Ripping off consumers is good for businesses only in the short term. An early burn by a company will linger in the mind of the consumer, and when a superior product finally comes along, that company will be abandoned without a moment's hesitation.
By limiting the hard drive in my console to a 20GB drive, Microsoft has not only burned me, but burned itself. As a [relatively speaking] early adopter, I was shafted in my inability to use HDMI, and I am screwed in my storage space. Why don't I upgrade, then, if I'm such a whiny bitch?
Because a 120GB hard drive costs too much money.
Anyone who buys a hard drive for their Xbox 360 is getting absolutely screwed. In general, used prices for hard drives (and hard drives are one thing I would never buy used) hover around $100, while new ones are generally around $120. By comparison, a look on Newegg tells me that, for the same price (or lower), I can get an external 1 TB (which, for those of you who aren't very good at math, is more than 8X as much space) or an internal 1.5 TB hard drive (more than 12X the space, for you high school dropouts).
I have a few XBLA games (20 or so), and I will be buying a few more to be sure, with The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom being my next game purchase. However, when my hard drive is full, instead of deleting the content currently on it, I will simply stop buying games.
The bigger issue is not, however, my paltry selection of XBLA games, but my refusal to buy Xbox Originals/Games on Demand or any DLC that isn't for Rock Band. Now, this burns both Microsoft and I, as well as a number of developers. Games that plan to add major features or content that would have once been and should be on the disc are simply not games I will buy, because I don't want to miss out on the content I don't have room for. My issue is not so much with the purchasing of it, but with the fact that I can't hold it.
Let's take the recently released Dante's Inferno. I very much enjoyed the demo for that game, and was planning on picking it up sooner rather than later. That is, until I heard about the Trials of Saint Lucia DLC that is coming out in the next few months. A major, adding co-op and a level creator?! Holy shit! That's fantastic. That's so fantastic, it should really be on the disc, as opposed to separate paid content!
But that's fine, EA wants to screw the consumer over by giving them a clearly incomplete game? Okay, but Microsoft needs to remember that not only is the game incomplete, but it is inferior on their platform. By missing all of the content that is free on the PS3 version's "Divine Edition," the game already has a strike against it. The second strike comes in the form of an inability to buy DLC, leaving me with a vastly inferior product.
It's interesting that I now pat Sony on the back where I once vehemently bashed them, but such is the way of the world. For all of Sony's missteps, they made a very smart decision with regards to their hard drives. They realized, as Microsoft seems now to have, but too little too late, that a hard drive was a necessity in the generation. With the exception of a single SKU, the PS3 hard drive has always been 60 GB or more. 60 GB is a perfectly respectable amount of space. For some people, it may be too little, for most people it is too much, but it is a much better number than 20. Where Sony truly shines is in their allowance of third party hard drives. Anyone who wants to can easily upgrade their PS3's hard drive with an off-the-shelf model. The only true limit to space on the PS3 is the limit to space in a retail hard drive.
And this is where the burn comes in.
When the next console generation comes around, and I'm only buying a PS4 or an Xbox 720, I will not have to think very hard in my decision. I don't care about online play, so Xbox Live holds no allure over me. My 360 has broken twice, one time I had to pay for because it wasn't a red-ring. Every time I turn it on after neglecting it for a few days, it whines and makes the noise of disc destruction. I have no more space on my default hard drive, and Microsoft seems to think that I should pay exorbitant prices for relatively paltry space.
The decision will be quite easy.
But back to the beginning of this. Another potential title for this post was, "Valve's Philosophy, and Why Microsoft Should Steal It." Why? Because of how Valve handles post-release content, and they understand brand-loyalty.
There are three companies I hold a legitimate allegiance to: Grasshopper Manufacturers, Nintendo, and Valve. Grasshopper has my allegiance because of its incredibly interesting products, Nintendo has my allegiance because it makes some of the best games in the history of ever, and Valve has my allegiance because of everything.
Say what you want to about the company, they know how to treat their consumers. If you don't believe me, log onto Team Fortress 2. Long after its original release, the game bears only a passing resemblance to what it once was. Maps, modes, weapons, items, etc. etc. have made TF2 a wholly different experience than it once was. The Left 4 Dead games follow in this trend. The original game got new modes, a new campaign, and will be getting another new campaign after its sequel does. Its sequel, likewise, is getting some free content in the form of The Passing.
Why does Valve release all of this content for free when its competitors charge an arm and a leg for vastly inferior content? For exactly the reason I love them: consumer loyalty. Steam sales are not only a benefit to the consumer, but a benefit to the developer. When a bunch of people buy Mass Effect for 5 bucks, their friends see them playing it and decide to finally make the plunge. There is an initial spike, and the subsequent baseline is higher than it was before. Everyone wins.
The same happens with every major free content release Valve has. After updates or map packs or a TF2 Free Weekend the sales spike and they stay up. The theoretical lost profits from that weekend of a sale is more than made up for by the subsequent sales, and by the loyalty it builds among the consumers.
Valve is not perfect, but their issues are relatively minor, and easy to excuse with all of the fantastic benefits their system allows. The Void went up on D2D for $5 this weekend, the price at which I would finally take the plunge, as I don't know if I'd find it at all worth it past that price. I didn't buy it. Instead, I bought Mount & Blade. Why did I choose that? Because it was on Steam, and Steam makes my PC life so much easier. I love having all my games easily accesible in a single place, and Steam affords me that. I can be on my PC, on the laptop I will be getting for college, or even on a friend's PC, and I can download and play the games. It's a really fantastic system, and one that I am absolutely willing to give up some basic theoretical rights for (yeah, Steam content is DRMed, but I don't foresee Valve disappearing any time soon, and the ability to access the internet and thus Steam is only going to increase in the near future, so it will only get easier).
So Microsoft should give me, and you, and everyone else a 120 GB hard drive for our respective 360s. Sure, they'll lose the initial $100-120 or whatever, but they will make it all back in the overpriced DLC and XBLA games that we buy with the extra space.
I have not bought a new song for Rock Band 2 in months. Part of that is my slowly waning interest in the game, but a major part of that is the fact that if I keep buying more songs I will not have any space to buy more P.B. Winterbottoms and the like. If something comes along that I absolutely need, I will buy it, but unless it's a must have, I have put off many purchases. The money Microsoft would have made from me in the past few months had they only given me a 120 GB drive is significantly larger than what they would have made from that drive.
Is it worth it? Absolutely not. They lost any loyalty from one particular customer, and are cheating themselves out of potential revenue (a lot of potential revenue, as I have slowly been moving towards more and more indie/downloadable games in the past few months). When a game is available on the 360 or on my PC, I will almost always go for the PC, because I never have to worry about my 500 GB drive running out, and if it does... well, as I've already said, a 1.5 TB replacement is about $110 away.
Microsoft is losing money on this proposition, whether they want to accept it or not. Consumers are paradoxically more forgiving in the short term than in the long term. I pay to have my 360 fixed because I don't want to ruin my gaming investments in the platform. Once its successor appears, however, and I have had my fill of the platform, I will not stand by Microsoft's side. The system has left a bad taste in the mouths of fans and haters alike, and people will not be so forgiving the next time a console launch comes around.
"You have to spend money to make money," so says the proverb. Microsoft should spend a little bit more money making their customers loyal for the right reasons, as has Valve and many other companies. We have witnessed the fall of many gaming dynasties. Gaming is an expensive hobby, and it would be in the best interests of companies to realize that, and stop taking their customers for granted.
[Disclaimer: I am boycotting Activision as a company, and so was never going to buy Modern Warfare 2. I played through and completed the first title, and enjoyed it, but was not as impressed as most were.]
. Infinity Ward is a good developer. They make well-paced war time shooters that have cool sequences marred by logical flaws. For this reason, I consider any faith in Modern Warfare 2 to be entirely unfounded.
There are two sequences that really stuck out to me in Modern Warfare. The opening sequence, where you are some guy who is being taken to die. I feel like it was a president or something, but I don't actually remember. You go through this entire sequence straight up until the gun is pointed at your head and fired. It would be a terrifying sequence if not for one thing: you are a floating camera.
Infinity Ward completely failed to make this sequence meaningful to me because you never actually see the body of your character, because there isn't one. During a good portion of this sequence, you are in a cab. You can look around, but there is nothing below you except for a gorgeously rendered leather seat. You are a floating camera in the middle of a video game, and it does not let you forget that. If your character had been given a body, this sequence could have potentially elicited some emotion. As it is, there is no connection because there is no actual character. This bullet is going into a CAMERA! Maybe it's an expensive camera, and some photographer somewhere gasped in horror, but there was no element of human danger because there was no element of the human.
Then there is the infamous nuke scene. Had I not known this sequence was coming, or what exactly I had to do in the sequence (wait and die), this would have been much more powerful than it was. Because I did know, the sequence was little more than an irritating pause in an otherwise well-paced game. Why did it, too, fail to elicit a response?
Again: there is no body.
Visually, the sequence is striking, and if you have not played the game you can watch it here. However, if you watch it, the movement of the character is absolutely unnatural. It looks like a camera is on a conveyor belt, or perhaps a snake or a slug is sliding up. The problem is that the character has no arms.
If someone were to be crawling out of a wrecked helicopter, they would be dragging themselves up by their arms. There are no arms. Add to this the fact that the movement is constant, unlike someone who is actually hurt (who would reach out, drag, pause while they reached again, drag, etc.), and the sequence is just generally ineffective at actually making the player believe this is happening to a PERSON instead of, again, a remote controlled camera. I will give IW credit in that the camera does "limp" once standing up, but it is still a camera. There is no horrifyingly wrecked body to look down upon. There is nothing there.
Maybe if I had not known the scene was coming I wouldn't have spent the entire time thinking of how horribly it failed to convey any meaningful emotion, but because I knew I just had to move around slowly for a minute or two and then die, I spent the entire time just looking at the scene. When you are just looking at something, the flaws become very apparent very quickly.
IW's brand of bodiless protagonists ruins the ability for the sequences to bring about emotion in the way they want it to. Jack from Bioshock may have no legs, but there are still always at least arms there to make you believe you are there, and looking down is not something gamers frequently are required to do. Gordon Freeman is a kind of anomaly, because you never actually care about Gordon, who is again little more than a floating camera, but you care about the other characters, and their realism paradoxically helps you to feel like you are the character of Gordon, and care about him.
Infinity Ward fails where Valve and 2K Boston succeeded. Though all three companies turn their characters into cameras with guns, two of them are still able to convince you that you are that character. The way Infinity Ward creates its sequences requires there to be a body to work. If you are a in a cab and there are no legs beneath your "head," it completely rips you out of the experience. If you are crawling up out of a helicopter, but you have no arms to crawl with, it completely rips you out of the experience.
The issue is with consistency. If everyone around is has arms, legs, bodies, etc., but you are the Invisible Man, and it is made painfully obvious that you are the Invisible Man, where is the sense of (dare I say it? I dare) immersion? It isn't there. It can't be there, because you are being punched in the face with the fact that you are not really in the game world, you are merely watching it. This is fine in the third person, but certainly not in the first person.
If Infinity Ward can fail to give these two sequences, which really should be some of the most powerful in gaming history, the consistency and realism that they deserve, why should I or anyone else assume that IW will make the terrorist sequence function the way it should?
This statement is hampered immensely by the fact that you are not actually a Russian terrorist, but an undercover CIA operative. That entirely changes the context of it. The question will be justification.
If you are going to be one of those people killing civilians (yes, you only need to kill security guards, but they are still innocents), what makes you any better than they are? It not only establishes the evil of the Russians, but of your own character. Now, this could be handled in a very interesting way, but I do not expect that it will be. If the game explores the consequences of such actions it could be truly thought-provoking, but that kind of depth would absolutely kill the pacing of a war-time shooter. If the CIA character is instead, as I expect, considered some kind of hero by the end of the game, having made up for all of his evil by killing the head of the group or whatever, then the game has failed to be meaningful in the conversation of good vs. evil, because it justified a massacre.
If the game ends with him receiving a dishonorable discharge, and the final sequence is the character committing suicide, where you have to pull the final trigger, or does anything that truly acknowledges that the player is no better than the terrorists, I will end my boycott and buy this game.
There is an issue with the sequence itself, though, and it goes back to breaking the barrier between gamer and game, by giving you the option to play the level or not.
By prompting the player, "Hey... umm... you know, you might not actually want to play this sequence, okay?" IW once again makes sure the player is aware that this is a game and nothing more.
What is even worse, is that the fact that the sequence can be skipped implies that nothing more than the existence of the event is actually important to the story. If something truly major were to happen during this sequence, skipping it would completely mess with the following timeline. That means that the sequence exists basically to give the player cannon-fodder. There will be no major events taking place other than the massacre itself.
This represents, in my mind, a missed opportunity. Now, I may be wrong, and the sequence may really strike some thematic and narrative chords that will be lost on all of those who skip it... but I watched it, and I really don't think it will reach the thematic sort of importance it needs to in order to really be justified as part of the game.
If the sequence was actually relevant to any current conflict. If something like this had happened recently, or if it could be extrapolated to recent events, that would be something truly awe-inspiring. Instead, they are going for something 100% fictional, and I'm not sure that's the right decision, because a lot more effort is needed to justify a false conflict than a real one.
To make a film comparison, last year's Milk was a good movie, but was made immensely more effective by the fact that it actually happened, and was interspersed with real footage.
If this sequence was of something that was currently happening and relevant, Infinity Ward would be able to tug at heartstrings by the virtue of the sequence itself. Instead, they have to work to make people feel things at this sequence, and, quite frankly, I am not expecting much.
If you are expecting some sort of narrative miracle, where this sequence vaults up this kind of game and scene into the spotlight (like a well-handled sequence could), you are very likely to be disappointed.
I would love to be wrong, and a lot of this is speculation, but I doubt this sequence will be what it could, and should, be. I also expect that, if anyone actually reads this post, I will get a hell of a lot of flak for it. I probably ruffled more than a few feathers by essentially calling IW a bunch of failures
BL: Border Lands, or Brutal Legend. An odd coincidence that makes an unpleasant decision even more difficult for me to make.
I want both of the games. I want both games to be supported in their first month in order to drive up sales of what I believe are creative titles that DESERVE to have their sales higher than the stuff that generally hits the NPD top 10.
However, I can't buy them both. I can only buy one. I ask you, the wonderful people of the Destructoid community, to help me decide.
Here are the pros and cons so far as I see them:
+It's a Tim Schafer game and will thus be hilarious. After a couple of bad weeks, I could sure as hell use a funny game.
+Jack Black doesn't bother me like he bothers a lot of people.
+I love metal. It is my favorite genre, and Brutal Legend's soundtrack blows me away.
-I won't be able to buy Borderlands.
-I don't have Xbox Live and won't be able to play Multiplayer
-Destructoid's review has made me the slightest bit iffy.
+It's an FPS that looks like it was made to be fun. I miss games like that.
+It's an FPS.
+It's gorgeous and looks damned fun.
-It's not made by Tim Schafer
-I'd almost certainly be buying it on the 360. Again, no co-op.
-Mouse > Analog sticks.
-I'm busy as hell and I really don't need an addictive timesink, which this game looks to be the epitome of.
I'm in a quandry here. Has anyone played both titles (either at a trade show or via broken street dates) who can give me some advice here? I loved Psychonauts, flaws and all, and I'm sure I could see past issues with Brutal Legend if there really are any. I don't know what to buy!
In the world of video game stories, there are usually two categories: RPG stories... and everything else. RPGs tell long, drawn out , sometimes clichéd, sometimes wholly original stories that generally attempt to make players care about the characters, etc. etc. Role Playing requires connection with characters, and thus this major emphasis on story is entirely logical.
On the other end is everything else. While games like Bioshock and Metal Gear Solid 4 (which I should note, before I get into my critique, are two of my favorite games of all time) stray from the path of terrible storytelling, most games in this category throw in an entirely useless story that does nothing more than annoy the player.
So... why not get rid of it entirely?
Two of the most fun games this generation are Crackdown and Super Mario Galaxy. These two games, although completely different in what they try to do, go about things in a relatively similar way if you think about it.
Namely, they involve lots of jumping and don't have stories.
These games have introductory sequences, and they have introductions to certain characters, and one of them has a final cutscene. That is really it for both of these games. Does it detract from either one?
Hell fucking no it doesn't. As a matter of fact, it enhances the games immensely. By ignoring stories entirely, these games allow players to come to their own conclusions, if they so choose, and I like that.
Games that hit you over the head with themes and ideas are irritating, games that are hypocritical in their ideals (see Reverend Anthony's rant on Prototype and Anti-Heroes), and games that simply exist to string together events all fail to be in any way narratively satisfying.
Instead, these games should ignore their stories and get to the fun. If a developer has the capability of making a truly profound story, then they should absolutely make that story. However, for every Metal Gear Solid 4 there is a Sonic the Hedgehog.
Crackdown gets it very right by simply giving you missions and letting you do them how you want to. There's absolutely no reason to explain why the agents rule everything or why these gangs took over, or why there are floating orbs that make the agents stronger. Even attempting to explain these things would end up drawing attention to these things which make the game stupid fun.
Super Mario Galaxy is a different beast, because the story exists, but is optional, aside from some short cutscenes, which are just cool to look at. Their length (or lack thereof) is important into maintaining the quality of the game. If Super Mario Galaxy attempted MGS-length cut scenes, the game would have failed, and it would have failed hard, but it didn't. By focusing on making a great platforming game, Nintendo produced what I think is the finest Mario game ever (although many would disagree), and certainly the greatest 3D platformer of all time.
The obsession with stories is somewhat sad. Stories can certainly add, but they can (and frequently do) detract from the experience. Gears of War does not need a story. When I see a 400 pound space marine whining about his missing wife, I laugh and leave the room until the cutscene in over. In fact, those stupid cutscenes are why I never bought a copy of Gears of War 2 for myself, and simply played a friend's copy. The gameplay justifies the game. They did not need that failed attempt at a "story."
I am always happy to give a game's story a shot, but if the story is a failure and the game in any way attempts to showcase the story, the game is a failure.
Whether it's a clichéd RPG or a testosterone fueled FPS, the story is clearly a secondary item, and the developers should spend time making the game good instead of making up stupid fiction.
I preface this blog with the fact that I love Scribblenauts so far, and am currently wearing my Scribblenauts preorder hat.
However, despite my love for the game, I agree with every review I've read so far in stating that it is a frustrating experience at times. I have not gotten deeply into the game, and so I expect the control issues will get even more irritating as time goes on, but from what I've played, it's clear that 5th Cell did not learn its lesson from Lock's Quest.
I enjoyed Lock's Quest, but the game constantly irritated with its pathfinding issues and simply the fact that everything was controlled by the stylus. Even if the d-pad stylus combo causes some minor cramping (and I'll admit that it does) there should have been an option to control Lock that way, especially considering he was on a grid plane ANYWAY, so there was really no reason to not allow it. I would play that game and be attempting to fix a building, but Lock would instead move to directly behind it because it was all done the exact same way. It was irritating, and it was ridiculous.
Scribblenauts has the same failing. The fact that everything is controlled by stylus makes certain aspects of motion very difficult. Are you grabbing something? Are you trying to pick up a tiny flower? Are you trying to shoot a wall that isn't overtly available to shoot? Are you trying to interact with something? All of these require a single tap on the screen (with the exception of shooting, which requires two). The game's AI which tries to figure out what your doing is about as capable as that of Lock's Quest (which is to say, not very), and it really detracts from an incredible and unique experience.
I certainly don't regret my purchase of Scribblenauts, but how the fuck did they fail at this two times in a row? Did they simply not have control issues? Or did they think control issues were somehow good for gameplay? It makes absolutely no sense, and it is a shame, because it brings down an easy Game of the Year contender from Brilliant to Brilliant but Marred by Stupidity.
Here's to hoping the game gets better rather than worse where this is concerned, but I doubt it.
If there is one game I regret buying in the entirety of my life, it is Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto IV. Very infrequently do I buy a game new, especially not 360 games. However, I gave into the peer pressure of 10/10 after 10/10 after 10/10 after 10/10 given to the game by the media. I plan to never make that mistake again.
At the end of last year, I reviewed the game on my IGN blog, which you may feel free to read here. Note, it is very long, and has no pictures. Nor, sadly, will this article, because I'm not funny, and can't make funny captions. Unless, like my last one, CTZ decides to put in pictures of animals, which would be cute!
If you'd rather skip that, know that I gave the game a 3.0/10. Yeah, I really hated it.
Several months later, while searching up my various usernames on Google, I noticed that the fifth entry for "ANBUKaptain" (one of my three frequently used online handles) was a Gamespot forum thread created about me, and about my review, titled "haha this review".
I had made such an impact that someone on an entirely different gaming website made a thread about me? Holy shit! I was somebody! Well, not really, but it was still kind of cool. I was intrigued by what insightful discussion could come about with regards to my textual lashing of many people's Game of the Year.
A good number of people called me a liar for imparting my experience with the game. Saying I didn't actually see pop-up when I did, or that I had never driven a car when I bashed the game for having realistic car physics. Some of their points are kind of sort of valid, but my favorite is the very last one, and the one which incited this entire post.
"I agree with some of his points, but for a good part of the review, he is blaming the game when it is apparent that the real problem is that he is absolutely terrible at it.
For example, he blames the driving mechanics for doing a 180 turn when trying to turn a corner. That has *never* happened to me, even when I first played the game. If he is so terrible at driving in the game, then it's unfair to blame the driving mechanics.
Then he blames the auto-aim system for not aiming at the person he wants. That's why you have the ability to cycle through enemies! If Rockstar invent an auto-aiming system that can read a person's mind and aim at the exact place they want, then fine, but until then we have to settle with this."
I bow humbly to the master of GTA's driving, I truly do. So too do I bow humbly to a man who can take a terrible design flaw like a targeting system that will target a running passerby over someone attempting to put a bullet into my brain and attempt to justify it with irrelevant and backwards logic.
But that's not the point. The point is that (and I'm sorry it took so long to get here), I do suck at GTAIV. I suck at it a lot. Damn near every single complaint I had with the game really boiled down to the fact that I had to do a number of the missions over again (from the beginning due to the lack of checkpoints).
Something about GTAIV's difficulty curve was always off-putting to me. Certain missions early and late into the game would be finished on the first try, while others sprinkled liberally throughout would take me damn near 15 or 20. I would fail a mission, try it again, and fail it again, and try it again, and fail it again, and so on and so forth.
As I did this, the game's basic flaws became more and more apparent, and my ability in the game decreased even further as I focused on those instead of the actual game itself.
Let's take, for example, a mission where you are charged with finding... something in some old abandoned warehouse, I think it was cocaine (the specific details have disappeared over time, as I have refused to touch the game since I finished it. I'm sorry for the vagueness.)
Anyways, you get past some druggies standing on metal beams and other completely nonsensical things, you grab the drugs and the SWAT team appears, insta 3 star rating.
I tried this mission upwards of 30 times. By the end, I started getting pretty creative with my attempts at outwitting the cops. For example, I rode a motorcycle into the warehouse, and attempted to ride it out so I would be on the move from the beginning, making the chase less difficult. Unfortunately, I made a wrong turn and took a shotgun blast to the face.
Eventually, my friend told me that there was a boat at the dock behind it, which would have made everything so much easier. There was not, however, one there, and I spent 20 minutes killing some people in a boat, swimming over, stealing their boat, and bringing it back to the dock. This time, fortunately, I succeeded, but at that point I didn't even care anymore.
I couldn't make the driving work because I didn't want a driving simulator, I wanted Godfather's driving engine, which is basically tantamout to a Mario Kart game. If I wanted to drive from place to place, I'd hop into my car and fucking do it. At least my town actually has colors to look at. Instead of compromising, I found motorcycles and sports cars as often as possible (which came about as close to Mario Kart-style handling as any of the cars), but those broke due to my inability to keep the cars from crashing within a couple of minutes.
I couldn't make any of my friends like me because I couldn't do any of those irritating minigames.
I couldn't figure out "obvious" solutions, sometimes attempting to do things like stack vehicles on top of each other in order to get onto a roof because I couldn't find the correct door that opened it (although I partly blame that on every door looking the same). I attempted really obscure tricks trying to break the engine to work like I thought it should work because I could never get into the mindset of its creators.
In short, I failed at it. It took me months and months to beat GTAIV. Eventually I did, and I felt no sense of accomplishment at the end, only regret. It was a waste of money and a waste of time, but it taught me a lesson.