Here are 75-11 in my Games of the Generation list. Numbers 10 through 1 will be on Doddcast 221 which you can watch live at 11pm eastern on saturday night (check my twitter for a link around that time). The criteria for this list are games on the PC/PS3/360 that came out from the launch of the 360 until, well, today. I didn’t include the Wii because I honestly didn’t spend enough time with the system to give the games a fair shake so I figured leaving them out was better than low-balling them. There are also no handheld games in this list. PC/PS3/360. That’s it. I also list the system I played it on (as most are multiplats, obviously). Some of these games I did play more on the Vita (like Guacamelee) but if they have a console/PC counterpart I listed the one I also messed around with. Lastly, I didn’t want to list multiple games from the same series so I picked my personal favorite from each series… but it’s safe to assume that I enjoyed all of the games in each respective series.
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- Bioshock Infinite (PC) Loved the atmosphere and combat. Got sucked into the story. I get the complaints but don’t agree with them.
- Pixel Junk Monsters (PS3) Best Tower Defense game ever… and I love me some TD. Beat this game on 3 different consoles (so far)
- Toy Soldiers: Cold War (360) The best example of an action-TD game. Also amazing use of theme in graphics and gameplay.
- FFXIII (PS3) Moms are tough. I loved this game. I don’t know why.
- Crackdown (360) The open world game that made every open world game after it better. A true classic.
- Divinity: Dragon Commander (PC) I love when genres mix and D:DC mixes action with RTS with 4k strategy – and it all works!
- Minecraft (PC) My love affair with Minecraft was short (a few months) but rather intense. I love building.
- Mass Effect 2 (360) I didn’t enjoy the first ME so when everyone was saying how good ME2 was I didn’t believe them. I was wrong.
- Batman Arkham Asylum (PS3) By far the best Batman game because of my love of old asylums. Such a great location! Gameplay also wonderful, of course.
- Gran Turismo 5 (PS3) According to my save file I spent 90 hours playing this game the first month it was out. Issues with UI aside, on the track it’s unrivaled.
- Dungeon Defenders (PC) A great action RPG/Tower Defense hybrid with a rather shitty art style.
- Spelunky (360) Still playing this daily on my Vita I fell in love the day it came out on the 360. This game is timeless.
- Super Street Fighter IV (PS3) 500 hours online with friends, easily. I won like 4 matches during that 500 hours – but I didn’t care.
- Trials Evolution (360) An improvement over the original trials in every way. A huge amount of content for the price as well.
- GTA V (PS3) Better than GTA IV and I genuinely LOVED certain missions. The ending and the online play were a flop though.
- Journey (PS3) Just play it. Hard to put into words.
- inFamous 2 (PS3) inFamous was a good game. inFamous 2 improved on it in nearly every way. I had a blast with this game from start to finish.
- God of War 3 (PS3) The first 30 minutes of this game still look better than 97% of the games on my much more powerful PC. Game had lulls though.
- The Walking Dead (PS3) Amazing characterization and story and choices. The gameplay was a bit flat. I don’t mind though, I’ll take 10 more seasons please.
- Plants vs Zombies (PS3) You already know… so I’ll just use this space to complain about how bad PvZ 2 is. HOW DID THEY RUIN THIS GAME!?!?!
- Mirror’s Edge (360) A sublime experience that gets roughed up a bit by some later levels that have more combat and aren’t as open.
- Hotline Miami (PC) Violent, punishing, fair, amazing. Best soundtrack ever as well. Yes, ever.
- FTL (PC) Infinite replayability, this game puts me in a trance. A very stressful trance.
- Guacamelee (PS3) Drinkbox crafted an amazing game that doesn’t shy away from being difficult. When you pull off 5 different special moves just to make a platform jump that seems impossible you will high-five yourself.
- Resistance 3 (PS3) Underrated and basically sent out to die this is by far the best Resistance game and one of the best SP FPSs on consoles because of its throwback to health that doesn’t regen and the ability to carry every gun. Amazingly fun from start to finish.
- Need for Speed Shift (PS3) A mostly sim racer with some arcade stylings mixed in. Also features the best in-car camera of the generation.
- Battlefield BC 2 (PS3) An underrated and very fun (and funny!) single player… and multiplayer where you can blow up everything. Hundreds of hours lost to this game. I don’t want them back.
- Far Cry 3 (PC) A real looker on the PC… this game was great fun with an open world with plenty to do. The characters were pretty awful though.
- Valkyria Chronicles (PS3) One of the most inventive strategy RPGs of alltime. It’s probably a crime I have it this far down the list.
- Terraria (PC) 2D Minecraft is what it was billed as… but it’s so much more. Castlevania with digging is more accurate.
- NBA 2k11 (360) The NBA 2k series has always been great but 2k11 was something special. The gameplay got better in the years since but I owned this game on both systems and played online with friends on both all year long.
- Savage Moon (PS3) One of the better Tower Defense games I’ve played. Wickedly tough but expertly crafted. I want a sequel in the worst way… and Sony has this team making bullshit for PS Home.
- Dragon’s Dogma (PS3) A japanese WRPG. Yep. And it works pretty damn well. Capcom had a lot of misses this gen but Dragon’s Dogma is an IP I hope to see them carry on.
- Call of Duty 4 (360) The game that changed everything in First Person Shooters. It should be higher but I’m so sick of what it did that I’m scolding it and sticking it down here.
- Rayman Legends (PC) An improvement over the already fantastic Rayman Origins. Gorgeous art. Tightened controls. More varied levels. I play mostly on my Vita but it’s gorgeous everywhere. The Wii U version being the best console version. Though the PC version was super cheap, so…
- FIFA 13 (PS3) FIFA 13 turned me from a kinda fan of soccer to a full-fledged fan. I played 3 seasons without simming a game offline. It’s been a decade since I’ve done that with a sports game.
- Nier (PS3) Hammered by the press in reviews this is what many consider to be Square’s best RPG this gen. Some truly inventive ideas. Highly recommended.
- Orcs Must Die 2 (PC) The PC only follow-up to the wonderful XBLA game the carnage you can cause with the traps make this game glorious.
- Sonic and Allstars Racing Transformed (PC) Gorgeous, great handling, and more fan service than you shake a stick at. Probably the best Kart Racer I’ve ever played (that didn’t have a track editor – i’m a nerd for that stuff)
- Rock Band 2 (360) Fun alone, absolutely amazing with the combo of friends and alcohol.
- 3d Dot Game Heroes (PS3) A throwback to the old Zelda games. Difficult puzzles, intense combat, and great exploration made this an underrated gem.
- Starhawk (PS3) Most of the world would put Warhawk and not Starhawk but I’m not most of the world. I thought the base building aspect was one of the coolest additions to shooters this gen… and something that bombed and will be completely ignored. Booo!
- MLB 13 The Show (PS3) Every year MLB The Show delivers… so I picked the most recent one. Death, Taxes, and MLB the Show are the only things you can count on in life.
- Killzone 2 (PS3) A completely forgettable story but the game looked real pretty. The online was above average and brought me many hours of enjoyment.
- 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand (360) A much better game than you would assume. Also makes the case that all games should have a button dedicated to swearing.
- Fallout 3 (PS3) I played Fallout 3 wrong. I didn’t do a single side quest. I went straight through the story missions. I loved it.
- Wipeout HD/Fury (PS3) RIP Studio Liverpool. You will be missed.
- SSHD (PS3) Housemarque had a number of amazing games this gen but Stardust was their greatest. If you play it on a 3D tv your head LITERALLY will explode.
- Team Fortress 2 (PC) Valve, man. Valve.
- Bastion (360) A stunning achievement in terms of delivering an interesting story and a decent RPG for $15. The combat was a bit simple but I loved this game.
- Starcraft 2 (PC) Blizzard made Starcraft 2 great by not doing much different from Starcraft 1. I’m ok with this.
- Puzzle Quest (360) A game that kicked off a genre, Puzzle Quest was so fun. It still is and it’s probably available on every device you own.
- Socom: Confrontation (PS3) Socom never even sniffed at the heights of the series in the PS2 era but once Slant Six cleaned up all of the bugs this was a capable but limited Socom game. Crossroads is still one of the best maps ever made.
- Mafia 2 (PS3) An open world game that has no reason to be open world, the game is great despite this. A strong story along with capable gameplay. Also having old Playboys, complete with boobies (before they were fake), as the hidden collectible in the game is probably the best idea this gen.
- Lord of the Rings: WotN (PS3) Fun with friends. Broken as fuck. A giant eagle kills shit.
- Gears of War 2 (360) Gears 1 changed shooters for the better, Gears 2 perfected the formula and also added “Horde Mode” which is now in every game ever. Chainsawing friends has never been so fun.
- Geometry Wars (360) The OG XBLA game. Fun to play and a giant billboard that screamed “THIS TYPE OF GAME IS VIABLE TO MAKE AND SELL AT A LOWER PRICE POINT!” Thank you, Geo Wars.
- Crysis (PC) This game still looks amazing and it came out at the very start of this gen. It’s also the best game in the series.
- Company of Heroes (PC) Company of Heroes is a RTS for people who usually don’t like RTS’s. I do like them… but I liked this as well. Very fun.
- Rainbow 6 Vegas 2(360) I still bust this out on the PS3 (which is extremely inferior) to play some terrorist hunt with James Chilton. But back in the day, on the 360, we played this game for months.
- Hero Academy (PC) Started as a phone game but eventually made it to Steam. It’s a great asynchronous multiplayer strategy game.
- Jamestown (PC) The best Shmup I’ve played since I was a kid. A wicked last level that separates the Men/Women from the Boys/Girls.
- Alice: The Madness Returns (PC) So weird but so fun. About 10 hours too long though.
- Hitman: Blood Money (360) An early gen masterpiece that doesn’t quite hold up these days but is still worth a playthrough.
- Kameo (360) The Knack of last gen. I love Knack. I loved Kameo.
Gran Turismo has been a favorite series of mine since I bought the first game, at launch, back on the PSone. I’ve bought every GT since then, including the $40 demo that was Prologue. I don’t really consider myself a huge sim-racer fan but there’s something about the GT games that just absolutely hook me. I will admit that even before I knew about the microtransactions in GT6 I was contemplating skipping it and instead waiting on the PS4 version which is surely in the pipeline. Has that weighed on this decision? Surely. I will admit that. But there is a lot more to it.
I understand that “microtransactions are here to stay.” I understand that because it’s something we’ve all given up on. Even on NeoGAF you will see people saying “microtransactions are here to say” over and over and over again. If you say it enough it becomes true. The industry has effectively eased your concerns about microtransactions enough by not increasing the grind (although some reports say Forza 5 does break this rule). It also started out simple… pay $1 for this cool sword that you will unlock later but you can kick ass with now. It was silly, we complained about it, we mentioned how things like this used to be called “cheats” and were free. But we accepted them into our games and now they are becoming a bigger and bigger nuisance.
Shuhei Yoshida says that the grind in GT6 has not been increased to try to pull the player in towards the microtransactions. This is good. I am 100% in favor of microtransactions not hurting gameplay design. To some people, however, this makes microtransactions Ok. It doesn’t to me. There are many different types of microtransactions and I of course own games that use them. Assassin’s Creed IV evidently has a microtransaction to unlock a bunch of stuff instead of grinding your way to buying it with in-game currency. I’m certainly not a fan of this type of microtransaction but it doesn’t b0ther me because it occurs once.
Why is once important? One of the main things I hate about microtransactions, even more than them impeding on gameplay design, is that they are designed to feed on human weakness. Now, for most people, that’s fine. We say “yeah the allure to spend money to unlock this car is there but I’m gonna hold off and grind.” But if you have a mental illness… this isn’t quite so easy. This is the dark secret about the free to play model that almost no one talks about and is truly disgusting. We hear about these “Whales” that make F2P games profitable by spending thousands of dollars per month. Do you think that these people are CEOs that make millions per year and are bored at the office? No. They aren’t. They are people with OCD. They are people who don’t have control over their compulsions like many of us do. This model is designed to play on these people in the same way the a casino and lottery is designed to play on those easily addicted. It’s easy to stand back and laugh and go “what losers, they can’t control themselves, they deserve it!” The thing is… they don’t. I’ve worked in the mental health field for 15 years now and I’ve seen over and over how these types of things prey on the mentally ill. F2P is basically a socialist system where the rich pay the most to support the entire ecosystem but instead of “rich” you can replace it with the word “mentally ill.” One of my best friends growing up makes these types of games for a living and I asked him once how he felt about that. His answer was “I try not to think about it.”
So if a game has a $3 unlock for a sword. Fine. Someone who wants to be overpowered can use it. Someone who has OCD and needs it NOW can purchase it. Not much harm is done. If it’s part of the economy in which you can just keep going back to the well over and over to completely max out everything in the game – that’s where I draw the line. It throws the balance of the game off whether people want to admit it or not (try playing GT6 online in the first week vs people who have spent 100s of dollars). It preys on the mentally ill. And even if it isn’t affecting the game design in GT6 – if it’s successful what’s to stop them from having it affect the game design in GT7?
I’ve played games with microtransactions and I will continue to do so. I may be a hypocrite. There is a line in the sand that I drew where everything on one side I can deal with and everything on the other can go fuck right off. Is it arbitrary? Not to me, no. Will I break my own rules at some point? Probably. I’m weak, I know that. The problem is that so do the people who are making these games.
The day the PS4 came out in the U.S. I went to the digital store to see what indie games had made launch. I saw Super Motherload and took a look at the pictures and thought “it kinda looks like Dig Dug but why is it $15?” About a week later I decided to browse the Live from Playstation app and watched a Twitch stream of someone playing. It kinda looked like Dig Dug but without any enemies. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand how that could be fun. Finally, over the weekend while playing Battlefield 4 with a friend he said “It’s pure catharsis.” Intrigued and feeling carefree with the help of some Jameson I hopped onto the store and bought it… and then I promptly went to sleep.
The following day I woke up and saw it there and decided to give it a go. I started digging. Feels good. The game isn’t a looker but it’s not ugly either. The art style is simple, the graphics don’t attempt to do anything special. That’s not what this game is about. I started digging and collecting metals and bombs and gems and then returning to the surface to sell them, repair and refuel, and then head back down. It’s a fairly simple loop but I found myself in a trance. You can buy upgrades that make it so you can carry more ore, or carry more fuel to dig deeper, or even expand your radar.
While not a technical showpiece for your shiny new $400 machine this game is sublime.
The game is a grind but it doesn’t ever feel like a grind. In fact Super Motherload feels like it’s giving my OCD a massage. I go down, find some awesome metals, I bring them back up, I upgrade, I go back down. Then the music kicks in. Oh man… THE MUSIC! Sometimes spacey, sometimes lively, sometimes (but rarely) paranoid it always fit exactly how I was feeling. At this point I knew I was in love with the game but I still couldn’t put my finger exactly on why. I thought it was almost cynical, like a crappy iOS game, where it’s just playing on my desire to fill meters. But then I dug a little bit deeper and I got a transmission from some miners down deeper about some not-so-pleasant things happening. I instantly was intrigued. I had to get deeper. It still was the same loop and my OCD was getting the massage of a lifetime but I now had a purpose.
Next thing I knew I had been playing for four hours. To say it’s the type of game where you say “ok just one more turn” is the understatement of the year. I find it nearly impossible to quit the game. I get up top and deliver my goods and get my money and see the autosave icon and think “I can qui….. NO YOU CAN’T GO BACK DOWN THERE RIGHT NOW!!!” It’s wonderful. I am constantly happy while playing this game. It is mostly relaxing as well; which is a nice change of pace from the action-heavy PS4 launch lineup. The story does continue to unfold and intrigue as well which gives the game urgency from time to time.
I’ve probably played about 15 hours of Super Motherload in four days now. I am completely hooked. I’m still slightly perplexed by the $15 price point but I wouldn’t be able to argue that I haven’t gotten $15 worth of entertainment out of it. Heck, I’ve gotten more entertainment out of it than most of the games I spent $60 on this year. I haven’t died in over a dozen hours. I’m never really in danger. There’s no high score to accumulate. But, gosh darnit, this game is such a joy to play that it doesn’t matter. I would compare it to Flower in how at ease it puts me. If I had to choose a genre to list it in I guess I would go with Puzzle game (?) or maybe Puzzle Adventure if that’s even a genre(?). There’s local multiplayer and a hardcore mode once you finish it, or so I’ve been told, I’m still so lost in the experience. I don’t understand what’s going on deep inside Mars or why I care so much and derive so much pleasure from trying to find out but I’m going to keep digging because I want to. I really, really, want to. It’s pure catharsis.
Back in late October I posted a piece with an interview with an unnamed developer who claimed that the Party System and general XBL-related UI functions were having major issues and wouldn’t be fixed for “months” after launch. The launch has come and gone and these issues are, in fact, real. The results are spotty because of the UI’s decision to go more App based which means that each App needs to interact with each other instead of just having it be a basic UI function like it was on the Xbox 360. This is a definite step backwards, even when it works, but it seems like Microsoft have realized they made a mistake and are working to fix it.
Microsoft over the coming months will be replacing the entire party/notification/XBL-related UI parts wholesale. They won’t be fixing them like they previously had been telling developers. This is definitely a smart move and the right decision for the console longterm but it will have some fairly significant short-term implications. They likely won’t be finished until well into spring or possibly early summer (update: one of the sources of this story just told me “It may take up to a year” HOLY CRAP). With Titanfall and Destiny around the corner – two games that are built around online play and will require solid party infrastructure for working as a team… the news that the party system won’t be replaced by then is a kick to the gut.
Everything still isn’t peachy in the development community either as several developers have told me that the tools are still well behind schedule. The Xbox One dev kit has been so behind and so unstable that one developer told me he was “shocked” by how stable the retail Xbox One was when he got it at launch. The tools will improve but you have to wonder why Microsoft is so behind the ball on this.
My personal take is that this is good news for the Xbox One and its fans. If I worked on the Titanfall team I probably would be livid but in the long run it’s best for Microsoft to rebuild instead of trying to clean up a mess that just isn’t fixable. When it’s finally done the new party system/XBL-UI will be a vast improvement over what is available today. This console war is a marathon, not a sprint, and while Microsoft got off to a completely awful start they have been making some great moves lately including allowing the Kinect to be unplugged, snagging Chris Charla to run their indie division (ID@Xbox), and now deciding to replace bad decisions in the UI instead of constantly throwing band-aids at it. There will be growing pains this year for the Xbox One but it will be a better system long-term because of them. Also the current system, while annoying, does work – kinda. It’s not like current Xbox One owners are left with a brick until it’s fixed. I still can’t wait to get my hands on one and play some Forza and Dead Rising 3.
If I was on the Respawn team though… oh man.
Sony is looking to add more tiers to PS+. Pete and Rich are settling into next gen and finding it quite enjoyable. Tearaway is still made of magic and puppies.
Music: A Little Bit More by The Good Life, Bait and Switch by The Shins
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Over the last week I’ve been approached by three different people about starting some sort of gaming social movement, similar to #PS4NoDRM, to let the industry know that we won’t stand for having our games ruined by microtransactions. I am obviously very honored and humbled that people think that I could have a positive effect on gaming but I don’t think this is a spam-twitter kind of issue. I also am moving across the country in a couple of months and am too busy to lead something like this as it takes far more time to keep momentum going than it seems.
I do have advice for anyone who wants to take up the mantle. First off you need to realize that you are dealing with human beings and not soulless corporations. If you do send tweets to higher-ups at Sony/Microsoft/EA/Activision/Etc you need to be polite. Think about your own time on twitter or any internet forum… if someone opens the conversation with “listen you goddamn greedy asshole” are you likely to even finish reading what that person has to say? Are you going to empathize with them? Of course not. Kill them with kindness.
I also personally believe the “spam twitter with a hashtag” well has dried up. It’s been attempted many times since #PS4NoDRM and has not had any success. Nintendo didn’t give a crap about the region lock twitter movement, for instance. So if you are going to get their attention on this issue, social media needs to be apart of it, of course, but not the entire thing. There are many forces in gaming right now that don’t even realize they are a force. I talk to people in development nearly everyday and they are acutely aware of what is being said about their games’ on NeoGAF/Reddit/N4G/Gamefaqs/4chan/etc. So keeping the topic of microtransactions going at these places is of utmost importance to getting through to them that they are harming their games.
The main reason why the #PS4NoDRM movement was so successful was because the media picked it up. Spamming the hashtag definitely got their attention but we ended up getting covered on over 200 websites and I was even interviewed in the Wall Street Journal. This is exactly the type of bad press that they don’t want – even if I was incredibily polite. Especially because I was so incredibly polite. So getting the media involved is important… and right now they do care and you need to reward them. When Kotaku or Joystiq or whoever posts an article that is critical of microtransactions don’t just read the excerpts on GAF or Reddit – CLICK ON THE SITE! These sites want clicks, if you give them clicks on certain topics they will keep going back to that topic until the clicks dry up. This is the easiest way to encourage the press to keep covering this topic. Likewise, many gaming personalities like Jim Sterling, Boogie, and Adam Sessler have been speaking about this topic quite a bit lately. Even if you don’t like these guys usually give them the clicks, send them some tweets of encouragement, try to get them to keep the fight up. Youtubers like Angry Joe were *VERY* instrumental in the #NoDRM thing. These guys have influence.
If someone comes along and makes a website and starts working on contacting the media - awesome, that will help. It’s a lot of work but extremely rewarding. Me and about 10 guys spent almost two weeks using every spare second we had in our day reaching out to the media to talk about #NoDRM. If this infrastructure doesn’t arise that doesn’t mean the fight is lost though. Keep talking about it on forums. As each new game comes out with microtransactions make posts about how they ruin the game. Drop the system wars… I know Forza vs Gran Turismo is bloodsport for some of you… but if you love Gran Turismo and microtransactions are ruining the game you need to be honest about it and make your voice heard. Politely.
Be persistent. Get the press involved. The more these companies are shamed (politely!!!) about their policies the more likely they will be to change them. And, of course, vote with your wallet.
He didn’t plug in his Kinect. He didn’t plug in his cable TV. He doesn’t want to snap apps. Rich bought a Xbox One purely as a gaming machine. See what he thinks. Also – Tearaway is amazing.
Music – One by Aimee Mann, No One Loves Me and Neither Do I by Them Crooked Vultures.
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