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.

Something, Something Game News – Pay2Mod: Why Steam’s paid workshop failed so hard so quickly

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prison02Off with their heads!

Over the past few days, the PC gaming community has been up in arms over the new paid modding system Valve implemented into its flagship Steam Community Workshop. Almost as quickly as it arrived, it was shunned and then shuttered only days later. It’s a rare occasion for Valve to blunder so violently in such a short time, however I will give them credit for responding as quickly as they did. So what happened?

The majority of the backlash started with one mod which was removed within hours of the paid program’s launch. The controversy began due to the mod’s creator having used assets from another mod by another creator. As should be expected, using another’s content to get paid is rather frowned upon.

permissiontomakemoneyWell that escalated quickly.

However, Steam Workshop was never set up to have the kind of regulation you might expect from a paying service. The mod mentioned above wasn’t even removed by Steam, but by the developer for having received so much negative press. Yet, with Valve offering paid options for modders, not only does it infringe on some of the communities’ ideologies, but potentially creates an atmosphere where mods might become exclusive to Steam due to a developer’s interest in profits. The proprietor of the Nexus modding community Robin Scott weighed in on Reddit asking:

“Can you make a pledge that Valve are going to do everything to prevent, and never allow, the “DRMification” of modding, either by Valve or developers using Steam’s tools, and prevent the concept of mods ONLY being allowed to be uploaded to Steam Workshop and no where else, like ModDB, Nexus, etc.?”

It’s fair question considering what a mod actually is: a contribution to an already finished product. It’s kinda like if you took a painting, added your own character to it, then asked to be paid for your work. While you may have legitimately improved upon the artwork, and perhaps put in nearly as many hours as the original artist, the fact remains that it was never yours to begin with. So the question stands: does a modder deserve to be paid at all?

10845818_10155497807325603_7012942427859232575_o"I call it: 'Dog Bridge' by Monet and Carol. Isn't it better?!"

It’s a tricky question. While the point still remains that mods are not original contributions, there’s no arguing that some mods have evolved into highly successful standalone games on their own merit. DayZ for example, was a mod to the ARMA 2 engine by a single developer (who did happen to work for Bohemia Interactive before it was appropriated by them, however), and is now one of the highest selling games on PC. Counter-Strike and Team Fortress Classic began as mere mods to the Half Life engine as well, and have also gone on to become two of the most highly celebrated and influential games in the industry. Not to mention the original DOTA having been a Warcraft 3 mod.

Successful mod developers have come forward, unsurprisingly, in favour of the paid system. Garry’s Mod creator Garry Newman suggests that the market would balance itself, rewarding quality over quantity. He is convinced that people won’t pay for unimpressive mods, while the better ones will shine through and receive the funding they deserve. Shawn Snelling, a prominent modder and map designer for CS:GO also believes modders should be compensated for their time.

exposureA lovely satire piece from The Beaverton.

I just want to be clear in my position that I do not disagree with their sentiment. Of course hard-working modders deserve compensation, and many of them have already been rewarded. Again, some of the most successful titles we know today began as mods, and wouldn’t be as such if not for their developers having made the decision to monetize their efforts. But mods like DayZ didn’t become paid, standalone versions overnight. The decision to sell was almost always after they had become celebrated, and provided enough content to be sold as complete games. Even still, the original DayZ mod for ARMA 2 can be had entirely for free.

The issue here was strictly implementation.

With almost no warning or advisement from the community, Valve issued an option to allow the content creators to decided whether or not their work had value, when point of fact, it should have been at the discretion of the community itself. Right out of the gate, there were already mods with little effort done by the developer, and/or stolen assets, wrongly asking for payment with absolutely no regulation nor communication from Steam. Anyone could put in as little effort as they liked, and still demand payment just for you to download it. As one can imagine, this kind of honour system doesn’t work on the internet without oversight. “Protest mods” even appeared, some asking for $hundreds to provide a single, worthless asset, just to prove how ridiculous the new system was.

While I don’t see this as the last we’ve heard from this kind of program, my hope is that it comes back in the form of a “tip” system, where customers can chose to donate to mods deemed worthy of compensation and recognition. This way, both the consumers and the developers can get a more realistic idea as to whether or not a mod should be monetized or perhaps made into its own game.

Feel free to weigh in yourselves. Do you think it’s fair to charge for mods before they’ve had any recognition?

/gameon

10523309_10155498371360603_2318789489273724365_o"From one Redskin to another... Go fuck yourself."

Something, Something Game News – 300 Bugs: Madness? This is business as usual

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ubisofteaThis industry deserves a better class of publisher.

I have returned to writing blog posts as my opinion of some of the larger publishers continues to be justified. A few days ago, Ubisoft “apologized” to customers for its rather contemptuous release of Assassin’s Creed: Unity with an absolutely unacceptable amount of bugs and problems by offering DLC and other games for free.

While it was a good move on their part, I’m left feeling like this is not the last we’ll be hearing from Ubisoft and sub-par releases. I had immediately lost faith in Unity upon hearing that it would not be supporting framerates over 30fps because it felt “more cinematic.” Plus, after the Watch Dogs fiasco of intentionally gimped graphics support, it’s becoming more and more clear that Ubisoft has lost all interest in the PC market and making games which actually perform to the “next-gen” standards they supposedly strive towards.

5787170Obligatory #pcmasterrace

Ubisoft isn’t the only culprit, either. Activision’s Advanced Warfare has suffered from significant release issues and has been widely considered as an awful port to PC. Go back a little further, and we can include EA’s Sims 4 and Battlefield 4 releases as well. These are the three largest and most prestigious game publishers in the industry, and not one of them can brag about a smooth release of a flagship title in the last couple of years. So what the fuck is going on?

They’re still making money.

srslywtf"I dunno... it was on sale."

However, I’m not going to sit here and blame you as the consumer. Personally, I’m not planning on buying a title from any of those publishers for a long long time, and certainly won’t be getting any of the titles released in the last year or two, but I can’t expect everyone else to be as enthusiastic to boycott them. I played the shit out of Battlefield 2, 3 and Bad Company 2. Up until around Revelations, I thought the Assassin’s Creed series would go on to be a dynasty of Legend of Zelda proportions. I loved Mass Effect 1 and 2. Hell, I bought Titanfall. I too have been seduced by the siren call of some of the big brand titles. But the fact remains, most of the releases as of late have not only been lackluster, but completely unacceptable from companies with such expansive resources.

While I personally will be boycotting these publishers for a while, I’m not going to preach to others about what games they should or should not buy. I will, however, suggest that they should stop pre-ordering them. When you throw $60-100 on a game that hasn’t been released just because Kevin Spacey has his face in it, all it tells Activision is that you will give them money just for spending money on big names. It doesn’t tell them you want good technical support, especially after how awful the release of Ghosts was. It tells them you don’t care how bad Ghosts was, because you already bought Advanced Warfare.

moregripe2"I dunno... it has Kevin Spacey in it."

The same goes for any other title which has waned in recent years. If you don’t want it to become an assembly line product designed only to be sold this year, because you can fucking guarantee there will be another one next year, you have to stop pre-ordering the sequel. Just wait. Merely being withholding will tell a company a lot about your expectations: i.e. you actually want to wait to see if it’s a good game before blowing your cash on it. I know it’s a hard thing to do in this age of instant gratification, but shouldn’t one still consider patience to be a virtue?

/gameon

ggnintendoA little foreshadow for tomorrow's entry.

Something, Something Game News – A recap: Dead space games and and even deader orcs

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I’ve been a little lax this week on getting the blog up, but I’ve been pretty busy working on a game for which its Kickstarter will be launching soon. The past 10 days have also seen several game releases that I’ve been trying my best to review. I’ll likely have a review up tomorrow, and I’ll work on a few more posts over the next few days so I can be back to my regular blogging schedule next week.

brodown

Don't forget to help fund my "start-up company" so I can retire early. Sitting on my ass, here I come!

Nevertheless, I couldn’t let this week go by without a few honorable (and dishonorable) mentions:

Along with recording some voice-overs and composing a few background tracks, I’ve also been playing the shit out of WB’s new release: Shadow of Mordor. I have a full review in the works, but at this point I can tell you that it’s the most fun you can have decapitating the villainous Uruks of Middle-Earth since… well there aren’t really any other games that let you do it with such fervent variety. This title could have been called “1000 Ways to Kill Orcs.”

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It's ok, he wasn't using that head anyway.

However, the big highlight (for me) came with Transverse already giving up on their shifty crowd-funding campaign. As I had noted in a previous rant, Transverse came on the heels of other big, crowd-sourced space titles, did so without a drop of originality, and handled it with the grace of a wild boar figure skating while being fucked in the ass by a mute donkey. How’s that for imagery?

After a little more than two weeks, Piranha Games had only managed to fund about $12,000 of their intended $500,000 initial goal. Meanwhile, Star Citizen was just recognized by Guinness as the most crowd-funded thing ever. Time to go back to the drawing board, PGI.

emptyforums

Of course, PGI emptied their forums in a predictably fascist move. No hilarious meltdowns to read. :(

Otherwise, I hope you guys are all having a good week and I’ll be posting regularly again by Monday!

/gameon

gofundyourself

Because South Park.

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.

south-park-bp-sorry1

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.

bluesteam

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 – 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!

wastetime

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:

notchwin8

 

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:

notchleaving

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

creepers

Because, creepers.

 

Obligatory first post.

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allthememes

Because memes.

Well here I am, another gamer putting up a blog in the hopes of creating some sort of existence in the digital world. Fun, right?

I do, perhaps think of myself as more than a gamer on occasion. I work in the game industry as well as play. I have a pretty banging PC tower (obligatory hashtag, #pcmasterrace), but I don’t entirely hate console peasants. I still own nearly every Nintendo console ever made… but maybe I’m not a purist because I don’t have a Virtual Boy. I guess I’m just not that nostalgic when it comes to failed experiments.

IMG_1818

 Yeah... no.

So why am I writing this blog when there is already a sea full of blogs and “legitimate” game review sites? Well, for one thing, I’m pretty tired of a lot of the publications out there. When I see IGN give some wretched, old franchise regurgitation from one of the big 3 publishers (don’t worry, we’ll get to them later) a 90 on metacritic, while the user score sits somewhere around 2.0, it makes me want to stab myself in the eyes with a fire-poker burning with the heat of a thousand suns.

ign-rating-for-call-of-duty-ghosts_gp_2430213

Fair warning... Activision is high on my shit list.

Also, don’t get even get me started on how grossly overrated these so-called “next generation” consoles are (nevertheless, I will eventually get started). We’re getting close to a year since release and there are still no titles worth the price of entry. Suddenly, everyone’s faith in Nintendo is returning because they give a shit about making quality titles even with their vastly older franchises with more brand power than the Pope.

the-great-supper-game-mascots-nintendo-mario-sonic-capcom

Remember when the blue hedgehog was Mario's biggest competitor? Now, he lives in his eStore.

I will also likely preach about the church of Valve and their rather exemplary contribution to the industry. I guess it helps when your CEO/Founder is the biggest stereotype basement gamer nerd I can possibly imagine — and I honestly mean that in the best possible way. He’s clearly a guy who gives many of the fucks you might expect from such a character. He cares about his company name, and he cares about the industry as a whole. Not to mention his most popular and lucrative title is not only free to play, but has professional gaming tournaments with $10 million prize pools. While I’m not personally a big fan of DOTA 2, it’s hard not to get carried away in the grandeur of it all. Much respect to the Gabe.

Key-Arena

“It’s not a sport. " - John Skipper, President of ESPN

So, I’m a little passionate. This is the internet. Please try not to take it too seriously. You can call this a place to vent, a place to show off, and a place to pretend like maybe I know about things and even influence other people in some minute way. Maybe provide an example for how people should appreciate developers who actually care about making good games over high profits, or share with my fellow gamers in the love of this grand institution of artwork and skilled programming. Or… perhaps just say, “fuck it,” and post memes because they cater to the lowest common denominator of primate decision making and therefore incite the fastest consumer response!

Either way, it’ll probably be fun for at least one person. Me.

/gameon

fuckit

P.S. I hate you if you don't love this movie.