How 'Metroid' Fans Made a Better Game Than Nintendo

Metroid: Samus Returns isn’t the first remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus. It’s just the first released by Nintendo.

A bit of background may be in order. In 2003, Nintendo released a game called Metroid: Zero Mission, which essentially updated the graphics and play of the original 1987 NES Metroid in order to bring it more in line with the later titles of the franchise. It was a fantastic title, and fans assumed that the logical next step for Nintendo would be a similar revamp of Metroid II: Return of Samus, the 1991 sequel. After all, that game had always felt like an odd fit for the series; it was made only for the first-generation Game Boy, which could only produce basic sprites with black lines and a sickly green sheen.

But that game never materialized. So fans got antsy—then they got to building.

Metroid: Samus Returns

Nintendo

Over the next 13 years, a number of Metroid II fan remake projects emerged. Most petered out before reaching completion, as fan projects are wont to do. However, there was one exception: Milton Guasti’s cheekily named Another Metroid 2 Remake, which came out last year to a surprising amount of attention and acclaim. Many game publications reviewed it like an official release, and loved it; Guasti himself was offered a level design job. It was, at the time, the first substantial Metroid game to be released by anyone since the dismal 2010 Wii title, Metroid: Other M. The gaming world was clearly hungry for more of this series, and Guasti delivered. AM2R feels every bit a classic Metroid: claustrophobic, vibrant, tense.

Unfortunately for Guasti, his ten-year development cycle was only a little faster than Nintendo’s. When AM2R began getting acclaim, Nintendo brought legal threats and DMCA takedowns against it, and only a month after the game was released Guasti announced that all his post-release development on the title—bug patches, updates, everything—would cease. Nintendo is normally litigious, but this response felt extreme, even for them. But when they announced their own Metroid II remake this past July, it suddenly made a whole lot more sense. Now, this month, in collaboration with developer MercuryStream, Nintendo has released Metroid: Samus Returns for the Nintendo 3DS. The first official Metroid game in seven years, and the first 2D one in 13. It has a lot to live up to.

The two games stand in interesting opposition to each other. Both attempt to revitalize the same source material—but they’re made in two radically divergent ways, with two radically divergent approaches to what makes Metroid tick.

Just comparing the beginnings of the two titles is illuminating. Both open in basically the same way, following the same premise: Samus Aran, the space-faring bounty hunter, has to journey to planet SR-388, the ancestral home of the parasitic and incredibly deadly metroids. Her goal is to exterminate the aliens, descending deep into the subterranean caves under the planet’s surface to destroy them before they can threaten the galaxy. The two even share an opening image—of Samus, stepping out of her ship on the surface of the planet, and walking to the right side of the screen, down a darkened hole into the death trap of a cave system below. But that’s about where the similarities end.

AM2R quickly provides the player with two paths from which to choose, both bottomed out by damaging lava. Only one path is passable at the start, and moving forward requires a basic understanding of a handful of core Metroid skills. How to jump accurately; how to collapse into the “morph ball” mode to move through narrow passageways; how to use missiles to open locked doors. The game explains none of this to you, assuming only a fan would be playing a fan-made game. The short opening journey takes Samus to a room empty save for the molted shell of a metroid, cracked and brown—at which point a new breed of metroid, evolved from the old, swoops in, bringing with it a brief but intense test in the game’s core combat. If you succeed, you keep going, descending deeper, and the adventure really begins.

Metroid: Samus Returns

Nintendo

Samus Returns, meanwhile, is … busier. Eschewing the 16-bit pixel style of the older games, which AM2R mimics, Samus Returns instead embraces a slightly cartoonish detail-rich graphical approach. Dead space marines, the remnants of a prior failed expedition, litter the earliest caverns. Ruins of an ancient alien race can be seen, vast and foreboding, in the background. The level design, too, is busier, while simultaneously being more linear. There’s no branching core path, but there are a number of side paths that loop back into the main one, offering the illusion of complex exploration while keeping the player going where the designers want.

By the time she encounters the first metroid, which takes about ten minutes longer in this version, Samus has earned several new abilities, and the player has received an in-depth tutorial on a new melee combat system. There are several cutscenes. The whole thing buzzes with modern gaming excess: ostensibly convenient but tonally uneven.

Samus Aran works alone. That’s one of the foundational principles of Metroid. She’s the quiet hero you send in when things get really bad. She goes places no one else can, and her journeys are methodical and haunted. The best of the Metroid series is lonely, claustrophobic, tinged with curiosity and a driving sense of danger. And what’s most interesting about the quiet competition between Nintendo and their most loyal and creative fans is that the fans, or at least Milton Guasti, seem to understand this about the series more than Nintendo does. In its early moments, Samus Returns feels stuffed with the presence of its developers. It’s a guided, elaborate journey into Samus’s past.

But AM2R is quiet. It’s solitary. It remembers the sense of mystery and fear that makes Metroid hum with energy. And when I want to revisit Metroid II, I know which version is going to call me back.

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Here’s why it’s hard to take a game from China to Europe

Patrick Streppel, head of IME, at ChinaJoy.

Disclosure: The organizers of ChinaJoy paid my way to Shanghai. Our coverage remains objective.

SHANGHAI — Lots of Chinese game companies are flooding out of China into the West. Patrick Streppel, chief executive of consulting live operations firm IME helps make that happen. But he sees a ton of problems that can trip up the Chinese publishers that try to do it themselves and do it too fast.

The mobile gaming market has become tough, since it is dominated by long-term hits such as Supercell’s Clash of Clans, King’s Candy Crush Saga, and Machine Zone’s Game of War: Fire Age.

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“Too many Chinese game developers spend money on marketing, not quality,” said Cai Cai, founder of Pine Capital, as she introduced Streppel for a talk at the ChinaJoy game trade show in Shanghai.

“I agree about the importance of the quality of games, the toughness of the market now, and the carefulness of investors and companies overall,” Streppel said. “I don’t think it is possible to just publish globally from one place, like Korea, China, or the U.S.”

“To go global, you have to be local because of the state of the competition,” said Streppel, former head of Gamigo.

Hamburg, Germany-based IME partners with game publishers in regions such as Western and Eastern Europe. Started two years ago, IME acts as a co-publisher, content agency, and consulting company for global free-to-play games. The company is a business-to-business operator, so it doesn’t put its own brand on games.

This freaking big mech was in a promiment position at ChinaJoy.

Above: This freaking big mech was in a prominent position at ChinaJoy.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

The company helps secure licenses and figures out where those licenses will work. The licenses can attract users, but sometimes a game company winds up with just 20 percent of the profits in a licensing deal.

In Europe, he said, “The good old days are over where it was very easy to get money and make money. Wargaming, Riot Games, Innogames, and GoodGame are growing. But a lot of companies that hit 150 million euros in revenue are declining and restructuring.

“The companies with a lot of titles are falling behind, and those with just a few are leading,” he said.

Streppel said he encourages companies to self-publish their titles. But investing in a team and a local subsidiary in major regions takes a lot of time and money. The cost of advertising to get new users is rising. There’s very little visibility into how well that advertising works, and it costs a lot of money to build the systems to verify it and prevent fraud.

“Maybe you are advertising on the wrong platform or others are cheating on you,” he said. “It costs money to find out.” A lot of money is being pumped into ads. Chinese companies are investing a lot in user acquisition, and not in a smart way. It drives up the advertising costs for everybody.”

And some advertising channels don’t work anymore. TV ads are less effective because fewer people watch them. Most people multitask when they watch TV these days, so the ads have less impact, Streppel said.

Another thing that makes the market tough are the media companies themselves, which create a big presence on Google related to key advertising words for games. Those media companies get more search engine optimization than the games themselves. So the game companies have to advertise with those media companies.

“Your traffic is diverted because they write content to claim the traffic,” Streppel said. “Then they call the publisher to advertise on the web site. You buy your own users back for money.”

Sony showed off a Chinese-made game at the front of its PlayStation booth at ChinaJoy 2015.

Above: Sony showed off a Chinese-made game at the front of its PlayStation booth at ChinaJoy 2015.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Smaller companies have to create games with good key performance indicators, or those that measure growth.

“Platforms want good KPIs if they are going to feature you, but how can you prove good KPIs without a lot of users,” Streppel said. “It’s a chicken and egg problem.”

Ad networks hold more power in Europe now, and Streppel said that ‘s a problem. There are a ton of cloned games that are heavily advertised, but  those clones destroy consumer confidence and make the market tougher. Lifetime value (LTV) calculations are key to figuring out if a game is profitable or not, and how much a publisher can spend on advertising. But LTV is declining for the games that are not in the top tier.

To win users back, publishers are discounting heavily. But users are being trained by promotions such as Steam sales to expect discounts.

The mature markets are seeing tons of new game launches still. Some companies are fleeing to less crowded territories.

Publishers can expand into markets such as India or South America, but it’s hard to generate revenue in those markets because users spend less and don’t have as much disposable income.

“A lot of companies are fleeing to mobile, but that makes the situation worse,” Streppel said. “So you have to focus on game quality.”

Streppel also said that publishers should focus on customization, a small dedicated team, and retention of existing users. And that’s what his team specializes in.

VB’s research team is studying web-personalization… Chime in here, and we’ll share the results.



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PS1 Gamers Needed: What Game is This?

Question by : PS1 Gamers Needed: What Game is This?
I’ve been trying to figure out this game for YEARS and YEARS, my dad really liked it and I thought I’d get it for him.
I remembered two playable characters, a girl, and a joker type guy (Not Dark Knight Joker), The joker was a crazy fracker.
I remember a starting level where you’re up in the sky or something on a platform of earth or something, like surrounded by clouds (It’s a side scroller), you’d move from this starting place under a wooden arch of sorts onto a wooden bridge. Later you’d continue to this clockwork tower thing, dodging enemies and I think you picked up items like orbs or crystals… It’s been so long…

Best answer:

Answer by Shark
Tomba

Vectorman

Metal Slug

Blast-o

Jersey Devil

Einhander

Abe’s Oddessy

Add your own answer in the comments!

Q&A: My AC Revelations saved game won’t show up!!!?

Question by : My AC Revelations saved game won’t show up!!!?
So a couple of days ago, I decided to try out the Cloud saved games feature that was recently added to Xbox Live. I transferred my files over to it, and when I went to my friends, transferred the files over to his hard drive, as just accessing them from the cloud server wasn’t working. I played for a while, and once I was done, transferred the files back over to the cloud. When I went back home that day, I transferred the files back to my hard drive, but now when I go into the main menu and try to load my saved game, it won’t even show up that I have a saved game! The files are in my hard drive, but it just won’t recognize them!! Help would be greatly appreciated…

Best answer:

Answer by Daniel
hahahah

What do you think? Answer below!

What is this online stick figure game called?

Question by teeny-chan <3: What is this online stick figure game called?
You have to draw a stick figure first. The commands after that are like, draw a balloon, draw some rain clouds and draw a sword (not sure of order). The really cool thing about it was that they actually animated (albeit crudely) your drawings to make them move. Also, the game was hosted on it’s own website.

Best answer:

Answer by Matt
This is it:
http://www.drawastickman.com/index.htm?o=66-101-110-107-97s116-104-117-109-98-32-117-112-32-58-41

Know better? Leave your own answer in the comments!