An Interesting Discovery About Priorities

I was just listening to Brad Nicholson on Podtoid talking about how Mass Effect 2 is one of the best action RPGs he’s ever played, calling it a game of the year contender. At first it made me feel kind of bad for the developers; after all, it’s only February now, and in 10 months everyone will have more or less forgotten the games that came out at the start of the year. It happens every year when “best of” season rolls around; that’s why all the big dumb action moves come out in summer and all the gay melodramas come out in winter. Newer, shinier, sexier games will be coming out all year long; a game released in January has almost no chance of being remembered at the end of the year, much less recognized.

For those games that don’t disappear down the memory hole, more time in players’ hands usually equates to lower opinions. Familiarity breeds contempt, and game scores go down over times as the hype wears off and players really get to dig in deep with a game. The shine wears off of the graphics, and the shortcuts and oversights in the design become apparent. Exploits are found that dilute the experience for those too weak to resist them. Rebellious contrarians go against the grain and criticize popular hits. It’s natural.

And then I remembered: DLC.

Mass Effect 2 has two announced DLC packs scheduled, and almost certainly more in the pipeline for some time to come. If they can keep a steady pace of quality material coming through the year, that’ll be the story come December. It’s a lot more work than just releasing the game around the holidays, but totally worth it if things work out. In fact, if they really listen to what people have to say, they can pull a Fallout and actually improve the basic game via DLC (level cap, my ass), resulting in an overall better impression of the game when people look back than might have been warranted at… Well, I was going to say “release”, but maybe “launch” is a better word. That’s what a DLC-heavy title is, really: a platform for delivering content in return for micropayments.

Looking at this paradigm now, it seems odd that more publishers aren’t insisting on it. Bayonetta just came out and is garnering huge praise from the review community, but absolutely no DLC is planned. I wonder, are they simply not concerned about Bayonetta’s year-end award prospects? Where are their priorities?


Make Me Play Videogames #1: The Devil’s Sandbox

To kick things off you’ll be choosing between a pair of sandbox games with different perspectives but similar mission structures.

Far Cry 2 was released in late October of 2008 as a sort-of-not-really sequel to the original Far Cry, a tech demo created by CryTek for their Cryengine, which (disguised as a “game” called Crysis) was later used to incinerate video cards owned by arrogant would-be power gamers. Far Cry 2 was made by the good folks at Ubisoft Montreal who previously developed the Prince of Persia games, Assassin’s Creed, and most components of the Tom Clancy money-printing franchise. They do good work, in short. The game itself is a first-person shooter with a free-roaming mission structure. The player is a double-crossed mercenary set loose upon a fictional African country that’s been staffed by a small coterie of mission-granting NPC “buddies”, a large population of murderous militamen, and several innocent zebras.

Grand Theft Auto IV is an April 2008 release from Rockstar Games, who were previously best known for making me murder prostitutes in cold blood and vote Democratic. The game is the latest in a long-running series that you know about perfectly well, and little ought to need saying about it given that improvements from game to game seem more incremental than revolutionary. Like Far Cry 2, GTAIV casts the player as a new arrival in an expansive foreign land, although the jungle in this case is concrete rather than literal. Also like Far Cry 2, GTA allows the player to roam from mission-giver to mission-giver at any preferred pace; it’s just as possible to spend your time wandering the city and seeing the sights as it is to progress the story, and completing a story mission simply leaves in the spot you finished it, free to pick up a new mission elsewhere or simply poke around your new surroundings.

Finally, both games require you to choose between stealing cars, taking inconvenient public transit, or spending a fucking week running from one place to another. Yeah, you take the bus in Far Cry. In the jungle.

Ok, fns nation (by whom I mean my sister and possibly my girlfriend), the choice is yours:

Far_Cry_2_cover_art vs. GTAIV_Logo
Jungle mercenary jogging simulator   Fake New York misogyny seminar

Cast your vote in the comments section.

Make Me Play Videogames: The Brand New Rack

OK kids, it’s time for this year’s experiment. Our 2010 project will be game-related, huzzah. The idea goes something like this: I, Sonic Rob, will present to you, the community, two (2) games that I posses, each of which probably ought to have been played by any well-rounded gamer by this point. You will spend a week voting on which one I will play; tie votes will be decided by The Baker, who has to live with the consequences. I will then play that game, becoming a better (in some nebulous way) gamer in the process.

The part that’s going to kill me, but that I swear I will stick to, is this: I will play the chosen game, and only that game, for as long as it takes to complete it. For our purposes, “complete” will be taken to mean “experience the entire single-player narrative arc at least once”. Games without stories will thus be disqualified, as will games that are strictly multiplayer.

Yes, you’ve noticed it: this is really just another test of my willpower disguised as something informative. I have a ton of games in my backlog, and you’re going to accompany me as I work my way through an unspecified quantity of them. My awful habit of playing a single game religiously for 2-3 weeks and then forgetting it is going by the wayside as I try out a brand new gaming paradigm: finishing the games I play, and then moving on forever. We’re going to get rid of the quota system that was central to Film Century 1.5, as I think the pace will be self-regulating in this case: my natural urge to move on to a new game will inspire me to finish the current one, and then I’ll get to try something else. In my mind I am secretly hoping to complete a game every month, but I promise you infidels nothing; if the game chosen is short it will be done sooner, if it is long I will be working on it for a while. I’m one of those grown-up gamers who have something to live for when they set the controller down, and I won’t be endangering that just so you lot can read a hatchet job full of low-blow one-liners that much faster.

For the sake of my sanity, the 1-week voting period between games will also constitute a free-play time where I can frantically gorge on as much game variety as possible before I lock myself back in the hyperbaric chamber with my next digital dance partner.

Oh, as I alluded to earlier I’ll be writing a review of each game. Not a single sentence, like last year’s lark. This time I’ll be spending a lot more time with each test subject, so we’re going to get more in-depth with them. Something tells me that, kind of like last year, the tacked-on writing excercise will become more important than the actual consumption of media that the experiment is an excuse for.

A couple of rules for the review portion of the project:

1) I will not be providing a review score. Trying to render an analog opinion as a digital number is both futile and ridiculous. If you want to know what I thought of the game, read the review. That said, I may or may not include a dollar amount I’d be willing to pay for the game in question.

2) The review will be at least 1,000 words long. That sounds like enough space to really get to grips with a game without being so much that I have to pad it out with bullshit or anything undignified like that.

3) I’ll be informing you of how I acquired the game for disclosure purposes, although you can rest assured that our pissant little operation has not garnered the sort of attention that gets review copies flowing in. These are all going to be retail copies that were purchased with my food money.

4) I’ll be hewing to Quinn’s Rules for Writing About Games when it suits my mood and purposes. Given that the entire spirit of this project violates rule #16 off the bat, we can gather just how serious I am about this point.

That ought to do for now, rules-wise. I reserve the right to completely upend the bylaws of this little project anytime I wish given that a) nobody is particularly paying attention and b) it’s my freaking idea. Dissidents may disembark now. All others please prepare to vote via the comments section provided at the bottom of the inaugural experiment, which will appear hot on the heels of this post.

May God have mercy on us all. Here we go.


The Haul

Now that the Holiday gifting season (and the massive Steam sale) are over, here is the list of what you can expect me to be reviewing over the next couple of months. Be aware, many of these titles are ancient and are here because

a) They are still good games regardless of their age

b)They were less than $5 on Steam.

Assassin’s Creed II

Bioshock (I know, I haven’t played it!!)

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Rome – Total War Gold


S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – Shadow of Chernobyl


I figure that’s an assload of content to disembowel and regurgitate for your pleasure.  I have about a month and a half until DOWII: Chaos Rising and two and half months until God of War III.

Also, the Leatherworker has stated that we should get a new video card for the gaming PC. The one we have is super crashy. I mean, it crashes during TF2 for crying out loud. He hates that and even more, he hates seeing me do the angry penguin walk to the kitchen after yet another failed attempt to play Dawn of War multiplayer.

So any suggestions for a new video card? We are an Nvidia house, so none of that ATI crap.


Can’t wait for it to end – The TF2 War

I know that TF2 being an old game, the developers have to come up with events and ideas to keep it fresh, fun and exciting in a world of shiny new games. and I’m not trying to bag on the whole Demoman v. Soldier idea, it’s cool and fun (soldier forever! demos suck!!).  But the game has been fundamentally changed since they started the war and will remain so until it ends. Everyone is so focused on the war that the game has fallen by the wayside. Servers are Demo Servers or Soldier Servers and heaven help you if you actually try to get an objective on them.

It’s a good idea, I’m just not very excited about how the community has responded to it. I also hate demomen with a passion and seeing so bleeding many of them makes my teeth hurt. Grenade spamming bastards. Kill em all!!!


In Which Our Heroes Converse re: Souls, Demonic

Sonic Rob: did you read what Tycho was saying about Demon’s Souls, this RPG where you can die and then be summoned by other online players?
Sonic Rob: that sounds kinda no fun
FyreHaar: I like that being dead is just another kind of existence
Sonic Rob: but I don’t want to do what other players tell me
Sonic Rob: I mean, maybe if I can become some barely-controlled force
Sonic Rob: and they just point me at the bad guys and let me have at ’em
Sonic Rob: that could be ok
Sonic Rob: but I don’t want to be told, “ok, now you attack”
Sonic Rob: I don’t want to watch someone else play my guy, you know?
FyreHaar: yeah
FyreHaar: I think you are like caspar the friendly ghost
Sonic Rob: see, I want to be like friggin’ Samara from the Ring
Sonic Rob: like curse someone with a bad case of me and lemme go to work on ’em
FyreHaar: that would be awesome
Sonic Rob: and then give me a whole type of play where I chase you around scaring the bejesus out of you and being indestructible
Sonic Rob: I mean, make it fair
Sonic Rob: like I can only come out of TVs, or I’m slow or something

Real or Imagined: Leveling up in DOW II

I am in the process of leveling all my races up to 30 in DOW on line multi-player.

Space Marines are at level 31, Orks hit 29 last night, Eldar are 13 and Tyrannids are 12.

I have played more than 400 matches of three versus three, slightly more if you include two versus two and one on one.

And I have started to feel like I am good at this. My win ratio is getting better.  I still lose and my overall 3v3 record is 196 – 284 wins to losses.  Lately I feel like I am more in control of the matches, that what I do really matters to the course of the battle.

Last night, I realized that my team mate had gotten caught up fighting in a particular spot and we were losing because of it.  He had tunnel vision and had become obsessed with fighting in one tiny section f the map. In days of yore, I might have followed and kept fighting with him.  But I saw that it was pointless and was, in fact, playing right into the defensive strategy of the other team. We were walking into their guns with no feasible counter, just going off to die for pride.

So I flanked, I left my teammate to his devices and took the fight to another location. I diverted the enemy, destroyed his defensive advantage and turned the tide of the match. I didn’t wait for permission, I didn’t doubt myself, I just did what I judged to be the best tactical decision. This sort of thing is happening more and more.  What I do seems to be critical to the outcome of the match.

At first, I thought it was having a level 30 or thereabouts army. That was what made me “better at it.” But it’s not. The troops aren’t better, they don’t have tougher armour or whatever.  It’s me, I am better. A better general.  I still mess up and get my troops wiped out (n.b. two shootas and two sluggas cannot take out a Force Commander in Terminator Armour). But my decision making is stronger and more decisive. If a tactic doesn’t work, I reevaluate. I don’t hammer the same thing over and over expecting it to work. I am constantly evaluating and adapting to the changing face of the battle.

My micro isn’t better, my troops aren’t better, I have confidence that I know how to do this. And it is making me much better at the game.  I’m fighting smarter, controlling the when and where of the skirmishes, pushing other players to react to me and generally putting my stamp on matches. We’ll see how my record is once I’ve got the Eldar and Nids up to 30 but I really think I’ve turned a corner, from noob, to player, to veteran.


Once Again, Incomprehensible Developer Commentary Theater

Kotaku has an interview up with Capcom producer Jun Takeuchi, and while I appreciate that the man has to say things that will keep people buying the new games, he chose a really unfortunate tack to this:

“I think, while Resident Evil 4 is a great game, its appeal was limited somewhat to maniac players,” Takeuchi said. “With RE5, I wanted to bring the series to a larger audience. I think its important to do the same for the next RE.”

Ummmmmmmmm. What?

Resident Evil 4 has garnered significant critical acclaim, averaging a score of 96 on Metacritic.[12] It has received dozens of awards from various organizations and stellar reviews from various video game websites.[46] The game was considered by critics as a top contender for 2005’s Game of the Year. The game was a successful crossover hit as the new gameplay alterations and immersive style appealed to many not previously familiar with the Resident Evil series.[47] Nintendo Power named it their 2005 Game of the Year, and ranked it number 1 on their list of the “Top 20 Best GameCube Games of All Time” in their 20th anniversary issue.[39] Resident Evil 4 was ranked number 1 on IGN’s Top 99 Games of All Time list.[48] The Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine named it the Game of the Year for the PlayStation 2. Game Informer gave both editions of Resident Evil 4 a perfect score, and along ranking number one on their list of “Best GameCube Games of All Time” they named it their 2005 Game of the Year.[20] It tied with Kingdom Hearts II as Famitsu’s Game of the Year 2005.[49] Subsequently, Resident Evil 4 was named “Game of the Year” at the 2005 Spike TV Video Game Awards.[50] Also, the G4 TV show X-Play named it the greatest game since the beginning of the series in April 2003.[45]
The Nintendo GameCube version sold over 320,000 copies in North America during the first twenty days. The European release sold its entire 200,000 units during the first month. As of January 2006, over 3,000,000 copies of the GameCube and PlayStation 2 versions were shipped worldwide.[51] According to January 17, 2007 sales figures provided by Capcom, the GameCube version of Resident Evil 4 has sold a total of 1.6 million units worldwide, while the PS2 version has sold over 2 million units.[52]

I wouldn’t call myself an RE fanboy, particularly – I haven’t even played RE5 yet – but I like the games, and RE4 was great. It was a technically impressive and consistently enjoyable action title. I certainly wouldn’t call it a niche game by any means. I know that Mr. Takeuchi is just trying to hype RE5 and the surely-upcoming-at-some-point RE6. RE4 has probably sold about as many copies as it is likely to, so it makes sense to hype the newer titles in comparison. At the same time, what he saying is silly bullshit, and we shouldn’t let that slide when we see it. When developers say things like that, they are treating us like we are milling, dollar-fleeced sheep who gather to the exciting tone of their voices without pausing to listen to the content of their words.


[h/t Destructoid]