Friday, 28 August 2015

Rocket League - Why it's my favourite Sports game since Sensi

I don't like sports games. Hell I'm not really a fan of sports in general. When people start talking about Football I tend to nod and agree a lot. On occassion I'll have picked up enough from the news or other discussion to pretend I have an opinion, or that I have some idea of what I'm talking about. I don't. I really dont. Which means sports games have to an extent never really clicked with me.

Sure there's the odd game of Fifa, or a dabble with Virtua Tennis or even an NHL or NBA game, but they never grab me beyond the first few minutes I play them. Traditionally I've far prefered the sports games with a twist. The Speedballs, the Sensible Soccers and now Rocket League.

Football with rocket cars. That's all you need to say about it. The concept is so blindingly simple it's incredible to think that no one apart from developer Psyonix has taken the idea and run with it.

It's as simple to play as it is to describe. You control one of up-to four cars in the team and have to drive, boost and attack the ball till it winds up in one of the goals. That's it. But it's through it's simplicity that it's true depth emerges. You have two key buttons that make all the difference. Jump and Boost and both do exactly as you would expect. Tap jump twice and you perform a double-jump. Hold a direction on the left stick and double tap and you'll lurch in that direction, allowing you to make quick, precise strikes wherever you wish.

Fill up your boost meter and you can rapidly increase your speed. Ram opponents at top speed and you remove them from the game for a few valuable moments. Combine this with the jumping maneuvers and you can hurl yourself around the arena at high speeds, perfect for that last minute save or goal from out of nowhere.

The real skill lies in aerials though. When the car is in the air you can control it's rotation, pitch etc. Apply some boost and you travel in that direction while airborne.

I wouldn't normally spend so long discussing the specifics of the controls in a game, but in this case they are so perfectly intuitive and add so much depth and nuance to the way it plays that it's impossible not to praise the game and not mention them.

And this is a game I feel I cannot praise enough. For a long time my online multiplayer has been made up of team based shooters, or survival-style games. Now I spend my evenings crossing in the ball, knocking it away from the goal line or even scoring from an aerial hit I launched from halfway up a wall (You can drive on the walls too).

Rocket League has been such a success that MLG has already held it's first Pro-Tournament. It's in no small part to Psyonix pushing the game as a new entrant into the world of eSports, a field already dominated by the DOTAs, League Of Legends and CounterStrikes. And it seems to be paying off. Youtube hosts "Goals of the Week" videos and people are talking about this game.

I could go on, but to be honest there's not much else to say. It's football with rocket cars and it is absolutely glorious.

Rocket League is currently available on PS4 and PC

Monday, 13 July 2015

Satoru Iwata: 1959-2015

It’s a shame that the piece of news that kickstarted my revival of this blog is such a harsh one.
Satoru Iwata, President and CEO of Nintendo has passed away, aged only 55.
Mr Iwata started out as a games developer for HAL Laboratories, working on the Kirby, Pokémon and Smash Bros franchises. He also programmed the classic Balloon Fight for NES. After many years he was promoted to CEO, taking the reins from the late Hiroshi Yamauchi, and becoming the first person outside the Yamauchi family to run the company in its one hundred and twenty-six year long history. He guided Nintendo through the launches of two of the most successful pieces of games hardware ever made in the DS and Wii. But he never lost touch with his development roots, reportedly getting involved with programming right up until 2012’s Nintendoland on WiiU (He helped tweak the code for the Balloon Fight mini-game).
In his own words he said “On my business card I am a Corporate President. In my mind I am a game-developer, but in my heart I am a gamer.” It was a philosophy that translated directly to his interaction with fans of Nintendo. While his opposite numbers at Sony and Microsoft were standing out on stage at E3 in trying to hype up their latest AAA blockbuster, Iwata was being turned into a Muppet, an Adult Swim cartoon, sparring with Nintendo of America COO Reggie Fils-Aimé and most importantly of all, talking “Directly” to the people buying Nintendo games. He brought a sense of fun and joy to an industry that so often seems these days to be embarrassed by that.

So it’s with a heavy heart that I wish his family, friends and colleagues all the best. One of the brightest lights in the gaming industry has blinked out. His legacy is one of both joy and happiness, which few can argue is a beautiful one.

Video from