Why, with visually superior releases, are so many gamers dropping cash on and playing retro games? Are classic games making a magnificent return, or have they been there, epically pixilated and accumulating worth in a vintage games store, all along?
The modern video game scene is, from an industry perspective, plump and healthy (let's just ignore recent micro-blemishes). There's a game out there for everyone. You want to be a goat and lay waste to suburbia? Take it by the horns. Want to sit back, relax, and duel your buddies in an online CCG? It's a few shiny card packs away. Maybe you just want to plant bombs and cap those pesky counter-terrorists. I could write a bible's-worth listing different genres and deviant games, but the point is we are spoilt for choice, whether you are a twelve-year-old with an oscillating voice or Jabba the Hutt seething B.O. in your parents' basement.CLICK HERE FOR A FREE SAMPLE OF REIZE ENERGY DRINK – FUEL YOUR GAMING WITH OPTIMAL BOOST
So why this indomitable wave of classic games? (I will be using "retro games", "classic games", and "vintage games" fairly interchangeably.)
Retro Games Are Simpler
Complexity isn't always a good thing. Sometimes having forty-nine quests billowing out of your journal is a hindrance. Sometimes being able to pick up a controller, jump up and down and bust open crates and consume questionably psychedelic mushrooms is all you need.
People game for different reasons, many of which are influenced by the amount of time one can sink into gaming. Classic games are the working-human's (see what I did there?) dream. Rather than coming home from eight-hours of brown-nosing and having to negotiate a treacherous mountain pass while managing your inventory and contemplating the socio-political disrupt in an entirely fictitious but heinously in-depth world, the working-human may want to simply chew ghosts as a gliding yellow maw.
Classic games are easy to pick up and play. There doesn't need to be an epic, evolving lore. There doesn't need to be seventeen different buttons, each with an alternate version if held in combination with another. Nor does there need to be an online update that always happens to coincide with those precious few hours your partner is off exercising or socialising (both an absolute waste of time, I can assure you). Like in the world of literature, less is more. And retro games are definitely less.
Retro Games Are Harder
Just because a vintage game is simple, doesn't mean it's inherently easy. Often a classic game is easy to pick up and play and gain enjoyment from, but difficult to master. This appeals to modern gamers, who feel that nowaday's games do a little too much hand-holding. Having to go through tutorials can be tedious and boring. Following a waypoint and letting your monitor blur into the foreground causes you to miss the intricate details a developer has suffered to include. It's sometimes better to let the player make mistakes as they learn the controls and navigate the world.
Many vintage games have an entirely different style to modern as well, in that they are all about setting new high-scores, rather than "cheesing" your way to each checkpoint, and building, sluggishly, toward one final and emotionally-detached cutscene. High-scores and endless waves of enemies add to that perceived difficulty. You are always under the thumb, floundering faster until you perish in a hail of shame and fury-infused perspiration. And that's fun.
Retro Games Are Everywhere
Accessibility has something to do with the retro trend. There will always be hardcore vintage game collectors who will shed the blood of a nation to acquire a sacred (original) cartridge, although this needn't be the toil of the common gamer. Technology brings vintage games into the modern age, and it does so through a variety of mediums, relatively cheaply.
Retro Games Emulation
Emulating a game from an older platform to a newer platform is no revolutionary thing. But it is important to address just how accessible it is for anyone with a computer or phone. You can jump online, find a console (platform) and a game (as a ROM) on a ROM website, and then install it on your PC or smartphone or whatever via an appropriate emulation program. It's easy, it's free, but is by no means "plug and play".
Retro Games Platform In Your Pocket
Aside from the games you may emulate on your smartphone (yourself), there are official versions of many classic games available for both iPhone and Android. They don't always feature the smoothest controls but I have had a whole bunch of fun playing games like Secret of Mana and the original DOOM on my phone while overseas and what not. You have to take it for what it's worth, and realise that this isn't the ideal way to play the game, however.
Plug And Play Classic Games
Now, this is kind of what inspired me to write this article. I recently got my grubby little hands on a SNES Classic Mini (unwilling to share what I paid to get it, nor the vile undertakings I undertook to get that money), and so far I have had so much fun with the thing, particularly battling aliens side-by-side with my GF in Contra 3: The Alien Wars.
The SNES Classic Mini is a "plug and play" console with twenty-one classic SNES games built into it. You can't insert cartridges into the slot or anything, so it is limited in that aspect, but having twenty-one games bundled in, ready to go is an easy way to secure that much-needed nostalgic hit. It's great to see Nintendo thinking about its retro fans while they're busy with their modern consoles like the Switch.
Of course, there are other "plug and play", revisioned, remastered, miniature consoles like this, and many more to come. They, to me, are the perfect way to experience retro gaming. No hassle or stress, aside from getting your desperate, craving claws on one.
Vintage Games At Every Turn
Maybe I just didn't notice them as a kid, but I seem to stumble into a vintage games store everywhere I go. It's like an antique shop for nerds. Obviously the more vintage games stores around, the greater the chance you have of picking up vintage games, assuming you want to sell your house and live in a box with a CRT TV running off a push-bike generator.
Age Of Gaming And Gamers And Non-Gamers Views Of Gamers
When does a video game become retro? Well, that depends, but it's probably something around twenty years. This golden number (that I have in no way estimated or fabricated — trust in my infallible wisdom) provides enough time for a game to sink beneath the surface of the antique realm. What I am working towards is video gaming is now old enough to have classics, which is certainly a factor contributing toward the current retro boom.
As well as gaming itself ageing, so too have gamers. The dudes and dudettes that played the original consoles are now relapsing. They crave button-mashing with junky-like intensity. And they now have money to spend.
On top of this, the video game industry is — slowly and torturously — becoming recognised as a real industry in which there is actual professional skill and money involved. People were so quick to shun gamers when they themselves sit brainwashed by the idiot-box for hours, days. Now video games are (almost) right up there films and other mediums of entertainment. Being a nerd is finally cool!
Good business recognises trends and capitalizes on them. There is no shame in doing so. Many modern game developers reimagine that old-school style in their games. There are so many games nowadays intentionally pixelated or stylised to appear like vintage games. Like being a nerd — and crocs and bucket-hats — this is cool.
A fantastic example of a modern take on a classic style is Studio MDHR's Cuphead. It's also nothing short of impossible to complete. Bite your nails and tear your hair out over this one, retro gamers.
The TV show ushers in the old-school upon a contemporary carpet, and so too does BonusXP Inc.'s Stranger Things: The Game. On top of being a fantastic little compliment to and promotion for the series, it is also free-to-play on mobile devices, making it available to pretty much every kid handed a smartphone at nine-years-old, or earlier.
Falling vertically rather than traversing left to right is enough to provide Moppin's Downwell a competitive edge. This platformer is available on most platforms, employing classic pixel graphics to produce a challenging yet enjoyable experience. It really nails that fusion of retro and modern. Like Hannah Montana, you get the best of both worlds.
I Think They Have Been There All Alone
I think we understand now why gamers are callousing their thumbs playing retro games, but how about the question of classic games being "there all along"?
It is really hard to properly "kill" a game. Someone's always got a copy laying around, a developer's build stashed on a drive somewhere. So, of course, classic games have been there the whole time. They are now just resurfacing and even dictating the future of the gaming industry.
The ideal circumstance — taking the above three games as evidence of existing success — is developers taking the best features of classic games and melding them with modern technology to produce the games our grandkids will call timeless and retro while they're whipping over solar-streets on hoverboards and uploading their innocent minds passively and unwillingly to the cloud.
Writen by Nick Petrou
Video games are a form of art, only the uneducated would deny the fact. And like other art mediums, the gaming industry has spat out countless masterful and timeless creations. But what about a video game makes it timeless? What beyond palpitating gameplay and so-close-to-photoreal graphics lures gamers to a second or fourteenth playthrough? I have narrowed it down to three main aspects, and they all, conspiratorially, begin with the letter "S" — storytelling, soundtrack, and style.
Ingredients For A Classic
I believe a well-balanced combination of storytelling, soundtrack, and style, on top of sufficiently fluid gameplay, is all that's required. Of course, a game's success hinges upon effective marketing, developer and player relationships, and a range of other, non-art-related factors. But here I focus on creative form. Nail the storytelling, soundtrack, and/or style, and players will melt in their seat and forget about the decaying world outside their window.
That's a bit vague though. To understand why the three S' are so vital, you'll first have to consider that squishy, watery, electric thing between your ears.
Tricking The Brain
It is all about perception. Sensory organs absorb the physical and chemical environment for the brain to processes and interpret. The world around you is real because you have been convinced or have convinced yourself of it. So what if someone or something came along and shook your reality, woke you up to some new way of thinking or belief? This happens all the time in our human lives but on much more minor — or extreme — scales.
My point? Without our inherent ability to be convinced, fictitious works could not exist. As a creator — be it of books, films, games, paintings, comics, anything — you want your audience to enter and perceive the world you have so delicately crafted. You strive to produce an illusion and convince — if for but a fleeting moment — their brains think that it is real.
You needn't spend a billion dollars on photoreal graphics or virtual reality to achieve such immersion (in fact, I am making a point to overlook technology in this article), you merely require a combination of S'.
What were they again?
Now, this is a broad subject in itself. Probably the most important too. Good storytelling is all about showing rather than telling (ironically), syphoning empathy and evoking emotion, and generally investing the audience. Notice that I say "storytelling" and not "story". This is intentional. You could have a great story stowed away in your mind, with unexpected teenage heroes, hidden Illuminati triangles, and feline astronauts, but if you cannot communicate that story in an engaging way, your audience will never feel as excited about it as you do. Storytelling is how you express your story.
You could get by with just fantastic storytelling. But then you would have a book and not a video game.
The difference between books, films, and video games is the degree of interactivity. Games with great storytelling are those that capitalise on this. Nobody wants to sit there and watch a half-hour cutscene. They came make decisions and suffer the consequences of those decisions; gain something resembling a first-hand experience, stresses and glories included; or bust incendiary rounds into peaceful aliens.
Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain was decent for what it was. But the entire game can be summed up with "pressing X to Shaun". Heavy Rain leans more toward being a film than a game. It doesn't capitalise on the degree of interactivity that separates video games from other storytelling mediums.
In short, the player needs control, and if there are going to be interactive cutscenes, they need to transition smoothly from real-time gameplay. Or better, there are no cutscenes, and you experience the events of the game whilst in control of your avatar. That way, if you physically escape the maw of death with nothing more than your wits and keyboard/mouse dexterity, it feels tense and exhilarating. Remember, the game should attempt to convince your brain. You sweat and shudder in the heat of a digital battle because your brain interprets external stressors and triggers a physical response.
Linguistic Narration, Or The Lack Of
A book would be but bound paper without linguistic narration, whereas films and games have an arsenal of visual and audial elements to substitute or compensate the narration of a story.
Some games rely on obvious and well-acted narration. For instance, Supergiant Games' Bastion. The narrator verbalises your actions in third-person, and he is an NPC within the game, "The Stranger". The narration is well-timed and unobtrusive, and the voice actor's tone and accent complement the setting masterfully.
Others tell great stories without any linguistic narration. The best example I can think of is Thatgamecompany's Journey. You waken to a world of shimmering, windswept dunes as some robed, near-featureless being. It is up to you to interpret the story through what you see and the emotions evoked via an incredible soundtrack (we will get to music soon). There is no deity looming above you filling you in on history or the meaning of your ascent.
I don't think there is an all-inclusive rule with narration other than avoiding boring exposition dumps.
You need context in any story. But that doesn't mean you need someone to sit there and read aloud the entire history of a fictitious world before you can create and name ("yourmum420") your character. The who, what, where, when, why can be interwoven into a story in a natural and simply non-boring manner.
A great example is of finely filtered exposition is From Software's Bloodborne. This hauntingly beautiful RPG offers fragments of an underlying story with poetic dialogue; paper fragments and item descriptions (which you need read only if you so desire); and subtle hints in the environments, characters, and enemies you encounter between each grim death. This game shows you the story. No one holds your hand and tells you if you are dreaming or not.
In-depth worldbuilding can streamline exposition. If you understand the happenings of the world you have created, you might understand how the characters within that world feel about them, and thus express exposition in a natural manner through natural dialogue. It is really obvious when this is done poorly.
The depth of fictional lore in the Witcher series is phenomenal. The main characters are called into action because of the events transpiring in that world, and hence shape that world with their actions. These become, of course, your actions, as you slay beasts and sorceresses alike, and engage in political and interdimensional struggles. When you play a Witcher game, it feels real, as though you have possessed a living being in a breathing world with near as much attention to detail as our own. NPC's exhibit depth and genuine character, creatures are always unique and well-suited to their environments, towns and establishments have exclusive architecture and reflect the colours of their occupants—— I could go on.
Often invented worlds are interesting purely because of the effort a writer has gone too to create and justify it. Although this doesn't mean that stories set in our world (past, present, or future) with perhaps some dramatic twist aren't equally as enthralling. Sometimes its the people within them that are the most intriguing.
I, like most, love a good character. We know humans. And we know that they are rarely one-dimensional, intergalactic forces of evil that seek solely the destruction of matter. Humans — and so far we have only that species from which to draw character — are complicated, dynamic beings. We have proud moments of light and friendship, and shameful moments in darkness, alone. We act logically one minute and then completely irrationally the next. Of course, stories have not the time (words) to delve fully into this incredibly complex series of peaks and troughs called life. But they can focus on pivotal events and compress the complexity into meaningful and relatable character arcs.
In Naughty Dog's The Last Of Us, you play mostly as the incredibly survival-prone Joel, with a headstrong Ellie by your side. Suffering from the loss of his own daughter, Joel struggles to empathise with Ellie at the start of the game. However, by the end, he will literally forsake humankind to grant her a life battling terrifying zombies and cannibals. We, as the player, empathise with Joel and Ellie's relationship and feel comfortable justifying Joel's heinous actions because we have following him on his character-arc-journey. Joel is human and we attach so dearly to him because of it; if he was a heartless bullet-sponge, we simply wouldn't care and The Last Of Us would be just a decent third-person survival shooter.
A character responds to the trials embedded in a story, developing, for better or worse, as they do. Often such trials can be simmered down to reflect an underlying theme, something that we as the audience can determine and relate to.
Now you don't need to experience a moral epiphany every time you read a book, watch a film, or a play a game. But some of the best stories are those that leave you with something to ponder afterwards.
Using The Last Of Us as an example once more, you might consider moral themes such as our tendency toward violent, primitive recession in absence of authority; how enduring strange or dangerous situations sculps the strongest relationships; or even the extreme, irrational lengths we will go to to protect ourselves or the ones we love. We watch Joel and Ellie wrestle with the associated trials of such themes, and contrast their reactions with how we think we would have acted.
Another great example is Oddworld Inhabitants' Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee. While someone else might suggest it is about vile practices in the meat production industry, I would say that the theme of Abe's Oddysee is racial (or species) oppression — taken to an extreme in the form of slavery — and the toil against it. However, I didn't ponder that in my first playthrough, as a child mind you, and it wasn't required to enjoy this classic.
You can extract themes from stories as intently you wish, and will always emphasise themes you found personal value in. When it comes down to it, game writers have likely done the same thing, honing on particular themes and underpinning values as they went along.
Soundtracks make or break games as they do in films. It comes back to good storytelling.
Music evokes emotion and can be produced and timed to complement and reinforce storytelling. A great soundtrack follows the peaks and troughs of a story. When the story dives into a depressive trough, music is the catalyst that causes you to shed a tear. When building toward a joyous peak, music is the friend behind you urging the climb.
All of the games I have mentioned so far have brilliant soundtracks. My Spotify account reinforces that. But one which stood out to me above the rest was that of Supergiant Games' Transistor. Composed by Darren Korb (the same legend who composed Bastion's soundtrack), the musical score for Transistor tells the game's story on its own. It is a blend of jazz and electric, which emphasises the disparity between Red, the protagonist and a human, and the Process, the cold, cryptic swarm of robots assimilating her world. Transistor's dreamy visual style is charming whilst also haunting all on its own. Bolstered by the musical score, it is truly a sensory indulgence.
While Transistor's soundtrack clings tightly to the events of the relatively linear game, other soundtracks act as themes for particular environments and activities. A great example of this is Bethesda Game Studio's The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. The music is essentially ambient. It changes when engaging in combat, levelling up, entering a dungeon, waking from a heavy night in the Bannered Mare, or casting max-level destruction spells on non-conformist spriggans in the woodlands of the Rift.
With all that said, sometimes the best soundtracks are merely catchy and iconic, complementing enjoyable gameplay all but absent of story. Think about simple games like Galaga or even Robot Unicorn Attack.
Now, style comes somewhere close to meaning graphics. But not exactly. Like I mentioned at the start of this article, it's not all about the biggest budget and best technology. A game can reach a timeless style with no more than pixel art. A lot of gamers aren't looking for a second life. They merely wish to liquify the stresses of a hard day with some bright colours and brainless button mashing.
I do find that if a developer strives for stylised visuals, their game passes the test of time naturally. They were never trying to be photoreal, so it never really has that tacky look to it.
What better example of timeless style than the recently released Cuphead, developed by Studio MDHR?
When a game tries for photorealism, it probably looks decent upon release. But several years later, when the technology has surpassed it and other games within the genre have been released, its age begins to show.
For instance, when id Software's DOOM 3 came out, I was blown away by the visuals, lighting in particular. And although it is probably the worst game in the DOOM franchise, I went back to play it just recently. It had not aged well (eluding the BFG edition entirely). Now, the classic DOOM games are far, far inferior in terms of graphics, but that pixelated style continues to appeal. I forget quickly that I am playing such a basic shooter, with graphics falling dismally short of photoreal, and sink into a mental realm similar to that of reading a well-written book. My imagination smooths those rough edges.
All the aforementioned games are mostly single player experiences, in that their identities do not rely on online multiplayer. Online multiplayer games are at a natural disadvantage. Sustaining servers for online gamers takes money and dedication. Although there are plenty of classic games that have dedicated teams still maintaining servers, an online game is always going to be more prone to degradation than a single player game due to the necessity for playerbase.
It's A Bit More Complicated Than Three S'
This is nowhere near a comprehensive guide. And it is of course subjective. There are so many intermingling facets on top of storytelling, soundtrack, and style. The balance of the three S' can vary too. There are plenty of games that get by just fine with merely a wacky, fun visuals, or a unique style. Furthermore, a timeless game to me may reside in the recycling bin of another. And a game I consider trash today may develop a cult following in ten years time. Who knows?
Next time that inevitable wave of nostalgia envelopes you, and you find yourself playing a classic, sit back and ponder what makes it timeless, what aspects draw you in gradual-but-sure like the well of a black hole?
Written by Nick Petrou.
Written by Nick Petrou
Venturing into the periphery of game development myself, I now have little time and energy to spare. Moments glaring at my monitor must be worthwhile. I cannot, for my own health, play video games for five hours after working on the same screen for eight. Well, such was my attitude before Fortnite Battle Royale.
If you haven't seen the sun all year, like me, then you likely have heard of battle royale games. I know that Daybreak Game Company's H1Z1 may have been the first of the genre, but let us not elude that it was made popular by Bluehole Studio's PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds. For ReasonsUnkown, the hype never swayed me. I had a friend offer to purchase me PUBG as a gift, but still, I refused to worsen my carpal tunnel and give it a go. I cannot pinpoint the reasoning behind my lack of enthusiasm for it.
Then, through a grey and cynical cloud struck a potent beam of light. My eyes beheld a cartoon world of wacky physics and afternoon skies better than those in the waking world. I played Epic Games' Fortnite Battle Royale on my PC, and in the very first minute, I realised what this game had that the former did not. Fortnite does not try for photorealism. It is highly stylised, and if I have learnt anything from gaming, it's that games with a unique style age like a fine wine. It hooked me immediately.
But what kept me playing after that initial hook? And what will keep me coming back?
Popular For A Reason
There are reasons why the battle royale genre is so dominant (just have a look at Twitch). Primarily, I believe it's because it is outright fun. Although Fortnite Battle Royale is my icebreaker, I know eerie advances over open ground and sweaty firefights are a genre standard. Fortnite can be tense and overwhelming, but simultaneously hilarious. When I die (which is unhealthily often), I ponder immediately how I could have done better, but also how ridiculous my demise was. With each death, I find myself grinning madly.
The engagements themselves test your skill and wit both. You may be a gun with a mouse and keyboard, but if you have no game sense or cannot out-think your opponents, you may find yourself stuck. Technically, you can win without firing a bullet, so it is about picking your battles, and sometimes patience. I won't go into strategy too much here (because mine is a literal reliance on pure luck), but it is its necessity that separates the battle royale genre.
I think the accessibility attracts gamers to the genre too. There isn't really any cumulative character progression in Fortnite Battle Royale — outside of leaderboards, statistics, and the recently added cosmetic customisation — and I believe this adds to, rather than subtracts from the game. In an RPG, your character gains strength via statistics tied to a level system and acquires new armour and weapons and such. But in Fortnite, you go into each match with nothing and leave with nothing. It is a balanced fight for survival, not a grind, which means that you can hop in, play a game or two, enjoy the hell out of yourself, and then move on and finish that essay that's due tomorrow.
One Must First Destroy
The idea of in-game, essentially instantaneous, construction at first concerned me. I thought it would merely confuse and roughen the transition into a new genre and game. I have yet to master Fortnite's construction, but all of those initial concerns cease to exist. Construction makes this game. It is your superpower. Physics outrageously flawed, you can build a bridge over thin air, erect a staircase against the side of a mountain, close yourself off in a little box, or block your buddy's grenade lob and ruin your entire squad.
On the other side of the coin, is destruction. When finished mauling a downed opponent, you can use your pickaxe to mine wood, stone, and metal. These resources come in natural forms throughout the map such as trees and rocks, but also man-made sources such as abandoned homes and vehicles. You can pretty much destroy everything except for the ground on which you walk and the air you breathe.
No cover? Build it. Need a grenade launcher angle? Build it. The best players are the best builders.
Polished Good And Nice
When a game is in early access, you would be a fool to expect perfection. But call me a fool, because I think Fortnite Battle Royale comes scarily close. In the odd month that I've played, I have yet to experience any major lag or FPS issues. The game runs smooth and it looks fantastic. Take note, Rust.
And honestly, less is more with Fortnite; complication would serve only to deter from the aesthetic.
Although less may be more for Fortnite Battle Royale, that doesn't mean the game should allow itself to stagnate. Players are always going to want fresh content. There are a few ways Epic Games could provide exciting new features without compromising its lavish identity, some of which they have addressed already.
Character customisation became a thing during the writing of this article. So far, it is quite limited, but I can imagine it only to diversify. Cosmetics features such as this will always provide an effective reward system too. The existing map/island is nothing short of gorgeous. And although it isn't unmanageably large, it is expansive enough to disorient me and allude mystery. Imagine how epic it would be if we got another map. Icy tundra, barren wasteland, or whatever looney biome they can conjure, I am sure it would enthral. Even the existing map in a different season would be cool. Adding new weapons can't hurt either, as long as they are balanced correctly.
It is also great to see Fortnite Battle Royale on the PlayStation and Xbox stores. Previous to this game, there were no real battle royale options available to console gamers. It just goes to show that the developers are willing to adapt and allow their game to flourish.
I've Got Friends
Our parents and significant others may not agree, but gaming provides us with a convenient and powerful social medium. We can safely tiptoe the line dividing introvert and extrovert. We can stay home, alone, and hang out with our friends concurrently. And all the while, we can be entirely pantless, in the most metaphorical sense of the word.
In saying this, it has been way too long since my friends and I have fallen in love with a game. We want the obsession. We want phone calls at 3:00 am telling us to get on Discord. Fortnite Battle Royale brought all that in on a floating party bus, totally unexpected. In the lobby, we catch up on each other's lives, say kind words about each others' mothers, and chat about other games. Diving into the map, we offer loose strategies and freak out over a rival squad ransacking our precious Retail Row. Then we touch the rolling fields below, and its all compass shout-outs and flanking — a total immersion in the tense happenings of the match. The solo queue is fine, but truly, Fortnite Battle Royale shines in squad play. This game is a friendship adhesive.
Fortnite Battle Royale, unless you want to support the developers and buy some cosmetics, is entirely free (eluding entirely the PVE counterpart to the game, Fortnite Save The World). I don't mind paying for games, but before punching numbers, I always conduct rigorous research. With Fortnite Battle Royale, taking that initial leap is guilt free, and I need not sink hours into forums. I can't imagine Epic Games to regret this strategy. Fortnite would have definitely made my previous free games list.
This Is A Review, Right?
And you are longing for that score. But first, let us summarise.
Fortnite Battle Royale is undeniably beautiful and free, so it has that first impression nailed down. It capitalises on an incredibly popular genre, although it takes the initiative to be unique, rather than coast in PUBG's wake. For an early access—— no, for a game, period, it is deftly polished and absolute. In it, players see a potential for growth, not catastrophe, and in the current gaming climate, this is a rare thing indeed. And, of course, Fortnite is pure joy to experience on your own, but especially with friends. If nobody sees your 360-no-scope someone from across the map, did it really happen?
Fortnite Battle Royale ventures beyond ticking generic quality boxes to provide casual and neckbeard gamers both with an enjoyably competitive experience. Truly, I have not so seamlessly enjoyed a multiplayer game in years. If Fornite remains on its current trajectory, I can imagine my squad and myself to play it for years to come.
It's a solid 9/10 for me, and I feel that the last point is a mere patch away.
Written by Marty Spargo
As a startup founder, you put all your waking hours into your beloved business. It's your baby. So, how much should you pay yourself? When setting your pay, what factors must you consider? Employing a user-friendly salary calculator, how can you model the appearance of different salaries? Below, we introduce our own startup founder salary calculator to clarify the eagerly debated issue of startup founder salary.
You will want to compare many different scenarios as your company evolves. So, I recommend bookmarking this page to find it more easily when you want to come back.
HARD TRUTHS OF THE STARTUP FOUNDER
To the question of "What's the optimum remuneration for a founder's blood, sweat, and tears?", any budding founder will likely answer "As much as possible". Startup founders work harder than almost anyone, it's true. But is it appropriate to extract as much money as possible from your business? It is time to acknowledge some hard truths.
THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
An alternative mindset to that stereotypical of the corporate world is necessary. In that environment, salaries are perceived as an "every man for himself, take as much as you can" free-for-all. Things are different when you own a piece of the company.
THE LONG GAME
It is important to understand that you are in it for the long game as a founder. Your goal is to build long-term value and be rewarded on a medium to long-term horizon. This occurs through the increasing value of your equity.
THE DRY SPELL
In the very early stages of a startup business, unless you've been fortunate enough to raise capital at the idea stage, taking any salary is almost always out of the question. Taking little to no salary ensures that your company has as much capital as possible. In such times, it may feel like you are receiving very little pay. And you are. But remember, in addition to any cash that you take in salary, you are also "getting paid" via a constantly increasing equity value. That's if you're growing your business, of course. Even though it will take a lot longer to liquidate that equity into spendable cash, and even though your wallet feels empty, you are still doing far better than you would have yourself believe.
THE BIG QUESTION
As your business gains traction and you start to generate revenue, you have an interesting decision to make: Should you continue to forfeit your founder salary, or should you start paying yourself a wage? Enter the salary calculator. You can use its power to assist you in figuring an optimal answer. Although to understand it, you need to have some knowledge of the unit economics of your business. This means that you need to have a grasp of what sort of returns you get from money spent on advertising to acquire customers. If your business is at the point where you are generating some revenue, you will already have some idea of what unit economics look like.
WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU?
If you have a good business model that generates high returns from money invested, you will want to continue to invest as much money as you can into further growth. The higher the percentage of the company that you own, the more relevant this is. However, if your business is seeing only mediocre returns, or if you own only a small amount of the overall equity pie, you may be better off angling for the highest possible salary for yourself. To better understand your personal situation, try our salary calculator below.
OUR SALARY CALCULATOR
I want to pay myself this much
We see these revenue returns on our marketing spend
Assumed R.O.I %
It takes this long to see those returns
We are this profitable
Net profit %
The corporate rate in my country
Companies like ours trade on this multiple
Pre-tax revenue multiple
I own this much of the company
How much worse off the company is
Impact it has on the value of your equity
How much you have paid yourself
By paying yourself $0 Per month
The company is $0 Worse off after 1 year
The company is $0 Worse off after 2 years
The company is $0 Worse off after 3 years
The company is $0 Worse off after 4 years
The company is $0 Worse off after 5 years
Your equity will be worth $0 Less after 1 year
Your equity will be worth $0 Less after 2 years
Your equity will be worth $0 Less after 3 years
Your equity will be worth $0 Less after 4 years
Your equity will be worth $0 Less after 5 years
HOW TO USE THE SALARY CALCULATOR
This salary calculator is designed to compare different salary levels and to assess the impact they have on the future value of your business. It's not feasible for certain people to go without any salary at all (we've all gotta' eat!), but it is intended that this calculator is used to compare a modest salary to something a bit "nicer". This way you can see the different impact each of those salary alternatives have on the future value of your equity. Think at the margin when comparing results.
You should note that though this salary calculator is set to dollars by default, all of the inputs are still valid regardless of currency.
You will find the input fields for your personal situation in the top left-hand area of the salary calculator (boxes one to seven).
You should enter the monthly salary you are considering paying yourself in the first box.
The second box of the salary calculator is where you should enter the return on investment your business sees from marketing dollars spent. 100% return on investment, or ROI, means that for every dollar spent you get $2 back. 200% ROI means you get $3 back for every $1 spent. Some people might better know this metric as their LTV/CAC ratio.
Pro tip: You want your ROI to be a positive number!
The third box in our calculator is the length of time in months that it takes your business to see the returns that you expect. Do you get paid a lump sum upfront from each customer or do you see revenue trickle in over many months like most SAAS businesses? Put that number in this box.
You should enter your profit margin percentage in the fourth box. The higher the percentage, the more profitable your business is.
The fifth input for our calculator is the corporate tax rate in your country. Taxes reduce the amount of profit that can be reinvested into the business.
The sixth box of our salary calculator is the profit multiple that you think businesses like yours trade on. This can be difficult to assess for innovative early stage businesses. Although, you can usually point to a comparable business that has come before you as a yardstick. This calculator uses pre-tax net profits for equity valuation purposes.
The seventh and final input field is simply the percentage of the business that you own.
INTERPRETATION OF THE SALARY CALCULATOR
What you likely saw in your results was that the better your business and the more of it that you own, the smaller the salary you should be taking. It seems simple, doesn't it? If your business is growing rapidly and is very profitable, you will get a better return from investing more into the business than you will by taking cash out to spend today.
This salary calculator is also useful for people who are in the opposite situation; i.e. people in mediocre growth businesses who own a small amount of equity. Although you may not care about how much your salary is costing the company (the "hit"), you should certainly care about how much your salary is impacting the value of your equity. The equilibrium point will be different for everyone, but this salary calculator will help you to understand your own situation better.
NEED FURTHER PROOF?
Still not convinced that taking the lowest salary possible to allow yourself basic living expenses is advised? Take a look at what prolific Angel investor, Jason Calacanis has to say about the issue of high salary founders.
You will want to pay yourself the bare minimum that you need to survive when building any kind of successful business. However, this is only until a later stage of growth and funding, when a slightly higher salary (still below market rates) can be justified without putting undue pressure on the business or harming its growth potential.
Paradoxically, if you are part of a failing business, you will want to pay yourself as much as you can. But don't expect that gravy train to last too long!
Written by Nick Petrou
Human beings travel for a variety of purposes. It may be that they perceive the terrain over the hill to be a verdant oasis, and their own hovel basic and stale. It may be that they wish to immerse themselves in a different culture, and thus appreciate how truly diverse their species has become. It may even be that they travel solely for business, with the underlying intention to better their living circumstances back home (grow their business) or acquire the funds to later travel for pleasure. Though, regardless of destination and intent, humans, in this era of existence, are mortal creatures. Travelling Earth's many countries can be an exhausting venture.
But we are privileged. Certain efficiencies in our modern world can make the pursuit of travelling a far less fatiguing endeavour. I speak principally of this enigmatic, seemingly airborne collective intelligence deemed "the internet". Through this elusive medium, those of us who travel the world can share advice for subsequent adventurers - "travel hacks". And thus the practice of "travel blogging" has evolved.
You have quested into a spot of luck, dear reader. For now I will share you with you a number of my own travel hacks, finely blended with those of only the most revered travel bloggers, and travel professionals. You will find that a lot of it is mere logic.
A Dose Of Shut-Eye
Need I stress to you the importance of sleep? This unconscious practice can be applied throughout all phases of your travelling. For instance...
Before you leave to acquire a cheeky bit of trench foot along the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, it's a good idea to rest up sure and good. Acquiring illness becomes easier when you are unrested, and I have found myself particularly prone to it while inhaling the dry, rebreathed gases of an aeroplane's conditioning system.
When returning from the Louvre in Paris, bypass the men and women offering you "friendship bracelets" for exorbitant prices, return to your two-star hostel and collapse headfirst into your lumpy pillow. There is no shame in taking a siesta. For after a solid hour of wrestling foreigners to catch a four-second glimpse at the Mona Lisa, on da Vinci's wizardly beard, you've earnt it.
"Travelling and working can be exhausting at times, so to lift my energy levels I stick to the winning combination of a regular sleep pattern, exercising, eating healthy, staying hydrated, and of course my morning caffeine intake always helps." - Jayne Bray, Slow Travel Co.
"Long term travel is a tiring journey. You may not feel it after the first few days, but after a few weeks you can really burn out. This is where rest days are so important. These are days when you can sleep in, relax by the pool, and focus on planning the next stage of your trip. No buses, no trains, no hikes on rest days!" - Josh Shephard, The Lost Passport
Easy On The Sauce
What better way to see the medieval streets of Prague than with a drunken horde of Australians? The pub crawl was a lordly idea at the time, but now you suffer torturously for it. Your liver yelps at you: "Why doth ye mutilate I?" But you are trying to ignore it because your travelling companion is eager to repeat last night's dark actions. This may be the occasion on which you bend the knee to your well-being.
To a conclusion you may not wish to hear: alcohol is bad for you. In the correct doses, it can be a divine social lubricant, a real kick-start for the ol' brain. But if you have something that you wish to be in knightly health for the next day, it may pay to refrain from excessive consumption.
"Traveling can be disastrous for your daily routines, and for your body's natural rhythm. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, and don't skip meals, no matter how busy you get. And while it might be less fun, it's important go easy on things like caffeine and alcohol that slow you down and make you feel drained." - Theresa Boehl, BeachDeals
Mobility Is Key
Just because I say take a nap, doesn't mean you should sit idle and watch the blue sky blacken. You will find that some of the most energetic people are the ones that use their legs.
If you are staying a mere two kilometres from the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II in Rome, walk. If you employ your locomotive appendages to traverse the streets of this city, not only will you save money and feel healthier, but you will see a great deal more along the way. If I had never seen that old man vomit into a bin on Via del Corso, I would have considered my entire European holiday a misuse of my precious time. I was a lucky traveller indeed.
Don't forget push bikes either.
"I'd argue that travelling makes you energised because you're experiencing new stimuli with new experiences, food etc. It might be easy for some to just laze around and do nothing, but I do like mixing it up by doing something active like walking around all day, bike riding etc." - Anthony Bianco, The Travel Tart.
Now, this is always going to vary depending on your age, general health, or how you like to travel. But you should always try and bring as little as possible. The less junk you have to carry, the more mobile you are, and the less you have to worry about your belongings being lost or stolen. I often dream about travelling the world with the clothes on my back and some futuristic passport embedded into my skin. I am not one to buy a whole lot of gifts overseas either. It's just more to carry, and more to spend. Sorry family.
Intravenous Vitamin Injection
Just kidding. But providing your body doses of organic compounds will certainly improve its well-being. Like sleep, this travel hack can be applied throughout the many phases of your conquesting. Before I go anywhere, excluding from my house to Coles, I load up on vitamins. Those orange fizzy tablets you drop into a glass of water are easy to carry and widely available. They are pretty general purpose too, and have, unless it was entirely a placebo effect, pushed me back from the dismal precipice of illness many times.
"How do I stay energised? With good nutrition and a killer morning routine to set me up for the day. I start each day with lemon water and apple cider vinegar. Not only does it flush out yesterday's toxins but it kick starts my metabolism and helps digest the nutrients from my food that day." - Monika Pietrowski, mymonpie.
Missing your flight, train, bus, or hovercraft is always a stressful procedure. You stand there, flushed and sweaty, while creatures of the night close in on you. Save yourself the stress - plan your transportation ahead at the very least. Winging accommodation as a backpacker can be fun sometimes, but missing a train isn't. Keep on top of this stuff. Have your little print-outs or phone notes. This is particularly important in countries where English isn't the primary tongue.
"The best way to stay energised while travelling is to get excited about the destination that you're heading to. I'll usually download a few videos of the destination that I'm heading to and watch them on the plane to keep me excited and to keep me from getting annoyed during the trip!" - Sam Williamson, Lahlatini Luxury Safari
Drink as much salty ocean water as possible. Again, a terrible joke. But that isn't to say don't take a swim in it. There is little else as cleansing as a dip in the ocean. Just be sure to avoid surging open waters, hammerhead breeding grounds, and abyssal chasms wherein dwell ancient leviathans.
In terms of drinking water, fresh is usually the go-to. Just be aware that the tap water of many countries is undrinkable. Bottled water, though its plastics are destroying the very planet on which you jaunt, is a great alternative. Drink plenty of it. I don't need to echo that oh-so-annoying fact that every human feels so scientific to recapitulate: "You are seventy-percent water!"... or whatever it is.
"Far and away the best advice I can give - stay hydrated and start exercising in local time to get over the jet lag faster." - Shane Thompson, Airline Pilot for QANTAS
Consume Organic Matter
Whether you enjoy plant or animal matter, eating, and eating healthily, is of vital importance. Certain foods weigh you down, often in the most physical of manners. Without ruining the enjoyment of your well-earned holiday, avoid eating junk food. Basically, if you look upon a heap of meat and cheese and think: I am undoubtedly going to regret this, then bypass it and buy your sorry self a piece of fruit. Eat something that is going to be as enjoyable on the way out as on the way in.
Getting Fat On A Cruise Ship
It would be easy to do the same old thing every day. But how many times can you wake up at eleven PM, eat brunch, take a chlorinated swim, eat dinner, then sleep? My point is that you need variety on your travels. Do things that you would otherwise never do, within reason, of course. Aggravating a mob of gypsies, for instance, I would consider unreasonable. Taking a leisurely kayak in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, I would consider very reasonable.
"What I am doing at this very moment is special, I am thankful and so lucky to be here experiencing this. How can I make this day even more special?" A line Dan Boland, Holidayers, says to himself to avoid become blase.
The Spice Of Life
I always thought Siracha sauce was the spice of life. Turns out I was wrong. It is a sonic vibration induced for entertainment purposes - music. Bringing your 2005 iPod shuffle along with you may provide you with the melodious defibrillation you never knew you needed. There is a reason that those psychotic people who jog regularly are always wearing earphones. It brings a beat into your life, one that just may breathe a hot lungful of optimism into your travelling ventures when you are jet lagged or homesick. The theme song to my most recent adventure, in New Zealand, was Will Smith's "Switch".
Sometimes You Just Need A Kick
Sometimes the above strategies just won't cut it. These might be the times to go for a coffee or an energy drink. Wink wink nudge nudge. But seriously, REIZE sachet's are so well suited to travelling. They weigh near to nothing, and all the foreigners will think you are a rad time-traveller if you whip one of them out.
Written by Nick Petrou
A child sails down a gleaming, white isle. Peering down upon him are video game cases - hundreds of them, all begging for his attention. He smiles and glides, spinning in an infinity of color. But which shall he choose? There are so many... The child takes a sharp turn at the end of the shining isle in his silver, shopping chariot. Before him burns a golden light, which fades slowly as his watering eyes adjust. When the brightness is bearable, the boy sees a glorious game case reading "Quake Champions" in a powerful and foreboding text...
Now that might be a bit over dramatic, but it illustrates so well the excitement I felt when first playing id Software's Quake Champions beta. We are all children on the inside.
Arena Shooters Back In The Good Old Days
I'll be honest, and this might show my age a little, most of my arena shooter experience in "the good old days" was split-screen with friends and single player matches against bots.
I played FPS games like Volition's Red Faction and Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2004, and it was great... but I never knew the depth of the genre, and I never knew of Quake. Upon conceiving online gaming, I was too busy with Call of Duty and other FPS games to recall the screen-cheating, bot-slaying glory of my youth, or explore the online communities of arena shooters. They seemed to have passed me by.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a nostalgic spark came into existence...
The Kick That I Didn't Know I Needed
I am talking about the latest entry into my favourite game franchise of all time, DOOM. (I am a definite id software fanboy, if you can't tell from one of my previous articles on shooting games.) Initially, I was latched into the insurmountable embrace that was the hype surrounding the DOOM (2016) single player campaign. For me, that is what DOOM games have always been about... never really its multiplayer aspects. However, I did learn that this new DOOM would feature an arena shooter multiplayer experience, and this got me excited, got me thinking about the good old days.
And after playing it (once completing the single player campaign, of course), I can honestly say that I walked away with a legitimate smile... but there was something missing... or, more accurately, there was too much there; i.e. DOOM had failed to modernize the classic arena shooter genre by adding too much stuff, like load-outs. I think, in the end, the multiplayer experience prevented DOOM from getting a much higher rating among game reviews.
But to the point, I was re-introduced to the genre... enough to get me looking for modern and popular arena shooters. I found nothing, and I kind of gave up. I mean, its not like there is a shortage of games out there to get me by.
Light In The Dark
I don't remember exactly when I heard about Quake Champions... and I kind of let it slide, as there was no release date and I was preoccupied by the tragic things I do when I am not gaming. Then I saw that the open beta had been announced. I was hyped to say the least, but I wasn't sure if us Australian gamers would be allowed a taste. And I am sorely used to drawing the short straw as an Aussie gamer, so I kind of let it slide... again.
Then, about a week ago, my friend messaged me: "Quake open beta. Australian server. Get on." That was all I needed. I said: "Farewell girlfriend, it was nice knowing you." And then proceeded to initiate the take-off sequence of my flying car and dispatch for home. I played for eight straight hours. And that night as I slept, I dreamt only of Quake.
So What Is Quake Champions?
Running, gunning, jumping, mauling, exploding fun. Quake Champions is the very definition of speed.
Put simply, it is an first person arena shooting game. You run (or should I say jump) about in various maps/arenas, picking up guns, health, armor, and various other buffs, to ultimately kill your enemies, complete objectives, and win the game. Quake Champions is all this, but it has a twist to it too... one that many veterans of the Quake franchise were/are skeptical about: champions. Rather than entering a match of Quake as a basic, universal character, you select a champion, which has one or two passive abilities, an active ability, and specific health, armor, and movement speed statistics.
QUAKE CHAMPIONS BETA REVIEW
Before I divulge my personal experiences with this action-packed return to a classic genre, I want you to understand that this review is more about how the game makes me feel. After all, gaming is about having fun. And if I am to be honest, I have not had this much fun playing any video game in a very, very long time.
I've got to get a bit of a rant out of the way first...
QUAKE CHAMPIONS BETA REVIEW: A QUICK RANT
Looking at other Quake Champions reviews, I found that many of them remark upon matchmaking and connectivity issues. It appears that people are having issues finding a match. I have yet to experience this problem... bearing in mind I play on the Australian server in Sydney, if that at all makes a difference. As for connection problems... maybe I have experienced a tiny bit of lag in a couple of games, but I do believe that is to be expected in a beta. Overall, my ping has always been pretty stable, as far as I can tell.
Also, people seem to be a bit upset about the in-game shop. Although the shop is limited in the beta and you can't yet purchase "platinum" with real-life money, you have, for now, the option of renting champions using the entirely in-game currency, "favor". I don't understand how this is at all a problem. Favor is so easy to acquire, and I have not yet been so short on it that I cannot afford to hire my favourite champion, Sorlag.
I suppose the existing free-to-play model might become a bit of an issue if you wish to hire multiple champions simultaneously. But at that point (once the game has come out of beta), you are simply a tight-ass if you can't help the developers out and throw in a bit of cash to unlock the champions you want with platinum. Also, through leveling up, I have unlocked a further two champions... and that was totally free. Be realistic, guys, the game is free, but that doesn't mean that people haven't sweat and cried to get it to you. Buying the odd bit of platinum is an easy way to say thanks.
QUAKE CHAMPIONS BETA REVIEW: CHAMPIONS
First of all, lets address the rocket-launcher wielding reptile in the room: the champions.
A lot of people have been saying that implementing champions is some sort of attempt to feed off the popularity of the hero shooter genre. In a way, I guess this is kind of true, but the focus of the game is still the arena shooter aspect, not the champions. From my experience so far, it seems that champion selection makes only a slight difference to performance, and that most people that are dominating are doing so because they have great aim and fantastic movement. For me, I find that the implementation of champions simply adds a bit of flavor, and only very slightly detracts from the style of the genre.
It feels great to spew out a ball of acid onto a fight between two enemies in a deathmatch while I clean them both up with a heavy machine gun. I even like being able to customize my champion a bit too. It allows me some form of identity, which I think can definitely be a good thing, especially if you love a specific champion and want to kit them out to prove it.
QUAKE CHAMPIONS BETA REVIEW: GUNPLAY
Even though many other reviews have made negative comments about matchmaking, game connections, and the champions, all of them seem to agree that the gunplay is absolutely on point. It truly is.
No reloading, barely any aiming-down-sight, carrying seven weapons... this is what I am all about. Sometimes games shouldn't try and be realistic; in fact, I respect more a game that doesn't try and pretend to be. So far, every weapon has been an absolute joy to use. They all feel unique, all suited to specific roles, and I think they all look great too (I admit, I am a bit of a sucker for sci-fi weapons). I found that the skill required to use each weapon is pretty on point as well. None of the weapons are necessarily easy to get kills with. They all require precise aiming and/or timing; more so because the hit-boxes in this game are a lot tighter than many other FPS.
If I had to pick my favourite gun so far it would certainly be the rocket launcher. Simply because it is not only a weapon but a tool as well.
If I had to state my best weapon it would definitely be the heavy machine gun. I seem to get the most kills with this one for some reason. Maybe because I can combo it well with Sorlag's acid vom.
QUAKE CHAMPIONS BETA REVIEW: MOVEMENT
The pace is amazing. I am on edge the whole time I am playing - constantly trying to out-shoot and out-wit my opponents... and constantly trying to smoothly traverse the arena. What I mean by that last point is that, even though you may not be in combat for a second or two, you still have to think about pickups like health and armor, and more importantly, the quad-damage buff. To do this effectively, players need to master "strafe jumping" and "rocket jumping", both aspects of the game that, for the moment, I honestly suck at. It just adds that extra element that many modern FPS games don't have. There is never a dull moment with Quake Champions. Straight up: it is bloody fun.
QUAKE CHAMPIONS BETA REVIEW: ACCESSIBILITY
What I mean by this is essentially how easy it is to get into the mindset to play Quake Champions. If I was to play a match of Overwatch, I have to prepare myself to communicate and work with my team. With Quake (at least in the casual mode available currently), I can jump into a match, worrying solely about my own survival, whilst blasting music and having the time of my life. I think this type of accessibility will be great for players that can only dedicate a small amount of their lives to gaming. I guess it just requires less commitment. And personally, I am fricken sick of teammate toxicity in other games, so Quake is a well-earned breath of fresh air.
QUAKE CHAMPIONS BETA REVIEW: THE VERDICT
DOOM's not-so-great arena-styled multiplayer buttered me up for a great arena shooter. I find it so fitting that such a game has been provided to me by the same developers. Quake Champions has been the game that I didn't know that I needed. I have fallen in love with it... to the point where my girlfriend has become jealous.
Yes, the game can definitely improve; for instance, they can sort out these fabled matchmaking and connectivity issues that no one I have spoken to has been having. But it is in beta. Finding aspects for improvement is the purpose of a beta, is it not?
After spewing out my qualitative feedback on the Quake beta, I am finding it rather difficult to apply a numerical figure in summary... My score must acknowledge that the game is in beta, and allow space for improvement. So, for now... for me... its a solid 8/10.
Release Date And The Quake Community
The time between the closing of the beta and the actual release of the game will seem eternal. Especially when an actual release date has yet to be announced. What will I do? Where will I get my arena shooter fix? Has Quake Champions ruined my appetite for other video games?
I have watched a lot of Quake Champions YouTube videos and streams. From this I can discern one thing: people want to re-ignite the Quake community. I for one, am all for it. I will do my very best to oxygenate the gaming world with nourishing molecules of Quake, a most welcome modern take on a kick-ass old-school genre. There is one particular YouTuber, Rocket Jump Ninja, who has an undying passion for the Quake franchise. His videos are super informative and incredibly spirited, and if I haven't convinced you to at least give Quake Champions a go, I am sure he will.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope your attempts at strafe jumps and rocket jumps are more successful than mine.
Written by Nicholas Petrou
Sony Interactive Entertainment's PlayStation console franchise has been at the forefront of console gaming since the release of the PlayStation 1 (PS1) in 1994. Although the PS1 was incredibly popular, it was superseded in sales by the PlayStation 2 (PS2) — which happens to be the best-selling console of all time.
Though limited online experiences could be set up for certain games on the PS2, a dedicated online service for the PlayStation franchise was first introduced late into 2006 on the PlayStation 3 (PS3). This dedicated online service was deemed the "PlayStation Network". The PlayStation Network, including the PlayStation store, revolutionized gaming by allowing players to connect to each other with ease, buy games online, and access a range of other online features. To date, the PlayStation Network is available on the following PlayStation devices: PS3, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, and PlayStation 4 (PS4). The PlayStation Network can also be accessed via mobile applications, and of course, via an internet browser.
I believe online gaming services and marketplaces like the PlayStation Store, are something we take for granted. The ability to easily connect with other players — whether it be friends or randoms — is incredible. Online services have propelled us into a new era of gaming, and, most importantly, allowed us to remain social whilst hiding within the confines of our homes. It is particularly significant that online services are nowadays available to console gamers, as they had previously been almost exclusive to the realms of the PC.
Overview Of The PlayStation Network's Features
So what are the specific benefits of accessing the PlayStation Network?
PlayStation Store, An Online Marketplace For Video Games
A game-changing feature of the PlayStation Network is the PlayStation Store. Through the PSN store, you can purchase digital copies of video games that are available as a hard copy. You can also purchase games that are only available in a digital form. And there is an abundance of these digital games — not all of which are indies, classics, or arcades, but AAA games that are naturally free such as Paragon (Epic Games) and Smite (High-Rez Studios). Obviously such games couldn't be free if you had to purchase a hard copy...
Although you can purchase some game expansions in the form of a hard copy, most expansions, like "full" games, are also available in digital form. However, downloadable content (DLC) that supports or adds to a video game, but is far less than an expansion, is only available in a digital form (as far as I am aware). The PlayStation Store allows gamers to purchase and download said expansions and DLC, therefore allowing gamers access to new content and experiences (and, of course, pointless cosmetic add-on's).
Personally, I found PlayStation Store games to be to be expensive in comparison to their hard copy counterparts. This issue, however, can be overcome by employing a certain degree of patience. In other words: wait for the games price tag to drop, or wait for a sale.
PSN Sales And Discounts
Like any good store, the PlayStation Store has a fair share of discount sales. The PlayStation Store is quite affectionate with its discount events too — as in, they are both frequent and significant. For instance, an Easter Sale is featured currently on the store, and it offers, for reasonable prices, many cheap AAA titles such as EA Dice's Battlefield 1 and Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto V. Also, through another recent sale, I picked up Naughty Dog's The Last Of Us Remastered for under $20! (And for the record, it is a true beauty, well deserving of the praise it has received.)
All of the games on the PlayStation Store, and certain sales are available to everyone that can access the PlayStation Network. But, a with a subscription to PlayStation Plus (PS Plus), your savings will be far more bountiful, and your experiences, far more interactive.
Access To A PlayStation Plus Subscription
Honestly, I cannot see how someone would justify not subscribing to PS Plus! As well as bonus discounts on top of regular PlayStation Network discounts, you have access to a fresh variety of free video games every month! And you need only add them to your library and maintain a PS Plus membership to play them!
Of course, some of the PS Plus monthly games could be classified as "fillers" (e.g. games with low production value, often developed by lesser-known game studios) — and at first, I thought this made the subscription unworthy. But I soon found that I had been narrow-minded, as many non-AAA games, such as indies, classics and arcades, are of exceptionally high quality and enjoyability. Allowing these smaller games a chance broadened my gaming spectrum; and through my subscription PS Plus, I have been introduced to some of my favourite games in existence. (Keep reading to find out what some of these games are!)
Unfortunately, if you forget to add a free monthly game to your library during its featured month, you will have to purchase that game yourself (assuming you want it)... There are ways to combat this, however. Let's say you are overseas, away from your PlayStation and unable to access PSN Australia. In this circumstance, you can still add games to your library via the PlayStation Network application on your smartphone, and then download and play them when you return. I actually did this whilst exploring Europe for 3 months; it provided me with a sense of satisfaction during that long deprivation from video games...
Extra Benefits of PlayStation Plus
Other benefits of subscribing to PS Plus include the ability to upload 10GB worth of save files to a cloud, the ability to automatically download patches, and ability to access Share Play.
... And there was one other thing? Oh, yes. You cannot play games online without a PS Plus subscription.
Now, this might sound ridiculous, but then you weigh up the aforementioned benefits of PS Plus, you realize that this is a totally justifiable and reasonable move by Sony. It also means that now, because we pay for our online services, a naturally higher quality is to be expected - you don't expect to have issues with PSN status. Bear in mind that free-to-play titles available through PlayStation Store do not require PS Plus to play online; e.g. Epic Game's Paragon and High-Rez Studios' Smite.
When it comes down to it, with the discounts you receive, with the free monthly games, and with its various other benefits — a subscription to PS Plus is totally worth it from a financial point of view. Still need clarification of this? In 2016 PS Plus provided subscribers with $1150 worth of games; you would have paid a minimum of $69.95 (AUD) for that whole year; even if you liked... let's say... 4 or 5 of those games, it is likely still worth it.
Communication, Friends, Parties and Communities
What is online play without the ability to communicate with other players in your game?
Although, when playing on my PS4, I primarily reserve communication to friends of mine, a lot of games have built-in communication features; for instance, EA DICE's Battlefield 4 and Blizzard's Overwatch. This type of communication can be quite handy when you want to communicate with players that aren't your "friend". Then, if you wish, you always have the option to add them as a "friend". You can even create a "party", in which you can communicate and facilitate online gaming with your PlayStation Network friends. The PlayStation Network also features player "communities". Communities are essentially constructed groups to which you can invite others for the ease of facilitating communication and online gaming. I remember being a part of an Overwatch community for some time — as in before they kicked me.
Now, this all sounds great, but, I have found the PlayStation Network's "party" feature to be quite temperamental. Sometimes, I will party with my buddies, only to find that we cannot communicate with each other. (And yes, we have suitable NAT types.) However, this has been an infrequent occurrence, which has not detracted from my communication experience via the PlayStation Network significantly.
First and Third Party Apps and Entertainment Services
Coming standard with access to the PlayStation Network, is the ability to access many first and third party applications. Some first party applications include Live From PlayStation, PlayStation Music, PlayStation Video, and PlayStation Now. And Some third party applications include Spotify, Netflix, YouTube, and Stan. The ability to access these applications makes the PlayStation experience more versatile as a whole. And I believe this is a good thing because consoles have PCs to compete with.
The ability to play music, through Spotify, while I game, is a massive deal to me. I find that music and video games are two peas in a pod. There is nothing like chewing through hordes of enemies with a machine gun, whilst listening to heavy metal. I had been waiting for such a feature since playing on my PS3 back in the day. It definitely beats cramming my iPhone earplugs inside of my gaming headset...
And of course, being able to watch my favourite shows, through Netflix and Stan, is a massive bonus. I now don't even have to leave my room, which is good, right?
My Favourite PlayStation Plus Monthly Games
There have been a ton of fantastic monthly games released since I first subscribed to PS Plus; in no particular order, here are some of my favourites, each with a brief summation of my experience:
Helldivers (Arrowhead Game Studios) — Best played with friends. Friends you are happy to lose.
Transistor (Supergiant Games) — I have referred to this game in a few of my other articles, and there is a reason why: it is one of the greatest indie games in existence.
Limbo (Playdead) — Grim and dark. Definitely not the children's game I thought it would be...
Lords of the Fallen (CI Games) — A "Souls-like" game that has an undoubted uniqueness to it.
Apotheon (Alientrap Games) — Completely unique, with such a timeless art style. Little difficult to get the hang of the controls, but well worth the struggle.
Race The Sun (Flippfly) — A time-filler, for all intents and purposes. But it does this well.
Resident Evil (CAPCOM) — Who would have thought such an old game would cause me to scream like a child?
Valiant Hearts (Ubisoft) — Stylized and unique. So much more that a puzzle-solver. The feels, man.
PlayStation Network Hacked!
It was horrible... I had to go outside!
In the month of April, in the year 2011, the PlayStation Network was compromised. 77 million gamers were exposed to the real world for a total of 23 days (or... you know... they gamed on another platform). The attacks, which occurred between the 17th and 19th of April, forced Sony to pull the plug on the PlayStation Network a few days later, on the 20th of April. On the 4th of May, Sony made a public announcement stating that personally identifiable information (i.e. home addresses, email addresses, passwords and credit card data) from those with a PlayStation Network account, had been exposed. It wasn't until halfway through May of that year, that the service was back online. Although, with the return of this service, the dudes at Sony, being such top blokes, provided players with a bunch of free features and games as a form of compensation for the outage.
This cyber attack resulted in both a loss of over $171 million for Sony, and the upsetting of 77 million console peasants. Damn you, Hackerman.
An Overall Review Of The PlayStation Network And PlayStation Plus
Even when faced with adversity, Sony has always been able to bounce back; I think this resilience is something that deserves a certain degree of respect.
I have spent a whole bunch of my own (and my parents) money on an expensive gaming PC, and still I use my PS4 and keep on top of discounts and the PS Plus monthly freebies. These behaviours are a clear indication of my overall happiness with the console and the PlayStation Network in general.
So, overall, I consider the PlayStation Network to be a user-friendly, versatile online service that provides excellent online gaming services, whilst also catering for a wide variety of other forms of entertainment. I see myself continuing to stick by the PlayStation Network, and the PlayStation console franchise for a while yet.
I hope your PlayStation Network experiences have been at least as pleasing as mine so far!
Written by Nicholas Petrou
Since the beginning of the decade, we have seen both glorious highs and dismal lows within the video game industry. Many classics have been born — some of the best games in human existence, I would have to say; however, in the same 7-year-breathe, many game franchises and game developers have also had their names tainted and their creations shunned... *Cough* Hello Games *Cough* .
As a species, our technology has skyrocketed, and with this exponential growth, the gaming community has become more diverse and interconnected than ever. The players have a far louder voice, and their opinions now make all the difference to the success of a game's release. It is so easy for a game to crash and burn if it lacks or exceeds in community hype. "All aboard the hype-train," so the say.
The number of video game platforms has also increased alongside our technologies, naturally; and I must say, the rivalry between them is stronger than ever, as I am sure many of you with access to the internet are aware.
Although the decade has not yet concluded, I think a quick re-cap of what I believe to be the decade's best games is necessary. This "best game list" has been created irrespective of gaming platforms, and is based solely on my personal experiences as an average Australian gamer... and as a fresh member of the PC master race. (I cannot tell you how glad I am to finally rid myself of mum's work laptop!)
Be realistic guys, I cannot dedicate my entire existence to video games. So, many of the games the community considers to be top-10'ers may not be included in this list. It might be simply that I have not yet had the opportunity to play them! (And in my preemptive defense, I am about 15 minutes from finishing downloading The Last Of Us Remastered!)
Oh look, a countdown:
10: Battlefield 4 (2013)
With utmost certainty, the most laughs I have had in a video game. Playing EA DICE's Battlefield 4 (BF4) with the release of the PS4 for the first time is fond memory of mine. I remember being blown away by the intense visuals and sheer scope of the online multiplayer; and lets be real, people play Battlefield games for the multiplayer. In-depth customization; a ton of different vehicles, each to tame a certain medium of combat; and a good mix of maps and game-modes, some with massively destructive in-game "levolutions" (such as the falling of a skyscraper) — the game has endless content and so many possible interactions (particularly with up to 64 players in each match for the large conquest game-mode). BF4 was released in 2013 and I still play it today... even with the current variety of online first-person shooters (FPS) available.
9: Transistor (2014)
I picked up Supergiant Games' Transistor as a monthly Playstation Plus freebie, not expecting much. It took me a while to get used to the "frozen planning"combat style (as I am so used to hack and slash's), but only seconds to fall in love with the games gorgeous visuals and hypnotic soundtrack. Transistor, I found, was quite a deep and emotional experience. The game-play doesn't divulge excessive amounts of lore directly — it allows the player to explore and build the backstory on their own; and I have to appreciate it this as I consider it to be good story telling. As a gamer, I don't like to be babied so much; I want to think harder and look deeper to find clues and meaning. Video games are a form of art, after all, and art is often up to interpretation. Transistor was the game that opened my eyes to the realm of indie games, and also Supergiant Games' other masterpeice, Bastion, which I enjoyed just as much.
8: Destiny (2014)
The initial release of Bungie's Destiny left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, and this was completely understandable. Bungie had a massive budget for this sci-fi FPS — something near 500 million dollars, I had heard (but apparently this was majorly exaggerated). With a budget like that, you would expect the developers to deliver upon their promises... however this was not the case. The game was "unfinished" and took several paid expansions to achieve what is expected in release-content of a full priced game. I have to agree, disappointment does suck; but I consider myself lucky, as I did not board the hype-train for Destiny, and when I purchased the game I honestly had such a brilliant time playing it — mainly in the player-vs-player (PVP) Crucible however. Hopefully we will see Bungie accommodate for the features that Destiny lacked with the release of the soon-to-be-announced sequal.
7: Countertrike: Global Offensive
In terms of a competitive FPS, Valve's Counter-strike: Global Offensive (CSGO) sets the standard. The Counter-strike series has had a long time to establish itself — and the result of this time is a well balanced, skill-based competitive FPS with a steep learning curve, but also a highly satisfying reward/ranking system... Or is it frustrating? I can't remember. I love the emphasis CSGO places on teamwork and effective communication. Yes, you can solo carry a team; and yes, you can remove your microphone, listen to heavy metal, and ignore the responsibility of making calls — but more often that not, it is essential to maintain good communication and provide valuable insight for your team (maybe on enemy positioning or an intended bomb site plant) to achieve victory. To top it off, CSGO continues to stay strong in the Esports scene, and I do not expect this to change any time soon.
6: Bloodborne (2015)
"Prepare to cry." Oh, I literally did... Came all too close to launching my Playstation controller over my back fence as well. I honestly thought I was a decent gamer — above average at least, and pretty versatile among genres — then I played From Software's Bloodborne. Bloodborne — and similar games from From Software, i.e. the Dark Souls franchise — are well known for their extreme difficulty and epic combat systems. All of the creatures and bosses in Bloodborne were equally wretched, cruel and unforgiving. I have never been so frustrated in a video game, never felt so rewarded either. Hmmm, and then I see people completing the game using a Band Hero drum-kit or something. Feels bad, man.
Looking for a challenge, my fellow gamers? Pick up Bloodborne... Enter the hunters dream...
5: The Witcher 3 (2015)
The single greatest regret of my life is allowing Triss Merigold sail away from me... CD Projekt Red's The Witcher 3 has won more awards than any other video game in history — and this is totally justified. It is often a feat of RPGs to exhibit many monotonous quests, some of which being similar to quests previously repeated i.e. find 30 of this item... or kill 30 of this creature. It is with these common traits that the Witcher 3 disagrees. Quests in the Witcher 3 (yes, even the side quests) are all unique and will often divulge new enemies to murder, new allies to befriend or seduce, or fresh new places and landscapes to explore. I found that the depth of character interaction was unalike any game I had played before. The way you interact, and the decisions you make, influence the world quite significantly; there are many paths which you can take playing as Geralt of Rivia, and all of them are as interesting and unique as the last.
4: League of Legends (Late 2009 - oops)
I admit, I have gone completely off Riot Games' multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) League of Legends (LoL), but I cannot leave it off this list, simply for the sheer amount of time I sunk into it. (And yes, I realise the game was released toward the end of 2009, but I had never heard of it). This game broke me into the MOBA genre, and allowed me to facilitate some of the greatest friendships I hold to date. The game-play is fast-paced, skill-orientated, and often requires an effective use of teamwork to claim victory. Even though LoL remains a giant within the realm of Esports, it is often correlated with a highly "toxic" or "salty" community/player-base, and is therefore considered of bad taste among many "mature" gamers — myself now, being one of them. Me...mature? It is unfortunate that LoL has taken this sort of path, but I do believe that "salt" is near inevitable in any online competitive environment. At the very least, LoL allowed many gamers to branch out from previous genres, and explore the quick-action stresses of a MOBA.
3: Overwatch (2016)
Of course Blizzard's Overwatch is in this list: it is such a polished game, and in my opinion, only short of perfect. What can I say? It ticks many of my boxes: FPS — check; online — check; team-based — check; stylized visuals — check; and the list goes on. This sort of quality is to be expected when a game is backed by Blizzard. I am looking forward to seeing how Overwatch evolves and will forever do my very best to claw my way out of gold division.
2: The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (2011)
There is simply no single player experience that can compare to Bethesda's Skyrim. A vast, open world riddled with threats ranging from a mud crab to a dragon; one of the most in-depth character creation and skill/item customisation systems in video gaming; beautiful scenery — expansive plains, icy mountain peaks, festering volcanic wastelands; a plethora of interesting quests supported by a diverse range of NPC's — Skyrim has it all. It is the benchmark for single player RPGs, and what I consider the pinnacle of the Elder Scrolls series. The best thing about Skyrim is its thriving modding scene. Modding allows the game to stay fresh, as people other than the game's developers, can add new features... Like a Bob Ross moon, for instance. On top of consistent player modding, Bethesda themselves recently released Skyrim Special Edition, a remastered version of the game. Really, it ceases to amaze me how incredible this game truly is. I think I will always go back to it, maybe even show my hypothetical children.
1: DOOM (2016)
If you had read my earlier article on shooting games, you would have seen this one coming... I can say, with a straight face, that id Games' DOOM franchise is the greatest in the entirety of video gaming. Of course, this is my personal opinion... but who doesn't enjoy this kind of fit-inducing carnage? DOOM (2016), to me, is the epitome of a video game: fast-paced, challenging, beautiful and utter fun. If the developers had nailed DOOM's online competitive element it would be impossible for a reviewer to score it less than an 11/10. Just like the original games, I think I will go back to this classic time and time again.
Fight like hell.
Some Honorable Mentions
Making that list was hard — real hard. Perhaps a "top 100" would have been easier? I hope you find yourself in agreeance with at least some of the games in my "10 best games of the decade so far" countdown. If not, take a quick look at the list below! In no particular order, here are some close contestants that I unfortunately failed to make the cut:
Bastion (Supergiant Games) — 2011
Journey (Thatgamecompany) — 2012
Abzu (Giant Squid) — 2016
Battlefield 1 (EA Dice) — 2016
Rust (Facepunch Studios) — 2013
Far Cry 3 (Ubisoft) — 2012
Tomb Raider (Crystal Dynamics) — 2013
God of War 3 (SIE Santa Monica Studio) — 2010
Bioshock Infinite (2k Games) — 2013
Red Dead Redemption (Rockstar Games) — 2010
Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar Games) — 2013
Mass Effect 3 (BioWare) — 2013
Helldivers (Arrowhead Game Studios) — 2015
Thank you, fellow gamers. Let us all hope that the remainder of the decade provides us with a plethora of great and unique video games across a wide span of genres. I can expect that game developers will learn from their own mistakes as well as the mistakes of others — and therefore, I remain optimistic for the future of the gaming industry. See you for a final countdown at the end of the decade!
Written by Nicholas Petrou
During primary school, I was a very casual gamer, and I kept most of it to myself — I was perhaps even ashamed of it to be quite honest. I mostly just played a bit of DOOM and Age of Empires in my spare time, maybe a bit of PlayStation here and there. I had no inkling of the existence of massively multiplayer online games (MMOs).
Then I heard some classmates whispering under the tin pergola outside of our classroom:
"I finished Dragon Slayer last night, got the rune platebody too!" said the chubby blonde kid with the rose cheeks.
"I'm stuck with mithril..." replied the frail one with the glasses and the Star Wars pencil case.
Rune platebody? Mithril? Oh... if I had known how I would spamming these phrases on my parent's keyboard; if I had known the obsessions which were to follow.
*Adventurous loading music begins to play, goblets of flames flicker*
To which top MMO game were the nerds referring? Jagex Games' classic massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), Runescape. It's one of the best MMORPG games and the one that literally taught me the meaning of the term "lol" — no mother, it does not stand for lots of love.
MMORPG: Online Games To Know
Prior to the experience of playing this timeless MMORPG, I had no concept of online gaming whatsoever. It was a steep learning curve, one that took me years to understand fully — the concept that many of the men and women of Gielinor (the world of Runescape) were other players, just like me. Well, not just like me. I wasn't a scam artist, I wasn't a hacker, and I didn't bait unsuspecting players into the depths of the wilderness to murder them... well not at the start at least. My fellow players also taught me you can insult someone without the use of profanity: A "noob", you say? — In fact, you are probably right.
After Runescape, I spent a good portion of my pre-teen life playing TQ Digital Entertainment's Conquer Online. Conquer was my first experience with the "pay-to-win" element of online gaming — that of which myself and many other mature gamers actively avoid. It was a fantastic game, easily one of the top MMORPG I had played, with a unique style and a range of fun classes to play. Player-vs-player (PVP) was exhilarating — having my whole guild hunted down because I killed the server king's wife... not so much.
Runescape and Conquer Online certainly taught me the in-game and financial dangers of online MMOs, but they also taught me of their beauty and potential — that of which is infinite. What do I mean by this? Well to understand that we must first understand what an MMO entails.
MMOS Definition: What Does It Actually Mean?
Endless possibilities. When I play any role-playing game, be it online or offline, I cannot help but think of the future. I imagine just how immersive these MMOs could become. Not just how "life-like" they are (because that could get boring), but how alien and strange they could be. Through the video game industry, we can bring to life our wildest dreams and most twisted realities in fun MMO games.
An MMO, and more fittingly a MMORPG, could virtually become a reality, another life. For some it already has, and that's with the constraints of today's technology. What happens when these games are so immersive that you no longer recognize our "reality" as the one in which you primarily exist? Worlds beyond your wildest dreams, worlds that you can manipulate to your liking — where you can be a god! I suppose this is why I am such an avid gamer — because I look to the future and because I want to race between the stars. Which "reality" would you chose?
Okay, enough with the heavy, we are a while off all that yet.
The Best MMOs Share These Common Features
An MMO, for the most part, is a game in which you control a character (or avatar) among a world of other players and commonly non-playable characters (NPCs) as well. MMOs span across many genres, of which fantasy and science fiction appear to be the most popular. Some - but not all MMO games - are capable of supporting large numbers of players, in the range of hundreds to thousands, simultaneously in the same world. The genre does differ, but for the most part, MMOs feature expansive and persistent open worlds, where the player (when they fit in-game requirements) can explore it in its entirety.
MMOs are sensitive to player population levels. Too many players and the game can become too hectic and lag. Too few players and the game will not function as intended — perhaps there won't be enough players to maintain the player-driven economy, enter raids/dungeons with, or compete in PVP against.
Another common feature of MMOs, and MMORPGs, in particular, is "grinding". Essentially, grinding is soaking hours of your life into leveling your character. Character skills vary hugely among games but are often generalized into combat based levels and utility based levels. Using Runescape again as an example, a combat skill is "strength" (which determines how hard you hit with melee weapons) and a utility level is "fletching" (which is arrow crafting). Level grinding, I believe, is what separates MMORPGs from other online games. It is what causes these games to consume peoples lives — but at the same time, is an integral part of the games progression system and balance.
Jake and Path of Exile
The MMO genre can be confused at times. A great example of this is Grinding Gear Games' Path of Exile (POE), a multiplayer online action role playing game (MOARPG) commonly mistaken for an MMORPG. It is easy to see why some gamers may be confused about this one; POE has many similar elements to an MMORPG, such as player trading, social areas and several classes each with access highly complicated and customisable skill-tree. But the reality is, this game does not host massive amounts of players outside of social areas, and therefore it is not an MMO in strict terms.
My good friend Jake has been playing POE for several years now — in fact, in total, he has spent over 2000 hours on the game. Jake's highest level character was a "Shadow Trickster" by the name of BBcyclone. He played this character in a game-mode called" hardcore", where, if you die, it is permanent! Jake reiterated how "thrilling it was popping all of his spells upon a critical hit and absolutely blowing up the screen". He said it was safe to say that he would not be gaming much at all if it wasn't for POE. In the same breath, however, Jake explained how dying from lag/screen-freeze in "hardcore" mode, and seeing the "resurrect in town" option was "honestly the worst feeling he had ever experienced in gaming". It just goes to show that even with local servers, online games are not without lag.
A Unique Genre of MMO?
I mentioned in my previous post, very briefly, Daybreak Game Company's Planetside 2. Now, this game is a first-person shooter (FPS), however, it is also considered a MMO as it is technically a massively multiplayer online first-person shooter (MMOFPS). I want to give this game a shout-out because I personally think it is incredible, and because of the sheer size of its battles. In Planetside 2, you fight for one of three factions in huge, massively multiplayer battles for territory. (Let it be known that if you pick The New Conglomerate or Vanu Scum we can never be friends. Glory to the Terran Republic!) As far as I am aware, there are no other FPS games which come close to the grandeur of Planetside 2.
MMOs In Australia — The Dilemma
So where are all the MMOs? Or more relevantly, where are all the MMORPGs?
Everywhere! But, the servers are not...
For a game developer to establish a server it costs money, so it must be economically viable for them to do so. If a region of the world does not have a large player-base, it may not be viable for a developer to establish a local server for its players — and as discussed previously, MMORPGs are highly dependent upon player population levels. Game developers must also take into account the fact that overseas servers are in different time zones, which may cause issues with server maintenance.
Of course, likely sometime after initial release, when game developers believe it to be economically viable, they may establish a local server — as was the case with Blizzard's World of Warcraft. But for most MMORPGs, as Australian gamers, we have no choice but to connect to overseas servers such as those in the US or the EU. Doing this gives us high latency and the resulting lag.
This whole dilemma is a kind of paradox, because more Australian players would play if their latency was decent, causing the server to be economically viable — but the latency isn't decent, so it would be incredibly difficult to assess how many players would play if it was, and whether or not the server would be economically viable. It is really up to developers to go out on a limb, and take a risk — which evidently, very little of them do.
Experiences Of Some Australian Gamers Playing MMORPGs
In the days of Runescape and Conquer Online I was too naive to understand the disadvantages of distant servers and high latency — I now cannot look past it. How do some other average gamers feel about this?
Mike and The Elder Scrolls Online
Denim and Blade and Soul
My friend Denim (yes, like the material) went out on a limb recently, and tried out NCsoft's Blade and Soul, knowing full well that there was no Australian server established for the game. Denim played Blade and Soul with a ping of around 190ms and explained to me how he was losing 4 basic attacks every 10 seconds — meaning that players with a better ping were up to 1.4 times faster than he was. This disadvantage forced him to give up the game, and venture back to greener pastures.
"I am actually losing time from my life..."
Ly and the World of Warcraft
I spoke to my gamer buddy Ly, who had spent a good portion of his teenage years in the world... the World of Warcraft. He played this MMORPG prior to and following the establishment of an Australian server. Like myself, Ly had never experienced online gaming with a low and stable latency. He quested through the world of Azeroth as a lonesome mage, gaining experience slaying beast, demon, and human — all of which were NPC's. For this aspect of the game, and for questing, a high latency was no limitation to the white-bearded gnome.
Frosttly, The Explorer (as he was known to the ladies), rode his Black War Bear against the fearsome NPC's of the Horde — laying waste to them in droves... and then he tried it on against another player. This is where the horrible latency Australian World of Warcraft players bore really became a hindrance. Frosttly would cast his stunning Frost Nova, only to find that he had been dead for the last 1.5 seconds. The delay was intolerable — competitive PVP, almost unplayable. The poor frost mage was in a time continuum of his own.
Ly — due to a lack of income — retired from the Alliance for a time... But then something brought him back near the end of 2014. A huge announcement from Blizzard: game servers would soon be established in Australia!
The Time Of The MOBA
... and a plethora of other online genres.
My First MOBA Experience
I have felt this transition personally. In the good old days, it was all MMORPGs and split-screen couch gaming with pizza for me. Then my good friend, Mal, asked me if I had heard of LoL. Pfft, of course, I had — it means lots of love. But he was not referring to that acronym, no — it was a new game, something completely different to what either of us had previously experienced: Riot Games' League of Legends (LoL).
No matter how many pairs of boots I bought I could never see them on my character — what was this sorcery?! The concept of multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) styled items was entirely alien to me. In an MMORPG, if you have the necessary requirements to equip an item, you can usually see your character's aesthetics change when equipping it. I remember how frustrated it was trying to get Katarina (a champion from LoL) to wield a Hextech Gunblade (item from LoL). She just stood there, bobbing, holding the same two blades she fricken spawned with!
In a match of LoL, you gain levels and purchase items within that match — none of which are carried over to subsequent matches. This style of per-match progression is what I think has attracted many people to the MOBA genre. It's fast paced, relatively balanced, and you cannot be better than someone simply by spending more hours/money on the game. Of course, you will get better with practice, but it doesn't have that grind, so characteristic of an MMORPG.
When I first started playing LoL there were was no Australian (or at least Oceanic) server. The lag was noticeable, but again, it did not concern me hugely as I had not experienced it better. Then the Oceanic servers were released in 2014 — and what a wake-up call that was! Since that point, my online experience has been limited to non-MMO games aside from the occasional nostalgic dab back into Runescape, which is always going to be on my MMOs list of favorites.
Not Just MOBAs
And of course MOBA's are not the only fast-paced, match-based online games out there. There are games such as Ubisoft's For Honor, which has a similar feel to some MMORPGs with its medieval themes; a whole range of first-person shooters such as Blizzard's Overwatch and Valve's Counterstrike: Global Offensive; and a bunch of slower-paced, but still match-based online collectible card games such as Blizzard's Hearthstone and Counterplay Game's Duelyst.
I believe I have a sound understanding as to why these styles of games are more prevalent nowadays. They are all action, low grind — and therefore, they appeal to not only hardcore gamers but casual gamers (whom may only have time for the occasional match) as well. And of course, the aforementioned games all have conveniently located servers! It just makes sense.
Unfortunately, playing a different genre of video game might have to be your temporary solution to a lack of Australian MMO servers. At least you have plenty to choose from!
I am sooo keen for a good MMORPG. It has simply been too long. I miss so many of the features that make MMORPGs what they are. Features like complicated level progression systems and grinding; player-to-player trading; in-depth character customization; banter with other players; making friends — as fleeting as they may be. I even miss the possibility that I might lose everything by taking a risk in PVP. You just don't get these things with other genres of game.
Even with the discussed limitations to Australian gamers, there are still plenty of MMOs that I will be keeping on my radar. Hopefully, some of these eventually provide the luxury of a convenient server to us Australian gamers:
- Conan Exiles (Funcom)
- Camelot Unchained (Mark Jacobs)
- Crowfall (Artcraft)
- Chronicles Of Elyria (Souldbound Studios)
- Dark and Light (NP Cube)
- Lineage Eternal (NC Soft)
- Albion Online (Sandbox Interactive GmbH)
- Dual Universe (NovaQuark)
- Lost Ark (Smilegate)
As our technology continues to make the world a smaller place, it will undoubtedly influence online gaming connectivity. We can expect there to be a time when MMORPG players from all corners of our planet (the world is flat, trust me) can game together in lag-free bliss. I for one, look forward to the plethora of fantastical worlds video game developers will have created for us to explore in that time. For now, there's always Runescape...
Written by Nicholas Petrou
I remember it so vividly: summer holidays, piercing Australian sun, stench of heat in the air. And, where was I? Blasting demons with my shotgun on windows 95 in a clammy bedroom. This was the day that I lost my video game virginity, the day I was first introduced to the franchise that had not only defined a video game genre, but had also ignited an undying flame within my soul...
That flame is my irrevocable love of shooting games. the game I was playing? id software's classic first-person shooter, DOOM, of course. I could easily discuss the primal fear I felt when facing the terrifying, colossal cyberdemon for the first time (even though I cheated to be invulnerable, iddqd), but the reality is, this article focuses not solely on DOOM, but some of my all time favourite shooter games across a range of sub-genres. although perhaps I will dive back into the depths of hell with my trusty plasma gun later on for you, so keep on reading.
The smoothest way to express my infatuation with shooting games is to first break down the genre into some popular sub-genres. I must tread ever so carefully here, as often video games stretch across multiple genres; for instance, Gearbox Software's Borderlands is a role playing action game with a first-person shooter backbone. In order to clarify, I will be including releases with role playing components in the pool of games I fish to develop my list. I will also not be including any modern and highly complicated/detailed vehicle-only warfare games among my list, even though there are some fantastic titles available.
Popular Shooting Game Sub-genres
Third-Person Shooters (TPS)
Step outside your body and watch every move you make. Third-person shooter games employ an exterior perspective of your video game avatar, allowing you to control them from a distance — or "over-the-shoulder" — depending upon the flexibility of the games camera control. A third-person shooter perspective allows for a diverse variety of games and is often implemented in adventure styled shooters with elements of exploration and puzzle solving.
First-Person Shooter Games (FPS)
Pssst! Don't tell the other sub-genres, but you are my favourite! In an FPS you see the game's world from the perspective of your character, often viewing your firearm as a prime feature in the frame. In most FPS games however, your character's head and eye movement is locked and essentially you move your entire body in a combined motion (this has of course changed with the advent of virtual reality gaming technologies).
Hero Shooter Games
Undoubtedly the newest genre of shooter, and encompassing both the above sub-genres, are "hero shooters" — a prime example of this being Blizzard's behemoth: Overwatch. In hero shooter games you control a very specifically designed hero, with a very specific skill set and/or weapon, for a specific role among a team of other heroes in the same circumstance. The game developers are able to constantly tweak (nerf and buff, namely) these heroes, as well as release new heroes to diversify and balance the roster and maintain the games competitiveness. Players become supernaturally proficient at certain heroes, and it is an absolute joy to watch a professional player handle your favourite hero with such confidence and finesse.
Shoot 'em Up's
Some of the oldest shooting games in human existence (lets not try image what the aliens are up to) belong under the sub-genre of "shoot 'em ups" games. We're talking arcade machine games like Space Invaders and Galaga! Although shoot 'em up games primarily involve a lone protagonist dodging hails of fire and destroying countless enemies, the genre is hugely diverse, with many sub-genres in itself such as "twin stick shooters" and "run and guns"
"So what is the definable trait among these sub-genres?", you may ask. Isn't it obvious? Guns. Armour punching, barrel igniting, bad-guy busting guns. Before I reveal to you my all time favourite shooting games please be advised that I have developed the following lists irrespective of online multiplayer compatibility and/or competitiveness and I believe in doing so, I can focus sincerely on the sheer enjoyment I perceived when playing each game. After all, video games should primarily be about fun!
My Favourite Third-Person Shooters
Grand Theft Auto
What do you call a gamer that doesn't smell of body odour and Doritos? A casual. On occasion I ask my friends — the ones that do not spend vast portions of their life playing video games — what sort of games they had played perhaps in their youth or from time-to-time now in adulthood. The one answer I can almost always expect is: Grand Theft Auto or GTA. Rockstar games' open world, and controversially graphic crime game franchise Grand Theft Auto, is found gracing the gaming collection of hardcore video gamer's and casuals alike.
Now I suppose I was a late entry into the franchise, my first GTA game being San Andreas. I remember playing it with my two cousins for hours and not once completing a mission. That was the beauty of it — the city was just so fun to explore... and destroy. Campaign progression would certainly allow the game to blossom but it wasn't a priority of mine, the game was just casual fun, and the campaign was always there if you wanted more. You could pick up a controller and play for 5 minutes, and in that time, gain maximum wanted stars and get brutally wasted by the police. Or you could floor it down the highway into oncoming traffic blasting Bounce FM and likely do the wasting yourself. Murderous rampages? Why not? — I am sure you can see why this franchise is controversial.
Isn't GTA V a first-person shooter as well? Good pickup! The Enhanced Edition of the latest release into the GTA franchise, GTA V, allows for a deviation from the third-person shooter perspective. You can change the in-game settings to experience crime-doing from the eyes of your character — how lovely!
The Mass Effect Trilogy
Why does mum always walk in when I am attempting to smooth talk Liara? Bioware's Mass Effect was the series that prompted me to branch out from the first-person shooter genre. A science fiction shooter with a "choose your own adventure element" was a welcome change to me, even though it took me some time to get used to the third-person shooter perspective. Your decisions in these games had a weight to them and reverberated not only throughout each game, but in the series its self. In the Mass Effect Trilogy you are able to carry your character over from the previous game in the trilogy, just like in CJ Projeckt RED's The Witcher. The Mass Effect games exhibit a reasonably flexible character class system and a highly customisable weapons system, allowing players the freedom to adopt a play style of their choosing.
In case you are tuned into the wrong intergalactic radio frequency: an upcoming addition to the franchise, Mass Effect: Andromeda, is expected for release on the 21st of March 2017.
Red Dead Redemption
So me and my buddies got into a horse drawn carriage (I think there was about 5 of us). My good friend Conner was steering. We come to a railway bridge that crosses a canyon. "Don't worry lads," he assures with his Scottish accent, "I've got this!" We make it several metres before Conner decides to veer right, taking the carriage and our party off the edge with him. My ears drums burst with the screams permeating through my headset...
Well, Rockstar, you did it again! Red Dead Redemption was a massive success. Why? Because it is essentially Grand Theft Auto, but with cowboys. Riding horses was exhilarating, shooting down bad guys while doing so was even more exhilarating. The game had such open, free environments with beautiful graphics for the time; being able to experience these environments with friends made it even better! Oh and... hold onto your hats, cow-dudes and dudettes! Red Dead Redemption 2 has been announced for release in 2017!
My Favourite First-Person Shooters
In my opinion I believe there is no gaming perspective superior in immersion to that of the first-person perspective. That is why in FPS, mowing down hoards of enemies with a ridiculous arsenal of firearms is so exhilarating — it's about as up close and personal as you can get without a virtual reality headset. Watch the gore before your eyes! When I say "mowing down hoards of enemies with a ridiculous arsenal of firearms", I am of course referring directly to the DOOM franchise.
It goes without saying that this franchise takes the cake in terms of my favourite game, not only in the shooting game genre, but in the entirety of released video games... ever. The DOOM protagonist — or "DOOMGUY", as his mother calls him — is able to wield up to a whopping 9 guns (and a chainsaw) in the franchises most recent release, DOOM (2016). Every weapon throughout this franchise is unique and enjoyable to shoot, and I think translated well between games. And who ever said anything about reloading? If you love first-person shooters and have not played any of the old school DOOM games you are truly denying yourself a unique and timeless experience. You can pick the old school games up in a classic package on Steam... or install each game using several floppy discs like I had done in my youth.
Can you hear that? It came from these here bushes! — — — —next second you are this guy:
Crytek's Crysis was the first game that made me notice just how dismal the specs of my PC at the time actually were. Employing Crytek's game engine, Cryengine 2, this game set the benchmark for graphics back at its release in 2007, and continues looks fantastic by today's standards. Equip with the trademark nanosuit, you and the other members of the ever-thinning Raptor Team, investigate a distress call warning of North Korean invasion on a seemingly unimportant island. Then things start to get freaky. For me, the best part of this game was playing with the physics engine and running through the jungle like a madman in the unstoppable nanosuit. Throwing enemies at each other was hilarious. And all this while running the game on the lowest possible graphical settings, still with lag. You should have seen my face when I recently booted it on my current PC!
Counter-strike: Global Offensive
Let me make one thing clear: I was never good at this game. Even so, it was probably the most fun I have ever had with a competitive first-person shooter. Counter-strike: Global Offensive (CSGO) is the most recent release into the Counter-strike franchise, developed by Valve Corporation and Hidden Path Entertainment. It is is one of the largest competitive first-person shooters in the world.
Even though the game is relatively simple, it still requires an incredibly high amount of concentration, teamwork and outright skill. Recoil is your real enemy in this game — it's so easy to freak out and spray your magazine into the terrain surrounding your target. Therefore, watching players handle their firearms eloquently, is for me, the most enjoyable part of watching professional CSGO games... and of course the table-turning 1 v 4 plays get my heart going as well. Counter-strike as a franchise has set the benchmark for competitive FPS since its release as a Half-Life mod in 1999, and continues to go strong today.
How about some honourable mentions? I better not get carried away, so here is a significantly reduced list of some of my other favourite FPS titles:
Planetside 2 (Daybreak Game Company) - Large scale warfare! Glory to the TR!
The Battlefield franchise (EA DICE) - I can't think of one I didn't like.
Destiny (Bungie) - I love the pace of the Crucible.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Infinity Ward) - Probably the first FPS I played competitively — don't forget that split-screen too!
Painkiller (People Can Fly) - Stake gun. Need I say more?
My Only Hero Shooter
It pains me, my new friends, to admit that the only game in this genre I believe I have played is Blizzard's Overwatch. Sort of useless, aren't I? However, I gain some comfort in knowing that Overwatch has broken the ice into the genre for many fellow gamers.
I found Overwatch to be incredibly "noob friendly"; with basic FPS skills, anybody could pick this game up, play quick match, and have a whole lot of fun. However it was the desire of its developers to produce a game that could be played not only for fun, but competitively as well — and they have done just that with the implementation of competitive mode with competitive seasons and allocated player rankings.
For me Overwatch can be a casual match after work (or sometimes before hehe), or a 12 hour LAN party at my buddies house. I find it to be versatile, particularly with all the recently added game modes, and always so much fun.
From what I can tell, Valve Corporation's Team Fortress 2 paved the way for hero shooters, so I think it is time I returned to the roots of the genre and tried this game out! Also, there is a bunch of other similar games that are out now, such as: Battleborn and Paladins; and a bunch more on the horizon, such as Quake Champions and LawBreakers. So many games, so little time...
My Favourite Shoot 'em Ups
I think my little sister bit me to get a turn at this... My uncle had the actual Galaga arcade machine; he was coincidentally my favourite uncle. At his house was where I played the majority of my Galaga in my youth. Now it can be played on websites such as Classic Arcade Games for free! Namco's Galaga is a typical arcade shoot 'em up game where your sole aim is to receive a greater high score than your annoying cousin.
Pretty much the only time my teammates and I would die was when we were crushed by our own re-spawn stratagems. I actually downloaded Arrowhead Game Studios' Helldivers as a free monthly game via Playstation Plus. Not knowing what to expect, I entered this game and was immediately vanquished.
Helldivers is a highly co-operative online twin-stick shooter with a formidable arsenal of weapons and abilities (in the form of "strategems"). You control your character from an isometric perspective to spray down endless hordes of distinct alien enemies and complete objectives on a variety of planets (with several different terrain types). Ultimately, all this killing is to preserve freedom and the Earth 'way of life' for the inhabitants of Super Earth: the human races home world.
In saying all this, the best part about Helldivers is that you can totally shoot your friends! But, I strongly advise against this — you are going to need all the help you can get.
Remember how I said I will not be including "highly complicated/detailed" vehicle warfare shooting games? Well that remains true. Diep.io is visually about as simplistic as video games get these days, but is still a load of fun — and is played through a browser for free . It is a multiplayer vehicle warfare game where you control an up-gradable tank in a range of game modes. You gain experience by destroying coloured shapes and enemy tanks, which can be used to customise your tank. The game is a great way to kill some time and — just between me and you — is perfect for a cheeky play in the office.
Upcoming Shooting Games To Keep In Your Sights
Without fuelling the hype fires of some upcoming shooting games, here is a quick list of games that I will certainly be keeping in my sights:
Quake Champions (id Software and Bethesda)
Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar Games)
Ghost Recon: Wildlands (Ubisoft)
Destiny 2 (Bungie) — See Trust Reviews for further information
Prey (Arkane Studios and Bethesda)
Battalion 1944 (Bulkhead Interactive)
Rising Storm: Vietnam (Tripwire Interactive)
Strafe — See PCGamesN for further information
Shadow Warrior 2 (Flying Wild Hog)
Mass Effect: Andromeda (Bioware)
And the real question: What is my favourite video game gun?
It would have to be this sturdy, reliable collection of pixels:
Please, don't tell me you prefer a wand.. Thank you for putting some time aside from your flourishing gaming careers to read this article. Keep your aim true, my cherished readers!