Hanging with Theives and Ghost Hunters
- May 4, 2013 11:20 am GMT
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So I haven't written anything in a while. Lately there's so much news about everything and I keep making the mistake of scrolling down through the GS comments under various news stories and reading things that make me say "I must go kill myself now." But instead of going on another editorial rant, I thought I'd talk about what I'm currently playing as so far these are two of the best games I've played in 2013.
Poor Sly had been sitting on my shelf for some time. It's not that I didn't want to play it, I just had a backlog of stuff to finish and was trying to make a dent before starting something new. We've all been through that. Thankfully Link's Awakening, Paper Mario Sticker Star and Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed all got finished. With Sonic's game I got the credits but still need to try to get all those stupid stars to unlock Reala and Ages as well as finish the GPs to get Eggman. But booted up Sly 4 and so far I'm loving it. Maybe it's just my love of platformers starring cartoony mascots and it had been a while since I finished the Sly collection. OMG HE'S NOT WEARING HIS MASK!! This is actually amusing as Sly being a racoon wore a mask over his mask so he really doesn't look all that different. I love the visuals. Sly looks amazing on the PS3 and it's always nice to see an HD game do something besides make dirt look good. And as usual as soon as I entered the first main stage, I wasted a ton of time running around collecting bottles so I haven't gotten to play as one of the ancestors yet. It's also nice to see they finally got a decent voice actress for Carmaletta. Also I can't believe Bently turns the van into a time machine without making a mention of 1.21 Gigawatts or Flux Capacators. Come on, isn't that a given?
I'm going to be honest. I didn't love the first Luigi's Mansion. I liked it ok, but I didn't love it. I borrowed it off my nephew long after I had a Gamecube just to try it. In fairness it was better than Luigi's last starring role Mario is Missing but smashing your hand with a brick was more fun than Mario is Missing. So I was not going wild for the sequel, but after seeing so many stellar reviews particularly perennial Nintendo hater Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation liking it, I was curious. I played the in store kiosk a few times and once Paper Mario Sticker Star was beaten, I traded it in for this and so far, it's pretty good. I like the playful ghosts and the polterpup is adorable. Seriously I love the ghost puppy. He's cute and a little derpy and I think he needs to be a Pokemon for X/Y. Who wouldn't love a ghost pup who's strong against psychic Pokemon?
So now for some shameless self promotion. Seeing as how I have over 500 followers I might as well promote my other works here. First of all, I write reviews. That was the main reason I first joined this site so please read and like my reviews. One a note, I recently wrote an Epic Mickey 2 review and it's under the WiiU version but the version I played was the Wii version. Not a big deal as it sucks no matter which console you play it on.
Also I used to head 2 unions but my job changed and I no longer had the time or energy to put into maintaining them.
One such union was titled Under the Radar which was devoted to not only indie games but smaller, less promoted games that often got overlooked. It came about when I got tired of people constantly complaining about no good Wii games and ignoring such great gems like Little King's Story, Muramsa, Klonoa, as well as other overlooked gems. But recently the current leader of UTR wanted to start it up again and we're looking for new members to help us. http://www.gamespot.com/unions/Underradar/forums.html
The second union I am still leader of I have let falter and only 2 or 3 of us post regularly there. This one is called The Serious Discussion Union. If you liked some of my more serious, in depth blogs and want to further discussions on things like whether or not there will be a gaming crash as well as current events and such. It would be nice to have some contributions there as well.
Well it's too nice a day to be sitting inside playing video games. I'm going to sit out on my porch and play my 3DS.
On Gaming and Depression
- May 3, 2013 5:07 am GMT
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Ive been called out on here with having anxiety and social issues as if that makes my points moot. Its true, I do struggle socially and have some anxiety issues and depression, but I think that makes my points more poignant, as I make them first hand. In my life, Ive hardly ever touched drugs, Ive never had a drinking problem and Ive managed to maintain healthy and happy relationships. In my times of need when I didnt have people to reach out to, or they werent willing to help, video games became my way of escaping this sense of isolation.
I moved to Massachusetts from Maryland almost ten years ago. I didnt know anyone here, outside of my mom and her wife, and my exit from where I spent the majority of my life had its fair share of hostility. So I became that guy who lived in his moms basement.
Video games have always been in my life, they still are. As a kid, I remember playing on my dads Atari and him getting my brother and me a NES. Later I got a Genesis and I remember squealing with delight, I was 10. Throughout the years, Ive had a number of systems and have spent a large amount of time with each. This didnt become a problem until I had moved to Massachusetts and fell into my own pit of despair. Apologies for the cliché.
My best friend here at the time was a big gamer. He wanted as many friends as possible getting whatever system he had playing whatever games he wanted to play. When I met him, he wouldnt shut up about me getting a PC that would play World of Warcraft. Little did I know that this would take over my waking life and send me in an emotional tail-spin.
I played that damn game for nearly four years. I finally stopped after my now fiancée gave me an ultimatum and made me see what damage the game has done. I skipped work, often shirked plans and would spend my weekend obsessed with doing dungeons, raids and daily quests. Unfortunately the game missing from my life left a hole that I felt like I needed to fill as soon as possible.
My spending problems got worse again and my skipping out of work continued. I horded games and movies and they took over the majority of my attention. This caused a rift between me and my fiancée and I started therapy and continued to struggle. Having to learn things the hard way, as I often do, it took both my job and my relationship hanging by a thread to make me realize that I really did need to get my shit together.
My problems dont stem from video games alone, but from a lifelong miss-lesson that stuff is love. I believe doing stuff that makes you happy is important in life, but its also the balance of priorities and realizing whats really important that helps. Im by no means through my issues, but I acknowledge them and am now not ignoring them. I still enjoy gaming and know what games to avoid. I dont condone the use of gaming as a tool for healing depression, however. I believe that too much of one thing can lead to addiction/ emotional dependency, which leads to other kinds of issues and even more depression and instead of lessening the problem, it can expand it in other ways.
Why is it always about the breasts?
- May 1, 2013 11:36 pm GMT
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Yes that was a serious question. Why is it?
Last week, Jason Schrier from Kotaku published an article where he likened the artist of Vanillaware games, George Kamitani, to a fourteen year old boy. Why? Because of the character pictured above. Kamitani humorously fired back by posting a picture on his personal Facebook of the Dwarf characters from the same game shirtless, winking, and affectionately embracing. The caption under the picture read "It seems that Mr. Jason Schreier of Kotaku is pleased also with neither sorceress nor amazon. The art of the direction which he likes was prepared." Some took it lightly; some took it as an offensive crack at Schrier's sexuality.
Schrier later apologized and explained his reasoning for attacking Kamitani's designs. He said "...its embarrassing. Because I love Japanese games and Japanese RPGs and I don't want them to perpetuate the ugly 'boys' club' mentality that has pervaded gaming for almost three decades now." A lot of apologizing from both sides was made. In an e-mail to Kotaku, Kamitani explained that he found the art in works such as Dungeons and Dragons and in JRR Tolkiens works appealing. However, he decided that the initial character designs wouldn't stand out amongst the flurry of fantasy designs already parading in not just games, but books, movies, and other media as well. So he exaggerated his character designs in a cartoonish fashion. All of the designs are exaggerated, not just the busty sorceress. Kamitani's intent wasn't to be a sexist pig or alienate female gamers. It was just a simple artistic choice. Despite that, today, Gearbox's environmental artist has also put in her (very nasty) two cents about the art and Kamitani.
I am very disappointed by all this. We are nowhere near closer to a more accepting and inclusive gaming industry or community. All that's been done here is the shaming and ridiculing of a very talented artist. I mean, Kamitani has been likened to a teenage boy, a homophobe, a terrible artist, and a sexual deviant. That is completely ridiculous, rude, and uncalled for. People took one character design out of context and then decided to turn it and Dragon's crown into the poster child for what's wrong with the gaming industry.
Never mind the gorgeous trailers that display a wide variety of beautiful and detailed locations. Never mind the interesting beat 'em up style gameplay. Never mind the detailed and gorgeous 2D graphics. Never mind that Atlus finally announced a release date and promised future updates for the game after a long stretch of silence. Once again, never mind the fact that all the character designs, male and female, are exaggerated and cartoonish.
Now, I'm not one of those people that gets offended over people being offended. I know whenever stuff like this happens, multiple tirades against political correctness and people being too sensitive come up. But I believe that everyone has the right to be offended over whatever the heck they want. What's nothing to me might be offensive to someone else. I take no issue with that. Here's what I do take issue with though:
1.) Being offended over something and then trying to get it banned and out of the hands of everyone else who doesn't share your values or sentiments.
2.) Getting offended and then relentlessly and maliciously shaming someone or something when its not even warranted.
The latter is surely what happened here. George Kamitani is a talented man, and his artwork is absolutely gorgeous. Another article on Kotaku celebrated his designs after Schreir decided to mock him. The artist of Skullgirls, Alex Ahad, stated that he was inspired by Kamitani's work. He spoke highly of Kamitani's designs and Vanillaware in general, stating that he has the utmost respect for them. I don't think anyone can deny his talent. His art is celebrated and marveled at on a number of different sites by fans and critics alike. But what happens as soon as he draws one of his character's breasts too big?
"BURN THE WITCH!"
All this, while infuriating, isn't what bothers me the most though. People like Schreir say their justification for screaming "sexism" is to make the industry more inclusive and get it away from this boy's club mentality. That is an admirable goal and I can get behind that. However, I can't get behind spewing vicious insults at a talented artist for one character design, nor do I get behind people who throw around the word sexism at the drop of a hat.
I wrote about this many many moons ago in a blog about sexism. The issue of sexism in the industry is something I take very seriously. But at the same time, I can't help but shake my head at attempts like this to stomp out sexism. Its just not effective and its extremely misguided. Situations like these that get severely blown out of proportion are not helping the problem. Silly things like this usually end up desensitizing people to the real issue.
What about the real world? What about real issues like the pay gap in the gaming industry or online harassment? What about malicious sexism directed at living, breathing, human beings? What is shaming Kamitani going to do for these women in the long run? How is calling Kamitani an immature and creepy sexual deviant making the industry and community more inclusive?
Also, what about the people who are actually making conscious efforts to make the industry and the community more inclusive? A few weeks ago on April 22nd, the #1reasontobe panel was held at the Game Developers Conference. Inspired by the #1reasonwhy hashtag that blew up over twitter late last year, a number of women from the industry spoke about their experiences in the gaming industry. They talked about both the good and the bad of working in the industry, and what could be done to change the industry and make it better and more inclusive for future game developers. I watched it online; though I'm sure it must have been a completely different experience actually being there.
It was a very emotional and moving panel. Afterword, people thanked and praised the women leading the panel, noting that their words and actions today were inspiring to future female game developers.
To me, this is far more productive. Its far more productive when, in response to some guy with his foot in his mouth saying sexual harassment is normal and part of the fighting game culture, a number of players come out and say, thats not true and its not tolerated. I also think Kim Swift's sound and fair advice is far more helpful. I think both Meagan Marie's game industry advice on her website and her encouragement of people to not be afraid to call someone out on their inappropriate behavior and speak up for yourself are far more helpful. I'd like to see more of all of this and less "LOL who hired the teenage boy to do this crappy design."
Now, I don't see anything wrong with a polite, calm, and logical discussion on how women or any other groups are portrayed in games. But while its better and far more polite than what Schreir did, I still think focusing on changing the industry from the inside is more productive. After all, once something is out there its out there. The way I see it, a more inclusive and diverse industry that is willing to take creative risks would definitely make the problem of negative or sparse portrayals of women and minorities in games much better. Mocking George Kamitani will not.
So lets veer our eyes away from the sorceress' chest and focus on the real issues here.
- May 1, 2013 4:49 am GMT
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For years, gamers have argued that DLC is no substitution for expansion packs of yore and that publishers and developers have been price gouging us completely innocent customers. Then come along a good handful of games that make good use of DLC to provide standalone experiences that, while not providing the amount of gameplay in a full value game, add onto what made the original game fantastic and adding a theme thats more fun. Ubisoft seems to have made this part of their mantra. Its a good way to market the full game, while also providing a more eclectic view of the main product.
Rockstar unofficially started the trend for this generation with Grand Theft Auto IV and its episodic standalones. They then did the same with Red Dead Redemption and its Halloween themed zombie add on. Sony/ Sucker Punch followed suit and added a vampire element to the already powerful protagonist in Infamous 2. Ubisoft recently released the downloadable George Washington tyrant series for Assassins Creed 3 and today Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was released.
To be fair, we used to pay $20 - $30 for an expansion, and thats when games were cheaper. The $10 - $15 of content we typically pay for now adds that much value of content to the game. Borderlands 2 has a number of expansions that add between five and ten hours to the game, each. The overall game is about 20 30 hours, depending on how much you complete. For 1/6 of the price, Gearbox provides from a quarter to half the games length in content with each downloadable DLC.
Common knowledge to those who pay attention, AAA games are getting more and more expensive to make. Dragons Dogma Dark Arisen was just released, adding a second campaign for $40, but the original game is also included for that price. Its possible to get the content as DLC as well.
DLC shouldnt be seen as the money hording scheme we make it out to be. People crave more content, or they get bored with a game after finishing it, I know I mostly do. I think its fair to charge a portion of the games value to get a few more hours of quality content out of a well known franchise. Its fair to say that not all of this content is very good, but thats a different discussion.
"It's NOT FAIR!!! Why are there so many pirates!?"
- Apr 29, 2013 3:53 pm GMT
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I loled. I loled so much I had to share it with the world (or GameSpot).
Green Heart Games recently developed a little simulation game called Game Dev Tycoon. It's similar in concept to Kairosoft's Game Dev Story on mobile platforms. For those not in the know, Game Dev Story is one of the most addicting games available on the market right now, so seeing a knockoff of it at this stage for the PC platform is A-OK by me.
To sum up both games, you are in charge of a videogame company. Awesome job, right? You hire the programmers, coders, artists, composers and so on in order to create the best possible games you can. You start out small at the start of the industry and keep growing. But budgets rise and you need to meet high scores in order to get the attention of the media and public. Your company attends gaming conventions, potentially competing with Game of the Year and maintaining your finances so that the company doesn't go under. All the cool kids know about this stuff, so nbd, but in case you didn't, consider yourself up to snuff now.
But what's truly lol-worthy is that Green Heart decided to conduct a little experiment with Game Dev Tycoon. They uploaded their game on a major torrenting site and pulled a prank that's just too good to be true. Similar to the immortal pink scorpion of death in Serious Sam 3, they uploaded a version of the game where completion would be impossible due to, wait for it... piracy. So everyone who pirated the game gets a version of Game Dev Tycoon where their own created videogames are pirated. And no matter how much money they put into their games they very slowly lose money as budgets rise. They get in all the high scores imaginable, but those pesky pirates keep pirating the game until there's nothing left to do but go under. What can I say, it's a hard knock life.
But it's the complaints from totally legit customers that really bring the chuckles.
Some say it's "not fair" that their games aren't selling. Others ask if there's a way to "research DRM" for their games. The answer is no. No, there isn't. You're going to lose the game every time. And that's funny. That's very, very funny.
Green Heart Games basically turned a mirror on some oblivious gamers/pirates parading around as customers with their little experiment. From the charming little message that comes up once the sales drop to the hilarious lines of frustrated "customers" that read "Why are there so many people that pirate?" is the best way to tell people that use torrents one of my favorite lines of all time. "Hey, f*ck you."
Remember to upvote Game Dev Tycoon for release on Steam via Greenlight and if you do have an interest in the game you can always buy it directly from Green Heart as well.
In non-piracy news, the ever excellent-looking Chasm is roughly 80% funded with 12 days left to go right now. But tonight at 6PM Pacific Time the developers at Discord Games are going to be live-streaming a playthrough of Rondo of Blood (the predecessor to the greatest game of all time, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.... tied with Chrono Trigger, obviously). Get stoked, back Chasm (or download the new demo that still doesn't let you fight the boss :/) and let's hope we get a true Metroidvania style game that kicks as much ass as I think Chasm likely will once it releases! Remember to upvote these guys on Steam Greenlight too!
Remember: Nintendo is dead!
- Apr 29, 2013 1:48 pm GMT
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What? When did this happen?
I know there have been rumors that Iwata is on his way out (despite just recently being promoted), and the Wii U being the absolute wrong thing to have been made in the upcoming next-generaiton (despite both the PS4 and the rumored Xbox having touch controllers), but maybe it's time to face the music.
After all, for this week's Chalk Talk, we got three suggestions for topics:Synthia wrote:- Nintendo as of late seems to rely to much on nostalgia and well established worn out brands. Is this a good thing? Do they need to reinvent the wheel or if it's not broken should they not worry about fixing it?
- Consider Nintendo's announcement about not having a Press Conference during E3 2013 because they wish to "Utilize our direct communication tools, such as Nintendo Direct, to deliver information to our Japanese audience and we will take the same approach outside Japan for the overseas fans." Is this a smart play for them or is this writing on the wall.
- Will the Wii U become profitable? It's been shown that the Wii U has not been quite the hot ticket that Nintendo had hoped it would be (according to profits from the last fiscal year). But according to Nintendo they have plans to change that. What would you do to help improve the Wii U's image? Or do you feel that the Wii U simply has a bad due to baseless claims from "Nintendo Hater".
All three of those topics assume as part of their underlying basis that Nintendo is in huge trouble. Are they in trouble? Of course they are. Are Synthia's suggestions valid? Well....
1. Relying on Nostalgia
This has interested me in that it is something many say Nintendo is doing; exploiting people's memories of the past so that they would buy the same stuff over and over again. It's an interesting idea....except that's not what's happening.
Let's take a look at the New Super Mario Bros. series, a series that people commonly refer to when talking about Nintendo exploiting nostalgia. It's a valid assesment; after all, the games always bring back a lot of stuff from the older games, from power-ups to themes to sound effects.
And yet, the series is one of the most popular of the previous generation; the Wii one alone selling over 26 million copies. You don't get to numbers that high by "exploiting the nostalgia" of people that played the original Super Mario Bros. in 1985. These games aren't big because they are selling to the "old gamers" (in fact, theya re the ones that complain about them), but because they are selling to kids.
Kids! These people don't have any kind of nostalgia for 1985, 1995, or even 2005. These kids are playing these games on their childhood, the NSMB games will become nostalgia for them. The truth of the matter seems to be that Nintendo is creating nostlagia, not exploiting it.
After all, how can you rely on something that doesn't exist, especially when those that would have nostalgia for the stuff aren't going to like it?
But what about new IP's? "Nintendo certainly doesn't seem to create new IP's anymore. It's always Mairo, Zelda, Yoshi, Kirby, whatever." Well, that's a cool idea, one that shows how little they care about Nintendo's new IP's in the first place.
This game obviously doesn't exist.
Neither does this one (or it's sequel).
What the heck is this supposed to be anyway? (or it's sequel)
Is this some Sony game?
Well, those games up there don't have Mario or Donkey Kong, or Wario in them; so how can they be new Nintendo IP's (other than being Nintendo IP's, of course)?
Some people are willing to rely on their nostalgia to make sure in their mind that Nintendo doesn't change at all from the way they saw them decades ago, I guess.
2. Nintendo giving up at E3 2013
Certainly an interesting opinion, mostly because there is no way you would have come up with that opinion unless you already had a pre-existing idea that Nintendo can't compete with Sony or Microsoft.
I mean seriously!
Nintendo can't compete with the PS4 or Xbox Infinity, despite Nintendo being the one making dozens of Nintendo Directs outside of E3, each containing subtantial new game announcements?
Despite still having two (2) planned private meetings with the press to show off their games at E3 2013, as well as repeatedly mentioning in past Nintendo Directs about the games they will show off on the show floor?
Despite Nintendo most likely bombarding the entire week of E3 with Nintendo Directs, which serves the exact same purpose of an E3 conference, except with Iwata being in front of a white background instead of some big LCD displays?
You had to be convinced Nintendo can't do anything right that they would cancel their E3 conference just because "they have nothing to show and are therefore giving up".
As for Nintendo's actual decision, I don't know if it's a smart play yet. It obviously didn't go well with the massive misinformaiton and pre-existing image of the company (which is comically incapable of explaining itself for anything, seriously!).
How Nintendo's plan goes ahead on E3 2013 will be an interesting experiment to see; with SpikeTV certainly giving live primetime coverage of the PS4 and Xbox shows, I doubt they will do the same for any Nintendo Direct show Nintendo does.
3. Will the Wii U become profitable?
Not in it's current form, at least.
Nintendo will have to redesign the console so that it doesn't cost so much to produce and finally be able to give it a price drop (similar to what Sony did with the PS3 slim), they will also have to rebrand it completely to get rid of the confusion about it being a Wii add-on or not (in a similar way to how the PS3 was rebranded to be more appealing), and of course, Nintendo of America will have to reach across third parties to give the system some more games (in a similar way to how Nintendo of Japan got the 3DS to have such a killer Japanese library).
I don't know what Nintendo plans to do, but if it's not one of those things; then it's not going to improve.
But does Nintendo deserve all the doom and gloom? No, the Wii U could fail and they can just try again with something different; it's not like they are Sega who had no money by the time the Dreamcast launched. It would be nice for major gaming sites to stop promoting such poor views, but hey, I understand. Nintendo is supposed to be dead, can't blame ya'll for trying to fix the narrative.
Drift - Film Review
- Apr 28, 2013 6:50 pm GMT
- 0 Comments
Reviewed on April 27th, 2013
Hopscotch presents a film directed by Ben Nott and Morgan O'Neill
Screenplay by Morgan O'Neill
Starring: Xavier Samuel, Robyn Malcolm, Myles Pollard, Sam Worthington and Lesley-Ann Brandt
Running Time: 113 minutes
Released: May 2nd, 2013
Drift is a breezy Australian surfing film that doesn't break any new ground or take too many chances but the surfing scenes are spectacularly photographed and the performances are as colourful as the scenery. Like many local films, it is extremely well made and acted with professionalism, even when the story isn't revolutionary. The opening scenes in the Sixties are filmed in black and white. This is a fine visual touch, recalling Oz the Great and Powerful, because when the film forwards past the childhood of its central characters Andy and Jimmy and enters the 1970s, the film explodes with vivid colours being cast over a giant wave.
Riding this enormous wave is Jimmy (Xavier Samuel). Jimmy and his brother Andy (Myles Pollard) moved from Sydney to Margaret River in Western Australia with their mother Kat (Robyn Malcolm) to start a new life together. Andy works long hours in a timber mill, while his brother rides hard in professional surfing competitions. Seeing the lousy treatment of the older folks of the mill, Andy decides to quit his job and help start a surf shop with his brother, selling surfing gear like boards and wetsuits. This is at a time just prior to when surfing competitions started awarding serious prize money.
Andy is angered to discover that Jimmy has done a small time job for some local bikie crims and urges him to return any stolen material. Yet these bikie thugs refuse to leave their friends alone and one of them becomes involved in drugs. Sam Worthington (Avatar, Clash of the Titans) plays a hippie surfer named JB, who befriends both the boys. JD's Hawaiian hippie friend Lani (Lesley-Ann Brandt) also takes a romantic shine to Andy. Beneath its sunny exterior, the film is about the relationship of these two brothers and poses the question of whether a hobby makes for a satisfying and financially sustainable living.
The film has more than sand between its ears, realising that a compromise has to be made when it comes to approaching sport as an occupation. This is reflected by JB, who has the film's funniest and smartest line: "Its Darwinian man. We adapt, we survive." It would be impolite to say that the story by Morgan O'Neill exists merely to showcase the surfing because there is more narrative than just sun. It's more of a question of the familiarity of many individual story elements.
This is very much a rerun of the underdog story: the little business that could, faced against impossible odds like evil bikies and a stuffy bank manager. The bikies are a blessing and a curse for the film. They're total caricatures but also helpful in providing some danger to the script through some flat spots, where it feels as though there could be more risk involved. The bikies handout a few thuggish beatings and there is a drug subplot, which gives the film a grittier shade in contrast to lightweight, jovial tone and relaxed, pleasant performances.
The film even retreats to that plotline where a contest is handily giving out a large monetary prize so that the little people can save the farm. Are these contests deliberately organised around places of low socioeconomics and general lucklessness? The organisers must have prior knowledge of people's banking woes, such is their convenience. I also couldn't see the necessity of the romance between the Lani and Andy. Lani serves to ties the global relations between Australian and the US neatly (in a perfectly square ending) but any potential conflict between the brothers never eventuates over her.
What many people will see the film for are the stunning, exciting and beautiful surfing sequences, which are filmed by Ruck Rifici and Rick Jakovich: two highly experienced and talented water cinematographers. Filmed with great width, there are some gorgeous and hair-raising waves showcased here. The actors in the film performed some of the surfing, while real surfers were employed as stunt doubles too. An interesting fact is that despite how vivid and colourful the film is, it was actually filmed in winter so that the waves would be bigger and therefore more dramatic. They're a huge part of a great looking movie so that even when the pacing slumps or the story seems corny, it's never been so easy to dive into the surf.
Nintendo communicating differently
- Apr 25, 2013 12:16 pm GMT
- 0 Comments
By now, everyone's heard Nintendo won't be holding a major E3 press conference.
But that won't mean they won't be at E3 at all. They will still hold two events on the morning of E3's first day of Tuesday, June 11th. These meetings will be closed-door, meaning we the general public won't get to see what Nintendo will be showing off the moment they're unveiling it. We'll need to wait for press attendees to publish their videos and articles so that we can learn what was shown.
I will be honest, this feels very weird. I've always watched what I called the Big 5: Microsoft, Sony, Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, and of course Nintendo. Not seeing them on the big stage seems like a gaping hole. As much as I've grown tired of Iwata and Reggie, I'll still miss them. E3 had a lot of historic moments for Nintendo. They announced the Revolution as the Wii. They made every single preson jealous of envy of the attendees when girls passed through the audience with playable 3DSs. They confused everyone with the Wii U, while at the same time garnering applause for trying something different yet again.
Then of course, there are the game announcements. With the Wii U in a death stall, everyone was relying on this year's E3 to really get the ball rolling again for Nintendo. We'll still get the game announcements, if Nintendo still has any surprises up their sleeves. We just won't be getting them in the same fashion that we usually have.
Nintendo began doing their Nintendo Directs back on October 21st, 2011 in Japan and North America. These mini conferences broadcasted directly to consumers via their PCs or Nintendo devices ran just about every month. They announced news games, featured gameplay footage of previous announcements and talked about software enhancements. They've been giving information to consumers on a year round basis instead of keeping every single secret for major shows such as E3. It's because of this that having a major conference at E3 doesn't feel as important to Nintendo anymore.
And well, it's not just Nintendo that doesn't want to wait until E3 to start sharing information. On Feburary 20th, Sony announced the PS4. They spent hours unveiling features and announcing games. They didn't show the system itself, and they did withhold dates and SKU pricing, obviously saving the official announcements for E3. It was smart of Sony to do that, because it made gamers salivate even more for E3. Also, Microsoft plans to do the same, announcing their follow up system on May 21st, just three weeks before their own E3 conference on June 11th. Will they confirm or deny the rumors on May 21st, or will we have to wait for E3? Regardless, we just have to wait.
This is yet another way that Nintendo's changing. Is it for the better? Some say it's a smart move because it's promoting better communication among the actual audience they're marketing their products to, as they're less interested in all the business and investor talk. Others view it as a weakness, saying that Nintendo's lack of stage presence is an admittance of succumbing the continual poundings they've received in the industry thus far. Whether it's for better or for worse, I will miss seeing that Nintendo tab under GameStop's E3 conference page this year.
Gaming's future will be shaped by how well the industry is reminded of its place
- Apr 23, 2013 3:36 pm GMT
- 0 Comments
In the wake of more DRM-related controversy and the last of the new console reveals being due next month, it's become clear that the game industry has come to a significant crossroad, with time rapidly drawing near the point where consumers must finally confront a number of proposed next-gen transitions head-on. The belligerent manner in which these looming industry shifts are being pushed forth by game publishers has become a cause for apprehension, though, which has led me to question whether or not gaming is heading anywhere gamers might actually want to go.
If the last year or so of drama involving the likes of Diablo 3, SimCity, and ex-Microsoft creative directors is any indicator, quite a few following the industry have also come to share this concern.
A growing number of gamers are not particularly happy with the current course being taken by major publishers, and it's easy to understand why, their arrogance and delusion have hurt the industry more than any used or pirated game ever could. It's not really a mentality that is conducive to a glowing future for a callow industry already amid serious growing pains.
At this stage of its development, the balance of the game industry is way off where it needs to be for the type of service it provides and to whom it is being provided to. This imbalance has led to a growing number of poor business practices that will only continue to undermine its future if left unchecked. How these practices are (or aren't) addressed will play a large role in defining the medium in the years ahead.
But what exactly has led to the business side of gaming to become so brazen in their aggression? What role has the various groups of gaming played in allowing the medium's culture to devolve to the point where this approach is acceptable? And in what ways must gamers change their handling of the modern industry in order to reassert their influence on its future?
My first focus was obvious: the short-sighted greed of bumbling game publishers and it's toleration by a number of passive gamers, which has led to eroding consumer rights and confidence over the last generation.
As a few of the Gamespotters I've had the opportunity to discuss the industrys troubling anti-consumerist trends with over the years might attest to, this particular set of discussions have become quite frustrating. It's the same cycle time and again. 'Outrage' that leaves as quickly as it came over the latest example of the industry attempting to overstep its bounds, with most participants either becoming distracted by the next trend to prattle on about or just losing interest altogether. This of course is followed by complete surprise when the next instance arises and they find that doing nothing of substance and still throwing money at a problem somehow hasn't changed the results.
The only aspect that seemed to separate the recent controversy surrounding the Orth tweets from the usual cycle was how closely it hit home for a number of gamers who were content with ignoring the festering DRM problem because it usually just affected 'other people's games'. The potential of seeing those same problems being laid at their own doorstep (with that type of antagonistic attitude no less) through a total infection of a console they were looking forward to buying appeared to burst quite a few bubbles of intentional ignorance.
But as much as I'd like to discuss that issue further, it's a secondary topic. The more I examined recent anti-consumerist trends, the more I realized they weren't the main cause. Consumers condoning this type of business is a symptom of deeper rooted issues.
My next focus was the rather dysfunctional relationship between the three corners of the game industry.
Brendan Sinclair actually put out a pretty interesting article last month, Entitled Gamers, Corrupt Press, and Greedy Publishers, that covered the bizarre dynamic between the respective groups, a recommended read for those who haven't sat down with it yet. It touches upon a few valid reasons why each corner carries a measure of resentment for the others and why the hostility is still persisting, and pretty much covers most of what I considered adding to the matter.
The problem is though, while I did agree with many of the points brought up in the article, the closing paragraphs is where the piece started to lose me a bit. Dealing with the dysfunction will need to be much more than a 'just wait things out and hope for the best' mentality, or simply asking for one of the corners to take a chance at offering respect to the others as equal participants in the business. The latter sounds great in theory, but part of the problem (the true dysfunction as far as I see it) is the two corners putting their hands out for payment seeing themselves at an equal, or higher, level of the corner that is expected to open their wallets.
I realize that the need for respect is a given if anything is going to improve, but respect in and of itself is not enough in a 'service' industry, it must be observed from the appropriate perspective. Much like how respect between a boss and employee is important to a functional workplace, but proper work is really only possible when accepting their role in relation to one another.
Everyone working within the industry does deserve to be treated with civility, but they knew what they were signing up for when entering their professions. Instead of railing for the consumer to drop their expectations, any journalist or developer that can't accept the reality that they do continually owe the consumers need to do themselves a favor and find another day job. I can't say I have much patience for anyone in the industry resenting their fanbases for supposedly being a "bottom-less well of wanting", mostly due to the fact that gamers routinely tolerate nonsense that you'd be hard pressed to keep a straight face hearing about other entertainment industries trying to pull, all while swallowing a higher cost of entry.
But again, gamers finding themselves falling into this type of dysfunctional relationship with those colluding against them is another unfortunate result of the imbalance, not the cause.
The Consumerist's response to EA CEO Peter Moore's comments leading up to and after their repeat winning of the 'Golden Poo' for the Worst Company in America is what caught my attention next, and in the end struck closest to what I feel is the core issue of many of the industry's problems.
Moore resorted to every diversionary tactic in the book to distract away from the fact that, despite it obviously being a silly little poll, a major presence in an entertainment industry that is still relatively new to the mainstream getting this kind press coverage does not reflect well on the culture of their industry at all.
Response to Moore's pre-emptive press release:
"Gaming might be a multibillion-dollar industry that attracts the worlds biggest names in entertainment, music, and sports, but it is nonetheless treated by both the media and the business world with a reductionist shrug. Companies like EA are happy to foster the misinformed perception of your average gamer as a whiny, nitpicky loner who will complain about anything, as that image only helps to discredit those who have a valid complaint about a relatively pricey consumer product.
Heres our question to Peter Moore: If your entire industry is engaged in the production of something so trivial as to not warrant inclusion in a contest that features a poop trophy, why do you even work in it?"
Following EA's repeat status being announced:
"Moores note also marked the second time EA has tried to deflect criticism by pointing to previous winners of the Worst Company tournament, as if to mock consumers who dared to express their discontent with a mere video game publisher.
Make no mistake: Video games are big business. A company like EA and Activision, Ubisoft, Nintendo, and Sony, etc. merits just as much scrutiny as any other business that plays a leading role in a multibillion-dollar industry. Its only a fractured, antiquated public perception that video games are somehow frivolous holdovers from childhood that allows gamers to be abused and taken advantage of by the very people who supply them the games they play."
All things considered, I feel the lingering insecurities still held by many gamers have had the most impact on the medium this generation, the level to which it has emboldened publishers and console makers has become hard to ignore.
The vulnerabilities that have resulted from these insecurities and the manner in which they've been exploited have been primarily responsible for throwing the balance of the industry off-center over the last few years. The residual effects have helped pave the way for all the issues mentioned above to a host of others. Everything from the persistent attack on used gaming, to the increasing level of heavy handed DRM, to the likes of there still needing to be a debate over game being considered art. All avoidable headaches that have occurred simply because many gamers have allowed them to, because for them to resist these hassles would have involved defending what they have been convinced to feel is 'just' their little hobby of buying videogames.
Positive change will only occur when it is the only financially viable path for that industry to take at a given time. A course that is only possible if customers maintain the mindset that they do deserve the right to expect a higher standard from those trying to sell to them.
If we are to expect the gaming industry to grow up and begin carrying itself in a more appropriate manner, gamers must begin to grow up in the way they handle their business. Being a gamer does not mean being a lesser consumer, which is important for more gamers to realize because a stronger consumer forces companies to focus on more agreeable market strategies before things get out of hand. An added level of rational consumerism would go a long way towards preventing publishers from further deluding themselves into believing they are in a position to dictate the course of an entertainment market, especially one dealing pricey luxury items to which alienated customers can easily find alternatives.
At the end of the day, there are no right and wrong answers, and there are certainly no simple answers, but I still feel it's still a discussion that all serious gamers owe to themselves to have at some point. The importance of constructive contributions from gamers of all view points on the matter should not be understated.
- Apr 21, 2013 2:41 am GMT
- 0 Comments
The past couple of weeks I've played a couple of really short games so it doesn't seem 5 minutes since I did my last blog.
Hot off the back of F.E.A.R. 2 I went straight into F.E.A.R. 3 which was more of the same with a less interesting storyline. Having not played the original I felt like I'd missed out on part of the story which I didn't get with the second game. The story of this instalment didn't really kick into any sort of gear until the final third of the game. The first few missions seemed to be there for the sake of being there.
Most of the things I said about F.E.A.R. 2 in my last blog are still relevant here as nothing much has changed. The graphics are pretty average but serve their purpose. Everything does seem a bit blocky but there aren't any obvious glitches. Everything in the game is just solid and dependable which is fine although won't ever win a game of the year award.
The shooting again is pretty good with the weapons feeling different from each other and satisfying to use. Bullets hit with decent impact and explosions are ok but not overly impressive. Again though the weapons are pretty generic and serve their purpose but it's not the kind of game where you're excited to see a new weapon as none are overly exciting to use.
The one great thing I noticed whilst playing is the way the enemies move and flank you. Even on the easier difficulty settings they never stay in the same place long and you can soon feel surrounded before you realise. It makes you react quickly to a new fire fight to make sure you keep on top of the enemies. They also talk to each other pretty realistically. They are audibly scared and let each other know the current status of their squad. If nothing else that's the one thing I'll take away from the game.
I didn't really experiment with playing the game as Fettel. It looks like it's a different way to play but I didn't fancy playing through it again. Once was more than enough! Although the game was no worse than the last one, I did mark it down from F.E.A.R. 2 just because it doesn't build on it. A sequel that's not visibly and technically better than its predecessor isn't good enough in my eyes. It's a steady enough game though so it still gets a 7.0.
After F.E.A.R. 3 I decided that I needed a slight break from shooters so I went for something completely different and played Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse.
Although being completely different as hoped, it still turned out to be a shooter at heart. I'd expected it to be more of a platformer but that wasn't to be. Thankfully the shooting was surprisingly satisfying. Head shots with Brian's pistol were really enjoyable and the way the enemies died from them really felt good! The weapons whilst being pretty varied were nothing out of the ordinary for the most part. Stewie's weapons were just sci-fi versions of normal weapons and apart from using him to get the achievement for 500 kills I used Brian for most of the game. There are a lot of weapons to choose from but I found a lot of them to be inefficient at taking down enemies so I resorted to just using the shotgun for the majority of the levels. The power ups ranged from funny to practical but for the most part they weren't necessary more like interesting distractions. Seeing the giant chicken do his thing was ace!
The game isn't very long and I think I completed it in less than 5 hours. I'm not a big fan of collectables but that would've added a couple of additional hours to its length. I probably should've made the effort to collect them as I don't think it would've been a difficult task. Nothing in the game is very hard apart from one or two annoying sections. I didn't die very often and if I did it was mostly my own fault due to a mistimed jumped or not being very tactical and just running out of cover to take down an overwhelming number of enemies. The game deals with death like it's no biggie as each area of a level isn't very big so you don't have to redo very much. Enemy health stays as it was before you died and all you lose is a bit of cash. After I'd bought all the attribute upgrades I didn't really have a need for cash so death was inconsequential after that.
The graphics were almost spot on in matching the TV show as it is now. It's bright and colourful and the range of environments provided a good mix of level types to keeps the game from getting stale. The story was exactly what the game needed to keep things interesting and it was actually pretty funny. Not since The Simpsons have I played something that's attempted to be funny and achieved its aim. Some games are unintentionally funny and some games fall flat so I'm glad Family Guy managed it. Like most games of this type that throw out one liners during game play they were often reused so you'd hear the same things multiple times over the course of a level. It's not a major problem but does make you remember you're playing a game. The levels aren't that long so I'd have thought they could've put a couple of other one liners in there to stop them recycling some of them. Luckily there are many times when other familiar characters make an appearance and mix up the humour.
Family Guy has been a nice detour from the onslaught on 'normal' shooters I've played recently and was genuinely funny so for that I'm glad I played it. I've only given it a 7.0 as it's not long enough and the gameplay isn't strong enough to warrant anything more. For achievement hunters I'd definitely recommend it as it's an easy 1000G. I got 695G for no effort whatsoever. I'd also say fans of the show should give it a go as it's a pretty true game adaptation of the series.
I'm going to get round to some better games I think for the next few games. Next up is Dishonored and then either Dead Space 3 or Batman Arkham City. I've also got Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer which has super easy achievements which I'll fit it when I want something simple.
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