Are game publishers singled out?
- Mar 26, 2013 4:50 am GMT
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Before I dive into what I'm sure will probably end up in a barrage of flames, I need to say that I am in no way defending game publishers, I am just pointing out something I have noticed, and it bothers me.
Three weeks ago SimCity was released, unless you just returned from a month long dive in the Mariana Trench, then you know the launch did not go well. Many gamers, including myself, experienced multiple issues with the horrid, evil, always on DRM and game bugs. The ensuing uproar, and shouts of "down with EA" could be heard through the vacuum of space.
Lets be honest, we have all bought SOMETHING in the past that either did not work the way it was supposed to, or just did not meet our expectations. We have all had to return something, or exchange a item for one that worked, or for one of a equal value. I am willing to bet that in 99.99% of those situations, you did not also keep the item/product that you originally bought.
So, what I'm asking is.... why do gamers demand, and EXPECT a publisher to not only FIX the game that was released with bugs (as they should), but also then ask for something "free" in return for all the pain, suffering and mental anguish that they were subjected to? Why should you get more in return? If you bought a shirt, and when you got home you noticed a small tear in it, do you return to where you bought it demanding a replacement shirt, plus another shirt? Do you go after the people that made the shirt, or just the place where you bought it from?
If you go see a movie, and you walk out afterwards disapointed, do you go see the manager asking for ticket to a different move, along with a refund of the money you already paid? Do you then also contact the studio that made the movie, demanding a ticket to a current, or future release?
Why does it seem to me that game studios and publishers are unfairly singeld out when situations like this happen? I understand that things like this should not happen, but at the same time I don't feel that I am owed "more" than a working product once the issues have been pointed out.
I know the argument is "Well if we don't complain, and don't demand, then we will continue to get poor quality products". I'm sure there is some truth to that, I just don't know if demanding more than our initial investment is the right way to go about it.
Now Playing: Zelda:Link's Awakening
- Mar 25, 2013 3:27 pm GMT
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So recently I got into playing this title I downloaded on my 3DS:
This is a title that often gets overlooked in the Zelda series and it's a shame because honestly this is one of the best ones I've played, up there with the criminally underated Minish Cap.
So for those who don't know the story. According the official Nintendo Zelda timeline this occurs in the "Defeated Link" timeline where he lost to Ganon in Ocarina of Time. Originally it was the direct sequel to A Link to the Past but actually now follows the 2 Oracle games (which as of now are the only 2 Zelda games I haven't played. Hoping to change that.) Fearful that Ganon might rise to power again, Link sets off to sea on a sort of spirtual quest to prepare himself for future battles. He gets caught in a storm, and gets shipwrecked on an island where he learns that if he wants to leave he has to collect 8 magic instruments to wake a magic whale who sleeps in a giant egg on a mountain top. Makes perfect sense.
Actually the story does make Link to the Past somewhat unique much like Majora's Mask. There's no Zelda, no Ganon and no Triforce and unlike MM there isn't even some looming threat of total annihlation. At one point the game hints that "if the Wind Fish sleeps too long, the hero's life is gone" but no giant threat of someone destroying the world.
Probably even more interesting about this game is the number of Mario cameos almost making this a Zelda/Mario crossover. Tarin most notably, a mustachioed man who's hunting mushrooms but several Mario baddies lurk in dungeons as well as Wart, the main baddie of SMB2 makes an appearance as the Frog King. Even Kirby and Dr. Wright from the SNES Sim City come along. Also early in the game you can get a Yoshi doll to trade later on.
Even more interesting about Link's Awakening is a lot of elements here would later show up for the next game Ocarina of Time. Such as the Ocarina itself. Now of course the original game had the magic whistle that warped you around the map but here, Link gets an ocarina and then has to seek out characters to teach him 3 different songs. One of which is taught by old Wart here.
Another element of this is the Trading Sequence. Everyone knows of the long tedious quest to get the Biggoron Sword in OoT but LA has it's own rather long series of trading items for something else eventually getting you the boomerang which in this title is insanely powerful so it's actually worth it. You also have the shell collecting where 20 shells upgrades your sword which isn't nearly as tedious as the Golden Skulltulas. The DX version has a "Color Dungeon" which was an optional bonus area where completing it allowed you to upgrade attack or defense.
If I had any complaints with this Zelda title it's that bosses are a bit easy. I fought a giant angler fish boss and killed him in a matter of seconds before he even really attacked as well as the boss of the face shrine can be killed easily with bombs. Also there's a fair amount of backtracking and though Kolohint Island is smaller than other Zelda worlds, it's not the easiest to navigate.
I'll save the rest for my review but this could end up being one of my all time favorite Zelda games.
On Not Having a Pile of Shame
- Mar 25, 2013 10:10 am GMT
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Hi, I am Dan, I am 31 with a full time job in IT support and a wife. I also do not have what is known as a 'Pile of Shame'. For those who don't know what I am talking about, the Pile of Shame is a collection of games/movies/books/albums that are considered classics or must haves that you know you should play/watch/read/listen to but simply haven't and that brings about a shame you apparently cannot escape.
Well you know what? You can escape it, and very easily. All you have to do it forget the concept of the pile of shame altogether and realise an inscrutable fact: There simply isnt enough time. Great works come out on a nearly daily basis - games, books, albums, movies - there is already a ton of these this year that will be great things that should be enjoyed, but you do not have the time to consume them all and that is no bad thing at all.
Life is a complex thing where everything is competeing for your time and attention. The things I have already mentioned, plus wifes/girlfriends/boyfriends, regular friends, family are all wanting to grab some of your attention, eating away at available time in any given day. How you deal with life relies your ability to juggle all these attention seekers and carve out your own way of dealing with each.
I spend time with my wife cuddled up on the sofa watching various TV shows, current favourites are The Walking Dead, Dexter, Arrow, Hawaii Five-0, Glee, NCIS: Los Angles. Some great things in there, some total fluff, but those are what I am into at present. They all allow me to spend time with the wife while also consuming some TV, killing two birds with one stone. Are they the truly important TV shows on at the moment? Hell no. Well maybe one is, but I dont have time to consume those shows, and I haven't seen anything in recent memory that fits anyway.
Those shows I miss out on would count towards my pile of shame. I haven't seen some of the truely great movies ever made: 2001, Apocalypse Now, Blazing Saddles, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Exorcist, The French Connection, again all adding to the pile. Movies I have seen include Space Balls, BASEketball, Die Hard 1-5 and hundreds of others including some of the big names. These are movies I can receit lines from off by heart but get no credit for, I just get crap thrown for not seeing the other ones.
I haven't listen to Dark side of the Moon, The Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack, Achtung Baby, Off the wall - great albums that haven't graced my ears before due to either a lack of interest or, more likely, a lack of time. My musical tastes are probably not worth going into in much since I am fully aware my affinities are not to everyone's taste, but those albums would make the pile.
I haven't played To the Moon, Psychonaughts, System Shock, Super Meat Boy, Katamari Damacy, Call of Duty 4, Nights Into Dreams and any Castlevania title. Do I still consider myself very knowledgable when it comes to games? yes I do. Looking down the list of 100 games to play before you die that I took the above examples from, there are just as many games I have played if not more, but because those are the cult classics, thats ones that people can trace most of moden game design back to they would go on the pile.
However, I chose to not have a pile of shame. I have limited time, and if I am ever graced with kids, that time will go down even more. If my job, like the good folks here at Gamespot, were games journalist, then it wouldnt be so much of a problem and I would be able to see many more great games than I get to at present. My job isn't that and it isn't for lack of trying, but I just accept that some things slip through the net.
These are things that will not radically change my life had I actually consumed them, and I can live happily in the knowledge that I have limited time and cannot see/hear/read/play everything I probably should. This because I consume enough for me, to make me happy and feel satisfied, and therefore I do not have a pile of shame.
My hope, as idealistic and futile as it is, is that people reading this editorial will say "Ya know, that dude is right. I don't need this pile of shame I have in my head or even physically in my room. I just need to be happy in what I do consume". It is not going to happen, but I hope I have at least given you some food for thought.
Cash For Sins: The Church Indulgence Returns In A 9Yr-Olds Kickstarter
- Mar 24, 2013 7:14 pm GMT
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I periodically will stumble across items that make me do a double take, meaning I check it and then I check it once more for good measure, because the thing I saw is hopefully not the thing I think I just saw. Sadly, sometimes it is. This is the case for a recent Kickstarter project where a seemingly supportive mother wants to help her daughter in a charming sibling rivalry against her older brothers. The mean duo of males has ridiculed the girl, stating that her gender is incapable of producing good games. Still, at just 9 years of age, the girl isnt fazed and with help from mommy dearest, Kickstarter can come to her rescue and send her to RPG Camp, whatever that is, if they can muster the $829.
Its a noble goal and one we all took to heart, because of the low funds, the charming story and the struggle against adversity that puts us all on the cheering squad for the underdog. That all seems fine; except for a few dodgy tactics of manipulation. However, some of the goals had me taken aback. Now, far be it for me to ask why a sub-$1000 project would need high stakes donations; crazier things have happened. Instead, a first thought occurred that some goals seemed rather unrealistic to a child, even as a goal. For instance, how can you deny or ask someone to alter their vision by creating specific, custom NPCs based on backers that have paid the amount? In a regular setting, sure, but this is a 9 year old were asking to play house exactly like we want to. How many times has that ended well in the chronicles of all house playing ever?
Yet, by far the one that took me for that double take was the final tier, the $10,000 powerhouse donation. First off, the amount itself is more than 10 times the funds needed for the project in its entirety. Its a bit much. Still, thats not the thing that made it seem odd. Again: Kickstarter can be strange sometimes. No, its the fact that one of those prizes states that her brothers will personally apologize to you, the backer, for something you have no involvement in. Rather than just being plain weird, its the fact that morality is paired with currency that sickened me. I use a strong term, but it has made a tangible knot in my insides when I read it for what it really was: The literal concept of evil washed away with cash, which is in itself a redundancy of any remorse. The act is solely done to spite and the regret is only achieved when enough funds are acquired.
This was a major turning point in the ancient world with the Church and its concept of indulgences. In fact, its how the Church got to be the powerful, currency-backed institution it is today and why several branches started detaching from the known concept. Anyone who had sinned could buy their way back into the gates of heaven. It was indeed so popular that the Church began breaking down indulgences in fraction, so that poorer people could repay their since in payment plans. It was so ingenious that fractions would never complete, as youd buy 1/8 of an indulgence, which would then break off in another, smaller fraction and so on. To end this brief history lesson, it was a major catalyst for historic figure Martin Luther to denounce the Church for its greed and notify it of its sober and humble roots. If you follow organized religion today, the new Pope, Francis, has uttered a similar desire.
What I dont mention in that history lesson is the revolutionary movements, bloodshed and atrocities that this mentality has brought forth. This is the mentality in that Kickstarter that upset me: the loss of all morality for financial gain, through any means necessary. While the Kickstarter has long since reached its initial mark, I can only hope that it gets shut down for this deplorable action and the many others inside, which will fill the internet shortly.
There are tons of amazing Kickstarter game projects you can back. Developer Craig Stern has come back with Telepath Tactics for the second time and succeeded, but this strategy title can still use your help. More importantly, the glorious open world game Planet Explorers is still seeking funds for its sandbox RPG. You can support it here.
The Other Side
- Mar 22, 2013 3:00 pm GMT
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While most software companies only have a few franchises to take care of, Nintendo has developed an unparalleled quantity of easily recognizable titles. Once upon a time, there was only Mario struggling against the giant menace that was Donkey Kong. Eventually, the two characters went separate ways, and ever since those days, Nintendo's properties have grown in numbers. And while the pace - to the disappointment of some fans has not been exactly constant, the result of the combined creative outbursts through the course of over thirty years has put the company in the unique situation where it is faced with two options: either completely drop some of its most recognizable franchises, or hand them over to somebody else to take care of.
As a perfect reflection of the modern business era, Nintendo has adopted outsourcing as a major part of its strategy to keep providing players quality first-party franchises in a steady pace. And much like all responsible companies do, regardless of the business they are in, Nintendo keeps a close look on the teams handling its titles outside of the Big N's Kyoto walls. Other than increasing productivity, that strategy has a second, much more interesting, effect that is directly felt by gamers who have been following those franchises for a while; and that is the considerable benefit that is gained by having another company - with a very different philosophy, which is usually contained to a certain degree by Nintendo - experiment with a franchise with which many of their developers grew up with.
Historically, the results of outsourcing have been generally good, even though they do not always show a considerable change in the franchise's established structure. Such was the case of the twin Zelda titles released for the Game Boy Color: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. Both are excellent games, but little to nothing about them shows a significant change implemented by the minds at Capcom. The split between an action-focused title (Seasons); and one with tougher puzzles (Ages), was a great move, but neither one of those factors was exactly new to the series. The other Capcom Zelda experiment followed the same path. Minish Cap was a visual delight, and it had a fantastic core concept, but there was no significant shift for the series.
Perhaps, the three finest examples of how much a game can gain by outsourcing lie in the Metroid franchise. Though it might be hard to make such a conclusion, it is possible to say that the Metroid Prime series would never come to exist had it been developed by Nintendo. Not only are first-person games a specialty of American developers, Nintendo had also no experience whatsoever with that genre. The wonderful discovery of the unknown Retro Studios was the best move the company has done in the past decade, and it paid off marvelously as they have, so far, proven to be able to give new fantastic life to franchises that were stuck in the 16-bit era by either completely overhauling it, in the case of Metroid; or by keeping its roots intact, in the case of Donkey Kong Country, which turns out to be itself a franchise originally created far away from Nintendo's headquarters, back in Rare's English home.
F-Zero is another case of a franchise that experienced a strong growth outside Nintendo. F-Zero GX came to be by the hands of Sega, and the result was, by far, the best game of the series and, possibly, the finest racing title to ever hit a Nintendo console. Once again, F-Zero GX benefited from something Nintendo would have probably not done, which is to turn their franchise into a gargantuan racing game with brutal difficulty, single-player focus and a story mode. Sega unleashed the true potential of F-Zero, something that inside Nintendo would have probably been kept restrained by the company's often conservative approach.
While the Metroid series houses the finest examples of the benefits of outsourcing, it contrasts that by owning the most polemic came that was a fruit of that approach: Metroid Other M. Needless to say, it is unthinkable that Nintendo would have treated the franchise as a cinematic action-packed tale with loads of voice acting and more than ninety minutes of cutscenes. The company noticed Samus' potential as a character with a lot of story to tell, something that was increased by the mystery factor that always surrounded her tragic and courageous life. In the knowing they did not have the expertise to handle such a direction, the game was promptly handed over by Team Ninja, which readily removed Metroid's explorative nature and backtracking, and turned Samus into a pit of sentiments. Other M is the most blatant case of how different minds and a different philosophy can affect a game, and, in this case, results were mixed at best.
Perhaps not as controversial, but with an equally questionable quality, Star Fox Adventures is shunned by many, but beloved by others. As beautiful and well-produced as the game was, the final product felt incomplete. Fox hopped out of his airwing, a sinful move to many fans, and - to make matters worse - he set out on an adventure that felt a whole lot like a Zelda game, but that never really got to the point of being as exciting, clever or impressive as Link's usual journeys. While it did have fantastic moments, the game felt a bit sour as the uniqueness of a traditional Star Fox game was lost and replaced by a generic Zelda-like game instead. Fox would try to recover three years later with Star Fox: Assault, but the game lacked the replay value of the first two Star Fox titles and some of the missions were lackluster. Namco never got a second shot at the franchise, which is a shame, because Assault showed promise. If they were given the opportunity to fix the little flaws and to listen to what fans had to say, they could have created a truly remarkable package within a few years.
More than simply adding something extra to a game, outsourcing also serves as a way for the company to internalize some of the knowledge acquired by its partnerships. In Nintendo's case, there is no better example than the Mario RPG series. What started as a joint experiment with the RPG masters of Square, has transformed into a franchise that is developed more closely to Nintendo, by Intelligent Systems, in the case of Paper Mario; and by AlphaDream, in the case of the Mario and Luigi series. The results have been fantastic, as Mario's RPG bids have produced a handful of games that are among the best ever, such is the case of Super Mario RPG, the first two Paper Mario titles, Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga and the astonishing Bowser's Inside Story. For a company that had never tried its hand on an RPG, Nintendo and its subsidiaries have turned into efficient machines.
The most recent Paper Mario - Sticker Star - though, shows that sometimes some sort of relearning is necessary, and in situations like these it might be a good idea to shake things up a little bit by allowing other companies into the development process. An outsider's view might be very effective in pointing out what exactly are the necessary measures to put a franchise that has been struggling back on its track. It might not be the case of the Mario RPGs, which have one dud in many attempts, but other franchises would certainly fit the bill quite nicely.
Outsourcing can have a number of distinct results and benefits. One thing is for sure, though: it is rather intriguing and exciting to know that a big franchise is being turned over to another company, as the possibilities of changes and considerable developments rise. What franchises would you like to see outsourced? Who would you want to see handling them?
The Day the Music Died
- Mar 22, 2013 7:31 am GMT
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For Harmonix the long time ago was November 2005, the time when most of us first saw the appeal of playing fake guitars in video games. Its fair to say the music made us smile also, as what looked like a game of niche appeal (especially considering the lack of commercial success of games like Guitar Freaks) became a complete phenomenon. Of course Harmonix eventually parted with Guitar Hero and upped the game once more with Rock Band, ditching the singular instrument focus and opening up a whole new world of gameplay possibilities and music. Rock Band hit the states in 2007 and has since been my go to series for the entire genre, Guitar Hero had the name and a bit more popularity, but it was Rock Band which won over the hearts of so many. The novelty of strumming a guitar along with your game was no longer the key factor and Harmonix exhibited a level of professionalism and polish that Guitar Hero werent pulling off. Sure, if you were crazy into the devil and tired rock n roll iconography then I can see how Guitar Hero would be the game for you (when you arent playing Doom of course), but Rock Band was the one for me.
I can only speak to my own experience here, so forgive me for generalising, but I think its fair to say that if you cared about music (and specifically rock music) Rock Band was the gold standard. It was a game made by music lovers for music lovers, with an appreciation for the art form it presented. Just look at The Beatles Rock Band, which was the perfect tribute to one of (if not the) greatest bands of all time. Every aspect of the game was lovingly crafted and all went towards giving you the authentic (though entirely drug free) Beatles experience. Iconic moments were faithfully recreated, the setlist did a great job of showing the bands musical arc and the visual details and buckets of extras just couldnt have been better. It was a true loving letter to the bad and is still a highlight of my video game collection (I feel obliged to say that I am a huge Beatles fan, so make of that what you will). The Beatles Rock Band wasnt the only band specific rhythm game of 2009 though, remember Guitar Hero Van Halen? Honestly, I would be surprised if you did. Harmonix advertised the Beatles to the ends of the earth, going as far as to create a truly fantastic awkward E3 moment featuring the surviving Beatles and Yoko Ono on stage (separately of course). The Van Halen treatment on the other hand was very different. Perhaps aware that they were still making spin-offs while Harmonix was putting out a proper standalone video game (superb in its right), Activision decided to pretty much write Van Halen off. As people gave away their $60 just to play Beatles tracks Activision were giving Van Halen away as a freebie if you bought Guitar Hero 5. This (perhaps unfair) treatment of the game made Guitar Hero Van Halen look more like the free CD or game disc you get with a magazine than a proper tribute to a beloved rock group. Perhaps this was appropriate though, you dont set a B-movie up against Citizen Kane, and while the Beatles game was praised for its attention to detail and authenticity Van Halen was criticised for lacking in this area.
This only part of why Rock Band became so much more important to me than Guitar Hero though. I love music, I love rock music especially, and Harmonix treated it with the reverence that I think it deserves. The key factor though, and the reason why I still play Rock Band 3 to this day, was the Rock Band store, and here we have the true point of this blog. That opening verse form Don McLeans American Pie is more relevant than forced connections between it and the path of Harmonix. Its true that they started a long, long time ago (ok not that long ago, but cut me some slack), made us smile and eventually decided to make us dance when given the chance. The importance is not this though; the importance is that American Pie is the final song to come to Rock Band. Recently they stated they were stopping weekly song releases and now Harmonix have announced that they are stopping updates altogether, and what a way to end it. Im not the biggest fan of the song, I like it and am listening to it as I write this blog, but I will not deny how appropriate it is as a finale. Personally I would have been perhaps more on the nose and tried to get my hands on The End by the Doors (Im imagining Apocalypse Now levels of darkness and insanity in the backing video) but really American Pie is a better fit. This is really an end of an era, these plastic instrument games were so big and this is the last hurrah. Its a genre I dont see coming back next generation, and it is one Im going to miss, for Rock Band (and perhaps plastic instrument rhythm games as a whole) this truly is the day the music died. But what a legacy they have left behind! The dedication Harmonix put into supporting their product is really impressive. Some have criticised them for putting out three Rock Band games rather than pure DLC, but for me Rock Band 3 was so good that this was never an issue. The flow of DLC may have stopped but we are not left deficient in content, there are over 4,000 songs to pick from on the store now, and while half of those are user created Rock Band network songs this still represents quite an achievement.
I will be honest, the Rock Band store never had everything I wanted, but it was never going to. It had enough to satisfy me though, and enough quality material to put a couple of hundred tracks in my personal library (really the limit was my wallet not the quality on offer). This is a paltry amount compared to the Rock Band libraries of so many of your but it was still a significant investment and one I dont regret for a second. This is kind of a sad moment for me then; Im proud of my Rock Band library and am now forced to accept that songs I wanted will never be there. I never really expected the songs to appear but living in denial is still better than being hit in the face by reality. I dont feel we should be saddened by the end though, or rejoice it, merely reflect on the amount of support Harmonix put behind their product for good or for bad. It may be a genre you have no interest in, and you may be happy to see it exit the stage after its final encore, but I think you should still appreciate it. While Guitar Hero sequalised the genre to death Rock Band did live the dream we wanted of a platform for music, and the occasional sequel just refined this further. Harmonix were truly a developer who cared about music, and cared about their product, you may not miss the updates (you may be glad the clutter has gone from XBLA and PSN) but I for one will miss it and I know there are others out there. So I would like to take this moment to thank Harmonix for going above and beyond the call of duty and for showing a genuine passion for what they make and what they represent.
I will leave you guys with a short list of my Rock Band dreams, and I would like to hear yours, so here are five albums that I would have loved to see in Rock Band (not my five favourite albums, just ones I would love to play in the game). Though realistically my biggest wish was Led Zeppelin Rock Band,
1. Appetite for Destruction- Guns n Roses (This would have to be uncensored, which could cause an issue, but this would be so much fun to play. One of the best rock albums ever written and would be a blast on all instruments (bar keyboard I guess))
2. The Bends- Radiohead (Not their best album (though up there) but the one which best translates to a music game)
3. Argus- Wishbone Ash (I saw Wishbone Ash play most of this album live and it was just amazing, when it comes to pure musicality and just amazing guitar music you dont get much better than this)
4. Physical Graffiti- Led Zeppelin (If I cant have the full game, at least give me my favourite album... Oh, I cant have that either? Dammit.)
5. Kill Em All- Metallica (I think this album might be the most fun Metallica album to play, and I would really love to play (Anaesthesia) Pulling Teeth)
The real problem behind real world violence
- Mar 19, 2013 3:46 pm GMT
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The biggest problem behind incidents like the Newtown shootings isn't video game violence or guns, althought I currently think they can both contribute negatively to an individual situation. The main issue is mental health is mostly ignored in the US and when it comes up the person with the problems is a "psycho nut-case freak". The American public needs to be educated about mental health, the diseases and conditions need to be de-stigmatized and people who seek treatment should be encouraged, not demonized or ridiculed. Most importantly there needs to be somewhere to go when a problem is reaching crisis proportions. A mental disorder should be seen and treated no differently than asthma or any other disease.
From what we know, the Sandy Hook shooter's mother tried to treat his mental issues herself. (http://soa.li/YkqZPGl) She apparently avoided getting him any sort of professional treatment. His issues obviously just kept getting worse. She bought him dozens of the most violent games available. Bought him multiple guns (legally...). No one knows if she was worried when his obsession with mass-murderers was organized into a spreadsheet that took a 4 foot wide printer to produce in something like a 9 point font. By all accounts she tried to do right by her son, but it seems like she didn't know how to go about it right and didn't ask for help from people who do. Rather she isolated her son and herself into an insular little world. Why? As far as I can see, either because she didn't want the stigma associated with a serious diagnosis or ( more likely) people here in the US have no idea where to go with a problem that's getting bad like this one.
To which I would add mostly unassisted.
As someone who has dealt with mental issues with a loved one I know how difficult it is and how long it takes to realize it's impossible to help an irrational person by dealing with them rationally. You can't have someone committed to an institution because there are no institutions, even when you finally admit the sick individual is a threat to themself and/or others. Law enforcement won't do anything until after a violent act has been committed. In this situation, you're left with virtually no choices to help someone and prevent a tragedy.
America really needs to step up it's efforts to educate and provide resources for people with severe mental/emotional problems and those around them so they don't end up doing something like this, or much more commonly, hurting themselves or detaching from society, living on the streets, and on the fringe.
I'm sick of being asked for my money before getting anything in return
- Mar 18, 2013 4:18 pm GMT
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So I was at a store the other day looking through their video game section when I came across a stack of cards inviting me to take one to the checkout line so I could use it to pre-order the season pass for Bioshock Infinite. Pre-orders for video games have been around for years now, and though I've always thought customers don't get much for giving away their money before they even know if a game is good or not, I've understood why some people might want to put their money behind the next game in a series they liked or from a developer they trusted before the game was even released. This was different though. Now I was being asked to pre-pay for a set of DLC that hadn't even been announced yet for a game that I was weeks away from even being able to play. Am I the only one who thinks this is a bit much to ask?
I'm a big fan of Irrational Games, and I'm confident Bioshock Infinite will be as great as everyone hopes it is, but what if it's not? Pre-ordering this season pass will mean that on top of buying the game before finding out that it wasn't very good, I'll also have added to my folly by spending even more money on extras for a bad game. But let's say the game turns out to be brilliant. I'll then have three set of DLC to look forward to. But what exactly does that mean? What have I pre-paid for? Am I going to be getting extra levels? Extra missions that take place in the same levels that the core game already has? All the information provided says is that I'll be getting "new stories", whatever that means. There just isn't enough information on what this DLC I'm being asked to pre-pay for will contain. But that hasn't stopped 2K games from asking for my money. What exactly do I gain from giving publishers money before they've given me anything? I could just as easily wait for all this DLC to be released and pay for it then, after it's been reviewed and I can make a more informed purchase.
This "pre-order DLC on top of a pre-ordered game" trend is only getting more popular. Since last week, every time I sign on to Xbox Live I'm greeted with an advertisement telling me to pre-order the "VIP pass" for Gears of War: Judgment, yet another DLC bundle for a game that (as I write this) has yet to be released. As this push to squeeze extra money out of us before a game's release becomes more common, I find myself wondering why exactly people seem to be embracing it. After all, if no one was pre-ordering these things we wouldn't be seeing them all the time, right?
Do you plan to pre-buy DLC for a game you've also pre-paid for? If so, I'd love to hear from you in the comments. What kind of value do you think you'll be getting for your money? What advantage do you think there is in giving your money away before getting something for it, or even knowing if that something will be a something you might enjoy?
Fear of the Dark
- Mar 14, 2013 2:29 pm GMT
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After two disappointing games in my last blog this one should be much more positive! Having enjoyed both of the original games I'd got high hopes for both of the following games and they've entertained me no end.
First up - The Darkness II. The original game was one that took my by complete surprise with its excellent mix of gunplay and close quarter combat with the demon arms. The sequel follows on indirectly from the first game but with a major graphical shift to a completely different look. I was a tad dubious about this but after playing the game for 10 minutes all my fears were put aside as the new look is brilliant. I haven't played many games with this graphic style so it was a much needed change for me after the previous few games I've played. The game is generally pretty colourful and apart from the odd 'brown/grey' indoor scene, the colours are pretty bold and make for a lively game world.
I decided to play the Hitlist and Vendetta missions before the main campaign. I'd had a look at the achievements and these are contained to 250 fairly easy points so thought I'd get my head round the game doing this before getting into the main game with more varied achievements. I think this was my first mistake on this game. The Hitlist missions are not very good and are really just made up of the 'clear this area of bad guys' type which were pretty dull. As a first impression of the game I got bored quickly. Luckily there aren't that many of them so was able to move onto the Vendettas campaign fairly quickly. The four characters have wildly differing abilities and that's where I made my second and last mistake. I picked the guy with the sword and about halfway through the game just got a bit too hard to continue with this character. I decided to take the plunge and restart with Shoshanna and her insanely powerful shotgun that made light work of most enemies. Whilst the story was inconsequential in this mode, there was plenty of enjoyment to be had.
I'd already spent more time on the game than I'd thought I would. I was expecting a 6-7 hour campaign so was surprised there are almost two games in one. By this point I was really hoping the main campaign would impress me even more and I wasn't let down by it. It even starts great with the cut scene explaining what happened on the previous game which was scripted and acted really well. It's been a few years since I played the original so didn't go in with any major expectations which I think made it better to be surprised all over again by its quality.
It took me a while to get into the story but by the end I was totally engrossed in it. I actually questioned a number of times which is the actual reality - Jackie as a psych patient or Jackie with the darkness powers. Although the game is obviously leading you down the darkness route, it really doesn't let on which is the truth. It's not even a particularly new story mechanic but it was just done so well that it's now one of my favourite game storylines from recent memory.
The gameplay itself played second fiddle to the story which for me is a complete turnaround from most games. The guns are pretty standard fare and don't offer anything new you can't find elsewhere. They are useful for the entire game so I'm pleased you get the option to play using just guns if you want, or you can turn to the darkness in an hour of need. The one thing of note for me regarding the demon arms is the way it offers a different take on health. I'm pretty tired of the regenerative health format we see in almost all games now. It doesn't add much of a sense of urgency to dispatch enemies and gone is the desperate struggle to get to the next health pack. This game offers a happy medium in that it your health regenerates to a degree but you need to harvest the hearts of downed enemies to gain health more quickly. This is a great change to the current gaming standard and means that hiding behind a wall no longer resets you back to full health which has never made much sense to me. Games these days actively want you to slow the pace down by taking the time out to regain health whereas The Darkness keeps up a fairly frantic pace throughout.
I've given the game an 8.5 which is a happy medium for me as it's pretty linear but just how I like it. In hindsight I think I could even bump it up to a 9.0 but for the few moments of annoying with the secondary missions I think an 8.5 is about right.
After The Darkness I knew I was in for another great gaming experience with Dead Space 2. It had a lot to live up to with the original being one of, if not my favourite game of the 360 era.
It's been a good few years since I played the original but I still remember it fondly so I was able to come into this one fairly freshly. The sequel seemed to be pretty similar to the original but for me that's not a bad thing. Everything about the game was brilliant and I can't fault it in the slightest. I actually think I've been a bit harsh only giving it 9.0 but that feels about right.
Starting with the game play, it picked up pretty much where the original did similar enemies, similar weapons, and a similar albeit it a more progressed storyline. The story in this was pretty good with the visions Isaac kept having and also with woman he comes across in the 'real' world. It didn't detract from the gameplay but I never wanted to skip a cut scene (not that you could?) which is always a good sign.
The visuals were pretty standard for a second generation game in a series and although nothing was outstanding, the dismembering has always been done well, both visually and mechanically. The locations weren't anything out of the ordinary but the space sections were done well. Getting to fly around in the suit was a welcome break from the gloomy corridors and generally dark interiors. The darkness was fine for most of the game but at some points it just got so dark I couldn't really see what was going on.
The range of enemies from memory didn't evolve much from the first game. I don't remember the weird bomb babies but they were definitely creepy! Was one short on the achievement for them so that was a tad annoying. The range of weapons seemed pretty similar as well but as I love the plasma cutter so much I didn't need any other guns. The plasma cutter was all I used on the original to get the achievement and I barely strayed from it this time.
The puzzles were few and far between and consisted mostly of moving this item from here to there, or simple panel puzzles to find the right coloured light to open a door but they were the only times in the game where I wasn't frantically awaiting an enemy! I did find the little vent quite funny as they just didn't fit the game. Doing one of the puzzles and going between vents really reminded me of The Crystal Maze which always made me smile when I went through one.
I do hope Dead Space 3 isn't as bad as I've heard. It got a fairly decent review on Gamespot so am not expecting a bad game but it doesn't look to have the atmosphere and sense of constant danger/fear that the first two had.
Next up for me are Crysis 2 and F.E.A.R. 2 which are both middle of the road games I'm expecting. I haven't played either of the originals so have nothing to compare them to but am hoping to be pleasantly surprised!
Is 2013 the year that gamers fall out of love with Kickstarter?
- Mar 12, 2013 4:34 am GMT
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Kickstarter is an amazing thing. It's as revolutionary as ebay was to selling in the way it brings people together, giving us the opportunity to connect directly with artists, inventors, filmmakers, musicians, board game designers, videogame designers, fashion designers and a whole host of creative people who just need that break. It cuts out the need for bank loans, home remortgages and uncomfortable Dragons Den style pitches where the whim of just a few people can decide whether someone's creative vision is fulfilled or abandoned. Instead it throws that vision out to the entire world and we choose collectively what we would like to see. A far more elegant and democratic process and one we can actually feel like a little part of.
It's not just the homebrew designers that are pitching either, elder statesmen from the videogame world are also asking for our support. Tim Schafer, Charles Cecil and David Braben have turned to the crowd-funding model and in an industry where recognised names are few and far between this is like seeing Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg or James Cameron abandon their big studio backers and turn to Joe Public instead. When Cliffy B blogged that the games industry was going to consist of either enormous blockbusters or smaller independents he must have had crowd-funding in mind, you may not like him but when that guy speaks you have to listen (although I get the impression that if you were in the room with him you would have no choice BUT to listen).
While I would love to see these big directors take on smaller projects (I have often heard stated that limitation encourages creativity) I can't get Prometheus, Warhorse and Avatar out my head, films that were as bloated and headless as washed-up corpses and this is where my worries about Kickstarter begins. Well-meaning gamers could walk away feeling burned when projects fail, or even worse, succeed badly.
Kickstarter are very open about the failure of projects and have a clear policy about what happens in these cases. The most straightforward is where a project fails to meet it's target in the allotted time frame. In this case pledges are not charged and the project ends. While this is a shame, I have heard that some game developers have considered this a blessing in disguise. If an idea is not good enough to excite the imaginations of the kickstarter community in it's most open and loose beginnings then it may need to be seriously reconsidered or even ditched.
How about when a project makes it's target but fails to meet it's own development deadlines and eventually tanks? Kickstarter state that in this case they have no liability and the project owners must refund all pledges. This makes sense but if all the money has been spent then what happens next? At the very best this may frustrate people about the Kickstarter ethos but at worst will we see lawsuits? Those that have pledged £5 to Elite: Dangerous might be a little peeved but hopefully happy to write it off in the spirit of adventure but those 6 backers that have pledged a whopping £5000 might be a little less laissez faire. There is also the potential for a game to simply be a terrible, unfinished mess. Just look at Aliens: Colonial Marines. This is especially the case when a project begins to fail.
Ultimately I can see the optimism about Kickstarter waning this year as projects falter or even fail. It happens, and this is where I hope gamers have been reading the Kickstarter FAQ. A pledge alone does not entitle you to any ownership of a project, it is no guarantee of quality or even results and it is certainly not a pre-order, it is a gamble. It's each person stating 'I believe in you' and becoming part of a small community of backers with a shared love of artistic vision. It's an opportunity to become a modest patron of the arts but not get carried away in thinking that in we are in any way going to receive anything good or even anything at all. Take the plunge in good faith but do it knowing that you are throwing caution to the wind.
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