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Talking Point: What Will be the Next Big Craze in the Video Game Industry?

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Talking Point is a weekly series that posits a question concerning the gaming industry. We encourage readers, as well as our writers, to offer their thoughts on the topic. Hence the name: Talking Point. Feel free to join in below.

Trends come and go, be they clothing, music, books, films, or even video games. The video game industry, like any other, tends to shift the focus of its products to meet the demand of consumers, which often results in a saturated market. Not long ago first person shooters were all the rage. Then came God of War (2005) and all its clones. In recent years we had interactive adventure games (with Telltale Games leading the front), retro-looking indie games, and open world titles filling the shelves of retailers or cluttering Steam’s storefront.

The open world craze is still fresh. Triple-A publishers seem to favor this gameplay approach in order to meet the demand for a title that justifies its premium price tag. While most of these games present stellar graphics and smooth mechanics, the public has started to notice they follow safe patterns to guarantee over 30 or 50 hours of content. Such patterns include a massive open world in the likes of Grand Theft Auto or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a multitude of repetitive optional objectives that hardly add to the game’s story, and contained exploration—meaning there’s little to no incentive to stray too far from the main course.

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Image provided by Oliver Rebbeck.

As much as I enjoy the freedom provided by open worlds, I have to agree with anyone who says there’s just too many of them out there. It seems like every other big release is an open world game and at this point, we already know what to expect from those. The formula is stale and the public is starting to ask for something else, preferably linear. At this rate, it’s difficult not to wonder what the next big thing will be, yet just as difficult to accurately pin it down.

Considering the cries of hardcore gamers and critics, could we start seeing more linear games such as Resident Evil 7? Or perhaps a bigger focus on branching storylines, an approach the industry has been leaning towards for some time now? Can virtual reality finally take off or will we see platformers making a huge splash once again? eSports (be it MOBAs or team-based shooters) became a powerful genre over the past few years, so could it dominate the industry in the near future? Have your say and let us know what you think.

Born and raised in Northeastern Brazil, Gabriel didn't grow up with video games as many of his colleagues did. However, his dedication and love for the industry make up for his late start in the gaming world.

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Ricky D

    March 25, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    Following my comment today about how there are too many expensive triple A titles and so sales would drop across each platform. Well Polygon released an article today saying that 150 GameStop stores are closing down since not enough triple A titles are selling. Could be because more people are buying digital and/or could be because there are too many triple a games that require too much of our time and so people are buying less.

  2. Izsak “Khane” Barnette

    March 30, 2017 at 1:39 am

    I feel like the push for open-world experiences has really hamstrung developers ability to make modern, cinematic experiences. I think of a game like the original Xenoblade Chronicles and wonder why more developers don’t take a similar approach to the open-world genre and marry great worlds with even greater stories. Xenoblade gave huge, open areas that, while cordoned off from each other, allowed the player the chance to explore without ruining the narrative in the process.

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‘Pokémon Gold and Silver’ Remain the Greatest Pokémon Games

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on September 22, 2017.

At last estimate, there were 802 pokémon in the Pokémon World, with Marshadow the latest to be discovered. Back when Pokémon Gold and Silver were released, there was a measly 251 pokémon; an additional 100 pokémon were added for generation two. With so many new dynamics added to the latest Pokémon games, it might be surprising to find that Pokémon Gold and Silver remain the strongest titles in the series, and even more astonishingly, how the successors were influenced more by Pokémon Gold and Silver than they were Pokémon Red and Blue.

It wouldn’t take much convincing to believe that Pokémon Red and Blue was the greatest generation, the original that sparked a highly successful franchise. Indeed, much of what gives Pokémon a strong pay day was soft boiled in generation one. The mascot, after some serious slimming alterations, remains Pikachu, and even the poster boy of the animé, Ash Ketchum, is based on Red from Pokémon Red and Blue. However, when you run from your nostalgia, you’ll find that Pokémon Red and Blue were largely broken.

Pokémon has become a seriously complicated strategy game, that relies on so many complex variables, that becoming a Pokémon Master has never been so difficult. Currently, it remains fairly well-balanced, but it never used to be. Pokémon Red and Blue were terribly flawed when it came to strategy. The Psychic type was ridiculously overpowered, with only weaknesses to Ghost and Bug types, both lacking a strong movepool. The only Ghost moves were Lick and Night Shade, both comparatively weak to your Psychic selection; Bug moves aren’t even worth mentioning. Alakazam became the strongest non-legendary pokémon in the game, something that would cause confusion to the latter addition of pokémon fans.

The Psychic type was controlled in two ways in Pokémon Gold and Silver, a new type and some new moves. No dynamic has balanced competitive play more than the introduction of the Dark type. Suddenly, Alakazam was frail. Umbreon and Tyranitar gave Alakazam some problems it never faced in the previous generation, creating a reluctance to use the iconic Psychic pokémon. Secondly, and most importantly, there were now moves that could do serious damage to Psychic types. Shadow Ball became a new Ghost move that finally did decent damage, Megahorn was introduced as a strong Bug type Move, and Crunch remains a much used Dark type move. To top that off, the split of the Special stat into Special Attack and Special Defence really paralyzed Alakazam into a lightweight pokémon.

It wasn’t just Psychic types that took a hit either, the Dragon type finally had a nemesis with other Dragon pokémon. The reason why Gyarados was never a dragon type was purely down to the balance of the types. A Water/Dragon type in generation one would have only have had a weakness to Dragon, in which the only Dragon move was Dragon Rage which always does 40HP damage regardless of type. The introduction of the move Dragonbreath gave Dragons an actual weakness to the Dragon type, even if the move was relatively moderate in strength. This in return, allowed a Water/Dragon type to be introduced, Kingdra, which is the evolution to the generation one pokémon Seadra.

Kingdra was obtained by trading a Seadra holding a Dragon Scale. This new way of evolving certain pokémon by trade whilst holding an item opened up new evolutions for some generation one pokémon. Onix became Steelix, Scyther became Scizor, Porygon became Porygon2, and Poliwhirl could become Politoed. Two of these were inspired by the introduction of the Steel type, allowing a defensive strategy to blossom in competitive play. Indeed, it’s hard to find a competitive team without a Steel type, with Scizor remaining one of the most widely used.

The pokémon introduced in Pokémon Gold and Silver are some of the most adeptly created designs out of the full 802 pokémon so far discovered. It’s hard to find any seriously awful designs in the generation. The Unowns maybe, but they inspired some differentiation in the same species of pokémon that would end up with Alolan forms in Pokémon Sun and Moon. Baby pokémon were a rather dull, and a particularly needless addition. However, they inspired the most complex dynamic in competitive play to this day, pokémon breeding.

The complexity of pokémon breeding came much later, but the concept remains leech seeded to Pokémon Gold and Silver. Nature and ability, two values that would come in Pokémon Sapphire and Ruby, would spore from the pokémon breeding concept of generation two. Whilst it started as a small gesture to the pokédex to obtain some baby pokémon, it would soon become a pokémon producing factory, often with a Ditto at the center of it, to develop pokémon with the perfect nature and ability for competitive play.

The complexities didn’t end there. Some breeding partners would be able to pass on a move to its offspring that it shouldn’t be able to learn. For example, if a male Dragonite knows Outrage and a female Charizard knows Fire Blitz, the resulting Charmander will know Outrage and Fire Blitz. This could result in a chain effect, whereby a move could be passed on from generation to generation of different species. This helps to give your pokémon a competitive edge by learning a move it wouldn’t be able to learn by normal means.

Pokémon breeding ultimately turned the Pokémon series into very different games. Whilst in Pokémon Red and Blue you had to catch them all, from Pokémon Gold and Silver it started to focus on breeding them all. Filling your pokédex wasn’t just throwing balls and trading, but more complex situations in which your pokémon reacted to the environment. One such change that happened in Pokémon Gold and Silver was the introduction of a night and day cycle. This would continue to feature in every Pokémon generation after that, and Pokémon Black and White would even attempt different seasons. The night and day cycle would be the exact same as the night and day cycle in real life, meaning you had to play Pokémon Gold and Silver at different times of the day to encounter all the pokémon.

This would be further bolstered by certain evolutions only occurring during the day or at night. The most famous, of course, is Eevee into either Espeon or Umbreon. The creation of time and place becoming a factor into the development of your pokémon, plus the divergence of possible evolutions, such as Poliwhirl becoming either Poliwrath or Politoed, gave much more flexibility to how you develop your own team. The evolution of Espeon and Umbreon wasn’t just a time restraint either, but an invisible happiness meter would also play a role. This invisible meter meant for certain pokémon, you just had no idea when they would evolve, you’d only know how to encourage it. This happiness meter would eventually inspire the affection meter in Pokémon X and Y, modeled by another Eevee evolution, Sylveon.

These invisible stats meant, at least for a while, you had to treat your pokémon as if they were a living, breathing creature. Unfortunately, most pokémon that evolve through happiness are baby pokémon, which are incredibly weak. Fainting drops the happiness meter down, so an Exp. Share remains the best way to level it up, should you believe its happiness is high enough for the evolution.

The mathematics hidden beneath each pokémon also created a candy so rare that pokémon fans sought them to this day; shiny pokémon. Not really adding anything to the gameplay other than a different color to your pokémon, some of them look truly amazing. The most sought at the time was always a shiny Charizard, which becomes a beautiful, black dragon. The most famous in the game, however, was the red Gyarados which was part of the storyline.

The storyline itself carried on from Pokémon Red and Blue, something that didn’t really happen in the other generations. In many ways, this made Pokémon Gold and Silver a 90s equivalent to a DLC rather than an entirely new game. This is further shown in the post-game when you can take the S.S Aqua to Kanto and battle the original eight gym leaders to increase your badge total to sixteen. Pokémon Gold and Silver remain the only Pokémon games where you can visit two regions, something that probably won’t happen again.

The intertwined natures of generation one and two are further tied by the animé. In the very first episode of the animé, the legendary bird Ho-Oh is seen flying above Ash. Ho-Oh wouldn’t be seen in the games until Pokémon Gold and Silver, the mascot for Pokémon Gold itself. Likewise, Togepi was seen in the animé well before the release of generation two, hinting at the concept of pokémon breeding by first appearing as an egg. Much of Pokémon Gold and Silver was created in conjunction with Pokémon Red and Blue, creating a natural path to follow on your Pokémon adventure. Since then, the path has become more erratic, with no clear direction. They usually just pick a part of the world for inspiration and create its Pokémon equivalent. The Japanese inspired regions were gone after Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, and way before then, the storyline had lost any kind of direction from one game to the next.

What made Pokémon Gold and Silver so special was it continued the journey already started in Pokémon Red and Blue, and then added the balance that was much-needed competitively. More importantly, it sowed the seeds for future Pokémon games to come, beginning the dynamics we’ve all become accustomed to all the way up to Pokémon Sun and MoonPokémon Gold and Silver is the greatest Pokémon generation because it’s the true origins of the Pokémon games we see today, contrary to the original Pokémon Red and Blue.

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‘Bee Simulator’ Review: Pleasantly Droning On

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Unless a typical bee’s day involves a lot of clunky wasp fights, high-speed chases, and dancing for directions, it’s doubtful many players will walk away from Bee Simulator feeling like they’ve really been given a glimpse into the apian way of life. Sure, there’s plenty of the typical pollen collecting and human annoying here, but odd tasks like hauling glowing mushrooms for ants, helping baby squirrels find their mom, and stinging some little brat who’s stomping all your flowers (hopefully he doesn’t have an allergy) are also on the agenda. That’s not exactly keepin’ it real, but regardless, the variety is actually more simple and less silly than it sounds; it turns out that even doing weird bee stuff quickly becomes repetitive. Still, this family-friendly look at a bug’s life is bolstered by a sincere love of nature, as well as some smooth flight mechanics and a surprisingly large open world for younger gamers to explore.

Bee Simulator beetle

Set in a Central Park-like expanse, Bee Simulator definitely takes on a more edutainment vibe right off the bat (Goat Simulator this ain’t) with a prologue that offers up some info on the ecological importance of bees to the planet. That protective attitude is a constant throughout the game’s short campaign and side quests, as the well-being of these hive heroes is constantly under threat by those goonish wasps, the bitter cold of winter, and of course, oblivious humans. Players take control of a newly hatched worker bee (sorry, drone lovers) who dreams of a role more important than being relegated to merely buzzing by flowers, and consequently sets out to save the day. However, these crises are portrayed in the thinnest terms possible, resolved quickly, and summarily forgotten, leaving little of narrative interest.

So then, it’s up to the gameplay to keep players engaged, and in this area Bee Simulator is a bit of a mixed bag. On the good side, flying works really well, and gives a nice sense of scale to being a little bee in the great, big world. Winging it close to the ground offers a zippy sense of speed, as flowers and blades of grass rush by in colorful streaks. A rise in elevation makes travel seem slower, but provides a fantastic view of the park, showcasing a lakeside boathouse,a zoo filled with exotic creatures, as well as various restaurants, playgrounds, picnics, pedestrians, and street vendors scattered about. Precision is rarely a must outside chases that require threading through glowing rings (a tired flying sim staple) or navigating nooks and crannies, but the multi-axis controls are pretty much up to the task, and make getting around a pleasure.

Bee Simulator zebras

However, that sense of flowing freedom doesn’t quite apply to the limited list of other activities. Though the world is large, the amount of different ways to interact with it is very small, revolving around a few basic concepts: fighting, racing, dancing, retrieving, and collecting. And with the exception of the latter, these actions can only be performed at specifically marked spots that initiate the challenge; most of Bee Simulator exists purely for the view. It’s somewhat understandable in its predictability — how many different things can a bee actually do, after all? — but the gameplay is still a bit disappointing in its shallowness. Fighting plays out like a turn-based rhythm mini-game, those aforementioned races follow uninspired routes, dancing is simply a short bout of Simon, and collecting pollen employs a ‘bee vision’ that does nothing more than verify that players know their colors.

It’s very basic stuff that can’t really sustain motivation for those used to more creativity. The roughly 3-hour campaign seems to support this idea; Bee Simulator knows it doesn’t have much going on for veteran gamers. However, as a visual playground for younger kids to fly around in, free from any real danger, there is something a bit magical about the world presented. There are loads of little vignettes to happen upon, such as a family BBQ, a small amusement park, and a bustling kitchen. What exactly are those lonely row-boaters thinking about out on the lake by themselves? Where is the flower lady going in such a hurry? Discovering new places — like a lush, sprawling terrarium — creates the impression of a massive world with plenty going on regardless of whether the player sees it or not, and can serve to spark the imagination.

Bee Simulator garden

In addition to racking up that pollen for the winter, info on various flora and fauna can also be be collected and stored in the hive’s library, where 3-D models can also be purchased with ‘knowledge’ points earned through completing quests. These texts detail some interesting facts about brave bees and their relation to the environment, and can definitely be a fun teaching tool for wee gamers.

Grizzled fans of the open-world genre may want to buzz clear, however, as well as those hoping for some zaniness. Though Bee Simulator offers some solid soaring in an attractive environment, it’s a sincere, straightforward attempt to promote bee kind that doesn’t offer much more than a relaxing atmosphere and repetitive actions.

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20 Years Later: ‘Pokémon Gold and Silver’ Took the Franchise’s Next Evolutionary Step

The legacy of Johto lives on in what was Game Freak’s next evolutionary step in the world of Pokémon.

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Two regions to explore, 16 gym badges to collect, two Elite Four runs to conquer, a battle tower to climb, a previous champion to best at your own game, and 251 pocket monsters to capture. There is no denying that the Johto region of Pokémon Gold and Silver had- and still may contain- the most amount of content to dig into for any player when it comes to everything outside of filling up all the entries of Sword and Shield’s Pokédex.

Pokémon Gold and Silver released in Japan 20 years ago today on November 21st, 1999. The Johto region still stands as not only one of the most renowned Pokémon games in the franchise but a contender for one of the top Game Boy and Game Boy Color games to be released on the handheld systems. No matter which entry is your favorite, there is no denying that Pokémon Gold and Silver was the next evolutionary step on Game Freak’s stairway to fame in what is now currently the largest franchise in history.

A Daunting Next Step

Pokémon Gold and Silver’s development was greenlit immediately after Red and Green had launched in Japan. The untitled sequels at the time were slated for release for the holiday season of 1998. However, during this time frame, Game Freak had also been working on a multitude of Pokémon projects including the Nintendo 64 game Pokémon Stadium and a rebranded companion version to Red that would replace Green for the overseas release of the games. The majority of the small staff team of programmers had already been occupied once the development of Gold and Silver truly began.

What was originally intended to be one year of development slowly turned into three and a half due to a lack of on-hand resources and major programming difficulties that inevitably delayed what was to be the company’s most ambitious release yet. Game Freak found themselves in a troubling situation as the independent company had to balance out time for overseeing the entire Pokémon brand that had expanded into an anime, cards, toys, and even soon to be movies. The worldwide phenomenon was continuing to expand faster than Game Freak could keep up with.

Nintendo Force Magazine – ‘Satoru Iwata Pokémon Tribute’

Late into Gold and Silver’s development, Game Freak’s team of programmers called upon star-man of the industry Satoru Iwata as the developers were having trouble with various coding bugs and fitting all the game assets onto the small memory storage of the Game Boy’s cartridges. Iwata stepped in immediately and saved yet another second-party Nintendo project from disaster. At the beginning of Gold and Silver’s development, Iwata had single-handedly recreated the entire battle system code for Pokémon Stadium by just simply playing the games and analyzing some internal coding. Iwata’s trustworthy knowledge instantly skyrocketed him to become one of the company’s most valuable informants. Nintendo’s future president returned to his all-star team of programmers working at HAL Laboratory to create graphical compression tools for Game Freak to use. This allowed the company to combine both the Johto and Kanto regions onto a single 1-megabyte Game Boy cartridge and meet their latest home territory release deadline.

The Next Phase of Evolution

Gold and Silver continued to build off of Red and Green by introducing the next region in the Pokémon world that would naturally set trends for the series going forward. One of these trends was the reoccurring introduction of a new region inspired by a different area of the world for each game.

Johto was the western half of a landmass shared by the previous game’s location. While Kanto had been based on the Kantō region of Honshu, Japan, the nearby Kansai region would become Johto’s core source of inspiration for its landscape as seen through not only its general location on the map but its architectural features. For example, the sharp shapings of rooftops and gateway entrances to towns known as torii are littered everywhere throughout Johto; some of Kansai’s most common building aesthetics.

Map of Johto and Kanto regions from Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver promotional art

Gold and Silver gained several new features that would ultimately become some of the most crucial and missed aspects of the mainline games. For starters, one important new feature that would solidify its place in future entries was the inclusion of a real-time clock. Multiple in-game events, visuals, and even Pokémon variety in the wild areas would alter depending on the time and day of the week. For example, the psychic owl species of Pokémon, Hoothoot and Noctowl, would only appear in the wild starting in the late afternoon. Eevee could only evolve into Umbreon at night, while the Bug Catching Contest was exclusively available at certain hours on weekdays.

Suicune, Entei, and Raikou became the first trio of legendary creatures to start what is now known as “roaming Pokémon.” Rather than traditionally entering a dungeon-like area, players would randomly encounter these three minor legendaries in the wild grass areas of the game after they had witnessed them book it from the Burned Tower of Ecruteak City during the story. When in battle, the Pokémon will attempt to flee immediately on its first turn. If any of the three are killed in battle, the beast will never be able to appear again on your save file.

The competitive scene for the series would begin to take its modern shape because of the introduction of both breeding and the move deleter. Breeding opened a new floodgate of multiplayer strategies by allowing specific Pokémon to obtain moves they would naturally not be able to learn through technical machines and evolution. Meanwhile, the move deleter finally allowed Pokémon to be rid of their HM moves that previously could not be overwritten, allowing players to freshly design their move-sets at any given time.

The most notable feature, however, would never see a return in a future game. Being able to journey across two different regions is by far Gold and Silver’s most proclaimed component. As stated before, Kanto and Johto share an extremely close geographical connection. Because of this, players can explore the entirety of Kanto after defeating the elite four- more than doubling the amount of content the game had to offer. Outside of the Johto games, this feature has never once returned to another Pokémon game.

The Legacy of Johto Lives On

At the time of its release, Gold and Silver received a highly positive reception from both audiences and critics. The most notable features praised by critics in reviews were the inclusions of more mechanics and typings that deepened the battle system along with the designs of the lineup of new Pokémon receiving all-around praise. During its lifetime on store shelves, the two versions nearly recreated the success of their predecessors as both combined with the sales of their later third enhanced entry Pokémon Crystal sold a total of 23 million copies. Today, Pokémon Gold and Silver are still regarded as some of the best Pokémon games, but not in their original form.

In 2010, trainers had the opportunity to return to the Johto region for the third time in the tenth anniversary generation two remakes Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver for the Nintendo DS. Following in the footsteps of Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, the generation two remakes not only attempted to streamline and fix the problems found in the original Game Boy entries of the series but they added a hefty new amount of content for both retuning veterans and newcomers on top of a gorgeous graphical overhaul.

HeartGold and SoulSilver – Cyndaquill partner in New Bark Town

Building off of the engine used for Pokémon Platinum, the enhanced remakes envisioned what is arguably the greatest interpretation yet of the Johto region by continuing to build off what the other DS games had already successfully established. HeartGold and SoulSilver contained nearly every feature found in a Pokémon game up until that point. It sought to continually expand upon modernizing the series through making needed accessibility changes and improving on the Nintendo Wi-Fi connectivity abilities that Diamond and Pearl had a rather shaky start with. Several lost features from previous games outside of Gold and Silver even managed to return for the remake. The beloved idea of having an interactive Pokémon partner to journey around the world with from Yellow, for example, made a comeback but this time any Pokémon could follow you as long as they had been placed in the first party slot.

While still being one of the Nintendo DS’s most commercially successful games, HeartGold and SoulSilver were not able to reach half the amount of sales their original incarnations had achieved. However, the games have averaged the highest critical reception of any mainline Pokémon game released in the franchise. The game notably received spotlight due to its included pedometer accessory the Pokéwalker. The device allowed players to place one Pokémon in the device. As a player walks in real-life, their Pokémon could collect experience, find items, and even catch other creatures that could be transferred directly back into the game.

Pokémon Gold and Silver exclusive MyNintendo 3DS themes.

Today, the original versions of Gold and Silver can be purchased on the Nintendo 3DS Eshop alongside the first Pokémon games- Red and Blue- that had released on the original Game Boy. Alongside the original generation two games, its counterpart successor Pokémon Crystal can also be purchased currently on the Eshop. 3DS home screen themes (as depicted to the left) can also be obtained through gold and silver points through the MyNintendo website.

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