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  1.  (401.1)
    Just wondering if anyone has played Endless Ocean on the Wii? I got a copy for Christmas, and was very pleasantly surprised. Allegedly, the game was made by a director who felt that gaming had become too stressful an experience, and wanted to create something that was genuinely relaxing to play. As gimmicky as that may sound, I think it genuinely works. I find myself poking different species of penguin for minutes on end just because it's cute and I want to find out what the details of their life-cycle are. The lack of 'game over' screen and the freedom to just wonder around exploring and doing whatever interests you are a great change of pace, and the graphical details on the undersea-life are nicely nuanced and occasionally jaw-dropping (despite old looking graphics by 360/PS3 standards).

    Through this, I've come to realise, that even though I say to myself that I 'enjoy' gaming, I finish the average session (on let's say, Burnout, Bioshock, Half Life, Final Fantasy, Silent Hill, whatever) with a clenched jaw and tight hands. I'm appreciating the games, but they're sure as hell not relaxing me. Which leads me to wonder if video games were ever about relaxing?
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      CommentAuthorUnsub
    • CommentTimeDec 28th 2007
     (401.2)
    I'm having a time out until I can learn some manners.
    Actually things that demand 100% of your concentration are relaxing. I find riding my motorbike relaxing and if I don't pay attention I die.
    This makes it so I can't dwell on all the stress and crap in my life. I have heard the same thing said about flying etc.
  2.  (401.3)
    @Unsub

    I think you've got the wrong idea. "Relax" literally means to rest, make less tight, loosen, become less tense, etc. What you're describing is a "preoccupation" or "distraction" (which I guess could be a relaxing distraction, but only if it happens to literally cause you un-tense your body and mind).
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      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeDec 28th 2007 edited
     (401.4)
    Some games, for me, can be relaxing, but the vast majority these days are basically unholy adrenaline engines. Which is not a bad thing, per se, but it's clearly not your cup of tea. I'd suggest C4 games like Sid Meier's Civilization, Sim City, and Galactic Civilizations II - they're long, turn-based, deeply involved without requiring micromanagement, and in my experience usually pretty fun without being hair-raising.
  3.  (401.5)
    Second Life can be very relaxing (in the same explory/enagaging sense), but only with a very decent broadband connection.
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      CommentAuthorMeatgun
    • CommentTimeDec 28th 2007
     (401.6)
    I have to agree that gaming in general is NOT a relaxing hobby. Often, games have you on the edge always having to be prepared for some horrible flesh eating vomit zombie to pop out and rip your beloved character limb from limb. This can provide a terrific sense of excitement and in many ways a sense of accomplishment (granted instead of saving generic world from total destruction in scenario # 3789 you really have been sitting on your ass for the past 4 days)

    It is very nice to have those games that come along and are relaxing, where discovery and general bullshittery are the main points. Endless Ocean looks like a great game for providing those moments where you just want to run (swim) around a new world because you can . For me it used to be running around Harvest Moon on my N64 milking cows and putting additions on the house. Or the ever popular cult classic Seaman. Games like this serve a valuable reminder how enjoyable it can be just laying around doing virtually nothing.
    • CommentAuthorKunundrum
    • CommentTimeDec 28th 2007
     (401.7)
    I just finished a multi hour session of Bioshock, and was terrified the entire time. Sitting alone in the dark with the surround sound blasting in my face, you can't help but get sucked into to it. And it was awful. I may go get a Wii now to relax, but trying to get one of those may be counter productive.
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      CommentAuthorFractal
    • CommentTimeDec 28th 2007
     (401.8)
    There's a concept called "flow" that gets thrown around in game design circles. It means, in broad strokes, "complete and exact attention to the task at hand". I, personally, think it can apply to both heart-stopping games like BioShock and to super-mellow games like Endless Ocaen and ElectroPlankton and Animal Crossing.
  4.  (401.9)
    @Fractal

    Ah, yeah I see what you mean. I guess the relaxation element comes when you consider what effect that complete attention is designed to have on the player. I think the major difference in the type of attention a game requires out of you depends on whether it has a storyline that needs to be uncovered in a set order or not.
    On the subject of linear narrative, I think Yahtzee made a good point in his Fable review... games that claim to be 'non-linear', but have pre-determined storylines often feel a bit weak. For example I remember seeing all the stuff about how much choice the player will have about how to play Bioshock, but all it really comes down to are slightly different ways to kill the same guys. If it weren't for the achingly beautiful level design and slightly novel weapons, I'd find the gameplay boring as hell. If you've got a storyline that is essentially the thrust of the game, then it seems a waste to dress it up as something else.
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      CommentAuthorFractal
    • CommentTimeDec 30th 2007
     (401.10)
    Paul:

    In terms of relaxation, I agree. I might expand that to "a rigid goal structure" that must be uncovered in a set order, but in most games it's pretty much the same thing. Like Unsub said though, some people (I know a few) actually do relax by playing Team Fortress at lightning speed for 30 minutes. Those people are probably a tad unhealthy though.

    Linear narrative has a bit of a chimera ever since Final Fantasy VI. In...pretty much every game I can think of, the narrative is set, and the non-linearity comes from adding or subtracting plot points or characters. Chrono Trigger might be an exception, with its 14-some endings.

    That leads to an interesting point though, especially about BioShock and games like it: At what point, if ever, does character and gameplay customization become narrative customization? For example, if we traded stories about BioShock, would any of our gameplay experiences been the same? I spent a while reading through a huge thread on the CultOfRapture forums about favorite weapons, favorite moments, favorite plasmids, etc, and I was astonished at how many ways people made it through the game, and how many different moments, outside of the plot, stood out for people. I think that's a different, but at least as important, type of non-linearity.
    • CommentAuthorFlabyo
    • CommentTimeDec 30th 2007
     (401.11)
    The problem we have, as game developers, is that in order to do a properly non-linear narrative means investing dollars in making content that not all of your players will see. This happens to a certain degree in every game (how many gamers saw the longer ending of Halo3, for example), but to go truly full-out in the way that we would really love to ends up making the game prohibitively expensive to make. A typical, linear, current gen game experience costs around $10 million to make. To do real justice to the kind of games people like us would love to play, and believe that we will be playing one day, is currently out of the realms of reality.

    The games industry seems to continually suffer from having to be on the bleeding edge of technology just to keep the public interested, which means we've never really had the chance to sit down and settle into our medium properly in the way that something like film or comics have. It's no coincidence that the best titles on any given games console tend to appear just as that machine is being replaced by the newest tech (Final Fantasy 6, Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, Odin Sphere...)
    • CommentAuthorPooka
    • CommentTimeDec 31st 2007
     (401.12)
    i saw an article in nintendo power about it. I want it verily...
    I love ocean critters....i'll have alot of fun with this...
    I'll waste weeks of my life...
    I suck at most videogames...i dont' have the dexterity to play games with engines similair to most action/adventure games...silent hill, res evil,friggin twilight princess...it's that behind the character view I just can't do...
    i generally go for creative games with little stress...wii sims..ilost at least a month of my time building houses and hunting essences...
    I have enough stress in my life dealing with day to day bullshit, so this sounds like a game for me...
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      CommentAuthorJess
    • CommentTimeJan 16th 2008
     (401.13)
    Hopefully there's no issue with bumping threads around here.

    Someone just talked me into this game, though it's not out in the US yet. And yes, the reason I was talked into it is because the game looks incredibly relaxing. People have already cried "BORING," but I really don't have an issue with simulation games. Maybe I just like to pet fish.

    Of course, I'll be picking up Smash Bros. Brawl like every other Wii owner...
  5.  (401.14)
    Man, nice that this thread should pop up again, since I've seen uh 'deeper' (if you'll forgive the pun) into Endless Ocean, and it's not only relaxing, pretty and involving, it's also truly breath taking.
    Later sections have you uncovering sunken temples, huge shipwrecks, and (although you could never dive that far in life), the dark bottom of the ocean with geo-thermal vents and utterly bizzare marine life (my favourite so far being this 20-foot long collection of hanging tendrils). I even found a giant squid! :D
    If people find that Boring then they've been labotomised, and only killing poorly stereotyped Koreans with US Uber-man-making stealth suits will make thier brains twitch.

    @Flabyo, interesting what yoou say about games development... personally, I really agree, games are pushed in so many different directions that they never have time to truly focus and refine any one part.
    Personally, the only Storyline I've ever played which took gaming into a level previously unexplored in Silent Hill 2. I know it's a cliche, but that game was a work of art. Beautiful design, fantastic characters, involving and genuinely moving plot, layers of *subtle* psychological intregue and symbolism.
    I think that's what's missing from most games. Games developers can do incredible things with UIs, control systems, strings of code and collections of Polygons, but at best game storywriting is pretty hackneyed and unimaginative... it's just that veneer of high-budget development and breathtaking graphics (and the odd splash of inspired design like Bioshock) that make them seem anything more than that.
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      CommentAuthorJess
    • CommentTimeJan 17th 2008 edited
     (401.15)
    Paul, to what extent is there a plot in Endless Oceans? I keep hearing that there is one, but that it's secondary to the whole "go and and find fish" deal. Have you tried building your own soundtrack at all?
  6.  (401.16)
    Hmm... well, there is certainly a sort of storyline, in that you play the part of a diver who has been hired by a researcher to help her map and document the under-sea life and topology of a previously unexplored area of sea. Along the way you take people on diving tours, discover new things in the seas, document the sealife (that bit's great, since it's genuinely educational too), collect artefacts and objects found in the ocean. There seem to be a couple of mini storylines appearing that revolve around some of the artefacts you find and your slow uncovering of the map and growing notoriety as a diver give a good sense of direction and impetous. I can't comment on the absesnce or presence of a full blown storyline though, since I've only uncovered 60% of the map, about 10% of the artefacts, and I haven't even reached a new season yet (there are different species around depending on the season). Maybe one of the mini storylines grows larger and more important as you progress. Without giving anything away, there's certainly one that's pretty intreguing and could turn into something bigger.

    Suffice to say it's engaging, and you don't really need a 'proper' storyline in the filmic sense to keep you interested, since the act of exploration itself is the main thrust of the game, and what background there is provides a good enough grounding for you to feel like you're going about a specific task instead of aimlessly wandering around (although you can aimlessley wander around if you want to XD).
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      CommentAuthorJess
    • CommentTimeJan 18th 2008
     (401.17)
    Has anyone tried out wifi with Endless Ocean yet? I hear you can't actually wifi out of your region (unlike the DS) but as I'm not sure what you can do over wifi yet, I'm not sure it's a big loss. There aren't too many wifi games for the Wii right now, so I'm surprised at the lack of advertising in the US. I can't think of a game that uses the mp3 card either, but maybe I'm out of the loop. I'm excited for this though--and it comes out very soon over here!