Yup It Really Is Dead

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You know a gaming community is dead when the day of E3 there is a grand total of one blog in your blog feed for the day. Talk about straight up graveyard. If you haven't switched over the Giantbomb yet then now is a great time to join the party. My first blog on the site garnered 30+ comments and has people talking days after the blog was posted. Tonight I posted a new blog which you can read here. If you want to comment feel free to do so here but I assure you that Giantbomb is the place to be right now. The community is awesome there and the staff genuinely care about their fans. I've been a member of this site for 8 years and written nearly 700 blogs and not a single staff member or community manager has asked me to stay. No one has responded to any of my complaints. Nor have I seen responses to anyone else's complaints. I get that the people are busy but the sense that no one actually cares about how bad things are here is pervasive. I said I would stay until E3. Well here it is and nothing has changed. The community is still dead. Things are still broken. I stayed here for so long because I loved the people here. With so many of them gone I just don't care anymore. And for someone who defended this site in some of its worst moments, that is really sad. Anyways, I'll continue to cross post my Giantbomb blogs here for the time being, but I don't know how much longer that will be. Anyways, hope anyone who reads this is having a good E3. There sure were some nice graphics this year.

Leaving Gamespot (Sorta)

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Things here have been slow. That's typical for this time of year, but this year it has been worse than most. I love this site, but with things the way they are here I'm not certain I want to stick around GS much longer. This time of year is always slow and things pick up after E3 so I'll stick it out until then, but honestly the new blogging system has simply killed this community and no one on the staff seems to give a damn. It's just a shame that so many long time members are calling out GS on a terrible design choice and they just don't care. Or if they care they don't seem to want to give any sort of update on when things will improve. This new comment system is simply broken and an obvious step back in many ways. There has got to be some sort of middle ground that the staff and community can meet on. I would honestly be happy if notifications were once again sent to my PM Box not my offsite email. It's just incredibly stupid. So in the meantime I'm going to be posting blogs on Giantbomb and just linking them here. The community there is far more active and honestly a lot more mature and friendly than this community. I'm Raven10 there so feel free to follow me. I have hit this point a couple times in the past and every time GS has pulled through, so we'll see. Until then, though, expect links to my Giantbomb blog here. It's been a hell of a journey and I hope GS can pull through this and fix all these problems. It's just sad seeing my blog feed sit with the same blogs for several days. So good luck GS, I hope to return to blogging here regularly. Until then, though, I'm moving on to better things. Raven10 on Giantbomb folks. Again, I'll still post links here for the forseeable future but I may stop doing that even if things don't pick up. It's been a great 8 years. I sincerely hope that I'll still be around here in another 8 but somehow I really doubt it. Having a good weekend everyone! Until next time!

Binary Domain: Result - It Was Good

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Talk about a complete turnaround. After a rather dull and somewhat offensive first third, Binary Domain suddenly became good. Characters who before fell into poor stereotypes started revealing hidden depth. While I initially disliked player character Dan, by the end I actually started sympathizing with him. Even Big Bo has a character redefining moment if you get one of the several endings. Yes, as it turns out your conversations with your teammates aren't pointless after all. Keeping your team happy with you is key to getting the best ending. I got one of the worser endings but I honestly felt that it was more touching and powerful than the "best" ending and was glad I got it. The story in the game goes deep into the merging of humans and robots in a way Mass Effect only tried to explain. While that game ended with certain questions about the nature of life and the merger of organic and artificial beings, Binary Domain does it much better. The ending is quite clear for dealing with such a confusing concept especially considering the numerous twists and turns involved. All in all I would call this one of the better stories a game has told which I wouldn't even have remotely predicted going into the game.

Likewise the combat became much more fun as I upgraded my weapon and characters. Early on it was tough to accurately hit enemy body parts, but by the halfway point I was easily slicing and dicing robots apart. I also upgraded my character so that he could take a large amount of damage without going down, meaning I could take out rooms worth of basic robots without breaking a sweat. It all became just a lot more fun. There were definitely some weaker moments, but by and large everything was exciting as long as you can make it to the Upper City portion of the game. It's really a shame that things start out so slowly as I'm sure a lot of people just gave up on the game partway through and didn't let the story and combat really reach its potential.

I should note that I didn't use any of the voice command stuff but my AI partners did a fine job staying alive, shooting enemies, and reviving myself and each other if anyone went down. The enemy AI was pretty basic, but the bosses were wicked cool and took a lot of effort to take down. Overall, having not played the multiplayer, I would give the game an 8/10. It wasn't the best game but it was far and away better than I was expecting going in or even partway through. It's a shame the game didn't do well as it really deserves a sequel or at least a good rep for the team that made it. So if you haven't yet, give this game a try, and make sure to stick around until you reach the Upper City portion as the game drastically improves at that point.

Binary Domain: Good Or Bad?

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When trailers started showing up for Sega's new third person shooter Binary Domain I was intrigued by the concept but turned off by what looked like subpar execution. Not to let reviews and trailers decide for me I decided to rent Binary Domain and see if the game could live up to its great premise.

I should preface this with saying that robotics has always fascinated me. The idea of a machine that believes it is alive is incredibly interesting and I have enjoyed reading and watching about the subject in various books, movies, papers, and anime. This is the first time to my knowledge, though, that this concept has been so thoroughly explored in a game.

Called Hollow Children, robots who believe they are human have invaded society in Binary Domain. Since such robots are illegal to produce the company accused of making them, a Japanese technology firm, is the target of a covert strike by a international force of highly trained soldiers. You play one of these solders, an American named Dan. You are aided by a decidedly insulting large black man (imagine if Cole Train from Gears of War was written incredibly poorly), some up tight British folks, and a sexy Chinese sniper. There is also a French robot but I haven't gotten to that part yet.

The dialogue in general is atrocious. The game lets you respond to comments by your teammates with multiple choices, but none of the choices are very insightful and the entire team building aspect of the game falls entirely flat when every character falls into a terrible stereotype and is so poorly written as to be insulting to the people it is stereotyping. You might think this would bring down the story, and in many ways it does, but there are also full blown cutscenes involving the Hollow Children and these cutscenes can be very powerful and really make you question your character's convictions. These few scenes so far have been enough to hold up the story.

So how about the shooting? Well this is a Gears of War clone through and through. Outside of an upgrade system that lets you improve your characters and weapons there is nothing here that you won't find in a Gears game. You can shoot robots apart limb by limb similar to Dead Space but outside of that you are basically dealing with Gears of War with worse graphics and gunplay. The weapon aiming system is very loose. Even with aim assist on it is difficult to line up shots carefully as weapons have huge reticules and a lot of scatter. Upgrading your weapons can mitigate these problems to a degree, but there is always a strong feeling that this game is an inferior clone of something that has been done much better in a dozen other games.

So really the only selling point of this game is the premise, which in many ways falls flat due to the characters. The shooting is average at best, the acting is laughable, and all other aspects of the presentation are middling. Nothing in this game is broken or even poorly made. But nothing so far has been incredibly compelling either. This is a hugely crowded market and really nothing but the best is going to succeed in it. An interesting premise isn't enough to save the rest of Binary Domain from mediocrity. I'm maybe two or three hours in right now. I'm not sure how long the game is but I doubt the shooting will get much better. I'll offer my final impressions when I finish the game.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe

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Seven years ago Marvel formed an internal production studio to create "The Marvel Cinematic Universe". Since then six films have been released making Marvel billions of dollars and, among other things, saving the career of Robert Downey Jr. With The Avengers recently released I wanted to share an interesting facet of these films that I've noticed. And that facet is the tone. Throughout the history of Marvel Comics the tone of Marvel's Universe has changed numerous times. Characters have gone through reboot after reboot and reinvention after reinvention. When creating the films, Marvel wanted each movie to have its own unique tone. For Iron Man that meant making a film just as much comedy as it was action. The Incredible Hulk was dark and violent. Thor took the Shakespearean route, while Captain America took a tragic turn towards the end. This all came to a head in The Avengers where Joss Whedon had to create a film that captured the spirit of all the characters thus far into a single cohesive package. Joss is a funny guy at the very least. He has a history of mixing comedy and action and this film was certainly no exception. It was possibly the funniest film in the Universe thus far. To create that, Joss rewrote The Hulk into a humorous lumbering beast, and set up some witty remarks for the previously very serious Captain America. It generally worked in the film but it made me wonder how these characters were going to work going forward.

The Hulk was probably the most rewritten character. His original film had very little comedy. The Hulk was shown as an uncontrollable monster tormenting the genius Bruce Banner. Only through his love with Betty Ross is he able to overcome the beast and become the hero we know and love. In Whedon's film The Hulk is turned into a humorous, violent, but lovable giant. Banner is still tormented, but the darkness of the character is lifted. This version of The Hulk was the most successful version in film thus far. So it is unlikely that any future Hulk film or role will return to the darkness of the original. It's an interesting tonal shift and it makes me wonder if Whedon's Hulk is the best way to portray the big green monster.

Probably the most impactful film in The Marvel Cinematic Universe is Captain America. Featuring very little humor and a tragic ending, Captain America was a serious, almost artful look at a young man with incredible conviction. The heartbreaking ending may not make much sense if you think about it, but it is powerfully acted nonetheless and accented by Alan Silvestri's affecting score. While large on plot holes, Captain America had a distinctly moving tone that was obviously not even remotely captured in The Avengers. Captain America really isn't the most exciting superhero and it was the human side of him that really made his character shine. His role in The Avengers is really minor. He gets a lot of screen time but doesn't really effect the story in a huge manner. After watching Captain America (I saw The Avengers first) I started to wonder what a darker take on that story might be. I love Joss Whedon's humor and I think it made for a very successful film, but a dark, tragic take on the Universe might be interesting as well. I really wished that those final moments with Iron Man and his possible sacrifice were played up a bit more. I think it was a defining moment for that character but was kind of glossed over with Whedon's usual quips. I love how Downey Jr. plays Iron Man, but eventually he will become too old for the character, at which point I might like to see a darker take on him and on the Universe as a whole. After all, I'm sure they'll reboot the franchise in a decade or two. Here's to hoping they go Nolan style for that one.

And before anyone loses their sh*t, I wanted to reiterate that I thought Joss Whedon's The Avengers was great. Sort of like how I thought Batman and Batman Returns were great but enjoyed seeing Nolan's more serious reboot. There is definitely merit in having a comedic Avengers movie, but I still would like to see someone else give it a go in a decade or two.

P.S. [spoiler] Thanos is going to tear them apart. [/spoiler]

21st Game Beat

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Last year I decided to start keeping track of the games I beat or partially beat. I was tired of getting asked what my GOTY was and not remembering what games I actually played that year. I broke down games by month, counting a single game only once per year even if I beat it multiple times. Last year I topped out at 34, suffering in the second half of the year quite a bit after beating 20 games through the end of May. This year I'm hoping to hold a bit more steady. Today I bought Dear Esther off of Steam (On sale for $5) and beat it in an hour to bring this year's total to 21. Depending on how much I want to pad out my total, I have just a couple levels of Need For Speed The Run that I never beat, and maybe the final fifth of Ratchet and Clank Future A Crack In Time. Both games I haven't played since last year, but I only mark the month I beat the game in, so both of those games would count towards this year's total not last year's. I'm also 3/5 of the way through The Witcher but that is one damn long game. I'm not one for playing games longer than 25 hours, but I'm pretty sure I've put a good 30 into The Witcher already. I've tried beating this game multiple times but end up giving up before reaching the end. The furthest I made it previously was Chapter 2. This time I've made it to the start of Chapter 4. We'll see if I can manage to beat it before giving up again.

So those are the statistics. I thought I would give my impressions of The Witcher and Dear Esther. I also recently finished Syndicate so I guess I'll give a couple impressions on that too.

Syndicate is first up. I played through the single player first. God was that boring. The game has so many good ideas but there is just nothing exciting about the game. It doesn't help that the super bright lighting hurt my eyes and made it impossible to see sometimes. I get the need to put a unique stylistic touch on a game, but making everything super bright isn't the answer. Outside of the lighting the game looks fine, but the art isn't anything to write home about. I usually like Cyber Punk settings, but this is one of the worst realized I've seen in a while. After Hard Reset and Deus Ex I find it hard to accept a poorly realized setting like this. It doesn't help that the story is just one big cyber punk cliche. Rival corporations hire agents to do their dirty work and eventually the downtrodden populace rise up and fight their former corporate masters. Starbreeze has absolutely nothing new to say about a subject that is becoming more relevant by the year. The characters are boring and lifeless. Your character never talks but unlike other similar shooters you aren't given any idea of who you are. Your sole defining trait is some biochip implanted into your brain. But who you are, why you fight, what makes you special, or any motivation at all is simply never explained. It makes the whole game feel very dull.

Playing the game isn't much better. This is a shooter with a couple unique twists. You can force your enemies to commit suicide or fight alongside you once you charge up a meter. But these abilities don't change the dynamics of combat in any meaningful way. They are more of a get out of jail free option where you can use one when you are in trouble. The game is decently challenging so you will need to use those abilities but they don't make the game any more interesting. Weapons likewise are few in number and not very exciting. Outside of a Gauss Gun that locks onto targets you get a standard assortment of assault rifles, SMG's, pistols, shotguns and sniper rifles. Once you finish the dull single player there is co-op to play. My problem with that mode is that it seems like you'll be playing the same couple missions over and over to level up your character. Since you are fighting the same enemies in the same positions with the same objectives every time I didn't really see the appeal of playing the same five or six levels over and over just to grind out experience that earned you nothing but a way to beat the same levels easier. Overall a very disappointing game.

Dear Esther is more of an interactive art piece than a game. You simply walk around an island while your nameless character talks to himself. The entire game can be beaten in an hour or so. The story is decently written and the art direction is fabulous. This game uses Valve's Source engine. Because the engine is as old as it is they are able to put a huge amount of detail into each scene. Just the vast amount of plant life is highly unusual. We've come to expect games to make vegetation look like a green texture on the ground. Dear Esther litters the ground with plant life. It's great to see a PC exclusive game making full use of the system's vast amounts of RAM to create something that probably isn't possible on consoles. Anyways, you can replay the game to find any areas you might have missed and the character will say different things in some places on your second time around, but even with a second playthrough (or a very exhaustive first one) you won't get more than three hours of enjoyment here. There is also no form of interaction beyond walking. You can't pick up objects or examine clues or anything like that. You just walk around and every once in a while your character will say something. If you are a Call of Duty player who demands constant satisfaction and action this game will probably bore you to tears before the first five minutes are up. If you want to just explore a beautifully realized world and hear a strange tale then you could do worse than this and as I said today and tomorrow it is only $5 on Steam.

Finally The Witcher is a game I've tried to get through multiple times. It was one of the first games I bought when I got a gaming PC but I've always stopped playing it part way through. This time I aim to finish it. What I love about The Witcher is that the combat doesn't follow the basic button mashing formula found in most PC RPG's. Instead you have to click your mouse in rhythm with your attacks to string together combos. It's a great system that keeps you involved in combat. Other than that the game is very similar to The Witcher 2. You can use potions in combat in this game, but other than that you still have The Witcher Geralt trying to defeat evil. What's great about The Witcher world is that characters are not good or evil, but some mix of the two. Rarely in an RPG do you find characters with this much depth. There are a few purely evil villains, but the vast majority of characters are just trying to get by. It's a great game that doesn't require too beefy of a PC to run. If you are planning on playing The Witcher 2 I'd recommend starting with this game as it sets up the story for the second and is incredibly fun. It is also very lengthy for a non-Open World Action RPG. I'd guess at least 40 hours just to see the main story and key side quests, and another 20-30 more if you want to do every last thing. You can also get the game on Steam for something like $10. It's definitely worth it.

So that has been my gaming life these past couple of weeks. (I also played some Rayman Origins but I'll blog about that game another time) I know everyone is busy with Diablo 3 or Max Payne 3 right now, but I really have no interest in either of those games, so I'm working through my backlog. I think once I'm done with The Witcher I'm going to dust off the old PS2 and play Kingdom Hearts 2. I need a lengthy RPG to play alongside the other shorter games I play, and I'm out of PC ones, so I'm moving on to my lengthy list of unplayed PS2 RPG's. Hell I may even finish my Onimusha run of last summer. While I'm disappointed that three of my most anticipated games this year (Prey 2, Bioshock, Tomb Raider) have been delayed, it gives me plenty of time to work through games I've missed and replay some games I've been meaning to get back to. I'm also broke so not having any games I want is helpful in that regard as well. Hope you all are enjoying your week. Game on.

Max Payne 3: The Hype

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Well after a dismal month of April we have a couple heavy hitters coming in May, specifically tomorrow. I'm sure Diablo 3 will be great, but I wanted to actually talk about Max Payne 3. I guess for me this game just seems incredibly disappointing and I don't really get the hype. They've taken away what made Max Payne special (the poetic dialogue, dreary atmosphere and excellent graphics) and replaced it with a standard Rockstar tale using the dated Rage engine. I've heard the PC version looks vastly superior to the console versions, but I'll believe it when I see it. GTAIV looked great but ran like crap on PC. Anyways, ignore the graphics, the real draw of Max Payne to me was always the story. I love Remedy's writing. Even Alan Wake, which I liked decidedly less than Max Payne, had some brilliant writing and of course an incredible sense of place. Rockstar has taken the style of a modern day Tony Scott film and put Max Payne in as the lead character. The story to me seems more like a GTA story arc than a Max Payne story, which is probably because it is written by the Houser brothers.

The problem is I just don't like Rockstar games very much. Their stories never appeal to me, and they are always undermined by terrible gameplay decisions that seem at odds with the tale they are trying to tell. Several critics have mentioned that the new Max Payne focuses more on its cover system than the shoot dodge mechanic that defined the first two games. Honestly if you aren't going to be shoot dodging and you don't have the Noir setting then why even call the game Max Payne? The whole thing just seems like a cash grab. Take a popular series and make a modern version of it that is absolutely nothing like the originals. People usually complain about doing stuff like that but no one has had real issues with Rockstar fundamentally changing Max Payne.

And the problem is that they have replaced it with something incredibly standard. 3rd person cover shooting? Really? Even if I can slow down time I don't really need another ultra violent cover shooter. Give me Remedy's atmospheric journeys. I have Gears or Uncharted if I want to play a third person shooter. This whole reboot seems like a terrible misfire to me. I would play the first two games again, but honestly the first one especially is horribly dated. The ridiculous platforming segments have to be among the worst segments in any game ever and the whole thing is staggeringly hard. I haven't played all of the second game so maybe I'll see if that one holds up better. Regardless, I wish they could have found a way to make Max Payne 3 feel more like a Remedy game than a linear GTA with slow motion. I might end up renting this, or buying the PC version on a Steam sale, but color me unimpressed with what I have seen of this game so far.

So tell me, what makes you guys excited about Max Payne 3? Or are you as apathetic towards it as I am? Maybe I'm missing something but I feel like people are excited about this because it is a Rockstar game which to me isn't a reason to get excited.

The Studio System

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Today I wanted to draw a comparison between the game industry of today and the movie industry in the first half of last century. This year, 2012, we are about 35 years into the lifespan of gaming. The Atari Home Pong Machine was released in 1974. Although there were arcade machines dating as far back as the 60's, the invention of Pong in the early 1970's was really the start of the modern video game industry. In the 1930's movies were also about 35 years old. Their evolution, in my opinion is very similar to the evolution of gaming, and I wanted to describe how and use their evolution as a basis to predict what might happen 10 years from now with the game industry.

For the first 20 years of the movie industry, there was a separation of the movie studio (a production house and a distribution arm) and the theater chain (the exhibition service). Movies were produced under large corporations but there was a small amount of investment in each picture and movies were generally just finding their way in life. By the mid 1920's the silent movie had reached its peak, largely in Germany under the expressionist movement. In 1927, The Jazz Singer was released as the first talking movie. The success of this movie was the beginning of what many in the movie industry call the era of the Studio System, part of which some consider the Golden Age of Hollywood. Under this system a single company came to control all three aspects of filmmaking - distribution, production, and exhibition. Today we would call such system a vertical trust. Under the Studio System, filmmakers were contracted to specific studios. You worked, say, only for Fox or only for Warner Brothers. Studios in this system would make a vast number of films. Usually the majority of these films were B Films or A Films of low quality. One in every 5 or 10 films was a "good" big budget film. The creative control of these films rested mostly with the producers at the studio. Only highly revered directors could assure control of their film.

This system lasted officially from 1927 through about 1960, although the majority of the studios were shut down by the government for anti-trust violations by the mid 50's, and the height of the Studio System ended in 1947 with the breakup of RKO by Howard Hughes. Starting in the early 60's we saw the creation of the modern Hollywood system, whereby there are three separate organizations that control production, distribution, and exhibition. Distributors are the big names like Disney and Fox. Production houses are those companies whose logos you see at the start of films. And exhibitors include theater chains like Regal and Loew's, retail stores like Best Buy and Walmart, and online sources like Xbox Live or Netflix. Control over the filmmaking process is mostly in the hand of the director and writer(s) of a film, and these filmmakers, along with all other positions, are free to work with whoever they want, forming the best team for the job instead of working under contract at a single studio for decades. While studios to retain some control, especially over big budget pictures, generally studio execs accept that they aren't filmmakers and trust in those who are to make the best film they can. The studios can and do request changes to help fit a marketing demographic or if the film is received poorly by focus groups or on the festival circuit, but reshooting whole scenes is extremely rare. Reshooting whole movies is unheard of.

The result of this new system was highly creative movies that weren't possible when executives had creative control. While some of the best movies of all time were made under the studio system, most films followed simple formulas and were rehashes of films that came before. The rare gem was eclipsed by tons and tons of sludge that dominated the movie landscape. While this era is called the Golden Age of Hollywood, I tend to disagree. While filmmaking really got its footing under this system, the number of innovative and unique films were close to zero. Without creative control, directors were unable to make the films they wanted to make, and were forced to make the films the studios wanted to make. The best films of the era, you'll find, are the ones that were controlled by the few directors with enough clout to make the film they wanted (see something like Citizen Kane). The rest, were by and large, crap.

So now that we've had our history lesson, lets look at the game industry's history. For the first 20 years of the game industry (from 1974/76 - 1995) games were basically getting their footing. Early games were learning the basics, and were often poorly designed or limited by the technology available at the time. Distribution and production were separated from exhibition. Studios were powerful but independent companies could still flourish without control of a large corporation. By the mid 90's 2D games were at their height. In 1995 the Playstation was released and games moved into 3D. With it the modern Studio System was born. Let's leave out exhibition for a while. But let's focus on increased control by major studios. During this era you saw the formation of several large studios that each began to control a large portion of the market. By the mid 00's several key studios controlled the majority of the market. Under this system the studios had a great deal of creative control over their games. Only highly accomplished designers could hope to have control over their games. Studios make a large number of games. Most are crap while a couple are AAA. You might say that every 1 in 5-10 games is great (not counting iOS).

Now we get to exhibition. With Xbox Live and PSN we have companies that control all three aspects of game development. For a long time there were still separate third parties, but recently we have seen even these third parties become involved in exhibition through things like Origin, Steam, and BattleNet. We have the start of a vertical trust. With a couple large studios in complete control of the industry, we have in the game market something very close to the studio system in the 1940's.

The question is, can games break from the studio system like films did? If the pattern holds true, the end of next generation will be a point where the studio system is broken. Instead of all controlling corporations we will have separate distribution, production, and exhibition services, and game designers will exert a far greater degree of control over their games. They will be able to form the best teams possible for the job instead of being contracted to a single studio for decades. The director of a game will have control over its creative direction, and studios will leave the designers alone to create the films they want, only asking for changes on large budget productions that don't meet market requirements. Redesigning a segment to fit a market requirement will be rare. Adding whole new modes will be unheard of.

It's an interesting dream isn't it? Right now in the film industry we are starting to see the return of the studio system where studios are once again hiring people to make a set of movies under contract and not letting the director have control. You can see this in a lot of big budget productions. Copycat films are returning and sequels are the norm. The difference is that independent filmmakers now have a corner of the market, and a much larger percentage of directors are able to exert control over their own films.

I hoped you enjoyed my little piece of film history. What do you guys think? Will games follow the pattern of films and break from the studio system in 5-10 years? Or are we stuck getting formula games forever?

Assassin's Creed 3

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Well today the first full gameplay trailer for Assassin's Creed 3 came out and it looks absolutely stunning. Obviously trailers are meant to look good and there is a chance that we are seeing the PC build of the game not the console versions, but even then it looks like Ubisoft Montreal has outdone themselves with an amazing looking engine and a great setting and character.

I think this trailer is proof enough about how yearly sequels are destroying the industry. Assassin's Creed 3 had two and a half years of development time before this trailer was released. In that time they were able to create a whole new engine, design all new settings and characters, and basically redo the whole game from scratch. The cost must have been massive but the results, at least so far, speak for themselves. Just imagine what Call of Duty could be like if instead of two years they spent three developing the game and instead of one studio they used two or three. Ubisoft has been suffering from a quality standpoint of late, but this game proves that their premier team still has what it takes. I hope the success of this game can show Ubisoft the importance of spending a fair amount of time and money on making the best game possible. I hope it pays off for them.

In other news I just wanted to congratulate my LGBT friends on what may be a great change in public policy on gay marriage. A lot of people didn't think this day would ever come, but Obama has done what many thought impossible - he has supported gay marriage and not committed political suicide. While this choice may haunt him in the bible belt, I don't think he had a chance of winning support in those states regardless, and this decision will definitely help him in many liberal states. While I always supported Obama, this choice has lead me to hope even more that he gets reelected this Fall and we can have four full years of progress on the gay rights front. It would be an awesome step forward for our often very backwards country.

Finally I thought I would throw in my opinion on the comments section changes. My opinion is that I don't mind the change if it was fully explained and better implemented. My understanding is that I'll get notifications if I follow a specific blog, but I wonder if that will just be notifications that anyone new posted, or notifications that someone responded to me. I don't need my inbox full of "X Person also commented on Y's Blog". That's just a waste of space. And even if it is the latter, why put an extra step in? It's like they made a system that worked much harder in an attempt to link with social networks. But honestly I haven't seen anyone who actually wanted to post their comments to Twitter or Facebook. I could see it if the comment was on an article, but ruining blog comments for the sake of article comments isn't the right choice. Several long time highly active members have said they very well might leave because of the change, and that really sucks. I'm going to "follow" my own blog (shouldn't I automatically want to follow my own blog?) and hope I start getting notifications again. If not I'm going to be rather upset. The addition of notifications was great, and taking them away now feels like a major step back. Plus, many of the bugs with the site are still not fixed after years upon years of complaints. It's just frustrating as hell. I'll give the new comment section time to get its footing, but I'm so far not pleased with the update at all.

6 Years In: Do Exclusives Matter?

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6 years into this generation of consoles a question has been floating around the industry. Do exclusives matter at this point in a console's life cycle? Hell, have exclusives mattered at all this generation? It's an interesting question, and one that initially seems hard to answer. Nintendo's Wii has had nothing but exclusives and has seen huge success among casual gamers, but hardcore gamers have all but ignored it. Meanwhile the Xbox 360 has had fewer boxed exclusives than any other system but has been the most successful console among the hardcore, and since Kinect the most successful console among the casual as well. Then you have Sony, which has arguably had the most boxed exclusives of any of the three platform holders but is languishing in third place. Furthermore, Sony's exclusives have by and large been better than Microsoft's exclusives, outside of maybe Gears of War and Halo. And since almost every 3rd party game is available on both PS3 and 360 (and usually PC as well) what is giving the 360 such an edge over the PS3? Can you chalk it up to the fact that most games are marginally better on the 360?

My theory is that Microsoft had the good exclusives when it really mattered - at the beginning of the generation. In 2006, 2007, and 2008, when third parties hadn't fully mastered the systems, Microsoft had Gears of War, Mass Effect and Halo 3. Those are only three games, but those three games were better than anything Sony had at the time. In 2009 Sony came out in full force. It released Killzone 2, Infamous, and Uncharted 2. Those games were easily as good as Microsoft's best game that year - Forza Motorsport 3. But the question is, did it matter at that point? By 2009 third parties had picked up the slack. Microsoft backed down. It had exclusives when it mattered most - at the beginning.

Last year Microsoft only released two original non-Kinect games, Gears of War 3 and Forza Motorsport 4. Sony released ten non-Move games, including Infamous 2, Killzone 3, LittleBigPlanet 2, Resistance 3, Motorstorm: Apocolypse, and Uncharted 3. With a lineup like that you'd think Sony would be crushing Microsoft, but that was not the case. The 360 was the best selling console every month last year. You can partially blame Kinect, but maybe you can also say that by this point hardcore gamers have made their choice. They either have a 360 or PS3 or both and they aren't really in the market for a change. This year Sony has already released Twisted Metal and Starhawk, with The Last of Us, LittleBigPlanet Karting, Sly Cooper 4, Sorcery, and Playstation All Stars still to come. Microsoft has released Star Wars Kinect and has Halo 4 and Forza Horizon as its only upcoming non-Kinect games. But the question is, is Halo 4 enough? Or maybe even more so, is Halo 4 alone better than a half dozen lesser games? That's really an interesting question and it is one that I think has already been answered. Microsoft knows it can succeed as long as it puts out one good hardcore game a year. Sony throws a ton of brilliant games out there, but none are really as successful as Gears or Halo. And I think the reason is that Halo and Gears were good at the start of the generation, while Sony didn't have any great games until 2009. I think in the end, the best thing Sony could do would be to beat Microsoft to the punch next generation and come out swinging with at least one or two absolutely fantastic games. Sony has a chance to capitalize on its vast internal resources, with over a dozen first and second party studios, while Microsoft has to get by with only four or five internal studios, none of which have made a successful new IP in years. Sony has the chance to beat Microsoft next generation as long as it can get those exclusives out the door at the start and not three years into the cycle. For the PS3, it is simply too late. It's time to throw in the towel and admit defeat. Sony needs to move on and focus on what it can do better next generation if it wants to succeed going forward.

A final note of sorts. I didn't really talk about XBLA and PSN games as I don't feel like those games sell systems, but on that front Microsoft has been slaughtering Sony all generation long and I don't doubt that the lack of quality PSN games was at least a small part of why Sony didn't succeed as well as they could have.