Thursday, August 29, 2013

Guest Opinion: What's a Famitsu 40 really worth?

For many many years, before MetaCritic was ever a thing, Famitsu scores were the gold standard of game ratings. The Japanese magazine, which started print in 1986, had a stringent review system, which was notoriously picky in handing out perfect scores. It took five years of weekly publication before they even handed out a near-perfect, and it would be another seven before a game finally got the coveted title. 

But things have changed. Perfect scores are now doled out at a rate which makes Famitsu seem like cheap punchline, a group of fanboys who are easily bought by huge corporations willing to dump piles of cash on decidedly imperfect games. Still, I grew up with mythos of the perfect score, and I wanted to learn more about how and when that all changed. To that end, I've taken a look at the list of perfect scores over at Wikipedia, and crunched some numbers. While I can't say I can make any conclusions, the data was interesting, and I thought I'd share it.

(Note that contrary to many people's belief, Famitsu scores are not actually a cumulative value. The scores are actually given by a group of four reviewers, like old GameFan magazines. So when a "perfect score" is given, what it actually means is their four reviewers agreed the game was a 10. That means a 39 is nothing to scoff at, three reviewers gave it a 10 and the other thought it was near perfect)

No perfect scores were awarded in the first decade of publication. Five were given out in their second decade. Fourteen have been awarded in the past seven and half years. Perfect inflation really took off in 2008, when they awared three perfect scores (to Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Metal Gear Solid 4, and Chunsoft's Japan-only Wii visual novel 428). The following year they awarded another four. To put that in perspective: in those two years, they awarded more perfects than their 22 year history up to this point. Inflation of near-perfect 39's also began around this time.

Of the 19 perfects awarded, 2 are for third gen (PS1, N64), 3 are for fourth gen (PS2, GC, DC), and 10 are for fifth gen (PS3, 360, Wii). Portable games (NDS, PSP, 3DS) took 6 of the awards. The most perfects go to Nintendo systems, scoring 11 perfects over 5 different systems. Sony systems is a runner up with 8 perfects, and Microsoft has 3 (two of the games are multiplatform and were counted both under Sony and Microsoft. The remaining perfect went to 1999's Soulcalibur on Dreamcast. The Wii and PS3 are currently tied with 5 perfects each.

The first perfect went to Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It's predecessor, A Link to the Past, had received the magazine's first 39. Every core Zelda game since  Ocarina (Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword) has received a perfect score.

While a big deal has been made about Skyrim being the first western developed perfect in 2011, there are a lot of western 39's as well, starting with 2008's Grand Theft Auto IV. Eight western games have been given a 39 so far, including two Call of Duties and a Gears of War.

No Final Fantasy game received a 39 or 40 until FFX received a 39 in 2001. Since then, FFXII, FFXIII, FFXIII-2, and FFType-0 have all received some distinction.

Leo Tao was raised in the wild by video games. He can be found spouting about games, art, Toronto politics, and good times on twitter at @chaicube

Harold's comments:  Fascinating facts.  I actually don't have much to add, outside of pointing out at the scoring system: Leo is right in that the Famitsu score is done by a combination of 4 reviewers, each with a 10 point scale, but one thing to note is that the mix of reviewers are meant to be random and not guaranteed to be unbiased for or against the game/genre.  You may also take note that this scoring system is the exact one used Game Dev Stories, which took quite a bit of inspiration from how Famitsu operates.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Game Over! Retry? Podcast: Episode 17 - Shoehorn Multiplayer!

I kick off another segment by casting a wide net over "multiplayer games"...

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We’re once again joined by Jason Wilson, who shares his thoughts on the implementation of multiplayer modes in single player-focused games. Harold tells us about his educational trip to the Ontario Science Centre, Jon reminisces about how he used to be good at Virtua Fighter 2, and we talk about player perspective in multiplayer campaigns, how drop-in-drop-out multiplayer affects solo experiences, and separating multiplayer experiences from single player experiences.
Work’s been busy this week, so apologies for the lateness of this podcast, and also apologies for not listing all the games referenced this week. We’ll be back on track next week…hopefully.
Just a note for listeners in Southern Ontario who'd like to check out the GameOn 2.0 exhibit, it ends September 2nd, and I highly recommend it.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

On My Mind: The Game Designer bubble?

So during the season premier of Breaking Bad, this commercial showed up.

I had to do a double take.  Wait, was I suppose to be a wizard?  Swipe code on a touch screen? Make 3D cars pop out from thin air?  Is this what people think game designers and game developers do?

Sure, let's ignore the fact that it's a fantastical treatment of what "a game designer" do, just the idea that an aspiring game designer is trying to go to school with this magical tablet/laptop is just as absurd.  For every main stem of game development (design, program, art, sound), that type of tablet is pretty much the most useless device: it'll lack the storage and horsepower to do anything important, but push towards the gimmick of selling you a device they're trying to sell. (Yes, I'm aware that it's an ad, but follow along)

Then there's this series of ads from Samsung:

In this series of ads for the Galaxy devices, you see a "game studio" and the people in it interacting with each other and highlight the divide between the people who get technology and who doesn't.  Sure, I get the point of it selling a device, but the caricature of all the "developers" are just so rage inducing.  Pretentious, hipster, douchebag.  If I ever meet one of these people in real life, I would have punched them all in the face.  Sadly, this is the caricature that's being presented to the world: game developers are hip, savvy people that you all need to follow, because they know what they're doing, and you should follow their lead.


What I'm highlighting is a question: is the "game development" role as viewed by the outside world completely skewed?  It's the "in" thing now, and everyone wants to cash in, and it feels kind of scary how much cashing in is going on, and whether that bubble will burst.  And this is most noticable within the "education" sector.

As an example, on my way home at a subway stop, I saw this:

...wait, another school promising "game design" in Toronto?  At last check searching for game design schools in Toronto yields close to more than half a dozen: UOIT, Humber, Seneca, Centennial, George Brown, RCC, Trios, and now this.  (Sidenote: I'll leave the criticism of the actual programs out of this for now, but I think it's fair to say that some of them are somewhat questionable) I'm all for democratizing game development, but how many jobs are there really in this industry, and is the supply side over saturating the demand?  Remember, these potential graduates are also competing with artists and programmers from other degrees for similar starting positions.  So are these schools and degrees potentially training people for a "trade" that doesn't exist, leaving only broken dreams?

Remember to tighten up the graphics on level 3!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Game Over! Retry? Podcast: Episode 16 - Licensed to Sell

This week, on the still unnamed segment, we explore the world of creating a game based on an existing license, and take MANY tangents to the conversation.

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A Design Exercise takes a wild tangent as we and our guest Michael Surya make an attempt to discuss a Pacific Rim video game. We jump from quick opinions about Dishonored and Bioshock Infinite to terrible segues involving basketball games. We ended up diving into a broader conversation about designing a game for an existing license. We recall how it’s done well (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), and what happens when external pressures come into play (James Bond: Bloodstone). We also discuss game licenses that are targeted toward specific generations, and the pressure of and purpose of developing licensed games. 
We get distracted by bathroom breaks, Mikey plays Guacamelee, and Harold checks on his town in Animal Crossing. It’s business as usual on Game Over! Retry?
Jon's covered everything pretty well... so download, send feedback, etc.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Game Over! Retry? Podcast: Episode 15 - Not Enough Coffee

...needs more coffee

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In this segment of Rolling Start, we make crazy attempts to generate concepts for a game that combines aspects of Rhythm, Deck Building, Melee, and Platforming. You decide one of those things didn’t belong. Listen to this week’s Game Over! Retry? to find out which one! 
Despite Harold’s brand new Coffee Shop in Animal Crossing, we end up expending all of our energy in this segment of Rolling Start. This week’s Dice Roll produced the following traits and platform: 

  • Rhythm  

  • Deck Building 

  • Melee 

  • Platforming 

  • Mobile/Smart device 
We ran down the way each trait might interact with the others. We determined that Rhythm and Deck Building were very different components, as Rhythm is about timing and reaction time, and Deck Building is about careful planning and decision making. They work different parts of the brain. We eventually made our way to a card-based deck building game where players could construct melodies and chords based on cards with music notes on them. It’s more interesting than it sounds, at least, to me. By the end of the podcast though, we simmered down to a near whisper, partially because I think we were both tired, and we ran out of steam. So, apologies. 
Enjoy the show, and rock on.
I was really stretched in terms of mashing the ideas together, so yeah.  Sorry about that (trying to come up with the ideas on the fly never sounds right). Download, send feedback, etc. Have a good week!