Something, Something Game News – Stop being impressed by 1st Gen VR

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3dpron
You know what they say, porn has driven the progress of all media. (Really)

Since the launch of the Vive and the Rift, I can’t help but be completely, and utterly unimpressed by the first generation of VR titles. I keep hearing words like “revolutionary” and “immersive” but most of the apps I’ve seen so far are either gimmicky, overly simple non-games, or virtual desktops which merely allow you to look at a screen or screens while sitting in a blandly textured environment. If this is what’s going to pass for quality immersion, we might as well cancel any progress we’re making towards Total Recall or The Matrix-like detail: all we needed was a fucking virtual couch.

lolvr
Check it out, bro! I'm sitting on a couch while I'm sitting on a couch!

Seriously. Take off the $600 goggles and think clearly for a second about the quality of these titles: If they weren’t VR games, would they be any good? It’s a question I’ve posed since the inception of this new gear, and every time I ask it of myself, the resounding answer is always, “Dear fuck, no.”

let’s start with the number one most obvious problem with many of these new apps:

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Better hope this VR thing isn't just a fad, then...

If a PC game requires exclusive hardware to run, it is automatically breaking the cardinal rule of PC gaming: everyone plays.

You think League of Legends and Counter-Strike:GO are the most played games in the world because they caters only to the snobby #PCmasterrace crowd? (Of which I often declare myself a member, but that’s not the point) No. You can play these titles on a toaster. Smart developers make games which can run on a wide variety of hardware.

Next, let’s talk about how many of these VR exclusive titles aren’t even games.

It must be a good VR game! VR is in the title!

It’s mostly environmental emulators, and virtual desktops which all do the same thing. Is it possible to die from yawning? A game where you drift about waving at things and counting them is not a game worth buying, but they sell it to you as one because it’s all, OOH! LOOK IT’S IN 3D CUZ YOU’RE WEARING FACE SCREENS! They all just feel like lazy attempts to quickly enter a burgeoning market. This is not even remotely what we should be expecting. Pokemon Snap was more interesting than this, and it still didn’t need awkward face screens.

Even a game like Star Citizen, which is definitely designed as an exclusive PC game for those who are more inclined to use high end hardware… still has no exclusive hardware. It won’t run very well on slower computers, but having a slow computer doesn’t exempt you from installing it. You may need a better computer to play it, but you won’t need an entirely new and separate piece of technology to do so. See the difference?

A VR game that can’t be played not in VR, and doesn’t have anything which requires VR (like room mapping mechanics) is a game which should not only not exist, but should be shunned from the likes of the Steam store. (I know, that sentence was just as painful to write). Make an immersive game, then build VR into it. Don’t pigeonhole your potential audience just to be the first through the door with a new gimmick. What if not as many people are rushing out to buy headsets as you thought? You’ve now forfeited a major share of your own market potential. It isn’t just bad development, it’s bad business. There are far more games out there right now which could lend themselves to VR better than many of the new VR exclusives popping up left and right.

Seriously. Why does this require VR hardware? Why don't I ever have hands?

Take Elite Dangerous for example. It was one of the most played games in the earlier testing phases of the Rift (and likely still is) because it is a visceral, first person game with immersive qualities. It lends itself perfectly to a VR experience, yet doesn’t require face screens. It looks good, feels good, sounds good and does immersion well without pandering to gimmicks. VR fits naturally into a game like this because the game itself is immersive.

So that’s it. Make an immersive game. Implement VR. In that order. If you do it the other way around, you are just ruining market expectations for everyone else. At the price of entry, you’re target audience is people like me who are willing to spend a little extra on their hardware. It doesn’t matter how you price the game, because they had to buy that hardware first. I feel like no consideration is made for that. Your cheap, rushed “game” doesn’t sit right on exclusive, expensive hardware.

Plus, here’s another thing: I already have multiple screens in front of me. I don’t need a $600 device to emulate those screens. If I get a VR headset it’s because I want to feel like I’m IN THE GAME. It could be way more than just a pricey gimmick if developers would hold up on trying to be the first across the line.

/gameon

south-park-oculus-rift-episode
Obligatory South Park reference.
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Game Review – Starpoint Gemini 2

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Game review – Starpoint Gemini 2
Platform – PC (exclusive)
Developer – Little Green Men Games
Publisher – Iceberg Interactive

Release date – 26 Sept, 2014

Rating – 8/10

42islife

Because no space-related article is complete without a Douglas Adams quote.

Starpoint Gemini 2 is the first real *complete* space title to come along since the abysmal launch of X: Rebirth. Having left a considerable gap in the market for the hardcore space-sim crowd, we’ve seen the rise of titles like Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous among a few botched attempts like Transverse. Since the closest to completion at this point (yet still quite aways off) is Elite: Dangerous, but has a rather steep point of entry to the beta, your best bet for spacey goodness in a released package at a relatively inexpensive price is Starpoint Gemini 2.

starpointgeminigunsgunsguns

Expecting a vast, open void of quiet trade routes and peaceful sailing? This is not that game.

One of the first things you’ll notice about Starpoint Gemini 2 is its unabashed density. Space is not wide open and quiet. You will encounter many anomalies, wrecks, asteroid belts, wormholes, ruins and countless hostiles trying to drill you a new asshole — and that’s just while flying from A to B. There’s no dull moment in this universe. Yet, amid the nearly staggering depth and complexity, there is an apparent simplicity to the control scheme. You won’t be doing a lot of dog fighting and navigating, rather you will be angling your ship for better weapon and shield coverage while giving commands for boarding procedures and defense protocols. You are made to feel more like a ship captain than a pilot. This perhaps takes a bit of the “sim” out of the game from the perspective of flying the ship, but adds a lot in terms of commanding one.

This is actually one of the things the game really has going for it. Rather than relying on pure skill and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants speed, the game plays out a little more like an action RPG. You have skills and powerups based on your class, giving you tactical advantages for say, commanding fleets and using boarding parties, rather than just blasting your way in and out of any given situation.

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It's a spacesimactionRPG.

True to the space-sim genre, the title has a fairly steep learning curve in the early game. There’s not a lot of reward for your time spent, and sometimes you just feel vastly under-powered. However, stick with it long enough, and the ratio flips. Suddenly, you are building a fleet around you, commanding a rather devastating ship of your own, and you begin to feel like a force of destruction within the universe. Due to the contentious nature of the many NPC factions, there’s no shortage of wars to be waged or space to conquer even outside of the main story-line.

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The rather detailed and expansive map requires manual exploration, too.

This brings me to the title’s biggest flaw: the campaign. It’s both boring and poorly written. It tries too hard to be compelling with the most cliche revenge-but-deeper-than-you-think-wink-wink played out archetypes imaginable, with long, uninspired speeches from every damn character, which are all horribly voiced. I don’t just mean the acting is bad, either. The audio quality and volume levels vary between EVERY character, and it sounds like there was no direction at all. No one even tried to put a little effect on the voices to sound spacey. As a guy who is actively trying to work in the audio side of the game industry, I am almost offended by how bad the voice work is in this title. If anyone from LGMG reads this: please drop me a line and I will gladly run your vocals through a compressor or something at the very least. It’s seriously bad enough to make me want to give up on the campaign altogether.

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TL;DR, never mind the yawn-worthy VO. The ability to skip has never been more welcome.

Despite the glaringly awful campaign, the game has more than enough to do to keep you interested. You can elect to forego the story altogether and just freeplay your way around its colourful universe. Its ARPG inspiration means menus and contextual system management, while still as complex as you would expect from a space sim, are easily managed and controlled via its well-designed user interface. While it can sometimes feel a little candy-coated, I mean it with the highest compliment that everything just “makes sense.” It’s refreshing to play a space sim with such a simple UI that manages to retain the depth of control I demand. While there is a bit of a learning curve compared to broader reaching titles, it’s not nearly as steep as some of its predecessors.

While it’s hard to compare Starpoint Gemini 2 to some if its competitors (namely Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous) as a space-sim, it manages to set itself apart with its RPG elements and clever UI. It will never match up to the hardcore realism of other titles, nor does it try to. It’s a great entry on its own, and should be a valuable little gem in any space-sim enthusiast’s collection. Here’s to hoping the main campaign and voice work get some attention, because it could be the difference between a great space game, and one of the best to come along in a while.

/gameon

spg2space2

P.S. Space is pretty.

Something, Something Game News – How not to Kickstarter: A Final Word on Human Resources

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My day of reckoning has arrived early, it seems. More than two weeks ahead of schedule, Uber Entertainment has canceled funding to their most recent RTS title, Human Resources. As most of you already know, I called this a few days after the Kickstarter was launched. With shoddy communication, and a lack of commitment to their previous titles, it was no surprise to me that this decision came early.

However, I’m not here to shout “I told you so!” to my critics, but merely to document my experience with Uber and covering the drama. Something to do with journalism and trying look like I know stuff rather than making a lucky guess. Over the last few days, I’ve been active on the Planetary Annihilation subreddit and even received a response from Uber staff. While the future of HR is likely over, Uber may yet redeem themselves.

HRcanceled

Ok, I'll say it just the once: I told you so.

Since I’ve already said as much I’m going to say about Uber’s failure to communicate and lack of realistic concern for their own reputation, I will focus primarily on the last few days of Uber’s push to get more support.

It all started when I got an email from Uber (as a customer of Planetary Annihilation) showing desperation for pledges. Uber’s making one last ditch push. It seemed to work. They actually managed to get their dwindling support to more than 7x what they were getting. But this was already too late in the game. Getting from $5k/day to $35k/day when you realistically need at least $50k/day just to reach the goal line isn’t enough to make a difference. Plus, sticking a limit on $1 donations to prevent dissenters doesn’t exactly make you look good.

limitercropped

It's not there anymore, but it actually happened. Guess who called them out...

I happened to notice nearly the moment after someone made this decision. As the plucky pot-stirrer that I am, I headed straight to reddit and posted about it. Went right to number #1. Within an hour, they removed the limit.

potstir1cropped

Holy crap... does that mean Uber actually listened to me??

It seemed that was finally enough to get Uber to come down from their thrones of ambiguity to actually talk to people and gauge the community. Of course, still too late to come out ahead, but I was actually able to get some dialogue with Planetary Annihilation’s Director of Production, Jeremy Ables. Here’s an excerpt so you don’t have to dig through a long thread:

nate1

pfomega1

nate2

jables1

pfomega2

pfomeganjables

See? I can not be a dick sometimes.

Does any of this mean that Uber is actually listening? Well, the “Weekly Discussion” changed within 24 hours of my saying that asking about “anticipated features” should have been a question for beta period. It is now, “What can be done to better balance Naval?” which is a topic the community has been complaining about since well before the game was launched.

So in the very short term, I can say with certainty that Uber is indeed listening. They can’t afford not to. It’s not going to bring Human Resources back to life any time soon, but it may pull Planetary Annihilation out of its abysmal launch woes.

As my last words, I’d like to say that I write this not with arrogant confidence that I was right, but with genuine concern for the gaming industry. While Uber may have learned from their mistakes, I fear others will not, and this trend of developers failing due to lack of touch with their community will continue. I write only in the hopes that my words may inspire some not to follow in their path…Or you know, because it’s fun. Fuck yeah.

/gameon

dangerzonearcher

*drops mic*

Something, Something Game News – Human Resources: The Shenanigans Continue

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Since my last article, I’ve had quite the assortment of attention from Reddit, to Kicktraq. I didn’t quite expect the pull I had with my prediction, and I’ve had a lot of response both positive and negative. Since the positive is in all the right places, and the negative is mostly from those who still seem to think Uber is capable of succeeding where they failed with Planetary Annihilation, I can’t say I’m not pleased about it.

kwovcbl

Let my undoubted correctness flow through you.

I’ve been busy both with my own Kickstarter and trying to get games reviewed, along with regular IRL work, so it may be a short week. I did, however get in some time to explore Starpoint Gemini 2, and I jumped into Star Citizen’s Arena Commander for the first time in a while to see how it has progressed. While they are both spacey, it’s a bit hard to compare them (especially considering their widely spaced level of completion), so I won’t. Starpoint Gemini 2 is a fun romp akin to an action RPG, while Star Citizen really feels like it’s coming along as a true space sim. More on those later.

I couldn’t let this week pass without jumping back into the drama of Human Resources. After I wrote my last piece, I’ve both received praise from existing publications, and have been accused of defaming Uber by angry Redditors. It’s kind of exciting. I welcome both praise and criticism, so I’m good either way.

lawsuitlol

1-3 is definitely TL;DR.

The reason why I felt I had to re-address the situation is because I may have given the impression that I think crowd-sourcing is a bad strategy for developers with multiple project ideas, or that small developers shouldn’t attempt multiple projects simultaneously. I’m not suggesting either are the case, but both take careful consideration if you wish to please the consumers. It seems to me that Uber is incapable of understanding how much importance reputation is as an independent developer, and that’s why it’s a bad idea for them.

Let’s start with how Uber looks as the developer of Planetary Annihilation. (I will leave SMNC out of this one, because it likely had less impact than merits continued discussion)

We can begin where most people begin: (I dream that they do, anyway) Metacritic. Personally, I like Metacritic not because of the average scores (they do help, though), but because you can get a pretty good sample of what people did and didn’t like about any particular title. You can dig around between both users and “established” critics, and make your own opinions of what’s just spite and bile versus legitimate concerns.

pameta

 If you didn't start here before donating to HR, you probably should have.

A 62 from the critics is low. Almost harsh, even. Plus, the even averages are telling that the critics and users are likely in agreement. It’s not just critics being underwhelmed, or users being spiteful. Although, it might just be both. If you start digging around, you get a sense of that familiar tone: unfinished, incomplete, not what we were expecting, not what they told us we were getting, etc. Even many of the positive reviews suggest it lacks content and needs a campaign that feels like it’s the reason to play the game. RTS games should be built on a strong AI foundation. The RTS audience is quite divided between multiplayer and single-player campaigning. If you show more interest in one or the other, you are guaranteed to split the crowd. The lack of engaging single-player content shows, and failing to launch with an offline/DRM-free client indicates no intention of making it a priority. While they did in-fact release an “offline mode,” there was no reason to leave it until post-launch as a feature to somehow “prove they’re listening to the community.” Are they telling me this wasn’t a major concern during the 2 years of development and eventual alpha/beta testing? They didn’t even follow through until after the HR Kickstarter page was up and running.

helpful

"Most helpful" review. See? I'm not the only voice of reason.

Plus, none of the physical goods from the PA Kickstarter have shipped, yet. This means anyone who paid over $100 is still waiting for their reward for helping to fund this “released” yet incomplete game, while seeing Uber already grubbing for more money to make a game using the same engine. This stinks of two things: arrogance and/or desperation. Neither of which looks good from the eyes of a potential backer. PA hasn’t been given the time necessary to even be called a success. It didn’t sell a record breaking number of copies by any means, and it hasn’t even fully delivered on its Kickstarter rewards; so what puts Uber in the place or time to start a new project expecting even more from the community?

whendoigetthem

This one kinda speaks for itself.

As if to further illustrate my point, Uber posted this message to fans giving the distinct notion that they don’t really intend on “finishing” any games. While the sentiment is easily debatable in the way that all art is “never finished…” There is still a point at which any artist must concede his own ambitions if he intends to sell his art as a product. While I can see this attitude working for an MMO where stretching out a player’s time and interest is a priority, it doesn’t work for a game meant to stand on its own. Imagine if companies thought this way in the past. Imagine if Final Fantasy VII were sold sequentially as individual discs, but Squaresoft decided to release the first disc of FFVIII before the second and third discs of FFVII were released. Would you have had faith that they were still going to deliver? Just because we have the technology to add on to a piece of software over an extended period of time, doesn’t mean it’s always the best way to build a successful product.  At some point, you have to call it finished. However, what Uber is calling finished is drastically different than what the consumer was expecting.

gamesareaservice

Sorry Uber, but this ain't WoW you're making here. Your "vision" sounds drug induced.

This shows a massive disconnect with the community itself, which most certainly hasn’t been invisible in all of this. I am definitely not the only one dissenting, and the numbers are merely indicative of my initial assessment. It doesn’t matter how many original devlopers from Command & Conquer or Total Annihilation you have if you can’t prove you can complete a product as advertised.

At the end of the day, I’m starting to lean away from the idea that Uber is working out of arrogance a la PGI. It really begins to sound more like desperation.

noresponse

Cliqist is my new hero for asking the question. The silence is deafening considering most other devs answer it.

It is my estimation that Uber likely over-expanded in the wake of the Kickstarter success, along with those willing to pay the high price to get into the alpha. It’s too easy to think you’ve secured your future with a quick income. I mean, look at Star Citizen. RSI has built themselves a massive studio and even put on a convention for a game that’s still very much in progress. But the main difference is the progress itself. I can’t help but be impressed with how active they are in communication and releasing images and video of new models. They’re even consistently giving us alpha backers content to explore in our hangars, so we actually have an opportunity to interact with models in progress. While it’s been a long haul, the updates are consistent and never lacking. Many of the things you pay for right now, you are able to use right away, or will be shipped to your house right away. This is why on Oct 11, Star Citizen made $1.32m. Nearly the entire fund for HR in a day. Even with all of the extra goodies promised, Uber’s biggest thing they’ve been able to say so far is “Look! We finally gave you ‘offline-mode!'”

bunchomoney

Who doesn't want a piece of that Star Citizen money?

Plus, it’s not like there aren’t those in the crowd who yell at the top of their lungs in blind desperation with the hope that this game becomes a reality. But when you read what these guys say, I can’t help but feel it’s rooted in fantasy. It’s as if it’s somehow everyone’s moral responsibility to fund this company for the good of the game, even though the last one was a disappointment. Some people simply don’t like being burned twice.

soitbegins

I think this guy needs a hug.

Do you still think it’s the crowd’s fault that HR won’t get made? Is it still loud-mouths like me who “defame” Uber to make them look like bad guys? No, they did it to themselves by looking desperate and greedy. They probably have a lot of extra designers who need to get paid, and the biggest thing preventing that right now is the already waning interest in what should be a hot new release. Even the DLC is disappointing. Three Commanders and a soundtrack for $25? I guess that’s a deal when you consider that some commanders are as costly as $15 individually in the store. That’s a high price for something you should barely have to pay attention to if you’re playing the game well. Have your designers work on some real DLC with new factions and planet types. There’s your work for them. You’d think $25 on top of a $30 game would be a significant expansion. Instead, it comes off as a money grab. Just like asking for $1.4m to build a new game on your existing engine.

nintendodlc

 

And yet... people BEG for DLC from Nintendo. How about that?

That’s the crux of it all. It just comes across as a money grab. Either out of arrogance or desperation, it doesn’t matter at this point, because Human Resources won’t be funded at any rate. It’s sad, because I am a fan of the RTS genre. I would actually like to see this game made, but Uber has a lot of learning to do before that can happen.

Uber: finish PA. Deliver the goods. Give it a year. Try it again. You don’t suck but you’re missing the point and you are bleeding fans daily. Crowd-sourcing lots of money pays the bills, but it won’t keep the players happy. At the end of the day, they’re the ones who’ll pay the bills if you give them what they want. HR is a good idea, but not until PA gets a few coats of polish.

In the mean time, you guys have definitely helped me learn what not to do for my own Kickstarter, so I wouldn’t call it a total loss. Thank you, Uber Ent.

/gameon

brodown

Still relevant, and I'm clearly a South Park fan.

Something, Something Game News – Uber Fail: How Transverse flopped and why Human Resources will, too

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I may very well eat my words for writing this article, and I may do something humiliating as a result to please the masses. If I’m wrong, I’ll just be another loud-mouth on the internet with an opinion. If I’m right, I might just know what the fuck I’m talking about after all.

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It's time to put my "journalistic integrity" to the test.

I recently wrote a review for Planetary Annihilation which expressed my concerns about it’s rushed release, and Uber Entertainment’s apparent disconnect with the gaming community. Since writing the review, they have announced that they will be finally bringing an “offline mode” for those of us who don’t understand why it needs to be online during single-player campaigns (and there are a lot of us). That’s a good sign, right? You’d think so, but with their new kickstarter campaign, Human Resources showing no signs of offline play even in single-player modes, it’s becoming clear that they didn’t get the message.

Before we get into Uber’s clear missteps, let’s start with what lead to the failure of Transverse. In my original article, I outlined just how amateurish their attempts to gain support appeared. As I continued to follow the rapid decline of interest in the title, it became clear to me that it was far worse than a botched attempt: It was a blatant abuse of the entire concept of crowd-funding. Uber’s issue is merely history repeating itself.

stretchgoals

I still can't get over how they asked so much for basic features.

PGI’s first self-funded project was Mechwarrior Online. It was a resounding success. How could it not be? it’s an old and prestigious franchise with a huge fan base. For many, the idea of a Mechwarrior MMO was a dream come true. Supporters flocked just to get a taste. However, since the release of MWO, it’s been plagued with problems stemming mostly from a failure to deliver timely updates, and a failure to communicate with the community. The fact that two separate subreddits exist for the same game, both initially created by developers, have been left unmanned due to conflicts with both the community and reddit on the part of PGI, should be a massive red flag. Nevermind the fact that all of their YouTube videos have comments disabled. When you are constantly on the defensive and find yourself frequently deleting the dissent of paying customers, you have to know you’re doing something wrong… right?

If you believe it's your own players responsible, perhaps you should be asking yourself why your player base is out to get you.

Not according to PGI. The same company who straight up lied about owning the rights to Wing Commander. EA even called them out, and their response was simply “we don’t have to prove anything.” Why, as an independent developer and publisher do you think you have even the basic resources to stand up to EA, or even be anything like them? That’s not balls, that’s stupidity. EA could buy PGI tomorrow, and PGI would thank them for it with a wet, lengthy blowjob.

proveitplz

 

Translated from this page. 
*Ekman's response was actually on the Transverse forum, but not anymore. :(

Amid the dissent from MWO, they decided to put resources into a new property looking suspiciously like Chris Roberts’ Star Citizen (he was the original creator of Wing Commander, fyi), while not calling it Wing Commander, but claiming they have the rights to the property. It’s already doomed to fail at this point, but that’s not the worst part.

The worst part is how developers are now looking at crowd-sourcing as a means for a risk-free development fund. If PGI had put their heart and soul into making Mechwarrior Online the massive success that it should be, there would be no reason to ask the community to fund their next project. Not only does this show your own lack of faith in your products, but it doesn’t prove to the industry that you can commit to any title. Crowd-sourcing isn’t a means to expand, it’s a means to get off the ground. A property like Mechwarrior should be raining money from the sky. If it’s not enough to fund your next project, then why should the consumer have any faith at all? Especially when your former customers are actively committed to witnessing your failure.

editedletter

*slow clap*

This brings me back to Uber Entertainment. A company that charged $90 for alpha access to a game which, upon release is $30 (is also on sale frequently for 50% off), and still feels unfinished. A company which has already relocated resources from the previous title to the new one. Plus, Uber has already been accused of intentionally abandoning previous games. The game was called Super Monday Night Combat and has a huge back-story to go with it. I could go into it, but this guy managed to shred apart Uber on their own forums with his rather detailed documentation of its failure due to lack of communication. The best part is that his criticism was recent and yet another notch on the list as to why Uber’s new Kickstarter is a bad idea.

It’s not to say I don’t like the sound of Human Resources, either. The early videos are impressive, and I like the concept. But I also felt exactly the same way about Planetary Annihilation. I’m not impressed with how that game was released, and even less impressed that Uber is already dedicating resources to a new project without giving the last one the proper attention it deserves. If it were a year from now, and Planetary Annihilation was the resounding success they claim it is on the Human Resources Kickstarter page, then I would have gladly given it another look.

criticallylauded

I'm not sure if you know what "lauded" actually means...

The reality is that Planetary Annihilation is a mixed bag. The top 10 “most helpful” reviews on Steam all have the same theme: unfinished. Metacritic gives it a 61. Even Super Monday Night Combat wasn’t as critically acclaimed as they suggest, and it was torn apart in the user section of Metacritic with similar claims of abandonment. Uber Ent. has obviously pissed off enough people to create some demons, and they are only stacking up. Still, here they come with a new title that seems to promise that Uber is trying to build a micro-transaction store around all of their games. Which, by the way, is the real reason why they want their games to be always online — In case you feel the sudden need to spend money while playing the game.

fromthekickstarter

Who's taking bets on PlayFab getting a Kickstarter if HR fails?

Here we go… Another tiny, yet inconceivably arrogant indie dev trying to be the next EA. The same EA who is constantly put down for their lack of communication skills and greedy DLC schemes. They’re not raising $1.4m to fund a project using the same engine as the last one, they’re raising it to build yet another store full of garbage. Why would any indie dev aspire to that kind of model? Just because it makes money for now? Such thick-headed, narrow-sighted thinking is why EA and Activision have become the bloated carcasses of industrialized game development that they are.

worstcompanyEA

Micro-transactions are officially worse than transaction fees.

At this point some of you might be saying, “but how are you so sure Human Resources will fail? It’s already gained a lot more momentum than Transverse ever did.” That’s true, and like I said at the beginning: I could be wrong and HR might actually take off, making me look like a dumb-ass. However, the trends I’m seeing just don’t point to success. I’ve been watching the page on Kicktraq, which gives a pretty good idea of their day-to-day return and there’s been a sharp drop-off already. Aside from that, I honestly don’t believe Uber can hide the demons of PA and SMNC. When the biggest complaint of their two biggest titles is “unfinished,” I can’t imagine being given too many more chances to deliver. If PA is the success they think it is, it should easily fund the next project. If it isn’t, they should spend the time making PA what the fan base was expecting, rather than moving on to a new title and suggesting that the next project will trickle down more resources to the old one.

Devs need to stop trying to make Kickstarter part of their business plan, and start making products that make money on their own merit. You can begin by actually listening to what the gamers want. If paying customers are telling you your last product is unfinished, don’t tell them your solution is to make a new one.

/gameon

gofundyourself

Far more relevant to this post, so there.

Game Review – Rising Storm/Red Orchestra 2

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Game review – Rising Storm/Red Orchestra 2
Platform – PC (exclusive)
Developer – Tripwire Interactive
Publisher – Tripwire Interactive

Release date – 30 May, 2013

Rating – 9/10

teamkill

That's why you STOP LAGGING BEHIND AND GET TO THE OBJECTIVE, NOOB.

While this is an older release strapped onto a title from 3 years ago with an already aging engine, I felt the need to write a review as it doesn’t get nearly enough praise or attention. Yeah, it’s PC exclusive, so it’ll never get the exposure of a cross-platform, broad demographic “AAA” title – but that’s already a selling point. It’s not trying for flash and flare. There aren’t massive piles of motion-captured slow-motion animations or giant robots. This is a game about substance over cosmetic, and it delivers. My 232 hours in-game stands as a tribute.

In a genre dominated by prestigious franchises blandly following their own trends, there exists a game which has dug in its roots and produced a first-person-shooter focusing on bullet drop off and perimeter fire. Weapons that jam, overheat and require maintenance. Rewarding accuracy and patience over kill ratios. It’s a game where leadership can easily turn the tides of a match in more ways than a kill streak. In short: it’s an online FPS that focuses on realism and makes no apology for it.

canyoufindthemall

Can't see them? Don't worry, you will learn. (You'll also die a lot)

While there is a more forgiving casual mode for this game, the most populated are the “realism” servers, and for good reason. Once you play on one of these hardcore maps, Call of Duty and Battlefield will seem like on-rails arcade shooters. There are no decals over players’ heads, friend or foe, there’s no ammo counter, no on-screen aiming reticle, and you can easily die bleeding out from a single pistol shot if you don’t bandage up quick. This is not your average shooter. If anything, it could be considered a WWII battle simulator.

Not sure how much ammo is left in the clip? You have to eject it and look. MG keeps overheating and under-performing? Swap the barrel. Getting too many team kills? Start shooting at faces instead of backs of heads. Spawning comes in reinforcement waves rather than individual timers, so learn to move as a unit. And for fuck sakes keep your head down. Cover is your friend. Don’t sprint across open fields like an idiot. Check your map and listen to your commander when he’s calling air strikes so you don’t get caught in your own bombing runs.

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 If a bullet doesn't get you, the mortars, artillery, mines and grenades will.

Yet, beyond the gritty realism lies a game with a lot of heart and a ton of fun if you can handle the intensity. I’ll admit, the attention to detail was almost off-putting at first, and I can see some players being frustrated enough to pass. If you stick with it, though, it’s the most satisfying experience you can have in a game like this.

It’s truly spectacular in execution. Seeing a successful artillery strike wipe away a whole regiment (or being the one caught in the blast) is impressive in itself and actually requires teamwork, as only a Squad Leader can “spot” a target, while the lone Commander reserves the ability to call in the strike. It’s not to suggest there aren’t some cool things you can do as a grunt, either.

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EVERYTHING BURNSSSSSSSS

The weapons are a fairly standard fare selection of WW2 hardware, but Tripwire’s attention to detail shines right through the crowd with how they actually function. I can’t name another title where you occasionally have to swap a machine gun’s barrel, or physically check your ammo count, or with such realistic bullet trajectories. The flamethrower is nigh awe inspiring. It’s beautiful. The flames actually bounce and reflect off walls, and fill up rooms. Victims just melt away in a pool of screams.

The maps are equally as detailed as the weapons. They are large and sprawling; covered with wreckage, weapons, ruins, foliage, coated with a layer of mayhem and gloomy atmosphere. You never quite know where its limits are until you hit them. I’ve never played another game that felt so much like I was actually on a battlefield. It’s dangerous, difficult, and unforgiving. I love it.

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Yes. That is both recent and free content.

Rising Storm, having been released  as what could only seriously be called an “add-on” to Red Orchestra has actually caused them both to evolve. Red Orchestra started taking tank warfare more seriously, (yes, this game has tanks, and holy shit are they challenging to use) and Rising Storm continues to pile on new maps and weapons. Nevertheless, Tripwire has never made me pay for any extra content since I originally bought into the beta. Every content update has been free. Not only is Tripwire dedicated to keeping this title alive, they aren’t nickle and diming us for it.

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Good guy, Tripwire.

I cannot stress the importance of this game to the industry. Tripwire should serve as a model for any developer who actually intends to cater to their audience. They listen, and they deliver. They don’t dilute the formula to broaden their demographic. In fact, one of their more recent updates actually adds improvements to “Classic Mode” which is somehow even more hardcore than “Realism Mode.” This is a game that prides itself on being difficult and doesn’t apologize for it, even if it means alienating the casual crowd. Is that really a bad thing? Perhaps if you just want to make a ton of money.

Sure, it could be rebuilt into a new engine for prettier graphics, bringing it into the “next-gen.” You could hire hollywood actors to have their faces eerily planted into the game for no apparent reason, and you could make dramatic movie-esque trailers full of explosions and filters to show during the Super Bowl.

If instead, you’d rather have a great game that won’t compromise its greatest strengths for the sake of extra sales –  you get an honest developer like Tripwire, and a product that deserves far more praise than it gets.

/gameon

walkintomortars

P.S. Punny Boromir is correct.

Game Review – Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Game review – Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Platform – PC, PS4, XBONE, PS3, 360
Developer – Monolith Productions, Inc.
Publisher – WB Games

Release date – 30 Sept, 2014

Rating – 9/10

walkintomordor

Actually, it's less "walking into Mordor" and more "killing into Mordor."

As a long time fan of Tolkien and his works, I (and I assume many others) have been craving a game which doesn’t sum up to yet another adaptation of the movies. When Shadow of Mordor was first announced, I was cautiously optimistic. We finally have a release featuring a new character who actually gets to stomp around in Mordor – something even Boromir was hesitant to undertake. However, this title shares more than a few similarities with Star Wars: Force Unleashed in its attempt to bridge the two main trilogies with a character who has as many abilities as one could allow in that universe and remain faithful. While I considered Force Unleashed (the first one, specifically) to be somewhat underrated, it was widely received as a disappointment. With predecessors like Jedi Academy and Knights of the Old Republic, it could have taken a few more notes.

Thankfully, WB had the review embargo lifted a few days prior to release, and gave copies to the big sites (IGN, PC Gamer, etc). It was hard to ignore the impressive gameplay videos and raving reviews. Could this be the open world LotR franchise title I’ve been hoping for?

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You will never play another game with so many exploding heads.

Abso-fucking-lutely. For the first two hours, I couldn’t even handle how immediately you are dropped into being the sole perpetrator of the mass genocide of Uruk-hai. With a seemingly endless assortment of decapitations, impalements and other brutal blade attacks, this game might as well have been called, “1000 Ways to Kill Orcs.”

While the combat system borrows heavily from the Arkham series (same publisher, after all) and takes cues from Assassin’s Creed as well, it’s quite refined and satisfying in its execution. There are an impressive variety of abilities and each ability has multiple animations, so you never feel like you’re only relying on a strict regiment of block/attack. As both a human and a “wraith,” you have an array of devastation to unleash upon your foe; whether you wish to rely on the skills of a cunning warrior, or the powers which come with your link to the netherworld. There’s also a nice balance between stealth and active combat which doesn’t appear to favour one over the other. As a whole, the fighting system feels round and well thought out.

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 I love doing this one.

Even with all of the head chopping and brutal shanking, the thing that ties the whole room together is the Nemesis System. In most games like this, your life is bound to a series of checkpoints and saves. You and the game progress along with these checkpoints and when you die, you restart from the last one, as does the rest of the game. However, because it is established very early on that you are stuck in a deathless limbo, your demise only means you will return again soon after. So, rather than your death forcing you and the game to turn back time, it is now a mechanic for the progression of orcs in a similar way that their death lead to your own progress. Yes. NPCs level up by killing you.

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And now for something completely different...

The map starts off with a set of 20 captains and 5 warchiefs. As you kill them off, they will be replaced by others at random, or by grunts that happen to get the lucky last strike. So not only can a mere grunt be promoted up the chain of command by killing you, he will remember killing you and taunt you for it. Some may actively hunt you as well. Sometimes, captains you believe slain will come back with a vengeance, show up at the worst possible moment, and become a giant pain in the ass you consistently have trouble killing because you can’t keep your emotions in check when he pops up on the screen.

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Fuck this guy so much.

What this translates into is a game world that feels alive. It seems to progress in spite of you. The Uruks continue to roam around the map, fight among themselves, hunt dangerous creatures, tame slaves and generally go on about their business. Because you’re thrown into this right away, there’s never a lull in the action. There’s little urgency to push the plot forward just to have fun; invading feasts and ruining duels is rewarding on its own merit.

Each captain comes along with his own unique skill set, too. So even if you end up seeing a few repeats, they rarely have the same weaknesses and strengths. Variety is not amiss.

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According to the voice over, it's pronounced "douche."

In true Lord of the Rings fashion, instead of amassing an armory full of gear, the weapons you have are named and unique to your character. You’ll even complete specific missions which craft the lore behind them so to become (in)famous orc-slaying relics. Each weapon can be slotted with up to 5 runes which allow you tweak for your play-style. There is a wide assortment of runes with random stats as well as “epic” unique runes with set stats. Only captains and warchiefs will drop runes, so they are your main incentive for taking down the big bosses.

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Is your dagger legendary, or are you just happy to see me?

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor delivers in a way I honestly was not expecting. On its shell, it looks like it might be a bland ripoff of another formula’s success, but it has so much more than that going on under the hood. While the combat isn’t revolutionary, it’s well-refined, and the Nemesis System more than makes up for it in the revolutionary department. The story isn’t particularly original, but it’s well-voiced and cast. The artwork is fantastic, and the lore is respected. It’s not a perfect game but it gets high marks for execution and having the guts to do something new.

However, at the end of all the criticism and nitpicking the game truly excels in one area: fun. It’s so much fun, all the little things don’t matter and you remember why you like gaming in the first place. Yeah, it’s that kinda good.

/gameon

lethalstrike

Mordor: Where killing orcs is a means of transportation.