Saturday, June 25, 2011

Reflection on iOS Games

As I've shown in some earlier blogs, I've done some gaming on iOS thanks to Snow, my faithful iPod Touch 4G. It hasn't been a smooth ride, though, but luckily iOS gaming is one of the cheaper methods out there. I've found that I tend to keep a small selection of Apps permanently installed on Snow, and I'm just going to go over them and explain why I keep them installed.

Based on a German board game, Carcassonne is one of those games you can fire up on the bus or the throne and play for a couple of minutes, or you can utilise the multiplayer feature and play against others. Whilst it does have, for an iOS App, an offensively high price (£5.99, and you don't really get a lot of app for your money), I've found it impossible to remove. I like firing it up and having a quick game of Carcassonne against the AI, and whether I win or lose, I can't say I've ever not enjoyed it. The graphics are crisp and clear on Retina, and the Dynamedion soundtrack is beautiful and fits the game perfectly. Like many German board games, it's based upon expansion and strategic thinking rather than combat. Actually, this app has absolutely no combat at all. It's a pacifist's dream.

Settlers of Catan
Like Carcassonne above, Catan is based on a German board game, although one that has more of a trade and economics leaning and less of one about expansion. You have a set board size to conquer, and gou have to gain a certain number of victory points to win. They can be won by having the longest road for so long, for building cities, for buying a bonus card that grants points and so forth. It requires a level of strategic thinking that I just don't have, so it's a good challenge for me. Whilst the graphics aren't as crisp as Carcassonne's, it also has a Dynamedion soundtrack, and it works just as well. It's much cheaper than the above app, too, but I'd say it's less accessible and perhaps a bit less fun.

Civilization Revolution
Ah, Civilization. A series I've played a few iterations of over the years. Due to no console, I was stuck with the content-lite iOS version. It's still very playable, and I'm half tempted to say it's better than Civilization IV. It has a level of simplicity to it that works, and anything more complex would ruin it. It's Civ stripped bare, yes, but it doesn't mean it's any less fun. It has a faster pace, and you don't have to micromanage anywhere near as much as you do on the PC iterations. I'd say it's closer to Civ V than Civ IV in terms of gameplay, although it retains Civ IV's square grid system. The graphics are the poorest of the three games mentioned so far, but they are functional and still easy to look at. I do wish units had a bit more detail, though.
A single match can last a few hours, so you will get your money's worth out of it, and it does come with a number of scenarios for you to play.

I was first introduced to Canabalt in its Flash iteration, and I was hooked. It's one of those games that has absolutely bugger all content, just a simple gameplay method. In Canabalt, your only action is 'Jump', and your only task is to run. You have to avoid bombs, jump over gaps and jump through windows, but there's a compulsiveness to its simplicity. The soundtrack is brilliant, too, even though it's made up of just two or three songs. I do think it suffers on iOS, though, because the horizontal plane is cut relatively short, so you have less warning about upcoming obstacles.

The Death of Love

This is probably the strangest post I've written. Like many people of my generation, I grew up with games. I've had a SNES, then the N64, a GameCube, the PS1 & 2, the Xbox and so forth, not to mention my main focus of PC gaming, which I started way back when on the Amiga.

Over the recent years, however, I've slowly found myself caring less and less about games. This year I've finished a pitiful amount of releases, with three of the most recent ones being The First Templar, Bulletstorm and Portal 2. I've bought many more than that, but I rarely get beyond a few hours into them. I just don't seem to have the patience nor the love for games any more.

But is it me, or is it games themselves? I've integrated myself with some communities, and found them to be horrifying. The level of elitism, self-righteousness and entitlement shown by publishers, developers and consumers alike is soul-destroying. Publishers cripple games with protection and a lack of support, developers do a half-arsed job and consumers want everything and anything, irrespective of cost or feasibility. I'm not denying that I've played my part, because I think I have been just as bad as some people, but it doesn't change my point. I'm sure there are some communities out there that are great, but after reading comments on sites such as Rock Paper Shotgun, The Escapist, PC Gamer and Kotaku, I despair.

It seems to me that games have become like the movie market. The main titles, the ones you see on buses and TV, they almost always seem like they've been made not for love, but for profit. They reuse the same roles, the same environments, the same stories even, but are presented in a different package. Yes, you'll sometimes get a really good game that deserves its success, just as you get movies that do the same, but for the most part, it seems to me that major releases are made for money and no other reason.

I've been disappointed by games many times over the years, both recently and over the years. Bulletstorm was ugly, Fallout: New Vegas was generally quite boring and over-complicated, BioShock 2 suffered from too many cooks spoiling the broth, Mass Effect 2 had no consistency in terms of quality, and so forth. How is that acceptable? If, at work, I gave customers half of what they paid for and ignored them when they had problems, I'd be out of a job in no time. Why do we let developers and publishers get away with it?

It seems to me that my love for gaming is dying, instead being replaced by a level of apathy. I don't think I'll ever stop gaming, though. It's not easy to cut away 18+ years of your life and leave them behind, especially when it forms part of your very soul. But maybe all I need to do is step back and re-evaluate the situation. I don't jump on a game at full price, at least not often, but perhaps I need to set myself barriers. No games above £20 to minimise the wasted money, if it looks like it'll have a Game of the Year/Complete edition, wait for that (Dragon Age: Origins - Ultimate Edition is currently on sale in some places for less than I spent on the expansion alone!), and so forth.

BioShock Infinite'll be an exception, though, and Saints Row: The Third I'll ask for as a present.