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12:35 PM on 11.06.2008

What now? My disappointment with Fable II



As many of you are aware, I haven't been active here on Destructoid for quite a while. This was partly because of my lack of interest in a lot of games which had been coming out over the last couple of months particularly during the summer, but perhaps more due to my exhaustion with the industry in general. I literally burned out on gaming news. I was doing nearly as much work as a professional games journalist and getting none of the credit, not just here but on many other sites. Now I'm back.

I've just finished Fable II, well I say 'just', I actually finished it two days ago and have been wandering around looking for new stuff to do. I can't find anything. It wasn't as if I had blasted through the game. I've finished just about every side quest I have any interest in finishing and all in all, I've clocked up just over 24 hours of play. Twenty freakin hours? I get more than twenty hours out of Tetris! OK, I'm probably going to replay it just to see what it's like to be a completely evil/corrupt character and to get one or two achievements I've missed out on, but really and truly, for one of the most anticipated games of the year, this is completely unacceptable. Now I here that there's DLC in the works, well it had better be a completely new campaign and quite frankly, considering the money I spent on this game (€60), it had better shit golden eggs!

Now I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the game for what it was, it was a great game, really good. The main quest was well written and interesting, the characters were believable, the art style lovable and so on and so forth, and if the game had been even ten hours longer or had a few more random dungeons, I'd give it an A. Right now it gets a soft C for second hand.

So I pose the question to you, citizens of Destructoid. What now? What can I do with my copy of Fable II now that I've exhausted it's (rather lacking) resources?   read


6:20 PM on 07.23.2008

It is as I feared... (Watchmen Episodic game is coming)



It's just like a warned about in my blog post yesterday (boy am I psychic or what!), the mainstream has finally copped onto the opportunities which are provided by episodic gaming/delivery. It seems that Warner Bros. has licensed the Watchmen movie for a series of episodic games to be developed by Deadline Games (perhaps a portentious name?). Whether these will be good or bad remains to be seen, we have yet to see a screenshot or even a logo, but the fact remains: if Warner Bros knows about it, the world knows about it. I doubt it will be too long before we're seeing episodic Barbie at this stage. Okay... overreaction perhaps, but this quote by Samantha Ryan (Warner Bros exec of soem sort) doesn't exactly get me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside:

"We don't want a low-quality console game that will get lost at retail," said Warner big shot Samantha Ryan. "A downloadable game allows us to deliver the experience that fans expect."

What is she saying? They don't want low quality games to go to retail because they will get lost, so let's put them on Steam, PSN and Xbox Live. It allows them to deliver the experience we expect alright: Short, low quality and a quick cash in.

DISCLAIMER: I'm not saying that all Movie games are shit (I did like Spiderman 2), I'm not saying that these games WILL be shit, I'm not even saying that all episodic content will be shit from here on out. Confused? Read my previous post, linked at the top.   read


2:12 PM on 07.22.2008

Episodic Gaming: A tale of wanton debauchery and monthly fulfillment...



This whole concept of "Episodic Gaming" seems to have taken rather a turn into the mainstream of late, so maybe it's time we take a look at the reasons for it's success, the ways it fails and the ways it could be improved. In recent years we have seen the undeniable success (and justifiably so) of the Sam and Max series by Telltale Games, the upcoming Strong Bad series and of course the recently started Penny Arcade Adventures series. Of course these are far from the first games to use the concept of episodic delivery, they are among the first to popularise the genre (if one could call it that) outside of a niche market. The success of the Episodic gaming model brings forward a number of important questions though: Do they provide value for the consumer? Do they fulfill a real market need? Are they as fulfilling an experience?

The Great Value Hunt



When Telltale released the first episode of Sam and Max back in '06, they were building it on top of two important pillars:
- The relative success of the Bone games and the fact that this engine was conducive to episodic delivery.
- The value and recognition of the Sam and Max brand.
With these pillars in place, they had an obvious success on their hands. A lot of the work that goes into an episodic series like Sam and Max goes into to the first episode. Think how many times, and in how many episodes have we looked at the same street and the same office in this series? When all this work goes into the first game, are all of the following games worth as much? Why do we keep paying for the same things which have been copied and pasted into each following game?



The answer is simple, and we have seen this as true with the release of the two series since then, and especially the release of these games on the Wii. Developers make the first episodes of these games at a loss. They spend much the same amount of time developing the first episodes of these games as many triple A commercial titles, so they have to hook as many gamers as possible and keep them buying the following games in order to actually make a profit. This is why these games are real value. The developers of these games know that you could stop buying these games at any time, so they have to give you a consistently rewarding experience every time you play. In the case of the Sam and Max series, the relative simplicity of the gaming mechanics is more than made up for by the incredibly well written dialogue and sight gags. This is of course doubly true of Rainslick Precipice, which combines the off the wall humour of both Penny Arcade and the legendary Ron Gilbert with gameplay mechanics which would not be out of place in a full retail game.



Sure there have been ups and downs in this trend, some of the Sam and Max episodes were less than satisfying but for the price you pay, you never feel ripped off. How often have you payed in excess of $50 for the latest and greatest at your local gamestop only to find that you're bored of it after three hours? I'm pretty sure it's happened to everyone at least once, so even the worst 3 hour episodic game is worthwhile at less than $10 dollars. Unfortunatley, this brings us on to the awkward case of Penny Arcade Adventures, and it's $20 price tag. None of us mind paying for a quality game (which it is, in leaps and bounds), but there's no way that this game is worth its 2000 MS point price tag. Especially considering that we may well be buying one of these every couple of months! Rainslick Precipice isn't that much longer than the Sam and Max episodes, and while I can see the effort which went into the gameplay mechanics, it's just not that much better than so many other episodic games already out there. Of course, PA are lucky here in that they are widely recognised as the undisputable kings of the webcomic world, so they hardly need to look very far afield for a pre-installed market (myself included).



Mind the Gap

So is there a real market gap for these games? In a world where Ubisoft thinks it can get away with putting out any shit it wants to, I think it's obvious that there is. Take for example my own case: I have always taken pride in finishing games (if only to get the full value of my purchases) and I still do, but since I've started working nights I have a lot less time on my hands. For god sakes, I've been playing Final Fantasy 12 for the last week (yes, I only bought it last week) and I'm only just on that flying island place! I'd love to spend a single evening gaming and go to work with that satisfied feeling that I have just finished an entire game. Of course I will still play Final Fantasy 12 or whatever else as well, but it's that short term satisfaction which only short games like episodic games (or Portal) can provide.



The Sam and Max series fits into this niche rather cleverly. Not only are they completely finishable in a single evening (unlike Penny Arcade or god forbid the behemoth Half Life: Episode 2), but the property automatically attracts gamers of a more advanced working age. The type of gamers who palyed Sam and Max: Hit the Road all those years ago are now in there thirties, and they (like me and many others) just don't have the time to finish a full game every weekend or even every other weekend. This is the perfect niche for these games. It's the same kind of gamer who logs onto the sims for an hour just to check up on things and maybe buy a new suite of furniture, the same kind of gamer who plays online flash games and the same kind of gamer who enjoyed Portal as a complete, satisfying experience.

Not only is there a gap at the consumer level, but even more wide openly so at the developers level. How many developers make these kinds of games today? Hothead, Telltale, Valve? (though you could hardly call those "Episodic" considering their production cycle). The market is literally wide open! Of course I'm not advocating a flood of copycat developers, eager for the next cash cow (Ubisoft and EA, I'm looking at you), but this market certainly does lend itself to smaller independant companies. Just look at the delivery methods, sure we might get the odd season box set from Telltale (and I'm sure the others will follow suit), but in general these products are best suited to download services like Steam, Xbox Live and PSN among others. But are developers limiting themselves? Telltale's Sam and Max has yet to hit the Xbox marketplace or PSN (if it ever will) and Rainslick Precipice doesn't seem very likely to hit the PSN store, despite it's apparent platform-agnosticism. Whether these are development issues or financial ones are not yet known, but either way, these developers are both depriving themselves of huge prospective markets.

I can't get no Satisfaction?



So far the episodic gaming market has been dominated by the adventure/rpg and point and click genres, but there is undoubtably a whole world of untapped potential. How about a Hitman mission every month? Or a new Spyro series, a level a week? It looks like the Ratchet and Clank series is already headed this direction with the rumour of an upcoming Clank series on the PSN. The problem with this diversification within the market is the problem of cross polination with one of the hardcore gamers greatest hates: micro-transaction? Are we going to be charged $10 a month for a sub-standard Clank level? That could add up to triple the cost of simply buying a retail Ratchet and Clank game with the same number of levels! It's a worst case scenario, but it'd be enough to give Episodic games a bad rap nonetheless.   read


2:09 AM on 07.22.2008

Nintendo has officially abandoned us



After Nintendo's disasterous (yes, I do mean disasterous. Toys are not videogames) press conference the other day, there was one thing on every gamers mind: Have Nintendo completely lost touch with the hardcore gamer? Do they really care about us? Do they even know what we want? It seems like this proves just how out of touch Nintendo is with the hardcore gamer. Choice snippets include:

"Also items that we didn't talk about yesterday, like Wario Land: Shake It. Which is a great franchise for the core. It's Wario in all his gross wonderfulness, shaking the Wii remote, and that's going to be tons of fun."
Because shaking a Wii-mote like a wanker really makes me feel core.

"what core gamer doesn't love Mario and baseball and finding out which combination of characters are going to do what kind of crazy things in the field?"
This one.

"Just tell your blog that I'm really a genuinely smiley, nice person."
Because talking at your "blog" is what core gamers do.

Seriously... God.   read


6:07 PM on 07.14.2008

Sounds like Dragon Age is going to be quite similar to Mass Effect



... And there's nothing wrong with that! They are including the origin stories feature which affects the story of your character, as well as the option to be a "hero, tyrant or a martyr" (think Paragon, Renegade or... dead I suppose...). However, they are apparently taking the whole concept a step further: in this game you will live the origin story and then presumably meet up witht he overall plot at some stage in the middle. I guess that's why they're calling it origins. So far so good. It's the same trailer that was posted before but despite that, I am VERY excited for thios game now, as I am still getting over my Mass Effect addiction, not to mention the 140+ hours I've already clocked in on Oblivion!

I can see this game becoming Bioware's fantasy RPG. In the same way that they created their own Sci-Fi IP to escape the confines of licensing Star Wars, perhaps they are creating Dragon Age as a way of making the next Baldurs gate, without the need to license D&D properties. Quite a smart move as far as I'm concerned, we're getting all the great storylines and gameplay and Bioware is making more money: Everybody wins!   read


12:02 AM on 07.11.2008

No Price drop for PS3



In the scoop of the century, it seems that Sony has confirmed that the PS3 will not be recieving a price drop in the near future. According to GameIndustry.biz, Nobuyuki Oneda (I didn't know who he was either) has stated that Sony is committed to profitability for the PS3 rather than market domination. This hardly comes as a surprise to anyone, and it seems to just confirm that Sony has admitted defeat (at least to the Wii) in terms of being the top selling console this generation.

And you know what? Fair fucks to them! They are absolutely right in taking this position, they have taken far too much of a loss already this generation, and I think that the apparent decision to focus on the more "hardcore" gamers that they already have will stand to them in the long run. While I can understand where Microsoft is coming from, and if they feel that they can still make a profit with the upcoming reduced price then fair play to them, I can't help but feel that Microsoft is grasping for straws here. This is all the more apparent when we consider the apparently upcoming Avatars and Motion Controller for 360. I mean come on MS, you're not going to beat Wii at it's own game: for once take a que from Sony and stick to what you do best.   read


9:46 PM on 07.09.2008

Rock Band 2 Setlist?



According to videogaming247 (and succintly gathered together by Eurogamer), the complete setlist for the upcoming Rock Band 2 (due in Novemeber) has been revealed. Of course this may all be utter garbage, and it does seem a little early, but here is the list as revealed:

Warmup

* "If You Wanna Get to Heaven"
* "Gold Lion"
* "Possum Kingdom"
* "Black Betty"
* "Black"
* "Drain You"
* "Farmhouse"
* "Santana"

Apprentice

* "You Oughta Know"
* "We Got The Boat"
* "Float On"
* "Kiss Me Deadly"
* "Atomic"
* "Heartbreaker"
* "Piece of My Heart"
* "Rock the Casbah"
* "I Wanna Be Sedated" by The Ramones

Solid

* "Ace of Spades" by Motörhead
* "Everlong" by Foo Fighters
* "Pinball Wizard" by The Who
* "Panic Attack" by Dream Theater
* "Any Way You Want It" by Journey
* "Chop Suey" by System of a Down
* "Kids in America" by The Muffs
* "Give It Away" by Red Hot Chili Peppers
* "Hello There" by Cheap Trick
* "Pump It Up" by Elvis Costello

Moderate

* "Machinehead"
* "Born to Run"
* "What's Your Frequency Kenneth?" by REM
* "Want To"
* "I Write Sins Not Tragedies"
* "The Old Apartment"
* "When I Come Around"
* "Zombie"

Skilled

* "Waiting on the World to Change"
* "Man in the Box"
* "Ramblin' Man"
* "One Step Closer"
* "Misery Business"
* "American Woman"
* "White Wedding"
* "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
* "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash

Challenge

* "Our Truth"
* "Are You Gonna Go My Way"
* "Bring Me to Life"
* "Spoonman"
* "Head Like a Hole"
* "Aqualung"
* "Double Vision"
* "Rodeo"
* "Sultans of Swing" by Dire Straits

Blistering

* "Magic Man"
* "Bad Medicine"
* "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic"
* "Thanks for the Memories"
* "Testify"
* "Kickstart My Heart"
* "I Was Made for Lovin' You"
* "Bad Reputation"
* "Prodigal Son"

Nightmare

* "The Bleeding"
* "Down With the Sickness"
* "Hyper Music"
* "Judith"
* "TNT"
* "Rainbow in the Dark"
* "Anna Molly"
* "November Rain"
* "Comfortably Numb"

Impossible

* "Feed My Frankenstein"
* "Peace Sells"
* "Fuel"
* "Crazy Train"
* "Forsaken"
* "2 Minutes to Midnight"
* "Hot for Teacher"
* "Cowboys from Hell"
* "(Ghost)Riders in the Sky"

This looks like the best setlist for a music game ever. I'm into pretty much every one of these songs!   read


1:45 AM on 07.04.2008

EA nearly starts a war in Northern Ireland. The rest of us laugh.



It seems that EA games made a bit of a mistake in their recent FIFA 2008 game. They kind of, sort of insulted about 60% of the population of Northern Ireland by playing the national anthem of the Republic of Ireland (The Soldiers Song, heavily associated with violent republicanism in the north) instead of the more politically correct (but equally devisive) God Save the Queen. Now for those of you who are not completely familiar with the situation here in Ireland, we've basically just finally achieved peace in the North after over 50 years of violence. The last thing we need is to give them an excuse to go at it again!

Some of you might be wondering how this could possibly start a conflict, but let me just tell you, in Northern Ireland, people have been shot and killed for less. Back in the 80's, believe it or not but Belfast was basically as bad as Baghdad is now. Bombs were going off in the streets and people were being killed for looking the wrong way at a policeman. Even as recently as last year, there were still stories surfacing of people being kidnapped by IRA splinter groups and being forced to carry bombs.

Of course the lads in Sinn Fein (they're in government, power sharing with the unionists) and the IRA are probably laughing their arses off about it, as are all of us down here in the south, but those angry Unionists can get pretty hot and heavy about their "rights" (despite 70 years of denying rights to everyone else... I'm just sayin...) and apparently demanded an apology.
Thankfully, EA were pretty straight out about it:

"At EA Sports, we pride ourselves on delivering rich and authentic videogame experiences," said EA's Shaun White. "We sincerely apologise for this error."

In fairness, the Minister for Sports was fairly understanding too and just let it slide as a bit of innocent ignorance on the part of EA. War has been averted once again, thanks to a Video Games developer.

Source: GameIndustry.biz   read


8:52 PM on 07.03.2008

Welcome Back to the 80's: Microsoft working on "3D" Games



Microsoft, in a remarkable show of market prowess is after announcing the future of video games development: 3D games. Let that settle in for a minute. Imagine a world where we are no longer constrained by the boundries of your TV set, games where the character can literally jump back from the screen. My god, we truly have reached to the heavens and seen the face of god.

Of course it's not really going to be anything like this. It's going to be a gut renching (not in the good way), sickening, monotone experience which is not going to be worth either the money or time it will take to develop. Then there's the fact that most video game developers have traditionally failed to develop for games which require a seperate peripheral. (Hey trolls, the Wii-mote isn't a seperate peripheral, it's the only way to control the damn console!) So basically what we're going to have here is maybe three-four games which utilise this before it fades into obscurity. Hardly worth even writing a blog post for really...

EDIT: Woops, forgot to source. ;)
From Eurogamer

Also, cocks.
  read


7:48 PM on 07.01.2008

Conspiracy of the month: GTA DLC featuring new main character



In a recent IGN Gamescoop podcast, Michael Hollic (the voice of Niko Bellic, protagonist of GTA4) mentioned that he has not yet been signed on for the GTA4 DLC. Now, previously in the same podcast he said that he had begun working on GTA4 way back in 2006. One would think therefore that, in order for the DLC to meet the release date of Spring '09, he would have started working on it already or at the very least signed some sort of contract. Now we know that it's not just the non-disclosure agreement, those generally don't require you to outright lie, just to say "I can't talk about that".

Therefore we can conjecture that the GTA DLC will probably have a brand new (or returning) protagonist. Who would you like to see come back, either from GTA4 or older games. Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing a storyline about the McRearys before Niko arrived, maybe even back in Ireland! (Limerick city in Ireland has the nickname "Stab City")   read


11:52 PM on 06.19.2008

Five Reasons I'm Looking Forward to Blood Bowl



5. It's a sports game I can get into

What's that EA Sports? You wonder why games journalists are reviewers don't give you a fair go? Here is the answer: Less overated "Sport Stars", More fucking Orks with big axes! I mean really, I rarely if ever play any Sports games on my home consoles. I dunno, if I want to get involved in Sport, I'll either play it in real life, play Championship Manager (oh yes!) or else (gasp!) watch it on TV, god knows there's enough of it on. You know what I can't watch on TV? Dwarfs throwing a spike covered ball and rolling over the Ork defenders with a fucking Steamroller (with real steam!).



4. It's Actually Blood Bowl

You see that board game up there? That's Blood Bowl. Blood Bowl was developed as a parody of American football by veteran games designer Jervis Johnson for Games Workshop (famous for the Warhammer franchises) way back in the late eighties. It uses the same (or extremely similar) game world/uiniverse as Warhammer and has all the cool fantasy Warhammer races like Skaven, Lizardmen and (of course) Chaos. You catch all of that? Well back in 2004, games developer Cyanide came up with a game called Chaos League which was a parody of American Football with most of the same races (Ork, Dark Elf, Elf, Human, Barbarian (Norse in Warhammer), Undead and Mercenaries) and most of the same rules (not to go to deep into the blood and guts tabletop rules, just believe me). Thankfully, Cyanide finally settled amiably with Games Workshop and they are now making the official Blood Bowl videogame. And we all hope it will be much better than Chaos League.


3. It looks great

I mean seriously, look at those screenshots. It may not be Gears of War 2 or anything but those are still some snazzy looking visuals for a game which was for the past ten years resigned to the top of the back shelf at my local tapletop gaming store. Anyone that has ever played this game, or especially read any of the official Battle Reports will know: These really look like proper Blood Bowl stadiums. They even have the hilarious ads for the Warhmmer versions of McDonalds!

2. It's the Right Price


It's neing released on a number of platforms including PC, DS, PSP and (most importantly) Xbox Live Arcade. Did you read that? Live Arcade! That means that this game is not going to cost any more than €20! What? I totally would have paid €50 for this! I am officially ripping these people off by buying this game! Granted, at this price the game may be a little bit gimped... but I actually doubt that it will be. I mean think about it, Chaos League was a fully fledged game, they're developing the same game for DS and PSP as well, are they really going to half arse it on 360. My guess is the only reason it's not a full 360 release is because the game doesn't have the huge install base they would need to justify it. At least I hope so. Besides, do those graphics look gimped to you?

1. It's Going to be bettter than these....





Thanks for Reading!
Billy   read


8:34 PM on 06.18.2008

Over 9000 My Bollox!

*Entering Jim Stirling Rant Mode:

You know what? Fuck you Jim Sterling, you fucking cunt! I refuse to bow to you're bloody stupid c-blog ruining cuntology on this occasion. You sit there in you're Ivory tower (or taxi company) and practically fucking pronouce this competition open, with an air of regality not unakin to that of your royal high harlot of an inbred queen herself, and then watch as our precious c-blogs get flooded with pointless SHITE for the sake of a competition which people could have just as easily entered on either the forums or by private messaging you.

Well Fuck you Jim.

You Toerag bastard.   read


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