Five Video Game Series I Love

Today is one of those days where I woke up and knew that I didn’t make any significant progress in any games the night before. I knew I didn’t have any concrete MTG brews lying around in drafts, and I hadn’t purchased anything worth talking about, be it hardware or software. As such, I did the rounds and found a new trending thing in the blogosphere. Credit has been given to Krikket for starting the idea, and because I didn’t have something else to write about today, I thank you.

I have more than five series that I can easily name that have had big influences on my life and gaming habits. The most memorable have stuck with me over the many real world changes I’ve experienced, and are still being produced today. There are a ton of alternatives I could have picked as well, because gaming has been a thing for the entirety of my earthly existence. As such, I’ll list out some honorable mentions here before we get onto my official list of five, though I must admit that I’m combining some game series into one pick, and you’ll see why as we go.

Honorable Mentions:

  1. Final Fantasy. I love Final Fantasy 7, and have played almost every game in the series, but very few to completion. I’m currently playing the FF7 Remake, but I don’t think I can really count the series as a whole.
  2. Shining Series. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent playing Shining Force 1 & 2, and I played through them both within the last 5 years and they’re still good. I also enjoyed Shining in the Darkness. I realize there are other entries in the series though and I have never played them so I didn’t feel I could include.
  3. Phantasy Star. IV is one of my absolute favorite JRPGs of all time. III was great to a lesser degree. II was hard to play. The first game was pretty terrible to retroactively play. There are also online versions I haven’t played so again I omitted this series.
  4. Half-Life. So obviously 1 & 2 are classics. The mods they spawned were epic. I never played the other episodes for #2, and I have no interest in the new VR Alyx game. Give me Half-Life 3 and we’ll see if I can put you on the list.
  5. Souls Series. Though not all entirely related, I own Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls 1, 2 & 3 and Bloodborne. I am interested in Sekiro and the new game that is in development. However, I’ve only completed Demon’s Souls, and I didn’t even really deep dive to do everything you could have done. I still want to finish the others, but they take some serious dedication that I hadn’t been willing to give. Perhaps I should get on that during this time of isolation.

The Picks (in no particular order):

1. Wolfenstein/DOOM/Quake

I’m combining these three series because they all have iD Software all over them. They might as well be the same games too, in their own way. Obviously the newer DOOM and Wolfenstein games have a handle on the narrative over the top portion of the FPS genre, while Quake has brought amazing competitive multiplayer to the masses for two decades. While there are individual titles in each series that I haven’t played, I have played and completed most of the above that are referenced, and I have always loved their style of game. As such, they are separate series that do different things, but at the core these are all part of the same design core. Love it.

2. Resident Evil

I have been playing Resident Evil since the original game came out on Playstation. Despite the games making their way over to other platforms, I have always stayed true to playing these games on the Playstation systems because they felt at home there. Either way, I did own various copies of the core games over the years, and did end up buying the collector’s edition of 6, which packed in download codes for the prior games, so I technically own a copy of them all between my PS3/4. I obviously recently wrote about completing the RE3 remake, and had finished the RE2 remake the year prior. I believe it was only a couple of years before that I was completing 7. Whatever the case, this series is still one of my favorites to date, and though some of the individual games don’t hold the same place in my heart, overall the series has been a fun ride.

3. Street Fighter

Street Fighter is one of those games that came out of nowhere when I was a kid, and I lapped it up. Admittedly I didn’t play the original in arcades, but I discovered the sequel in arcades and soon enough it was at home on my SEGA Genesis. I was hooked, and would come to play every major game in the series, along with many of the derivative games that would come from Capcom themselves (Darkstalkers, Marvel vs Capcom, Capcom vs. SNK, etc). I’ve enjoyed most, though some more than others. The most recent main series release, Street Fighter V, is currently installed on my PS4 along with the 30th Anniversary Collection that has multiple iterations of the first through third games. I think I own a copy of IV on my PS3 as well, so I think I own most of the library. The only major thing the series suffers from for me is that the older ones are still great, but only really fun to play while sitting next to your opponent. I have found that I don’t care for online play as much as I would have thought, but I also don’t have the time to hone my skills like I once did. That doesn’t stop me from playing them from time to time though. Overall it’s my favorite fighting game series of all time.

4. The Elder Scrolls

As much as I wanted to lump Fallout into this selection as well, I find that I’ve only really enjoyed Fallout 4 (though still planning to give 76 another go) and to a lesser extent New Vegas. I didn’t like 3. I don’t really remember 1 or 2 and I don’t have the patience to go back. But The Elder Scrolls stand on their own. The first game was never on my radar, but I do recall either seeing the box for Daggerfall on a shelf or reading about the game in a magazine. Whatever the case I never played it. My Dad introduced me to Morrowind, and I played it a bit but it was big and sprawling and I had no direction and at the time I didn’t want that. I played a pirated (gasp!) copy of Oblivion, but didn’t get into far enough to really have much to write home about. Then came along Skyrim, and I was absolutely in love. I played the hell out of this game, just like many others who really got into the series at this point in time. I bought the expansions and completed everything I could. Got the platinum trophy to boot. Really wanted to get into modding the game once I had the revamped version but everything I did made the game break and well maybe mods aren’t for me. I should probably just play through it again anyway on PC just to see how much better it could look. Regardless I had a blast with it and can’t wait for 6, though I really hope they don’t pull the same shit they did with Fallout 76. Finally, they sort of made the jump to the MMO world with The Elder Scrolls Online, and though it’s one of the best looking MMOs to come out in recent memory, it unfortunately has always felt hollow when I’ve played it. I know plenty of people who have fun with it still, but I just don’t see it ever clicking for me.

5. Diablo

It took me some time to pick my 5th option, mainly because I managed to eliminate a few series in the honorable mention section above. At some point it clicked that I had obsessively played all of three games in the series at different points in my life. When the original released I was a younger teen that had plenty of time to play but ended up not playing too much due to having to use my Dad’s PC to play it. I do remember he got the Hellfire expansion that added the monk class as well, and I’m pretty sure I completed the game, but wasn’t aware of how much of a grind you could partake in after completing the main story. I discovered that facet of the game with it’s sequel. This one I was able to play on my own PC, and said PC was in my room and I was an older teenager with enough free time to play it for hour stretches. I truly loved it, but then there was a swathe of action RPG games that came from it and many of them seemed better than Diablo or the next best thing at least, but when I finally bought Diablo III I was in love all over again. I played it through quickly, played through the expansion after it released, played seasons, played hardcore, killed off more high level characters than I can count, and generally spent more hours on it than the other two combined. Diablo IV is in development and hopefully it has a smoother launch than it’s predecessor, but either way I’m sure there will be a point in the future where I play it and get sucked in once again.

So there it is. I’m sure I could go on and on about plenty of other titles and series, but I’ll call it done for now.

King + Blizzard: A Perfect Match

The news is pretty fresh, so you may not have heard: Activision just bought King, the company responsible for that whole Candy Crush thing. Admittedly I haven’t played any of King’s offerings, much like I ignored Zynga before them. Facebook/browser games are mostly throwaway experiences. From the variety of games I’ve experienced on mobile devices, the same can be said. Timewasters, and nothing more aside from a few rare gems.

I have however, spent plenty of time with Blizzard (and Activision) games. Call of Duty aside though, this is a post focusing on Blizzard and King, and how they are a perfect match for each other.

Unable to claim the title of “the first person to say that,” it’s pretty clear that Blizzard titles are basically accessible and polished experiences you’ve already had elsewhere. Their newest games released in the past few years are easily comparable to other titles in the genre who already had a foothold in the market. As a matter of fact, all of their titles are accessible and polished versions of established genres, but let’s start from the newest offerings:

Overwatch – FPS Arena Shooter, similar to Team Fortress 2.
Heroes of the Storm – MOBA, similar to League of Legends/DOTA2
Hearthstone – CCG, similar to Magic: The Gathering

Those titles alone are painting a picture that goes back to Blizzard’s humble beginnings. I’m sure you can see the correlation between Dune II and Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. Even The Lost Vikings is similar to other platformers of the era. The big gorilla in the room though, World of Warcraft, is similar enough in its approach to prior MMOs, but added that blizzard level of polish and accessibility.

That isn’t to say that Blizzard doesn’t make good games. I absolutely adored Diablo and still do. It still does it better than most Action-RPGs out there, and it established the “formula” despite taking elements from various action and adventure games that preceded it. We also can’t say that it isn’t innovative to build on what came before, because that’s been the formula for our entire existence. But in this era of all-you-can-eat gaming, standing apart from the pack means doing something different, and copying what is already successful and getting the perfect storm effect once doesn’t mean it will happen regularly or ever again. I think Blizzard needs to start thinking outside of the box, and this purchase could be part of that.

As I said earlier, I haven’t touched any of King’s titles, but I’ve played enough Bejeweled to know what Candy Crush Saga is all about. In doing some reading and formulating this post, I came across this article that sparked my train of thought in the first place. Go ahead and read it. If nothing else, scroll down and look at the pictures. I’ll wait.

Back? So you’ll have seen how King has been taking the Blizzard method of polishing an existing idea to a whole other level. They don’t make a genre more accessible, they straight copy games, change a few assets and call it their own. Then they monetize the shit out of it and call it a day. Their existing catalog of games are all copies of another game, or sequels to that copy. How they haven’t been sued more I don’t know. It’s as bad as the rest of the mobile games market though, in that anything that becomes popular sees a billion straight copies on the market within days. But I digress.

Does anyone else see the correlation I’m getting at thought? It seems these two companies made their fortunes off of copying others’ ideas and putting their own spin on it. It’s only fitting that they are basically the same company now.

I’m just curious to see if this makes the mobile marketplace better, or if the Kingly influence makes Blizzard a worse company in the long run.

Some further commentary from round the blogosphere:

Keen and Graev
The Ancient Gaming Noob
Syncaine

Blizzard and Me

Blizzard and I have a strange relationship. I was about the biggest fanboy you could be when it came to their early years in the 1990’s. I remember playing Warcraft: Orcs & Humans and Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness back when you still had to run them through DOS. The games were easy to learn but more difficult to master. The original Diablo was also a staple back then, but it wasn’t until Starcraft was installed on my machine that I became a fan for life. Hailed as one of if not the best RTS game of all time, Starcraft was truly a perfect storm. Competitors such as Command & Conquer held their own, but Starcraft set the bar for all RTS games to come. I fell in love with the game, eschewing nearly all other games I was playing to devote my life to it. I beat the campaigns, I beat the expansion, I played regularly on Battle.net, though I never got involved in the ladder. I used the map editor to create new maps, attempted to create a Starcraft RPG within it, and even had a webpage dedicated to it, that won an award back in the days when GeoCities were a thing. Clearly, I was obsessed.

That obsession came back when Diablo II released in 2000. I was in my senior year of high school, and thankfully was at a point where I could pretty much ignore school so my grades didn’t suffer, despite the fact that I was constantly playing it. I lamented when the computer I was using fried and I was unable to play the game after the Lord of Destruction expansion hit. I was able to play it periodically at friend’s houses, but I lost out on part of the game’s evolution for the most part.

When Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos hit stores a couple of years later, I was still computer-less, though I had a good friend who would allow me to play it when I was visiting. Eventually, I had a new computer and I purchased the Battle Chest for the game, that was packed with The Frozen Throne expansion, and ended up playing through both, along with playing the game itself and multiple mods created by the community. Never DotA though, and for that I am sad. Nevertheless, my obsession with Blizzard’s fantastic games continued.

Upon hearing of the upcoming MMO World of Warcraft, I was very excited and wanted to be one of the first to play it. At the time though, I was unemployed and was unable to afford a copy of the game let alone a subscription fee. There were also stories of huge queues and Blizzard pulling the game from store shelves, so I made a decision to stick with the original Everquest, which I had been playing off and on for years (though never very seriously).

A couple of years later, I had basically forgotten about Blizzard altogether. I was busy playing single player games, shooters like Counter-Strike and Day of Defeat, Call of Duty, or whatever was in my Playstation 2 library. Sure, WoW was a success and hard to ignore, but I wasn’t at that point of being obsessed with MMOs like I would be in the future. Eventually my Dad (who had introduced me to EQ) was telling me that he had picked up Everquest 2, and I followed suit. I convinced my roommate at the time to join us, and soon I had a mixture of friends and family that were all playing the game together. It could have just as easily been WoW, because honestly they are very similar games when it comes down to it, but we had found our home in Norrath and my obsession with MMOs had nothing to do with Blizzard. It even came to a point that from what I had read, what I had seen and what I had talked about with friends, that WoW felt like the inferior game in many ways, despite being vastly more popular with most of the world. We felt like we had made the right choice regardless, and since Blizzard hadn’t done anything with any of their IPs outside of WoW for years, I basically wrote them off altogether.

From circa 2003 to circa 2010, I didn’t play any Blizzard games. There were times I would dabble with Starcraft or Diablo II, but I didn’t feel the love for the company that I once had. It was a sad state of affairs, but it was what it was. It wasn’t until I had a falling out with the MMO genre altogether that I opened up the possibility of playing and enjoying World of Warcraft. I had spent very little time in these virtual worlds for a couple of years and had a new job where my direct co-worker wouldn’t stop yammering about the game. I finally succumbed to his pandering and bought the Battle Chest that included Vanilla and The Burning Crusade. I also picked up Wrath of Lich King shortly thereafter.

I was pleasantly surprised how much I could enjoy the game I had spent so much time trashing. So much time arguing over with friends who loved it and I was still wondering why. None of them would even give my games of choice the time of day because they felt like they already had so much invested in WoW. I don’t blame them, looking back. They were right. I was wrong. However, it seems that somewhere along the line Blizzard put all of their eggs in one basket, and forgot about people like me. People who helped them become the behemoth. Who paid their way towards making WoW which would then in turn make them the king of the gaming world.

Sure, I played WoW for about six months and enjoyed myself well enough, but the time investment I had put into Everquest 2 continuously pulled me back to that game instead. Had I started with WoW, I probably would be like most of you who are reading this post. WoW would be my game, and I’d either play it steadily or leave for a couple of months only to return when the next expansion hit. Either way, I had that relationship with EQ2, so it was easy to leave WoW to go back to that game. WoW never hooked me the way other Blizzard games did, and I don’t think it ever will.

It wasn’t until 2013-14 that I really got back into Blizzard games, and this wasn’t due to World of Warcraft. I managed to get into the Beta for Hearthstone and was rather impressed with it, and played it for quite a while. I purchased Diablo III and its expansion, and as it sits now that is currently my favorite Blizzard game, though Starcraft II has been fun as well (though no where near as addictive as its predecessor was for me). I also picked WoW up again, pre-Warlords of Draenor, but only played for a month and wasn’t hooked this time either.

Hearthstone was unique in that it was a free to play title, which Blizzard hadn’t released before. I loved the fact that it was a CCG because of my history with Magic: The Gathering, and though it was simple and still based on Warcraft lore, I was hooked for a time. I played through beta into full release, earned enough gold to buy all of the Naxxramas adventures and even continued playing after Goblins and Gnomes released. It was around this time though that I started to feel disenchanted with the game. The random effects began to get to ridiculous levels where it felt like you had very little control over what happened in a given match, and if I wanted to play a dice game I’d just go play craps. Still, it has become a steady revenue stream for Blizz, and they’ve added more solo adventures and are teasing a new set of cards coming out sometime soon in The Grand Tournament. Good on them, but it’s no longer a game that gets my regular attention.

Diablo III launched and had its issues (namely the Auction House) and I avoided playing it until after they fixed the problem with the patch 2.0. Shortly thereafter Reaper of Souls released, and along with it one of the best ideas the company had in a while: Adventure Mode. The level of replayability and the fact that patches are still released fairly regularly leads me to believe that Blizzard learned their lesson from the past. Diablo II didn’t have much added to it after LoD. Diablo III looks to have new content added regularly, and that’s good for the franchise overall. Even now, patch 2.3 is in testing and they’re adding a whole new zone, a powerful artifact, and changes to Adventure Mode.

Starcraft II was different from its predecessor in that it released only one single player campaign at a time, but has made changes through Battle.net to the multiplayer portion of the game. Mods are better supported through the Arcade as well. The third campaign Legacy of the Void, centering around the Protoss is in development now and the game has definitely lived a long life, sitting at the five year old mark already.

Clearly, Blizzard is starting to remember those of us who weren’t that taken with WoW but still love their other offerings. They’ve also started to branch out a bit by adding new IPs, such as Heroes of the Storm. Granted, this game still draws from their other IPs so it’s not entirely new, but it is their first foray into the MOBA scene and seems to be doing fairly well, though it’s not as popular as the kings of the genre League of Legends and DOTA 2. Personally this game appealed to me because I figured Blizzard would make a great MOBA, but it fell short of my expectations and I haven’t touched it since it was in Beta. Still, it’s good to see the company do something else besides make content for their MMO.

Lastly, a completely new IP called Overwatch has been in development for some time now. It’s actually showing up in the Battle.net launcher now too, though I haven’t heard of anyone getting any in-game time just yet. It’s a team-based lobby shooter, and though this isn’t a new genre in itself it’s something Blizzard have yet to do and it looks good. Hype got the best of me with HotS though, so I’m not super excited but I will try it when I get a chance. Perhaps it will exceed my expectations if I keep them low. Video of the game does look fantastic though.

Most people are in the middle of writing (or have written) posts about their predictions for the next WoW expansion which will be announced later today. The other big news is that WoW is down to 5.6 million subscribers, a low not seen since 2005 or so, yet still the biggest amount of subscribers in any western MMO at this point, with FFXIV coming in a close second. I really wanted to make some commentary but as you can see, my history with WoW is limited, though my history with the company might exceed some of yours. I’m thankful that they have done well and can potentially make more games that I’m interested in sometime in the future. But I have nothing overly positive to say about their MMO and I don’t suspect that will ever change. I’m in agreement with some members of the blogosphere that WoW is slowly being sunset and focus within the company is shifting to other projects. Honestly, I think diversification is good not only for Blizzard but for gamers like me as well.

WoW is dead. Long live Blizzard.

#blizzard #history