Tagged: of 2015

Of 2015: My Year According to Xbox

 

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It remains a real head-scratcher as to how Microsoft let the sweet Ivory soap of victory pop out of their hands in the terrifying prison shower that is the Console Video Game Race. As they nearly had it back in their grasp Sony couldn’t help but stick out a foot and they’ve been careening around the grimy tile floor ever since.

I was a real Xbox fan last generation and everything had to be played on the 360. I was even a supporter of their wild ambitions for an always-on Xbox future. Even after they backpedaled I still picked up an Xbox One and was perfectly happy with it through 2014. Suddenly, though, it was PlayStation 4 that was home to the exclusives I cared about and from there it was just as slippery a ride as Microsoft’s to have Sony back in my good graces.

So when the Xbox PR machine sent me a 2015 recap I wondered what could even be on it. The full report is much longer with comparisons between me, my friends and the Xbox community but I think this sampling sums it up: I haven’t been super hot on Xbox since 2014. In fact, the game I spent the most time with was Earth Defense Force 2025, an Xbox 360 release from 2014 which is, sadly, not Xbox One backward compatible.

Given how few games I played on Xbox One I was surprised and mystified to see I racked up 423 hours on Xbox Live. I thought it was a glitch but then I finally found the culprit; Netflix. Either watching or idling while we cooked dinner, I managed to let that app run for 290 hours, more time than all the games I played on the console combined. The most active day — March 8th — reminded me that way back then I was playing through Sniper Elite 3 and using all of the Xbox One’s features. I was editing clips, posting comments and actively “Liking” my friends activities. I even Skyped with Kinect a few times.

But that’s about the time I got a PlayStation 4 in anticipation of Metal Gear Solid V and I’ve been mostly absent from Xbox One since. That explains why my most “High Value” Achievements are from 2013’s Grand Theft Auto V and 2014’s Peggle 2.

I’m not fanboying over here, I really do like Microsoft and the Xbox One. Hell, I even still like Kinect and miss its voice commands now that my Netflix watching happens on the PS4. Whenever another Xbox exclusive comes along that I’m determined to play I’ll be firing it up again… and waiting for eternal Dashboard updates to be installed.

Of 2015: The GameLuv Report

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Good ol’ GameLuv. It isn’t real popular and it’s not a super fancy website but we’ll have been kickin’ it here for ten years as of Fall 2016. The site has definitely been more popular in years past but that success seems to have moved over to my YouTube channel as everyone seems more interested in watching rather than reading. Part of that is my own fault. I only managed 91 posts for 2015, a record low since 2012. I didn’t even keep up with making a post for every video I uploaded, it just felt spammy but I probably should’ve done it anyways. I also started writing for Original Sound Version.com in 2015 which redirected a lot of my energy and effort. Most of that stuff wouldn’t have made it here but I could also have whipped up a quick recap of what was going on in the game music scene.

Some new WordPress stats this year have narrowed down my most popular day and time to Wednesdays at 8 am so I’ll be sure to schedule more posts around that time and see what happens. In other categories our top referrer was, naturally, Google followed by all the other search engines. Some of the search terms that brought people to the site were:

  • luv game
  • ebay wii dance
  • sony3
  • archeage abalone location
  • x-men living starship
  • kpop dance festival wii
  • “stalk n roll” jingle bells

It’s good to see people still tracking us down for that K-Pop dance game on the Wii and ArcheAge tips. That last one — “stalk n roll” jingle bells — leads to one of our earliest posts from December 10th, 2006 where I shared some video game music with a holiday theme. Most of the links are broken now but it’s great to know at least 3 people found our site by that very specific search.

Our global demographic was, of course, dominated by the U.S. — write what ya know, as they say — but we had several hundred visitors from Brazil, the UK, Australia, France, Canada and most other major European countries. I’ll have to keep that in mind and share some of the more interesting news I find from developers in other countries or promotions going on outside of North America.

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Popular pages continued to be the homepage which I take to mean a few thousand people come directly to GameLuv in a year. If you’re one of them, hi! Thanks for stopping by. Of 7,542 views that GameLuv got in 2015, 2,735 of them were to the homepage. No telling how many of those are just me, though, looking for old articles to link back to. Once again our top posts were about K-Pop Dance Festival (567 views), Karaoke @ DAM on the Xbox One (321 views) and Dana’s evergreen recap of The Ocean Hunter (242 views).

It’s good that people are still finding our content but I would love to see more of my posts from 2015 higher on the list. My update on Karaoke @ DAM was in the top five with 208 views but the rest of 2015’s posts drop considerably. My hands-on with Tori Watch and my decryption of the fictional language in Submerged were the next most viewed. Nevertheless, this isn’t about hits and ad revenue (though those are nice conciliatory bonuses), I’m still writing here because that’s how I love to express myself and the things that I find interesting.

Overall, not a noteworthy year for the site but I still appreciate everyone who stumbled upon us in 2015. Hopefully we’ll turn up again for you in 2016 for odd dance games, old video game music, indie games, pixelart, or some other weird, cool thing even I haven’t found yet.

Happy New Year everyone and thanks for visiting GameLuv!

Of 2015: My Top Five Games

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Just as I was mellow on proclaiming bad games, so to am I chill on my favorite ones. Maybe with age my emotional reactions have settled or maybe my brain doesn’t catalog “Best” and “Worst” like it used to. There’s just one new pile in the middle of my mind palace labeled “Good” and everything falls near it. If that is what my brain looks like then these are the five games sitting closest to the top of the pile.

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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PlayStation 4)
Duh! Anyone who caught anything I said about games this year should’ve seen this one coming. While I have decided that Peace Walker is a more authentic Metal Gear game, Phantom Pain takes most of its gameplay concepts and blows them out to bewildering proportions. Building up Mother Base, developing hundreds of items and stealing everything and everyone in sight with Fulton balloons remained immensely satisfying. Kicking around the open world could’ve used more variety after the first 100 hours but I was still there at 200 hours replaying missions and finding new things to do. Then there’s the soundtrack which was one of my favorites of the year, the harrowing one-on-one FOB infiltrations and even the class-based multiplayer mode that I spent a dozen hours with.

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Spelunker World / Minna de Spelunker Z (PlayStation 4)
Duh again! This game was the major reason I wanted a PlayStation 4 to begin with and it has not disappointed! I’ve loaded it up almost every single day since April, I’ve been through all the levels on the Japanese version and I’m doing it again now that it’s available in English. The music is infectious and catchy, the gameplay is daunting like platformers used to be, and the slow progression is satisfying to surmount. Playing the Japanese version alone, despite my evangelizing for friends to join, also added to the mystery about how things work and what does what. I really can’t explain my fascination with this game any further.

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Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair (PlayStation 4)
EDF 4.1 was an absolute shameful joy to experience the first time through. Why shameful? It’s really just a remix of 2014’s EDF 2025, but the minor changes and improvements kept making me grin. Things like new NPC dialog, a spider robot and light sourced explosions mean nothing to you. To me they stack up like layers of icing on a cake I already loved to eat. We also bought a second PS4 so Katy and I could play online together just like we did with EDF 2025. Where boring couples play World of Warcraft together, we destroy giant insects and protect the citizens together.

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Fallout 4 (PlayStation 4)
Nothing could have prepared me for the shock of wondering if I even enjoy playing Fallout 4. I was super excited when Bethesda finally showed off the game’s features at E3 but digging into it myself… *crickets*. Having logged hundreds of hours with Fallout 3 and Skyrim within the last four years, I may not have had nearly enough time to rekindle the excitement.

As I continued to play and explore I finally found my enjoyment in the richly detailed world and encounters. The interactions with NPCs still fall flat but the writing and delivery are better than ever. It’s not every quest but several of them have tugged at my heartstrings, in concept if not execution. The settlement system, the crafting and base building are all fun to interact with even if they seem pointless at times. I’m nowhere near finished with the game so it’s hard to guess how I’ll feel when I’m done. It may sound mostly negative in this post but it makes the list because the impressive, endearing and fun stuff has, so far, outweighed the repetitive and flat moments.

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Rocket League (PlayStation 4)
It’s been well established here on GameLuv that I am not a fan of multiplayer or sports games. I’m not competitive and I’m not driven to win. Rocket League took that ethos and threw it right out the window. For two months it was practically all I played. From spastically chasing the ball to sternly playing my role, from free-for-aller to team player, I got deep down into it and it was a little scary. I didn’t join a clan or anything but I was motivated and frequently shaking from performance anxiety and narrow saves alike. Oh yeah, it’s got a fantastic soundtrack too and it was the first PlayStation game I ever got a Platinum trophy in!

Of 2015: The Bummers

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It’s not that there were games I didn’t care for in 2015, there were loads of those. It’s just that nothing I played downright offended me or made me exclaim “oh, this sucks”. I’m getting very chill-zen in my old age and — guys — just, everything is fine. Someone out there likes every single thing that’s ever existed and who am I to put that down by calling it bad?

So instead of doing my usual Bottom 5 I’m just going to call this list my Bummers of 2015 and highlight a few games that surprised me with disappointment and events that were pretty disheartening.

Indie Cannon Fodder
Independent games are great. Small teams innovating on game design is never a bad thing and seeing these games get to launch on consoles used to be a big deal. But for every Rocket League and Octodad there are dozens (maybe hundreds) of games that are unceremoniously shoved onto consoles simply to pad out a release calendar. In the race to prove which console has the most games the hard work of indie teams has been ground into the lubricant that keeps the gears turning.

There used to be better curation over which games were released and more of a chance to be highlighted on the storefront. Back then I complained that more games needed to be released on consoles each week but today it’s the same problem in opposite proportions. So many games get pushed through the turnstiles that you can barely keep the names straight. How many of just this small handful of titles did you check out in 2015: Clash, Minutes, Canvaleon, Magnetic: Cage Closed, One Upon Light, Blocky Bot, Clusterpuck 99, Super Toy Cars, Tachyon Project, Color Guardians, Rally Copters, Pixel Slime U.

The most heartbreaking part is hearing console owners deride these offerings as “indie trash”. Sony and Microsoft have routinely offered indie games as “freebies” for their paying members and they’ve finally damaged the entire independent game scene for it. I don’t know how you fix it but I really hope there’s more levelheaded treatment of indie games on consoles in 2016.

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Gotcha Racing (Nintendo 3DS)
I wanted to love Gotcha Racing’s simple (and visually striking) top-down racing as a pure ‘n simple arcade throwback. I knew it was going to be grindy with random gashapon capsules doling out upgrades. What I didn’t expect were entry fees or that I’d be repeatedly re-racing the first 2 or 3 courses in each championship to get enough cash to try the next hardest race over again. The AI performs to perfection making my fun drifts and cunning tactics a punishment instead of an incentive. After a few weeks of going broke and getting the same car parts over and over from the capsule machine I just burned out and have been sitting trackside ever since.

Introspective, Non-Combat, First-Person Puzzler/Platformer
Ether One
on Xbox One is the game that tipped the scales in 2015 but this sub-genre has been earning my disdain for some years. Just a few that spring to mind are Ether One, Pneuma, The Old City Leviathan, SOMA, Quantum Conundrum, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and Magrunner. Trapped alone in a sci-fi hellscape while audio recordings and inner monologues slowly reveal the dystopian storyline is no longer my Thing. There are, and will be, exceptions (Pneuma actually does seem pretty clever) but I’m not giving any entry the blanket pass I used to. You other hopeful games can all thank Ether One for that.

Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash (Nintendo 3DS)
Every time they announce something new for Chibi-Robo I get excited. The original GameCube title was really fascinating and supremely bizarre but ever since it’s been one ham-fisted gimmick after another. Chibi-Robo: Photo Finder was my top, Bottom game of 2014 and Zip Lash is ready to accept the award for 2015. Instead of doing anything original like the previous entries, Zip Lash is a plodding platformer in which Chibi-Robo whips his electric plug “tail” around to attack and solve puzzles. Add one part Yoshi’s Island to equal parts Castlevania and it’s like someone let that proverbial pot boil until all that’s left is a boring, bland morsel of a game.

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The Day the PlayStation Mobile Died
Yes, it was home to dirty knock-offs, cheap Flappy Bird clones and questionable apps from China. And yes, I goofed on the broken English descriptions a lot but, dammit, I loved the Wild West of the PlayStation Mobile marketplace and am sad to see it deleted. Amid the junk were some genuinely interesting games and you could watch fledgling developers cut their teeth and hone their skills across months of releases. It gave me Oh Deer!, Rymdkapsel and Tokyo Jungle Mobile. It introduced me to the Quiet Please Anthology and Stephen Allen, just one of the thousands of people around the world making games for the fun of it.

It’s not terribly different than the iOS or Android app stores and it’s almost exactly the same dynamic as Nintendo’s eShop. Steam, too, is an untamed expanse of odd offerings but something about PlayStation Mobile felt more personal to me. Maybe because I was one of the only people talking about it. At any rate, it’s closure means the loss of hundreds of games and apps which is an even bigger bummer I’ll expand upon below.

Bloodborne (PlayStation 4)
I feel like Michael Corleone in reverse. “Just when I thought I was finally going to get into a “Souls” style game, they push me back out.” I love what the games do — the punishing challenge, the mystery of it all — and I love Bloodborne’s Steamgross style even more but I never sync up with these games. I bought a PlayStation 4 for this and within 2 weeks I’d traded Bloodborne in. It just wasn’t my moment to finally fall in love with these games, even though I really thought it was going to happen this time.

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More Delisted Games
There are games you don’t like. There are games I don’t like. But we can all agree that every game should be available to play no matter how well it sold, right? I don’t keep a running total but more games were pulled from Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Steam and even retail shelves in 2015 and it’s pretty sad. The entire PlayStation Mobile marketplace was deleted and Nintendo exclusives were lost with the closure of Club Nintendo. Sure, it takes money to keep the lights on, I just wish it didn’t mean so many games got ghosted. The only way to play, study or examine these games now is to crack consoles and copyrights.

Like the indie games problem, I don’t have a good solution that doesn’t involve hacking servers and dumping ROMs. The best I’ve come up with is my Delisted series where the least I can do is exhibit a recording of some of these games for posterity.

Of 2015: The Most Played Games

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Big surprise, all the games I like a lot are the ones I spent the most time with. This category is always just for the love of data and keeping track of some figures. Given how obsessed I was over Metal Gear Solid V it’s no surprise I sank 206 hours into its open world of opportunities, repeatable missions, and gargantuan research/upgrade trees. This is the part where it exceeds its predecessor, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, with a more varied and satisfying loop of strategy and resource gathering.

Far behind Metal Gear is Fallout 4 leading the rest of the pack at 82 hours. For the first 20 hours I wasn’t even sure I liked it but I slowly remembered what Bethesda’s open world games are like and found a comfortable groove of exploration and scavenging. Giving the junk that litters the world of Fallout a purpose was a devilish and ingenious innovation. Adding a base building/interior decorating mode was downright uncalled for. Needless to say, I’m still hooked and it’ll probably be another 50 hours at the least before I’ve seen the main storyline through.

I’ve traditionally kept this category reserved to games released in the last year so I’ll just make a quick mention of two pre-2015 games. I put in the majority of my 89 hours with Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker back in January. Long enough before The Phantom Pain that I wasn’t burned out and recently enough to have a unique perspective on the changes between the two. It’s still my favorite Metal Gear after MGS3. Early in 2015 we also went back to Earth Defense Force 2025 and put in another 50 hours working on higher difficulty levels.

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That makes it especially funny to admit that Katy and I only played the latest Earth Defense Force 4.1 for 47 hours in 2015. Granted, it was just released in December but technically I played more of the older entry than the new one. That’s not to say it isn’t better in every way. There’s remixed missions, improved performance and appreciable tweaks to the gameplay for all 4 classes. There’s more of what we love in 4.1 and it’s more approachable and enjoyable than ever before.

Spelunker World is a tough one to call. There’s no timer built into the game and I’ve replayed levels countless times so just finishing the available stages isn’t a good gauge. While I loaded it up almost every single day I didn’t always play a ton after grabbing the daily login bonus. I roughly estimated that if I played the game for five minutes a day from when I first got it I’d be somewhere around 22 hours. I know I spent some days playing stages repeatedly and others trying to decipher the tooltips in the Japanese version. So I’m gonna call this just shy of 50 hours after all’s said and done. It’s super great you guys, let’s keep playing it all through 2016 as well!

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Last of the top five is Massive Chalice. After 31 hours I’d spent 300 years in the game’s storyline, gruelingly trying to craft a lineage of ancestors and successors that would be strong enough to cleanse the encroaching Cadence. There were times when I thought for sure I’d be starting it all over but I managed to dial in the game’s pacing and strategy and wound up with one amazing lineage. It only lasted me about twenty days but it was a fun, harrowing lesson in Applied Genealogy.