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8:13 AM on 04.08.2008

EA Has Nothing but Contempt for Europe - Rock Band Pricing Announced

Have you heard this shit? I mean, being forced to wait six months longer than America was a pretty bullshit move on EA's part, but this really takes it to a whole fucking new level. The price breakdown is as follows:

Instrument Edition: GBP 129.99 / EUR 169 - Oh but wait, it doesn't come with the game!
Wireless guitars: GBP 59.99 / EUR 79.99 - Each. Just a tenner less than I paid for GH3 with the (by most accounts superior) wireless les paul.
Drum kit: GBP 69.99 / EUR 89.99 - Which works out to a little under €20 cheaper than the game with all three peripherals costs as a bundle in the states.
The game by itself goes for GBP 49.99 / EUR 69.99, which is absolutely and utterly outrageous considering it actually requires additional peripherals in order to be fun.

I am honestly flabbergasted at the sheer, disgusting greediness of this. I was ready to cut EA some slack on account of their recent tendencies towards not being pure unadulterated evil, but this I just can't forgive. This has been one of my most anticipated games ever since it was first announced at E3 all those years ago. To find, after months of hearing about how great it was from every American and their mother, that it will cost a good bit over twice as much for pretty much exactly the same thing(USD 169 is equal to around GBP 85 / EUR 107). Well, fuck you EA. Fuck you right in your greedhead pigfucking cuntish little faces.

Source: Eurogamer, and I really fucking hope they're wrong.   read

2:13 PM on 12.05.2007

When You Gaze Long Into The Abyss...

Wired's Game|Life blog recently posted a piece about Michigan prosecutor Kym Worthy's christmas list of games parents should not buy for their kids. The piece was understandably critical of Worthy and her dubious motive, obviously due to the enormous amount of wankbutter the games industry receives from the legalese slinging factions of our society, and the user comments for the post mirrored that view. This post in an of itself was not particularly unusual or notable. As we all know, lawyers firing off unsubstantiated claims about the evils of gaming is par for the course on the game blog circuits. What gave me pause for thought was when a follow up piece was penned on the blog, featuring a personal interview with Kym Worthy herself.

While the first article was sourced from Game Rush and a (largely irrelevant) 2004 Detroit News article, for the second piece Wired contacted Worthy to get a little more insight on the reasoning for her lists. From the interview snippets published she certainly seemed to acquit herself quite well, in spite of some unfortunate fluff about her gut feelings about links between virtual and real-world violence. She explained her basic goal was to try and prevent parents from buying these adult-rated games for their hideous offspring. Not an ignoble agenda, in my reckoning. So surely, the piece would reflect her even minded stance, and be somewhat apologetic about the previous article's negative slant? Not terribly likely.

While Wired's post is by no means inflammatory, it mocks Worthy's choices in games to list for being old or unpopular. In my eyes, this glibness was quite uncalled for, on account of her fairly moderate take on the games "problem". She claims no direct link between games and crime, nor does she voice support for anti-game legislation or the against the legal right of adults to play the games they choose. The entire goal of her statement(other than publicity, which is unfortunately an inevitable side effect for politico shenaniganerry) was to try and educate parents about what they shouldn't be buying for their children. So, rather appalled was I to read the comments, which were almost unfailing trying to tear down her statements using sensationalism and thinly veiled ad hominem.

This is a person who is not claiming a causal relationship between videogames and violence. Who is in no way promoting legislation controlling the distribution of videogames. Who is advocating only parental responsibility. Yet still, the gaming community jump on her, screaming, like rabid baboons. Is this really how we want to deal with critics? By ignoring what they have to say, and denouncing arguments due to entirely inferred assaults? I'm not saying I agree with all of what Worthy has to say, particularly about her supposed links between crime and gaming, but in all honesty I have no more proof about it than she does. If she's asked a question about it(which I assume she was), should she not be entitled to answer it honestly? As long she's not trying to force her ideas down other people's throats, she should be fully able to say whatever the hell she pleases.

The thing that bothers me most about it is that most of the people who are shouting loudest against her would be the same people who use free speech as an argument against the censorship of Manhunt 2 and such. I find it ironic that they seem to want to shut down someone for just having an opinion that differs from their own. If gamers want the medium to be taken seriously, we have to treat earnest criticisms and concerns with the respect they're due. Damning anyone who dares speak out against our belovéd passtime just makes us seem like the immature, aggressive cretins Thompson and his ilk would like to make us out to be.

For another take on the same thang, see SoapMacTavish's cblog.   read

10:05 AM on 11.19.2007

Don't Believe the Anti-Hype, Assassin's Creed is Well Worth Playing

Assassin's Creed is a fairly amazing game. The enormous, beautiful environments, which grant you complete freedom to climb and explore. Exploring itself, with the wonderfully implemented parkour control scheme, is an absolute joy. Sword fighting, once you get the timing down pat, becomes a whirling waltz of death. Slowly walking up to your prey, maintaining secrecy and discretion, and sticking a knife through his throat is the kind of visceral thrill that qualifies the existence of action games in the first place. These are just my opinions, but I have a hard time understanding how people could disagree to the extent that they seem to. So why do they?

By far the most prevalent complaint seems to be the repetitiveness of the game. The game is repetitive, but so is virtually every other game ever made. Repetitiveness is a fundamental part of game design. Consider Halo; all you do in it is run and drive through a variety of similar levels shooting things. Tetris, make solid lines of blocks to make them vanish. Mario kart, drive around tracks using power-ups to competitive advantage. I could go on, but I think the point is made. As long as the repetitive actions are fun, which in the case of Assassin's Creed I most certainly find them to be, it's usually forgiveable. Besides, there is some divergence from routine in the form of informer missions, which involve secret assassinations or checkpoint races, both of which are totally awesome despite not being mentioned in any reviews I've read.

I will agree that the cut scenes being unskippable was a design foible, all that exposition can get rather tedious. That said, the actual plot of the game, flimsy as you may think it, is head and shoulders above the industry standard. Sure, that's not saying much, but such criticism should not be dropped on it without context. As for difficulty concerns, it's true the game won't be the greatest challenge ever for many players, but considering how fun the gameplay mechanics are, I found that to be pretty forgiveable.

Of course, it's fully possible you disagree with everything you said, and that you found those flaws I mentioned to be too overwhelming to properly enjoy the game. I'm not going to argue with you about that. It's a matter of personal taste and everyone else's view is just as valid as mine. My only reason for making this post is that with all the negative press the game is getting, it might discourage some players from giving it a fair chance, with an open mind. Seeing as the game is so different from everything else on the market, so gorgeous and interesting executed, I think anyone who cares about gaming as a medium should at least try this game. You might not like it, but at least it'd be something a little different.

I have a suspicion that if this game had just quietly sneaked out, without the hubub and fanfare and Jade Raymond's boobies, it would have been lauded by the hardcore just as much as games like Okami, or Katamari, or Beyond Good and Evil, or Psychonauts. I think it's a shame that such an interesting game should fall victim to it's own hype. After all, not buying a game because of the hype is just as bad as buying it solely because of it, if not worse. So do yourself a favour, give this game a whirl.   read

5:07 PM on 11.14.2007

Patrick Stewart and the DS Combine, Conquer Universe


While this may not be the most monumental of news, I thought it was too awesome not to gibber about. As you have probably surmised, Nintendo over in the UK have concocted a DS advertisement campaign focusing on Brain Training(the superior European title for Brain Age) being played by a variety of respected celebrity types. Have to say, I think they're pretty good. So what did we learn from this video? Patrick Stewart is pro at maths.   read

8:58 AM on 11.13.2007

FreeRice: Kill Time For a Good Cause

Bored at work? Have an extensive vocabulary? Wracked with social guilt? Then FreeRice is the browser game for you. Every time you correctly figure out the meaning of a word, 10 grains of rice are donated to the UN by a group of tax-break seeking sponsors. Even if you consider altruism the root of all wickedness, the game itself is quick to load and reasonably fun. So play it. Or don't. Whatever.   read

3:13 PM on 11.12.2007

Hurray, Another Portal Post: Backstory for the Ignorant Masses

There's a good chance a lot of people - who might by whatever chance read this - already know most of what I'm going to say, but for the sake of people lacking in Internet Mattlockery skillz(and who didn't read the comments of the Portal review), I thought I'd give a run down of the out of all the game's story available outside the confines of the source engine.

For starters, the main character is called Chell. I'm not sure how this was found out exactly, but I'm guessing it was by people checking the names of the character models in their install directory, just like with Barney and the G-Man before. But who exactly is Chell? Why is she in the Enrichment Centre? Read on, intrepid web denizen, and all will be made vaguely clear.

The main source of extragame annals is the official Aperture Science website. I advise people to try and figure out what to do with it themselves(might help to give Portal another run through), but for the lazy I'll give instructions after the spoiler warning.

Once you go to the site, click somewhere in the middle of the screen to focus on the flash window, then type "login", "cjohnson" when it prompts for a username and "tier3" for the password. The main things of interest can be accessed using the "notes" and "apply" commands, although you can list a bunch of other commands by inputting "help". None of the other commands seem to do much, but if you find out anything amusing to do with them, I'd like to know.


Old news is, of course, old. But I'm bored off my arse at work, so ye're just have to deal with yet more Portal flavoured waffle. Well, at least I never mentioned the weighted companion cube or delicious & moist cake...   read

11:20 AM on 11.01.2007

Manhunt 2: Hot Viscera Hack Released

If there is more diligent and efficient community of hackers than the PSP crowd, I've never encountered them. Less than 24 hours after the game's official release, and a group of Russian hackers - from - have already discovered that the content supposedly removed from Rockstar's Manhunt 2 was actually only swept under the rug.

After the scandal surrounding the GTA:SA Hot Coffee incident, it is hard to believe that Rockstar could have done something like this accidentally. It is possible, of course, and I imagine that's what their legal teams are going to gun for. However, considering the fact that this was discovered in under a day and that the process itself is so straightforward, I can't help but believe Rockstar are very much biting their thumbs at the ESRB. Which is equal parts hilarious and awesome.

The downside of this is that the game, even in it's somewhat neutered M-rated state, still hasn't been approved by the BBFC, the ratings board that governs the UK. This news is really unlikely to help Rockstar's case in the slightest with their appeals. That's something I can live with though. People who really want to play this game will still find a way, and everyone else will just be spared from buying a less than phenomenal game based purely on hype and controversy.

The announcement that the ESRB would essentially be preventing the game from being released in the US was news I was less than pleased about. While subversion of this kind is pretty damn funny, what effect might it have on the ratings climate? On one hand, after the outcry and controversy caused by Hot Coffee, the ESRB might see this as the final straw, and impose even stricter regulation on developers and a more rigorous certification process, which could end up protracting many game's developments even further. Which is bad for everyone. On the other hand, perhaps this might help make them see that freedom of expression is impossible to truly suppress. That if developers want to put something in a game, there's nothing anyone can do to stop them. Yeah, right. We can hope.

The ESRB does actually serve a useful function. Most parents are quite ignorant as to what games to deem appropriate for their offspring. Causing an outright ban on a game though is just plain wrong in my books. Adult consumers should have to right to decide for themselves what is appropriate for themselves and what isn't. Taking away that choice is an infringement of personal freedom, and that just ain't right however you slice it.   read

9:09 AM on 08.22.2007

A Firm Blow Struck Against Free Speech: Manhunt 2 Possibly Being Retooled

Wired's Chris Kohler - of Game|Life, and one of the best gaming writers on the blogosphere today posted an interesting story on the trials and tribulations of Manhunt 2's ratings debacle. Tucked away in the second last paragraph of the piece is the disturbing sentence "But it was the company itself that went public with the AO rating, before announcing that it would retool the game to win an M rating." Seeing as there are no referenced sources and that a quick google search revealed no such announcement of a retooling, there's a very real chance it was some manner of miscommunication. After all it would be the first time an executive let slip something that turned out to be false.

What's troubling though is that the article mentions that a dozen or so other games over the past five years were given preliminary AO ratings. In all of those cases, the companies simply kept it quiet, and reworked the game to qualify for an M rating. Perhaps Take Two(the money making entity that controls Rockstar) would rather spend the legal fees required to attempt to overturn the rating on the expensive process of altering the game to make it more palatable to public perceptions. Hopefully this was just a misquote, or something of the sort, but the reality is that making commercial games is business, and big business too. Even if the statement was premature, perhaps it's just a matter of time anyway. At this point, an as intended release of Manhunt 2 is unlikely.

It's a damn shame that gamers are considered unworthy of making up their own minds as to what they want to buy. But what are we to do about it? Boycotting the game would only be punishing the developers, and they haven't really done anything wrong. Boycotting the consoles would only mean preventing yourself from being able to play the games you want to play. Internet petitions are laughably ineffective. So what, then? The problem lies with the rating system. They seem to be out of touch with gaming as a medium. They seem to be ignoring the idea of games being art, with entitlement to the same levels of expression as other media. In the long term, we need more real gamers(who also respect moderation) deciding things in the ESRB and similar game rating boards. Hopefully there will be some such civil minded sorts among us who will heed that call. In the short term though, I can think of no better ideas than spamming the ESRB's mail box with death threats and accusations of homosexuality.   read

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