A Touch of Marketing

January 27, 2010

So, I would be remiss to not cross-reference my other blog that is currently taking up most of my free time: The All-in-One Gamer Project is a few weeks underway and I’m feeling pretty good about it so far. In essence, I’m trying to familiarize myself with all aspects necessary to lead an independent game development team. So, for the thousands and thousands of you who are fans of this blog (am I rounding up too high?), jump on over and subscribe, comment and be merry!

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About a week ago (or was it two? Days…blurring together…), I had the opportunity to hang out with a buddy, sip a little Courvoisier (yes, I am now classified as a mature gamer with refined tastes ūüôā ) and play the latest in one of my favorite survival/horror series, Resident Evil 5 by Capcom.¬† The only problem with this was the lack of horror.

If someone doesn't oil my massive arms IMMEDIATELY, it's going to get messy around here.

If someone doesn't oil my massive arms IMMEDIATELY, it's going to get messy around here.

A brief setup for the game: you’re Chris Redfield, the continuing protagonist for most of the RE games. You’re in Africa where terrorists have seized the T-virus and mutated it. You and your new partner, Sheva Alomar, are 1 of 3 teams trying to find a certain terrorist when things begin going wrong…zombie wrong.

I remember the nights working at Hollywood Video and closing the store at 1am, coming home and popping in Resident Evil 2. I remember those nights because they were damn near sleepless. Every door you walked through had it’s own creepy cut-scene (albeit, giving the Playstation just a bit of time to load the next scene) and you never knew what to expect in the next room. The lighting and music lent itself perfectly to the genre and enhanced the tension. I’ve been talking to a lot of colleagues about “moments” in games; the small scenes in a game that stand out and stick with you long after you’ve forgotten the name of the main characters or how the game ended. There was a “moment” in RE 2 when you walked down a certain hall with boarded windows, in fear of one of the Lickers attacking you, when suddenly zombie arms burst through the window boards and tried to kill you on the spot. I remember literally jumping out of my seat when this occurred and it has stuck with me ever since.

Fast forward to RE 5…no such “moments” and plenty of opportunities. In the first village, you walk around and witness someone being beaten in the street and a bit of tension rises as the members applying the beat-down slowly turn to look at you (all in-game). You walk a bit further down the road and a voice comes across a PA system. Suddenly, the town seems empty – again, a bit more tension. In hindsight, this would have been a perfect opportunity to secure the “horror” element for the game with something simple like a chicken popping out at you on a forced turn. Seriously. Something little that makes you jump and feel a bit embarrassed about doing so. Sprinkle several of these “moments” throughout the game, mixed in with actual times that the player does need to start firing to save their lives and you’ve got a winning combination that will have your audience punch-drunk, the way they want to be.

Visually, RE 5 is stunning. The motion-capture used on the zombie hoardes (and I mean hoardes…no more 2 or 3 zombies per screen) and protagonists alike is spot on. Even the textures in the walls of run-down buidings and villages look incredible.

Unfortunately, once you’re past the glitz and glamore of the graphics, you’ll notice a fairly weak storyline made worse by choppy, unbelievable dialogue. Gone are the days of ammo conservation (which set this series apart in a good way), so feel free to run and gun. And lastly, the first boss fight is much harder than anything you see throughout the majority of the game. Granted, I haven’t finished the game, but 5 hours into playing, I had not discovered a bigger challenge than the level released as a demo. Hmmm…I’m not saying false advertising, but…

In all, the game is fun but I don’t feel it lives up to its namesake. If you’re making a survivor/horror game, make sure it’s a struggle to survive and, for Pete’s sake, make sure there are moments of horror. C’mon, Capcom, you know this. Or at least, you did.

1up.com¬†covered a Q&A with Stan Lee at Comic Con and apparently “The Man” approves of the storylines going into games now. He, like many others, recognizes that early on, comic book-based games were not only hokey, but “nothing special”. When asked about the stories in current and upcoming Marvel games, he said, “I hate you [videogame developers] for being better than we [comic creators] are at storytelling, but at least it’s based on our stuff.”¬† Receiving a compliment from a man who crafted so many of the heroes that generations of readers have and will grow up with is incredible, even for an outside aspirant like myself.

Was Stan Lee a pimp in the '70s?

Was Stan Lee a pimp in the '70s?

 

This being said, I pose the question: Who is the most influential writer/creator for game related characters or ideas? Not to slant the vote any, but I have to give Stan Lee the gold on this one simply for the number of games made with the Marvel IP. Can you think of anyone else who could take it away from him?

Friday night in Austin, TX, Video Games Live put on a show like no other that I have seen. My girlfriend and I arrived around 6:30 for the preshow festivities at the Long Center on Riverside (for those of you familiar with the Austin area). Unfortunately, there was little going on (the following day, I ran into one Julianna who ran the hosting of VGL and she told me that she was disappointed in what VGL actually brought with them as opposed to what they said they would bring) but we grabbed a bag of Razer gear, chatted with some friends also in attendance and went to be seated. As luck, or oddness, would have it, they would not allow us to sit in our designated seats, so we were moved closer to the action.

Me, Brandi, Pam and Roddy

Me, Brandi, Pam and Roddy

The show began with a very energetic appearance by the composer, Jack Wall, and occasional narrative by Tommy Tallarico – also full of energy. If you don’t know what VGL is all about (and perhaps this should be at the top of my entry rather than here, but, enh…) you can see a YouTube clip here¬†and read the official site here. The Austin Symphony Orchestra played the themes of classic games such as Super Mario Bros. and Metroid along with lighting effects that spared no expense. The more intricate compositions of newer games such as Mass Effect and Halo were also elegantly intertwined.

A compilation of classics

A compilation of classics

Intermittently, a radio contest winner or preshow game winner entered the stage and was thrust into a gaming opportunity for some cool gear. The first man had to run across stage with a spotlight following him as his movements controlled the base launcher of the original Space Invaders. In two minutes, he managed to fail at clearing the first stage and instead of leaving with a $3K arcade machine, he got another bag of Razer gear. The second competition was much better. A 20-yr old came out to play Aerosmith’s Sweet Emotion accompanied by the symphony. He had to hit 165K points on hard to win a $2,500 Dell Laptop and ended up with a score of 250K on Extreme! The tension had the crowd at the edge of their seats and a standing O when he won.

Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall

Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall

Other acts included Martin Leung (seen here) playing the Mario Bros. theme blindfolded and Tommy himself kicking in on the last number, the theme for Castlevania. Overall, an amazing show that these two men have developed over the past 5 years. Even my girlfriend, who is not a gamer, had a great time pointing out which games she recognized. I wish Tommy and Jack the best in the future and they have an attendant for life.

*Pictures by Eugene Hsu