Author Archives: Devin Coldewey

Red Dead Redemption 2 sees Rockstar raising the bar for realism in open-world games

Open worlds have been a staple of gaming for a long time, but recent titles like Breath of the Wild and Horizon: Zero Dawn have significantly pushed the boundaries of what players expect from their environments. Rockstar, of Grand Theft Auto fame, is looking to make them all look like toys with Red Dead Redemption 2 and its wild west frontier that looks to be not just huge, but refreshingly real.

Rockstar is certainly best known for the immensely popular GTA series; but it’s arguable its most beloved game is actually 2010’s Red Dead Redemption, which, though a sequel, so spectacularly transplanted the run-and-gun outlaw freedom of GTA to the American West that gamers have been clamoring for a sequel for years.

RDR2 was teased back in late 2016, but only recently have we seen hints of what it will actually look like. And today brings the first of a series of videos from the developer detailing the world, character and gameplay systems.

The natural beauty of the frontier is, of course, simply amazing to see rendered in such fidelity, and Rockstar’s artists are to be commended. And it is realism that seems to be defining the project as a whole — which makes it a departure from other games whose creators bruit a living, breathing open world to explore.

Take Far Cry 5, which came out last year to mixed reviews: The natural landscape of fictional Hope County in Montana was roundly agreed to be breathtaking, but the gameplay and story were criticized as artificially and (strange juxtaposition) monotonously intense. It’s clear that Far Cry 5, like other Ubisoft games, was a sandbox in which interesting but unrealistic situations were bred by the developers — a helicopter crashing on the person you’re rescuing from bandits, and then a cougar mauling the pilot.

Horizon: Zero Dawn and Breath of the Wild were both praised for the depth and extent of their worlds and gameplay, but they both had the significant advantage of being fantasies. A mechanical dinosaur or ancient killing machine (same thing?) arrests the eye and imagination, but because one can’t really compare them to reality, they can stay definitively unrealistic. Creating a compelling sci-fi or fantasy world has its own significant challenges, but on the whole it’s considerably easier than creating a convincing replica of the real world.

RDR2 seems to be attempting real realism in its game, to the extent that it’s possible. Take for example the fact that your items and cargo actually take up space on your horse. Your horse isn’t 20 more grid spaces of inventory — you can tie a deer you hunted on top, but then it can’t run. There are loops for two long guns but not three, and you can’t carry an arsenal yourself.

The flora and fauna are real frontier flora and fauna; they’ll react realistically. Encounters can be approached in multiple ways, peaceful or violent. Your fabulous hide coat gets dirty when you fall in the mud. You get new things to do by getting to know people in your gang.

Many of these have been seen before in various games, but what Rockstar is going for appears — and for now only appears — to be taking them to a new level. It will of course have the expected cartoonish violence and occasionally eye-roll-worthy dialogue of any game, but the attempt to realistically, and at this level of fidelity, represent such a major and well-known portion of history is an undertaking of gargantuan proportions.

Will the game be as good as the amount of work that has clearly been put into it? We’ll find out later this year when it comes out.

RIP EmuParadise, a haven for retro gamers for almost two decades

If you’re a fan of retro games, chances are you have a few emulators installed to let you play Mega Drive or Atari 800 titles. And if you have a few emulators installed, you probably have some ROMs. And if you have some ROMs, it’s likely that sometime since the year 2000 you visited EmuParadise, a stalwart provider of these ambiguously legal files. Well, EmuParadise is no more — at least the site we knew and loved.

The site explained the bad news in a post today, acknowledging the reality that the world of retro gaming has changed irrevocably and a site like EmuParadise simply can’t continue to exist even semi-legally. So they’re removing all ROM downloads.

For those not familiar with this scene, emulators let you play games from classic consoles that might otherwise be difficult, expensive or even impossible to find in the wild. ROMs, which contain the actual game data (and are often remarkably small — NES games are smaller than the image above), are questionably legal and have existed in a sort of grey area for years. But there’s no question that this software has been invaluable to gamers.

“I started EmuParadise 18 years ago because I never got to play many of these amazing retro games while growing up in India and I wanted other people to be able to experience them,” wrote the site’s founder, MasJ. “Through the years I’ve worked tirelessly with the rest of the EmuParadise team to ensure that everyone could get their fix of retro gaming. We’ve received thousands of emails from people telling us how happy they’ve been to rediscover and even share their childhood with the next generations in their families.”

But the games industry is changing; official re-releases of old games and the consequent legal attention that brings to sites hosting original ROMs has created an unambiguously hostile environment for them. Nintendo, it must be said, has been particularly zealous in its efforts to clear the web of ROMs, especially for its first-party games.

EmuParadise and other sites have been the constant target of legal actions, from simple takedown requests to more serious allegations and lawsuits.

“It’s not worth it for us to risk potentially disastrous consequences. I cannot in good conscience risk the futures of our team members who have contributed to the site through the years,” MasJ continued. “We run EmuParadise for the love of retro games and for you to be able to revisit those good times. Unfortunately, it’s not possible right now to do so in a way that makes everyone happy and keeps us out of trouble.

“This is an extremely emotional decision for me after running this site for so many years. But I believe it is the right thing for us at this point of time.”

Alas, they will be unavailable forever now.

I can remember EmuParadise being one of the most reliable sites to get ROMs from back in the day; and in the early 2000s, when emulators were essentially the only way to play many old games — and the web was a bit more wild — it was also one of the few that didn’t attempt to load some kind of virus onto your computer at the same time.

It’s always sad when a homegrown site that single-mindedly pursues a single goal, and in this case one that is arguably a public service, legal or no, is forced to bow out. It’s sad, but they can at least retire knowing that retro gaming is alive and well and finally being embraced by game distributors and makers the way it ought to have been for the last couple decades. Consoles like the NES Classic are outselling modern ones, and love for old games has not abated.

Not only that, but websites like this, while they provide other services, are no longer necessary for the distribution of ROMs. What was practical in 2002 no longer makes sense, and the advent of both legal game stores on PCs and consoles, and of course torrents, mean that even rare games like Radiant Silvergun are just a click or button press away.

And lastly, EmuParadise isn’t just plain dying. They plan to maintain and update their emulator database and keep the community going, and MasJ says there are plans to launch some new things as well. So, out with the old, in with the new.

Thanks to EmuParadise and those running it for all their hard work, and best of luck in the future!

Pokémon GO is getting PvP by the end of the year

As popular as Pokémon GO is, it has always been missing one major feature: pitting your Pokémon directly against another trainer’s. Strange, since that was the entire basis of the franchise to begin with! But the mobile game will at last get this much-requested feature by the end of the year, the company told Polish news site Gram.

After a record-shattering debut and then a long slump as players perceived the game’s shallowness and abandoned it en masse, Pokémon GO is having something of a renaissance. Improved gym and social mechanics, better reliability and, of course, a host of new ‘mon have brought players back, and it seems that features will continue to be rolled out.

What exactly the PvP mode will consist of is not clear. Chances are it will require players to be near each other, like the trading function. Though it is likely to produce some kind of reward, it likely will be limited in some other way, via a stardust or candy cost, to prevent people gaming the system.

Niantic’s Anne Beuttenmüller, in her interview with Gram, didn’t get specific. She was more interested in talking about the upcoming Ingress Prime, a sort of relaunch of the game on which Pokémon GO is essentially based; that will also be released toward the end of the year.

As for the highly anticipated Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, which will no doubt involve people waving their phones around and uttering magic nonsense in full view of the public, her lips were sealed. It too will release around the end of the year! It’s going to be a busy holiday season.