Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Used vs New - This Critic's Opinion (NO PICS!)  

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Games: There's been a lot of chatter lately about buying new games versus used games, and I've been asked several times about my stance on the whole thing.


I don't have a pat, easy answer, and if I was to tackle every single angle on the subject in a comprehensive manner, this entry would take me weeks to write. I don't have that kind of time (hence the complete lack of cleverly selected images tonight -- sorry) and I suspect that I would get bored of the topic before I got to the end. As such, this particular blog post isn't going to have an answer to every single question that can be asked, but I have been thinking quite a bit about it.

So, used versus new... It's a huge topic to begin with, and it’s only gotten more complicated due to the various tricks made possible by online connections. Thanks to these ‘innovations’, something that has never been black-and-white to start with is now more grey than it's ever been. That said, let me try to pick apart the various strands of the problem as I see them, one by one...

First things first, FUCK PIRATES.

I am 100% anti-piracy, I don't advocate piracy under any circumstances whatsoever, and there's not a thing anyone can say to me to convince me that piracy is in any way justified or correct. It's straight-up stealing, period.

Why am I bringing up the issue of piracy in a discussion about used versus new? Because used games aren't piracy. Rentals aren’t, either. Problem solved, the end.

Next thing up on the docket, PROFIT IS NOT EVIL.

Games don't just fall out of the sky or get plucked from the gravid branches of lush trees in warm climates. In general, it takes a lot of people a lot of time to make a game that's worth playing, and it takes a publisher to keep those people fed and clothed until something hits retail. Money has to be made -- after all, it's not like you get up out of bed every morning and go slave away in an office for eight hours because you’ve got nothing better to do, right? You do it to pay for your rent, to be able to party later that night, to afford healthcare, and so on. In order for games to exist, the people who make and distribute these games must get paid. Developers and publishers are human beings just like you and me, so it's a no-brainer.

Something else that's pretty clear to me? CONSUMERS NEED TO HAVE RIGHTS.

As far as I'm concerned, this is one of the biggest things that needs to be looked at in the used versus new debate, and it gets very little attention from any side -- even from the very consumers who are being hurt!

The problem is this: Both developers and publishers are doing everything they can to convince gamers to buy games brand-new and are effectively waging war on the used games market. What's the dilemma? In this brave world, the hard-working people who pony up the cash for new have absolutely no recourse if they buy something they end up not liking, or even worse, buy something that's just broken.

While many games offer playable demos on the various online services, not all do. It may be easy to tell which genre a new title falls into, but there are countless factors that determine whether or not a person will enjoy that buy, and ultimately whether they feel as though they got their money's worth.

It's easy to get lured into a game by a great cover art, energetic screenshots, carefully-directed trailers, overly-hyperbolic previews from overly-hyperbolic writers, and ubiquitous ad campaigns. That said, a person still won't know that the game will be to their taste until they try it. Since I don't know of any store that will accept an open video game and refund a consumer's money, asking people to take this leap of faith at $60 a pop is a little unreasonable, not to mention it shows an enormous lack of confidence in the final product. You need to trap your customers in no-escape sales? really?

(Hello, GameFly!)

Completely apart from the matter of personal taste, more and more games are being released unfinished, buggy, or genuinely broken. If you ask me, a consumer who picks up a glitchy piece of software should have every right to return it as a non-working purchase and get their money back -- yet again, I don't know of any store anywhere that will issue a refund under these circumstances.

If you ask me, it takes a hell of a lot of gall to ask a consumer to risk $60 on something that they don't know is to their taste, and which may or may not be in a functional state. Such business practices put the consumer at a terrible disadvantage by stripping away all normal guarantees, and I am hard-pressed to think of any other product or industry that asks for as much faith on the part of the consumer (with no assurances given whatsoever) as video games do.

Since used games can be returned for the full purchase price at GameStop and other retailers for a variety of reasons including ‘I just didn't like it’, that serves as a huge incentive to buy used, totally apart from lower cost.

Furthermore, it needs to be said that NOT EVERY GAME IS WORTH $60.

Although some publishers have been experimenting with various price points, the vast majority of titles come out at the same one-size-does-not-fit-all MSRP. While more affluent gamers may shrug off $60 with little concern, that's quite a lot of money to some people.

With that in mind, I would be quite happy to pay $60, $75 or even $100 for a huge (bug-free) open-world RPG with fantastic characters and interesting quests, especially considering how much time and effort goes into something like that. On the other hand, I'm leery of spending more than $20 or $30 on a shooter that can be finished in a weekend, or on an experimental title that has some good ideas, but stumbles over itself on the production side. For such games, buying used for a cheaper price just makes sense since relative value isn't there.

Finally, WHAT ABOUT DLC, PREORDERS AND PASSES?

Since it seems no game under the sun can be released without some sort of multiplayer function these days, seeing publishers charge for online multiplayer is now the norm. Honestly, this is one aspect of the new games industry that actually makes sense to me.

Having dedicated servers up and employing the tech support people who constantly clean up code and keep things running costs money, and it's not unreasonable for the people providing these services to ask for compensation from the people using these services. It's also fair in the sense that that people who don't want to play multiplayer don't have to pay for it. I sure don’t.

Finally, pre-order bonuses, exclusive DLC and the like -- really, it makes complete sense that a publisher (or any producer of a product, game or not) would want to give consumers incentive to buy new as opposed to buying used. I don't blame them, and the more I think about it, the less opposed to it I am -- however, there are a few things to chew on here.

For example, offering content that's only available with a new purchase doesn't sit quite right with me in light of the “buying on faith” issues I raised earlier. As someone who tends to be a completist for games I'm a fan of, I'm a lot more comfortable with the idea if this same content is available (for a price) to players who buy used.

I certainly don't mind paying $10 for a few missions or an extra character that new buyers get for free, as long as I'm sure that I like the game and that I want more. In such a situation, it's totally up to me whether I pay that money or not, and for quality products that enhance my experience, I'm happy to support developers and publishers via DLC.

Keeping that goodwill support that in mind, the issue of what constitutes a ‘complete’ game is up for discussion, and the thought that content might be removed and repurposed as DLC really rubs me the wrong way.

For example, it was hard not to notice the two missing chapters in Assassin’s Creed 2, or the inexplicable ‘escapee’ cutscene in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Both of those games were supposed to be “complete”, yet it was pretty clear to me and many others that something was missing. The same could be said of Shale in Dragon Age: Origins, and both Mass Effect 3 and Kingdoms of Amalur: the Reckoning are both about to launch with bits of "extra" content held back. It remains to be seen exactly how relevant these things will be, but I fear that the slide down a very slippery slope is already well underway.

As I said at the beginning of this piece, I could go on for weeks trying to cover every single angle of this discussion -- things like a future of download-only games leaving players with even less power and fewer rights than they already have, or what about those whispers of a console that somehow won't play used games? I'm pretty sure that George Orwell predicted that one a while ago. Regardless, I think I've hit most of the major used versus new points that bear discussion at the moment, and this is a pretty good reflection of where I'm sitting at right now, not only as a critic, but also as a consumer and someone who has spent the lion’s share of his life eating, breathing, and talking videogames.

If you ask me (and really, if you don't want to know, then why did you read this far?) I strongly believe that a compromise needs to be reached. Whether you fall on the side of used or new, it's easy to see that neither one is completely correct. In my perfect world, consumers would be able to return games within reason, and publishers and developers would put out games that were complete, functional, and priced to reflect the value being delivered.

In such a fantasy land, I think everyone involved would be quite happy to keep this particular economic engine running, and all sides would come away satisfied. Whether any such situation could become a reality remains to be seen, but this murky, groping middle ground the games industry currently occupies can't and won't be held forever.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Yakuza, Aliens: Infestation, Quarrel, and Caspar Babypants  

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Podcast: For fans of the GameCritics podcasts, tonight is a double feature.

First up, Episode 68 of the regular show. Topics include X-Men Destiny, Rayman Origins (a.k.a - the episode that demonstrates why I am the coldest, most unfeeling Francophobe critic on the ‘net) and quite a bit of discussion about being employed as a games writer, writing reviews for free, and how the two relate to each other. Also, for those keeping track, this is the third-to-last show that Tim Spaeth will ever be hosting, so if you are a Tim fan (and really, who’s not?) then make sure you catch him before he's gone.

If one podcast wasn't enough, then tune in to the resurrection of GameCritics After Dark. This particular offshoot is an episode focusing solely on Zelda: Skyward Sword and features a different cast. This time around, the program is hosted by @RichardNaik, he’s joined by GC regular Mike Bracken (@HorrorGeek), and they are hashing things out with guests Jeffrey Matulef (@MrDurandPierre) and Michael Abbott (@BrainyGamer). If you're hungry to hear more about Zelda, this is the ticket.

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Games: Not much to report in terms of gaming.

I'm still trying to complete Yakuza 3 before anything big comes in for review, and I'm almost done. If my guess is correct, there are only one or two chapters left, so I'm hoping to wrap it up tomorrow.

So... Come here often?
I've got to say, out of the three Yakuza titles I've played so far, this one has definitely been the weakest. It's strange to say that because there have been some tremendously emotional moments at certain points in the story, but the game loses its way in the middle and starts to drag... it's just started to pick up again now that I'm closing in on the end, but there were certainly (at least) three or four hours of gameplay that could have been removed from the critical path and the game would have been better for it.

The meandering middle is made worse by the fact that the developers have tinkered with the combat engine and made it quite dull and repetitive -- in the previous two games, there were always new moves to unlock, and this constant growth kept the combat feeling exciting and fresh. This time around, it feels as though there are fewer moves, and of the moves that are still here, many of them are tied up with the "heat" status.

Basically, what this means is that there are many attacks that are not usable until the player enters a special powered-up mode. Even after entering “heat”, many of the moves that become accessible are impractical to use, or only work in very specific circumstances. For example, I unlocked one move that lets my character jump off of a fence to tackle an enemy… and I haven't ever used it, even once. I don't want to get into too much detail here, but the bottom line is that I've been using the same combos for about eight hours and I'm pretty damned sick of the combat right now.I've never, ever felt that way in the previous two games, so I'm quite disappointed in how things have shifted for the worse here.

I'm hoping that the end will make up for some of the dead space I had to plow through to get there, but we'll see.

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Games: I'm still putting some time into Aliens: Infestation, as well. It's actually a pretty cool title and there’s a lot to like if you’re a fan of the films. On the other hand, it's a little rough in spots and I question how appealing it would be to someone who has no love of the franchise.

That's right... The Space Jockey makes an appearance.
For example, there are too many hard-to-hit enemies taking cover behind large crates, and there are certain points at which the player must use the "Flamer" weapon to burn through certain doors. Using fire against aliens is ridiculously underpowered, so of course the developers triple the number of aliens between Point A and Point B when the Flamer is equipped. I also had the game completely crash on me in the middle of fighting a boss, which was pretty frustrating.

I don't mean to sound too negative because Infestation is clearly a love letter to the franchise from people who care about doing it justice, and I really respect that. There is definitely some good stuff going on here, and anyone who considers themselves an Alien fan should own a copy -- just go into it knowing that not everything here is roses.

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Games: I just wrapped up my review of Quarrel for XBLA and submitted it earlier this evening. Look for that to go live soon. For those of you who don't know, it's basically a puzzle game that combines Scrabble and Risk with a few other strategic elements added to the mix.

A war of words!
It's a pretty good time playing with friends over Live, and it's only $5… it's got a few issues, but it's hard not to recommend at that price for people who intend to play with other people. On the other hand, I wouldn't really recommend it for solo players -- as is usually the case in games of this type, playing against the AI is an exercise in frustration.

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Music: For you parents out there who need something to listen to that's appropriate for kids, but not annoying enough to drive you crazy, let me give a quick thumbs up to a disc from Caspar Babypants.

Catchy and Kid friendly!!
The album is titled Here I Am!, and has a number of catchy tracks that are both friendly enough for even the littlest children, but steer clear of the saccharine inanities that make want to jam and icepick in your eardrums. Interestingly, the band was started by Chris Ballew of the Presidents of the United States of America, so there is certainly some solid musicianship and a pretty good cool factor going on here. My son can be pretty picky about what he listens to, but he took to this CD right away.

In our house, there's no higher recommendation.


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PR/NEWS/INFO

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Law & Order: Legacies is now available for PC and Mac! Play the show as you investigate crimes and prosecute the offenders. Will you prove the suspect guilty, strike a plea bargain, or will the jury let him walk? Law & Order: Legacies features all-new stories (ripped from the headlines, of course!) and reunites your favorite characters from across the Law & Order franchise, including Rey Curtis, Lennie Briscoe, Jack McCoy, and SVU's Olivia Benson. Get the game now and play Episodes 1, 2, and 3 with Episodes 4-7 coming very soon!

Law & Order: Legacies features a brand new content delivery system that allows you to download all of the series' episodes through the game's main menu! When a new episode is available to download, you'll be notified through the game itself. You can become a Law & Order Legacies series owner for just $19.99 and get the first three suspense-filled cases immediately.

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New Expansion to The Lord of the Rings Online™ Launching Fall 2012

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment unveiled today The Lord of the Rings Online™: Riders of Rohan™, the latest expansion to the award-winning free-to-play massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) developed by Turbine. Riders of Rohan expands the online world of Middle-earth where players join forces to ride into the Plains of Rohan. Riders of Rohan launches in the Fall of 2012 with an increased level cap, the vast plains of Rohan including iconic locations such as Amon Hen and Fangorn Forest, the new Mounted Combat system and much more!

NEW FEATURES:

 Experience the Riders of Rohan – Join with the Rohirrim and ride across the sprawling Plains of Rohan; witness the breaking of the Fellowship at Amon Hen; forge alliances with the Ents of Fangorn; and aid Éomer, adopted son of Théoden, as he seeks to protect his homeland from the growing Shadow.

 Introducing Mounted Combat – Ride into Combat atop your loyal War-steed as you defend the people of Rohan from the forces of Isengard and Mordor. Customize your War-steed’s armor and level its skills over time to aid you in mounted defense of King Theoden’s lands. Mount your steed and gather your fellows to fight against Warbands, contingents of roving warg riders that have been scouted all over the Plains of Rohan! It falls to you to head off and defeat this new threat before they over take the land.

 Advance to level 85 – Continue your legend in the next chapter of The Lord of the Rings Online. Experience new adventures in the epic story, and gain new skills and deeds as you face new challenges on your journey to 85!

The Lord of the Rings Online is the ultimate adventure. This award-winning massively multiplayer online role-playing game delivers an interactive experience brimming with life and filled with the familiar people, places and monsters from the most famous fantasy of all time. From the picturesque surroundings of the Shire to Moria, the most fearsome underground realm ever imagined, players can experience the world of Middle-earth for free! For more information, visit www.lotro.com.

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If there’s one thing we all hate, it’s thieving gummy bears. Those jerks are out to ruin us all, but they’ll have another thing coming when they mess with the wrong bad-ass bison. Take revenge on those candy crooks in Adult Swim’s latest free online flash game, Burrito Bison Revenge, developed by Juicy Beast.

Just when you thought you were free from Candy Land forever, you realize that those gummy bear-stards stole your wallet! Jump back into the action and smash, crash, and explode your way through the candy defenses to reclaim your stolen property. Once you've claimed your prize jump over to survival mode to continue your revenge by launching as far as possible and destroying as many gummies as you can.

Play Burrito Bison Revenge!

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XSEED Games is pleased to bring gamers freshly-sliced story details about their upcoming and highly-anticipated PlayStation Vita action-platformer title, Sumioni: Demon Arts. Literally translated from Japanese as “Ink Demon,” Sumioni: Demon Arts is set in a fantasy world where players guide an ink figure through a landscape painted on a canvas backdrop in classical Japanese “sumi-e” style. The game uses the PS Vita’s touchscreen controls to allow players to manipulate the game’s world, creating platforms or summoning magical allies with the swipe of a finger.

In Sumioni: Demon Arts, players are given control of Agura on his quest to destroy Seimei and save Japan. Along the way platforms, strings of fire and jets of water can be drawn into existence at will on the PS Vita’s touchscreen, and Agura’s two Inkgod companions can each be summoned to perform massive, screen-filling attacks.

Sumioni: Demon Arts, developed by ACQUIRE and published by XSEED Games, is currently in production and will release on the PS Vita system in spring 2012.

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Two of videogaming’s most iconic characters are entering the ring and going toe to toe. Exclusive to the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita versions of Street Fighter X Tekken, Capcom’s very own Mega Man will be joined by Namco’s mascot, Pac-Man.

For the first time, the version of Mega Man featured on the original Mega Man 1 box art will make the jump from the cover to be a playable character, with Pac-Man taking on all challengers as he rides atop Mokujin.

Mega Man and Pac-Man join the previously announced PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita exclusive characters, Cole from Infamous plus Toro and Kuro.

Street Fighter X Tekken will release for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on March 6 in North America and March 9 across Europe with PlayStation Vita and PC versions to follow.

For more information on Street Fighter X Tekken, please visit: http://www.capcom-unity.com

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GamesAid is delighted to announce that the inaugural littleBIGbunch successfully closed raising significant funds from its launch on December 14 through to closing on January 2.

“Over 20,000 gamers registered for the bundle and when deciding where their money went, the funds were split pretty evenly between GamesAid and the Developers, which is great as ultimately it is the guys who make the games that enable the whole enterprise to take place,” offered Ian Livingstone, OBE and Trustee of GamesAid.

He continued, “Mommy’s Best Games, Oddworld Inhabitants, New Star Games, Mode 7 and Curve Studios deserve all the kudos and respect for their support and to the thousands of gamers who embraced and supported this venture, GamesAid extends their heartfelt thanks.”

GamesAid is now planning littleBIGbunch 2. “We are not planning on releasing dozens of packs in 2012, rather to release a couple of packs of awesome games and let the gamers decide where their money goes. We would be delighted to hear from any Indie developers who are up for this and they can get in touch with me,” offered Graeme Struthers, Trustee at GamesAid.

Indies looking to get in touch with GetGames: Graeme AT getgamesgo DOT com

All member of the UK Videogames Industry are encouraged to support GamesAid and become members by registering online atwww.gamesaid.org

All fundraising donations are gratefully received at www.justgiving.com/gamesaid

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To enter Wal-Mart’s giveaway of a Death’s Head mask from Darksiders II, go HERE.
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Dead Island’s latest DLC, Ryder White, offers a unique new perspective into the incidents in the main story of Dead Island: This time the player will get the chance to play as Ryder White, the antagonist of the main game (SPOILERZ!) Learn more about his motivations and why, from his point of view, he did what he had to do. This fresh take on the Dead Island story shows Ryder White both as a military man and a loving husband.

The DLC stars Ryder White as a newly playable character and offers a single player campaign with several hours of story content with twists and turns that will shed new light on the game’s happenings. Two blueprints and weapons will further expand the already impressive arsenal of Dead Island.

The DLC will be available on February 01, 2012 for the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and Windows PC. It will be available for 800 Microsoft points on Xbox LIVE Marketplace or for $9.99 USD on PSN and Steam.

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Valve, creators of best-selling game franchises (such as Counter-Strike, Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, Portal, andTeam Fortress) and leading technologies (such as Steam and Source), today announced the beta release of the Steam application for iOS and Android devices.

With the Steam app, gamers around the world may chat with Steam friends, browse community groups and user profiles, view screenshots and user-generated content for their favorite games, read the latest gaming news, stay up to date on unbeatable Steam sales, and more.

Those who wish to join the beta just need to download the Steam app (free of charge) and log in to their Steam account via the mobile app to express interest in the beta. Gamers will be added to the Closed Beta as the service ramps up.

For more information, please visit http://store.steampowered.com/mobile

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It’s time to put those Zombie Apocalypse plans in action! Digital Reality and developer Candygun Games, along with PC distributor partner Kalypso Media, have announced that their frightfully fun zombie defense game, Dead Block, is available now on PC across several distribution networks (see the list below).

Dead Block is an engaging, campy and humor-filled title that mixes zombie killing with tactical defense strategies, letting players defend their territory by discovering new weapons to strategically rock ‘n trap the invading zombie horde.

Play along other survivors in co-op mode for the most addictive co-op zombie combat experience in Dead Block. For more information, please visit the Dead Block website at www.deadblock.com, follow the characters on Twitter, subscribe to ourYouTube channel and ‘Like’ the game on Facebook.

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DEVOLVER DIGITAL LAUNCHES “PITCH FORK PARKER” PROJECT

- Indie Game Development Initiative Set for GDC 2012 -

Devolver Digital’s Fork Parker, infamous Chief Financial Officer and champion of the 1%, has thrown down the cash-filled gauntlet to challenge the next generation of indie game superstars. The eccentric money man at the pioneering publisher is offering completion funds and a publishing deal to the three best game prototypes, demos or pitches presented to the Devolver Digital team at this year’s GDC in San Francisco, March 5 – 9th.

WHEN

GDC 2012
San Franicsco, CA
March 5th – 9th

WHERE

The Devolver Digital Indie Bus trolling the Moscone Center during GDC 2012

HOW

Email pitchfork@devolverdigital.com with information on your team and project to setup a meeting with Fork Parker and the Devolver Digital team at GDC 2012.

WHY

Glory, Cash, Free Nachos

Devolver Digital and Croteam previously launched the successful Serious Sam Indie Series project which included unique takes on the iconic franchise from indie developers Vlambeer, Mommy’s Best Games, and Be-Rad Entertainment. The collection of indie games was launched in anticipation of the triumphant launch of Croteam’s uber-epic Serious Sam 3: BFE. In addition to partnering with teams on new and unique concepts pitched at GDC, Devolver Digital is also interested in forming new relationships with talented developers to create similar games for an as-yet-announced new IP coming from the Austin-based publisher.

Devolver Digital invites those developers unable to make it to GDC 2012 to come visit them at the BandPage Hotspot during the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX immediately following GDC 2012. At the event, Devolver Digital will be demoing the Serious Sam Indie Series along with several other projects currently in development.

“The only thing I love more than money is working with talented indie developers to make their sweet ass games even sweeter,” said Devolver Digital CFO Fork Parker. “Attractive twenty-something ladies and lobster nachos are pretty high on the list too.”

Appointments to visit Fork Parker and the Devolver Digital team can be made through pitchfork@devolverdigital.com. For more information on the Pitch Fork Parker initiative visit www. pitchforkparker.com or devolverdigital.com/pitchfork or tweet the man himself @ForkParker.

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Spacetime Studios Sires Vampire Themed Mobile and Desktop MMO: Dark Legends

Spacetime Studios takes its mobile and desktop Legends franchise into a frightening new world with Dark Legends. Players will embrace the secret societies of vampires to challenge the hordes of undead, werewolves, demons and humans that hunt them. The title will be released for Android, iOS and Chrome in the first quarter of 2012.

Fans of the popular Legends franchise, Pocket Legends and Star Legends, will discover a gameplay evolution in Dark Legends that draws them even deeper into the experience. The combat system delivers fast paced, action oriented gameplay that includes new mechanics such as charge attacks and the ability to drain enemies. A wide breadth of solo and multiplayer content will also be available.

The most significant change is a much deeper focus on narrative. In addition to story communicated during the 3D multiplayer missions, players will periodically be given the option to complete quick action missions with a single tap. These missions use brief cut scenes to create an interactive storybook, where players experience the life of a vampire up-close and personal.

The company's goal for Dark Legends was to combine casual, strategic advancement content with their award winning real-time 3D multiplayer system to create a blend of gameplay never before seen.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Comics Rundown!!!  

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Comics: It's time again for another quick check-in on my regular reads…

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Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #5 - I've got to admit, I'm really puzzled by this one. The idea of Frankenstein’s monster (with a sword, no less) teaming up with a rogues gallery of assorted creatures seems like an absolute win, and that's even before mentioning that this book is written by Jeff Lemire. His work on Sweet Tooth and Animal Man is absolutely fantastic, and both have become recent favorites. His work on this book, however... I'm just not feeling it.


The characters don't have much personality, the action isn't very interesting or exciting, and the artwork doesn't click. The pencils by Alberto Ponticelli are decent enough, but everything has a sloppy, ugly look to it that gives each issue a cheap, tossed-off feeling. It's bizarre to me that I can be so captivated by Lemire’s other work and feel absolutely nothing for this one, but there it is. I'll probably hang in for a few more issues just to give it time to breathe, but if I stopped reading it right now, I'd forget it even existed in an hour.

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Suicide Squad #5 – I’ve praised this one before, and I'm praising it again. To recap: super-criminals are forced to work together to accomplish impossible missions. Everyone is expendable, but cooperating with their captors is their only hope of eventual freedom.


The action in each issue is enough to keep the pages turning, but the characters aren't ignored, either. An added layer of suspense comes from the fact that any member of the team can be killed at any time, and it seems as though no one has any problems doublecrossing anyone else. Also, one of the characters is a giant shark, so obviously, bonus points.

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Superboy #1,2,3,4 - I've never been much of a Superman fan, and I didn't jump aboard when he was "killed" way back when, so I'm not too familiar with the history here. However, Scott Lobdell has made it very easy for a non-fan to pick up the book and feel right at home.


The gist of this book is that this incarnation of Superboy is a powerful telekinetic clone created in an underground lab. His DNA is a combination of that taken from Superman, and at least one other person who is still a mystery. (If it turns out to be Lex Luthor, I'm going to be quite disappointed...)

Anyway, this Superboy has been bred to be an attack dog by some super-secret government agency, and he manages to break loose of his containment and starts to explore both his powers and his identity. This in itself wouldn't be all that interesting, except for the fact that he seems to be quite lacking in the morals department and comes off as a bit of an anti-hero. Thumbs up so far, and I've added this one to my regular pull list.

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Blue Beetle #5 - This book is about a Hispanic boy who finds a damaged bio weapon and inadvertently bonds himself to it. The weapon tries to assert control of the boy's body, but he fights back and the two of them have to work together to overcome various super-assassins who are sent to recover the technology now inside of him.


I'm going to be completely honest here... the writing isn't that great, and the art is pretty decent, but it's nothing outstanding or particularly memorable. However, I've got a massive weak spot for stories about bio weapons. Don't ask me why, I don't know, but it's a concept that has always fascinated me and it's the only reason I'm reading this book.


In related bio weapon news, I've heard whispers that XO Manowar is being prepped for a relaunch. I had great affection for that book back in the day, so let's hope that rumor pans out.

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Invincible #87 - The story of Invincible is too long to tell in any coherent way here at the blog, but the best way to sum it up is to say that it's about a half-alien boy raised on earth, and who eventually becomes the planet's most powerful hero. I realize that may sound incredibly familiar to anyone who's ever heard of Superman, but let me just say that Robert Kirkman’s writing has been funny, human, relatable, thrilling, and shocking. I've loved it since the first issue, and I still love it.


If you've never tried it, pick up the first trade paperback and see what you think. I'm betting you'll dig it.

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Also, for no particular reason…. JEM and the Holograms!

TRULY OUTRAGEOUS!

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PR/NEWS/INFO

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Today, Capcom confirmed that Capcom Digital Collection will be available in North America on March 27, 2012, exclusively for Xbox 360.The collection will be available on a disc at retail for the first time for the value MSRP of $39.99.

The full list of games in the collection includes: 1942: Joint Strike, Bionic Commando® Rearmed 2, Final Fight™ Double Impact, Flock!, Rocketmen™: Axis of Evil including Rocketmen™: It Came From Uranus expansion, Super Puzzle Fighter® II Turbo HD Remix, Super Street Fighter® II Turbo HD Remix, Wolf of the Battlefield™: Commando 3. Each game preserves all the features, online functionality and Achievements from their download versions.

The ESRB ratings of the games in Capcom Digital Collection range from “E for Everyone” to “T for Teen.” For more information onCapcom® Digital Collection, please visit: http://www.capcom-unity.com

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CD Projekt RED will reveal all of the important facts regarding Xbox 360 version of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings during the upcoming conference held in Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw on the 26th of January.

The live stream from the conference will begin at 7 p.m. (GMT +1) on the 26th of January and will be available on the Witcher facebook fan page (facebook.com/thewitcher).

CD Projekt RED will be unveiling many exciting details about the game such as its release date, brand, new trailer, additional features coming to the console adaptation and many more.

"Witcher 2 on Xbox 360 is not just a simple port of a PC game, it’s an adaptation. Our newest game has been enhanced with many new features, and according to many specialists it’s one of the best looking games on Xbox 360 ever" – said Michał Nowakowski, Member of the board, CD Projekt RED S.A..

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Dreamfab and Tactile Entertainment today released the Lite version of their hit fish-flinging puzzle game, Saving Yello. Even after one million tactful players successfully saved Yello, Mathilda just won’t stop denying him the chance to breathe! Download the Lite version for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/saving-yello-lite/id492632414?mt=8

Saving Yello Lite gives potential Yello saviors who might not want to stay out of the water too long a taste of their rescue mission. It will include a selection of 10 levels from the Play Room, the first area, free of charge!

Haven’t saved Yello yet? Want to see how explosions, pins, and dynamite can save a fish? View the official trailer here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7-mW0XQNrg

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Tripwire Interactive and the Rising Storm team are proud to present you with a little something to whet your appetites for the forthcoming Rising Storm expansion to Red Orchestra 2: a teaser video showcasing the Iwo Jima level. This map features the beaches and tunnels of the heavily defended 'home island' with its iconic landmark, Mt Suribachi. This is the first map-specific material to be seen and hints at some of the goodies and new features coming in Rising Storm.

You can see the video on the Rising Storm Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/risingstormgame/videos

As you can see, with TWI’s support, this is a mod that is able to punch above its weight in terms of the quality of its crew. This is particularly so as RS has long been recruiting from the fertile gounds of the modding communities which grew up around TWI’s previous hits, Red Orchestra: Ostfront 1941-45 and Killing Floor. We do, however, still have openings for a couple more talented modellers to round off the ranks and applications can be made through the RS website.

And, as a little extra, we are now inviting applications for beta testers, so we have a team ready for when the beta testing starts: http://www.risingstormgame.com/beta-tester-application - so head on over!

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WHAT:

QuakeCon® is the ultimate video game festival and party. QuakeCon is open to the public and attendance is FREE thanks to the support of id® Software and Bethesda Softworks®, the QuakeCon volunteer staff, and the 2012 event sponsors and exhibitors.

WHEN:

QuakeCon will take place August 2 – 5, 2012.

WHERE:

The Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas, Texas.

You can make reservations at the hotel by calling: 1-800- Hiltons or 1-800-445-8667 . Special room rate of $154 per night when you reference QuakeCon 2012!

WHY:

QuakeCon will once again host North America's largest BYOC (Bring-Your-Own-Computer) LAN party, with thousands of gamers hooking their systems up to play on a world-class network.

QuakeCon offers nonstop fun and entertainment for those that don't bring their own computers. Bethesda Softworks will offer the first chance anywhere for gamers to get their hands on upcoming titles, and the world's leading technology companies will be on hand to demonstrate their latest hardware and software. Every day of QuakeCon is packed with contests, entertainment, announcements, panel discussions, and parties!

Every year QuakeCon hosts a diverse line-up of companies showcasing the industry's most influential games, hardware and services. Last year's exhibitors and sponsors included Alienware, Ventrilo, at&t, Intel, nVIDIA, PNY, Fatal1ty Gaming Gear, Air Force Reserve, Cooler Master, Diamond Multimedia, inWin, Plantronics, Bethesda Softworks and many others.  For more information visit http://www.quakecon.org/.

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Today, Ubisoft® unveiled the Mediterranean Traveler Map Pack, all-new downloadable content for Assassin’s Creed® Revelations for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and Windows PC.

The Mediterranean Traveler Map Pack enriches the Assassin’s Creed Revelations multiplayer experience with features that include:

• All-new multiplayer maps to maneuver through: Jerusalem, Constantinople and Dyers

• Fan-favorite Italian Renaissance maps from Assassin’s Creed® Brotherhood to revisit: Firenze (Florence), San Donato and Siena

• All-new Trophies and Achievements to earn

The addition of six multiplayer maps introduces new gameplay opportunities through each map’s varied terrain, perches and hideouts. The new collection of Trophies and Achievements will allow players to try their hand at kills and escapes that are as impressive as they are effective.

The Mediterranean Traveler Map Pack is available for download at a price of 800 Microsoft Points on Xbox LIVE® Marketplace for Xbox 360 and $9.99 on PlayStation®Network and Windows PC. For more information on Assassin’s Creed Revelations, please visit: assassinscreed.com and facebook.com/assassinscreed

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Beloved Pinkalicious™ Story Comes to Life in GameMill Entertainment’s Silverlicious™ Game for Nintendo DS™ March 2012

GameMill Entertainment, an independent publisher of entertaining mass-market video games, announced today its plans to release Silverlicious™ for the Nintendo DS™ hand-held system, a fun-filled exploration video game based on the Silverlicious™ story from the best-selling Pinkalicious™ children’s book series. Silverlicious the game is set to hit store shelves this March.

Following the enchanting storyline of Silverlicious™ written and illustrated by Victoria Kann, Silverlicious the game lets players set out on an adventure as Pinkalicious who has lost her ability to taste anything sweet. Help Pinkalicious regain her sweet tooth as you practice kindness, good manners and helping others in need. Unlock magical rewards including butterflies, sparkle rides and fireworks, as you explore the beautiful lands and meet new friends. Along the way you’ll learn that true sweetness comes from much more than cupcakes and cookies. Whether playing alone or with others, Silverlicious the game creates an imaginative and fun way to drive home the importance of kindness and manners.

Additional Silverlicious In-Game Features:

Collectables: Dress up Pinkalicious in three different costumes from a beautiful dress to fairy catching gear; accessorize her outfits with over 20 collectible accessories!

Meet Fun Friends: Explore across holiday-themed neighborhoods and meet new friends like Carlos Cupid, Edgar the Easter bunny, Easter chicks and more!

Holiday-Themed Neighborhoods: Twirl, glide and dance in three holiday favorite lands including Very Valentine’s, Easter Excitement and Christmas Caroling.

Positive Messages: All modes and gameplay focus on the importance of practicing kindness and good manners, like using “please” and “thank you” to increase the sweetness meter.

Rewards: Gain special rewards and bonus items for performing acts of kindness!

Developed by First Playable, Silverlicious for Nintendo DS is rated “E” for Everyone by the ESRB. For additional information about GameMill’s line of products, please visit: http://www.game-mill.com/.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Yakuza 3, Preorders, and DLC in Mass Effect Action Figures.  

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Games: Although there are some must-reviews coming down the pipe pretty soon, the industry is more or less in a big lull right now, and that's perfectly okay with me. I've really been enjoying knocking games out of my backlog, and the latest one up at bat is Sega’s Yakuza 3 (PS3).


Straight up, I love Yakuza. Love it. It's got some of the best writing and characterization in the history of videogames, and it’s so damned mature in the truest sense of the word (most of the time, anyway) that there's really nothing else out there like it for me. Having started Yakuza 3, I was trying to remember exactly why it was I let myself get two games behind in the series, and being honest, there's really no excuse. I am now mad at me.

I'm not sure if I'm going to review it since I suspect my review schedule is going to fill up rather quickly, but I may do some sort of feature or retrospective... the series is so criminally overlooked by critics and players alike that I feel a responsibility to help get the word out. (Also, for info on the upcoming fifth game in the series, scroll down to today's PR section.)

More to come.

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Games: Portables-wise, I've put money down on a Vita (WiFi version) and reserved Army Corps of Hell as my first game. After having spent a brief period of time with a unit at the most recent PAX and being pretty impressed, I know that it's a sexy piece of kit. I've also really enjoyed my PSP despite its many tribulations -- it really does have quite a few excellent games on it, and it's never gotten the respect I think it deserves.


(Although to be fair, Sony shoulders most of the blame for the catastrophic mishandling of the system, yo.)

Anyway, I may be a bit of a Pollyanna here, but I'm hoping that Sony has learned their lesson from past mistakes and will get the Vita into the proper position. Job number one? Games, games, games and more games. Job number two? Get some goddamned advertising out there. The system is nearly here, and I haven't seen a peep about it anywhere except for some hands-on previews from the usual media outlets. Job number three? Games.

In other portable news, I just started Aliens: Infestation on the DS.


I wasn't able to put much time into it, but I'm looking forward to doing so. I'm really intrigued by the reported ‘perma-death’ of the player’s squad members and how faithful the game will end up being. It took me a long time to find a copy in a brick-and-mortar, so this one has been on my radar for quite a while.

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Games: I've been on the fence about buying Mass Effect 3 (day one) ever since being burned with the worst game of 2011, Dragon Age 2, but I finally decided to go for it. I may be feeling like the world's biggest sucker if BioWare doesn't get their act together, but ME1 is still one of my favorite games of all time and despite the lackluster performance of ME2, I am hoping against hope that the end of the trilogy will restore the series to greatness and deliver the kind of experience that I want.

Regardless of how it turns out, I definitely plan on reviewing it, and make no mistake, if it's not up to snuff, I won't be shy about saying so.

While on the subject of Mass Effect, I just learned from @PeterSkerritt (who you're already following, right?) that the action figures based on the game will each come bundled with some sort of mystery DLC, and apparently the only way to get these unknown things is by purchasing these figures. Personally, I think this is pretty cheesy and extremely aggravating to the completist in me, but it's pretty clear that DLC is here to stay. I doubt this will hardly be the last time we see some unusual cross-promotion of this sort.

I don't plan on buying any of these figures because I really don't think they look that great, but in case you're interested, you can check them out at Big Bad Toy Store. I've done tons of business with BBTS over the last ten years, and they are an outstanding online retailer. They’ve got a pretty incredible selection of stuff, too.

My opinion on these particular figures aside, BBTS gets my highest possible recommendation.


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PR/NEWS/INFO


NIS America is happy to announce that Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 ships out on February 28, 2012 in North America, and February 24, 2012 in Europe!

Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is the sequel to the popular RPG Hyperdimension Neptunia, in which you control personifications (humanoids) of videogame consoles with the objective of protecting the world of Gamindustri. In Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, the four heroines are the younger sisters of the CPUs (Console Patron Units) from Hyperdimension Neptunia. Once again, fans can indulge in the mysteries and adventures found within Gamindustri!

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Yakuza™: Dead Souls, this next iteration of the iconic Japanese series, is set in the infamous red light district of Tokyo, which is under attack from hordes of zombies. The game features gunplay for the first time in the Yakuza™ series, where everything from pistols, machine guns and rocket launchers can be employed against the zombie invasion. Players will not only face armies of the undead and incredibly powerful mutants, but a treacherous Japanese underworld that is just as merciless. Playing through the eyes of four of the most infamous characters of the series, witness allegiances shift quickly and the line between friend and foe lost. With all the depth and story of a Yakuzatitle, plus the addition of exciting shoot-outs and previously unplayable characters Ryuji Goda and Goro Majima, Yakuza: Dead Souls is worth dying for.

For more information please visit www.sega.com/yakuza/.

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The Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition is coming.
This complete package, which includes the full version of Fallout: New Vegas as well as the Dead Money, Honest Hearts, Old World Blues andLonesome Road add-on packs, allows you to experience everything that New Vegas has to offer. To sweeten the pot, you’ll be armed with the latest cache of unique weapons, ammo types and recipes from the most recent add-on packs Courier’s Stash and Gun Runners Arsenal.

Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition will be available in retail stores across North America on February 7th 2012 and throughout Europe on February 10th.

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Dungeon Fighter Live: Fall of Hendon Myre Coming to Xbox LIVE Arcade

NEXON Korea Corporation today unveiled a new promotional trailer of “Dungeon Fighter LIVE: Fall of Hendon Myre,” an Xbox LIVE Arcade version of the popular “Dungeon & Fighter” (“Dungeon Fighter Online in North America) PC game. “Dungeon Fighter LIVE: Fall of Hendon Myre” will be published by Microsoft Studios and is set to launch later this year. The game will be available via Xbox LIVE Arcade. “Dungeon Fighter LIVE: Fall of Hendon Myre” will provide the same familiar control system as the original game, but will be playable at 720P resolution.

To view the new trailer, please visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nwB12MQR3k

“Dungeon & Fighter” is a 2-D massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) for the PC that currently has more than 300 million registered users worldwide and has a maximum concurrent user record of 2.6 million users playing at once in China.

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Independent developer Strange Loop Games, in collaboration with indiePub, today announced plans to release its groundbreaking liquid physics puzzle game Vessel on PC March 1, through digital distribution platforms including Steam andStrangeLoopGames.com. A finalist in both the 13th Annual Independent Game Festival and the 2010 Indie Game Challenge, Vessel allows players to solve puzzles by bringing to life physically-simulated liquid (water, lava, glowing goo, chemicals and more) and animating it into living machines called Fluros.

In Vessel, players take on the role of Arkwright, a renowned inventor whose inventions - living liquid creatures known as Fluros - have gone awry, turning on their users and disrupting machinery throughout the world. To fix the flawed Fluros and restore order, players must create, manipulate and destroy a wide variety of Fluros and operate complex machinery to solve challenging puzzles. Vessel takes players on an exploratory adventure through four fascinating worlds, fixing the work sites where Fluros are employed and ultimately leading the player to complete Arkwright's next great invention, "The Accelerator."

Vessel will be available on Windows PC March 1 for $14.99 via Steam andStrangeLoopGames.com. Vessel will also be released on Xbox LIVE® Arcade and PlayStation®Network at a later date, to be announced.

For more information, please visit: http://www.strangeloopgames.com/

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There are 14 Adventure games on tap at the AGS Bake Sale - And you name your own price! This bundle of 14 brand new games has been cooked up for the sole purpose of raising money for the Child's Play Charity. Indie gaming has never tasted so good.

All of the games in the AGS Bake Sale are made with Adventure Game Studio -- the same engine behind retro-styled adventures like Gemini Rue and the Blackwell mysteries -- but the genres are all over the map! Here's a sampling:

9 Months In: a traditional adventure game about a pregnant woman in prison trying to clear her name before her child is born.

Indiana Rodent and the Raiders of the Lost Cheese: the biggest, most ambitious platform game ever made with AGS (quite an accomplishment considering the engine wasn't created with Mario-style platforming in mind!)

Escape The Barn: a classic "escape the room" puzzle game, suitable for all ages.

RAM Ghost: an adorable virtual house simulator in the style of Little Computer People. Adopt an abandoned, unloved bit of code floating in the endless sea of information and tend to it in the hopes that it will one day grow up to be a proper program.

Abner The Amazing: a fantasy adventure in which a boastful knight and his sidekick must find out who stole all the colors and left the world a grainy black and white.

Zombie Attack: a top-down retro arcade shooter that has you battling waves of monsters, accumulating power-ups, gathering weapons, and unlocking new characters -- all in a desperate attempt to stop the forces of evil from taking over the earth.

You can see the full list of bundled games on the AGS Bake Sale website: http://www.agsbakesale.com/
The Bake Sale bundle has "pay what you want" pricing, with one small caveat: a minimum of $1.50 is required to cover payment processing. Beyond this, any money donated goes straight to Child's Play to give sick kids a bit of gaming cheer. The developers themselves aren't making a cent -- they've pitched in their time, their talents, and their bandwidth to raise some money for a really good cause.

More info about the AGS Bake Sale and the people involved can be found on the AGS Blog: http://ags-ssh.blogspot.com/ SALE ENDS 2/29/12.


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The AbleGamers Foundation Awards the 2011 Accessible Mainstream Game of the Year Award.
Star Wars: the Old Republic earns the annual award for extreme accessibility in any mainstream game for BioWare and LucasArts

The AbleGamers Foundation is proud to announce BioWare’s Star Wars: the Old Republic is the winner of this year's Accessible Mainstream Game of the Year award. Each year, the AbleGamers Foundation looks at all of the mainstream video game titles released in a given year for the best use of accessibility in a game. Recipients must demonstrate excellence in accessibility by including options that allow for gamers with a wide range of disabilities to fully enjoy the game.

Many of the larger releases cut accessibility or place it on the list of things to be patched in later on down the road, but SWTOR took the time to add things like colorblind friendly options, full subtitles, and control options to let those with mobility impairments play the game as easy as possible.

“It's very rare to see a game of this caliber initially released with so many accessibility options,” said Mark Barlet, president of the AbleGamers Foundation. “BioWare did a wonderful job including a large number of options right at launch with the promise of including more as soon as possible.”

“We were absolutely inundated with requests to review Star Wars: the Old Republic before the game was even released,” said Steven Spohn, editor-in-chief of ablegamers.com. “Thousands of gamers regardless of their disability wanted to know if they would be able to play this highly anticipated game. Fortunately, we were able to report the majority of disabled gamers will be able to play SWTOR.”

Read the story on AbleGamers.com, our community website for gamers with disabilities.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

PSP Minis, Kingdoms of Amalur, Dead Island's Ryder White, and TONS of news/info  

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Games: I haven't been up on my download titles and the way I should lately, so I've been trying to rectify that over last week or two. I decided to comb through the PSP Minis store alphabetically and see what caught my eye. There’s a whole lot of junk in there, quite frankly, but there are some nice titles if you look hard enough.

Here are some real winners that I recommend:

Fighting Fantasy
Fighting Fantasy. I've mentioned these before, but they're worth mentioning again. Taken from the book series by Steve Jackson Games, both The Warlock of Firetop Mountain and The Talisman of Death are text adventures that the player reads through like a book. At certain junctures, you make a choice (do you go down the tunnel, or do you climb the ladder?) and a combat minigame pops up when enemies are encountered. For those of you who like to read, or those of you who grew up books like FF or Choose Your Own Adventure, these are absolute gold.


Jelly Pops
Jelly Pops. I'm a big fan of PomPom Games, and everything I’ve played from them has been a winner. This one is no exception, despite the completely absurd and nonsensical title. The player takes control of a snake-like creature and scrolls constantly from left to right. The snake’s life is constantly depleting, so it's a race against time to keep eating life-ups long enough to get a high score. Each level has different variations (color combos, avoid spikes, etc.) that give the game legs, and there are different faux-Achievements for each level that keep you coming back for more.


Babel: the King of the Blocks
Babel: the King of the Blocks. Kind of a three-in-one title, this game stars a little Egyptian kid who needs to earn his stripes by completing three different physics-based challenges. One is building a tower with differently-shaped blocks that fall similar to Tetris. The second has him piling blocks on a balancing board, and the third challenges him to stack blocks over a pit by carefully arranging them so that they support each other without falling. It might not sound that exciting from the description I've written, but I've found myself coming back to this one time and time again. The physics are spot-on, and it's easy to get a few quick levels in on the go.

I still have a few more letters to get through in the Minis store (I was going alphabetically, remember) so if I find any more worth talking about, I'll update.

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Games: The demo for Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning hit the 360 a few days ago, so I gave that a whirl. I've been hearing from some sources in the know (also known as @finalmacstorm) that this was one to watch for, and after having gone through the demo, that info seems to have panned out.


It's a little hard to describe (and of course the final version will have features that the demo couldn't cover) but it's best described as a third-person action game combined with dungeon crawling loot elements and some quests/open areas that are vaguely Skyrim-Lite-ish-ish.

From what I played, my gut is telling me that this one will be kind of a straightforward grinder with a whole bunch of magic and weapons to keep the player going until the end. Nothing wrong with that at all, and when you're in the right mood for it, this type of game (if my impression ends up being correct) can be fantastic. I will definitely be giving the full version a look-see.

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Games: The Ryder White DLC for Dead Island was unexpectedly announced for launch on 1/31 (PS3) and 2/1 (360), $10 on both systems. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on an early copy and I've played through the entirety of it. Reviews are still under embargo, but I can share a little bit of information…


It's a one-player campaign that runs about 4-5 hours, give or take. It's much more focused and linear than the main game, and Ryder himself is at level 15 for purposes of stats and such. There is no skill tree or leveling up, so players will have to make the most of this military man as he is in order to get to the end of the content. PROTIP: The difficulty is much higher here than it is in the core game, but to balance that out, guns are about 42,000 times more useful. If you plan on checking this DLC out, REMEMBER THAT. (Props to sandwich eater @MitchyD for hipping me to that fact.)

I'm working on the review now, so you can look forward to that hitting GameCritics sometime after the embargo lifts.


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PR/NEWS/INFO

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CAPCOM CONFIRMS RESIDENT EVIL 6 – 11/20/12

Capcom®, a leading worldwide developer and publisher of video games, is very proud to announce thatResident Evil® 6 is in full development and scheduled for release on the Xbox 360 ® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system on November 20, 2012 with a Windows PC version to follow. Blending action and survival horror, this latest instalment in the multi-million selling franchise is the most ambitious, immersive and feature rich title of the series to date and promises to be the dramatic horror experience of the year. (see the trailer here, courtesy of IGN: http://ps3.ign.com/articles/121/1216867p1.html)

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Do you feel a chill on your neck? A feeling of anticipation as an unseen force inches closer to you? It could be that you know Resident Evil Revelations is right around the corner. Releasing in North America on February 7 for the Nintendo 3DS, Resident Evil Revelations returns to the classic survival horror style with infected enemies lurking in dark confined corridors. To help ease your anxiety before the full game is out, a downloadable demo is available beginning today from the Nintendo eShop. Download the demo now to experience the outstanding visuals and immersive gameplay.

Resident Evil Revelations introduces a brand new storyline, locations and characters to the series. Playable , characters include BSAA members Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield and Keith Lumley with their partners Parker Luciani, Jessica Sherawat and Quint Cetcham.

Jill Valentine and BSAA partner Parker Luciani have been sent to search for Chris Redfield, whose last known GPS data positions him as being onboard a supposedly abandoned cruise ship. Danger hides around every corner as they explore the confined space of the ship and face a menacing new enemy and virus: the T-Abyss.

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WARNER BROS. INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT AND WIZARDS OF THE COAST UNVEIL DUNGEONS & DRAGONS ONLINE®: MENACE OF THE UNDERDARK

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Wizards of the Coast unveiled today Dungeons & Dragons Online®: Menace of the Underdark™, the first expansion to the award-winning free-to-play massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) developed by Turbine. Menace of the Underdark launches in the Summer of 2012 expanding for the first time into the beloved Forgotten Realms setting and the vast subterranean world of the Underdark, an increased level cap, the new Druid class and much more!

Players can download and play DDO Unlimited for free by visiting http://www.ddo.com/.

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Kalypso Announces "Tropico 4: Modern Times" Expansion

It's a new year, and with that, come new challenges - especially to the beloved El Presidente and his regime! Today we are pleased to announce a new expansion forTropico 4 for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and Windows PC. The expansion, dubbed "Tropico 4: Modern Times," will offer players a huge variety of new challenges as El Presidente must modernize his island nation while battling sinister underground forces that threaten the future of Tropico itself in an extensive new single-player campaign. New buildings, fresh challenges, additional presidential edicts and more will all be part of Tropico 4: Modern Times when it is released in March of 2012.

Tropico 4: Modern Times will be priced at 1200 Microsoft Points / $19.99 USD when available.

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THE KING OF FIGHTERS XIII, NOW AN OFFICIAL EVO CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES 2012 TITLE, GETS TWO NEW DLC CHARACTERS: NESTS STYLE KYO AND MR. KARATE!

ATLUS today announced the availability of two new downloadable characters for THE KING OF FIGHTERS XIII, the latest in the legendary fighting franchise, for PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system (PS3™) and Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft.

Martial arts master Mr. Karate and NESTS Style Kyo, a fan favorite from the series' past, join Iori with the Power of Flames and 33 other fighters in a roster already bursting at the seams with some of the most popular characters in KOF history. Both fighters are now available for download from Xbox LIVE®Marketplace for 400 MS points. In the PlayStation®Store, Mr. Karate is available for $4.99 while NESTS Style Kyo will sell for a discounted $2.99 for a limited time in recognition of his tardy arrival on PlayStation®Network.

For more info, visit http://www.atlus.com/kofxiii.

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Under Siege, the real time strategy game for PSN, is getting a massive update. We listened to our friends, fans, and critics and took all their opinions very seriously. So we went back and decided to improve Under Siege in every way possible. Today’s free 1.02 update adds the following features:

Upgrade to 4 players online and local

Antialiasing in both 720p and 1080p

Players can now continue the campaign from any level they have already finished, instead of only the last

The first few levels of the game were rebalanced to make the game more accessible to new players and the casual difficulty was completely redone

Cooperative maps are unlocked from the start

General performance improvements and shorter load times

News feed from the team directly on the Main Menu

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DISNEY UNIVERSE STEPS INTO THE WILD WITH THE NEW “JUNGLE BOOK COSTUME PACK”

Disney Interactive Studios introduces new content to its latest video game, Disney Universe, with a downloadable “Jungle Book Costume Pack” that is available now. The “Jungle Book Costume Pack” is the latest installment of downloadable content available for Disney Universe on the Xbox LIVE® online entertainment network and the PlayStation®Network. Inspired by the stories about the feral child Mowgli from the book of the same name, players can suit up and battle friends in five brand new costumes including the independent man-cub, Mowgli; the ferocious tiger, Shere Khan; the rowdy King Louie; the nurturing black panther, Bagheera and the adorable Baby Elephant.

Individual costumes for the “Jungle Book Costume Pack” is available for download for 99 cents on PlayStation Network or for 80 Microsoft Points on Xbox LIVE. The complete set of costumes is also available for $2.99 on PlayStation Network or for 240 Microsoft Points on Xbox LIVE.

For additional details about Disney Universe, please visit http://www.disneyuniverse.com/ for more information.

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ZACK ZERO, THE DEBUT GAME BY CROCODILE ENTERTAINMENT, IS NOW AVAILABLE ON PLAYSTATION®STORE

The worldwide launch for the PlayStation Network coincides with the release of the new trailer.

Crocodile Entertainment studios, founded by Carlos Abril and Alberto Moreno, creators of games like Premier Manager 97, present Zack Zero, their first development for PSN.

Experience a great action platform adventure with Zack Zero boasting incredible 3D graphics and the playability and enjoyment of the classic games. Help Zack Zero to save his beloved Marlene, captured by the evil Zulrog with the intention of exchanging her for the kelestinia, a unique material with the power to travel in time.

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ROCK HITS 60’S-70’S DLC NOW AVAILABLE FOR UBISOFT’S ROCKSMITH

Songs included in this pack are “Space Oddity” by David Bowie, “Barracuda” by Heart, and “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult.

Each song will be available for individual purchase only for $2.99 on the Playstation network. Each song will be available for individual purchase for 240 Microsoft points on Xbox Live.

For more information on Rocksmith, please follow the game on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rocksmithgame, or visit http://www.rocksmith.com/.

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Capcom announced SIX new characters have been introduced for Street Fighter X Tekken. From the Street Fighter corner… Balrog, Juri and Vega have now been confirmed, and from the Tekken side… Paul, Law and Xiaoyu will be playable in the game. Fight!

Street Fighter X Tekken delivers the ultimate tag team match up featuring iconic characters from each franchise, and one of the most robust character line-ups in fighting game history. With the addition of new gameplay mechanics, the acclaimed fighting engine from Street Fighter IV has been refined to suit the needs of both Street Fighter and Tekken players alike.

Street Fighter X Tekken for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 launches in North America on March 6, 2012 and March 9, 2012 in Europe. More details on the PlayStation Vita and PC versions will be announced soon.

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Red 5 Studios and its CEO, Mark Kern, have launched a non-profit organization for gamers and developers to help fight against anti-industry legislation like SOPA and PIPA.

Introducing the League For Gamers (LFG). Founded by Red 5 Studios and Mark Kern through a $50,000 pledge, it was established as a true alternative to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and its subsidiary organization, the Video Game Voter’s Network (VGVN).

LFG is a gathering place for gamers, developers and industry supporters who want to stand against legislation that's detrimental to the games industry. Its first action was to petition the ESA to withdraw its support from PIPA, which still looms large in the senate: http://www.leagueforgamers.org/2012/01/17/help-lfg-join-now/

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DUSTFORCE available Now On Steam for PC

Independent studio Hitbox Team is proud to announce the global release of Dustforce via the platform, Steam for $9.99 on PC (Windows). Dustforce earned an Honorable Mention for art at this years’ Independent Games Festival, and also took the Grand Prize at indiePub’s Independent Developer Competition in 2010.

Clean up the world with style! As an acrobatic janitor, you are an adept force against dust and disorder. Leap and dash off walls and ceilings, and deftly traverse 50 precarious environments varying in difficulty. Cleanse each level swiftly and thoroughly to achieve mastery in this 2D sweep-‘em-up platformer.

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NEVER SAY NEVER: ATLUS TO BRING GROWLANSER: WAYFARER OF TIME FOR PSP SYSTEM, LONG-REQUESTED ENTRY IN CLASSIC RPG SERIES, TO NORTH AMERICA IN 2012

ATLUS today announced plans to bring Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time for PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) system, the enhanced and expanded remaster of the strategy RPG classic, to North America this summer in both retail and downloadable (via PlayStation®Network) formats.

Never before released outside of Japan, patient North American fans can look forward to a long list of improvements and additions over the original game: new characters, scenarios, and events are complemented by dramatically improved loading times and a message skip option that allows players to advance the story at a faster pace. Blending a sprawling 40+ hour narrative with over 40 different possible endings; deep tactical RPG mechanics; the character designs of the legendary Satoshi Urushihara; and a host of enhancements over the original release, Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time continues the proud ATLUS tradition of epic adventures set in breathtaking worlds and gives PSP system owners something to look forward to in 2012.

ATLUS also revealed that while the PSP system version's many anime cutscenes would be fully voiced, the remainder of the game would not include Japanese or English voice work. The Japanese track could not be included due to licensing restrictions, while the sheer scope of the game's script -- expanded and fleshed out over and above the original PlayStation®2 system release and already one of the largest localization projects in the publisher's two decade history -- was prohibitive to the prospects of a new English voice track.

Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time for PSP system is currently scheduled for release this summer. For more info, please visit http://www.atlus.com/growlanserpsp.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Five Reasons You *Should* Write For Free  

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Writing: So for the last couple of months (and especially over the last few days) there's been a resurgence of “no one should ever write for free, ever, never never” among freelance games writers and paid career professionals.

As someone who takes games writing very seriously and who's also worked as a mostly-unpaid-but-not-always reviewer for the last twelve years, I wanted to take a few minutes and share my thoughts on the subject.

Now, I think the goal for pretty much everyone out there is to get rich by hanging out with cool people and playing games all day, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. It is, after all, The Dream. I also agree that if a site is large enough and successful enough to pay for their normal content, then they absolutely should. That's not in question.

However, the available number of opportunities for reviewers and writers out there is a fraction of a fraction of the number of people who want those gigs. There's just too much supply and not enough demand, so unless there's some kind of worldwide moratorium, people who want to write for free (and who do so) are always going to be around.

Instead of being browbeaten by the people who've worked hard enough (and who maybe got lucky enough) to make it as a paid pro, here are five reasons why I think writing for free may not be quite as awful for your karma as kicking puppies or drowning kittens.

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You’re a newcomer.

It's a little silly to expect someone who's just starting out (and probably still in their late teens) to have earned the skills and experience necessary to be a good writer. The likelihood of such a person being a great writer? Even lower. Why would anyone want to pay such a person, and how can such a person honestly even expect to get paid?

I've been a freelancer in a non-games field for over sixteen years, and in my other profession, it's not only expected that newcomers work for free -- it's often required as a way to earn the knowledge and experience necessary to perform their jobs well. There are volunteer opportunities, mentorships, and a wealth of work-related activities that can help someone improve to the point at which they can call themselves a competent professional and start looking for a paycheck. I don't see any reason why games writers should be different.

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Networking, baby.

When I started out as a freelancer in my non-gaming career, I got my first breaks thanks to people I had met during volunteer opportunities and from instructors at my college. They knew me, they knew what I could do, and they opened some doors that lead to getting paid work. Even with that leg up, it was about two years or so before I actually met enough people and made enough contacts to support myself independently. If I’d tried to go paid-only out of the gate, I would have starved! Literally!

When it comes to games writing, it's no different. The best way to get gigs and assignments is to know somebody. That's the absolute truth, and anyone who denies it is trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Writing for free (again, for sites that can’t afford to pay, or as an internship, etc.) will help anyone start building their own network of contacts and resources. You meet the right people, shake their hands, make the right friends... and of course, prove over and over again that you are reliable and can produce. Then, before you know it, all sorts of paid opportunities present themselves that would never be offered to Random Games Wannabe off the street. This is How It Works.

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Smaller sites need content to become bigger sites.

With the exception of some lucky individuals who manage to procure a pile of venture capital and go big from the start, I think the norm for a lot of websites out there is to begin as a volunteer operation with the hope of growing and becoming a success. If every writer demands to get paid, then how will these no-income startups ever get a chance to become paying destination sites? You reap what you sow, after all. Many organizations (gaming or non-gaming) have started as personal grassroots efforts, and then gone on to become larger, more established, and more financially stable. Then… they cut checks!


There are also some sites out there that are not-for-profit from the start, and use their position as a way to shield themselves from the financial influence of publishers and paid advertising. They might be rare, but they're out there. Volunteers are crucial either way.

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You do it for yourself.

Most of the freelancers I know are not exactly what you'd call rich people. Fortunately, most don't seem to have many financial obligations. On the other hand, they often don't have children, houses, or even health care. It's a bit of a precarious situation to be in, and it isn't exactly the most stable base upon which to build a future.


For people who want certain things out of life, it's far easier to get a job that offers better compensation, more opportunity, and more stability while keeping games writing as a passion that they partake in on the side. Such a person should have no qualms about writing for free if it's something they enjoy. Additionally, by writing for free, they are leaving a paid opportunity open elsewhere for people who actually need that source of income.

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You are crazy.


Let's say that you've got a fire in your heart to write about some subject that no editor on the planet would pay money for; some subject so esoteric and arcane that your reading audience would likely number in the single digits. Or, maybe your point of view is so contrary to the prevailing opinion that people laugh off your pitch or simply delete it and never reply.


Sometimes these can't-win projects turn into labors of love that can only blossom when published among kindred spirits, open-minded editorial staff, and most likely, websites with empty bank accounts. You may not get paid for such work, but sometimes simply sharing it with the world is reward enough -- especially when no one but you and that one weird-looking guy over there thinks it's worth a cent.

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So there you have it, five good reasons why someone might want to write for free.

Now, with all that said, I do want to reiterate that just because it's okay to write for free sometimes, doesn't mean that it's all right to be taken advantage of.

Although there is no clear-cut way to know which sites are technically "big enough" to pay for content and which aren't, new writers looking to get paid should ask around and do some homework before agreeing to start producing content for people. Know who you're going to be working with, and know what you’re getting into.

If everything clicks, then have fun, improve your skills (and if it's your goal) work towards getting that paycheck.



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PR/NEWS/INFO


NinjaBee Letting Fans Pick the Next Keflings DLC!

Ever play a game and wish you could tell the developer what they should add as DLC? Well, now you can. Indie game developer NinjaBee has teamed up with PlayXBLA.com, the official blog of Microsoft Studios’ Xbox Live Arcade, to bring its fans the opportunity to join in the development process and choose the next DLC for its hit XBLA city-building game, A World of Keflings! As part of the promotion, one lucky fan will win the chance to be ‘Kefling-ized’ and turned into a Kefling character that will appear in the game!

Fans can choose to vote for one of three simple themes – Graveyard, Candy or Pirate. The winning theme will be taken and built into a new kingdom that will be released as an add-on to A World of Keflings. The new themed kingdom will include a new environment, new characters, new storylines, new buildings, new resources and hours of additional gameplay.

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Derek Paxton has posted a new developer diary on the Fallen Enchantress forums that breaks down the various factions in Fallen Enchantress, complete with the first new screenshots in a long while!

Fallen Enchantress is a completely redesigned, standalone fantasy strategy title in the Elemental universe from Stardock due out later this year. http://forums.elementalgame.com/415163

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Deep Silver Announces Dead Island's Ryder White DLC Campaign

The Ryder White DLC campaign follows the story and perspective of the main game’s antagonist character and allows players to experience the events on Banoi through his eyes. Players will take on the role of Ryder White as a playable character in a single player campaign with several hours of gameplay as well as brand new weapon blueprints.

Developed by Techland, Dead Island combines first-person action with a heavy focus on melee combat, character development and customization of a vast array of weapons. The engaging survival-focused gameplay aspects are combined with a rich and immersive storyline in which a small group of people find themselves in a tropical paradise turned into total chaos and carnage after a mysterious zombie outbreak. Cut off from the rest of the world, the player’s only chance to survive is to fight to the death and find a way to escape from the island.

Dead Island’s Ryder White DLC will be available on January 31, 2012, for $9.99 on PlayStation®3 system and on February 1, 2012, for 800 MSP/$9.99 on Xbox LIVE Marketplace and Steam.

For more information, visit the official website: http://www.deadisland.com/

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