T.h.o.R. #2: the pain of party-games PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lutzifer   
Mittwoch, 02 Januar 2008
Image I've been subject to two different sessions of Singstar over the last weeks of the festive season. While party games usually are designed to be fun for everybody involved, Singstar carries over all the problems that come with karaoke and public display of one's singing-abilities. As a musician my opinion has always been that the human voice isnt really meant to be used as an instrument. And if you consider doing so, you should invest some time in training your ear and voice to the peculiarities of this endeavour. Maybe that's one of the reasons why karaoke works so well in bars, where assorted beverages help in the lo(o)sing of the tongue and one's self-perception quite a bit. That is not to say that Singstar or karaoke can't be fun per se, but how can this fun be put into perspective of the factors that actually do make the experience worthwhile?

One of the two sessions was with family (read: people that either have not much of an interest in music nor gaming, or were overenthusiastic children). And the collection of songs was pretty poor to start with. So what it accumulated to was drinking up a courage to sing songs that were sure to fail and humiliate oneself by doing so. The amount of fun had was lower than hoped for, but still not as bad as initially feared (read: before the above-mentioned beverages :D). And it clearly reinforced the opinion that a bad song-pool mixed with poor performers brings all the negative points karaoke bars suffer from.
The second session was with friends and at least some songs that i would consider old-time favourites of mine. So i wasnt surprised that it was a much more enjoyable experience to try to sing songs that i knew by heart (e.g. Motörhead's Aces of Spades or Black Sabbath's Paranoid). What makes the game shine in comparison to usual karaoke is the online frequency analysis, most likely done by a fast fourier transform, and the nice representation of the detected voice input. This gives great feedback to get even into songs that one isnt too familiar with after some trial and error. Well, mostly error. This also amounted to a much more enjoyable experience. Not necessarily for the listeners i guess, though.
In comparision to competing products like Guitar Hero it doesnt look so good for singstar in my opinion, as you ll have a much more solid gaming-experience there. Even if you totally ruin a song in Guitar Hero, it doesnt feel as painful as ruining a song in Singstar. My hope's are set that Rock Band will be able to bridge the gaps experience-wise and reduce the amount of beverages needed to have an enjoyable evening in front of the game.

The biggest problem party-games face is being able to please everybody and only few games manage to actually please most. One of my alltime-favourites in this category is Worms. Its gameplay is pretty simple and yet offers alot of complexity once you get into the game, which is also always a good thing for parties. The cuteness draws many people in and the driving force of the mass-compatibility of cuteness has been amply demonstrated as being deviously effective by nintendo games for ages now. So is cuteness and simplicity always a winner for party-games? Well, i dont really know, but looking at newer offerings like Rayman Raving Rabbids i can only think that there is a pattern that shows a supremacy of gameplay over the superficiality of looks. The cuteness facilitates the continued enjoyment and helps bonding with the brand or falling in love with the characters though in my opinion.

So how do you evaluate party-games professionally? I doubt one can, as the mulitude of possible gameplay styles and visualisations are as diverse as the contexts in which the games are played. The only objective measure that should always be mentioned is the number and sort of alcoholic beverages needed to get up the courage to join the fun*

*drink responsibly. Especially if you re playing adult-games that may lead to unexpected gestational events, i.e. an Extra-Life ;)

See also: T.h.o.R.: Thoughts on Reviewing #1



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Last Updated ( Dienstag, 08 Januar 2008 )
 
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Newsflash

Biofeedback and / or human-machine interaction via brainwaves (e.g. EEG or EOG) has been used in the scientific community and in military R&D for quite some time and has yielded a broad  spectrum of different results. Still it struck me as odd, when i saw techreport reporting on a new gadget for gamers: a neural headband controller. I really like innovation in the field of input-controllers, but this took me by surprise. And surprise  (or rather the startle reaction) mapped onto a controller might be just the thing to come in handy when in close-combat battles in an FPS and is something i often wished for already.
I highly doubt that the controller will be something that sells well or even work well enough to be usefull as a single controller. As an addon for pro-gamers this might give a certain edge in the competition though, as the startle response is much faster than other motor reactions in gaming. The more one practices games though, the less startled one gets, so this might also be a short-lived gain in superiority only. I d love to get my hands on one of those to test it myself. The last thing i was so excited about was 3D-Shutter glasses and they turned out to be a nuisance rather than aiding the experience. I really hope for OCZ to succeed with this so they can perfect the design or come up with other innovative ideas to spruce up the gaming world.