Something, Something Game News – Update: What I’ve been doing

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Well, I missed yesterday’s post, and today’s post is getting pushed later and later. So, I’ve decided tonight I will just give you a little summary. A lot went on in my little gaming world in two days, not to mention a certain amount of actual work and “real life” commitments (lame, I know). What this means: I have a lot to write about over the next few days! W00tpwnl33tsauce.

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Because South Park premieres tonight. :D

First off, I’ve been playing a whole lot of Gauntlet™, and Defense Grid 2, since I had both pre-ordered and both released on the same day. I’m actually quite impressed with both of them, so you’ll be hearing glowing reviews over the next day or two.

Second, Steam received a face-lift. It’s a breath of fresh air, albeit a little too blue. The new “curator” options are quite awesome, however, and added personalization for the types games you want to see, and the ability to hide the ones you don’t is more than welcome.

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Bluuuuuuuuuueeeee

Finally, there was plenty of tragic comedy as Blizzard shuts the doors on Titan, (a project taking 7 years and costing upwards of $50 million), and Transverse released another poorly received and obviously scripted YouTube video. One might ask why I’d even give it traffic, but it’s fun to watch as more people pass it off as the travesty it is.

So, I’ll leave you with those tidbits as I go back to preparing my full rants. Stay tuned!

/game

 

Something, Something Game News – QA: Who is to blame: Developers or Publishers?

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For a while, I’ve been trying to come up with an answer as to why games release in the state they do these days. It seems that lately, more often than not a game hits the market with a ton of bugs to be fixed “later.” If a developer or publisher follows through on fixing the bugs within a reasonable time, I suppose it’s acceptable, but there are many games across the industry, whether from “AAA” publishers or indie teams, which go unfixed or unfinished. Of course, the same seems to go for content as well. You buy a rather empty game for $50-60, then have to spend another $30 for “DLC” which should have been in the game in the first place.

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"Bland" and "uninspired" are good adjectives, too.

I understand that much of it has to do with the nature of technology these days. With our always connected devices, software can be updated at any time to add more content or mend problems. The issue is that this has become a strategy rather than a convenience, resulting in poor on-site QA and relying on the community to discover the bugs after having paid for the game. It just seems unfathomable to me, coming from having grown up with a generation of games which couldn’t possibly have the number of bugs they ship with now. If Ocarina of Time wasn’t working out of the box, it would have ended up a relic on the Pre-Owned shelf, destined to collect dust as a failed title.

But when EA or Activision have a launch riddled with problems which go on for months, people still line up for the next game. C’mon people! If we want higher standards, we have to stop buying into the hype.

shortsightedgamers

DID SOMEONE SAY, "FREE?"

I know, it’s hard. There are big publishers who have control over franchises many of us have been playing for a decade or more.

One of my favourite games to come out last year was TMNT: Out of the Shadows. Well, I’d say more like would-be-favourite. It had some great fight mechanics and truly felt like a Turtles game worthy of the franchise, but it shipped with an uncanny amount of bugs which were never fixed even with frequent requests to Activision’s customer support. Of course, there were absolutely NO official lines of communication for that specific game, so it became clear rather quickly that Activision didn’t give a single fuck that online multiplayer would go unfixed to this day. Not to mention the fact that the Playstation 3 version which was promised within a few weeks after the 360 and PC launch, wasn’t launched until 7 months later… and of course, the 360 and PC would still receive no patches or attention.

activision-blizzard

Exactly.

But this isn’t entirely the status-quo, either.

A little game known as PAYDAY 2 is a great example of a game whose developer is concerned with keeping their audience. The game has frequent content updates (some paid, but even the paid ones tend to throw in a few pieces of free loot) and bug fixes with constant communication with the community. Every patch is lead with notes and hints of what’s coming next. Every patch is treated like an event in which to participate, rather than a wave of hope and/or dread that perhaps they fixed that thing you were hoping they’d fix, and didn’t break something else in the process. It may not be the greatest game ever made and it’s not without bugs, but it’s obvious that the developers care. They’re directly active in the community, rather than putting up complicated and convoluted “customer support” lines of communication which only put up more barriers between the developer and the user.

Nintendo seems to still understand how to make games without bugs as well. Most of the recent games I have, even with online features tend to receive one, maybe two updates in their lifespan. Game breaking bugs are rarely, if ever an issue, and there’s never any complicated DRM procedures to muck up the process of actually playing.

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It's almost like they've been doing this for 30+ years...

I know I asked the question, but I feel like my answer is coming quickly. I know there are plenty of indie developers with a massive disconnect to their audience, but they are often run off the road like the infamous Fez developer, Phil Fish or given hell for vanishing like the developer of The Stomping Land. Meanwhile, it’s just business as usual for the big corporate publishers like EA, Activision and more recently, Ubisoft with their intentionally crippled PC port fiasco. Why do they get to stay in business while indie devs get slammed?

I’m actually sure the developers working on some of the big publishers’ titles would probably like some direct contact with the gaming community, but they aren’t allowed to — so we end up with idiot PR dept amateurs who know nothing about game development, because they never even end up talking to the developers, either.

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"I recall replying saying that the game was not downgraded, i still stick to that yes." - Ubisoft PR

So I guess the real question is, do the big publishers still deserve our money after consistently releasing disappointing products? Should we not expect more? Is it really worth it to spend $60 on a game you know in your very soul will be terrible, but happens to have a fully rendered Kevin Spacey? I’m not necessarily calling for a boycott, but perhaps people shouldn’t line up for the midnight release when it’s becoming more likely that the game will end up in the bargain bin for $10 after 6 months. If you don’t want a repeat of Ghosts, or the BF4 launch, don’t rush out the door to line the big publishers’ wallets. That’s exactly what they’re expecting you to do.

/gameon

halrrod

Hardware is not exempt, either.

Something Something, Game News – Next-Gen Consoles: Where is the “Next-Gen?”

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It recently occurred to me that the so-called “next-gen” consoles (PS4 and XBONE, specifically) will have been released for a whole year in two months. Now, I don’t have much experience with either console as I don’t own them, so I don’t pretend to be an expert on their daily operative functionality. However, I will be spending the entirety of this entry explaining why I have no interest in them at all, and will likely never own one. Aren’t you excited?

Instead of my typically cheeky image, let’s start with a short video from ReviewTechUSA:

If you like general gaming industry banter, this guy often makes some pretty good points.

Since I know some of you didn’t bother to watch (I know, 7 minutes seems like a long time on the internet), the general point of his message is that the XB1 and PS4 are woefully antiquated for their generation. His main argument is that they aren’t at all prepared for 4K picture quality as “4K is here.” I’m a little hesitant to agree with that particular assessment as nothing else is ready for 4K either, aside from PC towers for which the average person would need a loan. BluRays aren’t in 4K, TV isn’t in 4K, YouTube and Netflix certainly aren’t either, so I’m not jumping on the 4K bandwagon just yet. I give it at least another 2-4 years before we really start seeing those kinds of resolutions from general media sources.

However, I completely agree with his overall sentiment.

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I know, graphs of GFLOPS get the ladies wet.

Remember the difference between SNES and N64? Or even the difference between N64 and Gamecube? Hell, the difference between PS2 and PS3. It was always easy to be blown away by the new generation because it was always mind blowing how much better the graphics were. The first time I saw a PS4 demo at my local game shop, my first reaction was “meh.” While I was never a big playstation fan myself, I couldn’t deny the difference in graphics between the PS2 and PS3 was impressive. Yet, I’ve been playing games on my tower that look better than games on the PS4 since before it even came out. Not only that, but they have to keep showing us side-by-side comparisons of 360/XB1 and PS3/PS4 versions of the same games just to convince us of how much different they look.

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Well I'm convinced.

Yet, that’s still not really the point I’m trying to make here. I could go on and on about how underpowered the technology is, and talk about bytes and hertz and screen resolutions, and blah blah blah… but this is a tired argument and frankly, the biggest reason why people hate the PC gamer community. It’s also not the main reason why I am avoiding the “next-gen” consoles.

Where am I going with this?

Games.

The new consoles have no games. It’s been a year, and neither one has any exclusive games worth upgrading for. All of the most anticipated titles are cross-platform (i.e. Destiny, Titanfall, etc), and no-brainer re-releases like The Last of Us HD should have been a launch title rather than an after-thought.

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"No plans" apparently means, "We didn't realize how much money it would make."

Meanwhile, the Wii U, having been the wet blanket of the console industry until two months ago is now dominating the XBONE in sales. Mario 3D World is also an impressive release, as is nearly every Nintendo first-party title. Throw in the hot items for 3DS such as Link Between Worlds, Fire Emblem: Awakening, Pokemon X/Y, etc, and suddenly Nintendo doesn’t look like such a chump. While they have the weakest hardware technology, they have the best list of exclusive games. You don’t need a PS4 to play the latest Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed.

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"But Nintendo is for babies!" - Super serious adults trying to justify $400 on a Netflix machine.

All the while, the PC market is flooding with incredible indie titles foregoing the idea that you need a big franchise and a big publisher to make a good game that makes good money. Analysts suggest the PC market is already overtaking the console market.

Now, I’m not crying doom and gloom for the console market. I don’t think the PS4 and XBONE are going to die, and I don’t think the PC market is going to make a huge surge and suddenly become the main box in everyone’s living room. What I’m saying is that Sony and Microsoft seriously need to rethink their product strategy. The PS2 was the highest selling console ever because it also had the most diversity in games, and particularly exclusive games. The big companies aren’t infallible due to their legacy in the market.

All you have to remember is that Sonic now lives in Nintendo’s eStore.

/gameon

hdminintendo

 

$50 saved.

Something, Something Game News – Microjang: The day Minecraft outgrew Notch

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I was going to do another game review, but “news” reared its ugly head and has forced me to expunge the opinions from my head to be displayed for all of the internets to misinterpret. Prepare yourself!

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I'm not gonna lie, I've spent more than a few hours stacking cubes.

Since it’s been trending all over Facebook and Twitter for the last day or so, it should be no shock to even the casual gamer that Microsoft has indeed purchased Minecraft developer, Mojang for $2.5bn. As I write this, I have a few different opinions on the matter.

I could do a big rant about how Microsoft is likely to ruin the franchise, since they’ve been dropping old IPs all over the place and replacing them with very few first-party properties. Other than Halo, I can’t really think of much else that Microsoft clings to as truly their own. Which would explain why both Nintendo and Sony are beating them in console sales. Plus, with the nearly defunct Games for Windows Live, there hasn’t been much love for Microsoft from the gaming community as of late.

But I won’t, because I have plans for a Microsoft rant at a later date. I already have plenty of beef with them, and I know I’m not alone.

Even a certain developer named “Notch” had this to say just 2 years ago:

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This man deserves a medal for heroically standing up against Microsoft's tyranny.

I could also tear apart Notch’s character, and say that it really is about the money. How could he sell to a company he readily bashed less than 24 months ago? If Minecraft was never meant to be “big,” why did he enter the console market in the first place? Why not just stick to the PC platform if he is so concerned for its well-being?

But I’m not going to do that, either.

I don’t know the guy, and I can’t possibly imagine what it’s like to be thrust into the spotlight of not only the industry in which I am employed, but also that which is related to business and economics as well. The average person can’t even count to 2.5 billion. So for all intents and purposes, I will give him the benefit of the doubt, and direct my reply to the letter he wrote yesterday:

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Please, don't let Phil Fish be the catalyst for self-destruction. I couldn't handle the irony.

Dear Notch,

How you see yourself at this point is irrelevant in regards to Minecraft. You are responsible for one of the highest selling games of all time. You didn’t have to try to change the world, you just did. Own it. You can run far, far away from Mojang and you will be forever known as “the guy who created Minecraft.” It’s bigger than you as a human being. You’re right, you’ve become a symbol. But that symbol doesn’t define you, it defines what you represent to the gaming community, as a founder to an era of gaming we never knew was coming. Its your avatar, so to speak. It’s how you’ve been projected to the world. Once it’s out there, there’s no putting it back. Let us keep the symbol.

At the same time, there’s nothing stopping you from being the man you want to be. As an individual, you are capable of anything. Literally anything. You have the resources and the money. Want to build a spaceship? Go ahead. Live in a subterranean complex like Mole Man? Why not? You can do ANYTHING. Look at Bill Gates. Look at Elon Musk. Look at Gabe Newell for fuck sakes, and tell me an opinionated basement geek can’t do whatever the fuck he wants once he’s made it big.

gabe

In Gaben we trust.

Just remember, while you may define yourself as a quiet, introverted, “not real” game developer… Minecraft will always be your legacy. You have indeed changed the world of gaming forever. There’s no going back. You can run from it, but you can’t hide from it. Legitimate governments have reconstructed countries with your achievement. Microsoft may own the paperwork, but it’s already been made regardless of whose name is on the door. It’s yours forever. Your own name has become a brand. While it may have evolved outside of your desires and expectations, never forget that it’s an achievement beyond the hopes and dreams of many others. Never be ashamed or afraid of that. You’ll be fine, and your memory will be a significant mark on the timeline of gaming history for the better.

What happens to Minecraft now is up to Microsoft, but what happens to Notch is up to you. If you don’t want the spotlight on you anymore, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Like I said, you have the freedom to do anything you can imagine. Just remember: always look back at Minecraft as a victory and not a hill you couldn’t conquer. Even if I never play another minute of it again (which I may not, because well… Microsoft), I will look back fondly at the origins of Minecraft as a boon to the ever evolving art form of which I am proud to offer my comparatively meager contribution.

/gameon

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Because, creepers.

 

Something, Something Game News – Transverse: WTF is going on here?

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The gaming world has its share of absurdities, and when you are active in its communities you can’t help but come across some complete travesties which make you cringe. For those of you who don’t know who Zoe Quinn is, just go here and observe how far down the rabbit hole of ridiculousness goes in this industry. (That’s the last you’ll hear from me about her, I swear. My opinion merits no need to contribute to what is effectively high school drama.)

So, in an attempt at what some may or may not call “journalism,” I will delve into trying to de-crypt this unsettlingly vague crowd-sourcing venture known as Transverse.

Ok, so what about this game isn't like EVE?

Coming from having played a lot of EVE Online (not anymore, but that’s for another day), and as a contributor to Star Citizen, I have a lot of issues with this guy saying he’s come up with a revolutionary idea of putting people in a persistent universe to control the real estate and economy. I mean, this is the age of games like DayZ and Minecraft selling copies faster than their developers can spend the money. There are also plenty of other big space games already garnering big support from the game community at large. So really, I would rather he had said, “Hey, we want to make a new space game in the atmosphere of already highly anticipated titles like Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous and Starpoint Gemini 2 because we’re late to the party.”

I’m probably coming across as petty at this point, but how can you expect to compete with such a generic looking reveal? I mean, it’s not as if we’re talking about a complete unknown 17 year old in his basement, we’re talking about the developers of MechWarrior Online and Duke Nukem Forever. Of course, it’s not as if there hasn’t already been controversy surrounding MechWarrior Online, either, but we’ll get into that in a moment.

Let’s start with the website:starcithome

Star Citizen homepage.

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Transverse homepage.

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Star Citizen "Pledge" packages.

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Transverse "Pledge" packages.

After doing a little browsing, I’m already starting to feel like Transverse is little more than a blatant knock off of Star Citizen in too many ways just from the website design. However, Transverse’s “backers” grid doesn’t update from any meta source. Someone is manually updating these figures. This makes me feel like they may be less than honest about how much support is coming in. Granted, with numbers that low, I can’t imagine why they would be lying. It’s still very fishy.

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Yeah I said fishy in regards to Piranha Games. Get over it.

Ok, so let’s set this aside and assume that there’s nothing at all suspect about their crowd funding scheme. I am an interested party after all, and a big fan of space sims and space games in general. I played EVE for several years, I have over 500 hours in X3: Terran Confict, I’ve funded Star Citzen, backed Starpoint Gemini 2 and am warming up to the idea of getting in on the Elite: Dangerous early release. It’s not hard to sell me on a cool, new space game.

Yet, Transverse has managed to turn me off very quickly.

For that, we’ll review the stretch goals: stretchgoals

Congratulations... You've lost me.

So, let me get this straight… You want 500k to make the game, but it’s going to take twice that to make space ships that fly? In a space game? And twice that again to let you shoot with them? Meanwhile, the flight and combat engine is the first thing Star Citizen is working on and completing before building the rest of the game around it. What in the glorious name of all the fucks to be given are these guys thinking? How is flight and combat not an already assumed feature? If it wasn’t, then I’m having a hard time wondering what they were originally planning, and if it was — then asking for 4x your original goal for already planned features cannot be described as anything but extortion. This is not in the spirit of crowd sourcing and exactly how it can be abused. Of course, I’m not the only one asking these questions and that’s where things start to get fun.

Long story short, it resulted in Piranha Games employees being shadow-banned from Reddit.

Maybe disgruntled players should be a sign..?

So what happened? Basically, they created a /r/Transverse subreddit and over-moderated. As per Reddit rules, it’s not intended for self-promotion. If you empty your sub of all dissent, you just look like a giant asshole and that’s grounds for banning. The funny thing is that ALL of PGI was banned, resulting in their already oft-criticized MechWarrior Online subreddit being left unmanned. You’ll also notice that all of their Youtube videos have pathetically high dislike to like ratios, and commenting has been disabled. And that’s AFTER they already took down and re-upped the videos because they were getting flamed down in the comments.

So you have a suspicious looking website, an empty Reddit, a lot questions from a legitimately concerned audience, and the PR department couldn’t be doing a worse job if they were choosing racial slurs out of a hat at random while blind-folded, to put up on Twitter.

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This just screams, "we're not scared of reprisal!"

In the end, the most alarming part is how completely amateur this whole attempt comes across. How can a developer with its named tied to such prestigious franchises perform so impotently? How can they so blatantly rip off Star Citizen and other titles while asking supporters to pay for basic features? How can they so enthusiastically abuse the concept of crowd-funding?

Unfortunately, it isn’t the first time an indie venture has crashed and burned publicly before it even had time to start the engines, and it won’t be the last. It’s a shame, because while you will hear me herald the coming of community-based funding for projects, it can certainly be exploited and made to look very shady by a select few. Expect to hear more from me about the peaks and pitfalls of crowd-sourced games.

Until then… /gameon

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I'm not saying you suck... but you suck.