We need Rock Band / Guitar Hero song compatibility

In this post, the Penny Arcade guys make the point that beyond instrument capability, what we really need is song compatibility between the two. Beyond the licensing nightmare that would probably represent for both games publishers, this resonated really well for me. Here’s why and why it makes perfectly good business sense below the apparent “yeah, right, you wish” appearances.

Guitar Hero -and Rock Band even more so- are the ultimate party games. I can’t seem to go to a party these days that doesn’t have a Rock Band game running. Perfect fun. Now here’s the reason why I’ll probably pass on the next Guitar Hero: there can be only one. What are the chances that in the middle of the party, somebody will say “I want to play song X, let’s swap disks and go through the process of getting the band back together”? Let me think… yes, zero. So well, I’ll stick to what I have and what constitutes the better choice in my opinion, Rock Band. Guitar Hero World Tour just lost a customer.

Now let’s imagine for just a second that songs work on both games. If Guitar Hero has a good selection of songs, I’ll just buy it for the songs even if I never play the actual game (or just once, for the achievements :) ).

So to recap, in one case many people will only buy one of the games, in the other those same people might buy both (and play only one but who cares). Which one makes the best business sense? I believe the second one but I have no illusion that both editors will prefer to stick to the iTunes “I want it all” mindset…


I don't like Braid. What's wrong with me?

I really, really like a good puzzle game. So when I saw Braid announced and read the raving critics, I was quite sure this was a game for me. I really wanted to like it. Then I downloaded the trial version... and pretty much hated it.

So here are some critic's citations and how they resonated for me:

  1. It's beautiful
    Well, excuse me but I find it ugly. To me, it looks like a Van Gogh wannabe under acid had tried to redesign Mario. But that's fine, even though I would have appreciated a saturation setting in the menu, I can love an unaesthetic, tacky game if it works well.
  2. Tight controls
    Sure, the time control works well and is quite instinctive to use, but the rest felt amateurish to me, shareware-like. And the moving jumps are just a little too long, making it counter-intuitive to predict where you'll land, especially on moving targets. The controls worked against me more than for me. That would be fine-ish if I had an incentive to get used to the controls...
  3. Compelling story
    Yeah, OK, the writing is fine. But it isn't integrated to the gameplay at all. Quite the reverse, actually, it's totally isolated from the game. The writing should serve the gameplay, and vice versa. They must be tightly woven together. So the game didn't make me want to care about the story, and the story doesn't save the game for me.
  4. It's all about the puzzles
    That's the strange one. This is the point that should have redeemed all the rest. The idea is quite good and apparently I'm the only one who didn't like its execution. The puzzles in the demo were either way too simple to be interesting or quite hard with the game giving no clue whatsoever. Compare that with a Portal that only adds one concept at a time and makes sure there never is a wall of difficulty but always a smooth progression. Here, the game did nothing to make me care enough, so I just gave up.
  5. It costs $15
    I wouldn't care about this one. I'm ready to pay for a good game, even if it's short, and $15 looks like an ok price to me for a few hours of fun.

So for me the jury's still out on this one. I'd be willing to try again but so far all the reasons I've seen people cite for loving it just didn't work for me.

Did you try Braid? Did you like it? What am I not getting in your opinion?


You're not being reasonable

Ever since it came out, it seems like Wii Play has been somewhere on top of sales charts and even managed to be the #2 top-seller of 2007 in the US. Let's be clear about this: even if it looks like a good deal, being only $10 above the price of a standalone Wiimote, it really isn't. It would be a good deal *if* Wii Play itself was worth $10, which it isn't by a very large margin (i.e. at least $10). As a matter of facts, if you gave me $10 to play this thing (which I refuse to call a game), I would decline. And I want the fifteen minutes I spent trying to play it back.

The only person in the family who found this of any interest was my daughter but that's probably because she was 3 years old at the time. By buying this, you're sending the following message to Nintendo: "I'll buy anything from you, so please make more mini-pseudo-games that most sane persons would refuse to play if they were free internet Flash games".

Do yourself a favor: don't buy this thing and just go for a standalone Wiimote instead. And while you're there, pick up a copy of Super Mario Galaxy. Now that's a real game.