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5:02 PM on 09.09.2011

The Future of Gaming

Alright, so I've discussed why retail bans of games won't work as a way of stopping digital distribution, as well as touching on the issue of how GameStop can prevent themselves from going the way of Blockbuster or HMV. That leaves me with only one way to go: Where Games Are Going in the Future.

As I said before, physical media is never going to fully disappear. However, it will not remain the same. Right now, we're starting to see the point where games are going to have to think about migrating from DVDs and BluRay to some other media. A large part of why consoles from the last few generations don't have the longevity of older consoles has nothing to do with quality and everything to do with the amount of moving parts in each. While the storage capacity and cost of manufacturing are impressive for DVDs and BluRay, the failure rate and noise the drives which read them make are less so.

While optical media is fine for data that can only be read in a single way, like music or video, it just isn't practical for games. I can't be the only one who installs certain titles to my Xbox 360 just to keep it from sounding like a jet turbine. Likewise, a lot of PS3 games have to install to the system's hard drive because of the same factor that makes the Xbox 360 loud: Transfer rate. Even if you doubled the transfer rate of currently available optical drives, they are slow, plodding beasts beside friction-free media like USB 3.0 thumb drives, current-generation SD Cards, and similar media.

Currently the transfer rate for those friction-free forms of media is scaling with increases in size, unlike optical media. This means that when video games finally get to the point where they need to transfer dozens of megs a second to keep up with the demands of a game's engine, they can do so with ease and do so silently, two things that even BluRay discs have problems have already, let alone in the future.

As a desirable media for tomorrow, optical drive media are in an arms race that they have already lost. They are a dead end clinging onto relevance only due to the extraordinarily cheap cost of manufacturing, and sooner or later that's an area where friction-free media will catch up as well. As a bonus for console manufacturers, the need to put in an expensive-at-launch optical drive will be eliminated, driving the cost of manufacturing the units down and decreasing the odds that some part of the console will fail.

I do, however, think that digital distribution is the future, as I mentioned. About the only thing that's going to change is the ability to purchase digital titles in actual stores. Perhaps even go a step further and actually offer a way for customers to bring portable storage media to the store and allow them to purchase and then take home downloadable titles. I imagine there are still going to be people who choose not to put their consoles online, or just don't feel comfortable purchasing their titles online. Even if it's a relatively small portion of the market, they'll be worth catering to.

A big thing coming in the future is the idea of console unification, or even the death of consoles entirely. A lot of analysts are saying that in the future, your TV is going to have the computer needed to play the latest games, that you'll have a controller that you use with it for your gaming, and that at the end of the day, it's going to be all about software and not hardware. To be honest, I don't buy all that.

One of the reasons people use consoles in the first place is that they are easy. You don't have to worry about having the right video card, about having enough RAM, or anything else. You just set the console up, put the game in, and play. No fuss, no muss, no problems. The same principal works for developers, too: When they develop for a specific console or even two or three consoles, they know right from the start exactly what specs they're working to, what behavior they can expect from the hardware, and what method or methods of input will be available to the player.

A large contributor to the thought that consoles will eventually be eliminated comes from the idea that the processing power of devices in the future will be so powerful that developers won't need to worry about what the players are using: Everything will be powerful enough to run whatever game the player wants, just because the internals are so beefy that no game could possibly use all the resources available to it. I can't help but think that such a view is hopelessly naive, at least as far as the next few decades are concerned.

Games have a lot more room to grow. Games haven't quite hit their peak yet: graphics, environment detail, size, interactivity, and a lot more factors that we take for granted at the moment have some room to grow. Even factors players don't see like artificial intelligence still have leaps and bounds of improvements yet to be made.

Since we're talking hypotheticals here, let's discuss a hypothetical installment of Grand Theft Auto. In this version, every person in the city is tracked by the game, even if they're not rendered on-screen. They have schedules where they wake up, leave their home or apartment, go to work, maybe go out to a bar or restaurant, and then go back home. They can do this because the city the game takes place in is rendered fully thanks to procedural generation during development, right down to the individual rooms in apartments. An environment which, like Red Faction, is fully destructable with NPCs whose job it is to repair any damage you do. Just like a real construction worker.

And of course, sometimes people will spot the player and run in fear. That's because they recognize the player from that time one week ago when he drove his car into the restaurant the NPC works in and ran over three people. Of course, if the player has changed clothes, they might not recognize them right away, or at all. Of course, the persistent state of the people in the game will also give the player new ways of tackling missions: You can break into a warehouse during the day, allowing you to steal a needed car and kill a target, or you can break in at night and then drive to the target's house in the car you just stole.

Of course, the NPC population in general can also recognize patterns. If the player starts to just drive around willy-nilly spraying automatic fire into crowds, there's going to be a lot less crowds hanging around. Maybe more civilians will start to carry guns to fight back just in case they start getting shot at. If the player starts to jack only nice cars, people will respond by trading in their nice cars for cheaper vehicles, and the player might be able to start stealing those nice rides out of used car lots instead of jacking them from the street. Or the game could react to and emulate a thousand, ten thousand, or a hundred thousand other natural cause and effect changes.

Does this sound like a game computers will be able to handle, even ten years from now? Even with today's graphics, that game would be impossible with the computers we'll have in ten years... And we all know that in ten years, games will not have today's graphics. And all of that is just an argument for why computers outpacing game developers is impossible: It doesn't even touch on the fact that consumers don't want consoles to go anywhere.

While there is change on the horizon, I don't think in the end all that much is going to be different about gaming over the next twenty years. We'll have the opportunity to buy our games at launch through our consoles and finding a GameStop might be a little harder to do than it is now, but for the most part we'll still be playing our games on dedicated consoles instead of through a computer in our TV.

The controllers might have another button or two, we might have switched back to cartridges, leaving disc-based gaming in the dust, and games will certainly be bigger, better, and more beautiful than they are even today. Maybe we'll get a true 3D display somewhere down the road, instead of the illusion of 3D the industry is currently borrowing from film theaters.

And honestly, I'm looking forward to what the industry has to show us. Even if it's just so I can look back and see how far games have come since they first appeared in arcades. It's already quite the view today, and it's only going to get better as the industry grows older.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this series of articles. I've had fun writing it, and I think I'm going to find the time to write more like it in the future. And hey, I'm open to topic suggestions.   read

7:52 PM on 09.08.2011

How GameStop Can Stay Relevant Alongside Digital Distribution

In the previous article, I tackled the myth that the threat of a retail ban by GameStop or other retailers would prevent the rise of digital distribution. This article, I'll be tackling the simple question: How GameStop Can Stay Relevant Alongside Digital Distribution.

Note that for this second article, I'm specifically targeting GameStop, since they've got the most to lose from digital distribution while also being one of the bigger retailers out there right now. Walmart, Best Buy, and Amazon will easily survive a massive drop in retail copies of games being produced by simple virtue of their product diversity.

It's no secret that publishers would love to be dealing with their customers digitally, instead of having to produce physical copies. This is a fight that has already been won by PC gamers, with multiple services like Steam, Direct2Drive, and Good Old Games providing their patrons with pretty much any release they'd care to purchase, new or old, Triple-A title or indie-developed. Much like with graphical developments and raw power, PC gaming is providing a window of things to come for consoles.

However, the answer to the question of how retailers can stay relevant is really simple: They don't really have to do a thing, for the moment. If they do that, not that I'm saying they will, they'll see a small slump in their sales but will still have a decent portion of marketshare. The truth is, the console market has some fundamental differences from the PC market, and that's going to work in GameStop's favour.

For one, let's throw out the tech-savvy, internet-using gamer, someone much like yourself, who you picture as being the ones to adopt digital distribution. That is not an average depiction of the typical console user. In a study done last year, 78% of PS3 users, 73% of Xbox 360 users, and 54% of Wii users are connected online... Among Adults in the USA with access to broadband-speed internet. That last bit is very important, since according to some numbers, the same people might represent anywhere from just one-third to two-thirds of North America. Even if publishers wanted to go exclusively digital download, they'd have to pretty much cut their potential audience down to half or more, since broadband just isn't available in a lot of places and even where it is, not everybody uses it for their gaming.

That's even assuming that the gamers who have broadband and use it want to move to a purely digital distribution model in the first place. Setting aside the current generation's storage problem, something I expect to be dealt with decisively next generation, there are people who simply don't want to buy their products as a download. They want to buy a physical copy, with a case and instructions, which they can display on their shelf. They want to buy things like the Modern Warfare 3: Hardened Edition or the Halo: Reach Legendary Edition, with all the bells and whistles thrown in. They want a copy of the game they can take over to a buddy's place to loan to them or play together, or sell back to a retailer like GameStop to help fund their next purchase. Or they're simply the so-called casual gamers picking up a casual title, or they're family buying someone a present for Christmas or a birthday, or any of a dozen other scenarios.

However, it should be obvious that broadband speed or better connections, available to everyone, are on the way. Sooner or later, perhaps in another decade or two, both the percentage of consoles online and the percentage of people with access to fast internet are going to increase to the point where digital distribution has a strong shot at becoming a significant threat to retail distribution, and unfortunately there's not a whole lot that GameStop can do to stop it.

Impulse is a start, but currently only serves as one of a dozen content providers for PC gaming, many of whom are eyeing the marketshare Steam has and wondering how they can get a piece of the pie. Should Origin prove to be a massive success, no doubt other publishers will be looking to follow suit. Impulse alone won't do much to keep the core of the company afloat even after they make some massive cuts to the amount of locations they have, let alone be the thing which keeps them relevant.

If GameStop wants to have a chance of surviving the next twenty years, they need to take a hard look at how they can either break in to, or supplement the digital market on consoles. Right now the PC pool is already happily full of dozens of competing services, and Impulse has a lot of work to do if they want to catch up.

Unfortunately, there's not too much which can be done on that front right now. Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft have already got their own content delivery systems in place, and it'd take a lot more than GameStop is willing to offer for them to break into that piece of the pie. The only way they can possibly break into that market at this point is by developing a content delivery system which offers more features than Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo provide and does so in a way that profits the publishers and console manufacturers at least as much as the current set up, while also being worth GameStop's time. If they pull all that off I'll be impressed, but I doubt it'll happen.

Rather, if GameStop wants to survive at anywhere near the size of a company it is right now, they're going to have to embrace the retail side of publishing and start to reach out to publishers to take care of actually manufacturing the publisher's products. There is always going to be a section of the market which wants physical copies of their games, and absolutely won't purchase their games digitally unless that's the only way to get them. Likewise, there's always going to be a market for collector's editions of games and inevitably there'll be people who want to pay for their products in cash. That will have to be GameStop's angle if they want to survive as a game store.

A good step might be to acquire a third party peripheral company or two, like Mad Catz or PDP. Little things like not being the middleman for some items might be a good way of keeping the profit margins healthy and it's not like, at the moment, GameStop doesn't have the cash to manage it.

That won't be enough, however. If they want to keep their stores open and keep their marketshare, they're going to have to also grow Impulse from simply a content-delivery service into a game streaming service like OnLive, marketing their own units to customers and providing them with the means to play them. They have the infrastructure in place to get the titles to their customers, and a little work and a few deals made on the side could even provide unique opportunities like emulation of older console titles.

Of course, Gamestop could always go the route where they diversify their inventory. I hear they'll be taking iOS devices in trade soon, so maybe in twenty years they'll be a phone store/console store/knitting center. Whatever they do, GameStop as they currently stand are getting a step closer to going out of business with every step the console games industry takes towards digital distribution. They are so large that dialing back their numbers won't be enough. They have to adapt or die.

In the final part of this series of articles, I'll be discussing the future of physical products versus digital downloads, and how I think the industry will grow in general.   read

1:18 AM on 09.07.2011

The Threat of a Retail Ban Is Without Merit

Back in July, I wrote an article about Digital Distribution. And the thing is, I noticed a common theme in the comments for the article:

The fact that retailers, specifically GameStop, could crush a revolution in digital distribution before it got off the ground.

Now, I put a lot of thought into this problem, since it does completely stymie the idea of digital distribution ever gaining a foothold in the retail market. Then I realized that there's an equally simple solution. So join me for a three-part series of articles on exactly how publishers can take power away from retailers and make them a single link in the chain in one of many revenue streams instead of being the all-powerful titan that they are.

We'll start with the first bit: The Threat of a Retail Ban Is Without Merit

One of the worries I've seen paraded around is that GameStop and other retailers can simply threaten to not stock a publisher's latest release, or even going further and threatening to remove an entire publishing line from their retail library. Indeed, this can be a massive deterrent for even Activision or EA, two of the biggest publishers on the market. It would seem to be a major catastrophe for any company if GameStop or any company were to follow through with such a threat.

I've seen numbers paraded around anywhere from forty percent to eighty percent of all units sold, but regardless of the actual market share GameStop enjoys a retail ban would directly impact the bottom line of any company. Not only does GameStop account for a number of titles sold, but they also do their own marketing to push new titles and take pre-orders on top of it all. They keep the upcoming games fresh in the mind of their customers and push the newest hardware and software with a tenacity which would impress a door-to-door salesman.

With both the work they do to bolster the games industry and the potential threat they hold over the heads of the largest publishers, it would seem like pure folly to even challenge them on the issue of digital distribution.

Photo by Rafael Matsunaga

Or would it?

Let's talk about the sweet, sciency magic of economics. Before your eyes glaze over, let me reassure you: I'll be vastly simplifying things and I promise I won't be bringing any numbers, theoretical or otherwise, into this series of articles. All you really need to know is that supply and demand generally equalize and that the market has an endless ability to adapt to changing conditions where the demand is constant and the supply has the potential to be there.

Or in other words: If a lot of people want games and a lot of publishers are willing to supply those games, the rest is just paperwork. The games will get to the people through the easiest route possible, and there's a large profit there to be made for the person who can handle both the number of games people want and the number of games publishers want to sell.

Right now, GameStop is the easiest route, and has been for a number of years. Yet ever since the debut of services like Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network Store, that's been subverted. A lot of smaller titles like Megaman 9, Castle Crashers, Shadow Complex, and Flower have gone on to be critical and commercial successes completely under GameStop's nose, with the retailer seeing none of the profit between publisher and customer.

Even independent developers like Iridium Studios and Zeboyd Games have found success on Xbox Live Indie Games, a rarity in the console market.

GameStop is currently facing something of an identity crisis: Right now they're in the same position that HMV and Blockbuster were in a decade ago, ludicrously powerful at the retail market for the moment but poised for a sudden, sharp fall from grace whenever the market finally shifts from underneath them.

Picture a world where next year, Activision decides that they're going to go for it. Call of Duty: Whatever Treyarch's Developing will be debuting, on launch, at $44.99 through both the Playstation Network Store and Xbox Live Games on Demand and if GameStop doesn't like it, they can kiss Activision's ass. GameStop could, in theory, reply by stating that they wouldn't stock Activision titles at all in response. However, even the greediest of GameStop executives could take one look at the percentage of their new-game sales that Activision represents, a number likely in the double digits, and realize that this would be as disastrous for them as it had the potential to be for Activision.

However, I previously discussed how the demand of the gaming customer is always met by the supply of the publishers by the easiest possible route, and let's face it: I'm a guy who blogs about the industry for fun. Activision has got to have some people who know better than I do what a good idea it'd be to have a deal with Best Buy, WalMart, or even Amazon about how you could only get physical copies of the next Call of Duty game through one or several of those retail outlets ready. Such a document, well in hand and ready to be taken to the appropriate contacts, would very likely quiet GameStop up about the notion of a ban of any sort.

GameStop is the middleman. The customers are the ones who create the demand, and publishers are the ones who fill it. Ascribing them any more power than that of someone who gets the goods from the publisher to the consumer is ludicrous. If they were to go belly up tomorrow, the games industry would not crash horrifically, never to recover again. Someone else would step into the profitable gap left behind and fill the needs of the customer. No matter how much GameStop would like to present a united front to publishers with other retailers, there's too many avenues the retail stream could take and there's always retail chains willing to buck a ban like this and sell anyway.

Because customers don't care about where they get their products: $64.99 spent at Walmart, Amazon or Best Buy is no different from $64.99 spent at GameStop, and unlike GameStop, none of those places earn their big bucks just from the sale of video games. For them, losing a quarter of the sales from a big-ticket game to digital distribution is an adjustment of stock purchased, not a catastrophe.

If any publisher, or more likely multiple publishers acting together, takes this route, there will be a transition period. Sales will slump a bit, and how much sales are hit is entirely dependent on the preperation and deals the publisher or publishers make to ensure that their customers have as many avenues as possible which are convenient for getting their products. However if done properly, GameStop won't have a leg to stand on and their only path of action will be to accept what's coming gracefully and attempt to regain their relevance before what little credit they have finally dries out.

Like it or not, digital distribution is on the way. The path has long since been paved first by songs, and then movies and books. Physical media, like it or not, is eventually going to become out of date and not worth the effort of producing. Likewise digital distribution is going to become even more convenient than it already is, with easier, better ways of getting the games you want to play in your hands than traveling to a store and picking up a copy.

In part two, I'll be discussing just how GameStop and other retailers can hope to stay relevant in a world where customers can download the latest releases directly to their game consoles.   read

7:35 PM on 09.01.2011

Contestoid: Gears of War 3, It's a-gettin' close!

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!

And the second-place entrant ALSO gets Gears of War 3 Epic Edition. Because fuck it, I'm awesome.

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!

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:

Each "task" is going to have the following point values:

-First Place: 8 Points
-Second Place: 6 Points
-Third Place: 5 Points
-Fourth Place or worse: 3 Point

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


Epic: 11 pts
Blasto: 10 pts
SuperMonk4Ever: 9 pts
Occam's: 3 pts
mrandydixon: 3 pts
knutaf: 3 pts
johnnyviral: 3 pts
ScottyG: 3 pts
PerfidiousSinn: 3 pts
Caiters: 2 pts
WyllVengeance: 2 pts

The Task!

All you've got to do for the next task is register an account at Kongregate and then post your high score for Wonderputt! It's a tight race for three, but a high placing for any of eight other entrants thus far could shake things up.

Right now, the scoring stands at the following... Yeah, I'll figure this out at the end.

But right now, ScottyG, Blasto, and SuperMonk are fighting like rabid hyenas. I expect more, damn it!

I'll be closing this, for realz, on Monday. Whenever the hell I decide to close it. Probably at noonish, but maybe an hour before, maybe an hour afterwards.

And new people: Feel free to enter. The final task, I plan to double the scores for. Because I want to keep the current winners on their toes a little bit so they can't just skip it and get their prize. So two strong showings could see Gears of War 3: Epic Edition plus action figures in your hands!

-meteorscrap   read

9:10 PM on 08.30.2011

Three Capcom Characters Who NEED to be SSFIV:AE, SFxTekken, or UMVC3 DLC

Hi Folks. Meteorscrap here to share three relatively quick thoughts on characters who flat-out deserve to be brought into the modern age. Let's start with the obvious:

Karin appears in only two Capcom games: Street Fighter Alpha 3, and Capcom Fighting Evolution (which, frankly, we're better off not discussing). In-story, she's a rich girl who practices a family art and who has declared herself Sakura's rival. Really, there's not much more to it than that.

Why she belongs in new media: Put bluntly, it's her Guren special move. Half of Karin's entire moveset is based around a single attack, which begins with a forward punch. After that, Karin has a variety of inputs which allow her to basically craft a dial-a-combo version of Fei Long's Rekkaken, but instead of just getting more of the same you can use specific moves relevant to the situation. Which, right there, is an awesome addition.

Not to mention the fact that her already counter-heavy style, mixed with her very aggressive main technique, mean she'd be a highly technical and fun character to play. I still play Street Fighter Alpha 3 on occasion just to be able to use her. She's a lot of fun, and manages to be a strong fighter without being broken.

Shoma Sawamura is basically what happens when you try to make a fighting character based entirely around baseball.

Why he belongs in new media: He's got a buster-sword sized baseball bat and he's a lot of fun to play. More importantly, Rival Schools has been entirely neglected by Capcom of late, and while Batsu was the main character, he's kind of bland. Shoma, on the other hand, has a lot of good going for him and he'd fit in well with the character designs of recent games.

Also, did I mention the giant bat? It's awesome. I can easily see him becoming a fan favourite, maybe even justifying more Rival Schools characters appearing, which would be a fantastic thing.

Ryu, of the Breath of Fire series, is a very iconic hero. Despite the five iterations of his existence (matched neatly by variations on his party), he remains constant in many ways: He's always an underdog, he always starts his true quest after meeting a winged chick named Nina, and he's always got a dragon-related transformation to help power him through the tougher battles.

Why he belongs in new media: Much like the beloved Blue Bomber, poor Ryu's series has been cancelled. The last we saw of him was his 2002/2003 outing pictured above, and the official stance is that it's a "resting IP". He deserves the same sort of love that other Capcom unfavourites such as Megaman, Zero, and Tron Bonne get.

As for why Dragon Quarter Ryu? That one's easy: Unlike the other iterations, his transformation is more "Sin against God" and less "Actual Dragon", so no need to come up with an entirely separate dragon model, for one. For two... His Dragon Breath attack is basically BEGGING to be a Super, and the rest of his moves, combined with his mobility, would basically make for a hard-hitting, lightning fast character who's about as fragile as a stack of plates, which I think would be a lot of fun.

Unlike the other two, he'd only fit in for Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, but what a character he'd make...

Ah well.

So those are my thoughts. Does anyone have anyone that comes to mind when they think of Capcom characters they'd like to see brought into the current generation of fighting games?   read

5:45 PM on 08.29.2011

Improvements: I've got ideas, too!

Hey Destructoid. Look, I love you. I really do. My employer probably pays me for about an hour a day to browse you. But there's a few things that you could do which would make me love you even more.

Moar Promoted Blogs

I know not everything can be promoted. I know that sometimes, there's just a lot of crap on the Cblogs which isn't worth Cblog watchers reading, let alone promoting to the main page. But on the other hand, sometimes you have slow News days (like today: 19 stories since 4:00 A.M.) and there is good content in the Cblogs which is fairly recent.

Blindfire's essay on Multiple Choice Protagonists, posted about an hour ago? Worth reading. Debatetoid? Generally worth reading AND a good way to generate discussion. Sephiroth and Andyman both wrote some pretty compelling counterpoints to the preview of DmC about why fans of the series up until now are concerned and went into detail for those who might not be fans, for example. I'm sure I could go back through the Cblogs and pull more.

More importantly, there's a reason I don't write more and a few others who, when they contribute, generally get promoted blogs probably don't write more: They don't feel that their stuff will get promoted, and whatever they've spent an hour or two writing is going to get passed over and maybe read by ten or twenty people. When the stuff you've just written doesn't get read and gets ignored, it dials down the eagerness to write more.

It works out great for both parties: Destructoid gets more content for the readers for slow news days, and the readers participate more in the community. It's a win/win for all involved.

Moar Site Consistency

I'm sure everybody else is going to beat you over the head with this, but let me just add this: Make the Cblogs and every other part of your site look like everything else. It'd also be nice if you could unify the forum/site logins, too. Fuck, Jim has a rant about how annoying it is to have one log on for everything, and you guys have TWO for a single site.

Plus, it might get the Cblog and Forum crews to integrate with one another a little more. More forum participation AND more Cblogs being written would be A Good Thing.

Moar Shit Set to Off by Default

Full disclosure: My computer is apparently a THREE Ghz processor with THREE gigs of RAM. That makes this even more relevant, because I mean, god damn.

Destructoid, my computer at work is not the latest model. It doesn't have a video card, but it does have two gigs of RAM and is running Windows XP Professional SP3 on a 2 Ghz processor. Do you know what happens when I log in with my work computer? It starts stuttering, even when the only other tab I've got is my work email.

This is not a good thing. Especially when what's causing it is the Destructoid Chat, which I'm not using. Which, if the population of available chat rooms is any indication, only 5% of your users are using. (5% = 20 people in Outer Heaven and nearly 400 users online). And having to maximize the chat (making my computer slow the fuck down even more?) before I can even turn the thing off? If I can because it's making my computer slow to a crawl? That's some bullshit right there.

Hell, checking the chat just now slowed down my laptop a bit. My laptop can run the source engine with no problem. I've got Team Fortress 2 installed right now, and it plays fine. YOUR SITE SHOULD NOT HAVE HIGHER REQUIREMENTS THAN A GOD-DAMNED VIDEO GAME.

I don't just say this for my sake, but for yours as well: If I'm stuttering, it's because I'm receiving a shit-ton of data from you. I know that websites require money to run, so save some of it by not freaking logging me in to the chat. I'm certain your bills would take a noticeable downturn if you did this.

Maybe time to reorganize?

Destructoid, that twenty story link thing you have at the top? I ignore that. If you must keep it, I'd suggest that you might want to stick it over to the side, on the sidebar. Right now it just means that whenever I come here, instead of seeing your new stories, here's what I'm seeing:

Destructoid, my webdesign teacher would viciously beat, with his fists, any student that submitted a site which featured all new content "under the fold", which means anything you have to scroll to see. Even the biggest resolutions would only see the title and header image of the top story.

Right now there's a LOT of wasted real estate in the main page. It'd be nice if that changed. Likewise, I'm pretty sure nobody uses the Top Comments on Reader Stories portion of the Sidebar. Why not chuck it the fuck out, stick a revitalized version of the 20-stories thing there, and then get back some real estate while getting rid of something nobody uses?

Second Opinion Reviews

I'm not going to touch on Jim Sterling's review practices, because frankly speaking, I agree with them. However, it'd be nice if more than one person took a look at new games, where feasible. It might be a dissenting opinion, it might not, but it's another way to offer more insight on the product in question.

Ooh, one more thing!

Okay, this Cblogs wanted thing? That's cool and all. I like it. It gives me something to focus on.

But how's about you pick a random staffer each week, thrust a finger at them, and yell: "Write about this topic!" in a rather dramatic tone? Or just shoot them an email and say they need to submit a 800-1500 word article on the topic.

It'd be nice to get an opinion on something like this from the other end of the fence. I'm sure Dale would have had something interesting to say about Handhelds given his fixation on the PSP, or Holmes could have had thoughts on the Downloadables topic.

Or perhaps even contact individuals outside of Destructoid for a guest feature? Not other journalists, but voice actors, developers, game writers, etc.   read

4:32 PM on 08.20.2011

Contestoid: Gears of War 3, OW MY WALLET edition!

So, I picked a winner for my Lie for a Wii contest, and it turns out that ManWithNoName lives in Brazil. It turns out that there's a tax on gaming in Brazil, and in order for me to honour my $100 contest prize, I'd have to spend about $500 to send a Wii to him.

And I'm sorry, but no matter how hot he told me he'd look, $500 is a smidge overbudget. However, he is awesome, and agreed to a compromise of $250 in canadian funds in exchange for not calling me a dirty, dirty welcher. I breathed a sigh of relief for the fact I didn't have to sell an organ to honour my contest, so all is well there.

Of course, I did mean for my Gears of War 3: Epic Edition contest to be my biggest expenditure. A "reasonable" person might call the contest off. I'm adding an additional Epic Edition for the second place entrant, because fuck you, reason!

So, onto the mechanics of the contest:

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!

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) Each "task" is going to have the following point values:

-First Place: 8 Points
-Second Place: 6 Points
-Third Place: 5 Points
-Fourth Place or worse: 3 Point

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.


Epic: 11 pts
Blasto: 10 pts
SuperMonk4Ever: 9 pts
Occam's: 3 pts
mrandydixon: 3 pts
knutaf: 3 pts
johnnyviral: 3 pts
ScottyG: 3 pts
PerfidiousSinn: 3 pts
Caiters: 2 pts
WyllVengeance: 2 pts

The NEXT Task!

All you've got to do for the next task is register an account at Kongregate and then post your high score for Wonderputt! It's a tight race for three, but a high placing for any of eight other entrants thus far could shake things up.

I'll be posting the final task on August 31st!

-meteorscrap   read

7:40 PM on 08.15.2011

PDP Versus Pad Review: A Layman's Perspective

The PDP Versus Pad was originally available as the PDP Marvel Versus Pad. I feel it's necessary to point that out, because I'll admit that when the pad first came out, that was one of the two factors which made me decide against picking one up. The other, of course, being the expensive $39.99 price tag for a controller for a maximum of four or five games.

I've since discovered that this was a terrible mistake on my part.

Now, before I begin, let me state two things: I know that Hori Sticks and Sanwa parts for modding Mad Katz controllers are far more expensive than even the $39.99 MSRP that was one half of the reason that I'd refused to pick one up. But from my point of view, it was pretty pricey for something I'd never used, and thus, never experienced the drastic change.

So if the price was the only thing stopping you, you're in luck: The PDP Versus Pad (sans the ugly Marvel artwork) is currently $15.00 off at Canadian EB Games locations. I asked about the pad, just by chance, and was informed of the discount. So since PDP is probably discontinuing the current pads to re-issue them in time for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 in a couple months, now might be the time to pick one of these up.

Now, like I said. Up until now, I've been using a regular Xbox 360 controller for my fights. Sorry, not a regular controller: A PDP Afterglow controller, which, while possessing a slightly more responsive d-pad, was not designed for fight games. To say that I was used to loose controls is a bit of an understatement. I've gotten so used to the loose controls that a portion of my fighting style was based entirely around the Shroedinger principal: Will it be a Hadouken or a Shoryuken? Who knows? I sure as hell don't!

And to be fair, based on how well I'd done on Xbox Live, I'd assumed this was the norm. I surely couldn't claw my way up to occasionally thrashing B-ranks if it was just the pad, right? Wrong, apparently. To say that I've noticed an increase in my playing ability with this clickity-clackity pad would be an understatement.

Now, I've heard some people complain about the fact that the controller is designed so that the six-button layout includes the LB and RB instead of the more common RB and RT layout depicted on the Blanka MadKatz fight pad above. To be honest, I can't foresee it being a problem for anyone who plays at home: Just change the settings once and you're good to go. If you can't figure that much out, you're probably not the sort who would benefit from it anyway.

I guess I can see it being a problem if you're the sort who takes their pad to a friend's place to play, presuming there's more than two of you and you're all very specific about your controllers. But if you're that devoted, you've probably got a Hori stick, or a custom Sanwa or Seimitsu stick anyway, so this cheap pad is not for you.

I'll admit that right now, it feels a little light. I don't think it's a problem with durability, (or I hope that it's not), but the controller feels far too lightweight to be comfortable. I'm hoping that this has more to do with the lack of rumble and (for a fight pad) extraneous components like the two analog sticks, but I've got the feeling time will tell on that count.

The bottom line is that if you're spending a couple hours a week playing fighting games and plan to pick up Street Fighter X Tekken, you should probably pick up this fight pad.

I know I don't regret it.   read

7:14 PM on 07.26.2011

Catherine!!!! delayed, apparently.

So... Tonight, after dinner, I set out on my bike to pick up my pre-ordered Love Is Over edition of Catherine for my Xbox 360. That route took me across a four-kilometer stretch of Danforth Avenue in Toronto. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with this Toronto landmark, Danforth Avenue anywhere near rush hour is basically New York City traffic meets the worst stereotypes about immigrant driving you can imagine.

You don't just ride Danforth. You live through it. I know bike couriers who work Toronto's downtown who don't dare ride Danforth during rush hour.

So I get to EB Games at Shopper's World. I hand in my pre-order slip, and the guy hands it back to me with a shake of his head.

"Sorry dude," the lanky guy with a goatee and long hair replies. "There's been a delay."

"What?" I ask, confused.

"You're an Atlus fan, you should expect this! There was a one-day delay at the production company and Catherine just got to our main warehouse today. You can probably pick it up tomorrow."

Defeated, I nod. I braved Danforth to come home, and tomorrow I will ride it again.

So anyone who's about to go pick up their copy of Catherine... Call first, at least.   read

12:49 PM on 07.16.2011

Contestoid: And the winner of the Lie for Wii is...

Alright, first off, let me say that I had a lot of good entries. In the future, I'll probably keep the contests simple like this, instead of complex like the Gears of War 3 contest. This is much, much better for decision making.

And a decision I do have to make.

Who do I choose? I mean... there are a lot of good entries.

Now, I was basing all of this on which entry amused me the most. ManWithNoName's gender-bender surgery and Beyamor's gripes about Smurgy Mcgee's wandering hands both amused me greatly... But I've got to admit that ManWithNoName edged it out.

So congrats, ManWithNoName. Or should I say... WomanWithNoName?

You win a Wii and a game. I'll be PMing you shortly for bom- I mean, Wii address.   read

6:18 PM on 07.15.2011

Contestoid: Lie for a Wii, bitches!

Now, this isn't my Gears 3 contest. I'll get back to that in a couple weeks, when the Gears of War release date is looming over me... But Contest-running's in my blood. Doing cool things for a great community is ingrained in me. And thankfully, so is spending large amounts of cash on stupid shit, which is where you benefit.

So Imma buy one of you bastards a Wii. You've gotta work for it, though... and I've already got some pretty sweet entries.

Now, contest details: Tell me the most sympathetic lie you can about why YOU need the Wii. Like, you need it for orphan organ transplants-type lie. The receipt of this will stop a cruel orphanage from closing in a heartwarming movie-style climax type of lie. You need to make me cry manly tears for this prize.

And as a bonus, I'll throw in a free game. The game will be a surprise, though. But if you don't have a Wii, it'll be something you'll want and that is also awesome.

Spelling and punctuation count. Go, bitches! I'll close the contest tomorrow morning whenever the hell I wake up, then I'll be going to buy the damned thing.   read

9:03 PM on 07.13.2011

Impressions of the Catherine demo

Now that I've got my hands on the Catherine demo, I've got one thing to say... I've been playing Tales of Vesperia recently. So hearing Troy Baker flirting with and talking to Michelle Ruff as Vincent and Katherine is freaking weird after hearing them talk to one another as Yuri and Rita. This probably wouldn't freak me out nearly as much if I'd picked up Tales of Vesperia at release, but here we are.

I'm not saying they're doing a bad job. Both are doing a wonderful job of voicing these characters, and the fact that it sounds so strange to my ears is a credit to how much talent they have. I expect a large level of antagonism between the two because they sold their previous roles so well.

And honestly, if the demo is any indication, this localisation deserves a place in the video game museum just for the voice work. It is that damned good.

Now, on to the two other major points of the demo:

The Puzzle-Platforming

To be blunt, personally speaking, I loved it. It tapped into the same lizard hindbrain part of me which loved Devil Dice and other quirky puzzle games on PS1, and I fully expect that I'm going to be selecting the second hardest difficulty setting on my first playthrough and I'll probably be switching to the hardest difficulty for the others.

I love games like this. Games with very simple rules which they slowly build depth to and modify through external factors. The boss showed me that it could randomly change the landscape and make me work for my win, and the presence of the create-a-block presented me with an interesting choice: Do I use the one block only when absolutely necessary, or do I use it to gain ground on the boss and give me more options for the larger puzzles?

It's an interesting choice, and I've got the feeling the game will make me work for every puzzle. Vincent feels a little twitchy, control-wise, but I have a feeling I'll get used to it quickly enough that it won't be an issue.

The morality system

If the demo is any indication, a lot of Vincent's morality points one way or the other are going to be influenced through the game's cell-phone email system. Interestingly, Vincent doesn't just pick a good/bad response when someone sends him an email. Instead, he drafts each line of the email. Some are good, some are bad, and some can send mixed messages, slanted one way or the other.

It felt... In-depth. Just to give an example, on my playthrough of the demo, I reassured Katherine that I understood her concerns, but also told her that Vincent and Katherine could work on their relationship at their own pace. At the follow-up email Katherine sent Vincent, I got annoyed at her (wholly-founded) accusations of being at the Stray Sheep bar, prompting me to lie and tell her that I wasn't. But then I was able to add in my own admonishment not to get to crazy where Katherine was and tell her to be safe on the way home.

It added a subtle humanity to the decision, the way it allowed me to layer each email with meaning. It made me care a lot more about the content of the messages, because it wasn't me deciding if Vincent was going to be nice or be a jerk, but me deciding specifically how Vincent was going to be nice or going to be a jerk, or how he was going to mix the two.

I have a feeling this is going to offer a lot of replay value, and I look forward to it.

In conclusion

Overall, this demo has just reinforced my desire for this game. It's got a morality system which looks to be fine-tuned and well-tailored for my desires, it's got an interesting puzzle game to take up my time between making story decisions and watching the results, and it's got quality animation and the best damned localisation I've seen.

I'll be ordering a deluxe edition for myself, as well as my friend. Atlus needs to know in the most straightforward manner possible that more experiments like this would be more than welcome.   read

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