Thursday, June 20, 2013
Games: It's been a while since my last post, and holy cow, I can't believe how much has happened since then. In fact, I'm trying to remember the last time we had this much large-scale drama, and I honestly can't recall anything that was as major as the arc we just had. I mean, just look at this brief recap starting with...
>The announcement of the Xbone and all of its DRM restrictions
which then triggered
>Massive, intense waves of hate from the gamer community
>Sony dropping a nuke with the announcement that they would not be instituting similar DRM
which led to
>PS4 preorders selling out at Amazon and taking a massive, early lead
and this picture of things to come encouraged
>Microsoft pulling a complete 180 and declaring that the ‘Bone will no longer require all of the DRM systems the box was allegedly built on
This has been an incredibly wild roller coaster ride so far, and who knows what's ahead? I don't think anyone could have predicted this sequence of events, and I bet there are a lot of people in expensive suits trying to make some really good guesses in a hurry.
As I've been following events, there have been a number of issues raised and things to think about. I could probably spend days just exploring the bare minimum of what's going on, but instead I'm going to throw out a quick couple of things and ramble on for a bit here....
I guess to start with, do I think that resistance to the ‘Bone based strictly on the fact that used games as we knew them were largely going away?
Although I’m a huge fan of physical media and used games, I really don't think so. I think it's pretty clear that the future of gaming is going to be digital and that's fine. I mean, I'd still love to have a collection of discs on my wall to look at, but that's not the sticking point. No, for me the biggest issue was that I don't want the rules and precedents of a digital future to be established by Microsoft, or any other corporation.
It's a lot harder to change things once they’re entrenched than it is to push back before they become established, and I am a firm believer that a digital future does not need to equate to consumers being put in a position of powerlessness. These companies need us and our money to survive, and structuring the relationship in a mutually beneficial way is a win-win all around.
I have to say, I'm honestly shocked at how many people seemed to have no problem whatsoever with Microsoft's plan; how many didn't even question it. I heard so many people say "that's just the way things are going to be" or "it's the future, there's no point in fighting it". I mean, really? You honestly think that this giant corporation’s power grab was somehow designed with your best interests factored in at any level? I suppose those people were in the minority, though... the sizable outcry from people who did not agree was impossible to ignore, and I'm quite glad for that.
Again, to be clear, I'm not taking a stand against digital media, but I am against the idea that consumers should be happy to forfeit fairness in favor of corporate profit, and that the idea of paying for "a license" fully under the control of corporate whim is the best way to move forward. Everyone seems in such a rush to stand up for protections and controls and restrictions, and anything that's healthy for the consumer isn't on very many radars. Well, I'm sorry, but I don't want to be looked at as a dumb source of income without a voice existing simply to feed the growth of those companies who can take advantage of it.
I also heard several people telling me that these new restrictions were actually a boon for developers, and I really have to call bullshit on that. To start with, I haven't seen any hard numbers but I doubt that all of these controls were designed solely to put more money in the pocket of the people who are actually creating these games. I mean, I've heard all of the same talk about piracy and used games killing profits a million times, and I just don't believe it. If this system had rolled out as planned, I don't doubt for a moment that Microsoft would be taking the biggest cut of the pie, followed by the publishers who would be in support of this DRM, and the situation would probably be status quo for everyone else down the line from there.
I mean, I'm going off on a tangent here, but speaking from personal experience, the used games market is a healthy thing that helps fund new sales, in addition to helping get people interested in certain franchises or developers that they would not have gotten into otherwise. It's pure idiocy to think that every used sale automatically equates to a lost new sale -- I mean, there have been dozens and dozens of games that I would drop $20-$30 on, but that I would not buy for full price under any circumstances. However, after trying some of these games, I've become interested in other works and would be more likely to purchase something for full price in the future.
Take Monster Hunter as a perfect example. The first copy I ever bought was used, and I was also gifted Tri from a friend. I would have never paid full price for one of these games before having played them, but after dipping my toes in, I currently have two WiiUs and four copies of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate in my house. On top of that, how many times have I recommended it to a friend, tweeted about it, wrote about it, or otherwise promoted it in some way to other people? I know for fact some of those instances led to sales, and if you trace all of these things back to the source, it's very possible that none of this would've ever happened if I hadn't had access to a used copy to begin with.
Going off on another tangent, I clearly remember people in the industry saying that the price of games would drop when things went digital thanks to lower overhead, eliminating production and distribution costs, so forth and so on. I definitely think digital is a healthy environment for the indie scene (which I genuinely love and am happy to see flourishing) but what's happened in general is that development budgets keep ballooning, publishers keep betting the farm on mega-hit blockbusters instead of games with more reasonable sales goals, and hard-working people in the industry keep getting laid off and shuffled around -- oh, and did I mention that games are still routinely coming out at $60 a pop? I've seen no reason to convince me that anything Microsoft would've done with the ‘Bone would have changed any of this.
There’s still a hell of a lot to talk about and I've already rambled incoherently for long enough, but I will say that despite Microsoft going back on their original plans for DRM, I still have no plans to purchase the console or support it in any way until I see how things play out with my own eyes over time. They showed their hand and revealed what their goals were, so just because they patch a few things out for a while doesn't mean that these same problems won’t return later on once the system is in everyone's house and we've all forgotten how outraged we felt about the original announcement. The digital future is certainly coming, but just because it's coming doesn't mean that it needs to arrive without balance, without respect for the consumer, and without common sense.
Games: Alright, enough ranting for one night... what have I actually been playing? Well, not a lot. really, but here it goes.
First, still working my way through the campaign in Defiance.
Although the formula is little more than third-person open-world shooting with some crazy ATV driving thrown in, it's a hell of a lot of fun thanks to the wide variety of weapons and the commitment-free nature of the online multiplayer. It's incredibly enjoyable to be in the middle of a tough mission and have a random stranger appear out of nowhere to lend assistance. I wouldn't have guessed it before I tried it, but I keep coming back to this one whenever I can.
Secondly (and no surprise to @Nightdreamer) I'm still making progress through MH3U with the family. Since my oldest son is with us for the summer, he's been enjoying the available multiplayer -- he doesn't often get a chance to play, so having the ability to go on three-person quests on a daily basis has been a real highlight for him, and for us.
Working together, he hit G-Rank (HR7) pretty quickly and we tried taking on the Alatreon a few times. We didn't take him down, but we didn't do too badly, either. With some slightly better gear, I imagine we will get the job done pretty soon.
Besides those two things, I spent a fairly sizable amount of time with State of Decay and turned my full review into Gamecritics a couple of nights ago. I absolutely love the game, but it's been suffering from a few problems and I put it on hold to give the developers some time to get things ironed out.
The biggest issue is that certain houses can become "infested" and if the player doesn't clear them out, then it causes panic in survivors back at home base. They then either run away or become otherwise incapacitated. This in itself is a fine mechanic, but the problem is that infestations that are nowhere near home base still cause this disruption. It sucks to leave things in great shape and come back the next day, only to find that a third of my survivors are gone because some random house on the complete opposite side of the map wasn't cleared out, even though it was absolutely no threat.
I don't mean to scare people away from this game because it is genuinely fantastic, but this is one aspect that has really gotten under my skin lately and I'm hoping that it's remedied soon.
Finally, I broke down and downloaded Animal Crossing: New Leaf on 3DS… I haven't played an AC since the original eleven or twelve years ago, and between nearly everyone in my twitter feed popping for it and hearing that there were substantial additions to the formula, I felt like it was worth a shot.
I've been putting a fair amount of time into it when I can, but because my work schedule and home life are pretty busy at the moment, it's tough to play within the confines of the game’s clock. I often found myself collecting bugs and fishing after all the shops had closed, and progress was quite slow. I mean, I think it's pretty slow in general, but it felt excruciatingly so.
My wife keeps asking if she should download it so we could play together, but I keep telling her that I'm honestly not sure if I'm enjoying it or not. There are moments when I think it's great, and there are also plenty of moments when it's absolutely maddening, boring, and tedious.
On the plus side, I like the sense of ownership and of interacting with this small, discrete town under my care. It's almost like a virtual pet of sorts. It's also cute as all hell, which is great. On the other hand, the amount of filler text that's impossible to skip through drives me absolutely insane, and there are many things that I feel could be sped up or optimized. For example, sometimes I don't feel like listening to the captain's song as I'm getting ferried to the island, and the item-carrying limit/item transferring system is often a pain in the neck.
I suppose I should just have my wife and kids get into it so that we can all work together on it, but I'm still honestly torn as to whether I'm enjoying it more often than I’m frustrated.
Capcom, a leading worldwide developer and publisher of video games is pleased to announce that Dungeons & Dragons®: Chronicles of Mystara™ is available today as a digital download from the North American PlayStation®Network and globally via Steam® and coming to Xbox LIVE® Arcade for Xbox 360®video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and the European PlayStation®Network from tomorrow,June 19. The title will be available for the Nintendo eShop on Wii U™ soon after.
Mars War Logs was released in late April and, if most players who bought the Spiders Studio title liked the game itself, they were disappointed with the narrative element because the English version strayed too far from the original French. The general feeling was that the translation didn’t stick closely enough to the original French story and dialog.
Luc Heninger, Director of Production at Focus Home Interactive, explains:
"Mars contains a vast amount of dialog, even by RPG standards. The plot has numerous strands and the dialog often has many variants to mirror the hero’s changes in reputation. The tight deadlines between the game release dates meant that the initial English translation lacked depth and contained a number of errors; it was then sent to the recording studio, making the job of the actors extremely difficult. The actual game was thoroughly tested and released with very few bugs on PC, but unfortunately the procedures for the audio and text QA failed and allowed many English localization issues to slip through. We realized the extent of the problem after seeing the first feedback from the press and gamers. The result was so far removed from what we usually produce that we took the decision to halt the submission process for the console version, which was due for release only weeks after the PC title. We have re-written the game text and dialog and, of course, recorded the actors again, replacing the sections that weren’t true to the characters in Mars. All these problems will therefore be fixed in the console version. An update is now available for players with the PC game, and we have also incorporated the new audio in the PC versions on the various download sites."
We are pleased to share with you a video showing the first 7 minutes of the game, featuring the new localization and the new English voices present in all versions of the game.
Mars War Logs is currently available on PC and will be today's Daily Deal on Steam, at -33%. The game is scheduled for release on Xbox LIVE® and the PlayStation®Network in September 2013.
A new challenge for the map-making, labyrinth-crawling fans of the first-person Etrian Odyssey RPG series will be available from ATLUS this fall. Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl (EOU) offers two full length experiences: The expanded story mode takes players on a journey to unravel the mystery of the Yggdrasil Tree's origins, and the classic mode updates the original Etrian Odyssey. Both versions feature the same gameplay conveniences, updated 3D graphics, and StreetPass™ abilities as in Etrian Odyssey IV. Exclusive to the Nintendo 3DS™ system, Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl will be released in stores and in the Nintendo eShop for Nintendo 3DS simultaneously. More details can be found on the game's official website.
The biggest addition to Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millenium Girl is the story mode - a first for the series. The story mode gives players five pre-made characters, each with their own personalities and dialogue to explore a side of Etria not seen in the first game. Adventurers must brave new dungeon layouts, floors and enemies to find out the truth behind the Yggdrasil Tree, and the mysterious girl, Frederica.
Also new to the series is the Grimoire Stone system, available in both modes. In previous Etrian Odyssey games, skills were set to specific classes, but by collecting, synthesizing, and equipping Grimoire Stones, players can hybridize their party to excel in combat. With the right Grimoire Stones, combatants can even learn powerful enemy skills.
To take full advantage of the Nintendo 3DS system's power, EOU features animated opening and story cutscenes by MADHOUSE Inc., renowned for its extensive background in animation, including other ATLUS games Persona 4 Golden and Persona 4 Arena. There will also be voiceovers for the story and battle scenes and the option for orchestrated background music.
The game goes beyond story mode with the inclusion of classic mode, a full-length experience in itself, for players to create their own classes and explore the world of Etria. The same chart-making mechanic is back, along with first-person dungeon exploring and intense turn-based combat in new dungeon layouts. EOU also brings new difficulty modes, which can be changed at any time: "Picnic" and "Standard" mode are for players new to RPGs or the Etrian Odyssey series, while "Expert" adds new challenges for veteran adventurers.
Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl releases this summer exclusively on the Nintendo 3DS™ system and will be available simultaneously in retail stores and in the Nintendo eShop for Nintendo 3DS. The game is not yet rated by the ESRB.
For more information, including updates on the game, please visit the official website at: http://www.atlus.com/untold.
Meteor Entertainment™, publishers of HAWKEN, the free-to-play mech first-person shooter, have announced the Combat Mech Challenge art contest, which will allow artistically-inclined fans of the highly-anticipated shooter to earn prizes, including gaming accessories and HAWKEN merchandise. As judged by Khang Le, the CEO of Adhesive Games, the winning entrant will win a NVIDIA Shield portable gaming device. Submissions can be entered at the official contest landing page: http://www.cgfeedback.com/cgfeedback/showthread.php?t=4847#posts
The contest ends November 5th, 2013 at 1:00 AM PST.
Founded by Weta Digital’s lead 3D modeler, Pascal Raimbault, CGFeedback is a community-driven forum for professional artists to trade feedback on their digital artwork. Entrants in the Combat Mech Challenge can submit their 2D or 3D artwork to be evaluated by a panel of judges from Adhesive Games and Meteor Entertainment. Three winners will be chosen, with the following prizing:
· Grand Prize Winner – NVIDIA Shield: an open platform gaming portable designed for gamers who yearn to play when, where and how they want
· 2nd place Winner – Logitech G-Series gaming Bundle: A bundle consisting of a gaming keyboard, headset and mouse valued at $200
· 3rd place Winner – We Love Fine HAWKEN t-shirt valued at $25, and a copy of Hawken: Genesis graphic novel
Artists interested in participating in the CGFeedback Combat Mech Challenge can fill out the submission form and register at the following URL: http://www.cgfeedback.com/cgfeedback/showthread.php?t=4847#posts
Entrants must create a WIP (Work in Progress) thread on the CGFeedback forum, and are encouraged to post regular updates to help exchange artistic feedback and tips with the community. Final entries must be submitted by 11/5/2013 @ 1:00 AM PST.
Join the battle today at www.playhawken.com. To learn more about CGFeedback, visit www.cgfeedback.com/.
Independent game developer Black Forest Games announces that their twisted platformer, GIANA SISTERS: TWISTED DREAMS has been released in the US and EU Regions (APAC scheduled for August) through PlayStation network for PS3. The game is available for $14.99 (14.99€ in Europe).
After a hugely successful campaign on Kickstarter and successful releases for Windows-PC and Xbox360, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams – grandchild of the 80s classic game “The Great Giana Sisters” – is now finally available in the US and Europe on Sony’s PlayStation 3.
Trion Worlds has announced the winner of the first-ever transmedia contest for Defiance™, the groundbreaking online open world shooter and hit television series on Syfy. The ‘Most Wanted’ in-game contest pitted players against both the game’s environment and each other to see who would rise to the top and become the ultimate Ark Hunter. The Ark Hunter earning the most ark salvage (the in game currency system) per hour*during their time played over the course of the contest, which spanned from April 30 to May 12, was chosen to be the winner. During this span, Zachary Prast showcased his undeniable Ark Hunter skills by earning almost 3 times the average ark salvage per hour!
Zachary will leave the in-game world and be seen in an upcoming episode of Defiance on Syfy. Zachary demonstrated truly exceptional skills as an Ark Hunter in the game, beating out thousands of other players for a chance to have the show’s character artists render his likeness into a special place in the Season 1 finale, making him the first-ever gamer to crossover into the television property.
Defiance is rated M for Mature by the ESRB. For more information on Defiance, please visit www.Defiance.com.
*excluding ark salvage earned from the Salvage Matrix
MIAMI – You’re a murderer. You murder people. Again. And again. How certain you are of your actions and what is, and what is not, real is what you must determine in Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, due out later this year from developer Dennaton Games and publisher Devolver Digital. The epic finale to 2012’s blood-soaked hit follows an escalating level of violence through multiple factions born from the events of the original game -- all within the confines of blistering combat, the unmistakable visual style, and another powerful and intense soundtrack that pushes you to the limit and forces you to question your own thirst for blood.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number commands you to step into the murderous minds of several distinct characters - each with their own motivations and methods of execution – as storylines intersect and reality slips away into a haze of neon and carnage. Witness hundreds of new sprites and animations in lush new areas to clear floor-by-floor, and harness a variety of savage new weapons to satisfy your murder lust.
Due out in 2013 for PC, Mac, and Linux from Dennaton Games and Devolver Digital.
For more information, please visit www.devolverdigital.com or follow @HotlineMiami on Twitter.
Leading publisher of digital entertainment Telltale Games and Robert Kirkman, the Eisner Award-winning creator and writer of The Walking Dead for his Skybound imprint at Image Comics, announced today that the 2012 Game of the Year winning series The Walking Dead: Season One is set to receive an all-new installment as downloadable content. Available this summer, The Walking Dead: 400 Days will be available for purchase on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace for Xbox®360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®Network, as an in-app purchase for compatible iOS devices, and on PC and Mac from the Telltale Online Store and other digital outlets.
The Walking Dead: 400 Days chronicles the horrific aftermath of the undead outbreak through the eyes of five new characters as they struggle to survive the first 400 days of the apocalypse. Playable in any order, the five connected short stories are centered in and around a Georgia truck stop, where players will be thrust into horrifying situations that will test their morals and control the flow of the story through their decisions and actions.
The Walking Dead: Season One is coming to the PlayStation®Vita handheld entertainment system and will include The Walking Dead: 400 Days. Featuring hybrid touch controls unique to PS®Vita, fans can now take the apocalypse on the road and enjoy the entirety of Season One in one package.
The Walking Dead: 400 Days will be available for US$4.99 or equivalent as downloadable content for The Walking Dead: Season One. The Walking Dead: 400 Days will require at least Episode One of Season One to be installed on a user's game system in order to play.
For more information on the game, visit the official website, Facebook, and followTelltale Games on Twitter . For more information on The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman, and all of his titles, visit www.Skybound.com andwww.TheWalkingDead.com.
It’s time to return to Ian Livingstone’s Forest of Doom!
Tin Man Games’ third Fighting Fantasy digital gamebook app, The Forest of Doom, arrives on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad today, following a recent Android release on Google Play and the Amazon Appstore for Android.
Smart phone and tablet users can now take part in one of the classic gamebook experiences that introduced a whole generation to fantasy role-playing games back in 1983! Proudly displaying an animated version of Iain McCaig’s iconic cover of the Shape Changer, the app allows readers to risk the unknown perils of Darkwood Forest with a desperate quest against time to find the missing pieces of the legendary Hammer of Stonebridge.
Ian Livingstone, co-creator of the Fighting Fantasy series and author of The Forest of Doom, said: “For those people coming back to Darkwood Forest after a 30 year absence, I hope the experience is as enjoyable as it was the first time around. The forest has certainly been brought to life in this brilliantly executed digital version by Tin Man Games.”
Fans will also be able to read Ian’s historical notes on the thinking behind the concept of The Forest of Doom and the naming of its principal character, the grand wizard Yaztromo. He continues: “For those of you entering Darkwood Forest for the first time – good luck! Might I suggest you are nice to Yaztromo. He’s my friend.”
Fighting Fantasy: The Forest of Doom is now available to download from the iOS App Store, Google Play and Amazon Appstore for Android. It costs $5.99 USD/£3.99/ 5,49 €.
Tin Man Games maintain a site dedicated to their Fighting Fantasy apps at www.FightingFantasyApps.com. The Official Fighting Fantasy site can be found at www.FightingFantasy.com. Tin Man Games also runs a developer blog at www.TinManGames.com.au.