Gameplay vs Storyline

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A video game may be judged based on many aspects of it, for instance, presentation, level design, sound effects, gameplay, and storyline are some of them. I particularly prefer games with great gameplay and storyline. I have been always thinking which one is more important to video game greatness. A particular video game I played last year, which holds one of the best storylines of all time, makes me consider the gameplay far more important to gamers. The video game I played was The Walking Dead: Season One from Telltale Games. In terms of storyline, there’s no doubt TWD: Season One is an amazing game. However, it’s not enough to make the game a masterpiece. That gameplay based on point-and-click games from the 90’s doesn’t make the game interesting as it story does. The gameplay is slow, and even broken at times. I played that game more interested in the storyline set pieces contained in the cut scenes than in the actual game. Controlling the main character, which is an amazing video game character, was boring when needed.

After coming back to the Resident Evil series, I remembered playing one of my favorite games of all time: Resident Evil 4. RE 4 is one of the best and funniest third-person shooters of all time. Such an amazing gameplay Capcom has managed to create on that game. I am still wondering how a game can be as fun as RE 4. The controls are fast and responsive, and the shooting mechanics are just wonderful. However, RE 4 holds one of the worst storylines in video game history. It doesn’t make any sense at all. The main character is in charge of rescuing the USA President’s daughter in a small village in Spain. If it had actually happened in real life, it could be the third Great War against Spain. Human beings have done worst in the first two wars for less than that. Even though, I played RE 4 several years ago, I felt like that game storyline was unappealing and laughable at times. But, the plot itself makes room for moments of enjoyment. At the end of the day, the storyline was forgettable, but the gameplay was incredible in a way that I was always coming for more RE 4 (and still want to play the remastered version coming out to PS4 at the end of 2016).

Comparing RE 4 to TWD: Season One is a tough task, but I am comfortable enough to affirm that RE 4 is far better that TWD: Season One. One game is great on the storyline department and the other one has an incredible gameplay. But, as I write, I wish I were playing RE 4. The bad storyline does not make the game any bad to me, while TWD: Season One isn’t one of my favorite games of all time. It’s a good game, nothing beyond that. A real masterpiece such as The Last of Us is able to mix a great gameplay and an amazing storyline altogether. But, such a few games can match that achievement. Out of my mind, I think maybe Bioshock could be considered close to TLoU in terms of matching a great story and gameplay. To sum up, a great gameplay is keen for a great game, and a well-written story is important as well, but not enough to make a game a masterpiece. RE 4 is closer to be considered a masterpiece than TWD: Season One does.

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Resident Evil (the Main Series) Needs Depth Changes

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Resident Evil 6 is not a good game. Period. I was a fan enough to torture myself during the 20 chapters of that game. I think I did it because RE 6 is one of the few games that still allow couch co-op. It is a feature 8th console generation is missing out. So, what are the bad things about RE 6? First, the shooting mechanics are not well done. It’s not fun shooting and killing enemies in RE 6. Capcom realized it and improved it a lot in Resident Evil Revelations 2. Second, the storyline is fun at 2 or 3 chapters in Leon’s campaign, but in the rest of the game is painful, even laughable sometimes. Even a masterpiece like Resident Evil 4 does not have an amazing story, but that game is pretty fun overall, unfortunately there’s no much fun in RE 6.  Third and most important is how developers tried to throw a lot of mechanics in that game expecting they would work just fine. I’ll tell you they don’t work. I can’t remember a game with as many quick time events as RE 6. But, what annoys me the most is where the game uses QTEs. Pretty much every section of the game implements a bunch of QTEs. Some of the most mundane activities like starting a motorcycle engine are implemented using QTEs.

One classic section of almost every game is the boss fight. RE 6 has by far the worst boss fights I have faced in my gaming life. When you defeated a boss, you feel accomplished for that, and wish you didn’t have to do that again. I appreciate when a game has many bosses’ encounters; it’s just fine. However, RE 6 has the same bosses coming back from time to time. In Leon’s campaign, we faced the same boss in three chapters in a row. The problem was that every boss in each main chapter: Leon, Chris and Jake, has come back at least twice. At the end of Jake’s campaign (the last main campaign we played), when the boss came back again we were laughing out loud the situation. RE 6 is not a smart game either. A well-developed game as The Last of Us doesn’t change the camera view to show an event happening in other portion of the screen. Smart games require a press button, generally L3 or R3 to change the camera view and show the event that is happening somewhere else. Don’t be surprised RE 6 just changes the camera view while a dozen zombies are attacking you.

That being said, I really hope RE 7 will be more similar to the Revelations series than the main Resident Evil series. I think the series need a level design similar to the classic Resident Evil 4, but keeping the amazing shooting mechanics they developed to Revelations 2. Resident Evil is one of my favorite franchises of all time, and I really want to see Capcom turning things around.

A Game Killed an Opinion

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Don’t hate me, but I didn’t like JRPGs. I remember when I was a kid and I got a game called Final Fantasy 7. What I can say about that game, I really dislike it. Okay, I was a kid and didn’t speak English yet. I think understanding the game’s storyline and plot in a RPG is especially important. Unfortunately, a few games come out in my first language, so most of my friends don’t even play those games because they don’t speak English. Besides the language itself, I found Final Fantasy 7 boring as hell. I was a kid, so my opinion doesn’t count. Crash Bandicoot was my thing at that time. I grew up on gaming pretty much excluding any JRPGs from my library. I think the only JRPG I played was Pokemon Leaf Green and Fire Red.

However, a couple months ago I bought a PS Vita and loved it a lot. I still use my Vita mostly for playing indie games, but reading reviews about the best Vita games pretty much every reviewer was recommending Persona 4 Golden. So, I decided give it a try. The first day I played Persona, I got to play it for only 2 hours and have to admit I didn’t like it. When I went to bed that day, I was really regretting my purchase. Just to clarify, the first 2 hours were just a bunch of conversations setting up the tone to the rest of the game. It was the same feeling I had when I played Final Fantasy 7 several years ago. The only difference was probably that I could understand the language they were speaking on the game.

Even though I didn’t like the first two hours, I gave it a second change later. The second time playing the game was totally different from the first time. I started getting into the storyline. The first combat was just amazing; a catchy music was playing while I beat some shadows. The characters were becoming special to me, I felt very attached to the plot and to the world itself. I played Persona 4 Golden for around 100 hours. It’s already one of my favorite games of all time. What I learned from this experience is that we cannot judge a game based on previous experiences. I was missing out an exceptional genre, and totally want to come back and play other JRPGs such as Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Final Fantasy X.

Being in a Podcast was Awesome!

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Today I’m going to write about something totally different from my usual blog posts. I wanna share with you guys an awesome experience I had a few weeks ago. I was interviewed in a podcast. For those who are not familiar, Real Life English is a website/platform engaged to spread the English language to anyone who is interested in learning. Beyond the website/platform, they have a monthly podcast talking about several subjects related to the English language. They do a pretty consisted job that inspires thousands of people around the world in learning English. I’m not kidding, thousand of people listen to each episode, and other thousand access their website looking for content in English. The hosts and founders of the platform, Justin Murray and Chad Fishwick are two amazing English teachers. What I admire the most about Real Life English and these two dudes is the passion they have about teaching other folks. I have lived in the USA enough time to realize not everyone is willing to help you learning their language. I don’t understand why some Americans decline in helping other mates. I feel so good when I met people trying to learn my first language. I have helped some folks learning Portuguese in the USA in some Portuguese meetings they hold at Indiana University every Friday evening.

When I was struggling learning English, I used to listen to podcasts about the language itself. Nowadays, I found it boring as hell. Real Life English is the only english-related podcast that I still listen. I listen to some podcasts yet, but most of them are related to Playstation and Comedy. What differentiate Real Life English from the other podcasts is that they are not concerned with the language itself. They talk about pretty much about any other subject they feel like chatting. On the episode featuring me (#112 available on Itunes), they asked for some advices for English learners. One of the most important advices that I can give someone learning any language is to try living in that language. We can do that with some small attitudes like changing the cell phone language, watching movies in the target language with subtitles at the beginning and without subtitles when you reach a certain level, and basically listen to the target language everyday. It’s not a big deal when you got access to the Internet. Podcasts are my favorites source of listening content.

However, my biggest advice and the most effective in learning any language is more difficult to attain: acquiring relationships in that language. I cannot measure how much English I myself have learned from my friends. It’s not about the language anymore when you got a strong relationship. I skype my friends in the USA, of course we chat in English, and I’m not concerned with what I’m going to learn with them, but I really care what is going on in their lives. I got a girlfriend when I lived in the USA that we only speak English. I can’t speak Mandarin and she cannot speak Portuguese. I became fluent in English because of these relationships. Going to any English class was not as effective as playing games with my roommates or going out with my ex. I have the advantage of living abroad that not everyone has access. However, it is not so difficult finding people to chat in English in websites as Real Life English or any other platforms of your choice. Real Life English is just an example, there are websites related to any language you are learning (busuu and gospeaky are both great). We have the privilege to live in an era that is so easy get to know amazing people all over the world.

Privacy on Facebook: Customizing Friends List

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I’m very happy that I manage to write about technology for the very first time in this blog. I could not be happier as long as I just graduated in Information Systems/Computer Science. A kind of sandwich between my country (Brazil) and the USA (Indiana University). We Internet users should agree that privacy on social networks such as Facebook and Instagram are a big deal nowadays. It is just amazing how many people use those social networks for communicating, spreading new ideas, keeping in touch with friends, and several other things. Facebook is the highlight of this new era. As September 2015, Facebook has more than 1 billion users worldwide. One out of every six person in this world has a Facebook account that they actually use at least monthly. Problems with privacy and consequently sociability may be an issue interacting with other people online. I myself have suffered privacy/social problems in social networks. Facebook developers have tried to improve Facebook’s privacy implementing several features to help their members. The problem is that a small group of people are actually able to configure these features. It’s not really the users lack of computer skills, but it is actually the fact most people don’t know they have these features available.

One of the most important Facebook features is probably the friends list customization. I have done a research where we found the 13 privacy strategies applied in other research projects to maximize user’s’ privacy in social networks. One of the strategies was actually “Create Customized list of friends”. This is a tricky feature as long as not every social network is able to implement it and it is not so evident in the interface by any means. For instance, Instagram which was my main target on that research project, does not allow users to create customized list of followers. If you think about it for a second, this feature seems pretty cool and useful. Either on Instagram or Facebook, you are more likely to split your contacts in groups. Being able to separate them in friends/family, friends/co-workers, friends/acquaintances, for example. Again, I myself wish I had known this feature earlier in my social network life. What Facebook offers is cool for two reasons: (1) we can limitate the access from a specific group of people in your profile and (2) a specific group can show less or none information in your timeline. The way I have applied this feature is by splitting my Facebook “friends” in two groups: (1) Friends, which have no limitation of access on my profile and can show information on my timeline and (2) acquaintances, which show less frequently on my timeline and my posts show less on theirs as well. Facebook has implemented by default 3 customized lists: Close Friends, Acquaintances and Restricted. You are not limited to these 3 lists; you can create any lists you want to. A brief explanation of each default list of friends below:

  • Close friends: User will get notification whenever the friends in this list post something. Facebook’s algorithm will also try to put these people high on the timeline posts list. If you don’t know that, Facebook has an algorithm to choose the more suitable posts for you based on a lot of different aspects of your profile. So, these posts appear first at the timeline than others. The notification feature can also be turned off as you want.
  • Acquaintances: Users on this list will appear less frequently on your timeline. They will also get less information about you on their timeline.
  • Restricted: People in this group will be able to see only public information about you. The only difference between them and people who you are not friends on Facebook is that you and them are actually “friends”, but they cannot see anything besides public information.

You should be asking, how can you use this feature. It’s very easy and straightforward:

  • Scroll down to Friends on the left side of your News Feed:

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  • Hover over Friends and click More:

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  • A new screen will pop up showing all Friends list Facebook has already created for you based on the places you’ve lived, colleges you’ve studied, and the three default lists (Close Friends, Acquaintances and Restricted). In case you have marked any family member on your profile; a new list called Family will be created as well:

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  • To add a friend on that list, you just need to click on it:

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It’s important to note that your friends will not be notified if they have been included in any list. This post is based on Facebook’s Help Center (https://www.facebook.com/help/204604196335128/). Thanks for reading. I hope it helps.

Some Tendencies Need to Die (Part II)

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Let’s continue our discussion of tendencies that should no longer exist in the video game world. This one is probably my big concern, but I’ve decided to write about it in the second part. What is very annoying about this one is that it actually has a lot of potential. When companies know how to use it, it offers to players such an amazing experience. I’m talking about DLC. A DLC can really enhance the gaming experience. We’ve gotten some pretty good stuff recently. I can tell The Last of Us: Left Behind and Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea are great games. Besides these kind of DLC most known as story DLC are pretty great for almost every game they were released. We can call it relevant DLC, even though the price is questionable for a bunch of them. Other relevant DLC’s come from games such as GTA V Online and Mario Kart 8. GTA V not even charge players for the heists content online, while Mario Kart 8 included new courses for a cheap price. I remembered when I was a kid how much I would enjoy having new courses in Mario Kart 64. DLC is amazing in that way, developers are able to expand their games offering new content for a fair price.

However, not every company is doing DLC right like Rockstar and Nintendo. Most of the video game developers are doing pretty bad actually. I’m very pissed with Season Passes. I think they can be relevant as long as the companies offer good content that could not be included in the game at release. The problem is that clearly developers are leaving behind content they could include in the game at launch for making more money selling Season Passes. Do they think charge 60 bucks for a game is not enough? Almost every AAA company is using this strategy nowadays. Most of the content is just cosmetic DLC. A new weapon color, a different costume, a new stage, so on and so forth.

The biggest problem is that many players support DLC. If it weren’t profitable, companies would no longer do it. We players should spend our money only in essential DLC, not cosmetic DLC by any means. This tendency needs to be used in the right way. DLC is cool as long as companies use it to expand the game and enhance gamer’s enjoyment. The industry will change only when players start not to support the unnecessary content.

Buy or Not to Buy a Playstation Vita

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The PlayStation Vita is an amazing piece of technology. Vita graphical capabilities cannot be compared to any device ever made. Sorry Nintendo, but Sony really knows how to make an amazing hardware, even though I do think in terms of software they are not so great. However, Sony has failed to become Vita’s popular. Besides for Japan, where Sony and every PlayStation product is incredibly popular, Vita has been a failure everywhere else in the world. According to Sony, they sold only 10 million PS Vita worldwide, which is already the least famous PlayStation console ever created. I have absolutely no regrets about buying my PS Vita a couple months ago. Sony has almost successfully implemented a common environment for all PlayStation devices (PS3, PS4, PS Vita and PS TV). However, I’m always wondering why Vita is a failure in terms of sales. I decided to point it out what I do and don’t like about my Vita. The bad things first:

What I dislike on the Vita:

  • Ports are not well done on the Vita: Well, it was kind of expected, but some of the ports seem unplayable. I’m looking for you Jak and Dexter Collection. Some of the games are playable, like God of War Collection and Borderlands 2, but they don’t keep the same quality at all. Frame rate drops a lot of sometimes, but still fun if you enjoyed these games on the PS3.
  • The memory card is very expensive: I don’t need to talk about it. It is the worst thing on the Vita by far. Sony could not use proprietary memory cards by any means. SD memory cards are so cheap and well stablished on the market. Vita’s memory card, which could be a simply SD, are very expensive. It was a huge mistake for Sony, if they want to continue on the handhelds market, which I wish they will, they cannot keep proprietary memory cards. However, I got surprised the games that you buy physically, which I do prefer instead of digital, do not install on the memory card. I’m still very upset with these last two generations (7th and 8th – PS3 and PS4), because in most cases they install the entire game on the hard disk even though you’ve bought the physical game. There’s no difference between going digital or physical in this case. It is really annoying.
  • No AAA games at all: Sony have kind of gave up on the Vita. The system was labeled a legacy device by one of their executives a couple months ago. They will not make AAA games for the Vita, and it annoys me is so many ways. Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Gravity Rush look amazing on the Vita, and they should keep trying to give us quality games.

What I really like on the Vita:

  • Remote Play: It works almost perfectly on the PS4. There are a couple games that even implemented a Vita interface for playing their games such as Destiny and Far Cry 4. Playing PS4 games on the bed far away from the console is an amazing experience.
  • Indie games run perfectly: If you are like me and don’t like to play Indie games in a big screen, the Vita is your perfect choice for playing those games. Indie games are just perfect for the Vita, the 8-bit quality runs amazing on Vita’s screen. I strongly recommend playing games such as Guacamelee, Shovel Knight, Rogue Legacy and Hotline Miami on the Vita.
  • Vita has an amazing library: Besides the already amazing Indie games, Vita has a lot of good games. Persona 4 Golden, Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Gravity Rush are great games. Otherwise, some ports work just fine on the Vita like Final Fantasy X.

So, if you are thinking about getting a Vita, I think overall it worth your money. Sony has made some questionable decisions with the Vita. But, I still think the console is amazing. One of the most underrated gaming consoles of all time.