Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Rational Consumer and the Xbox One

“It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.” – Murray Rothbard

My co-author wrote a couple of pretty spectacular and personable posts on the issues surrounding Microsoft’s botched messaging and shamble-ridden announcement of the XBOX One a few weeks ago.  I don’t want to retread old ground, rather I recommend going to read what he wrote here and here.  For the record though, and contrary to my illustrious co-author I will state that I had no problems with the DRM policies of the Xbox ONE, the always online requirement, or the price of the system.

What does bother me however is the reactions to Microsoft’s policies.  Let me be clear, I can understand being upset or angry at the aspects of the system that you either don’t agree with or lifestyle doesn’t support.  That’s cool and best of luck to you in continuing to voice your opinion and be heard.  But I think that the argument’s direction has ignored one key aspect, that is that we are in no way required or obliged to buy into Microsoft’s new ecosystem.  The price of the  Xbox ONE does not have any impact on consumers that are choosing to not buy it.  The price of the new Xbox ONE does not impact those consumers choosing to purchase a Playstation 4 solely.   We are not required to pay the price of admission and as such can exercise our right to choose to not purchase a new system.  The Xbox ONE is continuing Microsoft’s fight in a highly contestable market.  Sony and Nintendo are both strong competitors who can not only compete on content, but also on price.  So in short we are absolutely in control over whether Microsoft’s pricing structure allows them to meet demand forecasts and turn a profit.

The way the enthusiast press has discussed this issue has been nothing short of non-sensical on this matter.  There is no better example of this irrational discussion than Garnett Lee’s outburst on the most recent Weekend Confirmed episode where he derided Mr Don Mattrick and Microsoft for a level of complacency in pricing the Xbox ONE.  It was ill-informed and irrational and showed a high level of disregard and lack of understanding about how competitive markets work.

And the problem lays, I think, in the fact that there is a fundamental misunderstanding that Microsoft hold a significant position of market power (SMP).  Now whether this is due to their previous position in other markets where they most certainly had a position of SMP, or because of their successes in this console generation is unclear.  But what is clear is that Microsoft’s motivations are being interpreted with base assumptions that are wrong.   The fact is that Microsoft are, in the console market particularly, price takers.  That is they are not able to exercise significant influence over the prices of the market and the significant capital costs of building their hardware makes it difficult to engage in predatory pricing.  That is they are tied to make a modest profit, or a modest loss, depending on the pricing model they wish to employ.  The price it has set is what it as a company views as the point whereby it is palatable at launch for the market, but also at a level where the ongoing business case for the system is sound.  It is fact that it is in the best interests of Microsoft to have as many systems in peoples’ collective hands as possible.  Because one, it recovers costs associated with the development of the system, but two it also gives them greater bargaining power when negotiating exclusives with third parties.  Without third party support the Xbox ONE would be relying too strongly on its first parties and cross-platform titles, and would be have a harder time differentiating itself from its competition.  At a higher price point it is a hard case to make to consumers without exclusive content.  And the cycle continues leading to Microsoft having the incentive to maximise profits across both hardware sales and software sales, with regards to pricing for both and the resultant demand.  A position of SMP it does not have in this market.

For Microsoft the new Xbox isn’t Windows.  Where it had the clear advantage there, it doesn’t here and as a result Microsoft is forced to compete both on its feature set, its services and more importantly its price.  Consumers will make the decision based on the price and Microsoft in no way are obliged to meet the price of its competitors.  It doesn’t have to answer to any of us as to why it is AU$50 more expensive than its closest competitors.  It has shareholders that will hold it accountable to that end.  All you can do is make a decision whether or not your willingness to pay for the system lines up with Microsoft’s price and then, act accordingly.

And if you complain that it is too expensive now and still buy it, well that’s the very definition of irrational consumer behaviour and I will not shed a tear for that hole in your wallet.

XboxOne1

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Resident Evil: Revelations – A Return To Form?

Resident Evil Revelations 3DS Box ArtWhen Capcom revamped Resident Evil: Revelations for console release recently, I was tempted to pick it up for the Wii U. After playing the demo though, it just didn’t quite feel right on the big screen – it was designed for the 3DS after all – so I ended up buying the original 3DS version instead. What became a slightly underwhelming console game is truly a graphical marvel on a handheld.

At a computer show back in the nineties, I remember playing a demo of an ill-fated attempt to convert Resident Evil to the original Game Boy. The game never saw the light of day, but the demo was impressive – somehow they’d managed to get the underpowered 8-bit handheld to display rudimentary pseudo-3D graphics, and I remember the excitement of playing through the first level. In the end though the game never saw the light of day, and we ended up with the perfectly serviceable but considerably less pretty Resident Evil Gaiden instead.

Resident Evil on the Game Boy Color - apparently the game was almost finished but never got released.

Resident Evil on the Game Boy Color – apparently the game was almost finished but never got released.

Cut to 2012 and we were finally, FINALLY treated to a fully fledged 3D Resident Evil game on a portable console* – but was it worth the wait? Interestingly, Capcom chose to set Revelations on a cruise ship, just like Gaiden, and it proves to be an inspired decision. The cramped setting harks back to the mansion of the original 1996 Resident Evil, and it’s all the better for it. It lends the game a claustrophobia that really suits the series, and it feels far more fitting than the open air roaming of Resident Evil 5. Unlike the original game though, ammo is in much more plentiful supply, so you never quite feel the desperation of trying to make every single bullet count, and the oppressive hordes of shuffling zombies consequently don’t feel like as much of a threat as they should do.

I used the Circle Pad Pro when playing, and I liked the way the game lets you switch to first person when aiming. Having said that though, the Pro itself is a cumbersome beast, and the extra pad is in exactly the wrong position – it should be underneath the buttons, not slung out on the far right. I actually started developing pains in my right thumb after playing for a while. The pad clearly needs a rethink, and hopefully the next generation of 3DS will have a second pad in that sweet spot under the B button.

Still, back in the actual game, I really like what they’ve done with the inventory system – gone is the tedious inventory shuffling of old, and instead the only dilemma you’re faced with is what gun to bring with you, up to a maximum of three. It keeps things moving nicely, but it still retains a tactical element, especially when it comes to choosing which weapons to upgrade.

The zombies are pleasingly shuffly, just like the original.

The zombies are pleasingly shuffly, just like the original.

Another aspect I like is the episode format – the game is divided into 12 or so episodes, each of which begins with a LOST-style “Previously on Resident Evil Revelations…” recap, and it suits the handheld format perfectly in terms of providing bite-sized chunks of gameplay. What I wasn’t particularly fond of, however, is the way you keep being dragged out of the main story – Jill’s exploration of the ship – to play as other characters in fairly inconsequential gameplay sections. It just ends up diluting the game, when all I really wanted to do was barrel around the ship as Jill.

rer-parker-lucianiSpeaking of the other characters though, I have to give a shout out to newcomer Parker Luciani, who has quickly eclipsed Barry Burton as one of my all time favourites. With his unplaceable accent, magnificent beard and physique verging towards what some might call “stocky”, Parker is someone you can’t fail to warm to. Shame his dialogue too frequently falls into Barry Burton-esque “master of unlocking” awfulness, although the voice actor does his darned best to rise above the naffness of the script.

That’s the trouble, see – in terms of story and dialogue, Resident Evil has barely moved beyond its schlocky origins, and Revelations acts like it’s still 1996. The plot is, for the most part, pretty damn terrible, and some of the dialogue is beyond belief. This kind of stuff was forgivable in 1996, but not in 2013.

Still, I have a soft spot for Resident Evil games, and this is certainly a lot better than Resident Evil 5 (and probably Resident Evil 6 too, although I’ve yet to play it). The trouble is, the designers just don’t seem to know where to go with the series, although the move back towards more cramped interiors feels right. Revelations isn’t quite the return to form it should have been, but it’s on the right track, and it’s certainly a fun way to spend a few hours.

 

*After writing this I discovered that a version of the original PlayStation game (Resident Evil: Deadly Silence) was ported to the Nintendo DS in 2006, so technically Revelations this isn’t the first 3D Resi game on a handheld – although it’s the first one in actual 3D. Although to be honest you don’t notice the 3D after a while – Nintendo still seem to be the only ones who can actually use the 3D effect properly in their games.

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The madness of Killer 7 will knock you dead

killer 7

Killer 7 (Gamecube) – “At the very least you will appreciate the game’s style”.  That’s what I told people way back in 2004 when they asked about Killer 7.  A collaboration between Capcom heavyweights Shinji Mikami and Hirokyuki Kobayashi, and the enigmatic Goichi Suda (Suda 51) Killer 7 promised a hyper-violent and hyper-stylised video game experience.  And it delivered for the most part.  It looked good, it was cool, it had interesting ideas and it seriously brought to contention the video games as art debate.  But taken simply as a game it certainly wasn’t the pièce de résistance of either the Gamecube or Playstation 2 back catalogues.  Critics responded to game accordingly with mixed reviews.

Killer 7 spins a fantastic, if at times nonsensical, yarn.  Essentially a tale of political intrigue, terrorism and international relations,  you take control of seven assassins working ‘for’ a mysterious wheelchair-ridden man, Harmon Smith, contracted to take out a series of targets in pursuit of maintaining global peace.  Of course all is not as it seems and you are taken on a roller-coaster ride of twists and turns as the storyline becomes more complicated, more confusing and more interesting.  It is a game that doesn’t pull any punches in conveying an adult story in an adult tone, and in doing so was a breath of fresh air when it was released in 2004.  I can remember first playing the game and being blown away at how cerebral it all seemed – it was like watching a David Lynch film that doesn’t feel the need to spell everything out for the viewer.  It was an experience unlike anything else I had ever played and one that from that moment on changed my expectations of what videogames as a medium could deliver narratively and thematically.

The game itself is simplistic in its mechanics.  Playing somewhere between a rail shooter and a first person shooter Killer 7’s gameplay leaves a lot to be desired.  In some ways the lack of any complex mechanics highlights just how visceral and stylised the game’s violence is, allowing you to take in the full effect of whats happening on screen without worrying too much about navigating combat sequences.   And I think the simplicity of playing the game comes in part from how easy and intuitive it is.  Navigating the game’s environments is, albeit with some slight deviations in path, completely on-rails with you controlling your character from a third person perspective in almost the same way you would a slot car, if it had differing paths.  Combat is handled from the first person perspective but firmly plants your character’s feet in place with shooting them becoming something like a shooting gallery.  It isn’t complex and it certainly isn’t deep but it was fun, engaging and addictive.  It was a serviceable and simple way to tell the story and show the choreography and sheer insanity that the developers had crafted.

KaedeSmithK7

But on some level, the simplicity of the core game play showed a naïvety in what designers Suda-san and Mikami-san – both veterans of the industry – thought players wanted from video games.  An ‘experience’ built on art and feel may go a long way now, but a decade ago it was all about the gun in your characters hand or the bounce in their step.  And while there may have been some degree of appetite from some consumers out there, merely putting a gun in your characters hand in the game gave the market significant expectations of what the game would be.  Early trailers for the game looking more like a dynamic third person action-first person shooter hybrid with stylistic gunplay, rather than the rather on-rails game it actually was.  It looked cool, edgy and more importantly to the market it look violent.   Perhaps not intentionally, but Capcom and Grasshopper Manufacture set the expectations for this game as something they couldn’t, but more importantly, were never aiming to meet.

Like the best films or books isolating one part of a whole piece of work doesn’t do it justice.  It would be like taking the sugar out of a bottle of Coke and telling someone to review what was left.   This is kind of how I feel about Killer 7 in that it is simply is better than the sum of its parts.  Where the gameplay either bores or lacks depth, the other elements come in and pull the player through to the next crazy moment.  The game marked, for all intents and purposes, the entry of Suda 51 into the western consciousness.  The ideas don’t necessarily all come together all the time but you can see the glimpses of greatness even within some of the clumsiest aspects of the game.  A divisive title, Killer 7 was held back by its own lofty ambition and attempts to differentiate itself from every other game on the market.

Me?  I love Killer 7.  And I’ll be damned if it isn’t one of the greatest video games ever made.

Killer7GCN

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The freest SkiFree

Did you know that a graphically enhanced port of SkiFree was released on the Game Boy Color as part of a compilation of PC games that included six other games, including Minesweeper and Free Cell.   The Microsoft Entertainment Pack was released in 2001.  Released in 1991 the original SkiFree was developed for Microsoft Windows and was included in the Microsoft Entertainment Pack 3, and later the Best of Microsoft Entertainment Pack.  The game is a high-score based game that puts you in control of a skier tasked with avoiding obstacles, hazards and a rather terrifying abominable snowman along an endless slope. Although simple, its pick up and play nature and addictive qualities make it an enduring classic.  Think about it hard enough and SkiFree could well be the first entry in the endless runner genre.

SkiFree

 

 

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And now for something completely different

First person shooters, racing games, character action platformers, after a while they all blend into one another.  An innovation one year is a stale convention the next; we all throw our arms up in the air; developers respond with a nice little token change; and the cycle repeats. Okay, okay I’m being overly dramatic to the point where I really deserve to be on some kind of top-rated podcast, but there is a nugget of truth in all of that.  Of course we are all at fault because we shamelessly hand our cash over for games, then we turn around and chastise developers and publishers on the internet for being money grabbing and complacent.  It is a vicious cycle that, in some kind of masochistic way, we love to loathe.

Of course there are alternatives.  There are games that aren’t just different in theme or aesthetic but are entirely different or unique gameplay experiences out there.  Sitting in retailers’ bargain bins around the world going largely unnoticed by scores of video game players rushing to the best sellers section to buy the latest blockbuster.  Niche titles perhaps, but they are nonetheless very different games that will either convince you that the path of less resistance is great and Call of Duty is still pretty awesome, or will expand your horizons and enter a world of unimaginable wonder.  Or you’ll read this and think that it’s all a bit retarded and go and read a book.

And now for something completely different.

Le Tour De France (aka Pro Cycling Manager)

Hey so that Tour de France, its pretty great right?  Actually I don’t quite understand the fuss to be honest, and while I respect and admire the athletes themselves for the strength, perseverance and  talent required to partake in the event, it doesn’t really make for exciting television viewing.  But the scenery is pretty picturesque, right?  I’m clearly in the minority though because while the Tour de France is on, given the time difference here in Australia, plenty of co-workers come into work bleary eyed muttering nonsense about yellow jerseys, un échappé and performance enhancing substances.  I listen, because that’s the kind of guy I am, but it all falls on deaf ears because quite simply I don’t really care.

But as is often the case put the same thing into videogame form and I am all over it like a rash.  Suddenly I am all about the Grand Boucle, the breakaway, the pack.  Enter Le Tour De Francethe hey guys we’ll sell more renaming of the long-running Pro Cycling Manager series, is yours and my opportunity to stand next to virtual incarnations of mildly attractive women on the podium after taking the coveted yellow jersey.  And like the sport itself, that reward at the end of a stage is hard earned, with the game requiring incredible patience and nigh on perfect pacing through the quite long stages.  It isn’t exciting but it is strangely relaxing as it lulls you into a semi-hypnotic state if you let it.

The great thing is because (1) next to no-one bought it and (2) the few people that did bought it decided it was dead boring and returned it, so you can pick it up for a pittance if you look hard enough.  It may not convert you from the more high octane game experiences available, but I’ll be damned if you don’t end up spending a few lazy afternoons intrigued and mildly obsessed with guiding your cyclist to victory.  Or at the very least get a nice picturesque view of the French countryside.

Tourde360

Championship Jockey – G1 Jockey and Gallop Racer

Way back in the start-up days of this blog I wrote a little piece on horse-racing video games.  Titled Nice Niche: a brief (and incomplete) history of horse racing video games I wrote the following on the G1 Jockey series:

 G1 Jockey requires careful management of your horse throughout the race. Remember, you’re the jockey, not the horse, so you can only control the same things a jockey could: namely the speed and position of the horse. While it sounds slightly dull, it actually requires a quite a bit of skill, and after the initial resistance of ‘I can’t believe I stooped this low’, you’ll find yourself lulled by the rhythm of the race….

Well unsurprisingly I am going to echo just that sentiment here.  The G1 Jockey series is quite simply one of my favourite underdog series’ of all time.  It is a game concept that shouldn’t work, but does.  It is the kind of game that will have your friends staring at you, as if you farted in their mouths while kissing their girlfriends or boyfriends, while you describe to them that photo finish as you pushed hard in the final furlong or a hard fought race.  It is more about micro-managing your horse through a  race, maximising rhythm while minimising energy expended, to pace your way to the end.  It is a marathon not a sprint, and like Le Tour De France above, the game will require discipline and patience.  Exercise those traits though and you’ve got yourself a tremendously rewarding gaming experience.

G1 Jockey 2008 (PS3)

Port Royale 3: Pirates and merchants

I have an irrational fear of water almost to the point where walking on the beautiful St Kilda jetty in Melbourne makes me fall onto the ground and convulse uncontrollably.  That sucks for a number of reasons, firstly because Australia isn’t a great country to be terrified of water given the abundance of great beaches we have, but secondly because I’ll likely never go on a pleasant cruise across the pacific with my lady-friend.  And that second one sucks because ever since I was a kid I’ve had an absolute fascination with sea-faring vessels from the European Colonial period.  Something about those perfectly engineered vessels purpose built for their primary function,  a big British Man-o-war or a small merchant Sloop, just gets me going. It is human ingenuity at its finest since the invention of the bicycle and Port Royale 3 has boats in spades. 

It also has complex commodity markets which in and of itself makes it pretty much the perfect game.  Economics is great and this game has a relatively decent representation of a closed economy, with supply and demand responding dynamically to other variables in the game.  It is a hands-on economics tutorial dressed up in a pirates and traders costume.  In other words don’t go in expecting a constant flurry of cannon fire, ship battling or sword fighting.

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Endless Ocean & Endless Ocean 2

Remember the Nintendo Wii?  That system that saw extreme shortages for the first six months of its life, that was all the rage in gaming and non-gaming circles for 12 months, and then for the six years after that was derided for its lack of software?  Well turns out that very system had some rather interesting games for it, among them japanese developer Arika’s Endless Ocean series.

Endless Ocean and its sequel were diving games, and quite good ones at that, where you explore vast and intricately modelled underwater environments checking out the scenery, the wildlife, and even finding the occassional treasure or two.  If there was one game that justified the Wii Remote as a control device, it is this one.  Using nothing but the Remote as a pointer you effortlessly guide your diver avatar through vast spaces of ocean and through narrow caves in what can only be described as the most relaxing videogame experience I’ve had outside of ThatGameCompany’s Flower.  Endless Ocean isn’t the deepest game nor does it have a sweep you off your feet type narrative, but it is a brilliantly designed and beautiful game that happens to also be a relaxing good time.  How many video games can you say that for?Endlessocean2PAL

Do you have any ‘different’ games that you’re fond of?  Perhaps you have a few that you think are utter rubbish.  Either way we want to hear from you in the comments.

Follow us on twitter @mostagreeable and Sir Gaulian @oldgaulian

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Milestone – the house that passion built

Milestone_Logo2Milestone – “Games Made With Passion

I admire a developer that pours so much care and attention into its games that it is infectious.   Milestone – a small developer located in  Milan, Italy – has lovingly crafted racing titles of both the two and four wheel persuasion since the mid-nineties. Since screaming onto the scene with Screamer Rally in 1996, the ’boutique’ studio has developed entries in some of the biggest franchises in motorsport including the World Rally Championship (WRC), MotoGP and SBK (Super Bike Championship).  Unlike similar developers though, Milestone isn’t anywhere near a household name, despite being more prevalent in its releasing games than the big names of motorsport such as Polyphony Digital, Turn 10 and Codemasters.  But that doesn’t stop them from enduring, iterating and improving its products year on year, striving to be the best at what it does.

Something about Milestone’s games has the ability to draw me in and believe in its cause.  The games aren’t always the best looking, nor are they the most feature-rich games on the market, but they always seem like they are hand crafted works of art that seek to perfect the on-track action rather than perfect the package.  Superficially this is counter-intuitive, but if you’ve ever played one of its games, you will likely have come away being wowed by its hits and endeared by its misses.  It is abundantly clear that these games are crafted by people that love the source material and consider that first and foremost their mandate when designing not just how the game plays, but how it feels and sounds.

The SBK series is probably the most prominent, and certainly the most frequent, of its franchises in recent years.  Between dipping in and out of the venerable MotoGP series, Milestone built the SBK series from the ground up, from its first go at the series, to its follow up under Electronic Arts in 2001 and now to the recent incarnation of the series which has been published annually by Black Bean Games from 2008 to 2012.  The games have made significant strides toward crafting two-wheeled racer that is friendly both to the fan of the sport, and to the newcomers, and despite being received luke-warmly by critics , the SBK series is the game to beat when it comes to bike racing.  That is, when Milestone wasn’t on MotoGP duties for Capcom.

The current generation of hardware heralded in a new breed of racing simulation with the likes of Forza and Gran Turismo pushing the boundaries of what console gamers expected not only in how a game looks, but also how it feels and its underlying physics and handling.  The same went for two wheel racers and SBK 2008 had a lot to live up to with a pretty high benchmark being set by its four-wheeled brethren in the early years.  The game certainly lived up to expectations in the way it felt, but a serious lack of modes and overall sterile feel made the game feel less polished and full-featured.

SBK08

In true Milestone fashion though SBK 2008 was only a glimpse of what it could do, and the solid riding mechanics in that game allowed it to put more emphasis on making future games highly polished and content-rich experiences.  And they certainly didn’t disappoint in that regard.  Through to the latest iteration, SBK: Generations, Milestone made significant strides toward making the game that you could tell they always wanted to make but were constrained in doing so.  Out was a vanilla simulation and in was the closest console motorbike racing has been to Gran Turismo.  Full-featured modes fleshed out what had become an incredibly customisable racing experience to become something that not only played well but had the modes to hold peoples’ interest for the duration of the Superbike season.  SBK: Generations wasn’t just good, it was quite simply the best two-wheeled racing game since Polyphony Digital’s Tourist Trophy for the PS2.

SBKGenerations

But two-wheels, while seemingly where the developer seems most comfortable, aren’t the only trick Milestone has up its sleeve.  While it is most famous for rekindling the WRC licence, previously held by Sony who published games on both the PS2 and PSP, it has had its toes dipped in car-based racing games since the mid-nineties.  Its output on the PS2 and Xbox was substantive even if relatively unnoticed against its competition, releasing three games across the two systems between 2003 and 2006.  Milestone unlike other developers managed to strike the appropriate balance between the simulation style of Gran Turismo or Forza, while still catering to more casual players who preferred more arcade-y handling and a less steep learning curve.  While Squadra Corse Alfa Romeo (SCAR) and Evolution GT for the PS2 were great racers in their own right, it was the Xbox exclusive Racing Evoluzione where the developer really showed their racing chops.

It would be an understatement to say that few people noticed the release of Racing Evoluzione.  In 2006 Eurogamer put the game on its ‘Bluffer’s Guide to Xbox Cult Classics‘ list, and for good reason.  While the game was not as polished or comprehensive as Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec which was running laps around the PS2 at the time, and it didn’t drive quite as well as the Project Gotham Racing on Microsofts own, it was a great racer with an interesting concept, and a handling model that sat quite nicely between console-sim and arcade.  But it was the Dream Mode that really set this game apart from the pack.  Rather than playing through what was essentially the career mode working your way up to owning that ultimate super car, Dream Mode had you taking control of a car manufacturer and building your own cars and building your business up basically from scratch.  In reality the car building boiled down to nothing more than choosing from a set of pre-designed blueprints, and managing that business was far from simulation, it was a different twist on the racing game genre that was certainly a breath of fresh air amidst what was an increasing stable of same-y racers at the beginning of the PS2 and Xbox generation.

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Years later in 2010 Milestone would revisit its rally racing roots with the release of the first game in the WRC series since being given the licence.  It was a big ask of the developer, with the WRC licence laying dormant since the Playstation 2 and Playstation Portable games, and coming  up against the venerable rally series, Codemasters’ Dirt . But the developer stepped up to the task and delivered a clinical point to point rally racing simulation that has all the cars, drivers and stages of the World Rally Championship.  It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t fancy and it didn’t have the polish of Dirt (nor the budget I would imagine), but what Milestone delivered is exactly what a rally game had been in years past – a game that required precision driving and concentration to shave one-hundredth of a second off of your stage time to edge out your competition.  Criticisms of the game were valid, with many critics citing the lack of tactility between the road and the car, making it feel like the car was gliding across the track.    But while the feedback may have been missing the physics that dictated the interaction between track and tyre felt dynamic and realistic, resulting in a game that if you put the time in, you could really understand and master how you drove the car around the twists and turns around the game’s stages.  It may not have been conveyed well but WRC’s racing model was a complicated and nuanced take on off-road racing.  Since that initial game Milestone have gone on to developer two sequels to that title, both iterating and improving on that original title to deliver a much more tactile drive, while fleshing out the game’s structures and modes to make it much more in line with the big guns of the genre.  The WRC series will never topple Codemasters’ king of off-road, but then again I’m not sure that’s what the studio was ever aiming for.

Milestone have a clear modus operandi – make games with passion.  The games it puts out are designed to satiate the appetite the fans of the sports it mimics and to that end it is almost second to none in its pursuits.  I can’t remember the last time I saw a Milestone game in the ‘best sellers’ shelf at my local retailer, but lack of mainstream appeal shouldn’t ever be equated with quality.  Make no mistake Milestone is a quality developer with incredibly talented staff and its pursuit of excellence and its clear love of the subject matter are infectious.  It starts with perfecting its mechanics and then builds the game around it, and this ground up approach is what makes its games such a refreshing experience.  Knowing the amount of love and care that goes into crafting the experience rather than the marketing message makes you remember why you love videogames in the first place.

Milestone, hats off to you.

Milestone is currently developing MotoGP 2013 which is scheduled for release later this month.

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Like this was ever going to work

Get ready for a rant about retail: So there I was at my local CeX browsing the PS2 section when I spotted it – a copy of Le Mans 24 Hours. Being a bit partial to the now defunct  developer Melbourne House’s other racing game for the platform, Grand Prix Challenge, I picked it up and without further hesitation headed for the counter. After some harmless banter about the guy’s back hurting I had paid the paltry sum of five dollars and was on my way.

A few hours later I open the case, go to put it in the PS2, on the way to which I catch a glimpse of the bottom of the disc:

image

Obviously the disc was never going to work which is probably why I was so outraged that the store clerks had firstly not bothered to check it before selling it, but also that they allowed someone to trade it in in the first place. At $5 I’m not losing sleep but whatever happened to respecting your customers?

And buddy if you ever read this, that back pain, that’s called being a massive w@nker.

Had bad retail experiences yourself?  We’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments below.

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