NMY vs The World Video Game Hall of Fame Class of 2015

The Strong, an educational institution in Rochester specializing in the study of games, announced the six inaugural inductees of their World Video Game Hall of Fame yesterday. So what? Well, it made its way onto a lot of major news sites, which means it is probably going to resurface again next year and, in time, become the closest we’ve got to an “official” Hall of Fame.

My gut reaction was “my what a pretentious title”, because the “World” VG HoF looks incredibly U.S.-centric. Their game history timeline pretty much completely ignores the fact that the U.S. did not control the international gaming market for the vast majority of the 20th century. I mean, this timeline is crazy. 1982, the year that the bloody Commodore 64 was released, they feature Chicago-based Midway’s Tron instead. 1986, the year that Dragon Quest set the standard for the next two decades of role-playing games, they are at such a loss to find anything novel that they dig up Reader Rabbit by Boston-based developers The Learning Company. In spite of devoting 1992 to Las Vegas-based Westwood Studios’ Dune II, LA-based Blizzard Entertainment steals 1994 with Warcraft: Orcs and Humans. Does the invention of RTS gaming really deserve two years? Well, it’s not like it was competing with the release of the Sony Playstation or anything. Oh that’s alright, we’ll feature it in 1995, since that’s when it came to America. This list also devotes 1993 to the development of the ESRB rating system (which only applies in America), 1996 to Lara Croft’s tits (seriously, does anyone actually give a shit about Tomb Raider?), and 2002 to the U.S. Army, because uh, freedom!

So yeah, World Video Game Hall of Fame my ass. But that doesn’t mean they got the first six wrong:

Pong (1972)

“Ladies and gentlemen, you have been hand selected to choose the five games which will accompany Pong into the Hall of Fame.” It had to go something like that. Pong invented gaming like Al Gore invented the internet. Could you imagine a Hall of Fame without Pong? I mean, it’s Pong! Really though, wasn’t computer gaming kind of inevitable? Was it the first game? Nope. Did it stand the test of time? Not really. Did it usher in the age of arcade gaming? I guess it did, but the game itself had little to do with that. It was a novelty. Replace it with anything else, and that other game would be just as famous, regardless of its content. I don’t like that. There is a reason why Pong is the only game of the six Hall of Famers that I never played as a kid or else upon release, and that has nothing to do with my age. I think we get hung up on its simplicity, its catchy name, this idea that it all began with two paddles and a ball, and the desire to point to something and say “this started it all”. Pong deserves recognition in any gaming hall of fame eventually, but top 6? We can do better.

NMY gives this selection a 5/10

Pac-Man (1980)

What are Pac-Man‘s claims to fame? Well, it was the first video game to be a major social phenomenon, generating a huge market for spin-offs, toys, animated cartoons, and all sorts of other consumer products. It was the first video game with a really memorable theme song. It remains the best-selling arcade game of all time. It generated a chart-topping shitty pop song. It even destroyed the gaming industry. (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial has absolutely nothing on the devastating consequences of Pac-Man‘s abysmal Atari port.) And sure, it’s pretty boring, but it still lasted well into the 90s. I had a pirated DOS copy as a kid. Do you think anyone bothered to pirate Pong? Uh, no.

NMY gives this selection a 10/10

Tetris (1984)

Tetris is a game that we all agree to love because it is Russian, and like Russia, it is really evil and kind of a dick. Four Z blocks in a row? Really? I didn’t double tap that button. Go back! Ugh…. Tetris annoyed the hell out of me as a kid, but I certainly did play it. It also spawned a ton of cheap rip-offs, novel improvements, and largely unrelated block puzzle games that stole its name for publicity, and a lot of these vastly outclassed the original. If I look back on all the fun I had playing Tetris Attack for the Super Nintendo, or hosting TetriNET tournaments online in the late 90s, or the amount of time my wife wastes on Candy Crush Saga, it is hard for me to pretend that Tetris was not significant. It was the mother of all “endless puzzle” games, and it deserves credit for that, even if I hated the original Alexey Pajitnov Tetris, with its never-ending tiers of frustration.

NMY gives this selection a 9/10

Super Mario Bros (1985)

This is the real shoe-in. Nintendo was able to turn Mario into (I am assuming) the most recognizable fictional character in the world because the original Super Mario Bros was so great. A game released in 1985 is not supposed to still be this much fun 30 years later, but from novel settings and mechanics to outstanding control, this game ran the gamut of what a great side-scroller was supposed to be. This, at a time when there was very little in the way of quality competition to take inspiration from. The game’s lasting legacy is so pervasive in our culture that I would feel silly even bothering to summarize it.

NMY gives this selection a 10/10

Doom (1993)

“Why an FPS, World Video Game Hall of Fame?” Because “it also pioneered key aspects of game design and distribution that have become industry standards“, according to the official induction explanation. Design-wise, they laud it for “a game ‘engine’ that separated the game’s basic functions from other aspects such as artwork.” That might be an interesting point. I don’t know much about it, though I have to imagine that anything Doom did, Wolfenstein 3D did first. Distribution-wise, they talk about how id Software marketed downloadable expansions and encouraged multi-player, online gaming. That point fails to impress me. Doom launched in 1993, which means no games before it really had the option to market themselves in this way. “First” only counts for me if the move is innovative, not inevitable. So we are left with some sort of novel modular processing system and the fact that it was the first really successful FPS. Those are fine points. I might not like FPS games, but I can’t deny that they have had a more lasting impact than say, fighting or sports games. Placing so much weight on the play style does, however, open up the doors for a lot of why nots. Why not Diablo? Why not Dragon Quest? Why not Command & Conquer?

NMY gives this selection a 7/10

World of Warcraft (2004)

I am not entirely sure why the World Video Game Hall of Fame chose World of Warcraft, because they aren’t telling. Their write-up goes into detail on what makes MMORPGs so revolutionary, but none of it is really unique to WoW. They throw out some numbers about WoW’s player base and monthly profit, and then bam, inaugural hall of fame induction. I am probably the last person to give an accurate assessment of how World of Warcraft changed gaming, because I still actively play it, but I have to believe that its enormous popularity had a lot to do with its place in time. Coming in to the 21st century, we all knew someone who played EverQuest, and we all (all of us, right guys?) secretly wanted to abandon our real lives and nerd out in 24/7 multiplayer fantasy immersion. I never played EverQuest, however, or Final Fantasy XI for that matter, because I still had dial-up internet. World of Warcraft launched right around the time that the majority of gamers were becoming equipped to play something of its magnitude. That being said, WoW is going on 11 years now, and still going strong. I’ve never seriously considered canceling my subscription. Blizzard landed on a market ripe for the picking, but they have carefully cultivated it ever since.

NMY gives this selection an 8/10

Over all, I think the World Video Game Hall of Fame is off to a good start. Pong is the only inaugural entry I strongly disagree with, but were it missing, would people still take the organization seriously? Doom is a bit sketchy to me, because its only claim seems to be “first popular FPS”. I think GoldenEye 007 was the game to push FPS into the mainstream and really reach beyond the genre, while Blizzard clearly dominated online gaming with Diablo and Starcraft, whatever id Software happened to do “first”. Doom is a good candidate, no doubt, but I feel like it belongs in another class. It would have fit in more nicely in a 2016 school that pushed genre-standardizing games like Dragon Quest, The Legend of Zelda, Street Fighter II, and Space Invaders.

Is that what we have to look forward to in 2016? Well, based on the runners-up from 2015, maybe not. The list did include Space Invaders and The Legend of Zelda, along with worthy contenders Pokémon Red and Blue and The Oregon Trail. Beyond that, it got a bit dicey. It is hard to imagine that Angry Birds, for instance, almost made the top 6. Sonic the Hedgehog would be long forgotten if not marketed as Sega’s response to Mario, yet it was a contender. FIFA International Soccer was the only sports entry–an odd choice, given that I have never heard of it, it only came out in 1993, and Tecmo Super Bowl exists. The other options were Minecraft–a bit young yet, don’t you think?–and oddly, The Sims, which I am sure was quite fun to play and left no lasting impact on gaming whatsoever. Well, they’ve got another year to straighten things out.

BlizzCon 2014: Day 1 Recap, Cinematics & Gameplay

The first day of BlizzCon 2014 is coming to an end. While the Starcraft 2 stage pulls an all-nighter with live demonstrations of Archon mode from Legacy of the Void featuring such big names as MC and Polt, the rest of the Anaheim Convention Center has cleared out and gone home. Of course Overwatch was the biggest deal. What were some of the other interesting announcements?

Hearthstone will be getting a new expansion in December called Goblins vs. Gnomes. There will be 120 new cards, and the game is coming to Android.

Warcraft the movie will be released in March 2016, and it will be based on the original Warcraft: Orcs & Humans RTS.

Legacy of the Void matches will start with 12 workers, and players will not need to own either Wings of Liberty or Heart of the Swarm to play it. Lurkers are coming back, along with a whole mess of new units, and resource availability has been cut back to force faster matches. I’m not sure the last bit is good news for those of us who would rather watch the pros than play ourselves, but time will tell.

Everything was pretty quiet on the Diablo 3 front. I missed its hour slot, but considering it was on a side stage and got zero mention on the main stage, there couldn’t have been anything substantial. Heroes of the Storm got a lot of demonstration love, and Blizzard explained the rational behind a lot of the class and loot changes in Warlords of Draenor. Legacy of the Void demonstrations are still going on as I write this, and it might be the most entertaining segment we’ll see at BlizzCon. All the pros that lost in the round of 16 are going up against each other in Archon mode–shared-control team matches–messing around and showing off the new units. The commentary and in-game banter has been pretty hilariousl I’ll post up the cast of MC and HyuN’s TvZ stomp tomorrow if I can find it.

So anyway, I’ll close out the night by sharing the videos from day one that I think matter most: new cinematic trailers and gameplay videos for Overwatch and Legacy of the Void:

Overwatch Cinematic Trailer:

Legacy of the Void Cinematic Trailer:

Overwatch Gameplay Preview:

Legacy of the Void Unit Overview — Protoss:

Legacy of the Void Unit Overview — Terran:

Legacy of the Void Unit Overview — Zerg:

BlizzCon 2014: “Overwatch Unveiled”

The hidden two hour bracket following BlizzCon’s opening ceremony was of course dedicated to Overwatch. The big spin they put on it was to emphasize how the game will not depend on “putting crosshairs over targets”. They talked of making it “less lethal”, and extending the gameplay to make it more stategic. That sounds like my Blizzard. Is it going to be something like an RTS FPS? Maybe. The biggest break from traditional FPS combat will be the abilities to heal and build things. A healer, as it sounds, follows the team around to keep them alive. Builders put up strategic zone-control defenses and weaponry. I’m being told that this is a bit of a copycat of Team Fortress 2, and that may well be the case. I am not familiar with that game, but strategy over beat-em-up has always been Blizzard’s style. The combat is not really just about killing the other team. Different maps will have different objectives, and Blizzard mentioned base defenses as well as escort missions. Battles will be 6 on 6, and Blizzard highlighted a few of the classes that will be involved. Here is how they broke it down:

‘Offense’ class has abilities like blink, arial rocket boost, teleportation, and wall climbing. These characters will have low survivability and maximum mobility, functioning as scouts and creating diversions.

‘Defense’ class guards objectives, creates choke points, and sets up sniper positions. Due to the high mobility of offense classes, choke points will be hard to come by and require thorough knowledge of the map.

‘Tank’ class does what you expect. They have 50% damage reduction and abilities such as shields that defend everyone within them from all damage for a time. They also have disruption abilities that break up defensive structures in the making.

‘Support’ class includes the healers and builders Blizzard had mentioned earlier. The regenerate players’ health, lay down gun turrets, apply damage increasing debuffs, and can teleport the team around the map.

Keep in mind, of course, that no player is going to have all of these abilities at once. The game consists of a number of “Heroes”, and each hero has its own unique set of abilities. Each hero will function as one of the four classes, but with their own unique advantages and disadvantages. You will be able to swap your hero in-game each time you die, alowing for more diverse strategy, and there can be more than one of the same hero on the field at the same time. There will supposedly be substantial backstory behind the game and characters, a lot of which will be presented to the players through media outside of the game, perhaps like the video lore series Blizzard released in preparation for Warlords of Draenor. In-game story will be limited, as there will be no campaign mode and it will be strictly multi-player. Blizzard declined to comment on what exactly out-of-game character development would be in the Q&A segment.

It all sounds quite promising, and the 10 or so minute demo match they showcased looked visually stunning, but I don’t know that the gameplay I saw lived up to the level of strategic involvement Blizzard tried to sell me. The demo opened up with the focus team setting up all kinds of ‘strategic’ positioning and gun turrets and the like, and then a buffed-up tank unit from the opposition jumped in the middle and face-rolled the entire team. Within a couple seconds the whole team was alive again and it was pretty pew pew for the next eight minutes. Granted the demo was a real demo, not a contrived, pre-planned sequence of combat, I kind of got the feeling the game would have a lot of this. So-called ‘strategic’ decisions happened in a split second, and what I think I saw was a lot of the same old “putting crosshairs over targets” technique that always turned me off to FPS games. Maybe those crosshairs sent out a magic spell or sticky grenade instead of a rocket, but it felt like the same old. We only saw one map, and ten minutes is waaay too little time to pass judgment, but I can say I haven’t seen what I want to see in this game yet.

In other news, during the SC2 WCS Global Finals Pre-Show Blizzard elaborated on “Archon” mode for Legacy of the Void in a way that made it sound like classic Starcraft shared bases–something I always enjoyed. It was also mentioned in-between segments that there are currently no plans to introduce any new classes in Hearthstone. Oh, and MMA whooped Bomber 3-1 in an upset victory in the Starcraft 2 round of 8. herO and Classic are up next.

BlizzCon 2014: Opening Ceremony, Overwatch Announced as New Franchise

BlizzCon 2014’s opening ceremony just ended about 10 minutes ago, and it ran the gauntlet of new Blizzard products. Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Legacy of the Void got some attention, but the big news was about a franchise I did not expect: a brand new one!

First we got to see some Heroes of the Storm clips, and they announced Thrall, Jaina, and The Lost Vikings as playable characters. Nothing particularly “new”, unless you were already actively involved in the beta and recognized a new map or ability. The Hearthstone announcements were much more substantive. First of all, they announced that the game would be made available for Android “tablets”. I am going to assume that means it will work on my smart phone too. Hey, it’s not technically “texting” while driving. Count me in. We also found out about the next expansion, which Blizzard oddly called the “first” Hearthstone expansion. I am not sure what that makes Curse of Naxxramas, but suffice to say Hearthstone: Golbins vs. Gnomes is going to be way bigger. There will be a whopping 120 new cards, and we won’t have to wait long to see them. The game is coming in December 2014. Whaaa?

Legacy of the Void was covered next. Lurkers are coming back. Sweet. There will also be an “Archon” mode that didn’t get much of an explanation, but it was described as a mode that will allow you to see the game “the way the pros do”, giving you a grand view of everything at once. I’m not sure what that means, or whether it’s going to be more than a well-made UMS, but I’m intrigued.

That was the first half hour. Some big announcements for Hearthstone–a Goblins vs. Gnomes expansion with 120 new cards due out in only a month, and an Android edition. Heroes of the Storm and Legacy of the Void didn’t get much of a substantial update. Then on to Chris Metzen in a horde hoodie (racist!). “17 years since Blizzard opened up a new world”, he tells us. And it’s true. Everything has been Starcraft, Warcraft, or Diablo based since the mid-90s. Not anymore.

Overwatch. The cinematic opens with some kids in a museum watching anime footage of an old cyborg task force called “Overwatch”, that had once saved the world from something or other. As they walk through the museum, explaining that Overwatch has since devolved to scattered mercenary task forces, two groups of cyborg dudes including a giant gorilla in a space suit and Ghost Rider’s alter-ego bust through the ceiling and start duking it out, apparently trying to nab old Overwatch technology on display in the museum. The video revealed nothing about the game, besides gorillas in space suits, and the audience was kind of “meh” when the trailer ended. Not to be realistic, Metzen said “It looks you guys really liked that!” and introduced Jeff Kaplan to explain the game behind the cinematic.

Jeff Kaplan described Overwatch as a “team-based multi-player shooter” and kicked off the trailer to the game proper. I don’t really like first-person shooters that aren’t GoldenEye 007, so I don’t really know what I’m looking at mechanically, but the graphics were really impressive. Vibrant and colorful, we see none of the gritty realism that FPS games like to push. The game is set in Japan with an anime vibe, and the character abilities appear to be far from conventional. I saw characters cast spells, teleport through walls, fly around in the air… It’s certainly different. We don’t have to wait long to check it out either, relatively speaking. The beta will launch some time in 2015.

And that’s that. Nothing on Diablo, as I kind of expected. Warlords of Draenor will in fact be a two year expansion, as expected. Legacy of the Void should be out in a year or so, as expected. Heroes of the Storm still exists. Hearthstone is getting a major expansion in only a month, 120 new cards, and an Android edition. That’s pretty sweet. The big deal was all Overwatch. It felt a little anti-climatic to me, but hey, Blizzard have been trying to make an FPS since Starcraft: Ghost like two billion years ago. They’ve had plenty of time to figure out exactly how they want it, and this is not a company known for half-assing their products. It’s not my style, but you can bet I’ll be playing it anyway, at least for a little while.

Trailer: Halo (Official E3 Trailer)


What would an Xbox console be without it’s flagship title. The Xbox One will have it’s Master Chief and at Microsoft’s E3 Presser we were introduced to the first trailer of what could only be the next title in the long-running and critically-acclaimed series simply called Halo.

If the announcement that the game will run on a smooth and native 60 frames per second then this trailer may just be in-game (though we’ll find out in due time if this is a correct assumption or not). Whether it is n-game scenes or a pre-rendered cinematic matters not. It’s a new Halo title and after the success both financially and critically of Halo 4 there’s no doubt that there’s now new life in the franchise that both fans and critics alike were calling dated and obsolete.

343 Industries will have a new playpen with advanced tools to make the move of the franchise from the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One a smooth upgrade.

Halo for the Xbox One is set for a 2014 release date.

Trailer: Titanfall (Official E3 Announcement)


Titanfall is the first title to come out of Respawn Entertainment. This is big news in the gaming community. It’s the title many have been waiting for not because it’s any good (it’s not out yet so no way to gauge whether its good or bad), but because of who is making it.

Respawn Entertainment is the studio made up of former Infinity Ward developers and it’s two co-founders after a very acrimonious split (which included lawsuits and counter-lawsuits) with parent company Activision. There’s little love-lost between these two groups. Those who left had wanted to make something other than another Call of Duty title while Activision only wanted more Call of Duty titles (it continues to be a billion-dollar money maker for the company).

So, it’s now 2013 and at this year’s E3 we finally get a glimpse at Titanfall and exactly what Respawn Entertainment wanted to make but couldn’t while they remained with Activision. It’s been called a mecha first-person shooter. It looks to try and combine the run-and-gun aspects of this team of developers’ Call of Duty and Medal of Honor lineage with some Mech action.

Titanfall looks great from the announcement trailer released today at the Microsoft E3 Presser. It looks to be a title being put in the forefront as one of the new Xbox One’s exclusive titles. This means if one wanted to play this title when it comes out they can only play it on the Xbox One (Xbox 360 for those not willing to adopt the new system early) and not on the PS3 or the upcoming PS4.

Titanfall looks to drop on the Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows sometime in the Spring of 2014.

Trailer: Modern Warfare 3 “The Vet and The n00b”

Well, the time that seems to arrive once every year around November has finally arrived. The latest iteration of the Call of Duty first-person shooter franchise from Activision will see a midnight release starting 12:01 am on November 8, 2011. Already there are lines numbering in the hundreds in major cities. Parties being held at stores such as Best Buy and Gamestop as hundreds of thousands, if not, millions of gamers flock to get the game in their hands. This game is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and it’s one of those rare video games which actually lowers work productivity the week of it’s release. It will be safe to assume that the morning of November 8, 2011 will see a high amount of sick calls and last minute PTO requests.

I won’t be one of them but I will still get this game in a week or two. Until then I’ll just continue to watch this funny and creative trailer for the game starring Jonah Hill, Sam Worthington and Dwight Howard.

Trailer: Battlefield 3 “Above and Beyond the Call w/ Jay-Z”

(All video footage ACTUAL GAMEPLAY)

The time for the final push to hype up the upcoming first-person shooter from EA and DICE has begun.

Battlefield 3 gets a brand-new TV ad spot which touts the title’s actual gameplay and the strength of it’s new graphics engine with Frostbite 2.0. To better give the ad a particular hook it uses Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” track to some great effect. The video shows the three different gameplay choices a player can have during single-player and multiplayer gaming: foot soldier, helicopter gunship and fighter pilot and tank driver.

As the tv spot has pointed out — plus the video below showing some multiplayer gameplay — Battlefield 3 has been the consensus best shooter to be seen by industry people at all the gaming shows and conventions this year. Whether the title will knock Activision’s Call of Duty franchise off it’s lofty perch still has to be seen, but if there’s a game that could begin the process of doing it then Battlefield 3 may just be it.

Battlefield 3 slated for an October 25, 2011 release date for the Xbox 360, Windows PC and PS3.

Gamescom 2011: Battlefield 3 “Caspian Border” Multiplayer Gameplay

I’ve been hyped and itching to get my hands on Battlefield 3 for months now, but still have a little over 2 months to go before I get that chance. Until then EA and DICE (Digital Illusions CE) have come up with another way to tease it’s fans by using Gamescom 2011 over at Germany a new video footage of actual gameplay (using an earlier alpha build of the game). This time around it’s not in-game footage of the single-player campaign. What we get instead is two whole minutes of wargasmic in-game footage showing the game’s multiplayer mode (64-players playing at once over on the PC while the Xbox 360 and the PS3 get 24-player limit for ground fighting).

The footage is of the mulitplayer map simply called “Caspian Border” and it’s a multiplayer game being fought not just between players as foot-soldiers, but also driving armored vehicles, jeeps, tanks and helicopter gunships. But what got me really going is the fact that air-to-air combat with jets. I don’t mean those white-and-green wearing, following the fat, blowhard who has no rings to kiss Jets, but jet fighters performing deadly aerial ballet with their opposing number.

I think if there is ever one reason to pick up Battlefield 3 over Activision’s upcoming title to their juggernaut of a FPS franchise, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, then this gameplay footage with the jets will be one major reason. I may just practice flying those jets for multiplayer and shout “Tally Ho!” over the mike when ambushing another player in their jet.

Battlefield 3 is still set for an October 25, 2011 release date in North America with Europe and the rest of the world getting it the following days.

E3 2011: BioShock Infinite Gameplay Trailer

Ken Levine, head of 2K Games’ Irrational Games development studio, was on-stage during Sony’s E3 Press Conference to hype up his latest title to the acclaimed BioShock franchise. The third game in the series looks to take the series from it’s failed undersea utopian city of Rapture and into the skies. Like Rapture, BioShock Infinite will have a setting that will be a full-blown city but floating skyward attached to giant balloons and zeppelin-like structures with rails that act almost like rollercoaster tracks for players to move from place to place.

The trailer Levine showed at the Sony Presser looks to be one using all gameplay footage which is always a welcome sight since in year’s past too many games promised too much based on cinematic, pre-rendered trailers. I’m all for CG-animated trailers, but it’s always how the gameplay looks and plays that counts in the end.

One thing that was also announced by Levine during this press conference was how the Sony version of BioShock Infinite will have the option for players to use the Playstation Move motion controller to play through the game.

BioShock Infinite only has an approximate release date around 2012.