I’m not quite sure why, but i’m always a sucker for these wrestling type games. I think it goes back to my younger days when i was a big fan of the WWE, but even now, about 10 years on, i still really enjoy the games, whether it be the WWE titles, or in this case, UFC. I didn’t get the last couple UFC games that came out on the Xbox 360, but i did get the original, so i was expecting the game to have moved on quite a lot from then.
With E3 done and over with, we at UWG decided now would be a good time to take a hard look at shows like E3 and ask a tough question:
“In the digital age we now reside in, are these big media shows like E3 really warranted anymore? If all the information we need is now easily consumable on the internet, what purpose do these shows serve anymore?”
Joining us in our discussion are Niall of Niall’s Ramblings, Derek ofGamerCrash, and Sam of CheeseToastie And Video Games. If you like what they have to say here, there’s much more where that came from at each of their sites! Do yourself a favor and take a look!
Jake: After thinking about it for a time I’d like to make the point that maybe the purpose of shows like E3 has evolved over the last 15 years or so. They’ve always been there to generate excitement for the games and hardware. They’ve always had the side-effect of bringing gamers together as a group, and I think the focus has been shifting to that side-effect rather than just the hype generation as it was in the past. Do we need these shows for this? I don’t think so, but I would say they do a lot to help.
Duck: I actually don’t know a whole lot about E3, but I agree that the main purpose such shows now serve is probably just to get people excited and to make a big deal about the new games. We don’t need these shows for information anymore because we get most of that from the Internet, but the Internet can’t get us excited about new games quite like E3 can. And I like Jacob’s point about E3’s ability to bring gamers together. It makes me think of comicons, in a way. Part of what I love about them is that it gathers tons of people with similar interests in one place.
Sam: As I handle business development for a video games studio and a large part of my job is going to trade shows like E3 and GDC, it probably won’t surprise you when I say that I do think shows like this are absolutely necessary – at least for industry professionals. Over time E3 has become one of the industry’s biggest events of the year as it gives devs and publishers a space to build hype or make big announcements. I won’t lie – much as I enjoyed going to Sony and Ubisoft press conferences this year, I don’t think it was really necessary for me to fly all the way to LA to see them, when I just as easily could have received all that info sitting on my couch. However, I still think that E3 provides a necessary stage where small and big game companies alike can demo or show off games they’re working on and where eyeballs are guaranteed. Indie studios in particular would never be able to generate that kind of interest. Also, much as E3 has become a place for consumers to enjoy the news about the games they love, unlike PAX or Comic Con, E3 is still a trade show and is one of the few times a year that industry peeps can get together to share info and for business-y people like me it’s where the real work is, where you can pitch games and make new contacts.
Niall: I’ve never been to E3, it’s always been something that i would love to do, and from a very young age it’s always been on my bucket list. The closest thing we have to it here in the UK is Eurogamer which i went to for the first time last year, it was fantastic. I had a rough idea of what sort of layout to expect from seeing the shows through the eyes of websites like IGN & Gamespot in the past, but it’s not just the sheer amount of games that made it such a fantastic experience, it was the atmosphere. It’s not very often that you get so many like minded people under one roof, and with the huge amount of queuing that you inevitably end up doing you have a chance to swap opinions, and just generally talk gaming. It’s also a rare opportunity to meet some of the faces behind the games, not only with the staff on their respective stands, but also with the talks done by people that are well known in the industry. Of course getting hands on with the new games and consoles is a big highlight, whether it be having the chance to play a game you’re really looking forward to, or discovering a game that wasn’t even on your radar, the sheer scale of the whole thing is mind blowing. The amount of games on show is incredible, the downside of this is that you can’t play them all, with the 2-3 hour queues for the big titles you really have to be quite frugal with your time, unless you’re lucky enough to be at the event for a few days that is.
The obvious problem with all of this is the money that it costs the industry to put on, when it is now so simple to reach millions of people through social media and Youtube, delivering gameplay, trailers and even betas to their doorstep, you have to ask, is a huge show like E3 really necessary, or at all cost effective? To a certain extent i think that depends on how good and how well known your game is, for example, Call Of Duty could not have a stand at Eurogamer or E3 and they’d still sell a huge amount of copies of their game, is having a stand at the shows adding many more sales? There’s no doubting that having a good conference and stand does help, you only have to look at something like Sunset Overdrive which i personally was unsure about, but since seeing it E3, i’m pretty excited for it. Personally i hope it continues, and i think 99% of gamers would probably hope so to, it’s great to see everything under one roof and be able to talk to the people behind the games, something that you rarely get the chance to do.
Cary: I’ve also never been to E3 or any gaming tradeshows, but I have been to tradeshows that have nothing to do with gaming, and they are lots of fun. It’s great to be able to get up close and personal with new things and converse with people about new designs and new ideas. So I get what Sam says about E3 being a vital part of the business and networking side of gaming. Shows like E3 help build hype and build and further cement audiences that can’t be captured virtually. They also serve as pretty good barometers of the industry’s health; the more exciting the better for everyone, gamers and developers.
From the “me as a consumer and player of video games” point of view, I don’t know that I feel the same way. Not to be a fly in the ointment, but over the past couple years, thanks to the way information leaks and the Internet, I haven’t been terribly excited to watch E3. I do because I know everyone will be talking about it, but with each year it seems that there’s less and less new stuff to discuss. Game companies are shelling out big bucks to tell us things we already know. And so what if the big-name press conferences include a snippet from a rumored-come-true game or a teaser for something that’s coming out in a year. I’m tired of hearing about games that were teased years ago and are only just now coming to fruition. I’m tried of getting excited about things that end up getting cancelled. That decision to ride or get off the emotional rollercoaster is a frustrating one. And with things like E3, I’m almost to the point where I’d just rather avoid it altogether.
Jake: Perhaps the answer is in figuring out who E3 is for. Sam makes the point that E3 is still meant to be a tradeshow as much as it is a news and hype vehicle, perhaps even more so. We consumers are happy enough with a stable news cycle and the simple fact that these show are around to reinforce the idea that those behind one of our favorite pastimes are still doing well and still doing their best to push the envelope. Do we need the shows to see this? No. So in this sense maybe shows like E3 are really only necessary for the professionals participating in them.
Derek: For me, I absolutely love it. E3 represents the promise of new. Sure, this year’s show was preempted by what seemed to be more leaks and reveals than usual, but it didn’t diminish any of my excitement. E3 is a giant spectacle and a way for the industry to kind of show off. Not only that, based on people I know in the industry, it’s a way for them to not only get a closer look at the competition but to meet up with friends who they either don’t get to see often or haven’t seen in quite some time. I still enjoy covering them, watching them, and hopefully someday, to attend them. Granted, this is a view point from someone on the outside looking in, but I can definitely understand the points that where Sam and Niall are bringing up about cost and necessity as well.
Cary: I think my general interests in gaming, save for a handful of mainstream titles (Dragon Age, Mass Effect), are steering away from what E3 represents. Still, there’s no way game companies are going to give up on marketing, and E3 is marketing at its best, so I’m with Jake in saying that trade shows are necessary for industry professionals. But that need to build hype extends to what Derek says about the spectacle and excitement of the whole thing and how they affect consumers in positive ways. I’m just stodgy and cynical when it comes to believing in any for-profit companies, game companies included. I want to believe that shows like E3 are made and promoted in the consumers’ best interests, and maybe they once were (and still are). But my gut says otherwise.
Maybe I just need to go to one someday, and I’ll end up eating my words.
Over the course of this discussion we’ve seen that maybe E3 is more necessary for developers than it is for gamers, even though it’s something that still manages to rally those of us with a love for the medium each year, whether we’re really into the show or not.
Is this the definitive answer? No, of course not! Which is why we need you to add to the discussion. What is E3 to you? Do you think we still need it?
Watch Dogs is a game that i had been really looking forward too for quite some time now, in my eyes it’s one of the few games to have been released on next gen consoles that actually offers something new, and by that i mean it’s probably the first big new franchise to hit the shelves since the consoles launched at the end of last year, so now it’s been one week since it’s launch i thought i’d talk about how i’m finding the game.
There’s not a lot that i can say about Call Of Duty 4 that hasn’t already been said, the fact that still now, in 2014 (Yes, it’s now SEVEN years old) it’s regarded as the benchmark for all first person shooters says it all, and to be completely honest, since 2007, i don’t think anything has really come close to it.
It’s one of those games which was released in a period of time that i consider to be in my golden era of online gaming, that time when i was still at school and everyone seemed to own an Xbox 360 and with it a copy of Call Of Duty 4. I’d get in from school and by 4:30 it seemed like half of my year were online, i’d flick down the friends list and it’d just read ‘Playing Call Of Duty 4, playing Call Of Duty 4, playing Call Of Duty 4’ I think it’s fair to say most of us spent days on that game, and it was time well spent.
Forza Motorsport is a series that i am a huge fan of, from the original on the the Xbox through to the latest installment, number 5, on the Xbox One. A Forza title was always going to be in my top five, the difficulty was just choosing which one, but after a lot of thought i think from my own personal experiences it had to be number four. I’ll explain why number 4 later, but first i’m going to talk about what recurring themes made me fall in love with the Forza series.
The first thing that they have always offered in abundance is customisation. It has endless potential with the painting and decals, you see cars that have been personalised with players names and own original decals, you see cars with paint jobs based on iconic cars from the movies such as ‘The Fast and The Furious’ and ‘Dukes Of Hazard’ and then you see cars modelled around public service vehicles like police cars and even the odd taxi!
United We Game’s February community posts continue, with today being the day the Duck will present you all with my entry on the topic of levels in the “Mario” series. Gamer or not, pretty much everyone’s heard of Mario, and there’s a reason this squat plumber is so popular even after people have been playing his games for over three decades. Because the games have something in them for everyone. They have good, old platforming goodness through a wide variety of environments, an innocent charm that people of all ages can enjoy, challenge (and boy, can they be challenging), not to mention princesses to save and big Koopa Kings to toss. There are so many “Mario” levels out there, and yet they still manage to find ways to do something new with each one and make them stand out from the rest. So I decided for my post that I would list my top five “Mario” levels, and to make it fair, I am going to list my top level from each of my five main “Mario” games in order from least favorite to top favorite. The games I considered for this post span 1991-2010, “Super Mario World”, “Super Mario 64”, “Super Mario Sunshine”, and the two “Super Mario Galaxy” games.
5. Okay, this first one is not strictly my favorite level from a particular game. I chose it more because I have some good memories associated with this level that I can’t really claim to have with the others. This level is Stand Tall on the 4 Pillars, which is found in Shifting Sand Land from “Super Mario 64”. In this level, you go into the pyramid and fight the boss, called the Eyerock (consisting of two hands with an eye on each palm, a surprisingly common boss in games), for a star. As I hinted at before, the level itself is not that exciting, but the last time I played this game was the very first time in about 10 years of owning it that I finally got 100%. And this particular playthrough consisted of my very first time through this level. Ever. So, for one thing, getting to play an entirely new level in a game I had been trying to beat for a decade was pretty exciting, which is one cause for my fond memories of it. The other reason is what took place while I was playing it.
I remember I was relaxing in my most comfortable chair one afternoon playing this game. It was quite a peaceful time, and for some inexplicable reason, my cat, Alex, decided to jump onto the chair with me, which he had never done before and never did ever again. The chair was much too small for the two of us, so he had to settle with largely laying on my lap, making it that much more fun to play the game. And this happened to be during this very level, which was also a surprise, considering it was my first time through it and my first time ever seeing this boss. And so I will forever have pleasant memories of playing this level one lazy afternoon with a comfy chair and a cat on my lap.
Video from Youtube user: MrGamingZone
4. My next favorite level comes from “Super Mario Galaxy”. This level, despite not being a fan of the fiendish creature called the bee one bit, is Bee Mario Takes Flight, a level in the HoneyHive Galaxy. And I just love it, for many reasons. To start, it’s just such a cute level. It’s so bright and colorful, with cute, cheery music. And then there’s the bees. Not just Bee Mario, but the regular bees in the level. While most bees are terrifying and evil, these bees are just so darn adorable! I’m not kidding you! They are so cute! They are plump and fluffy, and they make adorable sounds when you go up to them. Honestly, it’s mainly the adorable bees that make me love this level, not just Bee Mario, even though he can be pretty useful, the way he can fly and climb around on certain surfaces. But, I guess in the end, it’s really the adorable bees that make this level great. This level and the bees that populate it are the bee’s knees.
Video from Youtube user: Overhazard
3. My next favorite level kind of bends the rules a bit. This one comes from “Super Mario Galaxy 2”, and my favorite level from this game is, without a doubt, Return of the Whomp King from the Throwback Galaxy. I’m kind of cheating here because, oh, my gosh, this is actually a level from “Super Mario 64”! A bit ironic, as I honestly was not a huge fan of “Super Mario 64” (it was so darn hard, and that’s why it took me a decade or so to beat!), but this level was just so great because of the pure nostalgia. This level is a replica of the second world from “Super Mario 64”, complete with the same delightful music and everything. And it makes me happy because it was a world I actually liked from “Super Mario 64” (because, unlike most of the game, it was much easier). Then, you get to fight some Whomps. I like Whomps. They look goofy. (Even though we all know Thwomps are better.)
Video from Youtube user: omegaevolution
2. My second favorite level comes from “Super Mario World”, the Donut Ghost House. I always liked the ghost houses. They were creepy, with the spooky music and the dark interiors, not to mention all the ghosts (the big ones were so freaky!), and they were confusing, with all the doors and the strange order in which you had to go through them in order to escape, but that was what made them fun. And I just love those old-fashioned Boos. Adorable. Except the ones that follow you when you look away. That’s rather scary. And so, since these levels were my favorites from the game, I just chose this one because it’s the first and because it’s the easiest. Easy is good.
Video from Youtube user: BURTTtv
1. And my favorite “Mario” level, as you’d expect, comes from my favorite “Mario” game, “Super Mario Sunshine”, despite this one being the most different, but maybe that’s why I liked it. I love this game, and I always loved Noki Bay most of all, a rather beautiful place with peaceful music and towering cliffs (which are, oh, so fun to climb), and I actually found the water to be even prettier when it was purple and polluted. This level was so lovely and had such fun platforming that I always loved visiting it. And as odd as it is, my favorite level in this place was Eely-Mouth’s Dentist, where you go underwater and clean the teeth of this giant eel. The boss music in this game is quite awesome and epic (even when you’re playing dentist), and I just found it so darn satisfying cleaning up all those filthy teeth (except it was gross when some of them came out). Maybe I’m a weirdo for getting such a rush from cleaning eel teeth, but I did, and that’s why I found this level to be awesome.
Video from Youtube user: Anon7906
Duck, Dentist of Eel Teeth
No matter how many times Mario’s adventures are hashed and rehashed, games that prominently feature that famous plumber, his princess, and that evil dinosaur we call Bowser, remain fresh, fun, and playable dozens of times over. Mario games are level-driven games — you’ve got to make your way through stages or levels in a series of worlds in order to reach the final battle with Bowser. And only a few games, like Paper Mario and Super Mario RPG, have deviated from the platformer tradition started by Super Mario Bros. Despite that fact the games usually contain worlds of similar themes, each is unique in presentation and design. Even so, I will never cheer upon traversing a snowy/icy world because Mario is already slippery enough, no matter how many penguin suits he owns. I will never get excited for those pre-Bowser, fire worlds, as I will never have enough patience with lava and fireballs. So when it comes to my favorite Mario levels, there will be nary an ice storm or fire waterfall in site. But there will be something “big.” Curious? Read on!
Big Island (Level 4): Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
You’re going to find a recurring theme in my list — I like oversized Mario things. I really can’t explain why, but I’m almost certain that the seed for this quirk was planted upon first playing around in Big Island in Super Mario Bros. 3. So like the moniker says, everything on Big Island, is …well big. The koopas, the goombas, the piranha plants, heck, even the clouds and backdrops are larger than life. I simply find it highly enjoyable to be a little Mario running around a land of giants, and being able to squash those giants as easily as anything!
Video by YouTube user MegamanNG
Yoshi’s Island (Level 1): Super Mario World (SNES)
Last week I wrote a post for UWG on the importance of any given game’s first mission or level or quest (embed link: http://wegameunited.com/2014/02/20/you-never-get-a-second-chance-at-a-first-level-impression/), and in it I mentioned how most Mario games have great lead-in levels. Yoshi’s Island in Super Mario World is a perfect example of this. Not only does this level contain a plethora of Yoshies (my favorite Mario character), but it’s a fun place to be generally. The individual worlds aren’t extremely difficult to traverse and there’s plenty to stomp on and collect. Plus, it introduces some of the best Mario musical theme renditions available.
Video by YouTube user bpblu
Tiny-Huge Island (Level 13): Super Mario 64 (N64)
Following in my preference for all-large-things-Mario is Tiny-Huge Island from Super Mario 64. But as much fun as it is to take on gargantuan enemies, this level is especially wonderful because it can be played in two different ways, with or without the giants. And it’s not just a matter of choosing to play one way or the other, you must play the level both ways, often switching between the tiny and huge, in order to get all the stars. Tiny-Huge Island occurs somewhat late in the game, and after repeatedly going through static level after static level, the notion of working through a level that changes, if only through the size of the enemies, is refreshing and welcome.
Video by YouTube user Nintendo64Movies
The “Invincible” Tubba Blubba (Level 3): Paper Mario (N64)
I hold the two Paper Mario games I’ve played in pretty high regard as I enjoy not only the turn-based style of combat and the games’ stories, but I simply adore the graphics. It looks like the characters were all colored in and cut out of a coloring book — so cute! The “Invincible” Tubba Blubba level sticks out in my mind because it contains friendly boos. Little, ghostly boos have been haunting and taunting Mario for years, but in Paper Mario, Mario has to help save their town from the clutches of the ghost-eating Tubba Blubba. One ghost even helps you along the way! I love the role reversal, as it was something so in contrast to the traditional enemies in Mario games.
Video by YouTube user luigifan64d
Soda Jungle (Level 5): New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U)
Did you think I wasn’t going to end with yet another ode to the oversized?? I recently completed New Super Mario Bros. U and I think it’s the best interpretation going of Mario’s original Princess-saving story. The Soda Jungle is a perilous place with acidic seas and other things to avoid, but it’s also got one level with huge enemies and one level with an enormous wiggler that made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. It’s also a level with lots of variety, spanning from above ground to underground challenges. But by and large, that introduction to Giant Brick Blocks, Grand Goombas, and Gargantuan Koopa Troopas really made my day; and I love going back to that level simply because it brings me joy to do so.
Video by YouTube user At the Buzzer
My childhood was dominated by Nintendo, it’s fearless red plumber and his crew. My first exposure to the world of video games came when I was very young with the Nintendo Entertainment System and of course, Super Mario Bros. It’s safe to say, I was hooked for life after pushing the jump button on the controller for the very first time. I’ve gone on countless adventures with Mario from his 8 bit days, all the way to modern times so there’s a lot of material to draw from when thinking about what aspects of a franchise you love. Have you ever stopped to think about why the Mario franchise continues to be a force after all these years?
As any person who is invested in games can tell you, the levels themselves are what make these platformer games great. I mean, think about it for a moment. Pretty much 100% of your time is spent running and jumping through them so if the levels are boring or poorly made, the game as a whole will suffer. That’s the key to understanding why Mario is consistently great. It’s the level design that shines through.
The tricky part then becomes trying to narrow down a gigantic list of Mario levels into just a handful of favorites. It’s almost like trying to pick a favorite child, pretty much impossible. So instead, I’m going to look back at some incredible innovations and trends that Mario has started by highlighting some of his bigger moments and legacy. The really interesting aspect here is that for decades, Mario has led the platforming charge. Typically, Mario innovates and others work to catch up.
Lets begin with the original Nintendo Entertainment System and the iconic title, Super Mario Bros. I think we can all agree that prior to this landmark title, the platform genre was incredibly different from what we know. Just booting up the game for the first time, you’re pretty much sent right along without any real instruction. Instinctively, you just know to run to the right and avoid enemies. As the NES ventured on we were also given Super Mario Bros 2 and 3 both of which were extremely different from one another in terms of gameplay and graphics. Each game added additional elements such as new power ups, new enemies, and more diverse bosses. For me, Super Mario Bros 3 still stands as one of the best platformers ever made. Running through those airships and defeating the boss characters for the first time was exhilarating and extremely exciting. I don’t think I’ll ever look at the sun the same way after the second world’s desert and that stupid grinning sun trying to side swipe you.
The Super Nintendo was next and with it came Super Mario World and it’s sequel Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. Yoshi’s Island to this day remains in my top 5 games I’ve played, ever. While Super Mario World really opened the door in terms of advancing the genre with it’s colorful graphics, tight controls, and engaging worlds, Yoshi’s Island took things a step further with a superior presentation on top of already addicting platforming. For one, the game looks like it was made from crayons and felt pens, giving it a unique and memorable look. What’s interesting in this game is that Mario is no longer the star as he’s pretty much rendered helpless as a baby being transported by a horde of Yoshis. As such, the controls are a bit different with Yoshi’s being able to shoot eggs and flutter jump. I can remember bosses in this game being supersized versions of more traditional creatures such as Raphael the Raven. The objective here was to run around on a rotating sphere and ground pound these pegs so they’d hit Raphael on the other side. It was as unique and different a boss battle as I’ve experienced in a platformer. It’s also the first gameplay moment that comes to mind when I’m thinking about Yoshi’s Island.
If you want innovation, look no further than Super Mario 64. It’s amazing to think where we’d be without this title. Mario 64 pretty much kicked off the 3D platformer generation, as other titles worked to try and capture that magic which Mario had unlocked on the Nintendo 64. Seriously, without this game where would Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Bajo-Kazooie, Rayman and others have gone in this era? It’s a hard thing to imagine. Using Princess Peach’s castle as a hub world, collecting starts to unlock new sections, and jumping into and out of paintings to access new levels was pretty much genius. Obviously, Bob-omb’s Battlefield, the first “level” you’re given access to, stands out because it really marks the first time you’re allowed to experience Mario in a 3D world. I can still remember grabbing the wings which let you fly around the level. For a person growing up in the 2D space with Mario, this moment really blew me away. The genre of “platformer” really evolved after this title.
I’m going to jump ahead next right to the Nintendo Wii as Nintendo delivered one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever played when they released the Super Mario Galaxy games. As usual, Nintendo used Mario to once again push the boundries on what people though were possible with platformers. The twist with “Galaxy” is that Mario is now in space and could visit all of these different galaxies each with their own unique themes. Some were more traditional platform style worlds while others could have Mario running around on a true 3 dimensional shapes. Better yet, Galaxy tapped into a completely new physics system which allowed each celestial object to have it’s own gravitational force letting the player walk sideways, on the ceiling, or run completely around the object. The Honey-Hive Galaxy still stands out not only for the introduction of the bee suit, but because it was the first galaxy to really remind me of a traditional 3D Mario world in this title. It was a nice break from all the planet hoping at that time.
To me, Mario remains timeless because of the thoughtfulness put into each one of his levels. If you’re someone who has played at least one Mario game in your life, I’m sure you can pick out one or two levels that really stuck with you. That’s some incredible magic and a rare quality that Nintendo is able to tap into game after game. Mario has given us some amazing adventures and memories through the years and here’s to many more to come