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jchenx's Journal: Bottom 5 of 2007 for Games 1

Journal by jchenx

Now that the end of the year is here, it's time to start retrospecting about all the games and events of the video game industry. It's something that you'll see all over the place on gaming web-sites, forums, and blogs. Since I work/live/play games, I like sharing my thoughts as well. I'll be mirroring some of my latest blog entries here in my Slashdot journal, for folks to read.

Without further ado, here's the first one!

The Bottom 5 of 2007

So, while 2007 has certainly brought in a tremendous amount of great games and times for gamers, it has also come with a fair share of disappointments. Here's my list of this year's "Bottom 5" of games and gaming-related issues:

5. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Now, before the Nintendo fanboys start throwing rocks, let me explain myself. Phantom Hourglass is actually quite a fantastic game (and it's already winning many GotY awards for the DS). My disappointment, though, has to do with the realization that I'm no longer that interested with certain Nintendo franchises. It had been years since I played a Zelda game (Ocarina of Time), so I was hyped up for Hourglass. Well, although it brings in a lot of new and interesting mechanics (stylus control, use of the microphone, hourglass mechanic), in the end it's still essentially the same Zelda game as always: solve puzzles in dungeons using the same set of weapons (boomerang, bombs, arrows, etc.).

Is it good? Sure. But to me, it's also utterly boring. In a year that has brought us lots of new and interesting IP/franchises (Portal, Bioshock, Mass Effect, etc.), I'm now realizing that the Zelda franchise is no longer exciting for me. I'm hoping that I don't feel the same way when I play Mario Galaxy.

4. Hellgate: London
I really wanted to like this game. For those who don't know, Hellgate: London is by Flagship Studios, which is made up of former developers from Blizzard, many of which worked on the Diablo series. It was supposed to be a spiritual successor to the Diablo franchise, only now in 3D. Sadly, the game has been marred with a ton of issues since its Halloween '07 launch: bugs, stability issues, unfinished features, usability problems, etc.

On one hand, this game certainly could have used some extra time in development. On the other hand, I can understand just how crucial it is to get something out the door this holiday season, before all the other big-budget titles hit the shelves. Also don't get me wrong, the game isn't horrible. I do like it to a degree. However, it is disappointing that it didn't turn out to be the huge hit my friends and I all wanted it to be.

Fortunately, Flagship continues to work on the game by putting out continual patches. The 1.0 patch, which should be out in a few weeks, should address many of the biggest concerns. I'm hopeful that by the time gamers are tired of COD4, Crysis, Halo 3, UT3, etc. they'll come back and find a Hellgate: London that's much more stable, solid, interesting, and fun to play.

3. Guitar Hero III
When I heard that Harmonix was going off with MTV to develop Rock Band, and Neversoft was going to take over the franchise starting with Guitar Hero III, I was worried. I haven't been a fan of their games (primarily the Tony Hawk series), and didn't know if they'd be capable of producing another solid GH game, especially with Rock Band hot on its tail. It turns out, at least for me, that I was right.

There's just so much I don't like about GHIII. The boss battles are annoying and random (it just relies on which power-ups you happen to get). The characters themselves look hideous, and lack the awesome customizability that you can find in Rock Band. The songs themselves don't have enough variety ... it seems to skew too much into the hard metal towards the end. The song patterns also seem to make the game more difficult than it ought to be. Without a doubt, GHIII is much harder than GHII and Rock Band, and I don't think that's a good thing. I could go on, and on, and on.

Fortunately, I'm blessed by the fact that Rock Band is awesome and more than fills my music-rhythm-game needs. While I'll still play GHIII from time to time, it'll mostly be for guitar practicing purposes ... and because I don't own a copy of Rock Band myself yet (friends are awesome!). The one great thing I do like about the game, though, is that the GHIII controller rocks. I much prefer it to the Rock Band Stratocaster. I guess that's something to be proud about?

2. Continual Wii Shortages
While this isn't an issue for those of you lucky enough to score a Wii by now, it's still an issue facing the rest of us gamers. There have been many stories about this. I've been wanting one for myself for a long time now, but I refused to do the whole camping overnight, or calling stores everyday, or getting up early in the morning, or checking websites constantly, in order to get one. I want to be able to walk into my Fred Meyer and buy one, whenever I feel like it, just like I can do with any other console. But alas, Nintendo does not want my money.

Now, I have a pretty good idea why the shortages are still happening. And no, it's not intentional. The rumors that Nintendo is purposely witholding supply in order to increase demand, are definitely bogus since it's readily apparent now that Nintendo is easily losing more money from the shortage than they would gain from doing that. No, the reason is probably very simple: Nintendo has maxed out the capacity of their factories, and can't produce anymore units without spinning up a new factory. That's a long-term cost that they're probably not ready to make, and have been assuming that demand would slow down any day now. Well, it hasn't. I don't think anyone has realized just how much of a world-wide hit the Wii has become.

So, in the end, the Wii is still definitely great news for Nintendo. And it's a good system for anyone lucky enough to have one. For the rest of us, still waiting ... we'll continue to wait even longer. That said, I'm tempted to pull some strings with some co-workers/friends and get an invite into the local Nintendo Company Store. Apparently they have piles of Wii systems in stock there. ;)

1. Hardware Reliability
This probably isn't a big surprise to anyone following the games industry. Unfortunately with new systems, games, and peripherals, also comes probably with reliability. It first started off with all the talk regarding the dreaded "red ring of death" for the 360. That culminated in Microsoft's expanded warranty program, as well as later revisions of the console doing a better job of keeping everything cool and working. But oh, it hasn't stopped there. PS3 and Wii owners have been reporting various problems with their consoles (although to a much lesser extent than 360 owners). More recently, many gamers are also running into problems with the various Rock Band peripherals. Myself, I've seen a strum bar become nigh-unusable, and a bass pedal snap in two. Ugly stuff.

I am definitely hoping that hardware problems will become a thing of the past. There's been more than enough negative press about all the issues that developers/publishers/platform-creators will want to take the extra steps needed to ensure that only quality products end up in the hands of their customers.

Next time ...
So that's it for now! Next up, I'll be blogging about my top 10 games of 2007, doing a recap of my 2007 predictions, and making new ones for 2008!

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Bottom 5 of 2007 for Games

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  • Especially the one about the continual Wii shortages, even tho the company keeps ramping up production and still makes a profit on every box - without games - it sells.

    Was in a store in Santa Barbara with Gil buying a Xmas present for my son of Rayman's Raving Rabbids II and most of the people were buying Wii accessories and games - we tried to get some PS2 used games (.HACK//) but they were out.

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