I like Go, too, but I don't see how it is particularly relevant to smartphone gaming. I mean, if you think Go raises a question about why there aren't more brilliant games on phones, you should also be asking why there aren't more brilliant games period. After all, you can play Go with coins and a scrap of paper as a board. As you say, the materials are incredibly simple but the gameplay is deep. The reason smartphone game designers don't emulate this pattern is obvious: Go is a once-in-millennia kind of game. It is incredibly deep, and almost no one, whether designing board games, video games, or whatever, has come close to designing such a complex game. What are we supposed to learn from that? Not much as far as I can tell. Other than to maybe respect how unique Go is amongst games.
I bet you've heard this one. A gamer who argues that a good game simply can't be made on a phone containing only one button. For a "hardcore" game you need a controller with a dozen buttons, or for the PC crowd, a keyboard with dozens. Few would argue that I could make a deeper, more strategic, tactical, and overall better game using only one button than I could using ten or more. But the fact is such a game already exists and it has for centuries. Go is a board game that is played with one hand. The best way to play Go electronically is on a touchscreen. Simply touch where you want to place your piece and you have mastered every single mechanic in Go. In fact the game only contains four or five rules. Essentially, in Go two players take turns placing either white or black stones on a 19x19 grid with the goal of surrounding more areas of the board than your opponent. The only move you can make is to place a stone on the board. There is only one type of stone. There is only one type of square. The only rule is that you can't place a stone that would revert the game back to the way it was the turn before. It's a game so simple a five year old could learn it. It is also the most difficult game to master in the world. It requires more tactics and strategy than can be learned in a lifetime. It is perfectly balanced in almost every way. There is no luck involved. The more skilled player will always win. Don't believe me when I say how deep the game is? What if I told you there are more end game possibilities than atoms in the known universe? Or that there are more variations to a single game than there are named numbers in human science? There are in fact so many variables in play at any moment in Go that it would take the most powerful computer in the world longer than the remaining lifespan of the universe to calculate a single move. Even taking into account only four turns ahead would take such a computer almost a year and there are hundreds of turns in a game of Go. The 360 would not be able to calculate even a single turn in advance if they had started the day it came out and ended the day the next Xbox comes out.
So in essence you have a game that can be played by a five year old with one finger that makes all our so called hardcore games look like children's toys. A game so complex that a computer can't play it. A game so complex that no one has ever truly mastered it. In fact if you ask the top Go players in the world what their strategies are, they say they don't have any. They enter the "zone" in a way most people can only dream of, where they play entirely by feel. They can't tell you why they made a move because they are not consciously making decisions. They are so at one with the game that they have every sense tuned to the board. They see patterns everywhere and from decades of experience they recognize these patterns and simply know what to play. Because of that it literally takes a lifetime to become a master at Go. It requires you to dedicate decades worth of time to become one with the game so much so that your body and the board are one and the same.
Go is the best game ever made. It is incredibly easy to learn, but takes a lifetime to master. It is almost perfectly balanced and does not feature any aspect of luck. It is the most pure game ever to exist. And it doesn't require 20 buttons and hundreds of moves to do it. Point is, games don't need to be complex to be deep. The best games are those that anyone can pick up and play but only a select few will ever master. That really is the only requirement and that can be done with one button or 20 buttons or with your bare hands on a board. Never mistake complex mechanics for deep gameplay. Complex mechanics are not a good thing. A game should be easy to learn. The depth should come from the way those simple rules and mechanics can be combined to create numerous variations that are all fair for every player and fun to achieve.
Now before you ask, I have said several times that Go is almost perfectly balanced. And yes, that means that even the best game in the world isn't perfect. There is one minor flaw in the game, and of course that flaw is that black goes first meaning the black player always has the advantage. This advantage is miniscule and for two even players it should not make any difference, but generally if a more skilled player goes first the other player will be given a small handicap to make up for it. So, no, there is no such thing as a perfect game.
What say you guys? If Go can be so complex than what stops some iPhone designer from making a game that puts console and PC games to shame? A game of such incredible depth that no one will ever truly master it? We don't need massive controllers to do that. All it takes is one mechanic, one rule, and infinite possibilities.
I admire your love for the game of Go. I too love the game and have a real board and stones within arms distance of me on my desk. Back when I had a smart phone I too played the game on my phone all of the time.
HOWEVER to say that this proves phones as a better gaming medium is false. Board games and video games are worlds apart for me. I don't get the story of a shin megami tensei when I place a stone and I don't have that same mind strain when I put a stone on a point versus pressing a button. They offer different things to me.
You are comparing books and music, so to speak.
@Sikrion The argument isn't that phones are better, just that they can offer equally deep experiences as consoles and that games don't require dozens of buttons to be deep.
@Setho10 They can offer equally deep experiences, but they don't.
The debate of console vs. phone isn't really about what's physically/logistically/mathematically possible so much as to what audience they cater and in what environment these devices are used.
In what environment is Go better played? In the comfort of one's home, with a nice cup of tea, against a long time friend, with the quiet to, as you said, fall into the "zone" or on a crowded subway, with people jostling you, broken up into gameplay intervals of 5 minutes spread out over a month?
If you're being honest, the answer is obvious.
I'm not sure anyone is arguing whether it's "possible" to make a deep phone game, so much as that the development mentality towards phone games is that they cater to the second situation I mentioned. To a very quick pick-up-and-play hop in/hop out immediate gratification situation, which for all practical purposes is the antithesis of 'deep.'
For those who dont know. This game is 2,500 years old and it originated in China. Here's what it looks like: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2a/FloorGoban.JPG/619px-FloorGoban.JPG
It is originally a board game, like Chess... So it says nothing about Phones being the better gaming medium. It might have well been on any other console or handheld.
@brainiac1988 That is actually exactly my point. A game like Go is just as good on a phone as it is on a 360 or a $3,000 computer. The whole point of this blog, although people seem to be very focused on the game itself, is to show that you can play just as great of games on your phone as you can on your console. The medium doesn't matter. Any device can have good games on it. The power and number of buttons don't matter.
Possibilities doesn't equate to enjoyment, unfortunately. There are an absurdly different types of way I might navigate myself across a screen in a 2D sidescroller. I would literally have to test every single pixel of the screen to accommodate for every single possible outcome of my walking from left to right. It still achieves the exact same thing: I moved from left to right. I put a piece on the Go board and we advanced to the next turn.
There are also an incredible number of different ways in which you can drive a sharp object through your foot. It doesn't make it any more enjoyable.
@Falru The difference is that each possibility in Go leads to a different outcome. The options don't make it better. The number of strategies that these options allow do make it better.
I was thinking about this a little deeper and came uppon some interesting thougts;
- After researching for myself how touchscreen works; doesn't touchscreen in fact contain a WHOLE lot more buttons than a controller?? The only difference is that the 'buttons' on a screen have to be touched, where the bottons on the controller have to be pushed. And in my experience I push the wrong button on my touchscreen a whole lot more that the buttons on my controller.. :-) (that is why you see a lot of typo's in my post..)
- If we make a checkers board as big as a country, with a grid of 10.000x10.000; which should make a lot of end game possibilities, does this automaticly mean that this mondern checkers game is better than Go?
- If we take a Go board en double it's size, does this automaticly mean that the new game (with obviously more end game possibilities) is better then the old one?
This is not a bash to you Setho10. I liked your train of thought, I hope you can also appreciate mine.
@mattie1984 Increasing the size of a Checkers board does increase the number of endgame possibilities but the position of the pieces in Checkers doesn't change the result of the game, just the number. Hence you could make a Checkers board as big as the entire planet and it still wouldn't be as complex as Go.
Well written opinion piece you got here. I think what you said is very true, and the essence of why the game Go works so well on the phone or tablet is because of its sheer simplicity. (To be clear here I am not suggesting that the game itself is simplistic and under developed, I am simply talking about the mechanics being simplistic.) That being said, tablet and phone gaming can be fun, and yes their can be games that are "better", well... lets just say have better design and are more entertaining than some console/pc games; but the limits for depth tightly tuned intricate controls and a complex game are currently much more restricted on these devices. That is why you get the whole, "gaming on phones and tablets is not for the hardcore and can not compete with consoles/pc" argument. While you are right and you have a point as well as an excellent opinion, so are those who point out the limitations of the current platform of phones and tablets. Now I suspect that will not always be the case but currently it is, but as with all things they are sure to change in time.
I really enjoyed reading this article! At first I thought you were a little out of your mind, because I was confusing Go with Reversi. :) With this given, I really liked learning about this extraordinairy game named Go.I was not familiair with it before. I agree somewhat with the title of your blog, although it is an opinion.The issue, however, is that the article is not only about Go. The mayority of the games that I play are games that cannot be played without electronic devices. I play my games for the graphics and effects that are up to par these days. To some extend, I like games like Pokemon for their gameplay, but again this is a game that can't be played without electronics. Eventhough Go is available on computer systems, it is a game that can certainly be played without a computer. The mayority of the players play it irl. Don't forget that most hardcore gamers, including me, don't even want to master such a game. This is the reason an iPhone couldn't put pc/console games to shame. You can't really comparise them in this way.. In my opinion the only advantage to running such games on computers is to make it much easier to find opponents and in some cases it can automatize things which take lots of time, like in games as monopoly or risk. (money and unit handling).But besides wanting to post my own thoughts, I liked learning about Go from this blog a lot. Thumbs up, although I don't competely agree.
I can't stand games on my phone. They make my eyes burn after only a few minutes. That, and most - again, MOST - are cheaply made.
"More end game possibilities than atoms in the known universe" ...Haha I hope thats a joke, or else you are out of your mind. Do you know how many atoms there are in a 250ml glass of water?
I do like playing SNES, PSX, and N64 games on my phone with an emulator. Thats about it Oh yes, Tetris and Fruit Ninja :) Not really into board games.
Well written article though.
@brainiac1988 It is not a joke and it is true. There are estimated to be 10^82 atoms in the known universe. That is compared to 10^300 possible endgame scenarios in Go. The total possible variations of the game Go is something like 8 x 10^1023 which is obviously well over 10x the number of atoms in the universe.
Really nice piece Setho. Well done for writing this. I'm a big Go fan myself.
No one is forcing anybody to read about Go or to learn how to play it, the OP was just trying to enlighten a few people by introducing them to a fascinating game. And for people to jump in the comments and criticise something that they probably don't even fully understand really is pretty ignorant.
@BunX23 Thanks! I don't mind if people disagree with me but the people saying I am straight up making up my facts is getting annoying. Before people call me a liar they should do some research. I didn't just make this stuff up. I always research and verify my facts before posting a blog.
BTW, if it really was the best game ever then more people would play it, unless they're hipsters. It wouldn't be so hard for me to find a game. Most times when I ask someone if they want to play they're like, "WTH is Go?"
@starduke It is a Chinese game. It is very popular in Japan, China, Korea and other Southeast Asian countries. It is less popular in the West. I don't know the exact numbers but I would assume there are a comparable number of Chess and Go players. Of course being a gamer you should know that game quality and game popularity don't have much to do with each other. When Bioshock sells only a fraction of the copies of Call of Duty and less copies than Madden then I think it is pretty obvious that people play what their friends are playing, not good games.
Preaching balls to people about games like a pissy lil jehovah is the best game in the world in my eyes.
Make like the game and...
@LukeWesty It's "Jehovah's Witness". And get this, if you don't like what they're trying to preach to, tell them you're not interested. They won't bother you again. So henceforth, if you don't what you read in a blog, you can make like the game and...
Best game on the IOS maybe.You can't compare mobile games with those on PC and console.They belong to entirely different criterion of classification.The previous one comes under "casual gaming"while the latter under the"professional"category.Just so you know.
@gamefreak215jd Go has been played professionally for over 2000 years. In feudal Japan, the emperor set up Go houses where the best Go players were free to play Go their entire lives. Being a master Go player was among the most respected professions in both Japan and China for centuries. To this day, masters of the game are highly respected and get paid large amounts of money to compete. The day the government sponsors console game players is the day you can make an argument like that. Platforms don't determine a game's complexity or quality. Super Mario Brothers can be beaten using only a single button and a d-pad but most people would argue that it is one of the greatest games of all time.
@Setho10 @gamefreak215jd Old governments did a lot of stupid things back then. It is not the responsibility of a government to fund gaming. We exist in a society now where games can find their own finances through corporations. Hence why LoL/SC2/Dota tournies and professional teams all exist without government funding.
Before making the idiotic complaint that the article is "just opinion", or "opinion", or so on, here is the definition of the word 'editorial'.
EDITORIAL: "An article in a publication giving the OPINION of its editors on a given topic or current event."
@so_hai Editorials open themselves up to criticism when the author makes claims that come across as statement of fact and there is nothing wrong with anyone essentially stating "well that's your opinion" in response to an editorial and giving their own opinion in response. Calling anyone's response to an editorial "idiotic" is in itself just that.
@JTH_22 @so_hai I don't mind people disagreeing. It is an editorial. I don't expect everyone to agree with me. I just don't appreciate the people saying I made stuff up without actually taking the time to look up the facts themselves. A lot of this is opinion, but I back up my opinion with facts on how the game is played and its complexity. If those facts don't persuade people then that is fine. But they are making themselves look like idiots by calling me a liar without having any facts to back them up. I spent most of the day researching info for this blog. I didn't make it up. I verified all my data. Whether anyone feels the data proves anything is entirely up to them, but the data is accurate.
Mobile games are repetitive, have way-too-simple mechanics, low graphics, linear (sometimes no) stories and bland music. And don't even let me get started on terrible grammars in some mobile games - They didn't even proofread the contents before releasing them.
The only advantages are that most of them are free and convenient to play anytime.
@serphtensei I feel that you don't have a lot of experience with mobile games. Many are in fact as you describe, but quite a few are quite deep and have decently high production values. I really liked Waking Mars for example. Great sound design, beautiful art direction and unique gameplay that would have been fun on any system but worked well on a touchscreen. Or I believe the game is called Legendary Wars. It's a castle defense game (different than tower defense) with dozens of levels, tons of units, and that requires a great amount of strategy and skill to play. Super Sword and Sworcery Brothers is a stunning game with outstanding music and an interesting premise. Those are a couple I can think of off the top of my head but there are tons of games that don't fit the mold you are describing. And as far as graphics go, the newest iPad plays games at a higher resolution than current gen systems and has more RAM than current gen systems. It runs the Unreal 3 engine, the exact same engines that power games like Gears of War and Batman Arkham City. The processor in the iPad is not that much less powerful than the one in the Vita which we've already seen to be capable of producing graphics at near PS3 qualities.
Finally, if you can't properly use the world grammar I wouldn't advise telling others they aren't good at it. Grammar is singular - it describes the entirety of the system used to create a specific language. There cannot be more than one.
@Bayonetta2013 I don't actually. I don't even own a smartphone. I just have an iPod Touch. I download games when they are cheap or free. I play no more than an hour a day. I spend most of my day working on computers so my eyes are used to it. If I end up working for 10+ hours on a computer one day and then play a game at home for a couple and also do personal stuff on my computer and phone then, yea, my eyes burn out. But I keep lots of eye drops close by. Just a factor of the job I guess.
Way too much subjectivity being presented as fact here. "It is the most pure game ever to exist" who defines what makes a game "pure"? "The best games are those that anyone can pick up and play but only a select few will ever master" that's purely opinion. To me the "best games" are ones that evoke emotion, draw me in, and open up huge fantasy worlds to explore. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy games like go that make me think and strategize. Quite the contrary (and there are elements of that in conjunction with the elements I mentioned earlier in many games) but those aren't the games that bring me the most pleasure. The "best game ever" is simply something that isn't quantifiable and will always be a matter of opinion.
To say it is ''the best'' is incredibly subjective. The reasons you listed this as ''the best game ever'' are true but only for those that think of games as only a competitive or skill-based activity. I play games to explore worlds , see new sights. I might be able to play 'Go' for the rest of my life but it will always be the same board game. I can advance my skills but it'll never be anything different. Skyrim let me see an intricate and vast fantasy world with mountains and dungeons and forests. I might spend my life playing ''Go'' but at the end I'd still have only moved a piece around a board , if I played Uncharted 3 I would have traveled around the world , had close calls with death (virtually but still) , escaped a sinking ship and crashing plane , and fought off impossible odds to make it out , not to mention the intricate stories of games like Uncharted 3 , Mass Effect , and the like. At the end of this generation of consoles I could say I've been an assassin , escaped an underwater dystopian former-metropolis , become batman , visited a city in the sky , lived the life of the dragon born , helped fight a revolution , used mind-bending portals , fought off hoards of zombies , and saved the world some roughly 8 times. If I played ''the best game ever'' I would have just gotten better. Playing through this generation I could say I've heard beautiful musical scores , had the living crap scared out of me , and laughed harder than I have in a while. Could you say the same for the ''best game ever made''?
@moviequest14 Well said, sir. Your article brought up memories of countless games that evoked so much emotion that I don't think any mobile phone game ever could. Or at least, not in this generation.
(Shadow of the Colossus, The Walking Dead, Okami, Flower, flOw, and Journey come to mind in terms of emotion.)
@Bayonetta2013 thank you! Yours as well! Whether it be on mobile or the actual board game itself , I can't say I've ever had a game that scientifically is better than ''hardcore games'' evoke more emotion or provide stronger memories than those. Seeing *spoiler* Sully's death , after the long story of his friendship with Nathan. Or my first mini-brain-spasm after trying to wrap my mind around the concept of Portal. I feel it speaks a lot of the sad condition of mobile games when the current defense isn't that they equal the emotions felt and worlds depicted but the most basic and simple gameplay concepts have been replicated.
@moviequest14 @Bayonetta2013 Much agreed! It's virtually near-impossible to achieve the same kind of quality consoles provide for the gaming industry. But I believe to truly be the "Best Game Ever" on mobile phones or not, you need to have something that has good gameplay, good story, soundtrack, etc. If a mobile game truly wants to be on par with console games, they have a ways to go instead of refining simplistic gameplay.
It's just my opinion here, but...we're not going to be seeing Nathan Drakes, Isaac Clarkes, Lightning Farrons, or Lara Crofts running around on mobile phones any time soon. I for one, hope they stay on the consoles, where I know I will be getting more than "refined" gameplay.
@moviequest14 I mean it from a gameplay perspective. From most any other perspective it isn't the best game, but from a purely mechanical perspective, there is nothing better.
@Setho10 No offense but that seems like a pretty hollow victory to me. It lacks in story , soundtrack , writing , art concept , world design , combat , and almost every other aspect except skill but because it's nearly perfect in one aspect that makes it the best game ever and better than the console games which succeed in all other aspects?
@Setho10 I guess that "The Best Game Ever Made From A Purely Mechanical Perspective Is On My Phone" isn't as much of an eye-catcher, is it?