Saturday, March 8, 2014

Byte Sized Thoughts - Nintendo Fitness

Nintendo's been making a lot of noise in the gaming news lately. CEO Satoru Iwata recently announced he was taking a pay cut thanks to poor sales of the Wii U console. Following the negative news the company has made a point in trying to move in a more positive direction. One thing in particular has caught my attention and I can't stop thinking about what it could mean. They've come out in saying that they will be shifting focus to health and fitness products in the future.

Nintendo took the world by storm with the Wii and it's motion controls that to a small degree got people up and moving a bit more while playing their games.  Shortly after they released Wii Fit which was an even more impressive offering for exercise and gaming combined. They have continued the trend with the 3DS's built in step counter, and even more recently the Wii Fit U.  There's been one fundamental problem with each of these endeavors though; they're all, kind of, gimmicky.

Now, that's not to say that they aren't fun, I had more fun playing Wii Fit with my friends than a lot of other games on the console at that time. And it did get us moving more. Was it really exercise though? I don't think so, yet, that's where the company says they want to focus on moving forward. What does this mean? What could they possibly have planned. Well, here's my thought, a bit of a stretch for sure but one that I think could be really interesting.

A Nintendo branded treadmill or stationary bike. I've seen posts on reddit about gamers who have set up their gaming consoles in front of their treadmills so that they can walk (exercise) and still play games. It's an idea that, if I had more space to do it myself, would love to implement. In particular, I feel that open world games, and more specifically open world RPGs, could benefit greatly from the extra immersion that walking while playing could provide. If Nintendo is really serious about getting gamers off the couch and moving more, this seems like a pretty logical step for them. Now, let's just forget any issues regarding price right now and think of what the possibilities could be.

Nintendo has a great track record of making durable hardware, I still have a 1989 Gameboy laying around that with a fresh set of batteries runs like no time has passed at all. If Nintendo were to make any sort of true exercise equipment, it's safe to say that it would be able to withstand the forces placed upon it. All they'd need to do is strap some traditional controls onto the handle grips, ABXY, D-Pad, analog sticks and so on and they're one step closer to combining exercise with games. Taking it further, they could implement the movement of the belt into the game as movement forward, adding an extra layer of immersion.

Now, I understand that there are plenty of issues with this idea. Cost would be a huge one, people aren't going to want to spend a few hundred dollars on an oversized game controller. Space, like I mentioned earlier, could be a big turn off for some if they have a smaller apartment and just nowhere to put a full sized piece of exercise equipment. And there are many more issues with this idea but beyond the standard gamer in their living room their living room is a whole market that could be better explored with this concept.

Physical therapy across the world could see a huge benefit from a device like this. I'm sure they already exist, but imagine the Nintendo charm and magic to go along with it. We could see Mario helping injured children and adults both overcoming injury and adversity, rooting them on until they are able to walk again.

But again, these are just some thoughts, it's hard to say where things can go from here. Nintendo has a record of pulling some crazy things out of their sleeves. Thanks.

Be sure to check me out on YouTube at Glitch Faced Gamer

Saturday, March 1, 2014

What is Glitch Faced Gaming?

Reality Grounded has moved. It will become the place for all my writings and musings that do not fit in any other particular place.

This site is now completely Glitch Faced Gaming. All video game writing all the time.

I will start actually putting up more posts. I've been writing a lot lately but have just kept everything saved separately waiting until I had a good little back catalog of stuff to start posting. This is my first step towards something interesting.

Be sure to check me out on YouTube at Glitch Faced Gamer

Byte Sized Thoughts - The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

A Link Between Worlds sees Nintendo taking their green capped hero to new dimensions. The past couple of titles in the Legend of Zelda series have felt particularly bland but the latest title in the series has been given a fresh paint job and I have never been happier. In the latest game, we see our hero starting off in what has become quite the usual way, sleeping in bed while nefarious goings on are happening in the far reaches of his world. He is soon awakened and shortly after finds himself amidst a journey to save the world from an evil force. There are only so many ways to retell the same sort of scenario over and over again afterall but it’s really in the execution that it matters.

The past few titles in the series Nintendo hadn’t gone out of the way much to refining the game, but as the old colloquialism goes “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” You can’t really fault Nintendo for this either, the games still sold hand over fist and even at their worst the games were still an enjoyable experience. With A Link Between Worlds, however, Nintendo really seems to have taken a step back from the series to re-evaluate what works and what doesn’t, snipping away at any trivial components that ultimately would not add to the experience of the game. The result is a boiled down Zelda game in it’s purest form.

Zelda games have always been about a few things in particular: exploration of the particular world you find yourself in, along the way gathering items and abilities that will aid in your quest, and of course the quest itself to save the princess and/or world. Story wise, this game doesn’t deviate much from previous titles, Hyrule is in trouble and Link must find a way to save the day. It’s in the exploration, items, and even the world itself that has been altered to better eschew Zelda into a new era. Previous titles would have Link travelling from dungeon to dungeon in a generally set order. You could easily have found yourself in a dungeon at some point unable to progress because you lack a certain item that must be obtained elsewhere. Or maybe you totally have everything you need, but halfway through the map you run out arrows or bombs and find yourself backtracking trying to farm more from some pots or grass.

In A Link Between Worlds these issues are no more. Without giving too much away, quite early into the game Link finds himself aided by a hooded stranger with every item needed to complete the game. It may sound strange being offered all the goodies up front but there’s a really interesting twist to the way that it’s designed. You have either the option of renting items for a small amount of rupees, agreeing forfeiture upon death at any point in the game. Or, you can save up for a bit and outright purchase any item you want. Either way is a completely valid option for completing the game in any order you please. The second refinement to items is in how inventory is handled, gone are the days of going out searching for bombs should you run out; or having to upgrade the bomb pouch just to carry more around in effort to not run out as frequently. Instead, you are given a replenishing item bar that acts as your inventory as well as your magic. You shoot an arrow or use a magic wand and a small amount of the bar is drained but then quickly refills. This creates gameplay that feels more quickly paced and in turn creates less panic when in the midst of a battle and you realize you only have two arrows left. If it were just for these two mechanics, the game would already be leaps beyond anything that has come from the franchise as of late but Nintendo didn’t just stop there.

Because of the way items are now obtained in the game, dungeons that once were filled with a treasure that would inevitably be some deus ex machina needed to complete it are now filled with, well, actual treasure. The same dungeon map and compass treasures are still found within each new area you must explore but aside from that, any treasure you find is either going to be rupees (which feel they actually have value now, thanks to the item shop) or a rare item not truly needed to complete the game but can prove to be quite helpful. One such rare item is Master Ore, which when enough has been collected allow Link to upgrade his sword to more powerful levels. Along the way, you can stumble upon other such treasures in the dungeons as well as some nifty items outside, that again aren’t required for completing the game but can add some extra fun. Outside of these revisions, the game retains the same basic gameplay concepts of hacking and slashing your way through the world. You run around defeating bosses and unlocking your potential as hero of the world. You continue along the way until you are finally ready to take on the final baddy thus saving the day.

But like any Zelda game the world is beautiful and lively, with many not so little nods to the Hyrule of A Link to the Past in particular; it is the same Hyrule after all. The dungeons feel fresh thanks to the three dimensional aspect of the game creating more opportunity for the game to move vertically with more ease. The graphics, while not the greatest around are still charmful and vibrant, and again with many nods to games from earlier in the series. One thing that really stood out to me was the music though. Some of the music in this game was just downright beautiful, while other songs were jovial and festive, all of them a perfect fit within the series.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, I would say was the best game to come out of 2013 and to boot is a great look into where Nintendo might be developing future titles as well. One must think that if they had come this far for one of their handheld titles that surely the next game in the home console lineup must surely be full of surprises. I hope that they have truly found the magic again that makes this series one that will continue to stand the test of time.

Be sure to check me out on YouTube at Glitch Faced Gamer