Rethinking Good Games and Avoiding DRM

Two things I want to talk about today that stuck in my mind as I browsed the Internet.

The first comes from this article at TechRadar that talks about 3D graphics in video games and how they have not been a universally good thing for the gaming industry. While games like first-person shooters and racing simulations have of course benefitted, other genres like platforming games and, my favorite genre, the 2D vertical shooter, were, and still are, better in a 2D environment. The move to 3D, as the article argues, took the charm out of SEGA's Sonic series, and I would add to that the Castlevania series, Kirby series Metriod series and fighting games in general. Some of these, games, thankfully, now have found a more suitable gaming platform in the arena of portable gaming, as the DS and PSP are more suited to 2D gaming due to their technical limitations.

Granted, some game franchises really are better in 3D, such as the Zelda series. But I think Zelda is an example of a series that made the jump to 3D just to keep up with the technology. There was nothing wrong with Zelda in the early 2D games that were made. The jump to 3D enabled some cool things, sure, but Zelda was OK in 2D. Much like there is nothing wrong with the 2D fighting game genre. Sure, the graphics have switched over, but most games like Tekken and Virtua Fighter are still, for the most part, 3D fighters set on a 2D plane. Indeed, I think that most games wouldn't be significantly hurt if made in a 2D form. Devil May Cry 2D? God of War 2D? I don't see where these games would inherntly fail when placed in a 2D environment. They would be different, sure, but they would still contain the essence, if you will, of the series'.

In some cases, 3D has contributed to some horrible gaming experiences. Most of these failures are in the form of poorly implemented camera views. Every 3D game has to have a dynamic camera, and some games allow the gamer to have some control over the camera. Every game from the hugely popular Mario 64 and Tomb Raider series to games like Rainbow Cotton and Soul Fighter (both for the Sega Dreamcast) had serious camera issues that led to many a frustrated gamer. Camera issues are something that games like Starcraft, Gran Turismo, and Guitar Hero don't have to worry about.

All of the above example were given just to say that new technology does not necessarily make a better gaming experience. The PS3 and Xbox 360 can have the fastest processors in the world, but if a game developer can't write a good camera for a game, the flashiest graphics in the world will sit on the shelf. Game developers have to actually create good games, even if it means sacrificing eye candy for substance.


The second thing I wanted to talk about is downloading music. As of today, I will no longer download music from the iTunes store (gift cards being the only exception). I have also converted every single DRM-laden song I have into a open format, save for a few singles that are still protected. I did this mostly out of principle - I believe that there is no excuse anymore to support DRM-controlled content. Once I buy something, I do not want any corporation telling me what I can or cannot do with their product. This applies to hardware as well. (I'm looking at you again, Apple, with your new DRM-chipped Macbooks and limiting iPhone App Store.)

The iTunes decision also stems from my preference of the Amazon MP3 service (mentioned in this post) and also my love for the physical product. I like having CDs around that I can look and and browse the liner notes of. Another reason I prefer CDs is that, if I ever decide to sell it, I can actually get 4 or 5 dollars for a disc, lowering the net cost of owning the CD. Sure, it's cheaper in the short run if I download the music, but the tradeoff is that a) I can't look at the physical product and b) I can never resell it. I don't download music very often, and from now on, I'm only going to use Amazon.


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