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8:44 PM on 02.20.2009

My Week in Wizard 101: Special Report

Well friends, I have bad news, I won't be able to finish my week in Wizard 101 until some time next week. It turns out that my credit card, which I never use, is expired and I wont get it replaced until next tuesday. I've completed every free quest in the game, but I'd say if I hadn't been so gung ho about it, I probably could have drawn it out another day or two. Ah well, I will finish it though.

Damn. I can't believe how much I miss a game targeted at 12 year olds.

Until then, why not reminisce over the first two days?

Day One
Day Two   read

1:11 PM on 02.19.2009

My Week in Wizard 101: Day Two

Check out Day One

Okay, so it's Day 2, and today was the first day I was confronted with the option to pay for areas. I don't have anything against this in concept, after all this entire game is based on Microtransactions, my problem was that it took me about ten minutes to realise that there was still plenty of free content left to explore. The game tells me that it will cost me 1500 crowns (roughly $3) to unlock the three areas I can't reach at the moment. This seems reasonable enough to me, so if I run out of stuff to do before the end of the week, I might just do that. However, looking at the prices of the other
areas , it works out a hell of a lot cheaper to pay a monthly subscription if you want to keep playing.

Please note, I had music from the Harry Potter soundtrack on this Video but it was removed.

So anyway, back to my experiences in the game. At one point, bored I wandered into a building in the Wizard School and found some random player (PC) standing behind a desk, handing out quests like "Go to Old Town and Collect 10 mana spheres" or something. As if it wasn't random enough that a player was wasting their time hanging out and doing this, the game doesn't even let you transfer items to other players, so he couldn't even profit from this behavior. When I confronted him on this he got very annoyed and basically threatened to kill me if I didn't leave. When I proceeded to point out that he would have to pay to enter the PVP arena with me (and anyway, I'd kick his ass), he transported away. I found him again in the same spot later and he started insulting me. Only now do I realise I was probably stepping all over the dreams of some 12 year old.

Day 2 also saw my first defeat (and I mean defeat) against a "boss" character, in this case a giant scarecrow/pumpkin called the Harvest Lord. Thinking that grinding would be required, I spent a fruitless half hour beating on various Ghouls and Ghosts gaining minimal experience until I just gave up and did a few more side quests and gained shitloads of experience really quickly. Apparently the game does not encourage grinding. Fine with me.

Anyone, that's all from Day 2. Check back tomorrow for more tales from my Week in Wizard 101.   read

9:24 AM on 02.18.2009

My Week in Wizard 101: Day One

The other day, while listening to either Rebel FM or ListenUP (I forget which), the guys were talking about a lot of "free" MMORPGs which rely on microtransactions to survive. Having never played any of these games, and having tried but not liked Guild Wars, I decided I should jump in to one of these for a week and see how I got on.

As far as picking which of these games to play, there wasn't any real science involved: I simply liked the sound of the name of Wizard 101, and seeing as it was the first one I downloaded, it's the one I'll stick with. There is one important point to bear in mind when talking about this game and that is that it's heavily centred towards kids. The whole look of the game is cartoony, the censor all lude language and you will be repeatedly informed that if you are under, you will need your parents supervision. The whole image of the game can turn anyone over the age of 18 off, but behind all of that I discovered that there was actually solid and intriguing gameplay.

Anyway, after downloading and installing the game (an extremely quick operation, minutes only) it asks you to create a character for yourself. This takes the form of a questionnaire which basically asks what type of player you are, as in loner, team player, aggressive, helper etc. It then takes these answers and decides what type of Wizard you are within the world. This is followed by your standard character customization screen where you choose what colour hair, robes etc you have. Again all pretty painless.

Soon after, I was met by the Headmaster of the Wizarding School, a rather cartoonish version of Dumbledore crossed with Merlin who introduced me to the world, as well as his arch enemy, an evil wizard who was the old Professor of Death magic. Parallels to Voldemort and Snape abound. This is all fine and then you are plunged into the game world itself.

Can I just say that I was shocked by how good the graphics in this game were, for a free to play game, it looks as good as Warcraft at times. I suppose cartoony and colourful is easier to pull of than realistic, but still, it's impressive. The only problem I had with the presentation of the game was their insistence on the use of the Comic Sans MS font. I mean, come on people, in this day and age that's unacceptable no matter who or what your target demographic is.

One of the most interesting, and positive aspects of this game is the battle system. It's really good. Like, really good. As in, too good for a game made for kids. It's equal parts Final Fantasy (turn based, summon monsters) and Yu-Gi-Oh (decks of cards) and it's all the better for it. The monster/summon animations are great and the whole thing flows very well. Perhaps the most important thing introduced by this battle system is the fact that you can join these battles while they are in progress. It's hard to explain, in a world where one can easily join a battle in Warcraft, but it's not like that. Think of it more like joining a battle mid-way in FFVII. It's pretty cool, and most importantly seamless.

Anyway, that's enough to talk about for day one. More tomorrow. Oh, and just before I go, I think it's worth mentioning that I've been playing for over three hours and have yet to be confronted with needing to pay for something. Woot!   read

12:00 AM on 11.17.2008

The DS Drop List

At long last, I am soon to be picking up a DS Lite for myself (and just in time for the Night shifts I'll be doing over the holidays), and was wondering if any of you communitarians have advice on what to pick up. Here's what I'm already planning on getting.

- Animal Crossing: Wild World
- Final Fantasy A2: Grimoire of the Rift
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
- Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations
- Phoenix Wright: And Justice for All
- Ace Attorney Apollo Justice
- Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
- Professor Layton and The Curious Village
- Brain Training
- More Brain Training
- Trauma Centre: Under the Knife
- The World Ends with You

Anything Else I should definately be picking up. Also feel free to throw in any GB Advance games that I really should play too, I sold my Advance years ago along with all of the games and only recently picked a second hand one up for 20.   read

1:04 PM on 11.12.2008

Oh God. It's happening again...

I picked up Pokemon Fire Red. The clock is at 43:26. Oh dear.

I remember when I was about nine or ten, when Pokemon Red and Blue had just come out here in Ireland. These games were the talk of the school yard, and I begged my mom to buy me one. It was coming up to the end of November, my birthday and because of the Xmas rush, these games were nowhere to be found (Ireland tends to get the raw end of the stick when it comes to stock). An epic search was launched, from Dublin to Cork, Limerick to Galway and none could be found. I was resigned to my fate of being the last kid in the world to play this game when a miracle occurred.

My Aunt, who seems to have connections in just about every industry and sector in the country, told us that she could get us a copy of "that Pocketmon game". This was too good to be true, so I waited about two weeks and then a Parcel game to my door and of course I knew what it was. I ripped open the packaging to find a box not Red, not Blue but... "Yellow?! What the fuck?! Yellow hasn't even been released here yet!". Yes, in fact, not only did I get Pokemon Yellow before just about anyone else in the country, I got it almost a full year before anyone else (because of shitty European release dates.) Needless to say I was the most popular guy in school for those brief ten months, where I was the only one who had a Pikachu following me, the only one who could battle the "real" team Rocket, from the anime.

My love for Pokemon continued to a lesser extent when I picked up Gold, but soon after I finished it, I forgot about Pokemon. There were new things in my life: Girls, Secondary School (High School to you americans) and of course Final Fantasy (of course thats another story altogether.

Anyway, back to my story, I hadn't played Pokemon in about seven or eight years since then but last week I saw Pokemon Fire Red in the bargain bin at my local game store and picked it up. I'm hooked again, trying to fill my Pokedex (which I never will, having nobody to trade with). Anyway, I just thought I'd share my tale of Pokemon addiction.   read

12:41 PM on 11.11.2008

Slow News day: HD Wii is inevitable... Mr. Anderson

Wow, those folks at CVG seen to be really on the ball today. In a recent interview with Miyamoto, they managed to drag such comments as:

"I'm afraid we cannot confirm what we are doing today, but the fact of the matter is that technology is evolving all the time and in Japan, for example in the year 2010 all the analogue broadcast will be stopped and shifted into the digital broadcasting. So many things are taking place and we are working in terms of the changes of the technologies all the time."


"... When it comes to specific points such as generating high definition graphics we might appear to be rather relaxed and soft on graphics, however, the fact of the matter is that Wii is capable enough to cater to the needs of these hardcore gamers in terms of gameplay content as well as the graphical content, so I really don't want people to be concerned about that kind of attitude."

and then went on to extrapolate that this means we'll have a HD Wii in two to three years. Wow, really? A HD Wii in two or three years. Gosh guys, I sure never would have seen that coming. Cop the fuck on. No matter what happens in between, Wii console sales will almost certainly have slowed enough by 2011 to justify bringing out a Wii 2. And considering the fact that Japan, America and most of europe will have gone fully digital by then (and the resulting sales of HD TV's which will inevitably go with such a switchover), it makes sense to have a new console be HD. Anyway, by 2011, SD games will be almost as backward to the majority of consumers as Black and White TV's are to us. CVG, captains of obviousness.

CVG Article   read

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, 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

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