Blog Archives

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.

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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 Video Roundup

Nintendo Official Videos

Electronic Arts Official Videos

Ubisoft Official Videos

Playstation Blog

 Other Videos

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).

Playstation Store Back Up – More Free Games

The PS Store is back up today and immediately when you boot it up you’ll see the free PS+ games for download and the big surprise is Burnout Paradise. Since all PSN member get a free month of PS+ it is available to all members but access to the free games will disappear if you do not choose to renew your PS+ membership. The free games right now are (For EU & AUS regions):

  • Burnout Paradise
  • Magic The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers
  • PAIN
  • Streets of Rage 2
  • And the PS One game James Pond 2
  • And a couple of PS Minis, The 2D Adventure of Rotating Octopus and BABEL The King of Blocks.
It is a nice surprise considering this is in addition to the Welcome Back Program detailed last week.
I have Burnout Paradise on the XBOX360 as well as Streets of Rage 2 but they are such great games that I’m looking forward to playing them again. The Magic game is one that I’ve been wanting to pick up being a Magic CCG player back in the day. PAIN is one that I’ve never considered picking up but what I played in a demo way back was fun enough to warrant trying it out. I know nothing about the James Pond series but I’m curious to see what sort of game it is. And as always there are a bunch of wallpapers and avatars free to download in addition to whatever PS+ offers were up before the PSN downtime.

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.

PSN Outage Over: Free PS3 and PSP Games For All Existing Members

Yesterday Sony switched backed on the Playstation Network to allow people to change their password and play online multiplayer games among other things (the full list of services as detailed by Sony is at the end). And today they have detailed what sort of rewards will be given to existing Playstation Network customer (official blog post) for the almost month long downtime. The options are 2 free PS3 games and 2 free PSP games along with freebies for their other services such as Playstation Home, movie rentals and PS+. The choice of games for Europe and Australia/NZ are:

  • PS3 – Little Big Planet, Infamous, Wipeout HD (Plus expansion pack Wipeout Fury), Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty, and Dead Nation.
  • PSP – Little Big Planet PSP, ModNation Racers PSP, Pursuit Force and Killzone Liberation.
For North America the only difference is Ratchet and Clank is replaced with Super Stardust HD. The Playstation Store has not been restored yet but is expected to be back online within a week or so.
In addition to the games you will get one month trial or 60 day addition for Playstation Plus. It’s no surprise that the choice of games come from Sony’s closest developers and publishers but there is a good range of high quality games. Personally I’m going to pick up Wipeout HD and R&C for the PS3 and LBP and ModNations Racers for the PSP.

Q: So what exactly is working right now?
A: Sign-in for PlayStation Network and Qriocity (including the resetting of passwords), online gameplay for PS3 and PSP, playback of rental video content on PS3 (if within rental period), Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity on PS3 (for current subscribers), access to services such as Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, and MLB.tv, “Friends” category on PS3 (including Friends List, Chat Functionality, Trophy Comparison, etc), in-game leaderboards, and PlayStation Home.

Valkyria Chronicles Review

Developer – Sega

Publisher – Sega

Release Date – October 31 2008

Valkyria Chronicles was one of the few Japanese RPG’s in the past 5 years that actually felt new and innovative pushing forward the genre. It’s mix of turn based and real time combat with an underlying RPG component defied past conventions. Add to this an unique watercolour style art style and an involving story playing out between missions, we get a complete package for any JRPG enthusiast.

The key to the game is the fun tactical combat which feels fresh and makes you actually look forward to the combat. A problem with many RPG’s is that the combat is tedious and repetitive, this isn’t the case here with the various options you have to complete a mission. The combat starts of like a typical tactical RPG where you place down your chosen units for a mission on a 2D map and you are given a certain amount of action points that you can use to move units. But the twist is that once you choose to move a unit it switches to a 3D view and you can actively control it. You have a metre that indicates how much you can move and you get one combat or item use per turn but you are free to move anywhere or take cover.

The weapons in the games are all early 1900’s based weapons like rifles, snipers, and machine guns and the way they work is that you chose a point to aim and accuracy is determined by distance. The only thing I would add is the ability to move your weapon as you shoot like a third person shooter. The game quite often varies up the tactics so you have to make full use of your squad of scouts, shock troopers, snipers, lancers, medics and tanks. They also add new environmental elements that mix up the situation as you progress.

The first thing that quickly becomes apparent when playing this game is the amount of story, the ratio of story to gameplay is quite high but not overly different to other RPGs. I guess I’m starting to get sick of watching dialogue scenes as I get older and will often just read the text instead of waiting for the voice acting to finish (same problem in Mass Effect and Dragon Age). But I do like the animation scenes which are high quality Anime scenes and do a good job of visualising the world in greater detail. The story also doesn’t refrain from pulling any punches and deals with some more mature themes appropriate to a war setting.

The game is around 30-40 hours depending on whether you want to  play the side or skirmish missions. I’m sorry to see the series go to the PSP with two sequels already out but I’m looking forward to what Sega do next in terms of action RPG’s as they have had a good track record with this and the Yakuza series.

Uncharted 2 Review

Developer – Naughty Dog

Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment

Release Date – October 13 2009

Building on a promising first game in the series the talented people at Naughty Dog have done what is the norm in video games, which is to make a sequel that in every way outshines the first. The first game was well received because of the great animation, graphics and characters but it was lacking in gameplay (and some might say fun) down to the frustrating gun combat and the bullet soaking enemies. Now with the sequel they have mostly fixed this and added solid multiplayer and co-op modes to the mix in addition to even more wonderful graphics and animation. Uncharted 2 is a complete package and rightfully deserves all the accolades it received in 2009, it is an amazing game that convincingly combines everything I like about video games.

It is still rare to see a well produced story in video games that you actually care about and the key has been the likability of the characters which benefit from great voice acting and motion capture work. It’s all about the character you play Nathan Drake, although this time there is less Sully, as you follow his enthusiasm to find the mythical city of Shambhala and the lost treasure of the Cintamani Stone. Nathan Drake is just a fun character to play as and control, he’s not a buffed up super soldier, he’s just a geeky treasure hunter getting caught up with the wrong people who want to exploit his knowledge and skills.

With Uncharted 2 I can see how all Naughty Dog’s experience in the past, such as the Jak and Daxter games on the PS2, has helped them created the visual style of the game. The environments are all varied and vibrant with bright colours and a surreal high contrast look. The character models are a perfect blend between realism and the animated style although the eyes are noticeable weird as they constantly shine. The focus on excellent animation tricks the mind into engrossing you in every scene, as I was more excited watching the cut scenes than playing the game.

The gameplay, shooting and platforming, are vastly superior to the first with much more interesting environments to traverse and figure out while having access to a nice array of weaponry. I think the third person shooting is quite good and definitely deserves to be the focus in multiplayer. The puzzles and climbing are a logical evolution of what was innovated with Tomb Raider back in the day but it still could be improved. Maybe a mix between Assassin’s Creed freeform climbing and the highly specific climbing routes in Uncharted 2 could lead to more challenging puzzles.

It took me 12 hours on the hard difficulty to finish the game, although it has taken me months to actually do this. The thing that was holding me back was since the game is linear, I have no problems just finishing a chapter every now and then savouring the experience. Play the game for the experience, story and stunning graphics before the next game in the series comes out and changes up the formula. The third game is set to be released at the end of the year (around November 1st) and is probably going to be the last in the series if Naughty Dog’s past history is anything to go by.