Thoughts: Nintendo Switch (from someone who is keen to get one)

So talking about a console is something completely new to me, especially one I don’t actually own, so take all of this with a grain of salt. However, given that the Switch strikes me as something new and exciting, when better than to give it a shot.

To start, I have to say that because I haven’t had hands-on experience with it, it’s difficult to fully give my opinion on it. But as of right now, and what I have seen, I’ll attempt to share my thoughts on it, from the perspective of a primarily PC gamer. Also these are just my opinions, and your’s will potentially vary from mine, so that’s just something to keep in mind.

The last tech from Nintendo I bought was the 3DS XL. I can play Pokemon to my hearts content, it plays like a dream, and is perfect for long flights or road trips, I love it.

And in my mind, having a gaming PC on which I primarily play games on at home, and then a Nintendo device I can play on the go is a match made in heaven. So for me, the Switch is a perpetuation of what I already have with my 3DS.

For me, the most interesting and exciting part of the Switch, and I’m sure others would agree with me, is all the different ways you can use it. Flexibility is the name of the game here, and whether you want to use it as a home console, or as a portable on-the-go console, the Switch. As for my own personal use, being able to play on the go is important to me (as discussed above with the 3DS), so the portable aspect of the Switch is perhaps what I am more interested in. I don’t expect it to be as portable as a 3DS, as the Switch is also a home console, as long as it is comfortable and it performs well with games, I’m sold.

I believe this is a part of where gaming is headed, being able to play games whenever, and wherever. The Switch looks like a step towards this goal, and with game streaming services on the rise, the industry it certainly headed in the direction. Needless to say, the portability is a big selling factor for me. The idea of being able to play at home with a friend, or even larger social gatherings, and take it with me when I go out is a very attractive.

If you are reading this, chances are you are aware of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, one of the Switch’s launch titles, and a new, open world Zelda game. Beyond Ocarina of Time, I sadly don’t have much experience within the Zelda-verse, but Breath of the Wild has me starstruck. Exceptional reviews aside, the game looks beautiful, exciting, open world, and more importantly, it looks like a ton of fun, and certainly a great time to get back into the franchise.

Despite my interest in the console, I won’t be buying one just yet. Not because I don’t think it looks it great, but rather I would like to see how the console evolves the course of time, and how the roster of games expands along with it.

Even though I’m not too concerned about how powerful it is, one of the big factors that will play a factor in whether I get one later or not is around how well it plays games. I’m sure that the ironing out of bugs and glitches over the next couple of months would go a long way to me eventually picking one of these up.

Further would be the addition of more games and features. Nintendo has already come out and said that they will be working to bring all of their main franchises to the Switch, as well as the Virtual console, so it seems that a wider selection of awesome games is what awaits sometime down the road. So again, once it feels more fleshed out and complete as a console, it’ll certainly be harder to resist getting one.

But these are just my thoughts, and I would love to know what you think about this new, innovative piece of tech. Have you picked one up? Are you planning to? And whether or not have a Switch, what do you think of it? Let me know in the comments, and if you enjoyed this post be sure to give it a like. Also let me know if you would like to see more thoughts on consoles, or how I could improve in the future with such posts. Until next time, stay beautiful 🙂

Advertisements

The apparent evolution of free-to-play games

In my opinion, the quality of free to play games has drastically improved in the last few years. Maybe I was too young to really notice all of my options a while ago, but looking around me now, there seems to be a wealth of fantastic opportunities for enjoyment, all for the low, low price of the space on my hard drive.

It feels like it wasn’t that long ago that the only free games I played were incomplete demos, or flash games on a web browser. Admittedly they were fun, especially years ago when new games for me were fewer and farther between. However most of the time I felt they never quite matched the quality or size of triple A titles. Also hogging the family computer got me in trouble regularly, which kinda sucked after a while.

Needless to say, I’m fairly older and more independent now, and long gone are the days that Newgrounds and Miniclip are my only sources of free gaming entertainment. As I have grown up, it feels as though free to play games have as well.

There is a slew of high quality, fully fledged free games to choose from on clients such as Steam, that honestly feel like could be on store shelves.

My gateway into this whole new realm of gaming? Dota 2

While I’m not such a big fan of it anymore, a few years ago I was a raging Dota 2 addict. Coming home from high school and jamming to some Dota with some friends was a pretty typical afternoon, and was one of the only games I played for several months (and is still my most played game in my Steam library, despite not touching it in almost 3 years).

Dota 2, is of course, a free game. It was the first free to play game that really showed me that free to play games can in fact be as great and large as a game costing $100.

From there I began to explore other options, and I came across other great games. Team fortress 2, League of Legends, Hearthstone, all some of the biggest games in the world, all incredibly fun and entertaining, and all completely free of charge.

Obviously the fact that they are free is great in and of itself, but what I appreciate more is the accessibility of it. They are free, hence the only barrier to trying it out is hard drive space and waiting for it to download, minuscule in comparison to monetary payment. This means if I want to play it with friends, we can. There is no looming financial wall standing in the way of our fun.

On top of this, all of the fun is completely natural. Maybe this is just me, but sometimes when I buy a new game, I almost feel as if I need to get my moneys’ worth of enjoyment out of it. The idea of spending money on a game, and that I won’t play or enjoy it is the worst, and is usually the reason I don’t buy many new games. This means that some of the enjoyment could be contrived, or forced in a way. With free to play games there is no investment, and no pressure. If I don’t enjoy it then I don’t lose anything from it. Hence there is no forced fun, and that makes the experience all the more satisfying, and as I said, naturally fun.

Perhaps my only problem with free to play games is the abundance of microtransactions. Sure, they are very prevalent in paid games as well, no doubt about it, which isn’t a surprise. Neither is their appearance in free games, I mean, they have to make money somehow, and microtransactions are a great way to do it, so I’m not necessarily bitter about it. Another thing which makes them so much more tolerable is that they usually relate only to cosmetic items within the game, such as skins and emblems etc. which have no real impact on the game, and which I have no care for. So most of the time they aren’t a bother. But as anyone can agree, when microtransactions actually influence gameplay and/or progression, or when they are ‘pay-to-win’, that’s where I become annoyed and disheartened.

Nowadays, I tend to stay away from MOBAs because of the intense competitveness around them, and stick to more casual free games such as Brawlhalla and Toxikk, among others, which I can jump into, with or without friends, and just have a blast.

As usual, I am very much looking forward to what the future holds for free to play games, and the good times that await with these advances.

But these are just my thoughts, and I would love to hear what you think. What are your thoughts on free to play games? Are there any in particular that you have enjoyed? Let me know in the comments, and if you enjoyed this post, be sure to give it a like, it’s free and it just makes my day. Until next time, stay beautiful 🙂

 

Why soundtracks in games are awesome

I used to not pay much attention to soundtracks in games (sorry to all of the game composers out there), it wasn’t something I focused on, and certainly not something I appreciated. However, a number of my recent posts have been focused on how I have matured, and how this maturation has brought to light many features in games I perhaps missed or didn’t view with importance. Gaming soundtracks are one of them.

Reflecting back on some of the games I have played in the past, the songs and music are so influential it’s almost a wonder how I missed it in my early years of playing games.

So, why is the soundtrack so important to me? Let’s run through it.

1) It breathes life into the game

Soundtracks have an incredible ability to turn what is already a beautiful view, or an intense fight, or wandering through a cave, into something special. A beautiful view suddenly becomes a window into the gaming world, a wondrous sight that you are able to behold as if you are actually there. An intense boss battle becomes an epic showdown for the fate of the world you are protecting from annihilation. Wandering through a cave becomes an adventure into the dark unknown, an abyss that curiosity will not let go unexplored. Everything becomes so much more immersive and intense, and I love it.

On top of amplifying what is already happening, the soundtrack can also alter how you feel. The

The emotions that soundtracks can create can be spell bounding, and can add another level to an already amazing game to help it achieve new heights. This brings me to my next point…

2) It can create unforgettable memories

Emotions are at the core of some of the longest lasting memories we have, and games are no exception when it comes to evoking emotions. If soundtracks can trigger emotions, and emotions lead to memories, the link between a soundtrack and memories is undeniable. When I hear songs from games I have played in the past, whether it be in the last week or even as far as 10 years ago, it can trigger some intensely vivid memories. All it takes is to close my eyes and for a moment, it as if I am sitting there playing through that exact part of the game again, and it is breath-taking to be able to experience fond memories such as those so clearly.

To this day any time I hear Saria’s song from Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, it’s as if for a brief moment I am back in Hyrule with the warm sun on my face, Navi by my side, solving puzzles and rushing to crush Ganon once and for all. The feeling is indescribable.

3) It is genuinely enjoyable to listen to

Some gaming soundtracks are just a great jam from time to time. Nostalgia aside for a moment, when I am walking around town or heading to university sometimes I just can’t help but switch on ‘Hopes and Dreams’ from Undertale. Obviously this might just be me, but the way the song makes me feel (along with other non-gaming songs) is awesome.

This leads me to my next point.

4) They can make you feel awesome

No question about it, songs are amazing at making you feel stuff. I realise I mentioned this earlier, as yes, the emotions that soundtracks can produce can imbed vivid memories in your brain. But the emotions they can make you feel can be awesome in themselves.

Going back to the example of walking into university, listening to something like Hopes and Dreams, a boss battle music theme,  can imbue me with an incredible sense of confidence and excitement. The same feeling that you get when you are taking on a boss in a game.

Even sometimes before studying or during, putting an inspiring gaming soundtrack can skyrocket my motivation, and kickstart my motivation to work hard into high gear, something I can definitely appreciate when the going gets tough.

 

But this is just me, and I would love to hear from you. Are there any games with soundtracks that you think rock? And what makes them awesome for you? Let me know in the comments, and if you enjoyed this post, be sure to like it and follow me for more posts. Until then, stay beautiful 🙂

 

 

Tips and tricks for balancing work and rest

There just never seem to be enough hours in the day to do all the things that we would like to do. It’s a lifelong struggle that we all face at one point or another, where does all the time go? Whether it be studying, working, eating, cleaning, spending time with people, and everything in between, there are a lot of things to juggle day by day.

So hopefully in this post I can through a few of the methods that help me maintain the elusive work-life balance, all the while minimizing stress.

One of the methods I find most useful is to put the first things first. That is, you have to make sure you prioritize. And doesn’t that make sense? If you have something that is super important, why wouldn’t you get it done before something else that can wait?

For me, when I get home from a day of lectures, the things that are highest on my priority list are going over the lectures I just had, playing some games to relax, and having some food.

This is where planning comes in. Working out how much time you will spend doing each activity helps to ensure that you will have enough time to get each done. Having at the very least a general idea of what you want to do in a particular day works wonders for helping me achieve those goals. It especially helps because it is something you can commit to, having that time in your mind, and establishing that that is the time to do whatever you have planned, can help tremendously. Particularly as a student, where staying on top of the constant influx of work is a priority, time management is critical, and leaving it to the last minute can lead to a lot of unnecessary stress. Trust me, I know. Usually I will walk through the door, have something to eat, play games for 45 minutes to an hour, and then start studying.

Making sure you have time to chill and relax after a busy day is just as important as making sure you get the work done that you want to. Keep in mind it’s more about managing stress than eliminating it. A little stress can be good, too much can be harmful.

The biggest problem with planning is that it can be hard to commit. We all have those days where you come home from a busy day or work and/or lectures, and all you want to do is to fall flat on your bed with a bunch of snacks and watch Netflix into the early hours of next morning.

Procrastination can seem like an incredibly tempting option, especially if it has worked in the past. But usually the end result is a lot of stressing out, and a grade that isn’t as high as you would like it to be, and worse, a grade that you know could of been better if you had put more time into studying and not catching up on the latest shows. Procrastinating has a sweet taste, but an incredibly bitter aftertaste.

Getting over this urge to put things off is impossibly hard sometimes, but normally the hardest thing for me is just starting. if you can convince yourself to do even 15 minutes of work, it is easier to stretch that out further than stopping and having start again. Plus, once you get used to doing work at a particular time, it becomes routine, but making it a routine can be the hardest part.

On the flip side of the coin, it’s important to have balance. I mean, that is the title of this post. If all you are doing is working and/or studying, with no time for R&R, you are doing something wrong.

Now I realize I may be out of my place to say that. Everyone comes from a wide range of backgrounds and circumstances and perhaps you just may not have the time to relax in between all of your other responsibilities (in which case stay strong). However I cannot understate the importance of having the time to take a load off every now and again. Chronic stress is unhealthy, and unpleasant.

This is where my last tip comes into play, enjoying the little things. Sometimes time to have fun and play games is scarse, for example during exam time. It is during this time that you really need to make the most of your limited relaxation time, and endure. Making sure you set some time apart to relax is even more important when the going gets tough. However there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and particularly during exam time, if you can knuckle down and do the work, then once it is all over you will feel on top of the world, and have good grades to boot. Making those fun times happen can be hard, but we all need to unload stress every once in a while.

Another thing that has always helped me is meditation. Practicing mindfulness, and even just taking 5 minutes to focus on my breathing and do a guided meditation is almost magical in the healing and calming effect that it has. Not only that, but when I return to my study, I feel more focused, and able to work more productively than ever before. So I absolutely recommend that, whether you are strapped for time or not.

Of course, all of this is from the perspective of a student, but hopefully some of this is relevant and helpful regardless of your situation.

But these are just my tips and tricks, I would love to hear what works for you. How do you maintain a balance between work and rest? Let me know in the comments, and if you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, give it a like. Also let me know if I should do more posts like this, or keep it strictly to gaming posts. Your feedback is always appreciated. Until next time, stay beautiful 🙂

The aging of video games with time

Video gaming might not be the oldest art form, but it’s without a doubt one of my favourites, and despite this relatively short time the medium has been around, we have seen a number of greats to grace this planet in the past. Much like art, we have had games that were revolutionary for their time, and which have impacted the gaming market seen today. We have also had numerous failures from which we have learned from, and moved on to make masterpieces.

I’m more of a gameplay and story focused gamer. By this I mean that if a game is fun to play, and/or is well told and interesting, then I’m bound to have a good time. In this way, I love to play classic games.

Old, potentially outdated graphics don’t bother me at all as long as a game is enjoyable to some extent. Even now in 2017, having seen extraordinary technological leaps in how games play and look, I enjoy going back to old favourites, in fact I would even go so far to say that I enjoy them more as I now know what makes games fun for me.

As I mentioned previously, this is mainly because playing games made 20 or so years ago doesn’t mean I need to sacrifice any quality of the experience. Loading up Pokémon Red on my old Gameboy Advance still fills me with joy, as does loading up a ROM of Crash Bandicoot 2. These are games that I have incredible memories playing in the past, and replaying them in this age of gaming doesn’t taint or reduce my satisfaction in any way.

Games (in general) age very well, similar to movies. A game that was awesome when it was released is still the same game decades later. In this way, nostalgia can’t be the only thing that makes these games fun to play after so long. The first time I played Final Fantasy VII was 15 years after it had been released, and I absolutely loved it from start to finish. As another example, Zelda: Ocarina of Time, one of the greatest games ever made, I didn’t have the chance to play until 2011, 13 years since its release. Again, a timeless classic, everything about it was on point, and it makes me wonder how many fantastic games I have yet to play simply because it was before my time, or I didn’t have the opportunity to get into it when it was still new.

This is where remakes or remasters tend to come to rescue. For me they are a means to experience classic games that I didn’t get to play at the time of their release (or if I lost a classic game that I loved, I’m sure it’s happened to all of us). Take Halo: Combat Evolved for example, I am a big-time Halo fan, but the first Halo game I ever played was Halo 3. I never got to play through the first one, the one that started it all, or better known as the one with the super-powered pistol. Getting to play through the remastered version having missed out on the original was amazing, and if it wasn’t for the remaster I may have never touched the first Halo game.

Needless to say, gaming has changed a lot since the days of Final Fantasy VII and Pokémon Red. Most obviously in graphics, which have drastically improved, but that’s not what concerns me. I am constantly impressed with how creative and inventive creators can be, forging new and unique experiences for everyone to enjoy. It is the way that gaming evolves and expands as both an art form and a mode of entertainment. Learning from past failures and successes, as well as the near infinite creative drive and passion has led to a generation where there is such a huge range of amazing games, of so many different types, offering experiences unique and engaging in their own ways, to suit each and every person. I think it’s beautiful, and I can’t wait to see the direction that it takes next.

These are just my thoughts though, and I am just one person, I would love to know your thoughts. What games really struck home for you? And how do you think they have aged with the times? Let me know in the comments, and if you enjoyed this post, be sure to give it a like. Until next time, stay beautiful 🙂

 

 

Replayability in games

Don’t you just love coming back to a good game again and again. Maybe it’s a game you played as a kid and now you are just picking it up again after all this time, the nostalgia you feel, unable to forget how awesome that experience was. Perhaps you just beat it, and you want to start from scratch and try a new path through it.

I sure do.

Playing through games again and again isn’t something new to me. Sure enough, when I was a kid and I got my first game and handheld console, which was Pokemon Ruby for a Gameboy Advance, that was the only game I had. Playing through it again and using different teams each time was basically how I spent a year of my life.

Even today, I have played through some of the games in my Steam library 4 or 5 times at this point.

But what keeps me coming back?

Mostly because it’s super fun and enjoyable. Think about it, what do you do when you are thirsty and you finish a can of Coke? You have another (unless you have none left, then you sit and cry about what could have been). The point is, why stop at one? You enjoyed the first can so much, and the second is no different. Playing a game is similar, you play through it once, love it, and repeat.

Another feature of playing through a game a second time is that you already know what is coming. Hence, you can invest more time into exploring and looking for secrets and completing bonus objectives without having to think about the story too much. This always changed up the gameplay enough to warrant at least another second playthrough for me.

But eventually this gets boring, after a couple of cans of Coke, you get full. So how to developers get around this to ensure you don’t get full of their game?

Variety is the obvious one I can think of. Different ways to play through, such as different classes each offering a unique experience. Difficulty settings, these change up the game by offering a new level of challenge and getting you to think differently about how you play. Randomness of course, the purest of the lot. Why would you stop playing a game when you will basically never have the same two playthroughs? And you have open world games, that afford you so many options that you can pick one of many pathways through the game, again, changing it up.

These features may occur alone, together, or all at the same time. That would be an open-world, randomly generated class-based game with a selection of difficulties. I can’t think of one off the top of my head, but I’m sure there is one out there. The point is, they are all there so you can continue to enjoy the game.

But that brings it back to the root of replayability. The game needs to be fun. If you don’t enjoy it, you might not even get through the first can. Let alone a second.

As for remakes of old games, I feel like they provide the opportunity to relive old games with a fresh coat of paint, rather than offer a whole new experience. Otherwise, they offer people who never played the original version a chance to play the game on modern machines, which I adore. In truth, the only time I get remakes is if I have never played the base game that is being remastered, or if my copy of the base game is lost and not found. I do recall the Halo: Combat Evolved remaster had an awesome feature where you could switch between new, remastered graphics and the classic graphics on the fly, a feature I wish more remasters could employ.

But that is just me, I would love to know what you think. What games do you enjoy playing through again and again? And what do you think helps the replayability of games? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and if you enjoyed this post, give it a like, and maybe read it again, granted it will be the same post, no random generation here. Until next time, stay beautiful 🙂

Immersion: The tale of experiencing a video game

Have you ever been so immersed in a game that you feel as though you are the character you are playing as? As in, you feel as though you are in the world you are exploring, and not just at a computer. Have you ever felt so invested in a game that as events unfold in the game, you have emotional, and/or physical responses, as if you are experiencing it directly?

Immersion is a powerful force and as I have matured as a gamer (and in life) it is a force that I have stumbled onto, and which has shifted the way I play through and enjoy games.

As I mentioned, this feeling of truly experiencing a video game and the ability to transport myself into the game I are playing is something I have developed. I have no recollection of this as a child, and I’m not entirely sure when it started. But suddenly playing games such as Pokémon, I really feel like I am on an adventure to learn and catch ‘em all (and have fun, that never changes), and not just in it to win the game as I used to be.

I have been inspired to write about this because I recently bought and played through The Witness. First of all, the game is brilliant. Everything about it is simple, but executed perfectly, cleverly, and creatively, and I love it. The reason it inspired me is that from the get go through to the end of the game, I felt fully immersed and in awe of the world around me.

You start alone, stranded on this beautiful island, and I felt like I was there. When I turned my head and looked around in the game, I felt as though I was physically doing that, and experiencing the world around me. I felt inclined to explore, and discover all the secrets and features hidden throughout. There is no dialogue or cutscenes, the whole game is witnessed (pun intended) through your eyes. In effect, the world tells the story, and it was up to me to interpret it.

I didn’t feel like I was playing a game, I felt like I was experiencing it.

This experience that is The Witness was far more rich and deep than anything I have played before it. As I moved from area to area, my mood and feeling changed with it. From the joy of being in an autumn forest one minute, to the curiosity of going through a dark cave the next. Exploring the world was immensely satisfying, and the puzzles were so inventive and smart I could spend hours doing either and it would be a joy. Plus who can’t appreciate no load times.

While this is a perfect example, it isn’t the only game where it feels more like an experience than a game (which is a good thing). Horror games such as Slender and Outcast put you in some of the scariest environments possible, and I scare easily, so that was more of a “pissing-myself-in-fear” experience rather than exhilarating as some of my friends find them. Also Half-life and Portal both do a great job at immersing you in the story and the world, and make experiences such as firefights and flying through portals that much more visceral and heart-racing. These are just a few example, there are many, many more but I won’t name them here.

Surely this is what a lot developers strive for in their games. All the time and imagination that goes into crafting a world for you, the gamer, to explore and play in is designed to immerse you, and make you feel for it. Without a doubt, some games achieve this better than others, and when it’s executed well as in The Witness, the result is magical.

But I am just one person, I would love to hear from you. What games do you really connect with? And how is the experience different from other games? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and if you enjoyed this post, be sure to give it a like. Until next time, stay beautiful 🙂