Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Analysing Genre - Survival Horror Part Two

 How do you keep the horror in survival horror? Well, overusing the same stock of tools to death (and then undeath) probably isn't helping.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Intuitive Controls and Responses

 Controls are something that you almost don't even think of once you've gotten accustomed to them, that is, unless they're bad.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Achievements Revisted - Gaining Some Understanding

 It might not be the best idea all the time, but I understand the drive to 'catch 'em all' a little better now.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Stopping the Escort (and the Game) from Becoming a Load

 Making a character that both isn't a complete idiot, and that you actually grow attached enough to want to protect.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Digressions and Silence - Another SOPA Piece

Today will be a break from the usual. Even though I'm not American I, like most that have heard about SOPA and PIPA, believe that it represents nothing less than an enormous threat to the idea of media on the internet as we know it.

I know that many sites, including Wikipedia and reedit are either already blacked out or are planning to black out in protest of the bill. It seems that now more than ever the circumstances surrounding the bill are utterly protean: from the removal of DNS blocking on the terms, to the president's denouncement and subsequent "shelving" of the bill.

The day seems won, for the most part. But perhaps that's just what those in favour of the bill would like us to think. Certainly there has been mention that SOPA will be back, being rewritten in February. What concerns me however, is this reedit post, which I will relay in full. Let me stress that this comes from one person, so I cannot attest to the validity of it:

"It's not a waiting game, it's a game of poker. Lamar Smith has a royal flush and few people know it.
SOPA may pass. It may not. He doesn't care, and it doesn't matter. The MPAA and RIAA started working on their legislative strategy to pass a new anti-piracy bill in late 2010. SOPA was designed to raise the noise. Everyone is playing right into the entertainment industries hand. The lobbyists are laughing manically at the ignorance of the mob. Even Wikipedia and reddit have played into it.

"What people don't know about is the ace: H.R.1981, the Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011 which is lying in wait. It's not complete. You see, PCIP is not contestable because it's about protecting children. They can, and very well might, copy and paste the full text of SOPA to the end of PCIP. That's the backup. That's the deal that was struck with entertainment industry lobbyists. We will try to push this anti-piracy bill. It probably won't work. Don't worry, we can pass it under an anti-child pornography bill.
There are two things which no Congressman will risk supporting: terrorism and child pornography. There can be no opposition, no discussion. Any anti-piracy law can ALWAYS be reframed as an anti-child pornography bill and it will pass, without even discussion. It will have the full support of the House (minus Ron Paul), the full support of the Senate, and most importantly the full support of the American people. NO ONE wants to risk being called a pedophile. 

"The entertainment industry has finally caught up with technology. They understand how it works. It took them 15 years, but they know what DNS is. They are going to exploit a fundamental problem with the way DNS is centralized and there is nothing that can be done to stop it. They have found an error in the very architecture of the Internet. The solution, from a free speech standpoint is not to fight it politically. The solution is the fix the error.

"We must move to a decentralized system of DNS. It is not impossible. It requires some new thinking and a re-architecture of some web services, but it must be done if we want the Internet, as we know it today, to exist in 5 or 10 years" 

This information, if it is true, represents to me the highest form of utterly revolting cowardice from those that would seek to purge what they see fit, having gained all they need for their benefit from the system. To hide a dramatically flawed bill that would give unprecedented power to a group of select few behind a target that no one is willing to touch is something that is so deeply, morally wrong that it almost makes me want to laugh if it didn't disgust me so.

I dearly hope that this isn't true, that it won't come to this. If it does, however, then all I can hope for is that people will for once be able to see past the idea that it is not wrong to speak out against something that is unfair, even if doing so makes one seem morally dubious. Isn't it so that those that would seek to use such leverage against us in the first place are more than that: that they are morally bankrupt?

Frankly, if they want to play dirty and think they can get away with it then isn't it about time that we, the ones that stand to lose the most, start doing in kind? It may not be a matter of it, but rather when, and how.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Burden in Your Hand (and Everywhere Else): A.I. Escort Missions

 They're helpless (usually) dumb and seem to want to die sometimes, and that's when you don't feel like shooting them in the face yourself. So what is it about escort missions that makes controllers fly?

Monday, 16 January 2012

An Apology to My Readers

To be blunt I need to say that I was too quick to cover the THQ story, and as such reported rumours -- most notably the decision that they were cutting their 2014 games -- as things that were true or at the very least heavily implied to be as such.

I know that "journalism" that covers the endless rumour mill as if it were the gospel truth really pisses me off; so why should I do the same to you guys? The short answer is that I shouldn't, and I can guarantee you if I have anything to say about it that in the future I won't.

I will be sure to ensure in the future that when I do cover news, that it is actually such, or at the very least clearly define something as a rumour if there is no information to substantiate it.

Again, sorry if any of you guys felt mislead over anything that I wrote or commented upon earlier today. It was not my intention to lead anyone astray, nor will it ever be.

Thanks for your time.

THQ In Trouble?

It appears that game publisher THQ may be preparing to sell itself to any interested party if some of the tweets on this NeoGAF thread are to be believed. The steps that the publisher has seemingly taken include cancelling all their 2014 projects including the Warhammer 40,000 MMO Dark Millennium. Certainly things do not look good for THQ unless they can find a willing and able buyer, but how exactly did they get into this dire situation in the first place?

THQ has a lot of subsidiaries including Vigil Games, Volition, and Relic Entertainment which have provided them with Darksiders, Red Faction and Saints Row, and the Warhammer 40,000 series of games respectively. Some of these titles have been extremely lucrative; Saints Row comes to mind as a game that has been met warmly by both critics and the general gaming populace alike. With the success though have also come failures, like the lacklustre performance of the rebooted Red Faction series which ultimately cost the series its chance for a third title in what had been planned to be a triology of releases.

It has to be noted that THQ has been suffering from net losses for the last few years, and if this Kotaku article which also details things is correct then the current price for the company stock sits at an underwhelming 66 cents a share; not a position that any company that's been around for over twenty years likes to be in.

Perhaps it was inevitable, but despite the seemingly mostly underwhelming library there are some games and franchises in there that have done well and could still have the opportunity to continue to thrive if they fall into the right hands. Darksiders has a lot of untapped potential, the Warhammer series already has an extremely loyal following, and Saints Row would certainly be a fine acquisition for someone. Hell, in the right hands even Red Faction could see the light of day again as something really impressive.

So now the question stands: how will gain from THQ's loss? Only time will tell.

[Update]

THQ has refuted claims that it has cancelled its 2014 titles:

"THQ has not cancelled its 2014 line-up, and has not made any decisions regarding the planned MMO. As part of the ongoing review of our business, we have made decisions to ensure that the company is strategically addressing the most attractive markets. As we have previously announced, we have dramatically reduced our commitment to the kids' boxed games sector which leads to a significantly more focused release schedule moving forward. Our slate for calendar 2012 and beyond is focused on high-quality core games and continues to build our digital platform and business. We are excited for our pipeline of original and high-quality content along with our relationships with some of the best talent in the industry."

It appears that the rumour mill was spinning out of control in this case, although it certainly looks like the company is still interested in finding a potential buyer. Of note is that while 2014 games are in the cards, there's no guarantee on which ones will see the light of day.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

More "Fantastic" Public Relations for Gamers - The Tale of the Hacked Xbox Live Account

 Xbox hacked? Money lost? Don't worry, it seems that Microsoft Customer Support is here to ... do ... well, they're certainly here!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Culmanation and the Spark of an Idea - Katawa Shoujo

 Last week marked what has been perhaps the oddest release I can think of for quite some time. What do I take away from the story of the development of Katawa Shoujo?

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Angry Birds Downloaded 6.5 Million Times On Christmas - A Commentary

Among the games news that started circulating at the beginning of the year was a story that is on one level kind of mind blowing: on Christmas day 2011 6.5 million people downloaded some form of Angry Birds. There seem to be two general (read: vocal) camps about all of this: the ones that think that the flurry of downloads proves that smartphones and other devices are the next wave of gaming, and the camp that seems to hate everything that Angry Birds stands for and seemingly wants to leap off of a very tall building upon hearing news of such a large number of downloads.

So, what do I think? Well, perhaps most obviously I think that a lot of copies of Angry Birds were downloaded.

Going deeper than that though, I'm honestly not sure that this really means anything at all. Certainly 6.5 million is a big number, but sometimes a download is just a download.

I feel fairly secure in saying that all of the downloads means that Angry Birds is a fairly popular title: it's the video game that a lot of people who don't even play games know about. Over the short amount of time that it's been around Angry Birds has become the most recent recognized icon regarding gaming: same thing with Mario or Space Invaders or Pac Man. It doesn't seem like too big of a stretch to say that when a person gets a device capable of running Angry Birds, that they might seek it out even if they haven't gamed much, just to see what all the fuss is about.

Which leads me to another point: although the game was certainly downloaded a lot, the statistic I'm interested in is how many people actually paid anything for it. The original Angry Birds is a free app in the Android Marketplace, and as far as I can tell the two other Angry Birds games are either free or have free versions (that are likely ad supported in order to be so). With a free to play version bound to be available on your machine of choice the question needs to be: why wouldn't there be a lot of downloads of this game? If a person downloads it and doesn't like it they can just delete the app and only wasted a bit of time, and conversely if they do like it it was still free to download and didn't pose much of a risk in the first place.

I've got nothing for or against Angry Birds. I've never played the game myself, although I have played something that I consider fairly equivalent (Crush the Castle) and I think it's a solid, if simple, premise. I don't think Angry Birds needs to be validated, the very fact that it's a game that even non-gamers can recognize is testament to that. And while I am impressed at that rather large download number, in the end I don't think it means anything -- either positive or negative -- near as much as some people say it does; it's not the fall of video gaming, nor is it showing the supremacy of smartphones and apps as the new gaming trend. Like I said, the only thing it can certainly mean is that a lot of people downloaded at least one version of Angry Birds on Christmas; nothing less, nothing more.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Grahf Reviews - The Binding of Isaac

 Blood sweat and tears ... two of those three things can be used as weapons in this game, guess which two?

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Dumbing Down Games - A Discussion in Two Parts

 Part two, wherein I investigate why game devs seem to think that we need to be coddled, and why they're mostly wrong.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Dumbing Down Games - A Discussion in Two Parts

 Part one, where it seems more than ever that game companies are saying "I wanna hold your hand" to gamers, whether they need it or not.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

"It Only Does Everything!" "... Does it have to?" - Game Systems and Multimedia

 More and more often gaming systems are striving to be multimedia platforms. Is this really for the best though?

Monday, 2 January 2012

Arrogance and the Industry Special - Ocean Marketing!

 Welcome to 2012. To kick off this year I'm commenting on one of the last really big ones from 2011. Trust me though, it's worth covering if (somehow) you haven't already heard about it.