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2:38 PM on 05.13.2013

EA Could Bring Balance to the Force

On May 6, Electronic Arts and Disney announced an exclusive deal that will see EA and its subsidiaries produce and publish all major mainstream Star Wars titles for the foreseeable future, and of course this evoked a bit of a reaction from the internet. The “Worst Company in America” will be taking control of one of the most beloved franchises in modern culture, and internet trolls everywhere came out in angry droves with torches and pitchforks looking for blood.

Take a deep breath and think about the situation for a minute, there is good reason to be cautiously optimistic about EA taking over this thing we all love. Take a look at the development houses that EA has on hand that will be handling the production of games:

Dice: Makers of the second largest FPS in the world, these guys will have the resources and know how to produce a killer revamp of Battlefront as long as they can get someone who can write a story that does the license justice. Also EA owned Pandemic Games before shuttering the studio in 2009, which means EA has to have the assets and art on hand to use as a base to keep this series going forward.

Bioware: Before Mass Effect and Dragon Age there was Knights of the Old Republic a ground breaking RPG that revolutionized the Star Wars universe. A faceless hero who turned out to be Darth Revan the scourge of the galaxy injected into Star Wars a new life that spawned countless books, stories and the most expensive MMO ever made. With EA taking over hopefully a new single player RPG will see the light of day.

Visceral: While Visceral studios catalog can prove to be hit (Dead Space 1 & 2, LOTR: Return of the King) or miss (Dante’s Inferno, Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel) they can defiantly make interesting games, especially third person action games, and with EA announcing Dead Space 3 to be a sales “failure”, the currently defunct Star Wars 1313 could be resurrected and have a top tier team show off their creative force. The Force Unleashed could also be a title that might be worth breathing new life into.

Other possible ideas:

-EA has been responsible for the Command and Conquer series and Star Wars with its two large military factions constantly at war would be prime real estate for an RTS.

- Criterion creative director Alex Ward said his studio is taking a break from racing games, but what if they stay in the business of vehicle based game play and try their hand at a new space combat, a New X-Wing/Tie Fighter or Rogue Squadron.

I for one am excited to see EA take over Star Wars and to see what can be done with a rich and intricate universe. As long as we don’t see another Masters of Teras Kasi, EA could be the company to make Star Wars games worth playing and actually recognized as legitimately good games, not just good licensed games.   read

1:00 PM on 04.25.2013

What Does Microsoft Have Behind the Curtain?

May 12, 2005 was an evening that changed the landscape of gaming. Elijah Wood, Tony Hawk, The Killers and more appeared on MTV in a grand spectacle that culminated in the reveal of the Xbox 360.

Microsoft spent an estimated 1 million dollars to shout to the world, here’s our new console you better take notice, and we did. Here we are almost 8 years later and Microsoft has more or less “won” this console generation.

Microsoft has announced that on May 21, 2013 a new generation of Xbox will be revealed, this time around however it’s not a public event, there likely won’t be celebrities or huge bands or a television special, it’s not even at a time convenient for most consumers to tune in to watch. No this time Elijah Wood is being replaced by Don Mattrick, instead of a flashy prime time MTV special, Microsoft’s home campus in Redmond, Washington will host the next reveal at 1:00 on a Tuesday afternoon. As a consumer I have ask why? Why the drastic change?

Two months ago Sony held a huge press conference to let gamers and developers know, we know we messed up with the PS3, but we will fix out mistakes, the PS4 is for you. Every facet of their event was created and presented to appeal to gamers and developers, save a single slide that talked about entertainment apps.

Microsoft will conversely will likely focus on hardware, services and partnerships, as Microsoft’s Major Nelson said E3 will quote “showcase our full lineup of blockbuster games.”

So why should the gamers really care about tuning into the reveal?

As someone who has made the Xbox 360 my primary gaming console this generation I am interested in finding out why such a drastic change from one generation to the next, I would think that Microsoft would want to continue to ride the wave the Xbox 360 has created, to get out there and appeal to public and make their voice heard, instead it seems like they want to keep the event low-key and to divert as much attention away as possible. It makes you have to question why?

What is happening with the next Xbox that’s causing Microsoft to not be the bold and brash public face it has been since that first reveal of the 360. Are the always-on rumors true? Is the next Xbox going to lock out the used market? Does Microsoft really not put much stock in traditional gamers?

We will have to turn in May 21, to get maybe start getting some answers for ourselves, and no doubt Microsoft has hired people far smarter than myself to coordinate and strategically plan the information roll-out for their next console. Maybe this is just stage one of a bigger plan that the public isn't privy to. Maybe all the rumors are false and Microsoft has big secrets planned to bring gamers in droves to the next Xbox. Then again maybe not.   read

10:13 AM on 04.18.2013

So they say we don't want female protagonists...

In a recent interview with Penny Arcade Expo, Jean-Max Morris reported that when Dontnod Entertainment was shopping around the upcoming game Remember Me the company had trouble finding someone willing to publish their endeavor. Why you may ask? Not because the game is a new IP launching fairly late in a console generation, which it is. Not because Dontnod, while being an amalgamation of proven talent, is itself a new and unproven studio, which they are. No, those might be valid concerns a publisher would have, instead they were declined because the games protagonist, Nilin, is a woman.

It says a lot about the gaming industry when creative people with a new and interesting idea are turned aside for a reason such as this. When we look back just at the current console generation there are many games that feature female protagonists that are widely praised by gamers, and while the publishers may deem some of these games financial failures, is this because gamers didn't want these games or because of over inflated production budgets combined with unrealistic sales goals.

Let’s take a look and compare some of the big blockbuster games that have been released this year and their sales in the first month after launch. Gears of War: Judgment 425,000, God of War Ascension 360,000, Dead Space 3 605,000 and Tomb Raider 3.6 Million.

Now I’m no business analyst but to me it seems like the game with the female lead was embraced by more gamers then the other 3 games coming from top tier franchises combined. And yet publishers say we don’t want female protagonists. Now granted Lara Croft is an established face but at one point she wasn’t. Tomb Raider was a new IP in 1996 and it was given a chance to prove its own merits rather than being dismissed because of a female character. If this year’s Tomb Raider had been a new IP instead of a reboot would it have ever seen the light of day? I’d guess probably not, and gaming would be worse for it.

Mirror's Edge was a game that those that played it widely praised and the game has sold over 2 million copies in its lifetime. Now I can understand that 2 million isn't COD numbers but it is very respectable for a new IP that tried something completely new, and is a lot better than most games will sell.

Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, the only title in that series to feature a female lead, is the third bestselling title on the Vita with over 600,000 copies sold. An astounding number for any game on Sony’s struggling handheld. That any Vita game could produce those kind of numbers is not something to overlook.

In Bioshock Infinite, you play as Booker Dewitt, generic action hero extraordinaire, now don’t get me wrong Booker is fine as a character in the story he is placed in, but make no mistake Infinite was Elizabeth’s story as much if not more so than it was Booker’s. Elizabeth is by far the more interesting character and is the centerpiece of Infinite, and is what makes Infinite a unique and enjoyable experience without her you would have a pedestrian FPS with superpowers thrown in.

X-Blades, Alice Madness Returns, and Metroid Other M did not fail because of the gender of their leads they failed because they were bad games. Conversely Bayonetta, Beyond Good and Evil, and Portal 2 are beloved by gamers and have us begging for sequels because they are great games.

So rather than dismissing gamers as woman haters who only want to play generic stereotypical white guys, give us some credit. I for one will play any game that is good because it is a good game regardless of the gender of the lead character, and I don’t think I’m alone. I believe most gamers feel this way. Put a female in a game with good character’s, solid gameplay, and a gripping story and you will see that gamers will embrace that title. Stop pushing out shovelware that only sells females as sex symbols and has nothing to back it up then claiming we don’t like female character because garbage games for the most part don’t sell.

We are a smart and well-connected consumer group; we go online to find out about a product before we spend our hard earned dollars. There are vast amounts of product previews, reviews and opinions available at our fingertips. Gone are the days of blindly picking up a title because it has neat box art. Give us substance and quality and you will earn our dollars, regardless of what the lead character looks like.   read

12:43 PM on 04.16.2013

Violence: In the Eye of the Beholder

Violence is a part of the culture of entertainment of our world. Movies, TV, and video games have made violence such an ingrained part of the media we consume you almost have to actively put forth effort to avoid it, and that is ok.

While there was a time not so long ago where The Silence of the Lambs was a psychological and disturbing thriller/horror that no logical parent would have let their children anywhere near, NBC is now running a show called Hannibal in prime time network television, and while it does run later in the evening I’m sure there are more than a few young people sitting down with good old mom and dad and no one seems to bat an eye. This is an interesting phenomenon to me, at the same time a show about a serial killer and cannibal can be accepted into everyone’s home free of charge, our politicians are fighting over who gets to be the next one to line up to take a shot at the gaming industry.

Why is this happening? Why ignore much more consumed media like movies and television? Because politicians are for the most part older people see games as that “dumb thing kids waste their time on,” video games are an unknown to them. Human beings fear the unknown, they see things like Call of Duty commercials where dudes with guns shoot other dudes with guns, or they hear that some fucking crazy guy shoots up a building and despite having psychological issues and probably took in a variety of violent media, also played games, so… Jesus Christ video games turned this poor soul into a killing machine.

Meanwhile what about the rest of us? The 99.999% of people who play games that don’t do stupid shit. People that don’t lash out violently at the world. Are we just ticking time bombs waiting for that last trigger that will send us violently down that rabbit hole? No, No we are not. Because we are sane and rational people capable of compartmentalizing the things we do and play for entertainment and the real world where senseless violence against other people is senseless and wrong.

Bioshock Infinite is a violent game to be sure, but it uses its violence to contrast the beautiful surroundings and to prove a point that as peaceful as the world may seem there is always the baser instincts lying just under the surface and out of view, ready to rear its ugly head and upset the status quo. It is a wonderfully crafted story that is engaging and to be enjoyed by those that can understand what they are seeing. Taken out of context it would just be another gorefest to be used as cannon fodder against games by those who don’t know, or don’t care enough to find out the truth behind it. Much in the same way that Saving Private Ryan or Kill Bill use violence as a tool to tell a story so can games, and yet the gaming medium is discounted and accused of creating killers.

So I call out to the powers that be, focus on things that can be changed to help turn this growing tide of senseless violence. Look at the mental health system that is lacking in this country so that the people that need help can get it. Look at the massive availability of firearms in this country that make these shootings possible. Look at the people that commit these horrible acts and find the real reasons they occur. Don’t fear games because it is convenient to do so. Failing to resolve real issues because it is time consuming, costly or difficult to do so will only allow more tragedies to occur, and if they do continue to occur what will be the cost then?   read

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