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10:02 PM on 11.20.2011

Zelda Week: The Unholy Triforce

Given the Zelda series' proven quality, time and again, it's hard for anyone to say anything bad about it as a whole. Even if you disagree with the aesthetics of a certain title, such as the cel-shading of Wind Waker or the psuedo realism of Twilight Princess, the games are well put-together, well designed slices of gameplay which appeal to a very wide variety of gamers.

That is... When they're designed by Nintendo. However, I was in the unique position in 1996 of being old enough to work illegally while also being young enough to be fooled by the Philips CDi's advertisements in gaming magazines and the promise of three Zelda games in stunning graphics, accompanied by still shots of (presumably) awesome animation for various events in the game.

It's time to discuss the elephant in the room: Wand of Gamelon, Faces of Evil, and Zelda's Adventure.

To be fair, my opinion going into this piece is not going to be unbiased. At the time... I'd just turned thirteen, and a local business owner made the promise of a lifetime to a thirteen-year-old facing down summer: A job. I'd applied at McDonald's when I was turned away after the interview because my sloppy writing made my thirteen look like an eighteen.

Oh, and it was a hard job, too. Not having actually worked in the past (or knowing what, precisely, labour laws and minimum wage were), the offer looked too good to be true: Each of us would get forty whole dollars a day, along with an extra ten dollars for food and a half hour lunch break, to work at the man's vendor booth at the Toronto CNE from opening at 9:00 AM to closing at 11:00 PM. And we'd also get a ride to work at eight and a lift home at the end of the day, and a meal at the guy's bar on the way home!

It was every thirteen-year-old's dream job: Sell some crap to tourists for (what we thought was) great money, get to eat fast food for lunch and dinner, and we were at the Exhibition! After downing a cheap hotdog, most of my lunch breaks were spent going on The Zipper! Every. Damned. Day.

And after twenty full days of essentially working fourteen hour days, I had my prize in hand. Eight hundred dollars, a veritable fortune to a child my age. And I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it: Buy the CDi, as well as all three Zelda games.

After all, for what the machine cost, they HAD to be the most amazing things in existence, right? I felt justified: My Playstation didn't really have any games which caught my attention. Beyond the Beyond was the only RPG I'd seen on the console, and the Nintendo 64 which was coming out didn't have ANY good games. I mean, Mario? Again? Please. Zelda was clearly where it was at, and I was about to get THREE of them. I wouldn't need a new game for months.

And so, cash in hand, I went into Microplay. I bought a brand new CD-i and one copy each of Wand of Gamelon, Faces of Evil, and Zelda's Adventure. When I was done with my purchase, I had just enough to buy a McDonald's combo and a bag of chips from the grocery store on the way home. I had a full weekend until school started, and after I hooked my new console up I didn't intend to spend a minute more than necessary away from it.

I decided to start with Zelda's Adventure. The live-action look actually appealed to me over the cartoonish sprites of Wand of Gamelon and Faces of Evil, given the fact that Mortal Kombat did pretty well with it. So I put the game in, reading the instruction manual and wrapping my mind around the strangely-designed controller in this new, modern console. I do remember the lack of any sign of Nintendo in the opening company credits montage, but at that point I was too excited to notice it. Sort of like a hiker missing the hiss of a rattlesnake, I guess.

To say that Zelda's Adventure is an unplayable mess is a kindness. The game is not just bad for a Zelda game, it's just bad. It resembles a Zelda game in screenshots, and resembles your worst nightmares of what the franchise could be while being played. While the music is, for the time, fantasticly written and well-performed, that's the only nice thing one can say about the game. The live-action cutscenes are horrible and the gameplay is more backwards and illogical than some badly designed NES games.

I now know that part of the game's problems are the console: Despite the increased storage having access to CDs granted it, the console had a mediocre chipset and relatively little RAM. It wasn't designed to be a gaming system, and it shows in the performance, as the machine chugged to a halt for long periods every time the game had to load a new area. And whatever problems I had with the controls, I know now that the hardware was as much to blame. The controllers were uniformly terrible for the CD-i.

However at the time, I only knew that a game series which had brought me joy ever since the first Legend of Zelda game had now nearly brought me to tears with frustration and regret. Even Wand of Gamelon and Faces of Evil, while better than Zelda's Adventure, just didn't strike the exciting Zelda spark.

Mere hours after I'd purchased the system, I'd packed it back into my closet. It would be years before I unearthed them while moving out of my parent's home, and multiple moves beyond that one before I finally hooked the console back up and given them a fair shake.

These days, objectively speaking, Wand of Gamelon and Faces of Evil don't strike me as terrible. Quirky titles, yes, and certainly the controls could be tighter, but going back to them with the breadth of gaming experience and the patience of an adult, they're certainly less terrible than my horrified teenage brain remembers them being. They've got some interesting design choices, and as long as you don't go into them expecting a Zelda-quality title, they're not entirely horrific. I've certainly endured worse titles.

However, even with all the joy the series has brought me, a new Zelda title sends a completely unwarranted shiver of horror through my frame. Objectively speaking, I know that Nintendo could never produce a title half as bad as Zelda's Adventure. Objectively speaking, I know that no system produced by Nintendo will ever give a game controls as poor as Wand of Gamelon and Faces of Evil possess.

Yet nothing can erase the memories of having purchased the Unholy Triforce. Nothing.   read

9:13 PM on 11.07.2011

Contestoid: Since I've given out my 20 Sequence codes, have 10 more!

Full Disclaimer: I have pimped Sequence a lot. I've done this entirely because it's a fantastic title and I fully believe in supporting studios which do good, especially indies. My first contact with Jason Wishnov was contacting him for XBLIG codes for Sequence to give out.

Last week, I posted a Sequence contest and offered codes to the first twenty posters. Then I took my sweet time about things, mainly because I was in northern Ontario hunting with a friend. He broke his ankle, I learned why .45 magnums scare black bears, and the rabbits we'd been hunting were not, despite my friend's insistence, were not in season.

Now that I've PMed everyone involved their codes, I'm feeling restless. Time for more codes to hand out? I think so!

So guys? Post a haiku about rhythm games in general, and the first ten who do score a free copy of Sequence on Steam. But please, if you've already scored a free copy off of me (check your inbox), don't enter the contest unless you plan to give the code out to someone who'll appreciate it.

Rhyme, monkeys! Rhyme for your gaming codes!   read

8:28 PM on 11.02.2011

Contestoid: Who wants Sequence on Steam?

Full Disclaimer: I have pimped Sequence a lot. I've done this entirely because it's a fantastic title and I fully believe in supporting studios which do good, especially indies. My first contact with Jason Wishnov was contacting him for XBLIG codes for Sequence to give out.

Alright, so way back when Iridium Studio's little gem Sequence debuted on Xbox Live Indie Games, I contacted Jason Wishnov, the sole, consistent employee of the studio, and asked him if he'd be down for giving me some bulk codes to give out to Destructoid. I offered to buy fifty, if I'm remembering correctly.

Sadly, he was unable to provide. But because Jason Wishnov is an awesome person, he gave me five of the fifty codes he was given, given to me freely for the asking, which I then passed on to various Destructoid users.

However now Sequence is on Steam, and frankly it's long past time I paid him back for his generosity. And even I can only buy a game once, so now I'm giving back to the community. I've purchased a hundred Sequence codes which I'm going to be giving out to people.

If you meet the system requirements and want a copy, it's as simple as asking. The first twenty people who ask for a copy below are going to get a code PMed to them. It's really that easy, folks.

And look forward to more giveaways in the same vein. These codes are burnin' a hole in my pocket.   read

8:22 PM on 10.26.2011

Me versus Revuhlooshun, I guess. Also, where's Debatoid been?

Alright, so the "discussion" I got into with Revuhlooshun about Online Passes got a little bit personal. I accused him of touching himself at night, and as far as I can see from his response, he accused me of dogging his other blogposts to down on him, when, as far as my spotty memory and Destructoid's comment system are concerned, all I've done is Fap his FFV blog which got promoted.

Yes, I was a bit of a douche. Probably because we're somehow on opposite sides of the spectrum politically. I feel like the curmudgeonly conservative keeping an eye out for business, while a lot of his arguments are the bright-eyed liberal take on things. I was sort of getting into the spirit of things, I guess.

Funny bit is, I'm liberal politically speaking. I'm sure this means he's secretly a whitebread conservative.

Anyway, the whole point of this is... Let's get a Debatoid going. Me and Revuhlooshun, discussing some heated topic without Jpegs or Jew jokes, and let's get the entire thing out of our systems so that if we ever meet up at a community meetup, we're more inclined to buy one another a beer and laugh about things in hindsight than get into a fistfight while the rest of the community laughs.

Also, I respect his ability to write well, and I know I do, so there's that as well. Anything we debate is sure to be interesting to read, at least.

So Rev, up for a debate? Anyone have any topics they feel would be good to discuss?

It's this or sniping at one another randomly, and I'd rather not go that route. I can't access Destructoid from work anymore, so that rivalry might get a bit one-sided.   read

6:21 PM on 10.18.2011

Online Passes: An Explanation & Solution

Let's face it: Online Passes or practically any other scheme publishers come up with to try to curtail the used market are never going to be popular with gamers. No matter how small the incentive is or how miniscule the hassle of attaining it, there are going to be people who insist that any attempt by publishers to reclaim a part of the used market is wrong.

To be honest, a part of me agrees. However another part of me sees exactly what and why publishers are doing what they're doing, and that's the part that I'm going to explore.

The thing a lot of gamers are either ignorant of or choosing to ignore is that the games industry doesn't really have alternate revenue streams the way other entertainment does. I mean, think about it: Any profit the publisher wants to see from a game is entirely dependent on the game selling well. With the high turnover of titles, usually a game has about a two to four week window where the game is going to sell at a large volume, with all but the most insanely popular titles seeing a sharp dropoff in sales afterwards. Beyond that... If the publisher is lucky, the title might see a rerelease as a "Greatest Hits" or equivalent and maybe they might see some sales down the road as a downloadable title from the Playstation Network or Games on Demand. That's it.

Nothing is guaranteed to be there to supplement that game's initial release, and a myriad number of complications can come up to turn the release into a disaster. Releasing the game during the wrong week might see the game competing directly with another, very similar title. Or it might get released during the launch of a huge game and be completely overshadowed or outright ignored. With millions of dollars invested in the development and marketing of a title, it's easy to see why publishers could feel an incredible amount of stress to find another revenue stream any way they can.

Games are things which take years to make and often the fate of a studio, even a well-proven one, rests on just how well the game sells. It's sad to say, but we as gamers often hear about developers closing their doors, sending a group of suddenly-adrift employees looking for new jobs. Every sale counts to many studios, especially when they have to go to their publisher and ask for money to make their next game. When a single title performs far under the expectations for the budget, it's hard to blame the publisher for refusing funding for another title when all they can see is a multimillion dollar hole where their profits from the developer's last title should be.

Is it any wonder that they're looking for some way, any way to help them make an extra buck on the games they're funding? The budget for a triple-A title these days can reach the same sort of cost of movies, and video games are one of the few pieces of entertainment we consume which don't have multiple built-in stages of profitability.

Movies, for example, have many stages. First, the movie gets released on the big screen. Often, a title can earn back the entire budget of filming just through the profits of the theater release. Next, the movie gets released on Blu-Ray and DVD for the home release. If the movie didn't do well in theaters, it's still got a chance to be profitable. A few titles, like The Chronicles of Riddick, did poorly in theaters but still turned a good profit for their home release. Movies then have the licensing fees from being played on TV and streaming services like Netflix to help pad things out.

TV shows are also raking it in from multiple angles. A good TV show not only has the profits from advertisements on the day a new episode airs, but also the licensing fees and/or advertising profits from repeats. If watching a TV show on TV isn't your thing, you can always pick up the episodes from a streaming service, or just buy the year's season on DVD if you want to just watch it all in a marathon.

Books likewise have a few avenues for consumer consumption. You can get the book right when it comes out, if you don't mind shelling out the extra cash for the hardcover edition. Too rich for your blood? You know you can still pick up the paperback or get the title on your Kindle or Ipad for a little less. Reading not your thing? There's always the audiobook edition, most of which are read by professional actors.

We can't forget, of course, that all of the above also have a far longer shelf life in stores than any game. If I'm lucky, I might be able to track down a new copy of a game six months after release if I hunt for it and it was a big title, yet I can walk into a store and find a new copy of a five-year old movie, TV season, or book with considerable ease.

Part of the reason games are so expensive is that the technology required to make them is always changing, and that technology is at the heart of what's required to make the game. The tools developers were using a decade ago are completely different from the tools they use today, unlike an author writing a book or a director filming a TV show or movie. Every developer out there has to either constantly adapt and work on newer engines for their games, or license an engine from someone who is doing that work. Every game a studio develops has to be on the cutting edge, because that's what everyone else is doing.

Not to mention that the profit GameStop and other places make from used games is a little... lopsided, to use a kind word. I'm not going to say that I'm against the used market, because don't get me wrong: I'm not. Yet when GameStop posts sales data where the used market's profit comes very close to beating out the new market, it's easy to understand why publishers accuse GameStop of profit-mongering at the cost of the industry as a whole and why they would develop the Online Pass in the first place.

However, the problem is that publishers are taking an attitude of "Screw GameStop" with the Online Pass mentality, when they should really be working with GameStop on this one. GameStop has no reason to want a war with publishers. They're just a store dealing in games, and having to fight your suppliers isn't any good for either side. The problem is that publishers haven't really given GameStop or other stores any incentive to share the goods of the used market.

Photo by OrangeShooter

The solution is so staggeringly simple that I'm honestly shocked that publishers haven't reached out with this one, but I'll throw it out there anyway: Publishers, you need to talk to GameStop about selling them extra passes in bulk at a discount to put into their used copies of your games. Better yet, work with them and their network technicians so that they can print out a code to give to customers right at the register without having to worry about finding which drawer it's in. Just scan the thing and the code gets printed out on the receipt, no fuss or muss. You might want to put a reasonable delay on the things before GameStop is allowed to hand 'em out, but that one's obvious.

Now, publishers, I know you're raising your arms and blubbering on about how GameStop doesn't deserve any more of your hard-earned cash. I know you think doing this will be cannibalizing the market even further, but allow me to make a two billion, three hundred and ninety four million dollar counterpoint: Doing this means that instead of a used sale maybe translating into a purchase of an Online Pass from you, every used sale from GameStop translates into a bit of extra coin. Every. Single. One. Every time that copy of Battlefield 4 or Dead Space 3 comes in and goes back out, that's a bit of money in your pocket. You're getting a piece of the action for every used sale, just like you want.

This is a deal that benefits everyone. Publishers finally get to have a taste of the sweet, sweet used pie they've been after since day one. GameStop gets to advertise that even used copies of their games come with everything, including the content normally reserved for the people who purchase new copies. Even the people who pick up their games used benefit, since they actually get the content they would have missed out on, normally, and they get it all cheaper than the new copy that they can't justify buying for themselves. Everybody wins.

For better or worse, Online Passes aren't going anywhere. No matter how much we gamers might complain about them. I think at this point we can either roll with it or get out of gaming, because the good ol' days of being free of this sort of hassle disappeared the moment when consoles being online became the standard instead of the exception.

Even though I don't really have a problem with them, I do think Online Passes have a long way to go. Having to type in a 25 character alpha-numeric code on a d-pad kind of sucks, but next generation most consoles will probably have cameras capable of reading a barcode or something to make redeeming goodies like this a little easier on everyone. Also, the sooner publishers look into an authentication process which allows players to get single-player content locked behind a code while offline the better. I mean, yeah, check the code if the console ever does go online with the game, but you don't need to screw the people without internet access.

Initially I was against the concept of the Online Pass. I felt like it was just a cheap way for the developers to make a quick buck at the expense of the used market. Then I had a brainwave and realized that the things also act like DRM, and a pretty benevolent form of it at that. Pirates gonna pirate, of course, but they're not going to be playing any upcoming games online using the company's servers unless they shell out the cash for the privilege.

If you think of the Online Passes as DRM they're about as unobtrusive as entering a CD-Key was for computer games a decade ago, which is pretty reasonable. Compare the Online Pass we console gamers have to some of the stuff the PC crowd has had to put up with, and suddenly it doesn't look quite as evil and draconian. Right now, a lot of the flaming hate for them is simply a PR problem, and one a good marketing crew could have avoided by phrasing it as unobtrusive DRM instead of as a dig at GameStop. That's already out of the bag, but they could probably still do some damage control with that line of thought.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to key in a code so I can play the Catwoman section of Batman: Arkham City.   read

9:26 AM on 10.08.2011

Bringing Castlevania into the Third Dimension

This was just a quick idea I had. I wanted to get it down in text before it slipped away from me.

Alright, let's not mince words here. While Lord of Shadows was a good game, it had its own share of problems... Not the least of which was that it didn't really feel like a Castlevania game. It was more an in-name only title, resembling the Castlevania series only by virtue of the name slapped on the title. It benefited from this, to be certain: The previous Castlevania titles in 3D were just not that good.

To be fair to Konami, Castlevania 64 (and the rerelease/sequel thing with the Werewolf) were released at a time when nobody really knew how to make truly 3D games work well. The critically far more successful Symphony of the Night was released as an underbudget, wacky idea that just took off spectacularly. And to be truthful, the 2D games have managed to keep the distinctive Castlevania feel even with the adoption of the Metroidvania formula.

Now, personally speaking, I feel that Lament of Innocence, however unusually executed it was, was the best Castlevania title in 3D. It had everything that made it feel like a Castlevania title and made the Metroidvania theme work in 3D, albeit in a funky and roundabout way.

So I thought about it and wondered... How could one bring that distinctive Metroidvania-style of exploration into a 3D Castlevania title and still keep the game fresh and exciting, while also keeping a strong focus on the platforming instead of relying on just the combat to keep things interesting.

The answer turned out to be pretty simple. See, I was finally unboxing my extensive PS2 collection, and I came across the box which had the last few games I'd been playing before I packed the whole thing up, and among the two titles were Prince of Persia and Spider-Man 2.

Now, imagine this: You are a Belmont, and your job is to break into Dracula's castle. All you have to start with is your whip and your wits. You can use you whip to latch onto pieces of the scenery, but then you have to climb up it. Trying to swing with the leather form of the Vampire Killer just causes it to slip free from the grab point and you to fall on your back.

So you assault Dracula's Castle, climbing up an outer wall, and you comes across a whip upgrade. Not only does it magically change your leather whip into a mighty flail, but you can now use those same climbing points (and other points) to use the whip to swing around. This allows you to explore more areas, and he eventually comes across a cape which allows you to glide short distances. And so it goes with standard Metroidvania upgrades, until by the end of the game you're practically freaking Spider-Man, swinging to and fro across the extensive Castle.

And when you face Dracula, you're not bound to some small room. He blows the roof off with a powerful spell and you fight him across his entire castle, showing you just how far you've come ever since you entered. Enemies which used to be major foes either run away or are mere distractions as you and Dracula battle in a fight which sees Castlevania reduced to rubble before Dracula's death as you use the arsenal of weapons and magical items you've pillaged to fight this supernatural monster on even footing.

Or hey, we can always say that Lord of Shadows was what we always wanted out of a 3D Castlevania game. I guess that works too.   read

4:25 PM on 10.03.2011

Improvements, Part 2

Okay, Destructoid. I know that this isn't the weekly topic, and I already made some suggestions a while back. Now that I've had a few weeks to think about the subject, I've got a few new suggestions, ones I don't think I saw mentioned. Feel free to acknowledge or disregard 'em as you like.

First CBlog Moderation

We get what, ten or twenty blogposts a day? Thirty on a really busy day? And maybe a couple times a week one of them will be by someone new and is generally an intro blog? I think it'd be beneficial to the community as a whole if the first blogpost any new member makes is kept private until a moderator of some sort takes a quick peek at it and okays it. I'm not saying we should new censor people who write poorly or create biased blogposts, but a quick check of "Is this new poster throwing pure spam up?" would be beneficial.

I don't think anyone but spammers would be annoyed by it, and frankly it seems pretty easy to implement. If a new user posts a new blog, an email, PM, or some other kind of alert finds its way to the moderator when one goes up, and a quick glance at the blogpost tells the moderator if it's a legitimate post or not. Simple and easy, which is always good.

Time Delays Between Blog Posts for New Users

Again, this is not meant to discriminate, but to keep the spam down to an absolute minimum. Perhaps for the first thirty days of a poster's time here (or two weeks, or three months, or whatever is deemed appropriate), it might be a good idea to limit them to a single blogpost a day (or one every twelve or forty-eight hours or whatever). Most community members stick to the unoffical rule of one a day anyway, but it'd keep the spammers from being able to post a copy and pasted game-related thing and then hit us with ten vacation spam posts.

This way, if the person is a spammer, they'll find themselves unable to do much to actually spam the Cbog readers.

Again, this isn't meant to discriminate. This isn't a suggestion about creating tiers of users, but just a suggestion for a short probation period. "Okay, you've joined, and your first blogpost wasn't blatant spam. Play nice for a X amount of time and you can post a billion C-Blogs in a row if you want."

And hey, if a spammer actually remembers to come back thirty days (or whatever) after posting one legitimate post... Well, anything you put in place to stop spam isn't going to stop them anyway. They're the T-1000 of spam: Nothing will stop them, and they can adapt to anything you throw at them. (Except maybe a pit of molten steel)

Comment Voting

Okay, I have seen this one before, but it bears repeating: A lot of websites have adopted a comment model where other users can upvote or downvote a specific comment, and if it recieves enough negative votes compared to positive votes, it gets hidden unless the reader specifically chooses to click on it and view it. We've all seen comments which we'd like to downvote, and it might help the community self-moderate a bit. A fanboy for any of the consoles shows up and is especially aggravating that day? Downvoted until nobody can see it. Someone posts spam to a shady chinese online store? Downvoted until nobody can see it. And so on.
The only problem is that this system does have some room for abuse. I'd suggest either limiting the number of votes in either direction a person can use on other comments in a day, or requiring a LOT of negative voting (like 20 more downvotes than upvotes) before a comment gets hidden. Either one would mitigate a lot of the abuse you might be able to get up to with such a system.

And of course, the ability for mods to remove a person's ability to downvote/upvote a comment. Someone abuses the system repeatedly? They don't get to use it anymore. Simple and easy.

Optional Profanity Filter for Comments available in Account Options[/b]

Okay, this might be tricky, it might not, but I'm sure there are some people who wouldn't mind a profanity filter. Personally, I don't mind profanity one bit. It takes some pretty creative name-calling to get a rise out of me, but other people might not want to see that stuff. The way I see it, you could do this two ways.

One would selectively replace certain words with asterisks, so fucking becomes ****ing, cunt becomes ****, etc. Either that, or if you do the comment voting system, have anything with swear words in it automatically hide like downvoted comments, with a note of "This comment contains profanity, click to show."

I'm not trying to say this community needs to clean up its act. Far from it... I fucking love you guys. But there are people who are probably turned away from the occasional profanity which is in the comments, and I think an option for people to participate while hiding their tender, virgin eyes from words like fuck, shit, or Jim Sterling would be beneficial. (Just kidding, Jim!) Honestly, it could only benefit the site by drawing people here who might otherwise not want to participate, while still catering to those of us who like to comment with "Holy shitballs, that fucking game looks awesome as cunting hell!"

Customizable Main Page

I don't know how technical this would be, but my gut feeling is that the answer is "Very." Still, it's a nice pipe dream.

Okay, so let's say that perhaps a certain, evil company known for jackass moves and bad PR is something you don't really want to read about any longer. Or perhaps you don't want to read previews or watch trailers for upcoming games, prefering to be surprised when you purchase the game instead of finding yourself spoiled.

Basically, you could pick the version of Destructoid you like, ala carte. You're presented with a list of common article types (Preview, Review, News, Game Announcements, Opinion Pieces, etc) and game companies (Activision, Bioware, Square-Enix, etc). Then you pick which ones you want to see on your version of the main page, and maybe even have an Inclusive/Exclusive option. Inclusive would mean that if either one was picked it would show the article (like, picking Reviews or Bioware would show a Bioware game review) and Exclusive would mean that you had to pick both for the page to show the article (like, you'd have to pick both Reviews and Bioware in order to see Reviews of Bioware games). Or something like that.

This actually benefits Destructoid, too, believe it or not. Bandwidth for a website like Destructoid has got to be relatively expensive compared to ad revenue, and anything that cuts it down is a good thing. It could either only load stuff you've chosen not to read if you click on it (like the downvoted comments thing I mentioned before), or it could completely not load it. Either way, the site isn't wasting bandwidth on pictures and text for an article I'm not going to read anyway.

And hey, it also has the benefit that it won't really effect ad revenue. Since the advertisements on the website are loaded everywhere, you're still seeing them every time you click on the stories you'd be normally reading anyway. A lot of websites count on saving things in the margins and pushing enough ads to meet bills while not pushing away too many readers/viewers to remain functional (see The Escapist and how they've done the exact opposite of both), so it might free up some dosh for other things. And there'd always be the option of seeing everything anyway, just in case you want to see if there's something you missed that you normally might not read.   read

12:09 AM on 09.24.2011

Luckiest Studio Ever: Ninja Theory

Ninja Theory is the luckiest studio alive. The fact that Tameem Antoniades had the balls to blame consumers for Ninja Theory's woes, woes meaning Ninja Theory is still working instead of expanding, basically says all that needs to be said about his arrogance, and by extension, the arrogance of Ninja Theory.

And really, what set it all in motion was Kung Fu Chaos. The game was a thoroughly mediocre, quirky title on the original Xbox. It's ranked at a 68% on Metacritic, and Ninja Theory was on the verge of collapse thanks to their unspectacular first outing when Jeremy San, perhaps on the tail end of a opium binge after the failures of I-Ninja and Bionicle: The Game, decided to save Ninja Theory and continue funding rather than keep his own studio afloat.

Now, nobody knows what sort of voodoo Ninja Theory cast to pull it off, but they not only managed to convince Andy Serkis to work with them, but they also convinced Sony that their upcoming title was so banging-hot that it not only needed to be licensed as a PS3-exclusive, but that the title deserved, nay, demanded the sort of advertising budget normally reserved for triple-A studios with well-proven backgrounds. Despite the advertising and critical fanfare, it took the studio eight months to break one million copies.

Eight months. For a game which, I swear to Christ, was seeing daily advertisements on TV on top of multiple advertisements on gaming websites and in magazines. It boggles the mind that shit shoved in a DVD case and sold to the masses would take that long to break a million copies with the sort of advertising might which Sony applied to the title.

Now in a perfect world, Ninja Theory would have become a second-party publisher. That would be true if they'd performed well, but as I've shown... Heavenly Sword probably underperformed for the advertising budget alone, let alone whatever the actual game cost to produce. A cost Sony probably had to eat, actually. Either way, if this game was half as successful as Tameem would have us believe, Enslaved would have been a PS3 exclusive.

Speaking of Enslaved... Don't get me wrong: Enslaved was great to watch. Visually speaking, it's a treat. And on top of the great script-writing and the fantastic acting in full display thanks to Andy Serkis and Lindsey Shaw, the game was a bit of a critical darling. However, despite the gobs of praise heaped on the title, they barely escaped the mess with half a million sales across multiple platforms, once again underperforming fantastically.

So at this point, we have...

-One title which nearly bankrupted the studio
-One title which should have made them a second-party studio, save for how unimpressive it was
-One title which underperformed rather spectacularly compared to the critical reception

For any other studio, any one of those three events would have crippled them completely. There are studios which used to exist which only did one of those things, and that was the end of them.

Bizarre Creations, despite being a fantastic studio with over a dozen hits under their belt, got cut the fuck up and spit the hell out when a single title underperformed, despite over a decade of producing hits. Black Rock likewise got the boot, ironically over the very title which killed Bizarre Creations.

Kaos Studio's latest release Homefront, despite selling over a million copies, caused them to see a flurry of pink slips. Despite releasing a game with some great multiplayer and selling well, the studio was disbanded.

In the face of any one of the failures Ninja Theory has faced, most studios would crumple and be disbanded. Being handed a well-established action series guaranteed to sell millions (plural) of copies by a large publisher is the last thing any studio except Ninja Theory and the horseshoes directly up each and every employee's ass could expect.

"Clearly, the Unreal engine is the future for a fast-paced third-person close combat game."

At this point, I've got to conclude that not only does Tameem Antoniades have a silver tongue, but it's equipped with an auto-fellate setting designed to break fucking gods.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against the studio in theory. It's just that the combination of their history and Tameem Antoniades talking about how disappointed he was in consumers in the wake of Enslaved struck me as incredibly fucktarded.

Of course, DmC is going to skate by on sub-par gameplay and the admittedly fantastic storywriting the studio is known for, critically speaking, and the legion of Devil May Cry fans hungry for anything are going to ensure that however the game plays, the sales are going to break into the multi-million.

And, of course, Tameem Antoniades is going to be right there to claim credit for the success of the latest game instead of acknowledging the several tons of horseshoes he's somehow missed lodged directly in his colon.   read

8:58 PM on 09.22.2011

Contestoid: Gears of War 3 Epic Edition winners and an announcement

So... The final scores for the participants in the final task are as follows:

Roager 1638000
Blasto 1023040
SuperMonk 691060
HammerShark 663620
JohnnyViral 621250
ScottyG 515570
Morty 263710

Congrats to everyone who participated. However, the final scores are as follows:

Blasto: 32 pts
SuperMonk4Ever: 26 pts
Roager: 18 pts
ScottyG: 17 pts
HammerShark: 11 pts
JohnnyViral: 11 pts
Epic: 11 pts
Morty: 8 pts
Occam's: 3 pts
mrandydixon: 3 pts
knutaf: 3 pts
johnnyviral: 3 pts
PerfidiousSinn: 3 pts
Caiters: 2 pts
WyllVengeance: 2 pts

Now, I'd love to give everyone who participated a prize. Honestly, I would This has been damned fun to run, and I hope even the people walking away with nothing but their memories of this can look back and call it an interesting experience, but right now... Blasto and SuperMonk4Ever each win a copy of Gears of War 3: Epic Edition, as well as Blasto getting an additional prize of a bunch of cool action figures.

So you two, I'll be in contact tonight about sending you some free, awesome shit.

My Announcement

Now it's time for me to hang up my admittedly feather-filled Contestoid hat. At least until the new year. Even without the rush of fall games, this final quarter of the year is financially crippling for me. Three of my best friends have birthdays in the next month, and that doesn't take into account my family members with birthdays... Or Christmas. I have a large, extended family who I'm kinda close with. We're actually a clan, to use the classic term.

You guys think I'm generous with strangers. Man, if you ain't my friend or family, you ain't seen nothin'.

My wallet weeps looking at the next few months and Destructoid, I'm sorry... But my wallet has no room for you for a little while. I'd feel worse, but by the time I'll have shipped this contest's prizes out I'll have dropped what... just shy of a grand on you guys this year?

Don't worry. I'll be back to throwing random people random free shit soon enough. And you bastards have family and friends to give you Christmas gifts anyway. So keep an eye out for more opportunities for me to make you dance for my amusement come the new year.

Big thanks to everyone who participated thus far!   read

8:23 PM on 09.18.2011

My apologies: Xbox 360 DOES sell far more exclusives.

First things first, a quick reminder: Contest closes tomorrow at 5pm. Get your asses moving if you want to compete. Moving on.

So... I'm sure you all saw that rant about how stupid people are that they think PS3 exclusives don't perform nearly as well as Xbox 360 exclusives. DNA619 made a passionate, if thoroughly under-researched and overly aggressive blogpost and it attracted all kinds of ire. I commented in that post, and I actually made a bit of a research error.

I stated that the sales numbers for titles on each console which sold more than a million were the following, per Wikipedia:

Total Sales of Exclusive PS3 Titles which broke 1 Million: 38.69 Million Units
Total Sales of Exclusive Xbox 360 Titles which broke 1 Million: 37.9 Million Units

I also posited that with that information in hand, and the general nature of release schedules, you could extrapolate from the currently available data that the PS3 and Xbox 360 sell more or less equal numbers and that saying one side or the other 'wins' at exclusives was childish bickering and nothing more.

Then, while checking the the page in question, I noticed that the Xbox 360 list I used to arrive at the 37.9 Million Units above actually only listed the titles which sold more than three million units. Springing into action, I have corrected that oversight below.

Total Sales of Exclusive PS3 Titles which broke 1 Million: 38.69 Million Units
Total Sales of Exclusive Xbox 360 Titles which broke 1 Million: 51.17 Million Units

Thus, everyone who claims that the Xbox 360 sells more exclusives, rejoice! You were not fully wrong, as DNA619 claimed. You were not even half-wrong, as I'd originally thought. You were completely and totally right! The Xbox 360 sells far more exclusives than the PS3, which means that by comparison, PS3 exclusives DO, in general, do fairly poorly.

I'm glad we cleared that up.   read

5:09 PM on 09.14.2011

Relaxation: Docile Body, Active Mind

While I've got a warehouse job where I'm management, it's a far cry from simply sitting at a desk. The warehouse in which I work is massive, and my duties require me to traverse the length of the place multiple times a day in between bouts of frantic movement or heavy lifting. Needless to say, when I get home the last thing I want to do is move, no matter how cool some of the games which require movement can be. More to the point, I want something that will engage my mind in some manner and prevent it from turning into a pile of sludge, since work, while interesting, isn't always the most stimulating environment.

It's no surprise that I turned to video games as a source of evening-time relaxation. What did surprise me, was learning that my work environment was directly responsible for the sort of games I was playing in the evening.

I first noticed something strange a few weeks ago, when I was playing Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition on pretty much a nightly basis, often three hours a night or more. When I wasn't playing that, I was playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (my brother having loaned out Black Ops) or some other twitch-action game. Something that was really testing my reflexes as well as my ability to think. I considered that strange, given the fact that I've got a Marriage playthrough of Catherine to finish, as well as getting to the end of my first playthrough of Tales of Vesperia.

I'd really like to stress what odd behavior this was for me, in retrospect. I've got a horrible case of ADHD when it comes to video games, since I've got pretty good memory retention when it comes to storylines and gameplay which interest me. Jumping back into a title I haven't played for months (or even years) is like riding a bike, and often I pick up and play like I'd just finished my last session a few hours ago. So generally, unless it's a really, really new, hot title, I'll switch between it and other things over the course of a night, and playing the same thing for more than a week without switching things up is almost unheard of for me.

At the time, I wondered why I didn't want to play any of the thinking gamer's titles in my backlog. At the heart of things, I do consider myself a more cerebral gamer than a twitch gamer. All other things being equal, I'd prefer a game that gives me time to think compared to a game which forces me to react. Even though I count a few series like Devil May Cry and Dead or Alive among my favourites, I generally spend my gaming time working on ways to game the system rather than learning to execute a perfect combo.

It was something that continued to bother me until I picked up Deus Ex: Human Revolution and things became a little more clear.

Now, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a fantastic game. However, unlike the Mass Effect series, the choices one makes are more often a matter of pragmatism and convenience, rather than having any effect on an arbitrary morality bar. The choice of whether or not to kill an enemy is one of the player's choices to make, rather than being a nondecision in between parts of the game where you can make choices. It all feels like Alpha Protocol but done to perfection, actually.

However, I'm afraid to say that any fear Adam Jensen's co-workers might have about him being unable to handle his augmentation would be justified by my schizophrenic playthrough of the campaign thus far. Adam has, with no rhyme or reason, switched from quietly sneaking through an enemy fortification without being seen, to hunting every gang member down with a shotgun surprise, to silently stalking enemies in the pod apartments so he could play with their blood using his extendable knives, to just outright walking into the front door of a place and using a heavy rifle and/or revolver with explosive shells (now called Thunderfucker Mk 2) to mow down everything that moved.

Now, this actually was causing some concern for me, as well. Usually I have the patience for stealth games, and little things like getting caught for the dozenth time and mowed down wouldn't cause me to flip and decide a full frontal assault would be better. Hell, until about three hours through the game, I hadn't killed a single person. Then after a boring day of doing inventory at work, I stalked through the gang territory in the north part of town and hunted down every single gang member with a shotgun. As more and more boring paperwork filled my day, more and more bullets and/or shrapnel filled my enemies at night.

Right now, my Adam Jensen thinks of his recent invisibility augmentation as something to use to get closer to an enemy to kill them, not sneak past them. And he used to be such a quiet, non-lethal boy.

This weapon is basically Viagra for gun enthusiasts

Looking back, this is a pattern well-reflected in my more recent gaming habits. If I had a boring day at work, I'd fill my nights with round after round of playing Ryu versus any comer or matches of Domination. If I had a hectic day at work driving a forklift, I'd come home wanting to figure out the best way to climb a block tower or figure out the best skills and party members to use to get through the enemies in a certain dungeon.

I suppose it makes a certain amount of sense. Spending a day dodging idiot co-workers who don't understand that walking out of the lunchroom or bathroom into the forklift lane without looking is a stupid, stupid idea relies on a certain amount of reflexes for said idiot co-workers to avoid spending time in traction, so whiling away the subsequent night relying on those same tired reflexes might not be the most appealing thing for me. On the flipside of that, spending all day looking at pages and pages of quantities and weights and figuring out how to move them might not make studying the status screen in an RPG as much fun as I'd normally find it.

Regardless of what manner of work my job has inflicted on me to make me tired, it's nice to know there's always a relaxing game suited precisely for my day waiting for me when I get home. God knows there's going to be enough variety in the coming avalanche of games to fill any gamer's need for variety.   read

7:46 PM on 09.11.2011

Contestoid: Gears of War 3: I'm waaay too fucking generous.

Look, at this point, it's spectacle. Unless you're one of the bastards on the leaderboards below, you're not going to win. But hey: You could still take first place for the final contest and totally fuck things up for the guy aiming for second, so that's something to aim for!

Also... There's going to be a lot less comments during the daytime comments and comments in general. While I, in my infinite intelligence, only surfed the internet using proxy-condoms and also did so rarely, and didn't let it effect my work, the same cannot be said of my co-workers. Thus, anything related to fun (like, ANYTHING) is now banned from my work connection.

In theory, I could tether my phone to my computer's net connection, but the network admin, aside from looking good in a tight t-shirt, also ferreted out most of the sneaky shit I could pull. The first thing she looked for on the network block was people looking for cache'd google pages, which tells me she's smarter than a table.

I totally plan on seducing her, so even if I wanted to get around her connections, I wouldn't. Also, the doing work thing when I'm being paid to do work. I should do that.

Contest Information!

Now, for this one, I've decided we'll do something a little bit different. Like always, I'm going to come up with a random, painful, or otherwise aggravating task for you, the contestant, to participate in! Or, in this case, five tasks! To win Gears 3 Epic Edition and action figures!

But what's that?

I already pre-ordered Gears of War 3, this contest sucks!

In that case, you're in luck! Should you possess an inferior, regular edition of Gears 3 or a slightly cooler, but not prohibitively awesome edition of Gears 3, I will pay you the cash value of the copy you ordered (if you don't have anyone to give it to because you're nice), because yes, I am that awesome!

Yes, even if you've pre-ordered Gears of War 3, you're going to make out like a damned champion!

The Prize

For the prize, I'm going to begin by pre-ordering the contest winner a copy of the $150, holycrapexpensive! edition of Gears 3. If the contest winner has already ordered a copy, I will reimburse them for the full cost of it, plus shipping to me, the moment their inferior, not awesome copy is in my hands.

I'm not done. I mentioned action figures, right?

Beyond this already-awesome offer, I will be ordering the winner of the contest any five Gears of War action figures available on sale between $10 and $20.

This is a total prize worth, potentially, $200 to $250 before I buy the contest winner's copy of Gears of War 3 from them. And I'm buying the second-place person an Epic Edition as well!

Also, the second-place entrant ALSO gets a copy of the Gears of War 3: Epic Edition because fuck you Brazilian tax law! This will be my biggest and last contest until after the new year.

The Contest

Now, I'm not sure exactly what "tasks" I'm going to have each person partake in beyond the first, but I do know two things:

1) The final task has the following point values:

-First Place: 18 Points
-Second Place: 14 Points
-Third Place: 12 Points
-Fourth Place or worse: 8 Points

If you don't participate in a task, you get nothing, so participation, however elementary, could mean the difference between winning and losing!

2) There will be a total of four tasks. The theoretical "best" for this competition is 26 points, but I honestly expect the winner to be ranging in the 10-20 range. But I lie a lot, so whatever.

So, for the Wonderputt Leaderboards, we have:

Blasto: 151675
ScottyG: 147753
SuperMonk: 141600
HammerShark: 133744
JohnnyViral: 128671

With all that entails! Congratulations to Blasto for being a physics-defying wizard who has somehow gained first place. Now, based on my arbitrary rules, fight a good battle so that you can at least get second.


Blasto: 18 pts
SuperMonk4Ever: 14 pts
Epic: 11 pts
ScottyG: 9 pts
HammerShark: 3 pts
Occam's: 3 pts
JohnnyViral: 3 pts
mrandydixon: 3 pts
knutaf: 3 pts
johnnyviral: 3 pts
PerfidiousSinn: 3 pts
Caiters: 2 pts
WyllVengeance: 2 pts

The True, Final Task!

Bullet Heaven. Survival with Matt. List your Best Wave, High Score, and Most Kills using a screenshot.

Based on my own experience, you've got to at least beat

Wave: 17
High Score: 69540
Most Kills: 164 (80%)

If you want to stand a chance. give the game a shot and remember to screencap that shit!

-meteorscrap   read

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