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Snealiv's blog

Starting Over: How I got "fired" from Press2Reset
12:50 PM on 02.17.2013
Challenges facing the Nvidia Shield
4:03 PM on 01.12.2013
Dear Mr. Sports Fan
11:13 AM on 12.31.2012
A Year in Pictures
11:40 AM on 12.30.2012
Pour One Out: Wasted Potential of Mass Effect 3's Multiplayer
1:33 PM on 12.25.2012
Concept Cover Art for The War Z
11:02 AM on 12.19.2012

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I'm Sam Neal, and and I'm an aspiring freelance games journalist looking to break into the industry. In the past I wrote features and reviews for Press2Reset on a volunteer basis, as well as conduct video interviews and host the site's news show.

I'm also a third-year Communications and Journalism student at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

When not working on articles, I like to create short films and skits.

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Yesterday I was let go from my volunteer writing job at Press2Reset. I know that I probably shouldn't complain about a prior "employer", but my emotions are running high and I needed somewhere to vent.

I want to preface this by saying many of the people I worked with at Press2Reset are wonderful, kind people who I am happy to have worked with and wish the best for them in the future.

I have worked for Press2Reset for the last year, constantly producing news articles, features, interviews and videos. I was the host and founder of a video news show. I attended PAX Prime with Press2Reset and worked my ass off to record 35+ developer interviews for content on their website.

So you can imagine my surprise when yesterday I saw an email in my inbox titled "End of Contract with Press2Reset."

I worked hard to produce content for the site, with my only reward being exposure and the privilege of having my content published to the internet. Which in and of itself is all fine and well, I knew that my work for Press2Reset would be on a volunteer basis when I first started writing for the site. However, this came alongside the promise that staff writers would be paid if ever the company had the ability to do so.

But then the site started to grow. The unique user count grew each week, and the site started to rapidly expand. And as they expanded, they started to get offers from advertising companies. Granted, the amount coming in was likely not even covering the maintenance costs of running a website, but the fact remains the site was generating some form of revenue.

And on top of that, the core staff was very secretive about the site's finances. I asked them several times to reveal specific information about ad revenue and its use to the staff, and they always declined. They did, however, reinforce the point that any revenue was being used to pay for web hosting- for whatever that's worth.

This caused quite a bit of frustration on my end. I was promised that they would make every effort to pay staff if it ever were possible, yet they didn't seem to be making any sort of attempt to fulfill that promise.

On Friday, I read a tweet from Gameranx's Ian Cheong (@Stillgray) that read "Being a "volunteer writer" is like being a "volunteer plumber." You wouldn't unplug toilets for free, so don't write for free."

This was personal frustration of mine that had been slowly mounting lately, so i engaged him in conversation. I asked how he suggest new writers get started then, and explained my situation as a volunteer writer. He said writers should pitch article ideas to sites, and anyone who is writing on a volunteer basis is getting screwed over by the site they are writing for.

To which I sarcastically (or so I thought) responded "Ha, well I guess I'm getting fucked then."

I knew that the tweet was technically public, but given that it was used in a conversation with another person, not mentioning any specific company names, and used in a manner that I thought to be relatively sarcastic I didn't think it would cause any harm.

As it turns out, a higher-up at Press2Reset didn't appreciate the fact that one of their writers was complaining about not getting paid for his work, and refereed to his current volunteer writing situation as "being fucked."

On Saturday I received an email saying that my contract had been terminated because my tweets "made the company look bad." I was let go for complaining about not getting a paid as a hard-working games journalist.

At the moment, I'm not too sure what to think. .

I've devoted my entire University education to becoming a games writer, and it seems that I've just hit an impasse. Through a series that I feel to be unfair, I have lost any power I once had in the industry.

Before Saturday I was going to attend PAX East and cover the event with Press2Reset staff. I'm still attending PAX East, but I have no press contacts, no friends in the industry going, and no real way to network so that I can find a hopefully paying writing gig.

I don't know what to make of it, and at the moment I have no idea how to move forward in my career.

Am I in the wrong here? Were they justified in letting me go?

I just don't know. All I have to go on now are my few takeaways:

1. Twitter is a public forum. Everything you say on Twitter can be viewed by others, and can potentially bite you in the ass.

2. Sarcasm doesn't translate well on the internet.

3. If you don't like something about your working situation, quit your job.

While the internal specs for the new Nvidia Shield are impressive, the device faces a significant uphill battle if it wants to be a worthy contender in the handheld market.

The Shield needs to out sell the Vita...while marketing toward the same target audience.

To succeed in a crowded marketplace a device needs to be better than it's competitors. Business common sense. Since the Shield seems to have the same market strategy as the Vita- a portable console experience- we'll say that the Shield needs to meet or exceed the sales of the Vita (but really it needs to exceed) to be successful. And it needs to do so while marketing toward the same target audience with a lesser-known brand.

Nvidia is using the exact same strategy Sony used with the Vita, but somehow expecting a better result.

With, might I add...

Little third-party support and a lack of in-house development studios.

If Sony can't convince third-party developers to make games for the Vita, then Nvidia doesn't have a chance in hell convincing them to make games for their unknown, unproven handheld.

Also Nvidia can't compete with the first-party support enjoyed by Nintendo and Sony, and as such will have to rely on ports- the majority of which will be controller adaptations (if they're lucky) of touch-control games from the Android marketplace.

Nvidia isn't a household name.

To the average consumer Nvidia sounds like a knock-off brand next to established names like Sony and Nintendo. The brand name alone acts as an exclusionary barrier to an audience outside of Nvidia's narrow target for the shield.

Gamers want to stick with brands they know and trust, and to the gaming mass market (non-PC gamers) the name Nvidia doesn't carry much weight. They would rather have a Sony or a Nintendo than an Nvidia.

There's nothing casual about it.

To the casual audience, controllers are intimidating. Casual consumers use smart phones for gaming because their simple touch interface is easy to understand and provides a simple way to communicate game mechanics.

The controller shape and button layout of the Shield will send Joe Casual cowering into a corner. Mass audiences will want nothing to do with the device.

Which is more significant that it initially sounds, because...

The Shield still has to compete with Tablets and Smartphones.

The majority of people, gamers or otherwise, get their mobile gaming fix from smart phones and tablets. The growing Apple and Android marketplaces accommodate gamers of varying tastes, from the casual games like angry birds to full-on Need for Speed titles. Most people, when on their bus commute or killing time in a movie theater, reach for their phone, where they can enjoy a 15 minute experience for less than $5.

To even try and compete with tablets, the Shield will have to offer smaller games near the $5 price point; which sort of defeats the whole reason to use a Shield in the first place. I'm sure Angry Birds looks great running in 720p on a Tegra 4 processor, but it's overkill for the platform and destructively expensive. To the point where there isn't a compelling reason to take your Shield with you when out and about.

Which you might have a tough time doing anyway, since...

It doesn't fit in your damn pocket.

Take a break from reading this post, and go find a 360 controller (PS3 owners try a Dual Shock, though the dimensions aren't as similar). I'm sure you have one lying around somewhere.

Now take the controller, and try to cram it into one of your pant pockets.

Did it work? Good!

Now try walking more than 10 feet.

This device, as exciting as the internal hardware sounds, isn't very portable. To transport the Shield, you need to be carrying a backpack, messenger bag, purse, or fanny pack (if you do try the last one, please take a picture for historical documentation).

This basically limits the use case for the Shield to commuting time, airplane rides, and home use. Though, since the Shield will have a tough time getting worthwhile exclusives, there isn't much of a reason to play it while lounging around at home.


Good luck Nvidia!

You're going to need it. Come back and see me if your hardware survives long enough to see a second and third iteration- then I might reconsider.

And when you reach the bottom of the handheld well, say hello to the Xperia play for me.
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11:13 AM on 12.31.2012

Dear Mr. Sports Fan,

One of us is weird, the other normal. The same media idolized one and vilifies the other.

You may not know it, but we are just like you.

So please stop treating us like some kind of cultural stain.

Gaming Fans

11:40 AM on 12.30.2012

As they say, a picture can tell a thousand words, and each of these pictures tells one of the major gaming stories of 2012.

Picture of Target store shelves at 10 p.m. on WiiU launch day.

Bioware changes game ending after fan outrage.

DayZ proves that we are all terrible, terrible people.

A broken Curt Schilling leaving the courtroom after 38 Studios hearing.

Double Fine proves devoted gamers will put their money where their mouth is.

Resident Evil 6 tries to please everyone; pleases no-one.

Zynga's high tower came crashing down.

Letter from jailed Arma 3 developers.

Sony nails their premium online service.

The Walking Dead proves that games can make people cry.

Despite its best efforts, THQ continues its downward spiral.

If you think I missed something, or feel differently, share your pictures of the year in the comments.
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When I originally started the Pour One Out series, my plan was to spotlight various multiplayer games with interesting concepts that failed to find an audience. Multiplayer games or modes that at least tried to make some kind of argument for their existence.

Mass Effect 3 attempts no such arguments. Yet it, through brute force, found a dedicated audience for its multiplayer mode.

An audience that Mass Effect 3, quite frankly, does not deserve.

If you were to hop online in Mass Effect 3 at this moment, queues would be as short as ever. Though Mass Effect 3's user-base is not quite as large as the user-base of a Halo or Call of Duty game, it is equally devoted and equally likely to spend money on multiplayer-specific downloadable content.

Which is to say, the community shows no sign of dying down anytime soon, and Bioware continues to profit.

Fans initially opposed the idea of multiplayer in a Mass Effect game. Bioware's initial announcement was met with fan outrage, with players accusing Bioware of taking away resources from the singleplayer campaign to focus on a multiplayer mode that was widely viewed as unnecessary. They averted these criticisms by farming out the multiplayer mode to their Canadian studio.

Though Bioware can't be blamed for following EA policy, which states that all games must have some form of multiplayer. They followed instructions, and their secondary studio (presumably) created the best product they could given their limitations and instructions.

Which turned out to be a rather uninspired survival mode that pits human controlled characters against waves of AI enemies.

The very same survival mode found in every multiplayer game since the release of Gears of War 2–back in 2008.

The same survival mode found in Halo ODST and Reach, Gears of War 2 and 3, every Treyarch Call of Duty game this generation, the Transformers games, Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, Uncharted 2 and 3, Saints Row the Third, Resident Evil 5, Starhawk, Dead Island, Resistance 3, Red Faction: Armageddon, Bulletstorm, Fear 3, Borderlands 1 and 2, and Bioshock 2.


To give credit where credit is due, Mass Effect 3 has one major feature that separates it from the games above: a lack of additional multiplayer modes. Which wouldn't be a problem if the survival mode was expansive or unique enough to justify its existence.

But it isn't.

Halo added weapon drops when it created Firefight, Gears of War 3 added in light tower defense mechanics to Horde 2.0, hell even Saints Row the Third added wave mutations that randomly made all the enemies micro-sized or placed them all in rabbit suits.

Mass Effect 3 added microtransactions. It combined a free-to-play model with a retail game.

The Mass Effect 3 survival mode uses RPG mechanics to let players upgrade characters between games. After completing a game, players receive virtual money to spend on random crates and unlock new weapons, characters and upgrades.

Of course those same crates could also be purchased for real money, with the highest-tier Spectre Pack costing $2. Though to get a specific weapon or character, you would likely have to purchase more than one pack.

Though $2 doesn't sound like much, it starts to add up quickly. Buy five specter packs (keep in mind that $5 is the minimum amount you must spend on MS points), and you've spent one-tenth the full price of the retail game on random-chance items.

Instead of making a multiplayer mode that's adds depth to the expansive Mass Effect universe, Bioware created a safe survival mode designed around microtransactions.

Which is a terrible waste of talent and potential.

Many positive things can be said of the Mass Effect series. The characters are engaging, the settings beautiful, etc- but never once has anyone said “My favorite part of Mass Effect is the shooting.”

Shooting controls have always been the weakest mechanic in Mass Effect games. Though the shooting has improved with each entry in the franchise, they are never quite up to the standard set by other third-person shooters. Nor did they need to be.

Mass Effect 3's shooting controls are competent enough to sustain the players interest while they progress the story.

Which the multiplayer mode strips away entirely. It takes away all character interaction and re-hashes locations from the singleplayer game; on the promise that adding more player-controlled characters will make shooting things more fun.

Which then begs the question, why bother playing it at all?

Plenty of other games offer the very same survival experience with better shooting mechanics, and, if you happen to get bored of survival mode, they offer other multiplayer modes to hold your interest. A game with fun shooting on a mechanical level, instead of passable shooting.

Mass Effect 3's multiplayer represents, at its core, wasted potential. With one of the richest fictional universes ever created, the developers squandered the vast possibilities by making a clichéd multiplayer mode that supports microtransactions, and tosses out every element that makes Mass Effect games special.

So gather around, crack open your favorite beverage, and pour one out for the travesty that is Mass Effect 3's multiplayer mode.

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