfolding before them of the emotional plight of the characters involved.

Games are still a reasonably young medium. The developers' ability to weave a tale that players care about, that they can spend time with and want to see unfold piece by piece is a trial within itself. The likes of many a JRPG reach the level of maturity one can expect from teen fiction, yet the 1,000 years of dreams presented in Lost Odyssey, a series of short stories that recall experiences encountered in immortal protagonist Kaim's life allow for an interesting departure from the action, a suitable reprieve from the pace of the game's battles and adventuring.

The Uncharted games wear their inspiration on their sleeves, allowing adventure fans to enjoy a romp not too dissimilar from the outings of one whip-cracking archaeologist who has a fear of snakes. Heavy Rain showed gamers that they can enjoy a different experience by controlling the action on screen (or should that be actors?) as the story unfolds not too unlike a big screen movie as they get one step closer to figuring out who The Origami Killer is after all.

As there are several examples of titles that are capable of achieving the heights of involvement and movie-like depth such as those mentioned previously, we have been graced with several examples of titles over time that aim to be 'cinematic' yet would possibly be more enjoyable if they were to focus on being the best games they can be for the audience.

Titles such as Metal Gear Solid 4, Resident Evil 5, Halo 3 and Prototype were worthy titles in regards to their gameplay, appearance and overall impression they left on the player. The length of MGS4's cut-scenes were at times enough to test any avid gamer with a penchant for adoring army-tech, terms and a pre-OAP Snake, RE5 presented its best rendition of Black Hawk Down, Halo 3 pulled out all the stops towards the end and Prototype wanted us to feel all mean, moody and somewhat empathetic for its protagonist Alex and his ever-evolving body.

We should also ask that if games can be interactive movies, does this mean that they are losing the sense of what the essence of games are? In most cases, pure unadulterated fun, allowing players to escape for an hour or two in their day or to unwind from the stresses and troubles the day may have thrown their way. The future games market over the next few years will determine if the industry continues to go down this road or whether the likes of Nintendo, Apple and Facebook determine the types of games that are released for casual players versus the core players who will put their money down on the latest titles to get their next taste of something they can enjoy and absorb.

Do you think games can be interactive movies? Should they attempt to achieve such a goal or stick to what the general public knows them for; some fun time and 'for children' to spend time with and enjoy? Any thoughts, feel free to post them in the the Comments section below.


Are the large budgets for games justified or do they need to go back to their roots? Do we need to be reminded that it's just a game?

No sooner is it the New Year than the blog is getting updated at a regular pace. Things may cool down as time goes by but I'll see how I go. Enjoy the opinion pieces in the meantime.


The budgets on mainstream video game titles such as Killzone 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Resident Evil 5 and their ilk are reaching those of movie-like proportions in recent times. Growing from the leaner funding more reminiscent of indie projects in the days of Nintendo's SNES and SEGA's Megadrive, the increased popularity of games among the general public has played as much a part in the growth of funding for gaming projects as it has contributed to increase in production values for the beloved format. Is the presence of an astonishing budget necessary in the games we play today or do we need to take steps back to more simpler times when we remember that titles were enjoyable for merely being fun?

Let's consider the current market. Expecting games to go back to the days of the SNES would be somewhat foolish given the expectations of the gaming public. Does anyone think a Call of Duty title done in the style of 16-bit graphics would appeal to anyone in this day and age? And yet, are modern gamers concerned as to how pretty a game looks if it plays well underneath the glitz and sheen?

CoD is a perfect example of a title that excels in gameplay and its online component, looks nice enough and yet doesn't appear to be preoccupied with looking like the best title on the market (it is one of the smoothest, however). Football titles such as FIFA and Pro Evo do well in recreating the appearances of professional football's most recent line-up, yet are more well-known for their intricacy and subtlety of control rather than how many times we get to see a close-up of Wayne Rooney's face.

Looking on the flipside of this, titles such as the auteur-leaning Shadow of the Colossus or alternate retelling of Monkey, Enslaved: Journey to the West represent games that carried high budgets yet were less than impressive when sales figures emerged. One has to wonder why this was the case when both titles delivered through their gameplay ideas, worlds, characters and scenarios. It is reassurance enough that titles wont always achieve stellar sales figures despite being produced on reasonable budgets, artistically appearing to be the best thing since sliced bread (twice).

Publishers and developers must be aware of their investments in titles carrying higher budgets too. Like any business, they weigh up the risk-reward of the project on offer, willing to provide funding if the title shows potential for high returns and a continuous revenue stream. Naturally, such high investment warrants the demand to see financial gain in response. The higher the contribution to the budget, the greater the yearning for increased profits for those investors involved. There must be a stopping point for those willing to put their assets on the line for a game that has no guarantee of achieving predicted sales targets until the first weeks' worth of sales begin to roll in and the calculations can be done.

Mainstream titles aside, players should consider the other end of the spectrum. Titles released for the iPad/iPhone and DS are suitable examples of games that emphasise the fun factor over graphical prowess. Angry Birds, Canabalt, Critter Crunch, Scribblenauts and Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training are perfect examples of pick-up and play games, allowing avid handheld gamers to have a quick bash on their favourite title for a short amount of time before they get on with their daily lives.

They carry a particular charm that brings players into their world, wanting to better that hi-score or create an object to use in the Scribblenauts universe. They show that studios don't have to spend a fortune on creating something that will appeal to gaming fans without having to look like art in motion, nor getting obsessed over how many polygons per character are being thrown around on the screen. Just providing unadulterated gaming fun for the player.

Current economic conditions could be the catalyst for publishers and developers alike to explore reducing budgets on titles over the next few years. That, or working in-house and contract staff to their limits to get titles to meet street date, to budget and as visually impressive as possible to (try and) ensure maximum revenue returns.

What do you think of the large budgets attributed to mainstream titles such as Killzone 3, Call of Duty, GTA 4 and their likes? Do you feel it adds to the overall gaming experience, or do you prefer lighter gaming such as those offered on portable machines , the iPhone and iPad? Any thoughts, feel free to post them in the Comments section below.

Original titles versus sequels – the ever burning question


Always a bone of contention for fans of the medium of video games, the urge to play original properties in the market is ever present as they thirst for that title carrying something a 'little bit different' about it from the rest in the genre. Considering the offerings of original titles over sequels, what are the key concerns both developers and gamers carry when it comes to this ever contentious issue in the industry?

If we think about original titles in the games market, every title started with the first in the franchise at some point. Games such as Mario, Zelda, Street Fighter, Sonic and Resident Evil all had to start from one, then move forwards to their consequent sequels. Now in their later numbers and iterations, they still bring the charm and quality that are expected of these famed series.

Examples of newer IP in the games market can be seen in the likes of Enslaved, Resonance of Fate, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Uncharted and the upcoming Rage, Shadows of the Damned and The Last Guardian. Each title offers elements of interest together with borrowing from established titles that proceed them such as the Metal Gear Solid-esque elements present in Batman:AA.

Contrast this with franchises that receive yearly updates such as FIFA and Pro Evo, the ever famous GTA and Red Dead series and more recent titles that are due to break their original IP virginity and progress to the realm of sequel with the likes of Dead Space 2, LittleBigPlanet 2 and Batman: Arkham City.

With the frequency of changes in the real world of professional football it is understandable why EA and Konami's franchises receive yearly instalments. The GTA and Red Dead iterations only come around once in a blue moon. The likes of ship engineer Isaac, Bruce Wayne's alter-ego and Sackboy getting their second outings aren't too much a cause of dismay when we remember the enjoyment and success the first instalments of these franchises brought to the table.

There are more severe cases of sequel-itis hitting high times though. A beloved franchise to my heart, The King of Fighters, at one point pumped iterations out on a yearly basis with only the last three instalments being spaced out with longer development cycles and release windows. The Fire Emblem, Yakuza, Call of Duty and Pokemon franchises seem to grace players with sequels every year, giving them more of the same type of action and excitement they crave whilst bringing small tweaks and refinements to the established system. 

Whether this is a purposeful move by the developers to retain the same fan base whilst attracting new followers along the way is difficult to call. No business with common sense wants to alienate its established userbase with the next instalment in their popular cash-cow (the various iterations of Sonic over the years and the most recent title, Sonic Colours, would be good examples). Financial suicide and bankruptcy is not an avenue the likes of Activision, Ubisoft, EA, Nintendo or SEGA will experience soon, nor will they be in a position where they have to if their best franchises continue to be popular, generate revenue and profit.

When it comes to original IP and sequels there are no answers for they who want to create original titles. The desire and the will can be present but gaining the support, finances and results are just as important as creating the final product. For the owners of developers and players, sequels are a no-brainer due to the use of existing resources, the lower time for the development cycle, giving the fans more of what they crave and making consistent revenue in the process (undoubtedly #1 in the Business 101 book).

Quality titles such as Enslaved experiencing middling sales figures can be disheartening but one only needs to look at the lacklustre numbers for Tony Hawk: Shred and Rock Band 3 to see that sequels do not always enjoy commercial success despite the quality and joy the title provides. Maybe when the economic climate improves and consumer's wallets have more spare change again, sales of titles, be they new or sequels, will experience growth in what continues to be a challenging market.

What do you think of the situation regarding original IP versus sequels? And is it wrong that developers concentrate on producing sequels when the workload is less to create what is still a new experience? Finally, is it realistic to expect developers to release only original IP with each title they create? Any thoughts, feel free to post them in the Comments section below.


Is Japan falling behind 'successful' gaming trends or is it just finding its way in the current gaming market?


Not the first article on the matter but never the less an interesting one to cover, the games industry in the last seven to eight years has increasingly seen a shift in focus from a prominent Eastern dominance in the era of the Dreamcast, Playstation 2 and Gamecube to the West with the emergence of the X-Box, its successor the Xbox 360 and even Apple's i-devices.

We frequently hear that Japanese games have lost their way, that they do not care to cater for the Western market the way that developers such as EA, Ubisoft, Rockstar and Activision have with recent releases such as Dead Space, Assassin's Creed, Red Dead Redemption and the Call of Duty series.

Is this truly the case or do we need to have a more rounded look at the Japanese games market to understand if its developers are purposefully catering towards a larger Western audience or just sticking to their guns regarding the titles and genres that are being turned out from its most prominent studios?

Individuals such as Square Enix's Yoichi Wada and Capcom's Keiji Inafune have gone on record to suggest that the Japanese games industry is five years behind, that it needs to be more Western-facing in its development goals. Why would these two executives of the industry be so outspoken on the matter, the Japanese notoriously reserved and formal when delivering official press conferences and interviews?

One should also consider the rise of the FPS genre with the introduction of Microsoft's Xbox and Xbox 360. Popular titles such as the Halo and Call of Duty series have led the way, catering to the needs of PC FPS fans and bringing some of those over to the console medium, an area of interest for those who normally go to the lengths of building a specific rig to play their favourite titles on. 

It would also be worthwhile to consider the number of titles Japanese studios have developed in recent times that either are Western-themed or have been co-developed with Western studios. Vanquish, Lost Planet 2, Quantum Theory, Dead Rising 2, Bionic Commando and Dark Void to name a few examples are representative of titles that are influenced by those from the West such as Gears of War or are solely or jointly developed by studios such as GRIN or Blue Castle (now know as Capcom Montreal).

It could be said that this is done so the Japanese studios can stay competitive in the industry, or that they want to explore the options that are presented with a title that is co-developed with Western and Eastern ideas fused into one title. The exhilarating feel of the adrenaline-fuelled Vanquish is a fine example of a 3rd-person shooting title with Western influences but retaining its Japanese flavour. In comparison, Quantum Theory has tried to emulate the same success of Epic's renowned series but is more debatable in its execution.

Japan's gaming industry still has a multitude of quality titles to offer avid gamers the world over. Titles such as Bayonetta, Super Street Fighter IV, Tekken, Final Fantasy, Mario, Sonic, Zelda, Pokemon, Professor Layton, Resident Evil and many more franchises have come from Japanese shores and experienced impressive sales figures since their inception. They each carry those distinct Japanese gaming qualities that are often replicated but rarely bettered.

Loved by gaming audiences the world over, they show that Japanese-developed titles have and still do cater for a world audience to the same degree as successful titles such as Call of Duty, Uncharted, GTA4 and their ilk. There are also several examples of titles that hold their Japanese identity after localisation has taken place such as Persona 3 & 4, Star Ocean: The Last Hope and the Ryu ga Gotoku series of titles.

It will be interesting to observe 2011 and the next few years ahead to see whether the Japanese games market will persevere with offering more Western-themed titles or whether stalwarts of the industry for years to date such as Mario, Sonic and Zelda will continue to be appreciated by audiences worldwide from the land of the rising sun.

What do you think of Japanese developers crafting and releasing Western-themed titles? And do you still think the Japanese market holds its own when it comes to releasing fresh titles that hold that distinct Japanese flavour? Any thoughts, feel free to post them in the Comments section below.