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3:02 PM on 03.24.2015

Wolfenstein: The New Order review: Insert Nazi pun here

Wolfenstein: The New Order released last year to critical and commercial success, proving that shooting Nazis is, in fact, timeless. For years Wolfenstein has been a fixture in the industry, even if in recent years its name has fallen into disrepute.

 It was one of the earliest shooters around, and is pretty highly regarded as one of the pillars of FPS history. Yet for years the franchise has somewhat fallen from relevance, and for the past couple of years it hasn't produced all that much of note until this game. With The Old Blood 20 dollar campaign coming soon, I think it's appropriate to write my thoughts on the game-as I finished it somewhat recently-to inform those who may not have tried it yet on what it is and why I think they should consider grabbing it, or indeed the DLC to get their toes wet.

Graphics and Mechanics

The first thing I noticed about WNO was the size of the game, 40 GB to be more precise. That's pretty insanely large for a game, as the next largest game in my library was Assassins creed Black flag, at 36 GB and that was a huge open world game. The size attribution is somewhat clearer, however, when you discover that not only is this running on the Idtech engine, but that it also uses mainly unique textures for lots of different stuff. It's a very good looking game, not the best perhaps, but still a good looker in its own right. 

 The aesthetic is also really neat, oozing a style that fits perfectly with the enemies and giving them a similar but distinct look to their compatriots. The tech looks somewhat old, and somewhat futuristic, which helps make the games aesthetic all the more interesting. There are certain set pieces as well that help illustrate how utterly the world has changed and moments like the drive to the London Nautica help build this oppressive world's atmosphere. Enemies have enough variation to keep you on your toes, but have a unified grim aesthetic that helps cement them as a homogenous force and fits with the overall themes.

The gameplay is rock solid as well, and that ties into the fact it allows you to pick up health packs and dual wield. Look, some people like the Call of duty linearity, 2 gun system, but I personally don't like it and find that it forces you to play one way depending on the guns they give you at the start or how much ammo they're going to drip-feed you determining which guns you have to choose.

 Running into a room, dual-wielding shotguns and blasting away before taking off and sweeping any health in adjacent rooms is much more satisfying to me than sitting behind cover all the time. You can dual wield 4 different gun types, and it's almost always satisfying to do so. You need to use some smarts, as at times the game is pretty unforgiving but the rapid pace and booming action is so engaging, bringing to mind good memories of the new Shadow warrior reboot. You can carry all your weapons at once, and the game forces you to switch by limiting ammo in certain areas for certain weapons. It's quite a well put together combat system, and it feels great. It's a good call back and it's ultimately a very satisfying game that only occasionally becomes way too difficult for its own good. The game is at its best when you have to keep mobile and blast away at your enemies without overwhelming you. However, it can be a bit too stingy with ammo and health for its own good at certain junctures, but overall it's a solid combat system.

Story

One of the big things I respect about this particular game is that it only has a linear single player campaign. The specter of having to have multiplayer hangs over our industry still and I can respect the decision to say no and then find success. Bethesda in particular is proof positive that you don't need multiplayer to sell, and I'm glad they continue to support more games from that school of thought.

Anyway, the story is actually one of the more interesting things to note in this game, simply because of how well executed it is. When you say story, Wolfenstein doesn't always come to mind, and with as bombastic as the combat is you might expect that to even less so, yet this games story is actually quite a large focus. It details an alternate future in which the Nazis gain access to super futuristic tech and manage to take over the world using it. Our hero fails to stop this, mainly owing to the fact that during this conquest BJ Blacsowitz, the player character, is incapacitated and in a comatose state due to brain shrapnel relations. During this time BJ manages to somehow not suffer muscle atrophy, and even manages to pick up a love interest...somehow.

There's some weird quirks to the story here and there, but overall it's actually pretty solid. The Nazis are really vile, the character building back at your home base is interesting and I like BJs inner monologue, even if I wish he would talk to others outside of cutscences. The games villains are twisted and interesting, giving you real reasons to hate them beyond just being Nazis, even if that is normally enough.

The occult magic of previous games also factors in a bit, though it's an interesting new take on the previous games handling of the magic and what not that I enjoyed even if it did remove some of the Nazis fearsome mastery of technology due to what it eventually turns out being. It's a fun game, and even if there are moments you can see coming a mile away it's still enjoyable.

Extras

Another thing that makes this game great is extra moments and text that build the world if you are interested enough to check them out. You can fulfill random tasks for the various inhabitants of your hide out, or just take the time to read news clippings and booklets scattered throughout the world to let you know what's happening in the Nazi controlled areas. There's lots of information on different things to be found, and it helps flesh out the world without shoving it down your throat, in a method similar to Metro: Last Light. There's also music releases based on famous songs but performed in German, which makes sense for the world and is just an impressive extra that didn't need to be included but shows how much the team at hand cared about what they were doing.

Conclusion

Overall this game is not perfect, as my gripes throughout this review may attest to. However, despite is imperfection, it's a great game that's fun and reinvigorates an old franchise in the best possible way via Machine games. If anything I have said piques your interest, I highly encourage you to give the game a shot and decide for yourself, but I think it's worth your time and money to experience this game. And hopefully we can say the same for The Old Blood, so keep your eyes peeled and we'll see how that goes. 

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12:02 PM on 03.11.2015

Why Dark Souls 2 is worse than Dark souls: and why I still hold out hope

The Scholar of the First Sin DLC is coming to Dark Souls 2 (or has already arrived depending on when you read this/when I can be bothered to publish this) with a bevy of improvements, most of which seem like they will help make the game better than when it first released and add some story improvements as well. And that got me thinking about something that had been on my mind since I had finished the game. Dark Souls 2 came out last year to good reviews, and seems to have sold pretty well. Yet if you were to ask most people, they’d probably say that they still prefer Dark Souls to Dark Souls 2 and I find myself falling into that camp. I’d like to talk about why, and in so doing hopefully target what the DS2 team can do to improve and make something on the level of at least Demons Souls.

A major departure

Hidetaka Miyazaki was the director of Dark Souls, Demons souls and the upcoming, fantastic looking Bloodborne.

And more important to consider than that impressive pedigree, is that he was not the director of Dark Souls 2. Now this might seem a bit unfair to the director of DS2, but to me it’s very important because it seems Miyazaki was a major driving force in making the previous games as rock solid as they are. I will delve into the different aspects in more detail, but ultimately I think his influence and vision are an important part of the divide between DS and DS2, and it needs to be considered throughout the discussion. There’s a lot missing in DS2 that could perhaps be due to other team members on Bloodbourne, but without knowing the specifics, the face of the studio has to be given the main credits. 

But without further ado….

Graphics and framerate.

This one is an easy win for Dark Souls 2, and even if they did lie in the trailers-which I find distasteful in the extreme-about the final graphical quality, it’s still a pretty good looking game. Lighting is pretty good, everything looks nice, and the game runs at a glorious 60fps. Dark Souls…has not aged super well, with somewhat poorer lighting, and worse looking textures. Its framerate is a bit choppy, and it has some glitches and problems. To be fair to Dark Souls, it was never planned for PC and only came to consoles, but it’s a very good improvement, and I applaud the team for it.

Unfortunately, this is the only real colossal improvement I find. Minor tweaks here or there help improve the games feel, but ultimately it’s the only thing I can unreservedly say is better.

Aesthetic and world

And here is where Dark Souls begins its roaring rise to the top of the hill. For all its ugly features and graphical problems, I still think this game looks better asthetically than Dark Souls 2. The game has more interesting locales and one of the key parts of that is that the world feels like a unified one rather than a disjointed stitching of disparate parts. In Dark Souls the areas tie into the lore and all are linked to feel that they belong together and fit into one beautiful picture. There are odd locations, but their placing makes sense and they feel like they link in some way to similar to the area before. The areas also tie into the lore and even the items build the lore of the area, solidifying its place in the world and explaining its presence to a degree.

Dark Souls 2, on the other hand, suffers from its world design not feeling cohesive or built well. A poison swamp leads to a poison filled windmill-fair enough.

Then that leads to a freaking iron castle sinking into the lava of the land it was built on. That’s the most egregious example, but it helps illustrate that the world feels more like levels created and stapled together than one cohesive world linked and interlinked together. One of the coolest moments in Dark Souls for me was seeing Lost Izalith from the giant’s tomb level, a small touch that solidified both places placement and their belonging in the world. Dark Souls 2 just feels oddly disjointed and certain areas feel like they could have been more fleshed out rather than being quick visual set pieces, ala the interesting tower area near the ocean that’s crumbling but lacking in real depth or areas and is more of an area to walk through than a deep area to explore. Areas are areas, and rarely get that much fleshing out to help build their place in the world, with some limp examples having info here or there, but not much else.

 

Items are also spread and try to build lore, but they feel poorly thought out and don’t build the world nearly as well as Dark Souls was able to achieve. Items in Dark Souls are tied to the wider story and world, so that each item was a reward to lore hounds as well as to your inventory, building a story in the background and leaving it there if you want to dig deeper. Even keys have lore, a small touch that adds to the world even more. Some Covenants in Dark Souls 2 are fine, and work in the context of the world but some feel like they don’t quite belong and are copy-pasted from DS.  They feel like someone’s just throwing stuff out there to seem deep but they feel hollow and too many items and spells are recycled as well. And hey, speaking of recycling...

Bosses

Bosses also get recycled as well, with some being reskins or straight up copies of bosses from Dark Souls. This comes off as terribly lazy, and linked with the fact that most of the boss fights are less interesting or cheap in the hit detection it just takes off more points. Honestly, only a few bosses really made me go wow, as opposed to most of the bosses in Dark Souls, and were so bizarre that I fell in love with their design.

There are some good ideas here, like the royal rat vanguard or the prowling magus boss fights that are actually pretty unique and fun, but they shine all the brighter next to bosses that are either boring or irritating to fight due to special conditions required to fight them. Hitboxes on bosses make several fights feel much cheaper than any Souls game should, with hits that were clearly going to miss nailing you because the game demands it. The hitboxes thing doesn’t ruin the game, but it cheapens and further weakens the boss fights, formerly a highlight of the soul’s series. And besides the looks, because the areas are poorly fleshed out, the bosses are also poorly fleshed out, with some of the bigger ones just being put in the area because they needed to be put there, rather than feeling like a cohesive part of the world. The 4 main bosses’ thing is lifted directly from Dark Souls, but there’s less meaning to it. Those bosses felt like legends, built up and nestled in their domains, with lore adding context and ensuring you knew they were forces to be reckoned with.

Dark Souls 2’s 4 great soul owners are just big bosses, put in there because Dark Souls did it that way and so that’s the way it has to be, without any real buildup and poor lore building robbing them of interesting development. Pretty much the only somewhat interesting boss of the four is The Rotten, but even that is robbed of lore and characterization. It feels like some key lore is missing, and so the world and bosses are weaker for that.

Story

Dark Souls 2 continues to imitate to it detriment, as it too is about you taking over a kingship after beating four big bosses and then one final boss who is one of the previous rulers of the land. You are chosen…blah blah blah...you get the point here, right? Remember Dark Souls storyline? Just that, but less well built, executed, and handled. This ties into the item lore and the buildup of the world, because that’s a massive part of the previous games story and many of the games mechanics tied into the wider story. Bonfires were tied to the undead, as were estus flasks, and bonfires also dealt with the fact that the world was slowly falling into darkness. Dark Souls 2 has no real bigger idea like that behind it, and suffers for the comparison. If they had altered the story more, and focused on a central theme the game would have been better for it. Maybe it feels like I am being harsh here, but nevertheless I am being harsh because this was their chance to really differentiate and create something uniquely their own, but Dark Souls 2 couldn’t help but wallow in the success of the former here. They had chances to make this game more their own, but it just feels like a lot of copying and disjointed story beats with no payoff. I expect better, and actually...

Hope for the future

I really have hope that the team that made Dark Souls 2 gets another crack at the soul’s series. Look, I’ve spent this article tearing down Dark Souls 2, but that’s because it’s a good game at its core. I tear it down because I want to expose the weak points and hopefully show what should be improved so that this team can create a souls game without leaching off their predecessor’s success. I enjoyed the game, but I would have enjoyed it more had it tried to be itself and embrace new ideas more. I want the team to have another go, and them introducing a patch to fix the lore indicates that they understand mistakes were made. It takes guts to fix lore and try and add more to help flesh things out, because it basically admits you made some mistakes. But fixing that gives me hope that this team can create something new in the soul’s series, make it their own and perhaps create another game truly worthy of the soul’s name.

I sure hope they do…because Bloodbourne is probably never coming to PC, and I needs my fix.

Thanks for reading!!!

 

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2:11 PM on 01.27.2015

Caught in the crossfire: Why I dislike GG and Anti-GG



Well, now that it’s the New Year I think a blog is overdue considering my last one was in the fall of 2014. So let’s begin by examining where that whole gamer gate thing stands, now that the dust has cleared a bit more. To say there’s nothing lingering of both sides of this movement would be untrue, but now we know enough and things have quieted down enough to take a look at the rubble and see what we can unearth. Now, as the title suggests, I really don’t care for either “side” of this whole mess and will attempt to explain why here, because some people may be confused how I could dislike both sides. But life is not black and white, it’s black, white and grey, and mainly grey at that. Extremism is the death of thought and conversation in this sort of discussion and it’s where the more despicable players lie so I tend to find myself closer to the center, getting nailed by the crossfire.

But perhaps I should give a little context for what this movement is to my eyes, and then explain my feelings on it more succinctly.

GamerGate: Origins of anger

Gamergate was started by a jealous ex-boyfriend to a game developer. I won’t name him here, but needless to say he is the progenitor of this movement, and considering all he has wrought I find him to be more than a little despicable.
So basically what happened at the beginning, was that the two broke up and the ex-boyfriend refused to move on. A simple story that has clearly spiraled into so much more, but that’s how it started by pretty much all accounts. The ex-boyfriend then proceeded to expose a relationship with said games journalist and a Kotaku employee, which had ended some time before he exposed it. The employee did not disclose his relationship, but neither did he cover anything by the game dev, but it could be seen as concerning to some, though the arguments of the merit of disclosure and what not were swiftly drowned out by the creation of gamergate. Certain elements within GG harassed and insulted Quinn and many other prominent female players in the gaming industry, all while claiming to represent gamers (they didn’t) and claiming that they were out to expose corruption in games journalism (which never really produced much). I may be overly simplifying this, and there’s some evidence that the ex and certain elements on private forums stirred up and whipped GG into a frenzy, but this is what I have observed and the conclusions I have come up to. This crapstorm started blowing up on twitter, and many could see it coming but still it caused a lot of destruction. Some inane GGer’s would harass any supposed article or tweet about them, so much so that some games journalists turned off thier twitter replies, the more violent would threaten women and expose their home address, and the rest who actually wanted better journalism never really pulled together anything solid from the muck.  Had gamergate had leadership and unified purpose perhaps it could do some good-perhaps it still can, even after all this. But their overreactions to any criticism or mentions that weren’t overt praise lost them sympathy in my book, and ultimately its caused a lot more harm than good. People have been chased out of their homes by some members in the movement, and many have had to forgo some aspects of twitter to avoid the bile. Most damaging of all, for all its claims of trying to get ethics into gaming journalism, it hasn’t borne much fruit.

So how could I oppose people who oppose a movement I clearly don’t like? Well to tell that story we have to go back and consider the games journalists who made up the Anti-GG team, because their actions are key to the beginning of my distaste.

Anti-GG: Revelations of contempt

This story begins with the fact that games journalists talk to each other. That’s not exactly a revelation, is it? Professionals are allowed to talk, have friends and interact in the media as long as they try to avoid letting it completely color their views. Even in private, I have no real issue though there is always the risk of collusion to the loss of the consumer. Now, when we talk games journalist we talk people who work at gamasutra, polygon, gameinformer, the escapist, destructoid, arstechnica, really there’s too many to list. These are pretty professional sites, staffed by professional writers, and yet their recent behavior seems to suggest otherwise.

Gamergate was starting to slow down relatively quickly. Support was dwindling, people were sick of the overwhelming negativity associated with the movement, and prominent games people were saying it was time to end it. They falsely labeled people who spoke against them as Anti-GG, and attacked them with gusto, and we were all sick of it. Everyone was exhausted, and just wanted it to stop.

Then a group of small “professional” games journalists decided to reignite the flames and pour accelerants on a dying fire-and in doing so caused more turmoil and anger that eventually led to many sites creating codes of ethics or silencing anyone who said that GG did make some decent points even if their execution was flawed, or calling out and bullying those who said anything nice about GG or even followed a supporter on twitter. Even now the effects are felt, and while those codes and statements were a good thing, as well as full disclosure via totalbiscuits example (from my perspective) it caused a gap between gamers and some games journalists. Not GG and Anti-GG journalists, not gamers and all journalists per say, but journalists who were virulently Anti-GG and gamers.

All gamers, you say? Wouldn’t it make more sense to say some gamers?

Perhaps, but if you agreed with what these people had to say, then you don’t think gamers exist.

Yeah, this small group “coincidentally” released articles in the same time period-some on the same day- that said gamers were dead.

Gamers. Are. Dead.


Let that sink in for a moment. These games journalists, called a significant portion of their audience dead. They made insulting generalizations like schoolyard bullies, and though I will not name them here, these people insulted their audience and told them their identifying hobbyist tag was not true, which would have been one thing. But some took it a step farther, and said we were antisocial basement dwellers, essentially saying that all the hurtful sterotypes the old media held about us were true. Heres a choice quote or two from my “favorite” article.

“‘Games culture’ is a petri dish of people who know so little about how human social interaction and professional life works that they can concoct online ‘wars’ about social justice or ‘game journalism ethics,’ straight-faced, and cause genuine human consequences. Because of video games. “

“This is what the rest of the world knows about your industry -- this, and headlines about billion-dollar war simulators or those junkies with the touchscreen candies. That’s it. You should absolutely be better than this. “

The sheer gall still…well…it still galls me, that’s the only word I can think of that will get past cuss filters. They not only told gamers their title was wrong, which you could argue this way or that way. But then they insulted us, stereotyped us, and said that we were as bad as some of the worst parts of GG. Blamed us personally for the actions of GG, as if we had any say in the movement, as if most gamers weren’t sick to death of the movement. Some articles went about this far, and while some didn’t go this far, but the sheer contempt for their audience was baffling and insulting. And it reignited the GG movement perfectly, but it also did something else-it showed gamers the sheer contempt some of these “professionals” had for their audience, and by their actions they showed that GG actually had some salient points. Anyone in the Anti-GG camp not only wanted it to end, that now wanted to witch-hunt and burn anyone even associated with the movement-even tangentially. Professionalism went out the window, people were attacked who had not themselves been perpetrators of abuse, and that’s still going on. One set of articles helped in one stroke show all this and begin the realization of how both sides operated. And it was hard not to see the similarities between the two.

Gamers Rising

Throughout all of this, a lot of bad crap has gone down on both sides. But you know who kept getting smashed by the collateral damage? By the crossfire?

Ordinary gamers who actually gave a crap about the industry and the medium. Some gamers don’t pay as much attention as I do, and some pay more but games are my passion. They are my hobby. And so, yes, I am a gaming enthusiast and therefore consider myself a gamer. And it’s important to look back to these events, as growing pains but also as how we view our media. Both sides deserve scorn, but the Anti-GG condemnation is longer because it’s more terrible than even GG was at its worst. GG was mainly made up of angry people, but without direction or meaning, just some angry gamers uniting but not marching in one direction. But Anti-GG? It’s been purported by professionals, by people we expect to be better, and who use the “with us or against us” fallacy. They can be just as bad as GG, but it’s almost worse because they should know better.

A lot of good debate has been had, and maybe this article has come a bit late, but I have been struggling to put into words how I feel about this until now. It shows deeper symptoms of problems our industry has, including some games journalists attacking and ganging up on others rather than engage in thoughtful debate. It shows our industry still has problems and that this whole debacle while mostly blown over is not in any way settled. Normal gamers shouldn’t have to fear the abuse of a group of bullies, and they shouldn’t have to see that same abuse coming from the people who work in the industry. Disclosure should be the rule of the day, not something only brought about by two mobs fighting for control. We shouldn’t have to fear voicing our opinions on a topic only to be slammed down or blocked because our opinions are wrong. Yet still this goes on, and gamers are the ones who suffer. Good people left the industry, good devs left and will continue to leave and children get up and try to smear others who have higher ethical standards than them but who aren’t held to those standards themselves. Too much, I find we lean towards anger and argument rather than rational, reserved debate. And there a quite a few game journalists who do try to engage in that. But this whole thing is not over, not resolved and it won’t be until we take a long hard look and find out who stands for gamers and playing videogames, even if they don’t like the same ones we do. People in power with contempt for their audience will start to find the ground eroded, and people who tear others down should be carefully examined by their followers to see if their point is being argued in the best way. Both these sides show problematic parts of the industry, and we have to try to change it so that one of the best media around can grow and mature rather than continue to suffer for its worst parts.

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1:44 PM on 11.24.2014

Ubi-Slop: The new EA?


Those of you with the ability to scroll down a few blog posts worth of headers may remember that I have taken Ubisoft to task for their poor handling of Watch_Dogs graphics issues and their outright lies about the nature of those graphics issues on PC.

But holy hell, these past two weeks have made me spew bile in a way that most doctors would agree is not the default setting for said expulsion. Ubisoft has made mistake after mistake, and I feel its time someone categorized and explained them to you if you are curious about why people are currently so pissed off with Ubisoft at the moment. Because all these mistakes are of Ubisofts own doing, and honestly they deserve to be torn to shreds for their behavior. However, let’s start at the beginning of the nightmare that was Assassins creed Unity’s launch, by qualifying its development teams ideas and why these ideas may have been a warning sign from the get go that this game was going to come out of the gate with three broken legs.

30FPS is more cinematic

Alright, first of all let’s just stop this festering sore from erupting right now. If you prefer 30FPS, I am not saying you are wrong but 60FPS is objectively better. Preference is opinion and numerical fact is that 60>30. If you like 30FPS, that’s fine but it’s not based on objective fact. I say this because I want to focus not on that but on the idiotic idea of being cinematic. Our medium is one of interactivity, and therefore comparing it to a medium of non-interactivity is foolish. And more to the point, the argument that its more cinematic is nothing more than a red herring to distract from the real issue, namely that the designers cannot get the game to run at 60FPS (or at 30-but we will come back to that). And that’s ok.
It really is ok.

But lying that you think it’s more cinematic and that it’s not due to a limitation makes you look stupid, and Ubisoft’s looking pretty stupid from the get-go, especially considering that films run at 24FPS due to LIMITATIONS OF THE TECHNOLOGY at the dawn of movies that are kept around for no other reason than stubborn refusal to change. Yes The Hobbit looked weird, but this is the first time anyone tried that level of FPS, and of course it’s not going to be perfect the first time someone tries it. So already this cinematic argument falls apart, as an excuse and a stupid one at that. Had they simply just admitted they needed to make the concession to make sure crowds ran well, that would be ok, but they chose the stupid buzzword approach.

And then? Things got worse.

Console Parity

You may remember that I leveled accusations that Watch_Dogs was graphically downgraded due to incompetence or actual attempts to make it the same as consoles to make them have parity. Why would they do this? It occurs to me that Ubisoft makes poor PC ports, constantly insults PC players as pirates, and forces its Uplay bull on us to play games-even games bought from Steam, a DRM service that unlike Uplay, actually functions well under high stress. So it’s in their best interest to keep console owners happy and buying consoles, because they don’t like PC and don’t want to be stuck with it on a raft for a couple of weeks when they can try and appeal to a little yacht that’s forced to endure them, though it is slowly sinking-but I digress. This is all just speculation on my part, and the second idea is pure speculation.

That first one though? Not so much a speculation now, as Vincent Pontbriand revealed when he told certain game sites that both consoles were locked at the same level to “avoid the debates and stuff”.

Look, let’s not tiptoe around the issue here-what that statement implies is that one of the consoles was not able to handle the same level of graphics as the other. And while it may be unfortunate that the Xbox-One can’t quite get to the same level as power as easily as the PS4 (PC gamer, no investment in console wars so calm down), that is an inherent trade-off that Microsoft made for other benefits of the system aside from graphics.

But tough crap, because people know that and accept it and reducing the parity of one to help the other one hobble along is dishonest and morally repugnant. Yeah, it sucks, but that’s how it is and Xbox-One owners knew that when they picked the console. Reducing, or at the very least not optimizing graphics for the PS4 means delivering an intentionally worse product to make people feel better about their system. This is stupid because people will debate anyway, regardless of petty things like subjective opinion, or facts (look at literally any console war forum for evidence, cause I’ll be tazed with a cattle prod before I even think about diving into that swamp). And of course debate kicked up anyway, because internet, but now most of our ire was reserved for Ubisofts stupid decision that proved they weren’t above reducing the potential of one game to make the other seem similar on a different system, which led to the obvious conclusion that Watch_Dogs was most likely not mere incompetence. It was most likely intentional, though the reasoning behind this stupidity may never be known to us.

50 cc’s of Steam to Uplay, stat! 

So while all of this is stupid, it’s only the beginning of this sordid little tale. Next Ubisoft pulled their upcoming big games from Steam in the UK, and then the rest of the world. They have since been returned, although I believe they are still not up in the UK. This is speculation, but I would imagine that since the UK gets treated like crap anyway for gaming, they wanted to test a rollout there and see if switching to Uplay would cause an appreciable drop in sales. The rest of the world, well that was most likely a mistake that was swiftly corrected but evoked the ire of gamers yet again. Irregardless, I believe this signals an attempt by Ubisoft to move us to their Uplay service much as Origin was an attempt to do the same for EA. And much like Origin, I would most likely only touch the service if I needed to. Still, if I was confident in their ability to keep their servers up, I would understand the decision. It’s a stupid decision, to be clear, but from a business perspective I understand it. They did say something vague about reaching a deal with Steam, which means they want a bigger piece of the pie and far be it from me to argue that Steam is perfect. But Uplay is a terrible service that’s just an irritant, offers barely any extra value, crashes when they sell a bunch of games meaning you can almost never play on day one or when a bunch of new players jump on a new sale, and honestly they just treat PC like such crap that I fail to see why I would give them the benefit of the doubt. I predict they will try this again soon though, so keep your eyes out for an announcement of that nature.

An early mornin’ embargo

Now, we approach the hill before the summit, the warning sign that beyond this hill lie something more hideous than Renee Zellweggers new face, apparently.  A day one embargo is never a good sign, and while it does not necessarily mean a game will be poor, it’s a worrisome indicator of publisher faith. The embargo released at around 9 in the morning and then…then the gates were thrown open. Yes, some people had access earlier and posted to forums, but most of us were waiting for the reviews.

And before us was laid bare one of the most high profile disasters of a big-budget AAA game we have seen in some time.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations…… of horrible Q&A and testing

Assassins Creed: Unity was widely panned as being a buggy mess of a game, with reviewers noting game breaking bugs, problematic AI and broken animations. Even worse, it was later revealed that Ubisoft had not only added microtransactions, which I have talked about before, but there were chests in the game that could only be unlocked via the companion app on phones. And additionally, reviewers wrote nothing of these horrid microtransactions because the system-with some microtransactions reaching the 100$ mark-wasn’t online until after the review embargo was lifted, which may have been a coincidence but looks awfully suspicious in light of how the company has been acting. There was a day one patch, but it didn’t fix a lot of bugs, including the now infamous broken face image that haunts the souls of men in a way only these animation glitches can. More updates have been rolling out, but they still haven’t quashed all the bugs even this far along. That the game was released in this state is embarrassing, and since companies often don’t seem to care about that, financially damaging. Ubisofts stock dropped around 9% for their blunder, causing such a blow that they vaguely stated they would consider retooling the way they handled Assassins Creed development-though I doubt we’ll see it go back to a realistic cycle anytime soon.

And in the end, all of this damage, embarrassment and insult was incurred in a massive amount that had us calling Ubi the new EA. And for what? Short-term thinking turned this franchise into an annual one, destroying its potential and producing games that are not nearly as good as they could have been with more time. Many gamers, myself included, are burned out on this schedule and haven’t bought one of these games in years. And for what, I ask once more?

A mediocre game. Bugs may have plagued it, but regarding the core of the apple, most reviewers gave it mediocre scores, and it got almost no large praise. 2 years of effort went into building simply the Notre Dame, much effort was made to make the city look good. This should have been a return to the Italian heights of the games past, and yet all it turned out to be was a mediocre game in a line of the same. Maybe Black flag was alright, but Brotherhood was the last one I tried and found some enjoyment in. All of this, Ubisoft brought upon itself with its shortsighted greed and a team of developers who I have less and less faith actually know how to make a game properly. All of this could have been presented with smart budgeting, prevention of franchise exhaustion, and heavy testing. But Ubisoft did none of those things, and reaps the thorns it sowed for itself.

But we aren’t done yet, shockingly enough.

Ubisoft blunderbuss blast!

Ubisoft in the preceding week made it very clear to those observing that they had fired their PR team, because they went on to blame AMD-even though the issues impacted NVidia PC’s as well- for some of the issues. They also brillantly announced there would be no new Blood Dragon game, a game which a lot of people, present company included, absolutely loved, for no reason. It was just an announcement that they weren’t going to make another one. And while Far Cry 4 is getting good reviews, it too has some bugs plaguing it currently and it’s a game that is considered one to avoid till patches make it better. Assassins Creed: Rogue has received almost no attention or press, and reviews say it’s alright as well, an interesting concept wasted on an icy reskin of Black Flag. Ubisoft has with one game become one of the most hated companies in the gaming publishing scene, drawing ire from all corners towards themselves. At this point, people have been calling them the new EA, due to the immensity of their error. And what of EA? I have referenced them here a few times, but what about them? Have they released a game recently? Have they messed up recently?

The king of Idiot Mountain dethroned…..for now?

EA recently released Dragon Age: Inquisition, to universal acclaim. It has a few bugs, but it’s a monstrously large open world game, and that’s to be expected, as was the case with Far Cry 4. It was released in a working state, had the embargo lift a week or two before release and EA has been relatively silent on stupid comments. While that is actually be a bit worrying-silence doesn’t equal reform-it appears to be a hell of a lot better than a company that used to be not nearly so close to the crap pile. And we can only hope Ubisoft starts and EA continues their march from that pile towards something respectable. Because this crown is a hard thing to lose, and can be an easy one to gain if you’re not careful.

Conclusion

Ultimately, this whole saga has been a mess from day one, and no one wins. Preordering becomes more of a impedance than a benefit, punishing loyal customers with a broken unfinished product, we see a franchise some of us used to love further pushed into the ground, and Ubisoft loses financially. PC gamers get screwed over and over on this sort of thing, console gamers got a broken buggy game and an intentionally worse product in some cases.
Meanwhile, Ubisoft Montreal becomes the laughing stock of the Ubisoft stable of devs, messing up on a game that was set in the main company’s HOME COUNTRY and one of the most interesting settings any ASC game has explored in a while, not to mention among other games. It’s been a mess of terrible decision after terrible decision, and we can only hope that this sort of thing gets prevented from happening again. Nobody won here, nobody gained anything but a franchise that has imploded on itself and a mess of a game. And that’s just disappointing all around.

 

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5:22 PM on 11.03.2014

I HATE YOU!!-On the response to Hatred


First off, let me put out in the open that I know that by writing this I am indirectly contributing to the admittedly clever douchetastic tactic of marketing the hatred devs have used to promote their game of indeterminate quality. But I feel like it’s time I talked about it, because apparently there’s word of a possible boycott going on via Indies and youtubers, that involves wanting to censor it. And I want to talk about it because of the stupidity of that decision. But allow me to begin at the….beginning.


Shit.


Hatred is announced
Hatred, for those of you who don’t know is a top-down shooter where you massacre innocent people and police officers because you are an insane man with no name who wants vengeance. I won’t link to the video, or the site because I really have no interest in playing the devs game of promotion via outrage, and that’s not what this blog is about. That description I offered may seem dry, but that’s because while I find the game somewhat repugnant, it’s not out yet and honestly it looks like another Postal game.

 

Boring, with no hook but the promise of controversy and stepping over the line of societal decency and if it was making a statement on that, ala Spec Ops the Line and military shooters, I will applaud and pay attention. But I doubt it, and honestly that means it’s not worth getting crazy about. I am quite happy to see that a decent amount of sites I frequent only talked about it once or twice, recognizing the tactic for what it was and simply saying “bleh”, and moving on. But some sites were not so smart, and in an attempt to appear as the moral beacon of gaming helped promote this game far beyond whatever marketing budget the devs had in mind could propel it to. Apparently, sites like Polygon, Kotaku (to a lesser degree apparently) and perhaps others beyond my scope published post after post, screaming at the moral indecency and drawing more and more to see and judge the game. All but two of the google results of “polygon hatred” are articles about hatred from polygon, and each is a unique article. That’s quite a few more than my normal 3 gaming sites, and that right there is part of the issue I would like to discuss, anecdotal as that may at first seem. The game is of smaller importance than the reaction to it, and we must examine and think about that before we have the nerve to try and censor/quash something we deem “immoral.”

Also never ever google that word in image search. 


Those who fail to learn from history…


I want you to stop and think of a moral panic from the last 20 or so years, and I can guarantee that you can name at least one. Metal invokes devil worship, the Beatles and Elvis…something something sex, D&D encourages suicide and devil worship, Ouija boards are devil worship (pretty common, that one), TV media and movies cause violence, comics cause violence, and the most poignant of all? Video games cause mass murders, including Columbine and every mass murder since then. I haven’t seen people saying such things about Hatred, but the moral outrage part feels all too familiar. We are fans of a medium that is frequently attacked by idiots hungry for ratings, and those who are ignorant of the truth that some people are just broken, and there may not be a root cause or rationale behind their crimes, a rather scary prospect.

And I invoke these mindsets because not liking Hatred is one thing,. Censoring Hatred, or attempting to, that’s what evokes these memories in my mind. Why? Well, what you say when you try to censor something because you don’t like it is “it offends the moral palette, and therefore must be crushed and tossed aside” or perhaps “it will cause some harm to the minds of the innocent”.

This mindset is not new or original, as everything provocative triggers this reaction to some degree but we suffer moral outrage even today, so why would we inflict it on those in our community? It’s ok to not like or be disgusted with Hatred, and while I disapprove writing article after article whining about it is your right to free speech, and making their game is their right and censoring it is foolish and stupid. Art pushes boundaries, and by acting just like those who were morally outraged against our medium and still are, you are just as bad as them. Can you get angry at Hatred?

YES!!

But should you censor it? Of course not, because only the close-minded who are afraid of new boundaries censor things, and the world is a far less interesting place if you take away people’s right to be different. And for all you know, this could be a statement on our kneejerk reactions or how ridiculous claims of videogame violence are and how will we know if you crush someone’s free speech? We have had our favorite medium attacked again and again for being morally repugnant, yet we are eager as hell to censor and tear apart a game that even looks like it might offend our senses. A game that, as you may or may not be aware, is not out yet! (at time of writing) And that little caveat leads into what these sites who are morally outraged are inadvertently doing.


Free marketing


And now the second issue, one that came up more at the beginning, near the announcement trailer, and has somewhat died down, but will no doubt flare up near release date. And that is acting as a marketing arm of something you despise. While I do not advocate censorship, screaming about the game on and on and on is doing far more good for the thing you dislike than bad. Reviews are not good for sales, but freaking out about the game can only draw more attention to it, which is good for sales. So I want to address the people who keep writing about this game. Do you want to let people know how you feel, without drawing way more attention than necessary and beat the little outrage marketing trick they have going on?

Stop talking obsessively about Hatred, or really, anything else that markets itself solely on shock value.

It’s really that simple. Give a succinct, detailed explanation for why you feel the way you feel and then focus that attention on a game that deserves your attention. Don’t censor, but just ignore the game or just say you think its gross and then be done. If you truly want to not help this game out, censoring it is not the way to go. Let it stand and if it collapses under its own weight, let it fall but don’t keep drawing attention and wasting your readerships time with article after article. Because then this slimy marketing tactic works again and it just shows what a kneejerk reaction you have. And where the next talentless, visionless hack will know to strike first.

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9:00 PM on 09.08.2014

My Favorite Game: Fallout 3

I have played games for a decent amount of time, ever since I can remember. I played through some great ones as a kid, and even today I find something that suits my fancy to a good enough degree to declare truly great. We all have a tendency to rate most highly that which we play as children, or at least young adolescence because, in my opinion, this is our moment where something can perfectly define what we are, or do something amazing we never thought could be done. There’s so many different experiences that what caused your favorite game to be there is often up to the right timing, right lifetime frame of reference and perhaps countless other things leading to what that one game is that is just bliss. For most, as mentioned before, this happens as a child. Look at all the fans of Zelda games, or other older childhood games that were made when gaming itself was in its childhood. But irregardless…

Not quite so for me, as you may have ascertained from the title. I have played many games, and had played many before Fallout 3, with Bioshock being in a close span. I had just gotten into gaming websites as a hobby, and read about the game. The box got me, and after doing the research I tried the demo that enthralled me with visions of Rapture (teehee) but then I got another game. This one was a darker looking game as well, and I bought my copy used out of a GameStop with my older brother’s age advantage. The game had an interesting and incredibly detailed little game manual, a little booklet to describe how to survive in the nuclear holocaust. I looked at a back, promising choice and limitless possibility, and the...naughty? Mischievous?...way it said find your father...or not, with a wink made me smile. A game that promised much, and delivered. It trounced the already amazing sequence from that Bioshock demo, and blew me away like so much nuclear ash. And so, Fallout 3 could begin, with a blinding light, the last of many for a new awakening. 

Yes, perhaps I was something of a sucker for that dramatic little intro that so effectively introduced, not with word, or cut scene, or anything so physical-but that entrance into the hell of the wasteland. Yes, the sections where they dazzle you with a sudden revelation seem to have suckered me in as a kid, but nothing but that Bioshock scene has struck me in quite the same way. It threw you out into the world, running from bullets and your previous home into this new, destroyed world. There were so many different directions to go, the world was mine to explore. But the game was signposted well enough to let me know that megaton should be my next destination. This game blew me away, the emotions swirled and mixed and I felt shock and awe at what had befallen the world, even knowing what the game was about. It was an amazing moment, and I spent so much of that first bit just exploring the houses, looking at those skeletons and considering what had happened to those poor people.

The game is so littered with interesting set pieces, and there’s more than a few odd things that even as much as I have played this game-and I am willing to guess it goes above 200 hours- I still find new things. The world is so dark and depressing, but full of potential exploration and good memories. I remember killing raiders and then summoning a robot ally from his stasis to fight their support in the Super Duper Mart. I remember running from raiders and swimming away, my prior choice taking the lead belly perk proving to be a wise one. I remember the eeriness and unsettling atmosphere of the Dunwich Building-and the disturbing, unexplained, unexplainable obelisk within its bowels. I remember the nerve-wracking fight through each building filled with howling ghouls screaming in the distance. I remember the raiders who shook me down for the Nuka Cola formula so they could reinstate the great hockey arena battles that time and bombs had worn into a twisted memory of the true past. Some of these moments were unscripted, and they just happened, or at the least weren't tied to quests persay. So many more happen every time I play the game, and the world is so atmospheric, as things crash and explode in the distance as you wander this lonely, desolate shell of a world. It feels like an apocalypse, the world is deep and oddly quiet, with music kicking in but never being obtrusive or noticeable to an irritating degree. There were things that made me chuckle, things that made me laugh, and through all of it the shocking violence,

the horrible meat sacks the mutants carried and left behind…the first centaur encounter out of nowhere…it’s a game made all the more wonderful by its atmosphere, and the grim sadness that pervades everything.

Yet its enthralling, and the true freedom of choice is astounding, with unspeakable acts of violence or heroic acts of kindness-or the cold detachment that more than a few characters seem to have invested their points into…I love the world. The menu is intuitive and build into a wrist mounted computer, which further immerses you in the world, and the side quests are numerous and for the most part interesting, or linked to something interesting. It’s hard to truly put into words, hard to sum up how I feel about this game without writing a book…..but ok to sum up, if I had to try and end this with mere words…..

GARY!!!!!!

 http://fallout.wikia.com/wiki/File:FO3_Gary_Gaaaaary.ogg

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1:17 PM on 07.16.2014

Youtube promotional questions


Let me begin by saying that I do not use Youtube as a medium of self expression, though I have considered it. Let me also concede that there's a decent amount about this already from people far more ďin itĒ than I, but hey, its something current that needs talking about and I donít want to not post something for too long, lest people who frequent here think I have departed for that big Fallout 3 in the sky.

Now recently, a study was done -link here-of several Youtubers who admitted to taking money for coverage. Now while the numbers that were posted were relatively high, you also have to take into account those who straight up lied about any involvement. This survey should also be taken with a grain of salt, as all surveys should but it does raise issues around promotion.Some people will wonder why people taking money for promotion is such a bad thing, and thatís a fair question. Totalbiscut does this sort of thing, and no-one really takes issue with his promotional stuff. But the key for him is that he discloses when heís doing something promotional and is taking steps to make that even more transparent. And therein lies the issue at the root of the core of the center of this rotten appleÖin the center of the earth. Or something.

The issue is transparency, and this creates a severe question about the ethics of youtube journalism. Theres probably a fair amount of youtubers out there who donít disclose this sort of promotional deal-look no further than Machinima, which was caught producing content for the Xbox one for money. The problem they ran into is that they told no-one about it. It got found out, and they took yet another hit to their credibility, which has slowly been dropping for a while now but this helps highlight the problem at hand. This happened a while ago, but if even a big channel like them is doing stuff like this, than what are the implications for smaller channels? That may have seemed like an unlikely or small issue before, but this survey highlights that it may be neither of those things at this point. Hell, Machinima has been seen as iffy for a while now and could therefore be passed off as an anomaly, but this is undeniable. †

Not only is this practice against the law, but more importantly it violates the trust between viewer and viewee. These laws are weakly enforced at best, at least if this is this widespread without any FTC action, but that means that said laws are pretty unimportant to the discussion at this juncture. Taking money for coverage without telling your audience is unethical, and if my itty bitty little blog got paid to write something up or have adverts or some other stuff, you can bet your ass I would take that sweet cash-but I would also make sure to alert you to the situation. The audience is the reason for your youtube channel and what money you make off of it, and when you lie to them about your coverage and payment you break the trust between them as surely as Ubisoft releasing Watch_Dogs crippled broke the trust between PC gamers and the devs. They deserve to know if you are actually enthusiastic about what you are promoting, or are being paid for the promotion. Yes, maybe if they know they will get upset, or decide not to get interested in that thing due to the promotion aspect, but thatís their decision to make, and considering they are what supports your channel you owe them that decision. Youtubers who do promote gaming content are in the spotlight, and even smaller ones have an audience that depends on them for news and opinions. Taking advantage of that trust is poor form, and if your audience finds out and leaves to find someone they can trust, I canít say I have much sympathy.

So there's my thoughts on the topic. Again, I have very little insight on the topic but I thought I would just let ya know what I thought and maybe make more people aware of the issue. Another blog will be forthcoming, and if I start gettting a regular enough following I will try to be a lot less sporadic. Generally when something happens that pisses me off or makes me happy I want to talk about it, so given the stuff the gaming industry likes to pull, I should have fresh material soon enough. Feel free to let me know what you think, suggested corrections or whatever, I do actually value the feedback.   read


11:10 PM on 06.17.2014

Goin' to the _dogs

Ubisoft has made some good games in the past, and perhaps in the future and they have some of the most interesting games out there for a big AAA.

Thank god for that, by the way.

But they do tend to fuck up, a lot.
And sometimes, they're so rock-fuck stupid that it drives me crazy. They mishandle PC ports consistently, especially for Assassins creed, and they bait fans with promises of franchise continuation while knowing they will most likely never make a new iteration, see Beyond Good and Evil 2. And now this. Watch_dogs is having some good financial success, selling around 4 million copies around its launch, and that upsets me because now I cannot get excited for anything they show, because of fears that they are lying their asses off to us. But I digress, let me build my case, and show you why I feel this way, should you not be sure why I am upset.

Get it, get it? Cause building with legos, and....also because its a really cool legos....

E3 Lies
Colonial Marines, Dark Souls 2, Watch_Dogs, that one Killzone 2 trailer-what do they have in common?

Well the fact that they lied in initial trailers as to the games graphical fidelity. All these games showed game-play at their respective E3 conferences, yet they later turned out to be lying. And yes, while Watch_Dogs and Dark Souls 2 look pretty good, as well as Killzone 2 but less so because not PC, they don't look nearly as good as advertised. They promised more than they could deliver, and if it had been only on console I could've understood, but as someone who bought Dark Souls 2 for PC can tell you, this is not the case.

It's not a secret that most if not all companies use high end PC's to show graphics off, even for system exclusives. It is simply a more powerful machine, and I am willing to admit that I can see why they do this. Even if it is for console, you want it to look the best it can and the only way to do that is to get it on a steroid cooled PC. But that's not my issue. You see, they get away with that because the human mind is a fickle thing, and won't remember that compared to the game on their system. Hell, even with the dramatic difference some people can't see the change in Watch_Dogs and Dark souls 2 without comparison. Colonial marines looked like shit and it was mainly a press show off thing so it was less in the public eye. But I understand, as anyone who plays a game from even a few years ago, like Infamous, looks better in our minds eye than in reality, sadly. So I'm going to link to a video, and if you think the graphics thing is not a big deal, watch the video and I guarantee you'll see the problem.

That's not the issue, the glaring problem with Watch_Dogs is that it was lied about, not that it looks bad. Had they not lied, I think it would have been less reviled for said deception, but a lot of people looked to this game as representative of the next gen, and looking at all those amazing graphics, with wind, rain, trash, wet coats, even as a PC gamer, perhaps somewhat foolishly, I was excited. But then all this crap happened, and it killed what excitement I had. The meh response it's been getting has killed the rest of the excitement. But then something happened. Something amazing. Something Rock-fucking-stupid amazing.

The Killer is in the house!
Again, this was understandable on consoles, but how could they think not even a really powerful PC could handle those graphics? It was assumed to be a lie, then, a vertical slice, a demo created to lie to us solely.
But it wasn't, as this man can eloquently tell you and better yet, show you with almost that level of graphics in his retail copy.

Others have said this as well, but the games final graphical state is not bad.
The files for that E3 trailer level of graphics were in the files. No mod was needed to be created, just some files to be teased out. It's not at the same level yet, but the person who discovered this is still working entirely within the files that came with the PC game.
And really, what more do I need to say? They lied about the game, were too incompetent or malicious to activate them on PC, perhaps to try and say the fact that consoles can't do that yet isn't so bad. We just don't know yet, but what we do know is that they crippled the PC versions graphical potential intentionally, and whatever the reason I am disgusted. They were too lazy to remove said files during the crippling of the PC version, and whatever the reason the game could have been that much better, the promise could have been meet, and they could've avoided the hate.
I don't buy that Sony and/or Microsoft paid them to cripple it. Lots of games come out and look a lot better on PC, and I don't think these two would ever cooperate on a venture like this. Singularly, I don't buy it either, because it seems too much a risk to convince gamers that their systems are the same power as the best PC's. Console gamers in the vast majority are not stupid, and they know their system can't compete with the most powerful PC's in the land, but there's a lot of reasons they don't buy PC. Very few expected better than PC, but they did expect better than the previous generation and for the most part they are getting that. So that's out. So why?

As of right now, I don't know. It seems that something rotten is going on, and I will update here as needed, but whatever the case Ubisofts stunning incompetence in removing said files or implementing them is clearly on display, and I advise you stay away from Watch_Dogs until this gets figured out. Let them know with your cash what you think of lying and then intentionally crippling one of the major gaming systems, and buy it for cheap on a steam sale in a couple of months or pirate it, as they seem to be so afraid you will do. They have continuously shown a lack of regard for PC, and therefore a decent chunk of their consumers and now that their little batch of lies has sold 4 million, they will see no reason to stop, I can guarantee. So watch carefully, because why not do this again, if the reward is 4 million games? Everything they show is subject to scrutiny, and if you trust it look at this and wait for their games to come out. Because they may just lie again, and they don't deserve your preorders. Or your money, for that matter, until they prove they deserve it.
The mod, for your perusal.

http://forums.guru3d.com/showthread.php?t=390114

 

UPDATE: 10/7/14

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/137874-Assassins-Creed-Unity-Will-Run-at-900p-Resolution-and-30-fps-on-Xbox-One-and-PS4

And now we get a look behind the gears, and we see the rot. I had suspicions that something sketchy was going on, but now we have proof that they are not only not above lowering the parity on a better system, but that its also a matter of course. Honestly, this seems to be out of stupidity and laziness, and I think it was the same for Watch_Dogs. In case you didn't read that post, basically they kept the parity on both consoles the exact same because one (Xbox one) couldn't run as well as the other. Not for money, not for promotional deals. But to avoid the debate, and stuff. This is just brilliantly stupid, and though Ubisoft has released a PR bullshit comment, please take this for what it is. This is a company that supports a culture of laziness and stupidity and is more than willing to force an inferior product on consumers if its easier to do so. The irony of this gentlemens statements are that it is causing fierce discussion, and most of it isn't too peachy for Ubisoft. This company doesnt not deserve your support unless it earns it and hard. Wait for reviews, and if the reviews aren't perfect, wait til the price drops. Let Ubisoft know how you feel about being sold something that is not nearly as good as it could be becasue someone else bought something that is not nearly as good as your thing, and we don't want you to debate about it! 

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10:08 PM on 05.19.2014

Bioshock Infinite: Later thoughts

Bioshock Infinite.†

Bioshock infinite was a game that was critically lauded, and received tons and tons of praise, even from some hardline critics, which was more than enough for me to decide to check it out. †I got it on sale for 40 bucks, and played through it. I only lost my focus a bit later on in a dull section, but I finished the game around august.

PhwewwwwwwÖÖ.

After letting this game stew for a while, I find my opinion has worsened from even my lackluster feelings after beating the game.†

WAIT!!!!!
[b]
[/b]

Before you begin in with cries of you don't get it or you can't compare it to bioshock, I will bisect those two arguments right here and now. First off, yes, I may have missed bits of the subtext but I understood what was going on and it was a bit of a mess. Being pretentious does not mean being misunderstood, it means pretending to be making points and pretending to be smarter than you are, and this game is not nearly as intelligent or interwoven as it would like you to think it is.†

Secondly, yes I can compare it to Bioshock because itís called Bioshock infinite, has pseudo-plasmids and similar combat and even clearly steals sound assets from the first. The very name invited the comparison and therefore invites criticism regarding that. By naming it and lifting so many elements a comparison must be made, and one must look to what Infinite does differently than the original Bioshock to isolate what it is, and whether or not it is indeed better than its precursor. †Now with that out of the way, no I would not recommend this game at full price, though at a sale price I can recommend it for a play-through at least, to see if it works for you. The game squanders its potential by not focusing on the more interesting bits, like talking to citizens and exploring the town with dull combat, which is infinitely more boring than Bioshock (hah, mother fucking hah). Thereís no real sense of progression, the fights are just long and drawn out, simply making fights more obtuse and more irritating to get through and the abilities are mostly uninteresting or just copies of the original games plasmids. And speaking on that, the vigors are just reskinnned plasmids, just without any of the lore, intrigue or even real relation to the universe that Bioshock and even a game that I consider in some ways to be better, Bioshock 2 had. Thereís no interwoven lore, the world is just there, the physics shit is fucking pretentious and the main villain and city are uninteresting, especially considering Rapture and Andrew Ryan. I don't like how no one took this game to task for its issues, because maybe I am being pretty critical but the game is not as perfect as advertised. It got talked up and talked up and talked up, and even when I tempered expectations I was left disappointed. Itís weaker than Bioshock, lore wise and world building wise and I just don't like it. I also really don't like how a game that did everything better than this one was overshadowed by this one because it was so hyped and deep and shit. Itís not that deep, and when you have a line like "The city doesn't float cause of the balloons, it floats cause physics!!!" you know itís trying to be that game without understanding that by trying and not doing it falls flat.†

World†
[b]
[/b]
While this game is worth a play through, you should beware the hype, as I personally felt it was far weaker than advertised. Go play the much better Bioshock, or even Bioshock 2, or hell, go play Spec ops if you want to play a truly great game, and if you want to see what this game could've been, go play the game it helped push away from the periphery, Metro Last light, because that game for all its flaws actually proves why it deserves it accolades, and doesnít just whisk you away from the people drama, which is quite good in Inifinite when no main characters are involved. Play the game once without listening to literally every conversation, and then do another where you listen to everything, and in that second play through you are going to find that hours of content are added, that could have easily been skipped and ignored. It doesnít force them on you, and it goes the extra mile to make it mean something that you listen to deepen and enrich the world. The metro is interesting, and I just feel like in some ways both games are similar, but Metro shows what Infinite had the potential to be if it unstuck its head from its own ass and tried.†

Combat
[b]
[/b]

I mentioned this before briefly, but I want to explain more the mechanical issues I have to further elaborate. Now, at first combat feels fine and goes alright and its actually fun. But as the game progresses the battles are more confined and less dynamic, and simply throw tough, high damage enemies that sap the fun away. Additionally the game has only two gun slots, only a few plasmid slots, no progression at all-which is fair enough- and most irritating though perhaps most petty of all, the guns donít show upgrades, making said upgrades feel ethereal and meaningless. It removes a sense of ownership, and it hurts the combats intensity. It also gets irritating to have to constantly look around for different weapons or be deprived of a favorite weapon because its not in this level, thereís no ammo why would you want to use it, player? Thatís a little petty, but considering the legacy that hangs over it, I donít see why you didnít just leave it in. Maybe to attract the ďgunbroĒ audience, but do you really think that said audience is so afraid of multiple gun slots? Or is that something the industry believes, so it must be true! Because it feels like that. And it makes the combat feel a lot weaker than it should, even if the skyhooks are a somewhat interesting mechanic that are ultimately wasted more on the combat than exploration.†

Ludonarrative Dissonance
[b]
[/b]I have no problem with the level of violence, none whatsoever. The combat is my issue, not the blood and graphic kills, though I can see why some people might have issues. Still itís a nonissue for me, so donít think thatís my problem with anything in the game, because the rest of the game is my problem with the game.

Graphics and Aesthetic design
[b]
[/b]The game looks pretty good; itís very pretty and colorful which surprises me. Arenít you afraid bright colors will scare away the ďgunbrosĒ? They canít tolerate anything thatís not brown and gray!!!! Itís odd that this was an excuse for the combat, but not the actually very pretty coloring and nice graphics. Aesthetic wise it looks good too, I do like the 30ís patriotic vibe, though eventually it kind of sweeps this away for fire and chaos, which doesnít serve quite as well but it still feels alright so I can live with it. Enemy design is a bit lazy though, as thereís not a huge amount of troop variety in unit type throughout the game, even if there are some unique concepts. But for the majority of the game itís the same troop subtypes, even if they are different factionally. Also what the hell is up with their eyes? Some have glowing eyes and thatís never explained and that kind of bugs me. Sorry, thatís really nit picky, but yeah overall I like the look and aesthetics. Credit where its due.†

Racism

If you let those blacks free, they will burn the city down!

Yeah, guess who tended to think that? Hint: Civil War.

Guess what happens at the end of infinite? Spoiler alert: What the racists thought would happen if said statement was allowed to pass.

This one seems tenuous, perhaps, but the Vox donít just take over Columbia, they burn it to the fucking ground. Or at least try to. And while I can see that as part of the pretentious point that both sides can be corrupted with power, it still comes across leaving a sour taste. Perhaps this one can be interpreted differently by different people, but it seems like immediately making the Vox the villains and making them seem a lot worse than the founders-who didnít burn the city down-comes across as a little unevenly skewed. Might be just me and the person who originally put the thought in my head, but I canít quite shake it.†

So thatís my overall thoughts, finally out for the world to see. Feel free to comment, I would like to know how you feel regardless of disagreement or agreement. It augments my understanding, and hey, maybe I can alter my blog post to be a bit better and provide a better read for more discussion. Hope to discuss soon!   read


1:46 AM on 06.11.2013

How Sony won* the war E3

[font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]*For now [/font]
[font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Back again all, and ready to type.†[/font]

As most of you who have seen or heard from the Sony press conference have heard, Sony won. Now I wonít lie and say I havenít always preferred them, but I think itís important to think about why they won, and perhaps examine how Microsoft could step up their game. Competition is good, and Microsoft needs to get its head out of its ass if it wants to ensure we reap the benefits of said competition. I figure the best way to do this, is to examine why Sony is winning in the court of public opinion. Obvious to some, yet still important to try and begin dialogues to see how everyone feels.
Sonyís used game stance
This was the most surprising part of the presentation for me, as I expected some form of control, at least on a publisher level but nothing was mentioned right now. That might be to ride the PR wave that has buoyed Sony to this point, or it may be something that will never pop up but I think itís great. By doing this not only does Sony alienate [u]no[/u] core gamers or push away Gamestop, but it actually encourages them and reaps the benefits of that love they will get, when store shelves need stocking.


Now where Microsoft went wrong with this is how blunt they were. I think Sony is playing the long game, slowly making obsolete used games with a better service and fazing them out later, when they have a more comfortable position and can either afford to take the PR blow or when their customers are so much more satisfied with new product they donít want used, though there will always be holdouts. Whatever your opinion on this, itís important to note that by doing this they will sell a good amount of systems, and garner good will, but over the long haul will achieve that goal of killing used. Microsoft jumped too early, and too hard, making it easier for Sony to turn the public against them. Microsoft desired the result now, and instead of being clever they simply bluntly stated they were doing it and provided so much misinformation as to create a worse image of their product. That hurt their image, and on that subjectÖ..
Sony vs. Microsoft in the sphere of hardcore gamers
Ah yes, anyone who pays attention to games at all hated what Microsoft was doing, on different levels obviously, but it was the way they did it they pissed us off. This attitude of we need to force you to do because its ultimately good for you permeates Microsoftís corporate culture from windows 8 to the Xbone, and itís not earning them goodwill. But their mistake was not doing all this per se, it was doing it so ham handedly while alienating those who tuned into their conferences.†

Their pre-E3 conference was all about cable, TV, bullshit we donít care about when we tune in. And it was mainly us tuning in, because what casual audience tunes in to a middle of the day conference from a gaming company? No this was their chance to woo gamers, but they spent it on non-game stuff and made it seem as if this game system wasnít for us, and that made it all the more unattractive. Additionally Microsoftís frankly shocking lack of information or indeed misinformation spread and made the system look even worse than it is, and itís already a very unappealing system. That conference foreshadowed the main issue with Microsoft philosophy, namely that
Sony was all about the games
Yeah, there was a bit in the Sony E3 conference about media other than games. It took five-ten minutes.
Let that sink in, while thinking about Sonyís E3 last year, regarding a certain WONDERBOOK.

See the issue wasnít a lack of supply of these features, it just pissed us off that while at the Sony pre-E3 was all about games, and the Microsoft pre was not. And when gamers tune in, we want to know about the games. And Sony delivered, and delivered again while Microsoft talked only about cable and sports tracking at its pre. And while these are actually not terrible, in fact some could be very cool, they shouldíve released this as a press release, not as an event that only gamers would ever watch, pissing off gamers even more when they didnít get enough games. Microsoft mishandled its info and only presented features that while nice werenít what we came to see. And that lost them some goodwill, even though these features might be useful. Its messaging came off as schizophrenic and that really hurt them, allowing Sony to ride the wave of love that came in even though they didnít release all that much info about their own system, which had the potential to be worse. And Sony used that to their advantage, not even having to put out all that much PR, and indeed mocking the Xbone at their own conference, firing direct shots and not even trying to disguise it.
Online always

Simcity. Simcity is a lesson in not learning your lesson, a lesson that Diablo III taught before even that, and one that Microsoft fails to see which will be to its detriment. If its servers ever fail, it will mean not only will online multiplayer be disabled, but unlike the PS3 outage crisis, games will be disabled as well. The system has to check in every 24 hours, or no games for you. And considering the shitty internet a lot of the main demographic of America has, that means it will be a no go for those without internet. Yes, some will say we all have internet nowadays, but some of it is sporadic and some of it doesnít work.†

If you buy a PS4, however, you can play offline, and the PS+ benefits you wouldnít get anyway wonít allow you to play multiplayer you couldnít play anyway. But thatís optional, and considering the fact that Microsoft hasnít even brought up Microsoft live yet, which you will have to pay for most likely, that should worry those who like to play, even when the internet goes down or Microsoftís servers break.† And speaking of that Xbox live, and PS+, those are added onto the cost of a system. This is yet another problem for Microsoft, consideringÖ.
Price difference
How things have flipped. With the Xbox One at 500 dollars and the PS4 at 400 dollars we see an interesting flip in perspective.†

Yet this doesnít include the multiplayer fee, which brings PS4 to 460, and the Xbox one toÖ..no one knows. And since they arenít bringing this up, that means you may be paying upwards of 500 dollars for something that canít play games if the servers die or if you lose internet for more than 24 hours. And thatís going to be a hard sell
What to do?
Microsoft needs to act, and it needs to act fast. I like the competition it provides, hell it made Sony give us rainbows and Easter eggs when alone it wouldíve been a far grimmer market, but they need to start changing their approach. It needs to be all about the games, which they may have started to do, and they should really consider cutting some of the online requirements, at least for now. But if they donít do that, they need good bundles, cheap or free Xbox live, and they need to get their shit sorted out, or risk taking a painful kick to the groin, because though I believe the system will sell well, perhaps better than the PS4 which would be tragic considering how pro gamer it is, it must always remember it couldíve done better. And them not doing well is no good for any of us. And thatís why unless they step up their game in other areas, things may be a bit bleaker ahead for the industry, though collapse is not something I predicate on a wide or small scale.

Share your opinion in the comments; I would like to hear opposing perspectives, things I may have left out, or possible avenues for either company to take, for good or for bad.†
I look forward to the sparring match.

  read


11:24 PM on 04.14.2013

"Violence: An argument for a (metaphorically) punching non-violence"

Violence in games is nothing new, but with new technology we are able to render in gruesome detail what was merely the psychotic fever dream of a very.....lets say interesting few. Now we can not just visualize it, but we can see a video game character get his throat torn out, or see a man torn asunder by a horror beyond description. Even back before these graphics, games like fallout let you blow peoples chest cavities out. Violence has been embedded in our games DNA since their inception, with the violent slaughter of countless blocks in Block breaker, or the horrible treatment of one innocent pixel ball in Pong. Yet this raises the specter of whether or not violence is truly something we want associated with our increasingly scrutinized industry, as more and more forces look upon the worst and see a nightmare where we see monotony. Violence is not bad, even if there are cases where it is stupid. Allow me to extrapolate your mind out.



Violence with meaning
Nothing is more heartwrenching than watching someone you have grown to love or at least care about be devoured in the most horrible way possible. The Walking Dead adventure game shows this off beautifully, as we watch characters we have grown to care about be violently ripped apart This is not done only to shock the player, but to dishearten and bring true sadness. Here violence is appropriate because it hits home how horrifying this new world is and that no one is truly safe. Violence is an efficient tool to deliver brutality, moreso than any words could ever be. Violence is a tool, and like any tool when used properly it can augment a great experience, but when used badly it may result in hurting the overall product, like a chainsaw to the groin. When the violence means something it can be a very useful aspect indeed. Deep experiences use this to their advantage, such as Spec Ops:The Line's horrific kills as the game progresses, hammering home the point that you are no hero but a monster who uses violence to try and solve his problems, but only causes yet more pain and suffering. Hotline Miami ties killing to points, with horrible violence hidden behind a cartoonish facade that slowly unravels as you characters sanity drains away, showing the consequences of violence against ones fellow man. The original Bioshock played around with the idea of player agency, revealing at the end of a twisting journey how many people you had killed at the behest of someone asking nicely, putting into perspective your more loathsome acts as those performed not out of necessity but hunger for more violence and more tools to inflict that violence. Fallout 3 has you blowing the heads off of raiders, sometimes horrifically dismembering your enemies as their bloody stumps let fly arms, legs and eyes. That drives home the brutal world you inhabit, one where you are just as brutal as your enemies in your attempt to survive this violent, cold world. Yet there are many more games out there that have violence for the sake of violence, and those are-



Violence without meaning
Fallout 3 also pops up here again, because incidently those scenes are awesome. Perhaps that sounds juvenile, but there's something enthralling about blowing off a super-mutants head and watching it fly across the room. Violence is also cathartic, and for some reason we seem to be attracted to it, even if just in video games. God of War and Dead Space are both dripping with gore, in some ways literally, with limbs being shorn off, heads being torn off, and one particularly violent scene wherein you beat a man to death using a door. This is done for the sake of violence, and while in the case of GOW it weakens the story a bit because it is done for its own sake, it is also enjoyable and visceral to do these things.It is engrossing to see just what line will be crossed next, and it is darkly enjoyable to partake in the violence. And while it does get to a point where it disgusts or annoys rather than enthralls, most games can toe the line between fun and morally reprehensible, like beating defenseless people or killing womens and being rewarded with a trophy. Man did not survive for thousands of years by being nice, and video games could be seen as being close to a gladiatorial combat thing. We like outlets to dispense our rage and latent instincts at, something to let us vent or be the badasses we long to be, in a similar method to post apocalypse games. We enjoy the blood-sport, but ultimately that brings me to the main point which is that-



Violence in games is no bad

When I play a violent game like God of War 3, I may cringe but I never really get disgusted. No, that happens when I watch a TV show and someone gets their fingernail ripped off, a scene that didn't bother me nearly as much in GOW3. And herein lies the difference. Fallout 3 and all the other games that fall into category 2 are almost cartoonish in their violence, and we can immediately tell the difference between this and reality. And therein lies the key. See, we like the catharsis of playing as kratos, but if someone said "here, take this murderer rapist who is also downloads music illegally and beat him to death with you bare fists" I like to believe most of us wouldn't do it, because that's real life. With the exception of some of the mentally ill, we can tell the difference between reality and games, and that is why it doesn't monstrously impact our day to day lives. Perhaps it does to a small degree, but it also doesn't cause us to go out and beat people to death with clubs. Violence in games is something that can be used effectively or entertainingly for a player, but it does not change who we are in the end, and only serves to entertain. Violence is not bad in games, but it should serve a purpose, whether to drive along the story or to be entertaining to that sick part of our minds that enjoy the blood. Violence should be a part of games, because using it we can blow off some steam, but more importantly we can explore the deepest regions of our minds, and question deeply held beliefs or be emotionally impacted. A video game world without violence would be a cleaner, nicer place. But the world is not a place like that, which is what can make games so compelling. Not all games need violence, but it is foolish to argue that not all games should not have violence as well. Because video games are a reflection of us, and violence is as much a part of as as artistry or music, and we must explore that, whether it leads to hunger for more or a hunger of evolving beyond it. Leave comments below and tell me what you think! I look forward to agreeing and discussing or disagreeing culminating in me TAKING YOU DOWN TO PAIN TOWN!!!!!

  read


4:25 PM on 03.25.2013

The Vita's Salvation

The Indie gaming scene is pretty big right now on PC, as anyone with any semblance of knowledge of the gaming community is probably aware of. Indie gaming is an interesting endeavor, due to its need of unique or original game-play/hooks to enthrall the player in a hypnotic trance that gets them to buy the game. Not all are great, but I do like how the market has a tendency of ferreting those out while praising the great ones.



Hey, wasn't this supposed to be about the Vita's salvation, or some other random thought bubble? Well yep. It is. See the biggest issue one finds with the Vita is that issue all of us Vita owners are painfully aware of: that moment when you boot up the system, and go "huh, guess there's nothing to really play on here" and throw it back into its lonely little position, waiting for something substantial to come out. Yet the release flow has been slow, and many lament the systems lack of games as a major factor of why people don't get to use it as much as they want. Its a gorgeous machine, but it needs games to feed it, and keep us playing between the blockbuster hits that may or may not hit it out of the park, with some being spectacular failures. So how do these two ideas link together?



Indie games on Vita. This hasn't really been too big before now, but many indie games are migrating to the platform, and this represents the Vita's best hope for a better gaming library. Not only that, but it also represents an opportunity to get indie games into the hands of those who don't really PC game, and that will win Sony tremendous favor if they can keep up this indie support. And based on Jonathon Blows presence at the PS4 unveiling, I believe that's what we will be getting.



Limbo. Retro City Rampage. Thomas was Alone. Guacamelee. Hotline Miami. Mutant Blobs attack. All of these games are Indie, all are pretty well acclaimed or at least generating excitement in the case of Guacamelee, and all are coming to Vita. Already we have these great games coming to a system desperately in need of them and we see that Indie support is a master stroke if Sony can truly ride the wave and keep it up. While Xbox Lives archaic rules and regulations are seen more and more as a barrier to entry and, more dangerously for small studios, money, Sony has courted these developers and offers them more freedom and an easier system to get their games out and make money. Many developers have complained of this Microsoft attitude, Ala team meat and Retro City Rampage, as well as Valves issues getting free DLC to its customers. This is a terrible move by Microsoft, but in the end, who cares? They still have Halo, they still have Gears of War, they are going to still have blockbusters, alongside those Indie developers who choose to stay, like the twisted Pixel. Yet, so does Sony, yet this move helps them seem as the champion of the small developer, even while Sony's big franchise pull in major cash. But you know what lacks majorly acclaimed games and a larger library?



The Vita. The system and indie gaming, should the relationship flourish, can help the Vita grow stronger, become the go to platform for those looking for portable Indie games, and an easier way for Indies to find commercial success beyond the PC. And the Vita can have more games to play, and hopefully bring up the sales numbers or at least reward the faithful for their patience for bigger games, though even those may be eclipsed by the Indie successes. And as all of us with Vita's know, that's something we desperately want-and hopefully will soon have, wherever we choose to play.   read


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