Top Ten Games of 2013

2013 was a great year to gaming!

One Last Farewell to the Ouya

Cya, wouldn't wanna OUYA!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Journey Should Have Been Made by Arabs

Journey has been earning a lot of praise lately. It is the best selling PSN title of all time, it's different, and it's fun...unfortunately, it disappointed me. Don't get me wrong, I think Journey is one of the best games of all time and is a sure contender for GOTY, but it still left me frustrated. Why? Because this is a game that should have been made by Arabs.

I don't have anything against "Thatgamecompany" or "Santa Monica Studios" each of them show amazing talent that just shine with creativity--something this industry needs to survive. If you haven't played Journey by now (which you should) you will notice that it is heavy influenced by culture, namely Arab culture. This is sort of  a similar case with Assassin's Creed, where developers made a game that centralized around both culture and history. However, Journey focused mainly on the culture aspect and blew it up to create its own universe. It's compelling, beautiful, and memorable. But why?! Why do I feel so jealous? What does it get under my skin? I mean, how did a game like Journey get made in the West but not in the Arab world?

It's fair to assume that Arab game development isn't really a BIG thing. You might even be asking yourself "are there any official Arab game companies?" Actually, there are quite a few. Towards the end of 2011, I heard that twofour54 will be sponsoring a game expo in Dubai called the "Dubai Game Expo 2011". It's purpose was to bring together game developers in the region and showcase what they had to offer. They were even bringing in Ubisoft to open a studio in Abu Dhabi. Wooah, so you're telling me there is a mini E3 for Arab game developers? SIGNED!

As soon as I arrived to the convention, I felt a shudder, almost like I walked into a trap. The place was packed but the overall event lacked flair and was missing something. I guess I wasn't supposed to be expecting too much, I mean the ticket was free. As I walked around, I noticed that that there wasn't a huge emphasis on gaming, in fact, half the convention was dedicated to Cartoon shows. Cartoons and videogames? Okay, I guess.  Most of the games that were showcased seemed to be your typical educational flash game. Some looked really good but nothing that would evolve more than a casual mobile title. In short, none of them of them were very serious about competing in the gaming industry, which really disappointed me. Where's the flash? That spark that screams "look at me!" WHERE'S THE RISK?!! None of it was there. Nothing more than touchscreen mini games. As I was finishing my last round, I came across one booth that peeked my interest.

Unearthed: Trial of Ibn Battuta is a third person shooter being developed by Semaphore, a game company based in Riyadh, Saudi -- you can't get more Arab than that. Sure, there were a good sum of other 3rd person shooters being developed by our Iranian and Turkish cousins, but this one stood out. It actually looked good. The game is being developed using the Unity engine meaning that it could easily be exported to work on multiple platforms ranging from iPhone to Playstation 3. All of that sounded like a dream, except for one thing, the game itself. Sure, it looked good and seemed worthy but it lacked one element. That one major ingredient that makes this industry what it is: innovation.

One can't look at it without thinking of Uncharted, the name and character both lean heavily towards it. There is no other way to describe this game other than being one giant ripp off.  Ask yourself this: would you really buy Unearthed if it was put next to Uncharted? Heck, would you buy Unearthed, period? Uncharted not only performs better than Unearthed, but it is overall a much superior game that includes years of talent, scripted events, complex AI, motion capture, and all that jazz. Let's face it, Unearthed doesn't have a fighting chance. It's not even fair, but then again nothing is fair, especially in an industry that is constantly raising the bar. I mean you don't want to even know what others thought about it. It's just plain embarrassing. Do I feel better now? No, in the end this just breaks my heart. It really does. All of that  talent and hard work could have gone into making something else, something that would have made Arab game devs stand out, something like Journey.

Here's hoping for a bright future...
Journey is the kind of game that Arab game developers should be inspiring to make. It's filled with culture, something Arabs have an abundance of, and its simple yet elegant design is something within their scope. I mean the game doesn't even have VO's, it's just straight up walking and exploring.  Of course, I would imagine it not looking  anywhere near as good as the actual Journey game made by Thatgamecompany, but it would have at least been a better start.

Journey is one of the best games I've played this year and I would even go as far as giving it a spot next to Uncharted. In a generation filled with oversaturated AAA shooters, that spot sure  has a lot of space to spare. Arab game developers may still lack the talent to make games like Uncharted, but they definitely have what it takes to make games like Journey. With free game engine tools such as Unity and Unreal Engine 3, the ability to making that dream a reality is more possible then ever. They just need to do it. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Episode 3: The Wrath of Region Codes

REGION COOOODDEEES!!! I hate those things. Here's why...