Where will ActiBlizzillionaire draw the line?
- Oct 11, 2008 9:04 pm GMT
- 13 Comments
Blizzard has built up one of the best reputations in the business over the last decade. With the release of the original Starcraft and Warcraft series of games, they shot to the top of the gaming world where they've stayed for a very very long time. The Warcraft series continued to produce lots of cash, and next to Starcraft, is probably the most popular RTS around.
Then of course World of Warcraft came along, and the world bowed down to the awesomeness that was Blizzard. Even with the $15.00 a month subscription fee, people jumped on the bandwagon in hoards, eventually bringing the player base to an astonishing six million strong. It would be naive to say that WoW has become anything but a bit of a cash cow, since if you do some simple math the game is pulling in the insignificant sum of $90 million a month.
"We're worth more than some small countries!"
Of course, there are plenty of costs that are incurred when running such a massive online game such as WoW. However, I can't see it taking much of a chunk out of that base revenue. For arguement sake, let's say that after everything is paid off for the month, Blizzard takes in $75 million. Even with this more than likely understated figure, that means the company is stacking up $900 million per calendar year. It's safe to say that with that kind of money alone, funding almost anything they want to do would be within their reach...including buying any small countries they have their eye on.
Why am I stating all these values that most of us already know of? Well Blizzard has just released a couple of very interesting pieces of information. The first is that Starcraft II will apparently be more like Starcraft II.1, Starcraft II.2 and Starcraft 11.3. Blizzard let the world know that SCII's campaigns were so long (up to 30 missions) and they are taking so long, that they made the decision to split the campaigns up and make them all stand alone games. This raised many questions such as how the online will work when only the first of the three campaigns are out, and how multiplayer in general would work. Many people though, are starting to think that this is a bit ridiculous and that this is another way for Blizzard to make unholy amounts of money (which they obviously don't necessarily need). Common knowledge in itself would tell you that even if all the campaigns were cut down a bit and made to be one game, the game would still sell like hot cakes. However, Blizzard seems to be well aware that most everyone will complain about this but in the end...those same people will buy them anyway. This is a bit shady, albeit good business sense in terms of making money, but to some it felt genuine that they really couldn't make it all one game. This made sense until the next piece of news was released early this Saturday.
"For moola!...I mean...For Aiur!"
Blizzard was asked a very important question: Is Battle.net going to remain free? Now I'm sure they probably faught for hours about who would be the sorry fool that had to answer this inevitible question. Why? Well because apparenty they are looking to start charging for the Battle.net service. Whether or not the use of the whole thing will be subscription based, or if smaller portions of the service will be monitary remains to be seen. Regardless of what part of the service will cost the users money, this is a huge bomb to drop at the same time they just told the world we're going to be spending $180 on Starcraft II instead of $60. According to them they "...kind of have to." I suggest not thinking about that statement for long periods of time as it might cause your head to explode.
Now, I think that most people can handle the fact they have to buy three Starcraft IIs, but charging for a service that's been free for 10 years (long before they had the economic horse that is WoW to fund it) might be pushing it. I'm sure that even if they do go through with charging for the service, people will more than likely conform and pay for it because let's face it -- they're going to want to play SCII. I know I'll want to.
"If you think Wow made money, wait till I arrive. WoW is my #$@%"
Wanting and doing are two very different things though, and the combination of these two seemingly wide open money grabbing moves has shook my love for Blizzard a bit. Sure they have the right to milk every game in their arsenal for all they're worth, but is there an ethical line that's being crossed? They know that we'll pay for almost anything they put out, or charge us for because many of us are diehard fans and have been dying for SCII and Diablo III for a long time now. Is that ethically right? I think it's crossing the line.
Of course, that's just my opinion. What do you all think about the Blizzard situation? Is what they are doing ethical? Is all of this bad business ethics, or just brilliant business action?
That's all from me for now folks. Have a good one!
The Antiresale Agenda
- Oct 7, 2008 5:38 pm GMT
- 134 Comments
Note : Much of this has been in response to this Gamespot article.
There has been a bit of a hullaboo lately from publishers regarding the second hand games market. Primarily, they don't like the fact that resellers (i.e. retailers selling second hand games) get all the profit while they get none. I can certainly see their point of view. They could cut the middle man and distribute everything digitally, but we are a while away from that transition (especially with limited hard drive space). So in the interim, some companies are trying to offer rewards for purchasers of new retail products.
All new copies of Gears of War 2 will come with a one-time redeemable code to download the Flashback map pack, 5 reworked maps from Gears of War 1. This will be the only way to get these maps; Cliff Bleszinski says they will never be made available any other way. A second bonus is given to those who purchase during a midnight launch; an in-game gold-plated Hammerburst assault rifle.
NBA Live 09 will have a feature that brings daily updates to rosters and stats. Retail copies come with a one-time code to access this feature; second hand buyers will have to pay $19-99 to access this feature. Rock Band 2 has 20 free tracks for download via a similar one-time code. That would be a decent download fee if you paid the asking price for songs. Dead Space has extra suits with in-game benefits, a different one each for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, that will be downloadable only for the first two weeks after release (one would suspect they are smart enough to make this accessible only from an in-game menu, but if not you can always download it from the appropriate marketplace during those two weeks and buy the game later).
Are these incentives really enough though? Rock Band 2 seems like a game that you wouldn't see many second hand copies of anyway. I'm not into sports game, but the updates for NBA Live 09 seems like a compelling feature, and the price of those updates represents a fair chunk of the all-inclusive full price.
There seems to be a couple of problems with the strategy for Gears of War 2. First, the midnight launch, the only way to get a new skin for a gun. Some people simply can't make it to these events, so missing out on an in-game item on this basis seems unfair. If it was extra paraphernalia (i.e. no change to the game itself), like an art-book, a figure, or soundtrack, that would be fine. Not that this piece of content sounds particularly compelling; a new skin for a gun that has no impact on gameplay. New skins are nice, but I don't see myself paying for downloadable content unless it had some impact on the gameplay (that's just me, I'm sure there are some who would). As such, this content isn't going to make me attend a midnight launch if I wasn't already interested, let alone buy a brand new copy if I normally get one second hand.
The multiplayer map pack is not time-based; all new copies of the game will come with a code to download the pack, regardless of when you purchase the title. Nevertheless, Gears of War 2 will still be sold on the second hand market. I doubt this is going to present much of a problem for players of either group; there will be matches that cater to the content that they have. But the maps will not be available for a price for those that buy second hand copies. Epic are not giving second hand buyers an opportunity to give them money. Companies are complaining that they make no money from second hand sales. I thought downloadable content was a way to offer more value for and produce a revenue stream from consumers, whether they bought new or used.
You can get the extra suit from Dead Space if you download it within two weeks of release. As per Gamespot's news piece "Both suits will have advantages over the standard in-game armor, providing increased inventory slots and tougher protection against spikes, tentacles, and other space-monster weapons." Beefier armour might sound good to some. But what about game balance? What impact are those extra inventory slots and extra protection going to have on the gameplay? Will they make early levels easier and less thrilling than they were originally designed to be? Bioshock would have been a far different experience bereft of some decision making if you started the game with all plasmid and tonic slots open.
I fear the path this may lead to. What if all retail copies are crippled releases that offer a minimum of gameplay, but comes with a code for downloadable content that 'fixes' the game and makes it the way it was designed to be? Then they could charge second hand users for that content, to ensure they get a piece of the pie. But then what happens if your company goes bust, whichever service the download is on goes bust, or for other reasons the download becomes no longer available. That game is dead, and anyone who didn't have that content is not allowed to enjoy it again the way it was supposed to be if they manage to procure a copy.
Ideally, any additional content should not unbalance the game. Conversely, the lack of that content should not hamper the original design of the game, or make the consumer feel like they are missing a decent component of the game. Skins don't break these rules, but aren't particularly compelling.
The main items I can think of would be extra levels/maps/race tracks, and extra playable characters/cars/weapons (so long as these things don't break the balance I mentioned above). The retail box can include a code for these, as well as being available for download for a price, as a potential revenue stream from those who do buy second hand. Even if you do give out codes in the box this way, I'd also suggest they don't release the content at launch. Advertise the fact that the content is coming, but wait a couple of months before you release it. That encourages early buyers to hold onto their copies to get their free content instead of sell them. Heck, don't even advertise it before release day, just make it a nice surprise when consumers open up the box and see that they have some more free stuff coming down the line.
Maybe it's the wrong way to go about it altogether. Maybe Criterion is on the right path with Burnout Paradise. They have been releasing regular free updates to encourage players to hold onto their copy of the game, so they can check out the new content when it arrives, and presumably sell more new copies because there are less second hand ones floating around. This was a part of their plan from the beginning, and they made it clear what their intentions were (at least to frequenters of websites such as this).
Rare is also offering Banjo-Kazooie free if you pre-order Banjo-Kazooie : Nuts & Bolts, which will otherwise be available on XBLA for 1200 points. This seems like a pretty decent bonus, and perhaps other developers could consider doing something similar. If you are releasing a sequel to a franchise and there is enough space on the disc, convert the original to the current platform with the option to unlock it via these one-time codes. Include a boss mode that collects the bosses from previous entries in the series. If there is enough space on the disc, include another game from your back catalogue (if it is no longer available, thus not cannibalizing existing revenue stream), but only unlockable via a one-time code, encouraging people to buy new to get the bonus.
Many PC games are already in on the act with limited number of activations (I imagine this practice is also aimed at anti-resale, but has remained largely ignored under the veil of preventing piracy). What are your thoughts of console games going the same way? At least they are offering content instead of introducing activations, which they very well could, so we should be grateful for that at least.
I don't think there is a problem with the second hand market; it exists for just about everything else. I also don't have a problem with developers trying to make an extra buck from downloadable content; I just want it to be compelling content, not a fix that allows me to play a game the way it was meant to be.
Criticism, the Unseen Art Form
- Oct 3, 2008 11:41 am GMT
- 49 Comments
Many people who peruse the gaming sites for reviews of games don't seem to realize that it takes a special type of writer to draft and create a worthwhile review. Few writers in any medium gain notoriety with its peers or with the mainstream: such examples like Pauline Kiel, Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper.
There is a delicate touch that makes these writers sound intelligent, knowledgable about the entertainment medium they are covering, and be completely understandable to the broadest number of people possible.
Knowing this, exactly how many people who work on 1UP, Gamespot, Kotaku, Joystiq, IGN and the other enthusiast sites seem to have this way of words? Very very few, in my not so humble opinion.
In fact, I can possibly name 3 writers and one personality that can fit the description, while giving few "up-and-comers" that may also reach this threshold.
What made me think of this suddenly? Well, in the 6th and most recent episode of "Opinion Unlocked," I made a few comments about some of the writers on some of the enthusiast sites:
Ryan Scott 1UP.com - Ryan Scott is the soft-spoken former member of "The Brodeo", GFW Radio. Known more for his PC gaming than console gaming, Ryan also has an affinity for retro games. Most recently, he reviewed Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood for the DS, giving it the highest of ratings for 1UP: A.
Mark Bozon IGN Nintendo - Mark Bozon is the more outspoken type on the Nintendo Team, which leads to him calling out developers and forum users on the Nintendo Voice Chat podcast. "Boze", as he is affectionately called, gave the game a 6.8, citing reasons such as a shallow combat system and unimpressive story.
Aaron Thomas Gamespot - Aaron Thomas is another outspoken type who frequents The Hotspot and From the Bleachers podcasts. Much like Mark Bozon, he's outspoken to the point of calling out developers and forum users for things that he feels are clearly opposite of his opinion. He recently had a lot to say about Zack Snyder being signed to a 3 year deal with EA, which can be heard on The Hotspot podcast.
Now, these are only three of the writers I discussed on our podcast and there's plenty more to say about others, but let me start with these three writers. First off, it's clear that the three of these writers are on these sites for one distinct reason: Their love of gaming. It's clear from the offset that these people know, in some way or another, that they know what they are talking about.
However, these three writers/contributors all did something that made me cringe this week. First off, Ryan Scott's review of Sonic Chronicles was written to the point of fanboy fanaticism, not articulate criticism. This was especially odd for a contributor who, for all intents and purposes, always gives a good review or opinion on games that are fair and concise.
"The idea of a Sonic the Hedgehog DS role-playing game from BioWare (Mass Effect, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic) sounds like one of EGM's elaborate April Fools' jokes. But it's real, it's here...and it's awesome." is the opening sentences for his review.
In a time where a lot of reviewers complain that people don't read the reviews, just the review scores, Ryan gave a clear reason why you are probably better off not reading the review: You're not going to get a concise criticism, you're gonna get why I think this game is "awesome".
The review itself is well-written, with some decent reasons why the game is great, but he doesn't even touch the negatives of the game. This is not my opinion, this is a clear fact: There is always something negative in a game. There's always something that can be better. Brushing off any negative criticism just to show how much you love the game isn't criticism: it's fanboyism.
The exact opposite can be said for Mark Bozon, IGN Nintendo Team editor. Mark Bozon gave a scathing review of the game, giving it a 6.8, saying that the game itself is purely fan service and for everyone else, it's a very basic RPG. Throughout his 2-page review, he slams the game for numerous things that, in honesty, shouldn't have been slammed in the first place. At no point did Bioware nor Sega say that this game was to be a "hardcore, story focused" game that will appeal to said base. Bozon seems to forget who the audience is for the game and as such, should review it as so.
That's not to say that he shouldn't cite his opinion on the game, he very well should. It's just that, for the type of game it is, you shouldn't knock it for something it isn't. That's along the lines of saying: "Soul Calibur IV is a bad fighting game because there is no hand-to-hand combat" For Bozon, this is actually out of character: He's a decent writer who often has a good opinion and fair and balanced point of view.
Lastly, there's Aaron Thomas. I don't know if it is because of inexperience or from a very outspoken and confrontative personality, but Aaron Thomas seems to make these statements that more than ruffle a few feathers. His comments on Zack Snyder's contract with EA was resulted and him saying that all he's going to do is put more crap on gaming system, without even knowing what he's going to put on. Objectivism? I think not.
Also, looking at his most recent reviews, he seems to be put on the bottom rung to review such key titles as "PAIN: Amusement Park" and the PS2 version of "Mercenaries 2: World in Flames". It's easy to see why: He gives the game some good props and some necessary demerits. The score, however, is just appalling considering what he wrote: A 3.5 for the PS2 Mercenaries, even though he gave the game a lot of good things.
Makes sense to you? I didn't think so. In fact, the last game he reviewed that got any type of top billing was "Hot Shots Golf Open Tee 2". Since then, Aaron's reviews have been tucked neatly in the back, so you have to search for them to find them.
I only mention this because the industry needs a fully functioning and respectable press to further itself as a medium. If no one criticizes the critics, who will keep them in line professionally? A mere "honor amongst writers" isn't going to do it, which is why I set to do this podcast and blog not only to shout my own opinion into a crowded pool, but to also give a constructive opinion on the people who provide coverage to the game sites we look at.
Who are some writers, podcasters or personalities to look up to? I'll give you a few right now:
Shane Bettenhausen - 1UP.com: Much like Bozon and Aaron Thomas, Shane is very outspoken. But, Shane also is respected with forum users and podcast listeners as a highly intelligent speaker who talks about his points of view very well and convincingly. His comic foils off of Garnett Lee turns into comic gold, while his off-the-beat path of criticism gives a fresh take on gaming criticism.
John Davison - Whattheyplay.com: John recently left 1UP.com to start up the site whattheyplay.com, which is a site devoted for parents to find out which games are truly appropriate for their kids. To be an enthusiast gamer and a father is a tough balancing act (I should know, I am one), but to tap both funnels to balance out your writing form and your form of opinion is uncanny. John is also on the 1UP Yours podcast with Shane and Garnett. He provides an insight on gaming that is altogether different from most, while alienating no one who look for a "to-the-point" criticism or "in-depth analysis". For now, I think John Davison is the unspoken "Roger Ebert of gaming".
Adam Sessler - G4's X-Play: From the beginning, G4 and Adam Sessler has gone hand-in-hand. He is the face...ok, Morgan Webb is the face of G4, but he's undoubtedly the most respected person on that channel for his insightful opinions and often witty comments about the gaming industry itself. On X-Play, he's a decent host that breezes through the show with his relatively lax demeanor. Outside, on Sessler's Soapbox and in public, he tells it like it is.
As a vet who's seen the past in gaming, but can also analyze and scrutinize the current events that affect the industry not only by playing the games but seeing what outside influences can affect gaming as well. As a journalist, Sessler is the closest there is.
As for up and comers, take a look at N'Gai Croal of Newsweek, the entire cast of Giant Bomb (Jeff Gerstmann, Ryan Davis, Brad Shoemaker), Jennifer Tsao of 1UP.com, Stephen Totillo of Multiplayer Blog and Greg Miller of IGN are reviewers and writers you should take notice of.
The main point I'm getting across is that there is a difference between a good review and a bad one, just as much as there is a difference between a good game and a bad one. The same things apply: Read the review, not just the score. Always scrutinize and criticize the coverage you are getting from all of these enthusiast websites and ALWAYS tell the difference between a reviewer who deserves your respect and trust, then just some guy who posted a few paragraphs and a number and call it a day.
You're allegiance shouldn't be with just one site.
Sanitized for Your Protection
- Oct 2, 2008 12:31 pm GMT
- 26 Comments
WARNING: The following article contains NO adult content and is approved for all ages.
I was thrilled when Harmonix announced that the Red Hot Chili Peppers' album Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik would be released in its entirety as downloadable content for Rock Band 2. I spent two hours trying to download it the first day it became available, but due to issues with Xbox Live (Harmonix said the problems were on Microsoft's end), I was unable to complete the download. No biggie, I just got up early the next morning, finished downloading the album, and played a few songs. "Under the Bridge" was an absolute joy and well worth the wait. "Sir Psycho Sexy," on the other hand, is censored to the point that the vocals are incoherent.
"Sir Psycho Sexy" is a dirty song, to be sure--nobody's going to argue that it isn't. Mr. Sir Psycho is a big fan of the ladies, and the song documents his sexual prowess. At least it did before Harmonix got its hands on it. In one case, 58% of the vocals for an entire verse have been completely removed. Does this affect gameplay? You bet it does. Imagine singing the verse below (each set of dashes is a word that's no longer there). Not only do you have no clue what's going on in the song, but you just sit there while the deleted lines go by, hoping that there's a line that isn't filthy coming up so you might actually get to sing something.
I got stopped by a lady cop
In my automobile
--- ---- --- --- --- ----- ---- ---
--- ---- --- ----- -- --- - ----
That cop she was all dressed in blue
Was she pretty? Boy I'm tellin' you
--- ----- -- ---- ---- --- --- ----- -----
- ---- ----- -- --- ---- -- ----
Like a ram getting ready to jam
She whimpered just a little when she felt my hand
-- --- ------ -- ---- ----
- ----- ---- --- ------- --- ------- --- -------
Proppin' her up on the black and white
-------- --- ------ --- ----- -----
- ------- --- ---- -- ---- ---- ---
------ - ------ --- ----- ---- ---
Do I think it's appropriate that children play an uncensored version of this song? No. Do I have a problem with the occasional swear word being removed? Not at all. But I do have a problem when I haven't been warned that the song has been excessively censored before I purchase it, and I believe Harmonix went way too far when it comes to the material removed from this particular song. You can't tell me phrases like "I said what's up?" or "Turned a cherry pie right into jam" are too salacious for the sensitive ears of our youth, especially when they're used with no context, as they would be here.
Rock Band 2's box displays a Teen rating, but it also warns users that online interactions aren't rated by the ESRB. On top of that, there are plenty of age checks in place on the Xbox 360, so why can't adults enjoy adult music with adult language? Everyone throws the statistic about the average gamer being older than 30, so why are we being treated like children?
Maybe I'm overreacting and this censorship isn't a big deal to most people. If you believe this is a nonissue, I'd like to hear your thoughts and opinions. If you agree that this is a problem, I'd love to hear from you as well.
Been There, Done That.
- Oct 1, 2008 2:03 pm GMT
- 18 Comments
Have you ver wished progress from a previoius game carried over into the game's sequel? I have. Earlier this year I harbored a bit of resentment for Ubisoft. I had gotten into Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas on the Xbox 360, thanks in large part to GameSpot's tournament. When I spent hours of time, effort, and enjoyment into playing that game, I was really getting my hopes up for how the ranks and experience would carry over into the sequel--the aptly named Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2. At first I was very excited to unlock items and ranks in the new game thanks to high ranks in the first title. My disappointment came when I found my achievement for attaining (and instantly bypassing) Private First Class did not unlock.
Many heard my disappointment in our first exploit segment of On the Spot, while others read about my frustration in this blog. In time Ubisoft fixed the problem. Continued play and additional downloadable content made ranking up in Vegas 2 much, much easier (almost to the point of being far too easy). Even though Ubisoft still hasn't fixed the Special Operations achievement problem in Vegas, I reflected on what they did right: they helped loyal franchise players carry over previous experience into the new game.
This year has been littered with sequels and re-releases that failed to support a loyal community with some carry-over components. While still great (or, technically good) games, Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise, Lost Planet: Colonies, any of the Lego games, and nearly all of the EA sports games failed to carry over unlocked rewards, experience, items, or pinatas earned in previous iterations of the franchises.
I loved and played the heck out of Lost Planet when it first debuted on Xbox 360. I was legitimately excited to play Colonies when it came out, but Capcom bifurcated their LP community by not only negating the ability to play Lost Planet players, but also leaving would-be Colonists in the cold to play the game to completion again. Sure, sure they allowed cross-platform play (between 360 and PC), but my levels, outfits, and overall experience with the original didn't make the transition. Friends of mine didn't want to invest the time and money into ranking up again. Without the devoted cadre of cohorts to play with online, going it alone seemed more laborious than inviting. To this day, I still have yet to crack open a copy of Colonies.
I did, however, invest time into Madden 07. The Community team has a handful of copies left over from a would-be tournament from years ago and I made the mistaken assumption that the points would be as effortless as other entries in the franchise have been. Imagine my surprise. What I found was a devious achievement for importing an NCAA 07 draft class into your NFL draft. I resisted for months, but finally caved weeks ago. I neither like [American] football, nor particularly care for college sports. To this day, I can proudly say I never watched a live sporting event while attending a reputable sports institution of higher learning. So why did I cave and play NCAA 07? Was it the ten achievement points? Maybe in part, but I say it was actually a support for a developer that rewarded players who played other games in the publisher's football family.
EA didn't reward Need for Speed Carbon players that had completed Most Wanted. It only punished players of ProStreet that enjoyed the earlier games more. Activision didn't give Call of Duty 4 players benefits, perks, or added possibilities if they completed Call of Duty 2 or 3 on the same platform. Traveler's Tales forced players to replay Episodes I-VI in their entirety in Lego Star Wars The Complete Saga even if said players had achieved 100% completion in each of the previous entries.
"So what," you may be thinking. The "what" in question is your time and mine. When we pick up a game we are not only investing our money in entertainment, but also our time. Our time carries a higher price than the value of our respective currencies. One could argue by buying Lost Planet Colonies or by playing Lego Star Wars TCS we are asking to play the same recycled content again. Don't we also look for was some recognition that we have already been there and done that before? The GameSpot reviews clearly call out that players who already own the original release(s) have little reason to invest in the new iteration.
LucasArts could have allowed us to start TCS with all of the red-brick extras unlocked or allowed completionists to play the game in Free Play mode from the get-go. Capcom could've at least carried over online ranks (not the experience), ensured cross-title play (between owners of different Lost Planet versions, or automatically unlocked achievements for the difficulties and collectible tasks previously completed.
I recognize these features require additional work and testing. We have all seen what happens when they don't turn out right or are bent to devious degrees. What I'd like for us all to see is the opportunity to get more credit for being on board with franchises. If the same content is going to be shoveled out again and again, give us a reward for playing it twice. Arguably one of the only good things to come out of Fable II Pub Games was the ability to carry over your winnings and your losses into the full Fable II game world. Say what you will about Pub Games or Molyneux's promises, but he delivered a compelling reward for people who pay for the same content twice. Why then don't more developers and publishers integrate their titles better to create cohesive, rewarding experiences that carry over across their franchises and projects? It could be development time. It could be lack of financial resources. But what troubles me is a clear lack of industry interest in rewarding the die-hard community for loyalty. Many
What do you think? Am I ranting about something so esoteric only a niche audience can appreciate, or do you feel the frustration as well? Share your thoughts and comments here and write your favorite franchise's producers to get more carry over.
The Legendary Halo 3
- Sep 29, 2008 11:11 am GMT
- 14 Comments
Whether you are a member of the 7th Column, an achievement completionist, or an indomitable Halo 3 brawler, Bungie broke into new territory with the April release of the Legendary Map Pack. While I was at San Diego Comic-Con, one inquisitive attendee asked a Halo-centered panel whether the Mythic map pack was coming. At the time it hadn't been revealed and the panel was nothing more than cryptic. When the most recent Halo 3 update landed last week, few expected 750 achievement points, 29 achievements, hints of many more maps for Halo 3, and the symbolically priced Legendary map pack getting more incentive for download; the map pack is available for download at a price of 600 Microsoft Points ($7.50 for you seven-hunting readers). Whether we expected it or not, it is here.
It's no secret Bungie speaks in sevens, but I wasn't really prepared for the jump in points, the play that comes from new scoring in the online competition, or the Legendary maps that are inspired (or ripped off, depending on how jaded your personal paradigm) by classic Halo maps. The last time I played Halo 3 was probably before the Legendary maps even hit the marketplace. For some reason I am being drawn back into the game and thought I'd share a bit about the maps and my experience.
Theoretically the recent update was intended not only to improve online connections but also to break out ranks for individual online competition modes. The ranks are broken out nicely to allow players to level up to a General in Lone Wolves matchmaking, but still be a Private in Team Doubles Social matches. Unfortunately, the solutions implemented for speeding up the matchmaking practices have not delivered for me on all promises. I have waited in a lobby that was connecting to a match for more than 10 minutes before the remaining players (since multiple players disconnected due to an unacceptably long wait) all got to mix it up.
In the beginning I played scores of matches, but got to play a Legendary map less than a handful of times. Random matches served up Blackout a couple of times so I could unlock two of the new achievements, but the others were not forthcoming. While Lockout remains one of the beloved battlegrounds from earlier Halo releases, the reimagining into Blackout wasn't as impressive to me. I enjoyed the UNSC posters and other decor, but I wasn't really getting into playing the level since I am clearly an outlier with my lack of love for Lockout.
If it wasn't for a loyal GameSpot user, I would've been running around Avalanche, the redux of Halo: Combat Evolved's Sidewinder level, all by myself. Despite my lack of love for Lockout, I have nothing but affection for Sidewinder. I thought it couldn't get any better when I saw the Hornets available for flying and the repainted warthogs waiting to be driven all around the frozen horse shoe.
Finally, if anybody would like to play some Ghost Town, let me know. Matchmaking doesn't serve it up. I am interested in seeing more of what xbox.com describes as "a battle-scarred maze of narrow passages and dangerous ruins." The one time I played it, the room was focused on helping one another get Oddball kills and splatter sprees.
For those keeping track, September 25 was possibly the first day to get that achievement for completing four-player coop over LIVE on Legendary difficulty with the iron skull engaged. That achievement should be worth 100 gamerscore on its own since the iron skull makes you restart the level if you die. Oof!
If I hadn't already dropped $7.50 on the maps to write this blog, I'd be more inclined to wait until the Legendary map pack invariably is reduced to a price of free. Of course, I like my points and I haven't played much Ghost Town. It could end up being my new favorite Halo 3 map to play.
What are your thoughts on Bungie's new support for their Legendary entry in the Halo franchise? Are the points worth it? Is Halo 3 so 2007? Or, is this the best new thing to come to the Xbox 360 since Combat Evolved?
A Star Is Born
- Sep 19, 2008 12:28 pm GMT
- 13 Comments
After watching Brian Ekberg and Jon Miller play a few online club games in NHL 09 and reading our glowing review, I was convinced that I need to play the game. I'm glad I did--it's fantastic. I've created my own player in Be-A-Pro mode. He's a right wing sniper for the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL. My first game was a success from a team standpoint (we won), but I didn't do much to distinguish myself individually. By the second game I had become a bit more accustomed to the controls and played much better. In fact, I scored the first goal of my young career. The goal was nothing fancy, but because you do get attached to your player it was actually really exciting for me. I was happy that the game lets you take screenshots (and video) so I could save the moment for posterity. Here's me celebrating my first goal:
Later that game I decided to prove that I could play a little defense. Here's the young phenom Aaron Thomas bringing the pain:
I'm now about 6 or 7 games into my career and I'm starting to get more comfortable shooting the puck with the right analog stick. I still tend to go to my backhand too often because of poor positioning, but sometimes it works out as it did with this sweet backhand goal. I totally beat the guy to the puck, headed straight for the goal and lit the lamp. This one was so cool (at least for me) I had to save a video:
While I was fiddling with the camera for the replay of my backhander I found a neat angle where you could see ice shavings from a defender flying across the screen. It was too awesome of a shot not to share:
Editorial: Because Frank Gibeau said so!
- Aug 31, 2008 6:43 pm GMT
- 14 Comments
There's been a stereotype for a long time about gamers: we're anti-social hermits. Since the end of the last generation of gaming though, games have become a lot more of a social get together through the introduction of online multiplayer. Although it's become a very big player in the eyes of developers, it certainly hasn't given them the idea to phase out single player games altogether. At least, until now.
Apparently, EA's Frank Gibeau figures that gamers don't pay much attention to single player experience anymore. In a recent Q&A with Gamespot, Gibeau is quoted saying:
Frank Gibeau: Well let me back up and say that core to the strategy of the company--and very specifically our label--is that we want to be online with everything we do.I'm no longer greenlighting games that are single-player only, even console products. They have to have deep online modes because that's where our fans are spending a lot of time and, frankly, that's where a lot of the value in the IPs we create can really take hold. [Emphasis added].
This definitely is true of sports games, of course, but what about all the other titles EA has control over? What about the newly acquired Bioware and their titles? Does this mean that he won't pass KOTOR or ME games without the addition of online play? I know that the next KOTOR title is set to be an MMO, but whether or not that was EA's idea or not I don't know, so I won't comment on that, but if it is for the same reason Gibeau stated then we could be in for a real cluster#$#@ of EA glory.
The single player experience is essential in gaming, this is for sure. People don't always want to sit down and play with a bunch of people they may or may not know online. Sure we will want to do so on some occassions, but sometimes, we as gamers enjoy our alone time where we can take in playing a campaign or story mode by ourselves. There is something to be said about having some alone time, which we all need now and then, and enjoy it while playing a game.
Tacking a multiplayer mode to games does not always mean it's going to be played, nor does it mean it will make the game better by any stretch of the word. I'm sure you can think of numerous examples in which developers slapped on a multiplayer mode because they thought it would be the cool thing to do, only to have it completely bomb and do nothing for the game itself. Of course in some cases if there was more time spent on the multiplayer component, it would probably be passable. On the same token, an equal amount of games are burned with those tacked on components. These could have been discarded for the betterment of the single player component, but since the new fad is multiplayer, they just had to do it, right?
There doesn't seem to be much of a logical thought process here on Gibeau's behalf. It sounds more like he looked at some numbers on paper, ignored the numbers on another, and then made a blind decision based on the previously mentioned numbers, because they made him feel happy inside. The fact of the matter is that there are some games that just do NOT work as a multiplayer game.
The thought that a company as large and influential as EA is even entertaining an idea as insane as phasing out games that supply a single player experience only, is a scary one at best. Multplayer is all well and good, and there is an entire market for games that are multiplayer only, but if you are so worried about it then focus on games that provide that. That doesn't mean you have to bash current series of games with such an idea.
At least, that's the way I feel. I don't and can't speak for all of you out there, but from my point of view the single player experience is the most important part of a game unless the game is multiplayer focused. I don't want to see titles with tacked on multiplayer because as I previously mentioned, all that comes out of it is a single player mode that isn't paid enough attention to.
How do you feel about all of this? What's your take on it? This is all just of my opinion of course, and so think of it what you will. I'm very interested in what you all think though, and look forward to reading your individual opinions!
GC 2008: They Are Still Making Dreamcast Games
- Aug 22, 2008 3:04 am GMT
- 21 Comments
Apparently, people are still making Dreamcast games. I found this game--Wind and Water: Puzzle Battles--on the show floor of the Leipzig Games Convention today, tucked away into a corner of Hall 4. It's coming to Europe from publisher Redspot Games and developer Yuan Works.
It's a pretty standard little puzzle game, playing a lot like Hexic but with Chinese characters on the blocks and cute little anime characters. According to the rep who was telling me about the game, fans can go to the Wind & Water web site and make their own custom avatars which will then be featured in the game when it's released this summer, though it doesn't look like a U.S. release is planned.
Not really my type of game but it's just nice to see the Dreamcast still in action. *Sniff*, I miss 1999.
Keep your customer satisfied
- Aug 17, 2008 1:48 pm GMT
- 60 Comments
Honestly, this years Nintendo Conference was disappointing for me as a long time Nintendo fan, but in no way to the general public. The Big N gave us a thorough explanation why they focused on games like Wii Music an Wii sports resort and gadgets like wii-motion plus during the press event. Call it shovelware, call it crapware, call it Gamecube 2.0 games. It's these types of games that attract more and more people into playing games, hence one of the reasons current third party sales are on top. But sadly, none of these games got my slightest attention.
During the the last two years, Nintendo did release some great first party games, like Twilight Princess, Warioware, Metroid Prime 3, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros. Brawl and a few other games. Also, they have some great upcoming games like Tales of Syphonia, Wario Land: Shake it, Sonic Unleashed (which will hopefully good this time). But looking at the rich library from the NES/SNES/N64/GC, there are still some impressive games that Nintendo can create sequels or remakes or entirely new games. Where are the games that we, core gamers, can enjoy? Where's Star fox? Where's Kid Icarus? Where's F-Zero? Bomberman? A Real Pokemon RPG (or at least Snap)? Golden Sun? Breath Of Fire? Earthbound? Riviera: The Promised Land? Pilot Wings? Skies of Arcadia? Is it really that hard to create another Donkey Kong Platformer? Maybe even a Luigi's mansion 2?
There's at least one game in the list I mentioned above that you are longing for, but they didn't give us anything.
Nintendo did reach their goal: Sell systems (as any big business would), check. Get non-gamers into gaming no matter what age, check. Create something new and innovative, check. They really worked hard on a machine that isn't too complicated and is accessible to everyone interested. I think they made that pretty clear during their last 2 conferences -_-.
Now, as a Nintendo Wii owner (not a mindless fanboy), are you currently satisfied? Me? Yes, I am. I'm having a lot of fun playing Brawl online and locally with some friends, so it's definitely getting some hours. But in order to keep the gamers attention to your console you must prove that you can still create quality, top of the chart, first party tittles. And honestly, I'm not seeing anything big at the moment.
But fear not. This year ain't over yet. Leipzig and Tokyo Game Show are just around the corner. Hopefully here, they will pay attention to the long time gamers. And if they don't show anything by then, then it's going to be a very though Christmas with tons of unsatisfied costumers.
Nintendo, here's a new goal for ya: "Keep your customers satisfied"
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