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A Resounding Victory for Consumer-Rights

I woke up this morning and checked my various gaming fronts-the number of hits my FAQs had, my e-mail, my gaming community website. Finally I made my way to the Facebook page for HaeravonFAQs and saw that my site manager, Valdo, had posted a new story from IGN. Microsoft was doing a policy 180°.

To quote Don Mattrick:

An Internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games. After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc-based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24-hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.

Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today. There will be no limitations to using and sharing games; it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.

In addition to buying a disc from a retailer, you can also download games from Xbox Live on day of release. If you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console--there will be no regional restrictions.

Remember when Adam Orth gave us an insightful glimpse into the broken, elitist mentality of Microsoft with his now infamous #Dealwithit tweet? The fight began that day for many of us, the first hint of Microsoft's new, exclusive, anti-consumer DRM policy was leaked. Despite sacking Orth, it turns out he was merely voicing what was apparently the opinion of the Xbox One development team. At E3, Microsoft even came out with the same arrogance, and tried to sell us their new console. 24-hour suicide checks. No sharing physical copies. No game ownership. Region-locking. Only 21 launch countries. It was a bitter pill to swallow and fortunately, many of us refused.

So, here's to acknowledge the tireless ranting of myself and others. In particular I can think of several people who I have seen 'trolling' the forums in the quest for consumer-rights. NorthArrow, Pockets86, JustPlainLucas, who wrote many great blogs on the issue. Even my fellow FAQ-writer, AbsoluteSteve posted about this. I myself wrote several blogs, posted both on Gamespot.com and my own site. I canvassed (with the help of Valdo) my HaeravonFAQs Facebook page. Everybody who denounced Microsoft's policies deserves credit, however, not just the loudest of us. This was not a victory for Microsoft. With abyssmal approval of the console on Gamefaqs.com and Amazon.com, with clear votes indicating they lost E3 on IGN, this was merely survival. This was a victory for the consumer. We stood up for physical copies that weren't just coasters. We stood up for games having a longer lifespan than Microsoft's server coverage. We stood up for region-free gaming, for world-wide gaming. Most importantly, we stood up for the very idea that we, as consumers, own the games we buy.

Remember Microsoft's smug attitude at, and following E3. Remember how they tried to sell us the dystopic 'future' of console gaming presented by the Xbox One. Remember how they tried to take away privacy and ownership from us. This event reminded me, from start to finish, of SOPA and PIPA. A massive public backlash prevented us, the small, the meek, the many, from losing to the large, the strong, the few. Do not let Microsoft ride back into public perception as a white knight astride a majestic steed of platitudes after trying to tell us how, when, and where we could play our games. Always remember what they tried to do, and if they, or any other company, tries to take ownership from us again, let them hear us and relent.

Nothing is more powerful than many voices raised in anger for a common cause.

As the Dust From E3 2013 Settled...

I sat around and watched the Microsoft segment of the E3 conference in determined disdain. I only had the internet a few hours yesterday, and only during the day. Still, I was willing to take what I could. They showed the ragged, robed, Master Chief walking through the desert and I wondered to myself Havent I seen this before? It seemed like a mix of Halo 3 nostalgia, and oddly enough, Diablo 2. I wondered with some amusement if Master Chief would turn into mecha-Diablo halfway through the game.

Ultimately, I was divorced from the process. Microsoft had revealed everything I cared to know about weeks before E3. An online-requirement meant I could not participate in their vision of what would be the next generation of consoles. After buying 70+ Xbox 360 games, jumping from Sonys Playstation 2 into Microsofts waiting arms, writing a number of FAQs for games played on that console, I couldnt help but feel a little betrayed. After gaming for over twenty years and buying every Microsoft console, it seemed that DRM would force me off consoles the same way it did the PC.

The bigger issue was, of course, the DRM. The Spynect. The assault on software ownership. Sharing. The inevitable decline of the next generation of consoles would lead to the abandonment of its servers, and in time, would Xbox One games be anything more than pretty coasters? Sure, it would be many years down the line, but as a fairly sentimental gamer who still plays Quest For Glory, Planescape, and the original Fallout, these cheap flings Microsoft was touting as the future of gaming seemed like transient thrills, not enduring experiences. The gaming I had grown up with and grown to love seemed on the verge of extinction. I sadly acknowledged the fact that I was getting old. Soon enough, Id be a disgruntled 30-year old yelling games arent as good as they used to be!

I waited for good word from Sony. I didnt expect good news. I told myself, Microsoft would not have announced their platforms restrictions unless they knew Sony would do it, too. Sony had remained ambivalent thus far. Im sure theyd try to spin their restrictions in the same way Microsoft did. Its the future. #Dealwithit.

Then my friend Valdo posted on HaeravonFAQs (the Facebook page for my guides) So it seems the ps4 will support used games, without any restrictions. And there will be no online check required to play games bought on disk! Valdo. I jumped on the gaming sites to find the relevant information. I couldnt stream Sonys exhibition, but I could still read the articles. There it was. No DRM mandated by Sony. Internet isnt required. Buy/sell/trade physical copies. No region-coding. Ownership, it seems, had found an ally in the Playstation 4. More importantly, it meant that my life-long love of gaming could continue, at least for another few years.

The rest of the night was warm thoughts and giggles as I scrolled the forums and comments to read the hilarious things other gamers would post, something that had become a guilty hobby of mine since the Wii-U reveal. I saw lots of posts praising and thanking Sony. Great job, Sony! Sony loves the consumer! Its all about games, on the Playstation 4." Thank Sony? Really? Others went on to relish the vanquishing of Microsofts diabolic Xbox One. Xbone. Xbox Done. A knock-out blow! was celebrated. This console war is over before it began others cheered. Ill admit, I felt a bit of vindictiveness against the Xbox brand, like a jilted lover, anything bad was good.

But lets be honest here, the console was hasnt ended prematurely. The Xbox One isnt dead. Sony hasnt won, yet. They might have garnered an overwhelming victory at E3 (84% of voters on IGN.com thought Sony had made the best show as of last night) by following Napoleans advice Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake. They let Microsoft tread onto the landmine that is DRM. But one battle doesnt win the war. Neither should one assume Sony waited to see how gamers would respond before revealing their no DRM, no used-game restrictions platforms. The software has been under development for years now, and theres no chance they dropped such a feature after one round of boos directed at Microsoft. Much more, theyve been dealing with 3rd party developers and publishers for a while now. If they made any such plans to implement DRM or use-game restrictions, they would have been set in stone by E3, for better or worse.

The war will go on, and this time its not a war of game quality. Both Sony and Microsoft have taken a calculated risk, and time will tell which pays off. Microsoft is banking on developers/publishers being drawn to their console due to the promise of DRM and a slice of the used game market. More developers and publishers mean more games. Drawing more games will draw more gamers-just ask SEGA what 3rd party support can do for a console. Sony is following another market strategy, and despite the praises being sung in their name (disingenuously, in my eyes, by many fanboys who were going to buy the system no matter what Sony said last night) they are doing it not out of love for the consumer-but for the consumers money. Thats fine. The Sony scheme? Draw more gamers to the Playstation 4. A greater install base will attract more developers, and in turn, their games.

Which one will win? Sony put the onus on us to support their system. If we make a stand and buy the Playstation 4, we tell developers we dont want the Xbox Ones DRM, we want to own our games, and potentially play them as long as the hardware survives. Xbox One put the onus on the developers to create for them, the adage If you build it, they will come should be the Xbox Ones motto. In a very real sense, its a struggle between the developer, and their desires, and the consumer, and theirs.

For me, the debate is less philosophical, the ebb and flow of the market is secondary to my own bottom line-will I be able to play games at all? Living in a rural area, on very little income, gaming is one of the few hobbies I can afford. Gaming-quality internet isnt an option, in terms of cost or availability. I hold an interest in whose business model wins, of course, but its a selfish and superficial one. I want the Playstation 4 to win because I want to keep gaming. I voted with my wallet for CDProjekts DRM-free Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition, and I will do so again for the Playstation 4. As a consumer, I want the rights of consumers to own what they buy to stand. I want rural gamers to be able to play games. Multiplayer, motion-capture, cloud saves, online accounts, digital downloads-theyre all fine things, but they should be options-not mandatory. At least, not yet.

But, as good as the feeling is right now, dont cheer Sony too much. If they thought that supporting DRM would bring them more money in the long run, theyd do it. Thats just business. Its as immutable as the fact that-like it or not-the internet will be required one day. Game discs will vanish, replaced by bytes on an online account. If you must cheer anyone, cheer the consumer. Cheer the people who jeered the Xbox One and what it stands for. Praise those who commented, made videos, and signed petitions. As long as we remain vocal, and vote with our wallets, we still can get what we want. Only thank Sony for having the business sense to recognize that, and to bet the future of their console on us.

More Thoughts on the Xbox One (Warning: Even More Ranting)

The more I read about the Xbox One, the more angry I get.

"Xbox One requires an Internet connection and needs to check-in with the Xbox servers in order to continue functioning, Microsoft has clarified.

Microsoft's official line on the Xbox One is that it requires the Internet, but does not require a constant connection. "

Oh, so it has a 24 hour killswitch, instead of a three minute killswitch? Well, thank you so much, Microsoft, that's totally not the same thing.

"The Xbox One "requires, at some point in the beginning and at various times through its on state, to connect to our cloud and to our Internet. That is to deliver Xbox Live functionality, that is to deliver download content to you, that is to deliver some of the innovations around TV and entertainment that we showed today."

What if I don't give a crap about XbovLIVE functionality? Or the download content you're forcing me to suck up my laughable 500gb HDD? Or your stupid 'innovations' of 'television entertainment'? What if I just want to sit down, on my couch, and play some offline video games?

"So the box was designed as a connected device. We thought about people's worlds today. Whether it's on their phone, their PC, their tablet, people are always connected. And their experiences with it, things like Twitter, Facebook, Skype, [they] rely on a connection to the outside world."

My PC isn't always connected-it's never been, in fact. My laptop is, my phone is, tablets, sure... but here's the thing about them... they have batteries-they're easy to transport, they have their own screen! A console is NOT a smart phone. This is supposed to be a GAMING console. Why are you screwing with the gaming part of the Xbox One for social networking that everybody already has on portable devices? Seriously, let's look at the design of this thing, the processor, the HDD, the HDMI components, the Blu-Ray drive, the fans, the memory, the power supply... it's a little computer, built for gaming. Skype, Facebook, Twitter, they can be done without any of that, but you're going to force the secondary social network software to direct the design process of something that has hundreds of dollars of gaming hardware in it? Why? That makes no sense.

"So we'll talk about some of the 'how' at a later date, but I will say that we understand the importance of the secondary market. The secondary market was important in the current generation. We designed Xbox One understanding secondary market would be important in the new generation as well. We'll share more details, but people should know that it is a design criteria for us on the new box."

Translation: Weeeell... we're going to dodge that question, so, just know that we know used games exist, and they're totally part of the market, and we have plans for it. The plan? Screw them, you down own the game, you 'rent the experience'. You cannot resell your purchased product without giving us a cut, because you never owned it. See?

"So one of the advantages in the Xbox One generation, the reason we're looking at installing and understanding which games are yours and you own, is the ability for your games to roam with you. And you can go to a box and the box knows which games you have and you can take those games with you and move around. I think that's a real strong component of the platform and it obviously requires some local version of the game because you don't have to carry your disc around with you, as you're kind of bringing your content with you. So I think it's going to unlock a lot of capability for the gamer, much like they walk around with their gamerscore and their Live ID. "

What? You can already retrieve your Xbox LIVE account from... Xbox LIVE and play it on any Xbox 360. The Xbox 360 already has Cloud saved game storage. But you know, he's right-I really was breaking my back carrying all those DVDs around. Now I can just go to any Xbox One, get my account, and if I already bought-and registered-a game, and my friend already bought-and has that game installed-and we all have the internet where-ever we are, I can plan that game! Easy-peasy! This is nonsense. The Xbox 360 could already do everything beneficial he's talking about, and the Xbox One helps by... not requiring you to carry discs? In return for internet access requirements, second-hand sales taxes, mandatory installs, and account registration?

"We did a lot of testing; we looked at the content that's being created today and what our roadmap looked like in terms of content creation. One thing I'd say about content today is you see content being delivered at many different levels. You have big, disc-based games that come out, but you also see games that start more service-related; where they come out small and they grow as the person builds their experience. Our math says that the 500 gigs will be a lot of storage space for the gamer in terms of how much game local data that they will save. Obviously, the game is yours, so if you were to delete something off the hard drive, you could obviously always re-install something if [you] ran into a situation where you were running out of space. But our math, when we look at the number of games that somebody usually owns and the content they consume, we think the hard drive will be a nice hard drive for people. "

His math must suck, because my math tells me that each Blu-Ray can hold about... 50gb of data, and if you take into account the stupid updates, software, OS, and all the other crap that eats up HDD space... you'd be lucky to get eight or nine simultaneously installed games. I have about sixty Xbox 360 games. Now, on the plus side, maybe games still won't use the full capacity of the Blu-Ray. In that case, more games! On the other hand... they better, or what's the point of upgrading to next gen? What about extra massive games that use more than one disc? So, you can have a few full games on your HDD at once, and a lot of XBLA games... unless they're from the Xbox 360, then you don't get to carry those over, even though they're digital. On the plus side, Microsoft can dime you for marginal upgrades in HDD space, since I'm sure they've made the console incompatible with any cheap, effective, external HDD.

"Those games will continue to run on your Xbox 360 for as long as your Xbox 360 runs. The box is not backward compatible and we think for somebody who invests in a large digital library that you want to keep your [Xbox 360]. Keep that as a vibrant part of the ecosystem. That's why we've made sure that your identity, your friends, are constant between both platforms. You don't have a separate identity on Xbox One or [Xbox 360]; it's the same, you are you. My friend's network is the same on both boxes, my achievements are the same. So we think that service component is an important component to keep constant across both devices."

No, it's not a bad thing that the Xbox One isn't backwards compatible... it's a good thing. We want both consoles to maintain their unique identities, so we can keep selling 360's, and so in a few years when they all finally break, you have no choice but to upgrade. Enjoy your coasters, suckers! But we don't really want a unique personality-because both consoles share the same account! Which brings me to...

"Speaking with The Wall Street Journal, Mattrick said only 5 percent of gamers play past-generation titles on new machines.

Thus, it would not make sense to invest time and resources into creating technology to allow gamers to play older games on the Xbox One, he said.

"If you're backwards compatible, you're really backwards," he said."

Haha... if you're backwards compatible you're really backwards... Is this the new #Deal With It? What is it with people at Microsoft being dicks and having no idea what their consumers want? I don't know a single gamer who hasn't played an old-gen game in the past year. Not one. Look, I get it from a business stand-point. It takes more tech to make a console backwards compatible, and it doesn't create incentive for people to buy new games... except, it does create incentive for people with old game libraries to buy your console, which in turn makes them more likely to buy your games... Also, it makes them more likely to buy old games, if they can still play them on new consoles... Alright, maybe I don't get it, but I'm sure the smart jerks at Microsoft know more about economics than I do.

I know most consoles are sold under cost, and that loss is recovered by software and subscription sales... but really, logically, doesn't more consoles sold = more software sold = more subscriptions sold = more money? Why has common sense left this industry? Time and again we hear these creative directors and marketers talking about their ideas, what they want, and they assume because they had the idea, that it's what we want. If the consumer doesn't want it, why will we buy it? If we don't buy it, it wasn't such a great idea, was it? I just don't see how these companies ignore their consumers time and again, and get away with it. They've made the barriers between gamers and games higher every generation, every update, every console.

How much longer can they keep ignoring us, how much higher can they keep raising the barriers between the product and the consumer, before we just don't have the energy to climb over it anymore?

My Thoughts on the Xbox One (Warining: Pessimistic Ranting)

I'm sure everybody here is just waiting in rapt anticipation for my Xbox One commentary... so here we go.

First, the Xbox One? Seriously? What the hell are we going to call the original Xbox now? We had an Xbox... then an Xbox 360... and now we're back to Xbox One? Is Micrsoft retarded, or are they intentionally dicking with us?

Whatever, now for something of more substance, here's a quote from a Gamespot.com article:

"In a statement to Wired, Microsoft stated that "on the new Xbox, all game discs are installed to the HDD to play." Once the game is tied to an account, if another person wants to play it on their system, they will have to pay an undisclosed fee."

So, the Xbox One will require you to pay-not for an online pass, but an offline pass. Again, how this seems like a good model with their biggest competitor has no such plan in place is beyond me, but this rubs me in the wrong way for a lot of reasons. First, you can refer to my blog on www.heravon.com "Why Used Games are Good for the Gaming Industry". It is, ironically, the last blog I posted thus far (until this one). A bigger problem, though, is I am not the sole gamer in my household. Both me and my girlfriend are ardent gamers, we play the same games, on the same console, on different accounts. Now, the easy response is-just have one account for both of you... despite the fact that we don't necessarily want to share achievements and an online presence (we do plan to get the internet at home some day), there's a larger issue here. We like to play together. I know, I was surprised too, people still do this, apparently. Under Microsoft's consumer-hating policy, how, exactly, would Rebecca and I couch co-op new shooters? Or for games with restrictive save systems (like every Capcom game, but let's just say Dragon's Dogma-which only allows one active character at a time, new characters overwrite old) how would we be able to play? Would we need two Xbox Ones, and two copies of every game? If Microsoft thinks that's going to fly, they're out of their damned minds. Seriously, who, looking at that situation, would ever buy into that scheme when you can buy one Playstation 4, and one copy of all its games? The Xbox One is, then, an extra ironic title for Rebecca and I. Now, I should know better than to get drawn into another rumor-mill like this-after all, two months ago everybody 'knew' the next Xbox would require an online connection, so, to cover my own ass... if the used games tax is true (which would require an online connection for us to 'activate' games on both accounts in any event), I will not be getting an Xbox One.

As for the reveal event, itself? Well... why not let Kevin Van Ord say it:

"The moment I most hoped for was the one that would surprise me. I craved the unexpected, the game that would make our jaws drop, the announcement that would make it all worthwhile, the feature that would make the Xbox One a sure win. It never came. And suddenly, I feel less optimistic about the future of game consoles than I did before the conference. "

Huzzah, more Kinect features. My thoughts on Kinect? It sits dormant on my entertainment center. My computer/gaming room is too small for the Kinect to actually work so my atrophied connect library sits at three games. I've played one of them, once, at my sister's house. It was pretty fun, but entirely disposable, as far as my main-stream gaming tastes are concerned. Maybe the new one will be more accurate, or require less space? Either way, I could care less about all this motion control business. It was a gimmick on the Wii, it sucked on PS3 controllers, and while Kinect was the most appealing to me, I literally couldn't find enough space to fit it into my gaming habit.

I could comment on the games... it's not a big deal to me. Of course there's going to be a new Call of Duty... probably going to be a dozen of them during the life one of Xbox One. Of course there's going to be a new Forza, and FIFA. I will buy none of these games, of course. But what I really resent across all the new consoles is the promise to make it MORE than a gaming console-but the center of my entertainment. As if a console could provide anything my PC can't already do, but better. News: It can't. I don't want a device that can run Netflix, and play television stations, and connect with my computer... I want a gaming console to... you know, play games. Call me crazy, but that's why I buy these things. No other reason. I assume almost everybody feels the same way, when you get right down to it. I mean, if the Xbox One did everything but play games, would you even consider it at all? Of course not-it needs to be all about the games, and to that end... Microsoft couldn't be bothered to announce a wider variety of genres? Games like Skyrim, Dark Souls, and the Witcher don't sell enough? Surely the RPG market isn't as big as the shooter market, but really? It's probably not a good sign when you-as a life-long gamer-feel entirely ignored by a product representing one third of the console market.

As for the other stuff... better match-making... yay. Somehow I doubt they'll be able to eliminate potty-mouthed pre-teens from making the headset a fool's accessory. Multiple game spanning achievements? Didn't they already have that? I could swear I unlocked some achievements in Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3, and Dragon Age 2 for activities in earlier games... but hey, I'll be optimistic, maybe it'll allow publishers to reward games with achievement points for brand loyalty, and will replace pre-order bonuses and day one DLC. Yeah, I know, not likely... Maybe they'll give out achievements to gamers who buy new games, too? Incentivize those nerds for lacking consumer saavy. As for the built-in DRM... Yeah, it sounds kind of cool. I am already planning on buying a seperate HDMI game capture device, and this isn't going to change my mind. The way Microsoft is going, my video editing abilities would be limited, and I'd probably have to post videos onto XboxLIVE, or some other restrictive site set up by Microsoft... perhaps less direct than Nintendo targeting LPers, but I have so little faith in the gaming industry anymore, I can't help but be pessimistic about ulterior motives attached to any features on new consoles. I certainly can't believe that, after setting their sights on use game sales (or multi-account console users) they wouldn't try to gain control over fan-made videos about their games.

So, yeah... I'm being pretty negative on the Xbox One launch, but I really didn't want to be. I just don't see anything to get excited over. Microsoft, on the heels of EA's announcement that they're dropping the online pass-EA of all companies-decides that what EA was doing was essentially a good idea. They want an offline version of Steam-tie all your games down to one account, one HDD, and require an internet connection in order to register your games... the same reasons I'm no longer a modern PC gamer. In other words, Microsoft avoided the SimCity type of consumer restrictions, in favor of the generl Steam-styile consumer restrictions. Not always online, but so thoroughly integrated and monitored that it might as well be. Sony's launch was lack-luster, too, but nothing about the Playstation 4 actively turned me off to it. In the following months, perhaps more will become clear, but as it stands now, it seems a fairly safe bet than I'm going back to Sony for the Playstation 4.

So, that being the case, I think I'll post a link that... well, the market and Sony provided a better closing line to the Xbox One reveal than I could come up with:

Dreaming of a Better Dragon Age: My Hopes For Dragon Age 3

Might as well get this started now, since there's a chance I could be covering DA3 pretty closely when it comes out. I haven't been following Dragon Age 3 much, but I played the first two quite a bit, and all in all, I'm a pretty avid RPGer. So, without paying attention to any hype or speculation already out there, here are a few things I would like to see in Dragon Age 3, based on the first two games, and the RPG market at the present:

1) Action-Oriented Gameplay:
First and foremost, adapt the gameplay to be better. I know DA:O was a PC game, and was just ported onto the consoles, but the Witcher shows us that you can make a damn good RPG with better gameplay. Don't tell me you can't manage with the mouse and keyboard. You can. I'd like to see more action, and perhaps an OTS viewpoint, a game that was actually fun to play, for a change, would really renovate the DA franchise. Clicking on an enemy and waiting for it to die isn't exactly cutting edge anymore, and although Dragon Age 2 was a step in the right direction (among many, many steps back), more can-and should be done.

2) More Spells:
On that note, while I'd like more action, I'd also like more strategy. Remember when games used to boast about how many spells they had? Yeah... Spell combat has, sadly, never been deeper than in Baldur's Gate 2. I don't need or want 200 spells, but it would be nice to have more diversity in their spells. Instead of relying on one or two power spells, having full on mage-combat, with buffs and multiple statuses, would add a strategic element to DA3 that hasn't been around in the RPG world in about a decade. Yes, there was haste, healing, sleep, petrification etc., in DA:O and DA2, but the burden of using more than one or two buffs at time made it not worthwhile-we all know we only switched between two or three spells, as cooldown necessitated.

3) Better Customization:
Although Skyrim inched closer with thier weight option, Dragon's Dogma really showed everybody how it should be. One body type per race/gender is not good enough, Bioware. I'm sick of playing clones, with my character having the same body as every other NPC in the game. More options, but especially give us more bodies to play with. Perhaps Bioware views this as something for modders to handle, but I'm not paying THEM $60 for a game. Also, to appease my girlfriend, throw in a basic RGB 32-color slider for the hair and eyes. It's not that hard.

4) No Scaling Enemies:
One of my biggest gripes about the first two games is level scaling. Being a badass Grey Warden who can get killed-even at mid-levels-by some random wolves in the forest is not inspiring. Perhaps Bioware knows they'll screw up and leave an EXP glitch in the game, or perhaps they know they no longer have the magic they had in Baldur's Gate? In any event, scaling enemies does not ensure a constant challenge. It just ensures that some fights-which should be cakewalks, never are, and that no matter how untried you are, any fight is just as leveled at the previous ones. There's no reason to avoid some foe because you know he's set to your level anyways. Remember stumbling into a hidden chamber in a tavern in Baldur's Gate 2, only to get wasted by a Lich and vowing to come back later on? Remember the satisfaction of leveling up, grabbing better gear, and smiting him, when he had previously exterminated you in grand fashion? All you knew is that the screen when grey, he cast a bunch of crap, and you were reloading. On the other hand, random ninja gangsters who jump off ever roof in the city are a deathly challenge, even if you've already slain a dragon. It makes no sense. Worse still, it makes leveling pointless, and takes away any sense of progression. All that matters, besides trial-and-error with your skills, is your gear... which you tend to have to dupe money to get anyways. Bioware, seriously. You need to rethink the balance of your game.

5) Respawning Enemies:
I like to grind. I'll admit it. If I want to score extra loot/money, I should be able to. This is more useful when, you know, enemies don't level with you, because eventually beating up thugs in the slums isn't worth your time. It's kind of tied to my #4 wish, above. Don't worry about lack of immersion, Bioware. Having a mage Hawke talking to Templars about 'gettin' all dem damn mages' ruined that already.

6) Open World:
Perhaps not fully open-world like Skyrim, but really, I'm so sick of map-area levels. It seems so... last gen. It makes sense in Mass Effect, where you only have limited areas of operation, but in a fantasy game, exploration is kind of important. Seriously, if Final Fantasy X is more open-world than Dragon Age 2, you're not keeping up. Join this decade of RPGs, Bioware. Even something like the Witcher 2's limited-yet open-acts would be a great improvement. At the very least, don't make me have to consult a map every time I exit a small area. It ruins immersion. Oh, and quit recycling areas. I know you're EA's minion now, but Dragon Age 2 was just a joke. You can develop more game area than that.

7) Quit Diming Us:
I'm still angry that the stash in DA:O was part of DLC, and that I also needed DLC to access the ability to reset my skills in DA2, which is kind of necessary in a level-limited RPG where your skills really affect your survivability. The only DLC you should release are quality expansions, not as gimmicks to secure preorders. I know this will probably go nowhere, and most gamers don't agree with me, but I hate day-one DLC. It's just content that was created for the game, then intentionally with-held. Makes me feel like a sucker for buying the game new, and encourages me to just wait a year for an ultimate bundle which has no ambition of with-holding content from me.

8) Inventory Management... Really?:
Two things seem to have become massively inconvenient in fantasy games-magical light sources, and bags of holding. I really don't play RPGs for the thrill of inventory management. You'd think with all that power and money at one's disposal, we'd be able to get a magical lantern (Dragon's Dogma) or a Bag of Holding that eliminates inventory management entirely. Sure, it can affect gameplay if you can carry around tons of healing items... but you can already do that in both the DA games, so... c'mon... give us something. Don't make me keep running back to town... I'll do it, but I really don't want to.

9) Cloaks:
I know this seems a little simple, but I love cloaks in fantasy games. I don't care if it clips, and it can't be that hard to animate fabric. I like dressing up my characters, and everybody looks sharp in a cloak.

10) No Darkspawn:
Most folks won't agree with this one... but here goes. I hate Darkspawn. Not because of any story of difficulty reasons, I just find them horribly cliche. They look like Tolkien Orcs mixed with the Locust from Gears of War, they're one-dimensional foes, and... yeah, I know they constitute the grave peril upon which the game world is built upon, but they're just so cheesy. Really? Darkspawn? Why not call them Dire-Baddies, or something... Spawn... from the dark! Meh...

11) Keep Your Strengths:
I've been entirely negative thus far, so let's end things on a positive note. There's one thing Bioware has always done very well-story. Part of that is, of course, because they create some of the most engaging characters in the world of gaming... even if they do throw some annoying ones at us from time to time (Anomen and Leiliana, anybody?) Bioware is king when it comes to story, and I hope they keep it up. Make some advances to keep up with the trend of modern RPGs... and look back a bit, too. Tweak the system, and play to your strengths, Bioware. Just... try not to make it as trivial as the story in DA2 was, eh?

Anyways, those are just my personal desires for what I'd like to see changed in Bioware's next entry into the Dragon Age series. Let the roasting begin!

Why Used Games are Good for the Gaming Industry

Used games are good for the industry-not just the consumer, but the developers as well. The typical argument against used games (in favor of the developer) is the simple fact that game developers do not earn extra money off of used game sales-the two biggest sources of which are also Gamestop and online retailers, like Amazon.com. There are a few reasons why this is a fallacy.

Let's realize one thing about gamers-not all gamers have the same purchasing conditions. We like different games, and, to use a generic stereotype, assume a hardcore FPS gamer would never have any interest in buying Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, or that a hardcore JRPG gamer would never bother with Call of Duty. Some of us are extremely picky with our new purchases. I, for example, rarely buy any game for $60. The few I do tend to be games I've followed for a long time, and they promise good dollar-per-hour-played investment... which pretty much means I limit my new, full-priced purchases to top-quality RPGs, but the same thrifty gamer with other tastes might only do the same for shooters-only buy the best titles with the most addicting multiplayer options.

So, let's assume there are three major types of game buyers. 1) Avid gamers who purchase their favorite genres and titles at full price. 2) Thrifty gamers who buy new titles constantly, play them, and sell them to fund new game purchases, and 3) Gamers who only rarely buy new games at full price, and otherwise wait for price drops, or used games. There are, obviously, sub-categories. Some people have more money, or more interest in games, and buy many games new. Others buy almost nothing new. We all fall somewhere between the two, and favor certain games, genres, and developers more. We all tend to have secondary interests, too. I mostly play RPGs, but I enjoy action games and shooters, too... just not enough to pay full price for them.

It's gamers in the second and third categories that are the focus of this argument, and secondary gaming interests that suffer from banning used games. In essence, the argument is simple. Some gamers only buy new games because they know they can sell them, and invest further gaming purchases when they're tired of the game they sold. Some gamers only buy certain titles because they can get them used, or discounted. Both types need each other to function, and they need used game sales to remain untouched. Here's a good example-a gamer purchases Halo: Reach for the new multiplayer options, only to ditch it when Halo 4 comes out. Another gamer, vaguely interested in the Halo series, but not enough of a fan to purchase it new, only buys it when it's for sale for $30, perhaps sold by the first gamer. Both get what they want, and Halo: Reach gets its initial sale. Without the able to resell the game, the first gamer might not have purchased it in the first place (perhaps he'd have stuck to the latest Call of Duty game, or some other title, instead.)

To look at the market a simple system of one-to-one transactions is silly, when the market obviously thrives on much more sophisticated-and free-ownership patterns. Markets like Gamestop undoubtedly generate sales for developers by the simple virtue of selling used games, and not just new games. Again, there are variables and tolerances to consider, but it seems doubtless that the more you limited used games sales, the less gamers will be willing to spend on games that lie outside their immediate interests. The used gamer is often seen as a parasite on the market, but without the ability to make second-hand sales, many primary purchasers would have less interest in making as many new game purchases.

Ultimately as digital sales continue to grow and the physical market vanishes, this issue will fade away with it... but in the meantime, it's good for the industry as a whole to allow used game sales. Every game is certainly at the edge of some gamer's interests, after all. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a copy of Dark Arisen to play (which I bought new). After which, I might try out some Far Cry 3 (which I bought used.)

Written by: Nathan Garvin (Haeravon)

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