WHY VIDEO GAMES AREN’T ALL THAT BAD

As true gamers, I bet you have been judged more than once in the typical gamer stereotypes that people hold — that you are a socially-challenged and entitled brat who has nothing productive to do.  So, the next time you face such discrimination, tell them off with these facts we gathered from global research on how gaming is good for you.

Increased Health Benefits

Not all of us fit this stereotype.

Gaming isn’t all that bad for your health, as we always feared.  After all, a lot of people tend to be couch potatoes that spend endless hours on their controllers (oh wait, that’s a stereotype!).  According to a recent research by the University of Rochester, gamers playing action-based video and computer games made decisions 25% faster than others without sacrificing accuracy.  The same study also concludes that champion gamers  can pay attention to more than six things at once without getting confused, compared with the four that someone can normally keep in mind — in a work environment that realistically needs its employees to juggle multiple complicated tasks, we see this as a fun way to build a pipeline of employable talent.

Increased Dexterity in Real World Situations

Its funny how people will yell sexist at any insinuation you make on women’s driving skills — and yet, will stand by their long-held beliefs that gamers could never get a date, implying that all gamers are overweight potato couches with a bottle of beer and a packet of chips on the side.  That was until now when the research above found that 42% of computer and video game players are women!  Getting back to the benefits, it seems female gamers were “better able to mentally manipulate 3D objects, a skill at which men are generally more adept” (quoting verbatim from the study, lest someone scream sexist again!).  I can see how this might be helpful in some situations like, say, parking a car?

Crowdsolving Social Problems

FoldIt uses social collaboration with a competitive edge to decipher proteins.

It wasn’t too long ago when Seth Cooper from the University of Washington, decided to tap into efforts of  thousands of gamers to solve scientific problems.  His coworker  Firas Khatib and his army of gamers cracked a critical AIDS research problem — determining the three-dimensional structures of different proteins — in just three weeks.  They used FoldIt, a social gaming experiment that brought together thousands of gamers to solve this longstanding issue.  It is interesting to note that two-thirds of the top scorers in this game have no biochemistry experience beyond statutory high school.  You learn more about the FoldIt project here and about its application to AIDS research here.

Making Work Fun

Using gaming concepts to make business processes smoother and solving critical organizational challenges is fast becoming popular — although the only thing we want to see changed about this is the term “gamification”.  For instance, with the popularity of Facebook as a marketing tool, companies are turning to gaming concepts — such as reward for progress achieved — into branding and sales tools.  Starbucks rewards (and attracts) visitors who check in to outlets on Foursquare with a Barista badge, and their most loyal customers with a $1 off.  Nike+ lets you save runs, set goals and challenge friends while you exercise.  All successful examples of how organizations have adopted gaming concepts.

But last, and definitely not the least, simple games put smiles on people — and that counts more than all else.  If you haven’t seen this already, check out how fondly this 100-yr old grandmom talks about her Nintendo:

Research and articles sourced from:

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COMIC-CON 2012: THE FIRST SERIOUS STEP

This article comes to us from our guest author, Abhishek Shirali.  Abhishek is a Consultant by day, social media expert by night (he claims only nights), and traveller/photographer on weekends. Follow him on Twitter at @abhishekshirali to learn about things you never wanted to know.  Also, we would like to thank Comic-Con India for the photographs on this post.  Visit them at comicconindia.com and http://www.fb.com/ComicConIndia. 

As the month of February, and with it the beautiful Delhi winter, drew to a close in 2011, it brought with it one of the most-awaited events of the year. The capital was hosting its first ever Comic-Con, its very own comic book convention and was finally giving comic-book lovers its due. High expectations, shaped primarily by the famous Comic-Con International in San Diego, were inevitable. But even those with the lowest of expectations were let down.

But not unlike the Indian cricket fan, comic-book lovers are eternally optimistic and forever faithful.

The Comic-Con returned to Delhi in 2012. And this time it did not disappoint. In the last year, the Comic-Con has “grown up” and has realized that it needs to cater to everyone – artists, authors, the die-hard comic book fan, the curious onlooker and of course, that driver of the economy, the businessman. It had merchandise, it had new artist stalls, in-conversation events, discount shops – and best of all it had the cosplay enthusiasts.

The Comic-Con this year was brilliant – but there were a few events/artists that stood out.

In conversation with Robert Crumb:

Meet the founder of the underground comix movement Photo Courtesy: Comic Con India

First and foremost an artist, Crumb is considered the founder of the underground comix movement. The founder of characters such as Mr. Natural and Fritz the Cat, talked about, amongst other things, the influence of LSD on his art. Imagine his surprise when the audience told him that LSD is freely available here as well. I have a feeling he probably was tempted to see what “Indian LSD” is like.

Anant Pai – The Master Storyteller:

Anant Pai: He did start the fire! Photo Courtesy: The Hindu

If you’re like me and grew up during the 80s and the 90s, you probably read the Amar Chitra Katha – the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and  other historical comics. And you always knew who Uncle Pai was. Uncle Pai’s biography, “Anant Pai: Master Storyteller” was launched at the Comic-Con this year. As Reena Puri, Amar Chitra Katha editor said, “What can be the best way to pay tribute to a storyteller? Tell his story.” Amen!

The Kuru Chronicles:

Kuru Chronicles: Ari Jayprakash's work is brilliant and scary. Photo Courtesy: Comic Con India

Prominent photographer and artist Ari Jayaprakash launched the art work for his upcoming book “The Kuru Chronicles”. The art-work is brilliant, scary and makes you wonder about the fantastic talent this man possesses. Set in a parallel dsytopianCalcutta future, on a cold winter morning 5 entities are brought together in a singularly extraordinary event. The aftermath of which coincides with the advent of Kalki and the Kal Yuga. Dark, atmospheric, a tantrik psycho cannibalistic entre spread over 280 pages in 26 chapters, spanning 17 years. Pick it up soon. This one’s going to be a winner.

Chairman Meow:

Chairman Meow: India's own Kung Fu Panda (but not in a rip-offish way) Photo Courtesy: Comic Con India

One of the artists you heard a lot about during the first Comic Con was Abhijeet Kinni and his UbiMa. Everyone was awaiting a sequel – but I think it never came. However, what did come was the revolutionary Chairman Meow. Comparisons with Kung-Fu Panda are inevitable – the author brings it up himself – and the characters are similar. Will yourself through the first 5-6 pages and you immediately understand the characters and marvel at the brilliance of the artist and the author. And if you were ever interested in Communism, you might find this quite interesting.

The Ravanayan:

Ravanayan: Its not all black and white Photo Courtesy: Comic Con India

Ever wondered about the stark “whiteness” of the Ramayana? About how the entire story was mired in either white or black. The Ravanayan series by Vikas Goel and Vijayendra Mohanty looks at Ramayana from, you guessed it, Ravana’s point of view and as such is as grey as a stormy morning. Vikas is an awesome artist, something he agrees to quite readily and Vijayendra’s understated writing makes this one of those series that you would love to go through in one sitting.

So that’s it folks.  These are my highlights from the event.  Are there any artists and publishers you are looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below!

PS VITA LAUNCH INDIA: A CONFUSED STRATEGY FROM SONY

The PS Vita will launch in India on the 22nd February.  The same day as launches in Europe and in the U.S.  It’s good to see that more and more console and video game makers are treating the Indian market seriously.  Or are they?

There are two PS Vita models:

1)       PS Vita Wifi:  can only be used online in a Wifi zone

2)       PS Vita 3G:  can be used online as long as you have 3G receptivity in the area you are in.

So the pricing for the PS Vita in India, UK, and the U.S. is as follows:

  • PS Vita Wifi:  UK – $362 (or £229);  U.S. – $250; India – $406 (or INR 19,990)
  • PS Vita 3G:  UK – $440 (or £279 ); U.S. – $299; India – $507 (or INR 24,990)

Answer is no.  $150-200 more than in the U.S.?  For real Sony?

Now, there are some financials behind it that explain some of the pricing  – like the 27% custom duty the Indian government put on any imported electronics, and the high manufacturing costs that Sony bear with the PS Vita (it took them years to make the PS3 profitable).  But with the Indian market being such a large and growing market – it’s a crying shame Sony have priced the PS Vita so high.  With both the PS3 and Xbox being available cheaper in India – and the PS Vita’s original sales struggling in Japan (as described here) – Sony is making it very difficult for the Vita to be widely sold in India.  We’re making progress – but we’re still not being taken as seriously as we should be.

If you are a hardcore gamer, can afford the INR20k outlay, and like portable gaming devices – here’s what you get for your money.

HARDWARE:

A Slick Design With Front And Back Touch Screen

  • Screen:  5-inch (130 mm) OLED touchscreen
  • Controls: two analog sticks, a joypad, a set of standard PlayStation face buttons, two shoulder buttons (L and R), a PlayStation button and Start and Select buttons, and a rearpad.
  • Cameras:  two cameras (front and rear) featuring face detection, head detection, and head tracking capabilities.
  • System:  512 MB of system RAM and 128 MB of VRAM
  • Battery Life:  3–5 hours of gameplay (no network, no sound, default brightness level), 5 hours of video, and up to 9 hours of music listening with the screen off (i.e. pack your charger if you’re travelling longer than you’re daily commute, and if you work in Bangalore it may not even last your whole commute).
  • Memory:  4-32 GB (and yes, you pay more for more).  Keep in mind that a game can use up to 1GB.
  • Additional Good Stuff:  stereo speakers, microphone, Sixaxis motion sensing system, three-axis electronic compass, built-in GPS (only for the 3G version) as well as Wi-Fi, 3G, and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR connectivity.

The graphics and speed of play are impressive – in terms of a gaming experience, it’s the best portable gaming experience available on the market.  But it doesn’t go as far as a tablet in terms of all round functionality.  In summary:  the best portable gaming platform with some useful gimmicks, but it won’t replace your tablet if you have one.

TITLES:

The PS Vita is launching with 26 new titles – including some big hitters that received rave reviews such as Unchartered & Wipeout 2048.  You also get access to 275 downloadable PSP games (to be confirmed for India), with more coming.  At the moment, there are no plans to make PS2 or PS3 games downloadable on the PS Vita.

In India, these will start retailing between INR2,400 – 2,800.  A bit cheaper than PS3 games – but not significantly.

Wipeout 2048 Shows Some Impressive Graphics.

SO SHOULD YOU GET ONE?

The PS Vita comes across as a confused product.  Sony is confused by how well it is going to do.  It feels like it’s halfway between a portable gaming device and a tablet.  And Sony confused its pricing model by making it more expensive in India than in the U.S. (or maybe they just got their geographies mixed up – who knows).  They also made it more expensive than a PS3 (again, they might have confused their products).

It shouldn’t take away from the fact that it is the best portable gaming platform, and will give you a whole new gaming experience with some cool touch screen interfaces, great portable playability, and the best graphics available on a portable device.

But you’ll be looking at 30,000INR to buy the console, a couple of games to get started, and a decent memory card.  If you’re a hardcore portable gamer – go for it (or ask a nice family member or friend outside of India to be generous on your birthday). If you’re just looking for a new gaming experience, thought you should know that the WiiU is being released in 2012 and rumours are that it may be cheaper than the PS Vita in India.  No recommendations yet.  Just saying…

If do go for the PS Vita and are looking to pick up some PS Vita games, check out our new PS Vita games section.

INDIE REVIEW: AND YET IT MOVES

We have reviewed popular titles such as Gears of War and Battlefield in the past, ignoring some great indie games that our audience may benefit from.  This first indie game review comes from our guest author, Vasu Chaturvedi.  Vasu is a game designer, movie buff, and a script writer. He can be found on Twitter at @1starArchie.

And Yet It Moves is the debut title from Indie developers Broken Rules. In this unique platformer, the developers throw aside the regular approach of appealing to their players; they get rid of the storyline completely and just maintain their focus on giving the players an impressive gameplay and brilliance in art style. Surely, the name itself feels very odd and it does not make sense even while discovering how the game progresses.

The Setup

Explore the odd landscapes and the mysterious world around you

In AYIM, you play a pencil-sketch cut-out character that is traversing the odd landscapes and the mysterious world around you. Your objective is to overcome numerous obstacles to reach a darkened door at the end of the world. But here is where the game’s real premise begins — in order to counter these obstacles, you have to use the primary mechanic of rotating the world around you. Your character has the ability to rotate the world around you by 90 or 180 degrees at any time in the direction. This in reality is what really sets the game on a different note, it creates a unique experience that forces you to look at the puzzles in front of you in a different manner, think and re-think your approach — one wrong move and you may be a victim of a fall down an endless abyss. The game has a unique way to guide you: on the way you shall encounter versions of yourself i.e your cut-out character, standing still as a checkpoint and once activated, this cut-out points towards a direction that you should go for in order to reach the next checkpoint and lead you across the mysterious world that AYIM presents before you. Usually in a platformer where you need to reach from one point to another, the focus is on giving you difficult terrains to traverse, unknown hostiles splurging on you, but what really sets this one apart is the fact that the developers give you the freedom to openly change the world as you like. AYIM presents you a world which you can turn with the click of a button, it’s times like these when you can proudly say that gravity is my friend. Use gravity as a weapon and you shall make good use of your environment as a weapon to take down anything that comes your way, needless to say you can even use the weapon on its own master, although it’s advisable to make sure that you do not twist and turn a lot since it can easily plunge you to your death. Gravity is your friend, but you shall not take (undue) advantage of it.

Visuals and Sounds
The game presents you with so many interesting things, and it’s impossible to forget them. The visuals immediately draw your attention and create a different mind-set, the artwork is beautiful. It works well with the theme and the developers have utilized it superbly, even the characters animations and movements feel fluid with plenty of ambient animations in the background to create a better effect. The sound design in itself is very different, it is not a combination of huge background scores that inspire awe, instead the music gives you an air of eeriness that might seem wrong in some games, but goes well with this one. Heck if it were any different, it would have been quite awkward.

Gameplay

Move the world around you to get around!

The puzzles in the game are fairly easy to solve. They revolve around the premise that you use the rotation mechanics in the game and get from one point to another, as easy as it may sound. The developers have made it quite tough on you, the camera cannot be adjusted by the player, the puzzle difficulties grows by each level you clear and they make you really think before you move. It is a great combination of unique design and difficulty that create a vivid experience for the users. The camera zooms in and out at different intervals to make the players explore more regions in the map. If there was a way to adjust and interact with the camera, I do believe that it would have reduced the overall level of puzzles in the game and would not create the sense of accomplishment players now get on completion of each level. The camera movements in itself create a difficulty. It may beat you a few times, you may find yourself relying on ‘trial and error’ but in the end, each puzzle is designed in a unique way.
Finally, I would like to conclude that And Yet It Moves creates its own style and class among other platformers. Incredible visuals, sound and design backed up by solid gameplay and difficult puzzles make this game a unique blend of art and design and a definite play for all the fans of the genre as well as others who want to experience something different and intriguing for once.  If I have convinced you enough, head over to the And Yet It Moves website to download a demo (and hopefully, the full game too!).  

The good:

  • Amazing art and sound design
  • Solid gameplay and controls
  • Unique puzzles

The bad:

  • Short length
  • Lack of story

Rating 9/10

ARE VIDEO GAMES ART?

This is a discussion by Kelly Santiago, a student in the MFA Interactive Media program at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.  Her research focused on game design, interactive narrative, and physical and gestural interfaces for digital media.  This is a clip from her talk at TEDx highlighting how video games are fast reaching art status.

THE CALM AFTER THE STORM: A RATIONAL GUIDE TO BATTLEFIELD 3 AND MODERN WARFARE 3

This article comes to us from our guest writer, Anish Kataria. Anish is a passionate gamer, a car and bike enthusiast, and a generally happy guy. He can be reached on twitter @AnishKataria.

The gaming world’s ultimate showdown took place in the latter half of 2011, when Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 were launched within a month of each other.  Most gamers (including this particular MW fan-boy) were blown over and confused by the blitzkrieg of marketing offenses and pre-launch videos offered by Electronic Arts and Activision.  Most gamers reading this article might have already purchased a copy of one of these games.  That said, for the few who are still undecided/waiting for prices to reduce/thinking about getting a multiplayer pass, this review might help you make an informed decision.

For the uninitiated, MW3 builds on the success of the original MW, MW2, and related title Black Ops which dominated the gaming industry with unmatched gamer experience (both visually and game design).  BF3 comes from a slightly different genealogy that started in 2002 with Battlefield 1942 and primarily aimed at the PC gamer.  Its last iteration, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was critically acclaimed—but a moderate success commercially when compared to the Modern Warfare titles.

So how do these games stack up against each other?  Modern Warfare 3 (to a large extent the series) makes you feel like Superman.  It’s relatively simple, unabashed arcade shooting style which focuses on the ability of one man to change the world provides the gamer a fast-paced ego rush that in itself is a highly-entertaining gaming experience.  Battlefield 3, on the other hand, makes you feel like Batman.  The learning curve is steep—some parts of the game almost force you to give up the controller, while others require you need to change the way you play—and you don’t have any superpowers that make you invincible.  Working effectively with your squad, selecting the right weapons, mastering key tactics, and being nimble on your feet are some of the aspects of the game that any gamer needs to master.

Let’s see how these games compare across categories.

Graphics

Frostbite 2: Sometimes you just want to take a break and enjoy the surroundings

Battlefield 3 leverages the brutal computing power of the Frostbite 2 engine (Link).  This translates into smooth animations, immersive yet destructible environments, dynamic lighting and real-world visual effects (e.g., shadows, water droplets, smoke, and other textures).  The wide range and high quality of visuals present in all different game modes are astonishing but they can overwhelm the gamer at times.  Sometimes finding that critical piece in the jigsaw puzzle can be taxing due to overwhelming visual input.

Modern Warfare 3 is based on an evolved/tweaked version of the I-Ward/MW2 engine.  The lack of innovation/investment results in the graphics in MW3 feeling a little dated when compared to BF3.  The lighting and animations seem to have been enhanced in comparison to MW2 but is nowhere near the realism of BF3.  That said, the speed and build quality will keep gamers engaged.

Advantage:  Battlefield 3

Single Player Campaign

Makarov is back.

Captain Soap MacTavish, Captain John Price, and their evil nemesis Makarov return to light the world on fire in Modern Warfare 3.  MW3 continues from where MW2 left off.  It feels like a high on adrenaline, big budget Hollywood movie but sadly backed by a flat storyline.  It does have ‘scripted’ plot twists but I bet those of us used to the franchise see most of them coming.  I still love the characters, the transitions between missions, and the amazing superhero type quests in exotics locales.  It gets you high on the familiar, keeps you away from everything that you hold dear, and makes you beg for more.  That said, I would have preferred if the storyline hadn’t been carried over from MW2.

I had high expectations of the campaign mode in Battlefield 3 as a result of the incredible storyline of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and the pre-launch teaser videos provided by EA.  BF3 puts you in the shoes of Staff Sergeant Henry Blackburn fighting the evil PLR held together by the main antagonist, Solomon.  The single player mode is based on a storyline that has been seen before, boring scripting, an AI that knows all and kills all.  It does have a couple of over-the-top moments where it feels awesome (but these are limited to the cut scenes between missions/introductions to mission).  The campaign seems like a bunch of cool ideas which were over cooked and poorly executed.  Further, sometimes it seems that the developers consciously designed the single player mode to be frustrating and painful.

Advantage:  Modern Warfare 3.  It’s moronic but I still associate with the characters.

Multi Player Modes

Aerial dogfights on BF3: You should play the multiplayer just for that!

Realism, different abilities for different solider classes, huge maps, insane graphics, vast magnitude of weapons… phew!  Multiplayer is what Battlefield 3 was designed for.  24 console players (or 64 PC players) can collaborate and overrun/capture/annihilate enemy positions in the immersive multiplayer maps.  The author of this article wasn’t a big multiplayer fan (apart from the customary FIFA sessions online) until he came across this game.  The multiplayer of this game is addictive beyond comparison and will turn you into ‘Level-Up’ junkie who only cares about when he can fire a Stinger missile, drive an Abrams Tank, or fly a Sukhoi-25 Frogfoot.  The most critical differentiator here is that the maps turn into huge battlefields with different types of gamers (infantry soldiers, tank commanders, and combat aircraft pilots) fighting against each other at the same time.

Modern Warfare 3 builds on and enhances the multiplayer experience from MW2.  It’s fast, addictive, and you will not get bored playing it over and over again.  Infinity Ward has added the ability to set up streak rewards for support play rather than the aggressive over-the-top one man army style antics (gamers who focus on maintaining a high kill-to-death ratio over supporting the team).  Overall, it’s a great package that’ll make you log on and play because of the large number/experience/quality of gamers using the multiplayer functionality.  That said, I’m disappointed that Infinity Ward hasn’t pushed the envelope over here.  They seem to be happy with just sticking with what has worked in the past.

Advantage:  Battlefield 3

My Choice

It comes down to choosing between a glamorous supermodel for a single encounter vs. the girl who you truly love (is that even possible?) for the rest of your life.  I choose Battlefield 3.  What do you choose?

Where to Pick One Up?

Why, at GamesINC of course.  At the time of writing, we have copies of Battlefield 3 pre-owned and Modern Warfare 3 both new and pre-owned on PS3.  If Xbox is your platform, then we only have Modern Warfare 3 new – but we should getting BF3 new, as well as pre-owned versions of both in the near future.

Looking Forward To

The Last of Us

GAMES FROM 2011 YOU SHOULD NOT MISS: PART II

The second in our three part review of the best games of 2011 features one of the best games of all time, and two games that pleasantly surprised us. With such a fantastic line up of games hitting our consoles last year, the three games listed below really focus on a great single-player experience.

Pick one of these up new or pre-owned, you will not be disappointed!

Unchartered 3: Drake’s Deception

A rollercoaster story, visuals with beauty and depth, intuitive and riveting game play, and great character build ups makes Unchartered 3 the best single-player game of the year, and dare I say all time? If you play games for great single-player modes, then you just cannot miss Unchartered 3. Actually, if you have a pulse you shouldn’t miss Unchartered 3 (however faint the pulse) – it is one of the ultimate entertainment experiences (across all forms of entertainment). Naughty Dog have done the impossible and improved on Unchatered 2 (voted best PS3 game of all time by Play magazine).

The game starts in the wet streets of London where you end up in a pub brawl. Your journey propels you to an abandoned Chateau in France, a crusader castle in Syria, a pirate lair, and an abandoned city in the desert of Yemenon to trace Sir Francis Drake’s mysterious voyage in the Middle East. Mind blowingly beautiful sceneries often force you to slow down and admire the view. The game itself builds on the previous versions of running, climbing, hand to hand combat, and shoot offs with groups of bad guys. The hand to hand combat is seriously improved and shooting mode works seamlessly – while not at the level of a BF3, it is very enjoyable nonetheless.

Riveting Action, Stunning Landscapes, and Great Characters - Unchartered 3 Delivers

Riveting Action, Stunning Landscapes, and Great Characters - Unchartered 3 Delivers

The character building and story line immerse you so deeply in the game that it is nearly impossible to put down. The cut scenes work so seamlessly with the game and often lead to rollercoaster game sequences (whether it is escaping a burning down castle or hanging onto the ropes of a cargo plane). In fact, the character building and action are so good they are looking at turning the franchise into a movie. There is also a great coop mode and the online multiplayer is surprisingly good. This game is the answer to the prayers in our blog post (How to Ruin a Video Game in Five Simple Steps). Unchartered 3 is the one game you should not to miss from 2011 (and that is saying something with the quality of the competition), so go and buy it NOW!!!

Deus Ex : Human Revolution

Deus Ex was the surprise of the year for us. While it’s predecessor, Deus Ex, lies in the Hall of Fame, we were expecting another Duke Nukem; but boy were we wrong! Human Revolution does not have the multiplayer modes of Battlefield 3, it is not the complete package of Unchartered 3 – but it is a really deep single-player experience. Picture Metal Gear Solid meets Red Dead Redemption meets Infamous meets L.A. Noire. The game is set in a futuristic cyberpunk style world where humans can be augmented by humans. You play Adam Jensen, who (yes, you’ve guessed it), is seriously augmented as a result of a terrorist attack leaving him in near death status. Your aim is to track down the perpetrators of the attack and as you progress, you go deeper into a global conspiracy theory revolving around your lost ex-wife and your current employer.

Multifunctional Augments - The Arm Blade: Useful for Killing Enemies and Slicing Your Morning Bread

As you progress through the game, you can augment your character with some interesting features: a 360 degree grenade, the ability to jump ten meters in the air, become invisible for short periods of time or punch through walls. Human Revolution gives you the freedom to decide the style of play you want: depending on how you choose to augment your character, you can take a stealth approach, a brute force approach, or a mixture of both – and these apply also to the open world of each city. There are also a number of side missions on offer which tie in very nicely with the main story line, and don’t feel pointless like is so often the case. We preferred the stealth approach, as the brute force approach seemed to less intuitively go with the game. Though we did get a surprise when the first boss required a brutal set up…

If you like deep one player experiences with strong story line, then Deus Ex is a game you can’t miss.

L.A. Noire

Mmm - That Is A Strange Place To Fall Asleep

L.A. Noire is a bit like Shah Ruh Khan as in you either love it or hate it. You play a cop in post WW2 LA, traumatized by the war and the decisions our man had to make. This is a sleuth game with a straight story line coupled with a free world environment where you can pursue additional cases. You solve cases by finding clues and interrogating characters (using both the innovative face reading feature and the clues you have gathered). You also get involved in tailing suspects, or more hardcore car chases and full on shoot outs with gangsters.

The game play is intuitive as you’d expect from a 2011 release, and the story line is well written and keeps you hooked onto your haunted character. How you perform on each case will also modify the story line and how quickly you rise through the ranks of the police force.

If you’re looking for a very different game or love crime shows and solving crimes, then L.A. Noire is well worth the investment.

STATUS UPDATE: 11-JANUARY, 2012

We have received a few e-mails and Facebook posts asking us about how far we are from launching and figured that this is the right time to post an update on where we stand right now.  Like any e-commerce site, ours needs a considerable back-end infrastructure to ensure that gamers are able to communicate with us, and order and receive shipments without delay and hassles.  As we started working with vendors and testing our back-end processes and infrastructure, we realized that our initial assumptions of timing — where we hoped to launch by the end of January — were a bit optimistic.  At the same time, we felt that if we just had to push launch back, then we should aim to provide a more streamlined experience to Indian gamers.  With that in mind, we are building a more streamlined Web interface, entering into agreements with more established distributors, and tying up with e-commerce specialist delivery channels — all with the intention of making your experience with us more enjoyable.

The flipside to this is that we will launch the beta probably only by March.  But in the meantime, we would very much like you to:

~ Send us ideas on what new products and services you would like us to consider

~ Let us know if you would like to get involved in any way (we are always looking for guest writers for our blog, people who know people who can help connect us to people who can help us launch)

~ Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for constant updates

PS VITA SALES SLOW: BUT DOES THAT MEAN PORTABLE CONSOLES ARE DYING OUT?

PS Vita

Disappointing initial sales cloud the PS Vita

Recently, Forbes Magazine carried a series of articles on how the failure of PS Vita is going to kill the portable console market.  This article is a reaction to Forbes’ assessment.  To read the Forbes articles, please refer to the links at the end of this article.

PS Vita was launched in Japan on December 16, 2011 and sold about 3,25,000 units in less than a week.  This appeared quite

encouraging to Sony, especially after increased investing lot on building a support system of popular games to boost initial sales.  But the second week brought bad news: only a little more than 72,000 units were sold.  According to VGChartz, Nintendo’s 3DS crushed the PS Vita in sales last week, with a little under 500,000 units sold.  Admittedly, Nintendo has been a leader in the portable console category while Sony has been playing the fringes.  Even then, to extrapolate this information to say it is the end of portable gaming is probably stretching it a bit too much.  If this is indeed the end of portable gaming — and it might well be so — it will not be because there is no market for it, but because companies have failed to understand market needs.

The PSV may not be doing all that well, but the 3DS is still running strong. Source: VGChartz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The key challenge that portable games face comes from mobile gaming.  To face this challenge, companies need to understand a) what their core value proposition is and b) understand what the customer segment is willing to pay for.

GET YOUR VALUE PROPOSITION RIGHT

Mobile games and portable PS games are fighting for the same pie.  All PS owners have mobile phones but not all mobile phone owners have PS.  As a result, Sony has a bigger task of upselling its console to mobile phone users (who may already be playing games on their phones).  The PS Vita (or any such console) has to be significantly better for mobile users to turn to it for their gaming needs — and the advantages have to be apparent, given that a non-gamer (or casual gamer) is unlikely to conduct too much research before deciding on a portable console.  Do portables have better screen resolution? Are they faster? Are the games easy to find/download?  Are they well-priced?  Chances are you just answered no to all of these questions.  If companies have to compete with mobiles, they are just going to have to step up to the challenge.  They have to understand what their target segment wants (not just what the target segment is) and design a value that not only beats the value proposition of mobiles but is also different in kind.  The fact that kids are a key segment here is evident by the fact that the Nintendo 3DS is still doing well and has not been impacted by Sony’s PSV.  Nintendo knows its segment well and promotes games that this segment wants.  Of course, the prices of Nintendo games could do with a reduction — although, in my opinion, Nintendo manages with the premium (over mobile games) because a) parents do most of the purchasing and possibly hold their children to guidelines for when they will buy a new game and b) kids don’t finish a game overnight and the games are long enough to keep them occupied for a month (or months).

English: Nintendo 3DS "Target Shooting&qu...

The Nintendo 3DS is still running strong.

I personally like to keep my media player (an iPod), my phone (a Blackberry), and my portable gaming console (a PSP) separate — my belief is that products that are meant for one thing do better than one that tries to do everything.  Now the iPhone is fast challenging that belief because it is a great media player, phone, and gaming console all in one (but also costs as much as all of them put together).

UNDERSTAND WHAT THE CUSTOMER IS WILLING TO PAY

You can’t sell a portable game for 2,000INR when the nearest substitute (mobile games) costs 50INR.  You don’t need a management degree from Harvard to tell you that.  As I mentioned above, portable consoles have so far failed to differentiate the additional value they provide to justify a 39X premium.  Apart from kids whose discerning parents want family-friendly games for their children, “core” gamers usually look at portable gaming devices as a stop-gap — to be enjoyed only until they can afford that 40″ TV and a real console, or for times of travel.  Neither of these two segments will want to spend excessively on this pastime.  Portable console manufacturers, especially Sony, has to understand where their consoles are placed in the bigger scheme of things.  There is no such thing as customer loyalty in the Internet age when every consumer has free access to information that allows him/her to make an informed purchase decision.  A simple Google search will show how bad an idea it is to buy a portable console over a high-end mobile phone.

There is no reason for one product or another to be obsolete as long as it fills a compelling customer need.  Companies just have to innovate to meet customer needs.  Do we see the portable consoles disappear (like we saw the pager disappear from public eye)?  Most likely not.  But will we see another failed product in PS Vita?  Maybe.  There is still a market for portable consoles, now whether a company manages to meet customer needs and create a product that people are willing to buy — that is a different deal altogether.  We have seen Sony take multiple wrong steps with the portable playstations (anyone remember the PS Go ?) and while some amount of market experimentation much be encouraged, it seems that Sony hasn’t yet cracked the code.  We have not had a chance to review the PS Vita yet and are eagerly awaiting its worldwide launch, but we are pretty  sure we won’t be disappointed with the product itself.

What are your views on the portable gaming market?  Do you like your gaming equipment to be different from your mobile phone?  Is mobile gaming for n00bs? Post your opinion below!

References:

Sony in Big Trouble with PS Vita

Does PS Vita Mark the End of Portable Game Consoles?

Is This the End for Portable Gaming Consoles?

GAMES FROM 2011 YOU SHOULD NOT MISS: PART I

You have to admit, the year 2011 has been like no other when it comes to gaming.  There have been great games in every genre that has revolutionized how we think of gaming.  Further, a new genre of (ahem) casual gaming has been defined by multiple motion gaming releases, games the true core gamer would not have considered otherwise but is now willing to throw caution to the winds and play a bit of bowling over beer with friends!  We compiled this list of games that we were glad to have played this year.  This is, by no means, an exhaustive list, and is also the first of our multi-part series of articles.

Third-Person Shooter:  Gears of War 3

Join Marcus Fenix in his search to rescue his father

Now what gamer is not a fan of the ultra-adrenaline junkie that is Marcus Fenix, with arms the size of Bollywood damsels in distress!  In Gears of War 2, Marcus and his faithful friend Dom battle hordes and hordes of Locusts to save the last city of Jacinto.  Gears 3 is very similar to the legend of Gears 2, with a lot more style and polish.  Every movement appears more distinct, more pronounced, every shade of color a bit easier to look at.  The storyline still attempts a good bit of emotional ups and downs, but only as much as a Rambo-like character can pull off.  Gears 3 starts with a surprising twist to the story: Marcus’ dad is still alive! In this season though, audience favorite Dom takes a plunge at the invaders with a truck load of explosives and lays down his life for his squad.   Four-player cooperative campaigns and new multiplayer modes also makes Gears 3 a sweet game to play online against teenagers high on coke (the cola variety, of course!).

First-Person Shooter:  Battlefield 3

Take a moment to admire the power of Frostbite 2

Ok, I will go ahead and say it.  I am a Battlefield fan and no, I don’t think Modern Warfare 3 sucks.  Both are great games, but I am going to write about BF3 because I am the one with the laptop right now.  EA’s Frostbite 2 engine’s capabilities really shine through in this edition of Battlefield.  The level of detail that this engine manages to add to the campaign is immaculate.  A scene where you turn around from crossfire to notice a helicopter flipping in mid-air, only to have a 80 storey building come crashing on it, provides you with a sense of awe.  The enormity and mammoth-scale of it all makes you sit up and notice.  The storyline itself is much more predictable than BF2: Bad Company and follows the usual formulaic components of Russians, nuclear weapons, and middle eastern rogue regimes. But that isn’t what puts BF3 on our map, it is the multiplayer action that this game brings to us.  The MP action is almost like a different game and allows you to do a lot of different things you wished the campaign would (e.g., not making you wait for that exact moment so you can hit X to score that perfect punch on the enemy’s face!).

Sports:  FIFA12

Enter a whole new world of tactical defending

It is difficult to be a core gamer and not like the FIFA franchise.  The biggest change EA delivered on its franchise is augmented defensive plays.  Tactical defending provides a lot more realistic feel to the game, allowing you to contain, marshall, and jockey your opponents.  On the other hand, precision dribbling now allows you to keep the ball with you longer…once you have figured it out!  The last thing that makes the FIFA12 experience stand out is the Player Impact Engine, which — like the name suggests — makes for better collisions.  Each player’s “mass” and angle of impact (among other things) are taken into account to simulate collisions that are as close to the real thing as current technology can get.  So this legend is another game that you must possess.

These are only three games to feature on the first of our series.  Within the genre’s above, what other games do you think should make the cut?  Crysis 2? Deus Ex: Human Revolution? Uncharted 3?  Post your comments below to let us know!