My Thoughts on DLC and a Fallout 3 review.
- Nov 15, 2008 5:14 pm GMT
- 83 Comments
There's been a consistent rise of disgust when it comes to DLC that probably started with either EA's treatment of unlocking codes in The Godfather game or Bethesda's Horse Armor pack and has carried over to Microsoft's purchasing of additional quests for certain games and in the future, might extend to using DLC as a way to cripple the secondhand market.
My opinion? Well I don't think all of this is inherently bad although there are certain DLC's that I think are just down right ridiculous in content and cost. EA's treatment of The Godfather? Despicable. Horse Armor? Too little too soon and coming from a company that used to give out free 30 minutes quests for download, it's a little disappointing. GTA IV's addition on the other hand seems like it will be a great idea if it arrives sometime before GTA IV becomes irrelevant. Microsoft buying Tomb Raider: Underworld DLC? Good for them. Epic adding a card that encourages gamers to buy Gears of War brand new with the inclusion of downloadable levels is brilliant, their idea of offering the same thing for endings is abhorrent.
Price and content seems to be a major factor and varies from gamer to gamer. Sure Microsoft's insistence that developers put a price tag on their DLC is a bit underhanded but understandable not just from their pocketbook's point of view but from a less successful developer's point of view also. It seems to have set the stage for all console gaming stores but it makes sense to me. I know if I made a game and offered map packs for a small fee while Epic and their Gears of War powerhouse offered map packs for free because they have one hell of a blockbuster, there's a pretty good chance that my offering is going to be ignored and may even be used against me by gamers saying my cheap game is asking for more money while those rolling in the dough are tossing around handouts.
Time seems to be a major factor in this debate also; if a company releases DLC too soon, it's simply considered something that the company could have included in the main game but didn't so they could nickel and dime fans. Release it too late and there's very little point. The problem here is there's no chart saying what time frame is appropriate to all gamers. Now that I look at things, I like that some of Oblivion's DLC was out in a rather quick manner, it sure beats waiting for GTA IV's DLC and I think even if Mass Effect made another quest for download at this point in time, there's a good chance I may pass it up. These are my thoughts on timing and I'm sure there are a bunch of people that will disagree with me. It just goes to show that Developers aren't always going to release things at the best time.
Microsoft's policy of throwing money at companies for their DLC isn't a horrible idea but a short term solution. I'd rather they have used that $50 million they tossed at Rockstar to go into the development of a Shadowrun RPG but that's just wishful thinking on my part. Truth is that the exclusive game market is on its deathbed but seems to have given birth to paying for exclusive DLC. So far it seems like it's unknown if this tactic is working out for them or not but I simply can't fault them for doing it. As a person that owns every system, I know which system I'd get GTA IV, Tomb Raider: Underworld and Fallout 3 for so it looks like it works for them and also works for people that are fans of these games that own that system.
Then if developers insist on combating the used market with DLC I see a rather straightforward line between right and wrong. The right was is to reward new game buyers with additional content in the form of maps, skins, items and things of those nature, DON'T punish us by forcing us to use codes to unlock things that are important to games such as endings. This line is as crystal clear as that. There are certain things any developer could lump into reward or punishment categories and I hope they remember that when it comes down to decision making time. I'm also a PC gamer and I'm already being punished for what pirates do, I'd hate to also be punished on the console side for renters and used game buyers too.
When all is said and done, no matter what your views are on each of these DLC debates, the most effective thing a gamer can do to combat foul DLC practices is vote. Vote with your wallets or purses. See something you don't agree with, don't buy it and hope that other people feel the same way you do. If you see Dog Armor pop up in Fallout 3 or Long Jumping cheats for Mirror's Edge, well that's just the game companies meeting supply and demand. Better luck next time. I just hope there aren't people out there that are buying DLC they don't agree with just because it's part of a game they really like. If you want to change something, you're going to have to make a stance and show some willpower no matter how bad you want to see Gears of War 3's DLC ending.
Fallout 3: I finished this game about a week ago and gave myself some time off to compose my thoughts.I voice my opinion on how great the game is and how much the ending and level cap sucks but in the end it's still the best game I played all year. 9.5 and the review can be found by clicking Nyeah.
Editorial: The Future Is Now
- Nov 11, 2008 12:47 pm GMT
- 12 Comments
Who here remembers the first time they put the Super Mario 64 cartridge into their Nintendo 64, and after playing with Mario's face for twenty minutes, proceeded to have their mind blown by what they saw when the castle courtyard loaded? I know I do. It was arguably the last great step in video games, bringing the plumber in red out of the two dimensional world and into the three. Its release subsequently saw the drastic change in how games were seen and made. Ever since then I've wondered who and what would bring such change to the industry a second time, and when it would happen. I think it's happening now, but it's not as striking as the 2D to 3D leap Mario took, and so it's harder to notice.
It's no secret that 2008 has been more than a banner year for gaming. 2007 was compared to the gangbuster year of 1998, but 2008 seems like it's taken the lead as the next closest comparison. Not only has the year seen the release of many sequels to some of the most popular games in the last decade, but it has also brought with it the releases of some very unique and almost daring titles. I'm talking about titles like Spore, which even though left many disappointed, certainly opened up a doorway to a new genre. Little Big Planet also has turned the ideology that community systems are where the industry is going, and made it more of a reality. Even Mirror's Edge, the shockingly different title from EA (who knew they had it in them?) brings fresh takes on old concepts in platforming and makes them seem new. Where am I going with all this? I believe we're seeing the next logical step in gaming before we go all Star Trek and start selling Holo-decks. I see it arriving in two forms: movement from point A to point B, and the use of community as a driver.
It's obviously hard to beat such a ridiculous leap in technology that the Playstation and Nintendo 64 brought to the table. It's safe to say that it'll be a little while longer yet before we see such a huge step forward from one generation to the next. In the meantime though, developers are getting more creative with how they use their games as media and entertainment.
The less dramatic change that's noticeable is how developers are starting to experiment with how you get from point A to point B in their game worlds. From traveling a purely horizontal plane in the days of the NES and earlier, to adding the third dimension of movement, games have been forever tweaking the ways you can use movement and traverse the terrain. The age of the Playstation and Nintendo 64 saw numerous advancements, followed by the PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube's improvements. As the years went on, controls were getting so complicated that the entry level gamer would find their fingers in a pretzel knot as they tried to simply climb up that ledge.
Let's see Mario jump off a billboard onto a crane!
Now however, developers for the most part are cutting back on the complications and attempting to streamline controls so that you can pull all those crazy Matrix cliché moves with one hand tied behind your back. Mirror's Edge is a good example of where games seem to be (and should be) going. You can do a plethora of actions to get yourself to your destination, and the controls make it a surprisingly simple thing to do. You will more than likely see more genres outside of platforming start to implement some of these designs as they help immerse you more than just generically jumping three hundred times to get up a steep, rocky hill. All this fancy movement stuff is fine and good, but the community is where the action is.
When Microsoft first launched Xbox Live way back when, they obviously had quite a vision for the future. At the time it wasn't like they were going to blow the PC out of the water for online gaming, but as the service grew it started separating itself from its PC counterpart by offering more and more unique options for the end user. Community gaming and connections almost instantly blew up and changed everything. Suddenly it was shameful if a game didn't have some sort of online functionality.
Take Bill Gates out for an icrecream! Virtually!
The PC world was changing too, and services like Steam were taking root and getting games and content out to the public in a faster and more efficient way than ever before. Truly with the existence of Xbox Live, Playstation Network, Steam, and their counterparts, we're seeing a community gaming explosion that will forever change the industry - much like everyone's favorite 3D plumber. As the Internet grows and expands, gets faster and more feature rich, gaming will take on more forms, become more customizable and personal, and go in yet another new direction for the future.
Gaming has grown from infancy, gone through puberty, and now we're smack dab in the middle of its young adult years. As we continue to watch our beloved child that is gaming continue to mature we're sure to see some pretty crazy things unfold. Yes, it will probably get a bit drunk and stumble out of one or two sad situations, but the next big life plateau approaches. Look sharp, people! The future is now.
That's all for now folks, have a good one!
Who Is The Beatles Game For?
- Oct 31, 2008 12:32 pm GMT
- 33 Comments
Just who is this Beatles game for?
That's the question that's been running through my brain ever since news of the announcement that Harmonix and Apple Corps Ltd would be combining efforts on a Beatles-themed project came to light. Several outlets were reporting at the outset that the game would be a dedicated Rock Band expansion devoted to the Fab Four but that turned out not to be the case. Instead, we'll have a "full, new music game built from the ground up," according to Harmonix co-founder Alex Rigopolous.
The licensing of The Beatles' music has had a... ahem... long and winding road; these days, the vast majority of the group's catalog is owned by Sony and Michael Jackson (the King of Pop purchased the publishing rights to around 200 songs in 1985), with royalties still being paid out to John Lennon's estate and to Paul McCartney. In 2006, the Cirque du Soleil production, "Love", was unveiled in Las Vegas, which combined some of the group's most famous songs with the visual wizardry of the long-running show company.
So, Apple Corps Ltd's long-standing dispute with Apple over licensing of the music to the latter's iTunes service notwithstanding, the company has been willing to extend use the Beatles' music, as long as it's in the right context. But what does that mean for Harmonix's just-announced game?
To me, it comes back to my original question: Who is the intended audience? While I think you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who actively dislikes The Beatles, I'm not sure if they are as relevant to the hardcore game-buying demographic as they might have been, say, ten years ago. I consider myself a moderate fan of the group--they lost me somewhere around The Yellow Submarine--but I have a hard time believing that the typical 18 year-old as totally psyched about this announcement as, say, your typical 48 year-old.
But, then, what 48 year-old is going to play (much less buy) a game like this, unless Harmonix radically simplifies the gameplay? Rigopolous has stated that this game will use Rock Band instruments but, as it stands now, further details are few and far between. I can only imagine the look of bewilderment my mom or dad would have if I sat them down in front of a set of Rock Band drums and told them to hold it down for me while I rocked some Rush. And it's tough to see how a Beatles game that uses the pricey Rock Band peripherals could be considered casual enough to draw in tons of new fans, Lennon and McCartney be damned.
So I'm left puzzled. If the Beatles game is a dumbed down Rock Band experience aimed at a casual crowd, it will likely turn off the hardcore Rock Band fans, a good chunk of whom won't have much of a connection to the music in the first place. And while the older set might relish in a perfectly marketed casual gaming chunk of 60's nostalgia for Xbox 360 and PS3, can it really be called "casual" if you've got to spend a bunch of cash for the accessories you need to play it?
Rigopolous has already stated the game will use explore the Beatles iconic psychedelic imagery--such as that found in the film The Yellow Submarine. My best bet? The Beatles game will be a sort of gaming equivalent to director Julie Taymor's film Across the Universe, a re-imagining/visual exploration of the Beatles catalog. I imagine the musical gameplay aspects (i.e. playing along with Beatles tunes) will be either entirely optional or, perhaps more likely, will give the player multiple options for interaction (everything from straight karaoke, to playing along with Rock Band instruments, or following note patterns with a standard controller). Ensuring a large (and customizable) spectrum of interaction seems like a must-have feature when dealing with what could potentially be one of the widest demographic spreads we've ever seen in a videogame.
So what do you think? Are you excited about the Harmonix/Beatles game? Do you think a Beatles game with Rock Band-esque gameplay can be a hit with both young and old gamers? What does this game need to do in order to be a gameplay success?
Where will ActiBlizzillionaire draw the line?
- Oct 11, 2008 9:04 pm GMT
- 13 Comments
Blizzard has built up one of the best reputations in the business over the last decade. With the release of the original Starcraft and Warcraft series of games, they shot to the top of the gaming world where they've stayed for a very very long time. The Warcraft series continued to produce lots of cash, and next to Starcraft, is probably the most popular RTS around.
Then of course World of Warcraft came along, and the world bowed down to the awesomeness that was Blizzard. Even with the $15.00 a month subscription fee, people jumped on the bandwagon in hoards, eventually bringing the player base to an astonishing six million strong. It would be naive to say that WoW has become anything but a bit of a cash cow, since if you do some simple math the game is pulling in the insignificant sum of $90 million a month.
"We're worth more than some small countries!"
Of course, there are plenty of costs that are incurred when running such a massive online game such as WoW. However, I can't see it taking much of a chunk out of that base revenue. For arguement sake, let's say that after everything is paid off for the month, Blizzard takes in $75 million. Even with this more than likely understated figure, that means the company is stacking up $900 million per calendar year. It's safe to say that with that kind of money alone, funding almost anything they want to do would be within their reach...including buying any small countries they have their eye on.
Why am I stating all these values that most of us already know of? Well Blizzard has just released a couple of very interesting pieces of information. The first is that Starcraft II will apparently be more like Starcraft II.1, Starcraft II.2 and Starcraft 11.3. Blizzard let the world know that SCII's campaigns were so long (up to 30 missions) and they are taking so long, that they made the decision to split the campaigns up and make them all stand alone games. This raised many questions such as how the online will work when only the first of the three campaigns are out, and how multiplayer in general would work. Many people though, are starting to think that this is a bit ridiculous and that this is another way for Blizzard to make unholy amounts of money (which they obviously don't necessarily need). Common knowledge in itself would tell you that even if all the campaigns were cut down a bit and made to be one game, the game would still sell like hot cakes. However, Blizzard seems to be well aware that most everyone will complain about this but in the end...those same people will buy them anyway. This is a bit shady, albeit good business sense in terms of making money, but to some it felt genuine that they really couldn't make it all one game. This made sense until the next piece of news was released early this Saturday.
"For moola!...I mean...For Aiur!"
Blizzard was asked a very important question: Is Battle.net going to remain free? Now I'm sure they probably faught for hours about who would be the sorry fool that had to answer this inevitible question. Why? Well because apparenty they are looking to start charging for the Battle.net service. Whether or not the use of the whole thing will be subscription based, or if smaller portions of the service will be monitary remains to be seen. Regardless of what part of the service will cost the users money, this is a huge bomb to drop at the same time they just told the world we're going to be spending $180 on Starcraft II instead of $60. According to them they "...kind of have to." I suggest not thinking about that statement for long periods of time as it might cause your head to explode.
Now, I think that most people can handle the fact they have to buy three Starcraft IIs, but charging for a service that's been free for 10 years (long before they had the economic horse that is WoW to fund it) might be pushing it. I'm sure that even if they do go through with charging for the service, people will more than likely conform and pay for it because let's face it -- they're going to want to play SCII. I know I'll want to.
"If you think Wow made money, wait till I arrive. WoW is my #$@%"
Wanting and doing are two very different things though, and the combination of these two seemingly wide open money grabbing moves has shook my love for Blizzard a bit. Sure they have the right to milk every game in their arsenal for all they're worth, but is there an ethical line that's being crossed? They know that we'll pay for almost anything they put out, or charge us for because many of us are diehard fans and have been dying for SCII and Diablo III for a long time now. Is that ethically right? I think it's crossing the line.
Of course, that's just my opinion. What do you all think about the Blizzard situation? Is what they are doing ethical? Is all of this bad business ethics, or just brilliant business action?
That's all from me for now folks. Have a good one!
The Antiresale Agenda
- Oct 7, 2008 5:38 pm GMT
- 134 Comments
Note : Much of this has been in response to this Gamespot article.
There has been a bit of a hullaboo lately from publishers regarding the second hand games market. Primarily, they don't like the fact that resellers (i.e. retailers selling second hand games) get all the profit while they get none. I can certainly see their point of view. They could cut the middle man and distribute everything digitally, but we are a while away from that transition (especially with limited hard drive space). So in the interim, some companies are trying to offer rewards for purchasers of new retail products.
All new copies of Gears of War 2 will come with a one-time redeemable code to download the Flashback map pack, 5 reworked maps from Gears of War 1. This will be the only way to get these maps; Cliff Bleszinski says they will never be made available any other way. A second bonus is given to those who purchase during a midnight launch; an in-game gold-plated Hammerburst assault rifle.
NBA Live 09 will have a feature that brings daily updates to rosters and stats. Retail copies come with a one-time code to access this feature; second hand buyers will have to pay $19-99 to access this feature. Rock Band 2 has 20 free tracks for download via a similar one-time code. That would be a decent download fee if you paid the asking price for songs. Dead Space has extra suits with in-game benefits, a different one each for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, that will be downloadable only for the first two weeks after release (one would suspect they are smart enough to make this accessible only from an in-game menu, but if not you can always download it from the appropriate marketplace during those two weeks and buy the game later).
Are these incentives really enough though? Rock Band 2 seems like a game that you wouldn't see many second hand copies of anyway. I'm not into sports game, but the updates for NBA Live 09 seems like a compelling feature, and the price of those updates represents a fair chunk of the all-inclusive full price.
There seems to be a couple of problems with the strategy for Gears of War 2. First, the midnight launch, the only way to get a new skin for a gun. Some people simply can't make it to these events, so missing out on an in-game item on this basis seems unfair. If it was extra paraphernalia (i.e. no change to the game itself), like an art-book, a figure, or soundtrack, that would be fine. Not that this piece of content sounds particularly compelling; a new skin for a gun that has no impact on gameplay. New skins are nice, but I don't see myself paying for downloadable content unless it had some impact on the gameplay (that's just me, I'm sure there are some who would). As such, this content isn't going to make me attend a midnight launch if I wasn't already interested, let alone buy a brand new copy if I normally get one second hand.
The multiplayer map pack is not time-based; all new copies of the game will come with a code to download the pack, regardless of when you purchase the title. Nevertheless, Gears of War 2 will still be sold on the second hand market. I doubt this is going to present much of a problem for players of either group; there will be matches that cater to the content that they have. But the maps will not be available for a price for those that buy second hand copies. Epic are not giving second hand buyers an opportunity to give them money. Companies are complaining that they make no money from second hand sales. I thought downloadable content was a way to offer more value for and produce a revenue stream from consumers, whether they bought new or used.
You can get the extra suit from Dead Space if you download it within two weeks of release. As per Gamespot's news piece "Both suits will have advantages over the standard in-game armor, providing increased inventory slots and tougher protection against spikes, tentacles, and other space-monster weapons." Beefier armour might sound good to some. But what about game balance? What impact are those extra inventory slots and extra protection going to have on the gameplay? Will they make early levels easier and less thrilling than they were originally designed to be? Bioshock would have been a far different experience bereft of some decision making if you started the game with all plasmid and tonic slots open.
I fear the path this may lead to. What if all retail copies are crippled releases that offer a minimum of gameplay, but comes with a code for downloadable content that 'fixes' the game and makes it the way it was designed to be? Then they could charge second hand users for that content, to ensure they get a piece of the pie. But then what happens if your company goes bust, whichever service the download is on goes bust, or for other reasons the download becomes no longer available. That game is dead, and anyone who didn't have that content is not allowed to enjoy it again the way it was supposed to be if they manage to procure a copy.
Ideally, any additional content should not unbalance the game. Conversely, the lack of that content should not hamper the original design of the game, or make the consumer feel like they are missing a decent component of the game. Skins don't break these rules, but aren't particularly compelling.
The main items I can think of would be extra levels/maps/race tracks, and extra playable characters/cars/weapons (so long as these things don't break the balance I mentioned above). The retail box can include a code for these, as well as being available for download for a price, as a potential revenue stream from those who do buy second hand. Even if you do give out codes in the box this way, I'd also suggest they don't release the content at launch. Advertise the fact that the content is coming, but wait a couple of months before you release it. That encourages early buyers to hold onto their copies to get their free content instead of sell them. Heck, don't even advertise it before release day, just make it a nice surprise when consumers open up the box and see that they have some more free stuff coming down the line.
Maybe it's the wrong way to go about it altogether. Maybe Criterion is on the right path with Burnout Paradise. They have been releasing regular free updates to encourage players to hold onto their copy of the game, so they can check out the new content when it arrives, and presumably sell more new copies because there are less second hand ones floating around. This was a part of their plan from the beginning, and they made it clear what their intentions were (at least to frequenters of websites such as this).
Rare is also offering Banjo-Kazooie free if you pre-order Banjo-Kazooie : Nuts & Bolts, which will otherwise be available on XBLA for 1200 points. This seems like a pretty decent bonus, and perhaps other developers could consider doing something similar. If you are releasing a sequel to a franchise and there is enough space on the disc, convert the original to the current platform with the option to unlock it via these one-time codes. Include a boss mode that collects the bosses from previous entries in the series. If there is enough space on the disc, include another game from your back catalogue (if it is no longer available, thus not cannibalizing existing revenue stream), but only unlockable via a one-time code, encouraging people to buy new to get the bonus.
Many PC games are already in on the act with limited number of activations (I imagine this practice is also aimed at anti-resale, but has remained largely ignored under the veil of preventing piracy). What are your thoughts of console games going the same way? At least they are offering content instead of introducing activations, which they very well could, so we should be grateful for that at least.
I don't think there is a problem with the second hand market; it exists for just about everything else. I also don't have a problem with developers trying to make an extra buck from downloadable content; I just want it to be compelling content, not a fix that allows me to play a game the way it was meant to be.
Criticism, the Unseen Art Form
- Oct 3, 2008 11:41 am GMT
- 49 Comments
Many people who peruse the gaming sites for reviews of games don't seem to realize that it takes a special type of writer to draft and create a worthwhile review. Few writers in any medium gain notoriety with its peers or with the mainstream: such examples like Pauline Kiel, Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper.
There is a delicate touch that makes these writers sound intelligent, knowledgable about the entertainment medium they are covering, and be completely understandable to the broadest number of people possible.
Knowing this, exactly how many people who work on 1UP, Gamespot, Kotaku, Joystiq, IGN and the other enthusiast sites seem to have this way of words? Very very few, in my not so humble opinion.
In fact, I can possibly name 3 writers and one personality that can fit the description, while giving few "up-and-comers" that may also reach this threshold.
What made me think of this suddenly? Well, in the 6th and most recent episode of "Opinion Unlocked," I made a few comments about some of the writers on some of the enthusiast sites:
Ryan Scott 1UP.com - Ryan Scott is the soft-spoken former member of "The Brodeo", GFW Radio. Known more for his PC gaming than console gaming, Ryan also has an affinity for retro games. Most recently, he reviewed Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood for the DS, giving it the highest of ratings for 1UP: A.
Mark Bozon IGN Nintendo - Mark Bozon is the more outspoken type on the Nintendo Team, which leads to him calling out developers and forum users on the Nintendo Voice Chat podcast. "Boze", as he is affectionately called, gave the game a 6.8, citing reasons such as a shallow combat system and unimpressive story.
Aaron Thomas Gamespot - Aaron Thomas is another outspoken type who frequents The Hotspot and From the Bleachers podcasts. Much like Mark Bozon, he's outspoken to the point of calling out developers and forum users for things that he feels are clearly opposite of his opinion. He recently had a lot to say about Zack Snyder being signed to a 3 year deal with EA, which can be heard on The Hotspot podcast.
Now, these are only three of the writers I discussed on our podcast and there's plenty more to say about others, but let me start with these three writers. First off, it's clear that the three of these writers are on these sites for one distinct reason: Their love of gaming. It's clear from the offset that these people know, in some way or another, that they know what they are talking about.
However, these three writers/contributors all did something that made me cringe this week. First off, Ryan Scott's review of Sonic Chronicles was written to the point of fanboy fanaticism, not articulate criticism. This was especially odd for a contributor who, for all intents and purposes, always gives a good review or opinion on games that are fair and concise.
"The idea of a Sonic the Hedgehog DS role-playing game from BioWare (Mass Effect, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic) sounds like one of EGM's elaborate April Fools' jokes. But it's real, it's here...and it's awesome." is the opening sentences for his review.
In a time where a lot of reviewers complain that people don't read the reviews, just the review scores, Ryan gave a clear reason why you are probably better off not reading the review: You're not going to get a concise criticism, you're gonna get why I think this game is "awesome".
The review itself is well-written, with some decent reasons why the game is great, but he doesn't even touch the negatives of the game. This is not my opinion, this is a clear fact: There is always something negative in a game. There's always something that can be better. Brushing off any negative criticism just to show how much you love the game isn't criticism: it's fanboyism.
The exact opposite can be said for Mark Bozon, IGN Nintendo Team editor. Mark Bozon gave a scathing review of the game, giving it a 6.8, saying that the game itself is purely fan service and for everyone else, it's a very basic RPG. Throughout his 2-page review, he slams the game for numerous things that, in honesty, shouldn't have been slammed in the first place. At no point did Bioware nor Sega say that this game was to be a "hardcore, story focused" game that will appeal to said base. Bozon seems to forget who the audience is for the game and as such, should review it as so.
That's not to say that he shouldn't cite his opinion on the game, he very well should. It's just that, for the type of game it is, you shouldn't knock it for something it isn't. That's along the lines of saying: "Soul Calibur IV is a bad fighting game because there is no hand-to-hand combat" For Bozon, this is actually out of character: He's a decent writer who often has a good opinion and fair and balanced point of view.
Lastly, there's Aaron Thomas. I don't know if it is because of inexperience or from a very outspoken and confrontative personality, but Aaron Thomas seems to make these statements that more than ruffle a few feathers. His comments on Zack Snyder's contract with EA was resulted and him saying that all he's going to do is put more crap on gaming system, without even knowing what he's going to put on. Objectivism? I think not.
Also, looking at his most recent reviews, he seems to be put on the bottom rung to review such key titles as "PAIN: Amusement Park" and the PS2 version of "Mercenaries 2: World in Flames". It's easy to see why: He gives the game some good props and some necessary demerits. The score, however, is just appalling considering what he wrote: A 3.5 for the PS2 Mercenaries, even though he gave the game a lot of good things.
Makes sense to you? I didn't think so. In fact, the last game he reviewed that got any type of top billing was "Hot Shots Golf Open Tee 2". Since then, Aaron's reviews have been tucked neatly in the back, so you have to search for them to find them.
I only mention this because the industry needs a fully functioning and respectable press to further itself as a medium. If no one criticizes the critics, who will keep them in line professionally? A mere "honor amongst writers" isn't going to do it, which is why I set to do this podcast and blog not only to shout my own opinion into a crowded pool, but to also give a constructive opinion on the people who provide coverage to the game sites we look at.
Who are some writers, podcasters or personalities to look up to? I'll give you a few right now:
Shane Bettenhausen - 1UP.com: Much like Bozon and Aaron Thomas, Shane is very outspoken. But, Shane also is respected with forum users and podcast listeners as a highly intelligent speaker who talks about his points of view very well and convincingly. His comic foils off of Garnett Lee turns into comic gold, while his off-the-beat path of criticism gives a fresh take on gaming criticism.
John Davison - Whattheyplay.com: John recently left 1UP.com to start up the site whattheyplay.com, which is a site devoted for parents to find out which games are truly appropriate for their kids. To be an enthusiast gamer and a father is a tough balancing act (I should know, I am one), but to tap both funnels to balance out your writing form and your form of opinion is uncanny. John is also on the 1UP Yours podcast with Shane and Garnett. He provides an insight on gaming that is altogether different from most, while alienating no one who look for a "to-the-point" criticism or "in-depth analysis". For now, I think John Davison is the unspoken "Roger Ebert of gaming".
Adam Sessler - G4's X-Play: From the beginning, G4 and Adam Sessler has gone hand-in-hand. He is the face...ok, Morgan Webb is the face of G4, but he's undoubtedly the most respected person on that channel for his insightful opinions and often witty comments about the gaming industry itself. On X-Play, he's a decent host that breezes through the show with his relatively lax demeanor. Outside, on Sessler's Soapbox and in public, he tells it like it is.
As a vet who's seen the past in gaming, but can also analyze and scrutinize the current events that affect the industry not only by playing the games but seeing what outside influences can affect gaming as well. As a journalist, Sessler is the closest there is.
As for up and comers, take a look at N'Gai Croal of Newsweek, the entire cast of Giant Bomb (Jeff Gerstmann, Ryan Davis, Brad Shoemaker), Jennifer Tsao of 1UP.com, Stephen Totillo of Multiplayer Blog and Greg Miller of IGN are reviewers and writers you should take notice of.
The main point I'm getting across is that there is a difference between a good review and a bad one, just as much as there is a difference between a good game and a bad one. The same things apply: Read the review, not just the score. Always scrutinize and criticize the coverage you are getting from all of these enthusiast websites and ALWAYS tell the difference between a reviewer who deserves your respect and trust, then just some guy who posted a few paragraphs and a number and call it a day.
You're allegiance shouldn't be with just one site.
Sanitized for Your Protection
- Oct 2, 2008 12:31 pm GMT
- 26 Comments
WARNING: The following article contains NO adult content and is approved for all ages.
I was thrilled when Harmonix announced that the Red Hot Chili Peppers' album Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik would be released in its entirety as downloadable content for Rock Band 2. I spent two hours trying to download it the first day it became available, but due to issues with Xbox Live (Harmonix said the problems were on Microsoft's end), I was unable to complete the download. No biggie, I just got up early the next morning, finished downloading the album, and played a few songs. "Under the Bridge" was an absolute joy and well worth the wait. "Sir Psycho Sexy," on the other hand, is censored to the point that the vocals are incoherent.
"Sir Psycho Sexy" is a dirty song, to be sure--nobody's going to argue that it isn't. Mr. Sir Psycho is a big fan of the ladies, and the song documents his sexual prowess. At least it did before Harmonix got its hands on it. In one case, 58% of the vocals for an entire verse have been completely removed. Does this affect gameplay? You bet it does. Imagine singing the verse below (each set of dashes is a word that's no longer there). Not only do you have no clue what's going on in the song, but you just sit there while the deleted lines go by, hoping that there's a line that isn't filthy coming up so you might actually get to sing something.
I got stopped by a lady cop
In my automobile
--- ---- --- --- --- ----- ---- ---
--- ---- --- ----- -- --- - ----
That cop she was all dressed in blue
Was she pretty? Boy I'm tellin' you
--- ----- -- ---- ---- --- --- ----- -----
- ---- ----- -- --- ---- -- ----
Like a ram getting ready to jam
She whimpered just a little when she felt my hand
-- --- ------ -- ---- ----
- ----- ---- --- ------- --- ------- --- -------
Proppin' her up on the black and white
-------- --- ------ --- ----- -----
- ------- --- ---- -- ---- ---- ---
------ - ------ --- ----- ---- ---
Do I think it's appropriate that children play an uncensored version of this song? No. Do I have a problem with the occasional swear word being removed? Not at all. But I do have a problem when I haven't been warned that the song has been excessively censored before I purchase it, and I believe Harmonix went way too far when it comes to the material removed from this particular song. You can't tell me phrases like "I said what's up?" or "Turned a cherry pie right into jam" are too salacious for the sensitive ears of our youth, especially when they're used with no context, as they would be here.
Rock Band 2's box displays a Teen rating, but it also warns users that online interactions aren't rated by the ESRB. On top of that, there are plenty of age checks in place on the Xbox 360, so why can't adults enjoy adult music with adult language? Everyone throws the statistic about the average gamer being older than 30, so why are we being treated like children?
Maybe I'm overreacting and this censorship isn't a big deal to most people. If you believe this is a nonissue, I'd like to hear your thoughts and opinions. If you agree that this is a problem, I'd love to hear from you as well.
Been There, Done That.
- Oct 1, 2008 2:03 pm GMT
- 18 Comments
Have you ver wished progress from a previoius game carried over into the game's sequel? I have. Earlier this year I harbored a bit of resentment for Ubisoft. I had gotten into Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas on the Xbox 360, thanks in large part to GameSpot's tournament. When I spent hours of time, effort, and enjoyment into playing that game, I was really getting my hopes up for how the ranks and experience would carry over into the sequel--the aptly named Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2. At first I was very excited to unlock items and ranks in the new game thanks to high ranks in the first title. My disappointment came when I found my achievement for attaining (and instantly bypassing) Private First Class did not unlock.
Many heard my disappointment in our first exploit segment of On the Spot, while others read about my frustration in this blog. In time Ubisoft fixed the problem. Continued play and additional downloadable content made ranking up in Vegas 2 much, much easier (almost to the point of being far too easy). Even though Ubisoft still hasn't fixed the Special Operations achievement problem in Vegas, I reflected on what they did right: they helped loyal franchise players carry over previous experience into the new game.
This year has been littered with sequels and re-releases that failed to support a loyal community with some carry-over components. While still great (or, technically good) games, Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise, Lost Planet: Colonies, any of the Lego games, and nearly all of the EA sports games failed to carry over unlocked rewards, experience, items, or pinatas earned in previous iterations of the franchises.
I loved and played the heck out of Lost Planet when it first debuted on Xbox 360. I was legitimately excited to play Colonies when it came out, but Capcom bifurcated their LP community by not only negating the ability to play Lost Planet players, but also leaving would-be Colonists in the cold to play the game to completion again. Sure, sure they allowed cross-platform play (between 360 and PC), but my levels, outfits, and overall experience with the original didn't make the transition. Friends of mine didn't want to invest the time and money into ranking up again. Without the devoted cadre of cohorts to play with online, going it alone seemed more laborious than inviting. To this day, I still have yet to crack open a copy of Colonies.
I did, however, invest time into Madden 07. The Community team has a handful of copies left over from a would-be tournament from years ago and I made the mistaken assumption that the points would be as effortless as other entries in the franchise have been. Imagine my surprise. What I found was a devious achievement for importing an NCAA 07 draft class into your NFL draft. I resisted for months, but finally caved weeks ago. I neither like [American] football, nor particularly care for college sports. To this day, I can proudly say I never watched a live sporting event while attending a reputable sports institution of higher learning. So why did I cave and play NCAA 07? Was it the ten achievement points? Maybe in part, but I say it was actually a support for a developer that rewarded players who played other games in the publisher's football family.
EA didn't reward Need for Speed Carbon players that had completed Most Wanted. It only punished players of ProStreet that enjoyed the earlier games more. Activision didn't give Call of Duty 4 players benefits, perks, or added possibilities if they completed Call of Duty 2 or 3 on the same platform. Traveler's Tales forced players to replay Episodes I-VI in their entirety in Lego Star Wars The Complete Saga even if said players had achieved 100% completion in each of the previous entries.
"So what," you may be thinking. The "what" in question is your time and mine. When we pick up a game we are not only investing our money in entertainment, but also our time. Our time carries a higher price than the value of our respective currencies. One could argue by buying Lost Planet Colonies or by playing Lego Star Wars TCS we are asking to play the same recycled content again. Don't we also look for was some recognition that we have already been there and done that before? The GameSpot reviews clearly call out that players who already own the original release(s) have little reason to invest in the new iteration.
LucasArts could have allowed us to start TCS with all of the red-brick extras unlocked or allowed completionists to play the game in Free Play mode from the get-go. Capcom could've at least carried over online ranks (not the experience), ensured cross-title play (between owners of different Lost Planet versions, or automatically unlocked achievements for the difficulties and collectible tasks previously completed.
I recognize these features require additional work and testing. We have all seen what happens when they don't turn out right or are bent to devious degrees. What I'd like for us all to see is the opportunity to get more credit for being on board with franchises. If the same content is going to be shoveled out again and again, give us a reward for playing it twice. Arguably one of the only good things to come out of Fable II Pub Games was the ability to carry over your winnings and your losses into the full Fable II game world. Say what you will about Pub Games or Molyneux's promises, but he delivered a compelling reward for people who pay for the same content twice. Why then don't more developers and publishers integrate their titles better to create cohesive, rewarding experiences that carry over across their franchises and projects? It could be development time. It could be lack of financial resources. But what troubles me is a clear lack of industry interest in rewarding the die-hard community for loyalty. Many
What do you think? Am I ranting about something so esoteric only a niche audience can appreciate, or do you feel the frustration as well? Share your thoughts and comments here and write your favorite franchise's producers to get more carry over.
The Legendary Halo 3
- Sep 29, 2008 11:11 am GMT
- 14 Comments
Whether you are a member of the 7th Column, an achievement completionist, or an indomitable Halo 3 brawler, Bungie broke into new territory with the April release of the Legendary Map Pack. While I was at San Diego Comic-Con, one inquisitive attendee asked a Halo-centered panel whether the Mythic map pack was coming. At the time it hadn't been revealed and the panel was nothing more than cryptic. When the most recent Halo 3 update landed last week, few expected 750 achievement points, 29 achievements, hints of many more maps for Halo 3, and the symbolically priced Legendary map pack getting more incentive for download; the map pack is available for download at a price of 600 Microsoft Points ($7.50 for you seven-hunting readers). Whether we expected it or not, it is here.
It's no secret Bungie speaks in sevens, but I wasn't really prepared for the jump in points, the play that comes from new scoring in the online competition, or the Legendary maps that are inspired (or ripped off, depending on how jaded your personal paradigm) by classic Halo maps. The last time I played Halo 3 was probably before the Legendary maps even hit the marketplace. For some reason I am being drawn back into the game and thought I'd share a bit about the maps and my experience.
Theoretically the recent update was intended not only to improve online connections but also to break out ranks for individual online competition modes. The ranks are broken out nicely to allow players to level up to a General in Lone Wolves matchmaking, but still be a Private in Team Doubles Social matches. Unfortunately, the solutions implemented for speeding up the matchmaking practices have not delivered for me on all promises. I have waited in a lobby that was connecting to a match for more than 10 minutes before the remaining players (since multiple players disconnected due to an unacceptably long wait) all got to mix it up.
In the beginning I played scores of matches, but got to play a Legendary map less than a handful of times. Random matches served up Blackout a couple of times so I could unlock two of the new achievements, but the others were not forthcoming. While Lockout remains one of the beloved battlegrounds from earlier Halo releases, the reimagining into Blackout wasn't as impressive to me. I enjoyed the UNSC posters and other decor, but I wasn't really getting into playing the level since I am clearly an outlier with my lack of love for Lockout.
If it wasn't for a loyal GameSpot user, I would've been running around Avalanche, the redux of Halo: Combat Evolved's Sidewinder level, all by myself. Despite my lack of love for Lockout, I have nothing but affection for Sidewinder. I thought it couldn't get any better when I saw the Hornets available for flying and the repainted warthogs waiting to be driven all around the frozen horse shoe.
Finally, if anybody would like to play some Ghost Town, let me know. Matchmaking doesn't serve it up. I am interested in seeing more of what xbox.com describes as "a battle-scarred maze of narrow passages and dangerous ruins." The one time I played it, the room was focused on helping one another get Oddball kills and splatter sprees.
For those keeping track, September 25 was possibly the first day to get that achievement for completing four-player coop over LIVE on Legendary difficulty with the iron skull engaged. That achievement should be worth 100 gamerscore on its own since the iron skull makes you restart the level if you die. Oof!
If I hadn't already dropped $7.50 on the maps to write this blog, I'd be more inclined to wait until the Legendary map pack invariably is reduced to a price of free. Of course, I like my points and I haven't played much Ghost Town. It could end up being my new favorite Halo 3 map to play.
What are your thoughts on Bungie's new support for their Legendary entry in the Halo franchise? Are the points worth it? Is Halo 3 so 2007? Or, is this the best new thing to come to the Xbox 360 since Combat Evolved?
A Star Is Born
- Sep 19, 2008 12:28 pm GMT
- 13 Comments
After watching Brian Ekberg and Jon Miller play a few online club games in NHL 09 and reading our glowing review, I was convinced that I need to play the game. I'm glad I did--it's fantastic. I've created my own player in Be-A-Pro mode. He's a right wing sniper for the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL. My first game was a success from a team standpoint (we won), but I didn't do much to distinguish myself individually. By the second game I had become a bit more accustomed to the controls and played much better. In fact, I scored the first goal of my young career. The goal was nothing fancy, but because you do get attached to your player it was actually really exciting for me. I was happy that the game lets you take screenshots (and video) so I could save the moment for posterity. Here's me celebrating my first goal:
Later that game I decided to prove that I could play a little defense. Here's the young phenom Aaron Thomas bringing the pain:
I'm now about 6 or 7 games into my career and I'm starting to get more comfortable shooting the puck with the right analog stick. I still tend to go to my backhand too often because of poor positioning, but sometimes it works out as it did with this sweet backhand goal. I totally beat the guy to the puck, headed straight for the goal and lit the lamp. This one was so cool (at least for me) I had to save a video:
While I was fiddling with the camera for the replay of my backhander I found a neat angle where you could see ice shavings from a defender flying across the screen. It was too awesome of a shot not to share:
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