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Upgrade Complete photo
Upgrade Complete

Upgrade Complete 3mium pokes fun at awful free-to-play games

And ends up being oddly enjoyable
Jan 19
// Jordan Devore
Did you like DLC Quest, conceptually? You might also dig Upgrade Complete 3mium, a short browser-based game that parodies the worst aspects of free-to-play gaming. You're forced to play the crappy lite version of the game and...

Give me games inspired by weirdos and madmen

Jan 11 // Nic Rowen
[embed]286041:56845:0[/embed] Captain Murphy I know Captain Murphy, the alter ego of professional oddball rapper Flying Lotus, exclusively through his sublimely bizarre animated music videos on YouTube. I understand there is an Adult Swim short out there that tries to establish a little more of a backstory for him, but I haven't seen it, and more importantly, I don't want to see it at the risk of tainting the magic. I don't really care about who Captain Murphy is or where he comes from, I'm just in love with the vibe I get watching his videos on repeat. I don't want some 60-hour RPG explaining the origins and desires of Captain Murphy, I just want some kind of game that taps into his style: a bizarre, beautiful mish-mash of psychedelic imagery, B-roll samples of 1970's PSAs, cult-member brainwashing, and a fixation with comic book superheroes. It's a potent stew of the kind of floating debris that drifts around in my own head, but expressed in a way I could never articulate. I honestly have no idea what a Captain Murphy game would be, or what it would look like, I just know I want it. Call up the Hotline Miami guys and let them loose on it. Tom Waits In my mind's eye I see an adventure game where you play as Tom Waits wandering around a cocaine-blasted version of 1970's New York, adopting stray cats, bouncing between dingy coffee shops and dive bars. Maybe he's looking for inspiration for his next album, maybe his old lady kicked him out and he has nowhere else to go. The crux of the gameplay would revolve around a Telltale-style conversation system where you swap stories with vagabonds, taxi drivers, and talk show hosts, all with the same level of interest and haphazard disregard for rational narratives. There is a wealth of dialog choices at your disposal that reach across the full berth of human emotion, but none of them really matter since the options you select bear almost no resemblance to the crazy shit that actually comes out of Tom's mouth. You stumble into a bar, shivering calico swaddled in your scarf, and tell the drowsy-eyed piano player about the time you got caught in the middle of a pimp war in a grease joint two towns over and had to use a napkin dispenser to defend yourself. That's basically the entire game because that's all you really need. Dragonette Now you might think a game based on the neon-soaked dance music of Dragonette would be an easy fit for a rhythm game, but that's a little too predictable isn't it? No, what I picture is a stealth based puzzle game where you have to try and sneak back into your apartment building at 4:00am without waking up your jealous boyfriend after clubbing it up all night. Use your dance moves and irrepressible charm to navigate past revolving doors, fool judgmental doormen, and avoid tripping over the cat in the middle of a dark living room and waking up the whole damn building. Think Mark of the Ninja, but with less hook-neck hangings and more cheesy video effects. Tyra Banks “Now hold up Nic, didn't you start this article bitching about reality stars making crappy games?” Well, yes, that is true. But I'm not interested in a game about Tyra Banks herself so much as I'm morbidly fascinated by the idea of a game about her nakedly obvious self-insert character, Tookie De La Creme, from her Modelland novel. If you've never heard of Modelland, or (God forbid) read it, it's like some kind of batshit insane mash-up of The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, but where all the districts are dedicated to making different kinds of clothes or jewelry and all the wizards are replaced with supernatural fashionistas. Tookie is a “forgeta-girl” who comes across a magical trinket called a “smize” (based on Tyra's technique of smiling with the eyes) and is whisked away to the titular Modelland to survive a variety of physical dangers and passive-aggressive social knife fights to become one of the world's seven “intoxibellas” the most famous, and therefore most important, people in the world. I could be snarky and compare the basic structure of the plot to any number of RPGs that do the same basic thing (“You touched a funny space stone? Well shit, guess you're the savior of the galaxy now!”) and remark on how easy it would be to translate that into a workable, conventional game (probably the most conventional on my list really), but cutting industry satire isn't my goal here. I honestly would just love to see a game set in such a gloriously stupid world. I mean, the fashion designers are wizards! Sweet Jesus. Get Ty Ty Baby and Swery in the same room together with some drinks and just let the magic happen. Maybe Duncan from D4 can make a cameo. [embed]286041:56846:0[/embed] If celebrity games are going to be more common in the future, I hope we can at least get the occasional strange and lovely experience out of it. We might not be able to stave off a future dystopia of mobile freemium games inspired by reality show garbage and manufactured pop stars, but we can at least dream of a better one.  I've shared my top picks, but what celebrities or pop icons would you want to see in a game?
Celebrity games photo
These pop icons should have their own games
Celebrities are making games now, this is a thing we're going to have to live with. Kim Kardashian's done it, RuPaul's done it (and apparently her game is surprisingly fun, as our Jonathan Holmes discovered), and of course, 5...

EA studio closure photo
EA studio closure

EA closing freemium game-producing North Carolina studio

We're all just dust in the wind
Oct 01
// Steven Hansen
EA North Carolina, developer of "cutting edge freemium games for mobile and tablet platforms," has been closed, according to an anonymous source speaking to The Escapist. EA has not made any formal announcements about the st...
Freemium photo

Ubisoft alters Mighty Quest so it isn't pay to win

All due to negative feedback
Jul 30
// Brett Makedonski
One of the biggest concerns about large publishers entering the free-to-play scene is that they'll shamelessly exploit the monetization aspects of their games to the extent that the entire experience becomes pay to win. Only ...


Jimquisition: Fee to Pay

Jimquisition happens every Monday!
Jul 29
// Jim Sterling
It's time to talk about why "optional" microtransactions in games aren't really optional, and why they're especially gruesome in games we already paid for at retail. The rise of "free to play" elements in games that are not ...
Ultima Forever photo
Ultima Forever

Ultima Forever reduces freemium prices due to fan outcry

Now the game doesn't gouge you quite as much
Jun 14
// Chris Carter
As we all know, freemium models tend to do more harm than good if they're not well designed. There's a very fine line between "wanting to monetize your game" and driving players away, and in the Canadian beta for Ultima Forev...
Freemium photo

EA: customers want freemium games, so shut up

Flog that horse until it's only bones!
Apr 03
// Jim Sterling
Electronic Arts has justified its blind charge into the free-to-play market by suggesting that, though the ever-classic "vocal minority" dislikes such games, everybody else loves them. Upset about the restructuring of games l...

Review: Cart Life

Feb 02 // Allistair Pinsof
Cart Life (Windows)Developer: Richard HofmeierPublisher: Richard HofmeierRelease: July 29, 2010 (original release) / August 9, 2012 (ver. 1.5)MSRP: Free / $5 (w/ Vinny character) / $30 for limited physical edition There is a moment early on in Cart Life where it became crystal clear what kind of game it is. Playing the role of a poor bagel stand operator, I spend the majority of an in-game day traveling to the grocery store, shopping, and returning home to cook a batch of bagels to sell the following day. Paying close attention to my recipe book, I add sugar, salt, yeast, and flour -- too much of it, unfortunately. There in big text: "MORE" -- but where is the "LESS" button, I wonder. And with one careless mistake, my virtual chef scrapes the black gunk out of the pot and into the trash. I screwed up my last batch of bagels, I'm broke, and I'm starving; and all I really want right now is for Cart Life to resemble a videogame, one that caters to a player's familiarity with there always being ways to undo mistakes or take alternative actions. Stubborn in its focus, Cart Life never loses sight of its goal of simulating the life of a menial job. It's a remarkable learning experience until it makes for a practical joke on the player. [embed]243433:46644[/embed] Creator Richard Hofmeier calls it "a retail simulation." I call it Sims purgatory, a place where those virtual pants-peeing munchkins are subjected to child custody, cramped fingers, rush hour traffic, and social isolation. At first, it felt like a parody of life's cruel realities. And why wouldn't it for me: White suburban 20-something who hasn't worked retail a day in his life. Whether I started a game as bagel vendor Vinny, single parent Melanie, or Ukrainian immigrant Andrus, the story always became the same: I'm tired, bored, frustrated, broke, and with each day the reality of not making payments, not getting permits, and not making court dates becomes more grim. Worst of all, there are no plans for suicide DLC; like I said, Sims purgatory. When I first heard of Cart Life, it made me laugh at its concept which sounds like a game that would appear in a Simpsons episode or SNL skit in the '90s. "Whoa, a game where you can hold a menial job, fight for your child's custody, and grind coffee beans for two straight hours? EXTREME!" Cart Life doesn't beg for self-parody because it never panders to the player. By occupying the game's world, it becomes apparent who the character is and what the character must do to survive. The rules of the game are learned by living in its world, leading to many sad tales of cart vendors who bought the wrong ingredients, mothers that lost custody of their child, and immigrants so overworked that they forgot to feed their cat for days. Cart Life suggests these things happen in life more than we care to acknowledge. The world of Cart Life is strewn across neighborhood hubs on a city map. Each area has its own characteristics and denizens; distinguishing one from another is essential to financial success. Paying twice the amount for milk in the trendy, scenester grocer or trying to operate a high-end cart in the ghetto will not lead to retail victory. As it is with life, time is the greatest enemy in Cart Life. Each second represents a game minute and the clock never stops, so operating the cart as long and as early as possible is crucial. Each occupation has its own mini-game to represent the process of service: the bagel vendor summons a text box to retype a random phrase; the coffee vendor requires the player to perform finger gymnastics with the arrow keys; and the newspaper vendor, as do the others, must apply quick math to receive a great tip. Tip your hot dog vendor, people! After a couple in-game days, which are always succeeded by character-specific nightmares, my fingers were cramped and I was mentally exhausted by the monotony, fruitless results, and lifeless environment -- a world that doesn't acknowledge player and that the player can only communicate with through service. Even family and neighbors hang around like ghosts, repeating the same sentences, never sleeping. Through dialog and design, Hofmeier has created a virtual pit of misery that informs the player on the reality of poverty in America. This is what it feels like. When the same snot-nosed punk asks you for the fifteenth time if you really sell bagels for 40-cents (even though the sign says exactly that), I began to wonder if Hofmeier's depiction of retail is an insensitive exaggeration or a parody. Even miserable work often leads to friendship and connection, but there are no friends or connections to be made in Cart Life. Occasionally, a fellow vendor will stop at the cart, but then take off, like two ships passing in the night. Even in monotonous work, one can find meaning and happiness in life. Cart Life depicts the misery and monotony of retail without ever giving the slightest hint of anything else. Hofmeier gives the player the freedom to trap themselves in the rat maze of low-income retail, but surrounds this with a world of distant figures for whom jobs don't exist and success has been tamed. While in shellshock from the burn of menial work and poverty, only the character and short term problems seem to exist. The figurative and literal connections Hofmeier makes between physical input and character action are profound and immediate, creating emotions that bleed into reality and beg for contemplation. Eventually, the worker must look past their own problems and become a part of society. In Cart Life, there is no world to connect to. After personal discoveries are made through the game's mechanics -- which are unfortunately paired with a multitude of game crashes -- the player is left to repeat a virtual life of monotony and zero-sum progress. The most reasonable action is to do the thing that real life cart vendors can't: Turn your back on the job and go do something else. Cart Life is short love with a long term divorce. The beginning speaks to the heart and intellect, but the rest recalls pain and boredom. It's worth experiencing, but go in knowing you may not be the right person for the job.
Cart Life Review photo
Bankrupt on selling
Cart Life's willingness to be mundane in an attempt to understand the mundane, without typical preconceptions, is its greatest strength as an empathetic work and its greatest failing as a game. As people, we find tighter bond...


Dead Space 3 crafting system includes microtransactions

Watch as $60 games push the not-free-to-play model
Jan 22
// Jim Sterling
Dead Space 3 is going to see a fair few changes, boasting a faster pace, cover-based shooting, and a weapon crafting system. While I'm not a big fan of some of the alterations, the one thing I did find praiseworthy was that l...

Team Meat hates free-to-play games

May 07
// Jim Sterling
Super Meat Boy is coming to iOS, but creator Ed McMillen isn't throwing it up there without a jab at the current crop of mobile games. Slamming the free-to-play model employed by many titles, McMillen has attacked the kind of...

Holy Frak! Battlestar Galactica Online nearing 10 million

Apr 30
// Jason Cabral
Bigpoint Games is celebrating the one-year anniversary of it's Battlestar Galactica Online, and it wants to cap off the week long festivities by reaching 10 million registered users. "BSGO is a breakthrough title that has emp...

NPD: 40 percent of freemium players buy in-game items

Apr 23
// Dale North
The NPD Group's latest report, Insights into the Freemium Games Market, says that 40 percent of gamers that play freemium games have spent money in-game. When you consider that around 38 percent of the U.S. population plays s...

GDC: Reviving MechWarrior with the CryEngine 3

Mar 11 // Daniel Starkey
MechWarrior Online (PC)Developer: Piranha GamesPublisher: Infinite Game PublishingRelease: Summer 2012 MechWarrior Online takes place about two decades after the original title. All of the factions and all of the planets that have been established over the 27 year franchise will be present in some capacity, and planets will shift alliances based on in-game events.  The use of CryEngine 3 gives some pretty substantive graphical improvements, with the level of detail looking amazing -- it definitely adds a lot to the package. If you fire a laser at another mech, for example, the metal will slowly melt and pour off. Some of the ground and tree textures aren't quite up to the models of the mechs and some of the other environments, but it is still a marked improvement over anything else in the rest of the franchise.There's been a lot of emphasis placed on total immersion; making the player feel like an actual pilot instead of just the mech itself. If you move the camera far enough, you can see each of your arms, legs, and all of the panels and internals of the machine. Everything is rendered and all of the information is updated as your unit takes damage, builds up heat, etc.  Piranha has been focused on trying to replicate the feel of many of the older games in the series while expanding combat and role-based combat. Players will be organized into lances which have four players each, and multiplayer allows up to three lances per side (grand total of 24 giant death machines on the field).  The team also demoed some battles between several different classes running from the small and light, all the way up to the biggest frame in the game. They've been working on the viability of all classes, such that tiny 25 ton dudes will be competitive and useful in play against much larger pieces if played effectively. Unfortunately, while I watched the game played for some time, I never got my nerdy little hands on it. It looks good, and I have some genuine interest in seeing how this will turn out, especially given that this is yet another hardcore "freemium" title. Look for the full release sometime this Summer.

I was a pretty big fan of MechWarrior back in the day. I kind of have a thing for mechs, and I thought it was really awesome. What little kid wouldn't want to blow up giant robots with lasers and missiles fired from other gia...


Bejeweled 2 removed from iTunes in order to go freemium

Dec 07
// Jim Sterling
Those wondering what Electronic Arts' acquisition of Popcap means for the studio's stable of popular games have had their questions answered today. Bejeweled 2 + Blitz will be swiped from iTunes and its two modes split into t...

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