Category Archives: Articles

Why I Bought Deus Ex: Human Revolution on Release Day

I rarely buy games the day they are released, in fact I don’t think I’ve bought a game made in 2011 this year (only Portal 2 had me tempted but I haven’t gotten around to buying it yet). But Deus Ex hooked me and after playing it for a couple hours it was well worth it.

In the many times the game was previewed in the past couple years, I was interested mainly due to the near future (2027) cyber punk setting but I didn’t think I would be compelled to pick it up immediately. There were mixed previews of the game, probably down to critics ready to pounce on any minor flaws due to the universal acclaim of the original, but any sort of open world games are hard to preview (which is why Rockstar is so selective with preview coverage of their games). It wasn’t until the critical praise of the game by critics a few days before release that I started to get excited.

What makes this games so great? The combination of a whole bunch of game genres (FPS, RPG, action, adventure, open world) but the main selling point for me was that it is very much a stealth game which rewards you for being creative and patient in the way you tackle the missions. You have freedom in the way you want to play and the levels are designed so well that you can do this without any compromise. It is a stealth game that doesn’t just filter you arbitrarily from room to room, you have an objective and you can approach it anyway you want.

The last game that tried to do something similar was The Darkness but it was no where near as polished or ambitious. Other stealth games like MGS4 and Splinter Cell Conviction where just expected upgrades of a very familiar game play ideas (I still love these games but Deus Ex actually evolves the genre). I’m still fairly early in the game (I haven’t got to any of the much maligned boss battles yet) but look forward to multiple post breaking down different aspects of the game in the coming weeks as I slowly play through it.

Thoughts on EA Sports Season Ticket

EA announced today the launch of their EA Sports subscription program called EA Sports Season Ticket. For USD$25 or 2000 Microsoft points you get early access to 5 EA Sports games 3 days before release as a digital download, which will expire on retail release but all achievements and progress will carry over if you decide to buy a retail copy. The 5 sport games franchises involved are Madden, Fifa, NCAA, Tiger Woods PGA Tour and NHL. The other features of the program are 20% off DLC, free premium web content and membership recognition.

EA have teamed up with game retailer GameStop to market the program and keep intact the dicey relationship between publishers and retailers as digital downloads become more common. Having the early access full digital download expire on retail release is a concession to retailers but sooner or later we’ll see digital downloads day and date for new releases on consoles.

The question now for consumers like me is whether or not I would pay 25 USD for 3 days of early access. For me I only regularly play and buy FIFA and $25 is a steep price to pay for early access and the other features. But I do occasionally rent or pick up way later the Tiger Woods and NHL games and enjoy playing those games. I can see playing the full game of both of theses for 3 days and picking them up way later when they are discounted. So right now I’m unsure of whether I would subscribe to this program but it will mostly hinge on how badly I want to play the next FIFA early.

As for the ramifications of this I can see this being implemented with other multiplayer heavy games with regular releases such as the Battlefield or Call of Duty series. I think this a good idea that caters to the diehard competitive fans and has little effect on everyone else. As long as the multiplayer matching system correctly filters out the experienced players from the inexperienced it shouldn’t have too much of an effect on the multiplayer environment for regular players. I can already see the comments that are going to pop up as people decry this as another EA cash grab but what these people don’t understand is that fans will gladly pay the extra money to play the game early and be more involved in the game ecosystem.

Indignant Gamers and a Sense of Entitlement – The Cost Argument

One of the number one complaints from gamers that I read and hear about is cost. Gamers or at least critics and commenters get riled up and even in some cases indignant about the cost of games and devices. While this sort of entitlement is not just restricted to just video games, it seems that gamers are less rational in this aspect. For me I rarely have an issue about the cost of devices or games because in my mind, if I’m buying something new or cutting edge I am paying a premium to play it as soon as it comes out. I know what my budget is and if I can’t afford it right now I know it will be discounted at least 6 months down the line, or for consoles around the two year mark.

Recently with the announcement of two new consoles (PS Vita and Wii U) it was clearly evident that this issue was still at the top of gamers mind’s. Knowing the sensitivity gamers have to price I shouldn’t have been surprised when some people criticised the announced price of the PSP Vita at $250 or $300 for 3G version. For a high quality handheld entertainment device, to me and to most people it looked to be a very reasonable price but a small subset of people still complained that it was overpriced.

Item number 2, people that are angry that publishers and developers have implemented an “online pass” feature making people who buy used copies of games to pay around $10 to access online multiplayer modes or some additional content. This is another bewildering reaction to something that I feel is completely reasonable. Companies such as EA and THQ have been getting flak for trying to get some revenue from used game sales. As we continue to move to digital distribution where there is no concept of used games, I find it hard to get angry that if I buy a used game I may have to pay an additional fee to play online. If anyone should get angry it should be companies like Gamestop not regular gamers.

Item number 3, people criticising Nintendo for not announcing the price of the Nintendo Wii U and complaining about the potential cost of extra controller (which is a non-issue since the standard is games requiring just the one tablet controller included with the system). E3 for Nintendo was the first time they have shown the system which is at least a year away, they don’t need to reveal the price and why should they if they are still tweaking the system.

Last point DLC, people complaining about paid DLC and the fact that developers plan and develop it while the game is in development. Gamers feel entitled that it should be included in the price of the game or the game itself should be priced cheaper in the first place. The price of a game has been static at $60USD for a long time now and I would say we even have it better today with pre-order bonuses from places like Amazon that give you USD$20 gift certificates for pre-ordering a new game. Developers need additional streams of income if they are to survive with the growing costs of development. DLC is a way for gamers to get more out of a game they like, it’s optional and entirely up to you. If you don’t think the core game justifies the price than don’t buy it, don’t complain about the DLC. Same goes for additional services like COD Elite that Activision is implementing to give players additional features that only the truly dedicated players would consider or benefit from.

Video game companies are out to make great products and make the most money they can while balancing the fine line between price and purchase rate. It is not in a company’s best interest to give products away at cheaper prices even though the model of the video game industry is to make the console the loss leader while making money from software licenses and royalties. Nintendo really changed the game by releasing a cheaper system with the Wii and still make money on each console. For the next generation of video game consoles my prediction is that they won’t be as state of the art in order to keep costs low and try to break even as soon as possible. I think this makes sense because the next step in gaming isn’t processing power and graphics, it’s how we interacting and control games.

Traditionally Controlled Games Are Becoming a Thing of The Past

One thing that I have notice from all the games shown at E3 this year is that the traditional control method (twin sticks, 4 face buttons, d-pad and triggers) is being replaced or augmented by a range of new control paradigms. Last year’s E3 saw the introduction of the MS Kinect and PS Move, and this year both companies reaffirmed their commitment to the future of how we will control games.

Now I’m not saying traditional controlled games will be obsolete (they will still be ever present), but I do think developers are thinking of ways to allow people to more easily interact with games in new ways. Seeing the way voice commands are being used in Mass Effect 3 utilizing Kinect, or hearing Bioshock lead developer Ken Levine talk about the ways he will use PS Move in Bioshock Infinite, I see a definite trend of developers taking up the challenge of advancing the way we control games. It is no longer just a gimmick, it is the future of video games.

And I haven’t even mentioned Nintendo yet, with their next console they will continue the path of motion controlled games and will add the next big thing, tablet touch pad controls. They are taking the success of their portable systems and mobiles devices like the iPad/iPhone to create a system that will encourage developers to think of new innovative ways to design games. These new methods of control allow a wider range of people to pick up and instantly understand how to play certain games. It also makes gaming a more involved and fun looking endeavor which is necessary to continue growing the industry.

Nintendo had a true hit with the Wii by innovating the way games are played but their approach had it’s flaws. Nintendo looks like they have learned not to abandon the core gamers by creating a system that developers are excited to work on with powerful processing and graphics capabilities. Hopefully this would lead to more games being released on the Wii U than the Wii and I’m excited to see how games like Assassin’s Creed play on the Wii U.

Also I hope more developers take advantage of the capabilities of the Kinect and PS Move as we are at a point where the technology is there but we just need the games. The key is finding the right mix and making control decisions that make sense, enhancing the gaming experience rather than making it seem gimmicky. From what I’ve seen at E3 this year I feel confident that the industry is moving in the right direction.

P.S. 3D gaming is also here to stay and video games are the perfect medium to get the most out of it. The technology is improving each year and developers are doing a better job of implementing it in their games. It’s time to stop grousing about 3D in video games, if you don’t like it you can still play your games in regular 2D.

E3 2011 Nintendo – 3DS Games Galore and Wii Successor Revealed (Wii U)

 

 

 

At Nintendo’s E3 2011 press conference today Nintendo made a number of surprising announcements, much of which we already knew due to rumours over the last few weeks. But no one predicted the full scope and innovation of Nintendo’s approach to their next console. Appealing to core and casual consumers while maintaining the Wii brand they seem to have satisfied the skeptics doubting Nintendo’s future.

The biggest surprise to me is the use of the current Wii Remotes, it seems multiplayer games will be designed with one person holding the tablet while others use Wii Remotes. People who have had time to demo the system commented on the surprising comfort (light and easy to hold) of the tablet controller and fun while playing the various tech demos showing off new game play ideas and possibilities. Disappointments are the lack of other Wii game announcements (or English ports of Japanese games such as Last Story) or more  third-party games on the 3DS but the conference isn’t over yet and often more information trickles out over the week. Third party game developer support is not a problem for the Wii U with plenty of developers on board intially bringing out ports of 360/PS3 games such as Batman Arkham City and Assassin’s Creed Revelations.

Zelda Games

  • Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Celebration – Orchestra Worldwide Tour
  • Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures – Free for DSi owners
  • Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening – Out on the Nintendo eShop
  • Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – Out at the end of this year

3DS Games Announced

  • Luigi’s Mansion 2 – Developed by Next Level Games.
  • Super Mario 3D – 3D mario platformer but with 2D gameplay elements.
  • Mario Kart – Underwater and air sequences, Retro Studios helping with development.
  • Kid Icarus Uprising – 3 on 3 multiplayer announced.
  • Star Fox 64 3D
  • Tekken 3D, Animal Crossing 3DS, Super Smash Bros, Lego City Stories.
  • Potential – Kirby, Rhythm Heaven, Paper Mario, Mario Party sequels.

Wii Successor Announced – Wii U

  • SPECS – Touchpad controller 6.2 inch in addition to traditional controls, camera, accelerometer, microphone, speakers, 1080P, HDMI, IBM designed CPU (same architecture as Watson), SD and USB HDD support.
  • Features – Backwards compatible with Wii games and all controllers (Wii Remote, balance board), full HD graphics, video calls, web surfing, stream content to and from tablet controller.
  • Wii U Games Teased – Super Mario Bros Mii, New HD Zelda, Super Smash Brothers, and various tech demos.
  • Third Party Wii U Games – Lego City Stories, Darksiders 2, Batman Arkham City, Tekken, Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Ghost Recon Online, DIRT, Alien Colonial Marines, Metro Last Light and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. Various EA Sports games and potentially Battlefield and Army of Two.
  • Onboard Third Party Developers – EA, Ubisoft, Warner Bros Interactive, THQ, Irrational Games, Namco Bandai, Sega and Tecmo Koei.

E3 2011 Sony Press Conference – PS Vita, Bioshock Infinite Move Support and PS Branded TV

Here is a list PS3 games and features announced today at Sony’s Press Conference for E3 2011. After a montage of games and Playstation properties, the event started with Jack Trenton CEO of SCEA first apologizing about the recent PSN outage. 3D, Playstation Move and the PS Vita are all heavily showcased with the big news that the PS Vita will be USD$249/299 for Wi-Fi/3G model.

  • Already announced games featured – Uncharted 3 (release date 1st November 2011), Resistance 3, NBA 2K12 (Move Support), Infamous 2, Starhawk, Bioshock Infinite and Star Trek.
  • 3D Game Remasterings – God of War Origins Collections and Ico and Shadow of Colossus Collection.
  • Playstation Branded 3D Monitor announced – 24 Inch screen with unique feature of allowing split screen co-op games to display a full screen for each player. USD $499 for monitor, 3D glasses, HDMI cable and Resistance 3.
  • Bioshock Infinite – Move support and Bioshock 1 pack-in. Also a Bioshock on NGP teased.
  • More Core Games Move Support – Bioshock Infinite, Saint’s Row The Third, Star Trek and better move support for LBP 2.
  • EA’s PS3 Exclusive Game Content – SSX (Mount Fuji exclusive level), Need for Speed on the Run exclusive cars and Battlefield 3 comes with Battlefield 1943 pack-in.
  • New Games Announced – Sly Cooper Thieves in Time, Medieval Moves: Deadman’s Quest from the developer of Sports Champions and  Dust 514 (Playstation exclusive MMO FPS from Eve Online developer CCP Games).
  • NGP Name Announced Playstation Vita – Rumours are true the official name of the NGP is the Playstation Vita. AT&T announced as exclusive 3G partner in the US. More than 80 titles in development. Out this year, wifi model $249 and 3G model for $299.
  • PS Vita Games Shown – Uncharted Golden Abyss, Ruin (action RPG, loot based, social features, PS3 compatibility and cloud saving), ModNation Racers (easy track creation, access to user generated content), Little Big Planet (game changer, easy to create levels or game types utilising all the features of the PS Vita), and Street Fighter X Tekken (Cole from infamous is a playable character).

E3 2011 Microsoft Announcements Round-Up – Halo 4, Ryse and Lots of Kinect Supported Games

Here is a list of notable announcements and details of Xbox 360 games and features announced today at Microsoft’s Press Conference for E3 2011 (plus a couple features revealed later on Major Nelson’s Blog).

  • Already announced games featured Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, Tomb Raider, Mass Effect 3 (Kinect voice support, dialogue and squad commands), Ghost Recon Future Soldier (Kinect support for all future Tom Clancy games), Gears of War 3, Forza 4, Star Wars Kinect
  • EA sports games to get Kinect Support – Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Madden, Fifa and one other.
  • New Game AnnouncementRyse for Crytek, a Kinect game set during the Roman Empire era.
  • New Halo games announcedHalo 1 remake 10 year anniversary and Halo 4.
  • New Game Announcement – Fable: The Journey, on rail magic shooter just for Kinect.
  • Other New Games Announced – Kinect Sports Season 2, Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, Disneyland Adventures, and Dance Central 2.
  • New Dashboard with graphical and functional improvements. Search support with universal Bing search capability, youtube, live TV (i.e. UFC) capabilities, more Kinect support, Beacon feature (more streamlined game invite system) and the big one cloud support for game saves and profiles.

5 Games We Will Learn More About at E3

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) opens on the 7th June, just over a week away and here’s 5 games I’m looking forward to learning more about. All of them will be released at the end of the year around November and all are the 3rd game in a franchise.

Assassin’s Creed Revelations continues Ubisoft’s tradition of a new AC game every year and this one is the third in the Ezio trilogy starting with AC2 followed by AC Brotherhood. Ezio will be much older in this game and will be climbing around this time in Constantinople. Multiplayer will also return hoping to expand on the innovative experience that debuted in the last game.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 continues the Modern Warfare offshoot, this time going global with recognisable landmarks and cityscapes. Preview impressions of the single player side of the game are already up at many gaming websites, but most people are waiting to hear how multiplayer has changed.

My most anticipated game of the year Uncharted 3 will be shown and will probably show off more of the graphical innovations from their desert setting. I looking forward to hearing more about the story and what historical/mythical legend is being pursued by Nathan Drake and his buddies.

Resistance is back with Resistance 3 after a 3 year development cycle hoping to bring more excitement and polish that was lacking in Resistance 2. The unique 8-player co-op mode from Resistance 2 is dropped, and more focus is put on the competitive multiplayer and the story mode.

Battlefield 3 is the the long awaited sequel to the main Battlefield series instantly garnering attention with its gorgeous visuals. Looking forward to hearing about what new gameplay and multiplayer features are being introduced.

Cost of PSN Attack to Sony: 14 Billion Yen

Ahead of Sony’s 2011 FY financial results due to be released on the 26th May 2011, revisions have been announced to take into account a number of events have had a significant effect on Sony’s profits. One of the events that Sony details is the cost of the PSN breach that is estimated at 14 billion yen or 170 million USD to consolidated operating income. This is a hefty cost for Sony as 14 billion yen is 7% of their current 200 billion estimate for the operating income for the 2011FY.

The key variables that will affect the estimate are the severity and number of credit card misuses or identify theft cases. Sony points out that to date there have been no confirmed cases but if this changes the estimated amount will have to be revised. Other that the cost of the protection program for affected users, included in this estimate is the cost of the Welcome Back Program, customer support, security enhancements and legal. They also mention a possible revenue decrease which will affect profits as a result of this breach. Lost revenue can be attributable to the PSN store being down for almost a month as well as the effect on the sale of PS3’s and PS3 games.

This is a major blow for Sony’s gaming division which was on track for a strong year with the PS3 Slim selling well along with many high profile PS3 software releases.

Atari Decides to Sell Cryptic Studios

Cryptic Studios is accounted for as “Discontinued Operations” under IFR 5, as the Company has decided to divest the studio;

Atari the perpetually troubled video game publisher disclosed in their 2011 fiscal year financial results that they are looking to sell off Cryptic Studios, two and half years after the original acquisition. The reasoning as Atari explains, other than it’s large contribution to Atari’s net profit loss, is to focus on external development to give them more flexibility in the “changing marketplace“. Atari also point to the industry buzzwords “casual online and mobile games” as another reason for deciding to divest Cryptic.

Cryptic Studios contributed €15.9m to Atari’s revenue and -€5.3m to their net loss for the 2011 fiscal year. Overall this accounting move has improved Atari’s operating income to positive €0.5m for the year with a net loss at -€6.2m. The expected sale price of Cryptic Studios would be hard to judge but I would be surprised if it was near to Atari’s original purchase price of 26.7m upfront + 20m in performance related bonuses.

Cryptic Studios was bought by Atari on December 8th 2008 and finished developing Champions Online and Star Trek Online for Atari. They got their start by developing City of Heroes and City of Villians both published by NCSoft who bought out the rights for both series in 2007 along with the whole dev team for the games. Currently still in development is Dungeons and Dragons Neverwinter, a co-op multiplayer game (departure from MMOG) based on D&D 4th edition and the Neverwinter franchise.