INTERNET HARASSMENT, TWO WEEKS LATER

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Friday, September 12, 2014


By Jamaal Ryan

I was openly pissed about the series of internet harassment and doxxing that fever pitched at the end of last month to developers, games press, and social justice advocates. The dust has settled and cleared since then, but instead of refocusing on the incidents themselves, let’s look at the industry’s incredible response to it all.

At the top of the month, game developer Andreas Zecher addressed this open letter to the gaming community:

We believe that everyone, no matter what gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or disability has the right to play games, criticize games and make games without getting harassed or threatened.
It is the diversity of our community that allows games to flourish. 

If you see threats of violence or harm in comments on Steam, YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, Facebook or reddit, please take a minute to report them on the respective sites.

If you see hateful, harassing speech, take a public stand against it and make the gaming community a more enjoyable space to be in.

Thank you

 The first 600 signatures included representatives from Riot Games, EA, Infinity Ward, Bioware, and Insomniac. The signature count capped at just under 2,500.

The International Game Developers Association (IDGA) has expressed profound awareness to the subject of internet harassment towards developers since last summer when industry men and women such as Jennifer Hepler and Adam Orth were attacked. It comes to no surprise that the IDGA went public in response to the most recent incidents:

"Over the last several weeks, game developers and affiliates have been the subject of harassment and 'doxxing' attacks, including threats and posting of home addresses.  While we support diverse viewpoints and healthy debate on the issues within our industry, we condemn personal attacks such as these which are not only morally reprehensible, but also illegal in many countries.  We call on the entire game community to stand together against this abhorrent behavior."

Even before late August, the IDGA has been working with the FBI to provide resources for game developers on their site when faced with harassment that will be available in the coming months. The association was considering creating support groups for developers, to then refocus efforts on creating a special interest group to investigate the mental health of developers.

IDGA’s executive director told Polygon referencing this special interest group in relation to the online harassments, "If we see that an issue is getting worse or that there is a greater need then we will serve that purpose. Obviously, given the recent events, that may be the case.

While I’m happy to see tangible resources in development to combat online harassment, I’d like to see more done. While we may only hear of high profile developers, abuse of this kind is unfortunately rampant throughout the gaming community and industry. More support groups that target gamers, writers, and developers are in need. Game sites and developers may be taking a stand on abusive behavior, but this sort of stance should be standardized and highly responsive towards such incidents.

It’s easy to feel threatened by the opposing opinions of others. But at the end of the day, just remember that we all have one thing in common: we all love video games. 

THE CASTLE DOCTRINE INVADES METAL GEAR SOLID 5

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Thursday, September 11, 2014


By Jamaal Ryan


Setting the dress code issues aside, this teaser for MGS 5 reminded me about how I had recently started looking forward to Phantom Pain.



Don’t get me wrong, the Microsoft E3 opening trailer did a hell of a lot for me, but mixed in with all the other next gen talk, it got muddled in the white noise of high profile games.

But after seeing the multiplayer trailer at Gamescom, it cemented its spot on my must play list.

Metal Gear Solid experimented with multiplayer before, notably with MGS 4 and Peacewaker. Both had their following, but I didn’t have a PSP, and MGS 4 didn’t really interest me as Call of Duty 4 still had me hooked.

Phantom Pain creates an interesting synergy between single player and multiplayer, a trending cross-pollination that we’re seeing a lot of now a days. Most items that aren’t nailed down to the ground can be fultoned to your Mother Base. Like Peacewalker, gathering resources is important, and in this case, it contributes to building up your military establishment.

This is where The Castle Doctorine comparison comes in.


Mother Base is home to Phantom Pain’s multiplayer, in which you will build up your security to ensure that other players don’t invade it and steal your shit, while you invade other players’ Mother Bases and try to steal their shit.

What’s so perfect about the idea of Phantom Pain's (I just like the sound of “Phantom Pain”) is that it avoids the risk of designing a crappy, and often in a better case scenario, an uninviting multiplayer mode while playing to its strengths as a stealth action game. Even though you’re competing with others, you’re not engaging in direct combat where with MGS 5’s controls, can be frustrating and unoriginal. You’re instead navigating your way past AI and automated equipment set up by other players.

The idea of yoinkng freight, gun men, and other inanimate objects by lifting them into the sky give Metal Gear an all  new identity, and could arguably be one of the best “theif” games in several years. 

STRIDER RENEW: BLADE RUNNER

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Reviewed by: Jamaal Ryan

Strider is a flashy game, an action side-scroller that convulses with neon swipes and slashes and a strict expectation that you can keep up with it. I've only before heard of Strider, to then get a short hands-on with it several months ago without any frame of reference. My non retro gaming knowledge and brief sit down outside of the comfort of my own home led me to misunderstand what Strider really is. Read more.

FIRST DAY WITH DESTINY AS A LEVEL 9 HUNTER

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014


By Jamaal Ryan


It wasn’t until I completed The World’s Grave mission on the moon that I had finally started loving Destiny.

Wielding a ballistic trifecta of a scout rifle, a sniper rifle, and a rocket launcher, my stand-off with the Hive put both my skills and arsenal to the test as I popped headshots from afar, blew up clusters of enemies from above, and held back the sprinting sub-class of the disgraced race while dancing around creatively using any vantage point imaginable. This is what Bungie’s Halo was, and this is what Bungie’s Destiny is.

This type of encounter is quite common in Destiny. In fact, most missions I’ve seen thus far have ended in an enemy flooding stand-off. It’s Bungie’s way of showing off the dynamic interaction of multiple enemy types ranging from close quarters, to shielded mid-range, to hard hitters from afar. But as common as they may be, they’re spectacular finales that are distilled from yawning environmental combat and traversal.

Thus far, Destiny is in some cases the Halo game that I wanted. I’ve always held onto my Ghosts and rocket launchers for as long as possible, but in Destiny, you carry everything with you, and the game is very much designed around that. Wide stretches call for summoning Sparrows, and different sized battle grounds appropriate themselves for whatever you may have in your arsenal.

I’ve taken a particular liking to the Hunter class which I didn’t get a chance to try out in the Destiny beta that I started writing about this past July. The suitably named Golden Gun acts as a temporary 4th weapon that disintegrates foes on impact, with an additional two shots to the body if they’re of a heavier class.

I find the Golden Gun particularly useful in multiplayer over the Fist of Havoc and the Nova Bomb because it’s deadly at any range. Speaking of multiplayer, I’ve already spoken atlength about Destiny’s Crucible, and my opinion hasn’t changed much 5 matches in. I still, however, can’t get over how persistently brilliant the level design is regardless what map I’m playing on. Bastion feels painfully familiar from some of the large scale maps between Halo 3 through 4, and Fire Base is an unusually brutal close quarters map with automated doors blocking your view in hallways, and insidiously placed points of elevation that welcomes death from above.

Despite how much I’m enjoying the game, there are some concerns that linger about. Unlike what I experienced in the beta, I’ve yet to run into a Public Event, which effectively ruins any incentive to interact with any other players that I come across on my venture. I haven’t investigated whether or not if this is gated behind a level. If it is, I apologize.

After the beta, many questioned the size of Destiny. Bungie’s aggressive assurance that Destiny will be a big game because it’s “the biggest game that they’ve ever made” doesn’t say much looking back at their legacy. Looking at the complete map, it doesn’t seem all that big at first glance with a handful of “planets” (planets including the moon in this case), but I’m hoping that Destiny will surprise me.

Surprises could lurk in areas where I’m out leveled. I’m sure we’ve all ventured into a cave, only to be pulverized by a powerful enemy whose level reads “??”. And while this is an exciting incentive to return later in the game, it often dis-incentivized me to explore in fear of facing another unknown leveled enemy. As a shooter RPG, I’m conditioned into exploring and finding loot. But why would I chase loot when death could literally be waiting for me around the corner?

Nonetheless, these are early game woes, as I’m sure that Destiny will turn out to be much more than it is at first glance. Check back in within the coming weeks for my Destiny review.

Image courtesy of The Fuse Joplin 

PROTEUS REVIEW: DIGITAL TRIP

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Reviewed by: Jamaal Ryan

Justin and I met at the gym as we do every once in a while. As I talked about the suicide and self-mutilation training that I went to, he reflected on the categorization of games that discuss such serious matters: Depression Quest, That Dragon, Cancer (my heart goes out to Ryan Green and his family), Super Columbine Massacre RPG -- all in which I wrote about I'm my expositional piece. The conversation then bled into the infamous "is it a game?" debate. As the talk grew, it attracted two other gym members making their case. While traditionalists would argue that "games" have to be built on fail states and objectives, others would argue that all a "video game" needs is a level of interaction to elicit a state of play.


That is what Proteus is. Read more.

LOOKING BACK AT GAMING’S MOST EMBARRASSING WEEKS

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Friday, August 29, 2014


Jamaal Ryan


It’s been difficult keeping up with what is perhaps the most embarrassing weeks in the history of the video game community. From Zoe Quinn, to Phil Fish, to John Smeldey, to Jordan Mathewson, to Anita Sarkeesian; they have all been victims one way or another of internet abuse within just a short span of two weeks.

While we are a little more than a week away from the eruption, I feel terrible that I overlooked Zoe Quinn’s kerfuffle while focusing on the mainstream’s media coverage on Phil Fish and the news of him announcing that he was selling his company and its property. Understanding that sites such as IGN and Polygon likely chose to ignore the controversy in efforts to avoid sensationalizing the topic whilst remaining uninvolved with Quinn’s alleged personal life, I dug into some of the crevices of the internet to peer into this personal conflict between Zoe and her ex-boyfriend.

Don’t think I’m going to provide commentary on their relationship, because as it’s been stated, it’s not our place or platform to discuss private matters; and I respect Zoe’s decision to instead of retaliating against Eron Gjoni publically, to nip it in the bud that she will not exacerbate this discussion into a “he said/she said” debate.

“I will not negotiate with terrorists”

But the irony and “slut-shaming” stands; though the writer in question, Kotaku’s Nathan Grayson, was accused of writing a favorable review for Zoe’s Depression Quest, this review doesn’t exist. And even if it did exist, why wasn’t it Nathan’s butt who was crucified instead of Zoe’s? It’s the internet abuser’s golden opportunity to reinvigorate hatred against a developer (a WOMAN for that matter) who took a chance to offer others some insight into mental illness. Because a Twine multiple choice game on depression is offensive, is hostile to the greater game’s industry, will take your games away like Obama tried to take your guns away last year, because the shrinkage of the AAA publishing model bent at the existence of games such as Depression Quest.

Because all of that delusional bullshit makes perfect fucking sense.

Bringing down airplanes off of some grievance that I don’t know or care to explore at the moment, and calling men with guns to a streamer sitting behind his computer playing Counter Strike, form the narrative of the complete lack of adult rational, foresight and consideration. But coupled with the “slut-shaming” of Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian’s death/rape threats paint gamers as a bunch of rabid, masturbatory monsters.

It just takes one.

The deranged mind behind the truly traumatic tweets directed at Sarkeesian that were so alarming, she took precaution to ensure her safety, colored a very ugly picture of gamers; despite how racial, moral, and genderly diverse we are. It represents the low end of the totem pole that is the “Anita- spiracy” (doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well as “Quinnspiracy – good one internet).

I get it. Tropes vs Women in Video Games is not a pleasant thing to consume. Opposing perspectives rarely are. After watching a few episodes, I’ve grown very critical of some of the games I play. “Oh that’s sexist”… “Oh that’s misogynistic”. That’s what you’re afraid of, viewing the games that you love and hold to a completely sanitized standard in a negative light. Rockstar and Nintendo can do no wrong right? But we are capable of acclimation. Even through Anita’s critical gaze, she can still enjoy video games. And if you don’t believe that she plays video games, then I can personally attest to this as one who’s apart of the underrepresented demographic. I too can still enjoy video games despite the lack of under/misrepresentation of Black characters in video games.

I hope this discussion doesn’t ignite another debate as we have reached what feels like the calm after the storm.

But do us a favor, and don’t ever embarrass us like that again, internet. 

I’M SO DISAPPOINTED IN YOU, INTERNET

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014


By Jamaal Ryan


Last week, I reacted to Phil Fish’s sale of Fez and Polytron after him and his company’s personal information was reportedly compromised and exposed. Sitting at the apex of online abuse, by either the dark magic propagated by the full moon, or – more realistically – the sensational nature of internet attacks, this was followed by a series of incidents, two of which occurred this week.

Playstation gamers were victimized yet again, though not nearly to the degree of the blackout of 2011, after hacker group Lizard Squad claimed responsibility of taking PSN down a day before its scheduled maintenance last weekend and also sending a bomb threat to SOE president John Smeldey, causing his flight to be diverted for security reasons. Lizard Squad also reportedly targeted Blizzard and Xbox Live.

But wait, there’s more.

If you’re unfamiliar of the douche baggery of SWATing, it’s the ill-advised act of when one makes an anonymous prank call to 911 and issues a false report of an individual terrorizing their community. The SWAT team is then dispatched to the alleged terrorizer, kicking down their door with guns drawn. This crime is typically committed in multiplayer games such as Counter Strike and Call of Duty. Word to the wise, since stating “DON’T FUCKING SWAT” will fall on deaf ears, if you hear someone threatening to SWAT you in an online match, remove yourself from the game immediately and be sure that you react safely if god forbid the SWAT team does come knocking on your door. It’s a difficult problem to work around since people would think that making idle threats is funny, but it’s one of the best precautions to take for such a new form of online abuse.

For a more detailed overview of SWATing, watch the video below:


Today Jordan Mathewson, AKA Kootra of The Creatures, was SWATed during a game of Counter Strike after false reports indicated that there was an active shooter on the loose with multiple victims. You can catch the entire SWATing incident in the video below:


I cannot stress how incredibly dangerous SWATing actually is, not to mention how expensive it can be as indicated in the VICE video above. SWATing pulls resources from other potential real threats to the community, and if an incident were to happen where a startled SWATing victim reacted in a way that would be perceived as a threat when the SWAT team kicks down their door… congratulations asshole, you are now directly responsible for the cost of someone’s life.

This week, Anita Sarkeesian directed yet another excellent issue of the Feminist Frequency video series, Tropes vs Women in Video Games. This time, she discusses the grotesque incidental decoration of sexualized and victimized female NPC violence as a “cheap” way to raise the grungy and distressing nature of their harsh and often “red-light-district” worlds. She draws the contrast between these women and the lack of portrayal of sexual context for male victims, though I would also argue that there’s a lack of non-sexualized context for female victims.


Sarkeesian is no stranger to online abuse since critiquing many beloved video games and their gender misrepresentation. But in efforts to shed light on just how BAD the abuse can get towards her, she presented this heinous threat that was tweeded to her which had forced her to remove herself from her home in fear of her safety:

“I’m going to go to your apartment at [REDACTED] and rape you to death. After I’m done, I’ll ram a tire iron up your cunt.”

Good fucking lord.

In retrospect, I’ll ask this: why you mad bro? Mad cause someone kicked your ass in Counter Strike? Mad cause a feminist provided sociological critique into some of your favorite video games? Mad cause you just like to shit all over online systems in search of some form of relevance or meaning in your life?

If falsifying police reports, threatening rape, issuing bomb threats, and compromising businesses isn’t socially, lawfully, or morally acceptable, than cowarding behind the anonymous and boundless access nature of the internet doesn’t change a damn thing.

I’m so disappointed in you, internet.


DRAGON'S CROWN REVIEW: EYES UP HERE

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Monday, August 25, 2014


Reviewed by: Jamaal Ryan

Even within the realm of JRPGs, Dragon's Crown is a unique one. Styled as a side scrolling beat-'em-up, Dragon's Crown maintains a Diablo-esque stride of incessant button mashing and cycling through loot after every battle. It goes further than that however, in which it earns my respect through its budgetary nature of gold and the morality of my allies. I, however, did not appreciate its obnoxious and juvenile sexualized nature of its women. Read more.

By Jamaal Ryan


“Seriously, shut the fuck up about Fez 2. never going to happen. you don’t deserve it.”

These are some of the words we’ll remember Phil Fish for in quite some time, an un-ceremonial nail in the coffin that encases Fez 2. I get it Phil, internets are jerks, they’re mean, they’re unrelenting and out of control. But there are nice fans of Fez who’d like to see the sequel. Telling them to STFU and that they don’t deserve it is a slap in the face.

But those aren’t the final words, not after he went on a crusade on Twitter coming to the defense of Depression Quest’s Zoe Quinn. But after his incessant outbursts on Twitter, Fish and his dev company Polytron suffered one of the most devastating attacks that the internet can commit to an individual: the breaching and releasing of their personal information to the public.

Passwords, email accounts, financial records, social security information, all violated and exposed. Zoe Quinn also suffered from the collateral damage, having her Drop Box account compromised as well.

This is unacceptable. This is criminal. This is immoral.

A big mouth and a hot temper don’t warrant internet terrorism, especially when the attacks cause a number of casualties. The internet is so quick to issue death threats, commit sexual harassment, SWAT fellow players, and in this case, hack personal accounts.

If we’re seeing developers give speeches specifically discussing how to deal with hostile communities, consider establishing support groups for abused developers, and createspecial interests groups to investigate their mental health, you know it’s fucking bad. 

Image courtesy of Gamezone

COULD XBOX’S FREE GAMES PROGRAM BE GETTING BETTER?

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Thursday, August 21, 2014


By Jamaal Ryan

Between last night and this morning (in US EST at least) Reddit spotted a 24 hour free games beta tile named “Free Play Day” under Games with Gold on Xbox One.

Showcasing Max: The Curse of Brotherhood – which was available on Gold for free in May (finally playing it now), it was essentially assumed that Games with Gold will allow titles to be demoed within a full 24 hours.

One Reddit user stated that, “Yes I am in the preview program. I already own the game so it doesn't work for me. All it does for me is go to the store and I can select play from there because I already own it.”

Eurogamer reported that Microsoft stated on Twitter that they will be making an announcement on the matter shortly, however Kotaku reports Microsoft posted this official statement: "A promotional tile for 'Max: Curse of the Brotherhood' was posted briefly on the US dash in error yesterday. We apologize for any inconvenience. We're constantly exploring different ways to offer more benefits to our Xbox Live Gold members and will keep them updated when special offers become available."

It seems that Microsoft posted the service accidentally ahead of their intended announcement. But this slip up is an exciting tease. Similar to EA Access’ early access feature (yes, I’m positively obsessed with the concept of this program) Microsoft could soon be allowing gamers to test full games within a 24 hour period before purchase.

Now I’m not sure to what degree in which they’ll allow this access as some gamers could complete entire games from start to finish in one sitting. I myself beat Guacamelee! within a 24 hour period. So what could this Free Play Day program look like? Hopefully we’ll know soon. 

Image courtesy of Gamespot

TIME IS THE CURRENCY TO GAME ON A BUDGET

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

Today, Polygon’s Opinions editor Ben Kuchera validated the “late gamer”, the consumer who picks up games long after their initial release, despite those that stress the felt need to buy games day-one to help developers keep their jobs. He speaks of “Game of the Year Editions”, “Enhanced Editions” and other ‘editions’ that add more value to older titles, with packed in DLC that would have put an additional $30 or more to the original release of the game.

This isn’t always ideal of course, as stepping into multiplayer communities 6-12 months + after launch often leads to repeated failure by the hands of hardened online veterans, and the longer you wait not playing The Last of Us, the more evasive you have to be to avoid spoilers.

Though unreasonable an impossible to predict, publishers have us covered with a growing handful of remakes and remasters from Tomb Raider, to Sleeping Dogs, to a slew of PSN classics. We sometimes get package deals as well, with Metro Redux coming next week that includes both 2033 and Last Light, and Bayonetta 2 on Wii U that packs the original Bayonetta on the box. I’ve never played a Bayonetta or a Metro game, so I get two games for the original price of four.

This notion doesn’t exclude diminished pricings of games, online store sales and game trade ins. There are many gamers who monitor this economy in search for games for cheap.

Repackaged editions that come from games earlier in the console’s life cycle and a previous one can come at anytime from anywhere, making them more unpredictable; but waiting for games to come out for free is a satisfying gamble.

Between May when I bought Watch Dogs and the time of this writing, I’ve spent a total of $60 on games. Yes, that includes game trade-ins for Mario Kart 8 and Wolfenstein: The New Order (both in which I reviewed), but those are just 3 of the 12+ games I’ve played over the past few months. The remainder is thanks to the Playstation Plus and Games with Gold subscription programs, providing a small handful of free games each month. The phrase used to be, “I’ll wait for the Steam Sale”; now it’s also “I’ll wait ‘till it’s free on Plus”. These two console service programs have been a bastion for low budget gamers such as myself, offering well received titles such as Fez, Dragon’s Crown, Dark Souls, and Dishonored for free. And with third party publishers stepping into the game, it seems like it’ll be even more worthwhile to be patient.

EA Access, EA’s new digital subscription service program, mirrors PS Plus and GwG in that they offer free titles with discounts on all other digital purchases. I spoke about how EA’s Vault setup allows us to relax as we can enter their collection at any time and have access to all games that historically have been included. Though with a measly 4 titles included in the Vault at this time on a less-than-a-year old system, EA Access isn’t quite worth the $30 annual/$5 monthly subscription, but it will over time… and other publishers will recognize that.  Seeing other third party publishers enter the subscription mix will make for an interesting time, converting some day-one goers to digital late adopters. They may lock you within their publishing umbrella for another asking price of thirty or-so dollars a year, but the numbers tip in the consumer’s favor once they’re surpassed that annual fee within a month’s worth of games.

New editions, bonus inclusions, digital sales, and online subscription programs, all of these pricing models and practices make our hobby much cheaper. We’ll just have to be patient. 

A BRIEF LOOK AT THE IDEA OF VIDEO GAME ADDICTION

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Monday, August 18, 2014


By Jamaal Ryan

On October this year, all mental health facilities in the U.S. will be mandated to utilize the fifth edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manuel (DSM 5), the next iteration of the diagnostic assessment tool psychiatric professionals use to determine and diagnose individuals suffering from mental health symptoms. The significant changes that will come about include moving away the multiaxial model (Axis I-V) which is currently broken down into primary diagnosis, personality disorder, physical health, environmental stressors, and what is called their Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) categories. Other changes that will occur include the rebranding or rephrasing of certain diagnosis, along with the addition of new ones. Among the new additions will be Internet Gaming Disorder. Read more.

By Jamaal Ryan

Writer's note: This article was originally written on the day of the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare reveal, but due to scheduling challenges, it was posted late.

Jump. Dash. Jump. Dash. Those moves repeated over and over again in my mind and throughout the reveal of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare multiplayer earlier this week.

After the story debut of Advanced Warfare back in May, just as Activision’s Eric Hirshberg stated, the immediate question was, “Will it be in multiplayer?”

Exosuits? Jumping and dashing? How will all that work in multiplayer?

On Day Zero of Gamescom 2014, Call of Duty dedicated an entire hour to inviting us to take a deep dive into the radical changes of Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer. Now, I can say with great certainty that I haven’t been this excited for a Call of Duty in several years. Read More.


SONY GAMESCOM 2014: E3 PART 2

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014


By Jamaal Ryan


After looking at Sony’s Gamescom show, it felt very much like an extension of their E3 media briefing. Some exciting new titles and system features were announced, which ultimately added up to a satisfying show.

While I gave credit to Microsoft for their indie treatment at their Gamescom stage show, Sony took it a step further and supplemented their service to indies with the notion of reputation. The Tomorrow Children, Volume, Day Z, Papers, Please… we’ve all heard about the Pixel Junk series and Thomas Was Alone along with the other two aforementioned titles. It’s this level of indie pedigree that we’ve come to expect on Sony’s platforms. Throwing Hellblade into the mix was quite jarring however, with Ninja Theory’s previous work very much existing within the realm of AAA titles from helping kick start the PS3’s line up with Heavenly Sword to developing one of 2013’s best action titles in their Devil May Cry remake last year. Perhaps it’s become cool to be “indie” with no one having a definitive explanation of what “indie” actually is (says the guy talking ad nauseum about indies in this write up).

FarCry 4, like many of the big budget titles shown at Sony’s conference, acted more as a reminder rather than unveiling fresh details. Their Playstation exclusive feature of 10 co-op keys was a nice touch from the announcement last year, however Sony seems to be taking that very concept and running with it with SHARE PLAY.

SHARE PLAY is Sony’s “virtual couch”, allowing you to invite any one of your PSN friends into your game cooperatively or competitively regardless of the fact that they own the game. For the longest time, I’ve owned different games than my friends because of the high frequency in which I accumulate them. “Does my buddy own that… Nope”, “Can I invite my friend to play… Nope”. This can also work as a unique marketing tool to incentivize third party support, essentially making it easier for players to spread word of mouth to each other with just a simple virtual invite. Sony has spent the entirety of last generation catching up to Xbox with online features and functionalities. Today, they are leading the charge in some cases with Playstation Plus, and now paving their own path with SHARE PLAY.

In the realm of Sony exclusives, Driveclub still has a lot to prove than being just another racing sim. As the Forza series has refined standards of the genre, and Ubisoft’s The Crew boasts more tangible social elements than any other racing game, Driveclub lacks distinction, merely existing in the shadow of car culture in gaming. Then we’re finally invited to see just what Media Molecule has been working on all this time.

I can’t help but say that I’m a bit disappointed that MM isn’t tackling a new franchise as what we were misled to believe with the number of teasers before this announcement. That same lack of enthusiasm extends to the idea of Tearaway on the Playstation 4. Though I may have been a little down on Tearaway on the Vita, I know I’m not the only one wondering how this game could be as special on PS4 as it was on Sony’s handheld. What made Tearaway so impressive on the Vita was how it was able to incorporate the Vita’s full arsenal of features: front and rear facing camera, front and rear touch surfaces, and the gyroscope. The PS4 doesn’t wield the same number of moving parts as the Vita out of the box, with only the touch pad, motion control, and light bar to play with. It looks damn good on the console for sure, but how Tearaway would be able to charm with a robust feature set remains to be seen.

But god damn Alienation looks so good.

Not even a year out of the PS4 launch and after Resogun’s awesome update earlier this year, we’re already getting to see Housemarque’s next game. From ship combat in Stardust, to on foot gunplay in Dead Nation, to ships again in Resogun, and back to boots on the ground, Alienation looks like an intensified version of Helldivers. I’ve never quite seen Housemarque do co-op like what’s seen in the Alienation trailer with fending off waves of enemies in a defensive stand-off using shields to protect your teammates. Housemarque’s games are some of the few downloadable titles that I go out of my way to purchase, and I’m so happy to see that they’re working on another game so soon. However as much as I’m excited about Alienation, Wild is probably my Gamescom game of show.

Surviving in a hunters and gatherers environment within an open world on both land and in sea as a human is exciting. Holding out and surviving against the elements has become more and more popular in gaming, largely thanks to genres such as rogue-likes. But Wild’s addition of allowing players to take on the role of any living creature extends the concept of survival several fold, potentially offering various forms of replayability. Hopefully playing as animals won’t just be restricted to fighting off predators, but also includes caring for your young and establishing territory. I hate to coin the phrase, but Wild looks to deliver emergent gameplay in ways which we might not have seen before.

Sony’s Gamescom show was fairly strong for the Playstation 4. And much like what they did at E3, they took the time to briefly mention Morpheus and Playstation TV. But unfortunately also like E3, Sony’s talked zip about Vita. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise as Shuhei Yoshida after E3 this year explicitly stated that they are pulling back their first party support for the Vita to allow indie developers provide software for the platform. It’s ostensibly cost effective when you think about it as with such a low number of units sold, indies can benefit from the strong attach rate of the system much more than Sony can if they decided to throw money at it; but Sony’s not helping the problem by neglecting it at trade show stages. You’re so heavily focused on indies? Then talk about the slew of indie titles coming to the platform. Disappointed about the Vita’s sales? Then start talking about it.

But when looking at Gamescom strictly through the lens of the Playstation 4, it was a strong showing. Titles such as Day Z and Papers, Please only further demonstrates Sony’s strong support for indie games, and other upcoming titles such as Alienation and Wild both shows studio’s long time partnership with the Playstation brand and the gravitation of new developers with fresh ideas. The Vita might be absent, Morpheus may still be a work in progress, and Playstation TV may only serve as a supplementary device, but features like SHARE PLAY shows significant growth for the Playstation ecosystem (marketing speech blah, blah, blah).

Image courtesy of BeGeek 

MICROSOFT AT GAMESCOM 2014: SAME S**T, BUT MORE INDIES

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014


By Jamaal Ryan


Despite having the largest number of attendees by hundreds of thousands, Gamescom still lives in the shadows of the E3s of the world when looking at it through the scope of big announcements and surprise reveals. E3 may have a smaller head count, but I can’t imagine still talking about Gamescom announcements weeks after the show this year like we did after E3 just a few months ago.  That much was apparent after watching Microsoft’s conference, however I wouldn’t short change the significance of the show too much.

Microsoft took a lesson from Sony’s E3 press conference by giving indies a lengthy amount of time on stage. In fact, they arguably garnered the most attention at Microsoft’s show. It’s important to note that this can probably be attested to the novelty factor of debuted titles being that the remainder of Microsoft’s show contained mostly repeats from E3.

They ranged from The Escapists, which – in the wake of more hardened titles such as Prison Architect, captures a slightly more light hearted aspect of prison escapes for those who fancied the concept after watching too much Prison Break, to Super Hot, the much talked about first person shooter where time is at the mercy of your movements. The in-between titles deserve mentioning as well: Space Engineers, Blues and Bullets, Cuphead, Dungeon of the Endless, Funk of Titans, Goat Simulator, Gunscape, Massive Chalice, Inside, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, No Time to Explain, Plague Inc, Pneuma: Breath of Life, Threes!, and Volgarr the Viking; they all had me excited just about as much as Devolver’s showcasing at Sony’s E3 media briefing. The first quarter of Microsoft’s Gamescom show was easily Xbox’s best service to indie developers in the company’s history.

Microsoft’s announcement of Smite coming to Xbox One couldn’t have come at a better time. Only mere weeks after the pop culture explosion that was the DOTA 2 Internationals, MOBAs have reached a level of relevance in which it has never existed before. Speaking of e-Sports, though Evolve and Halo: Master Chief Collection didn’t bring a whole hell of a lot new to Gamescom, there was an obvious focus on Twitch and the e-Sports community. Evolve showcased a new map up against the Kraken – disappointingly there was no sight of the final monster – and Halo showed off one of their re-mastered maps in Sanctuary, both given the e-Sports commentary treatment.

Phil Harrison took stage at the middle of the show with a stiff dedication in emphasizing exclusive titles, “I’m gonna be using the word ‘exclusive’ a lot” (eye-roll). They were: Forza 5 and Horizon 2, Sunset Overdrive, Fable Legends, Ori and the Blind Forest – all in which we already knew about – and an all new title, Scream Ride. Filing Rise of the Tomb Raider into that category was certainly unexpected, however the words “coming to our platform in 2015 exclusively” seemed all to convenient and stressed, meaning that the next Tomb Raider is likely a timed exclusive set to find its way to other platforms in 2016. And then we finally got a chance to see Quantum Break.

Leather jacket donning, dark haired marksmen seem to be Remedy’s staple, and time manipulation – whether that may be the dodge mechanic in Alan Wake, or Bullet Time in Max Payne – is embedded in their pedigree. Quantum Break is no different, with sharp looking cover-based gunplay, and overt time wielding abilities such as fast forwarding past enemies and freezing targets in place. But even as anticipated as Quantum Break’s world premier was, I’d have to say that it was a bit underwhelming. In both concept and execution, none of what was shown was particularly novel or awe-inspiring, and Quantum Break’s main hook of being interwoven in a parallel television series is still a mystery.

Looking at The Master Chief Collection at the closing of Microsoft’s show, it’s interesting to see what their treatment is for the Halo 5 Guardians beta. There have been rumors that the classic approach to Master Chief Collection’s multiplayer modes – such as the aforementioned Halo 2 – could be a way to test how Halo 5’s multiplayer design would look like bringing Halo back to the arena styled ‘weapon control’ shooter from its glory days on Xbox and early 360. The Halo 5 beta looks to focus on pre-set classes as well, very much unlike the full customization featured in Halo 4.

While this may be music to the ears of Halo purists, this makes me nervous. Halo 4 modernized the franchise in a way that made it more approachable like the common culture of today’s shooters without compromising the inertia, map traversal, and dynamism that the series is known for. Halo is very capable of existing both in the past and the future; just look at Bungie’s treatment of Destiny’s Crucible as a very clear example. While limited customization in Halo 5 certainly isn’t the end of the world, I just hope that it doesn’t get rid of the ideas introduced in Halo 4.

If I was holding out for Quantum Break as being the only announcement that I was looking forward to, I’d be sorely disappointed. Luckily I kept my anticipation open. I may be anxious to see what 343 is going to do with Halo 5, and Rise of the Tomb Raider’s (likely) timed exclusivity makes me thankful to own an Xbox One, but Microsoft’s indie treatment impressed me most, bringing some truly compelling software to their platform that no longer makes them look like they’re playing catch-up, but instead solidifying relevance in evangelizing the indie scene on home consoles. 

THE DEATH OF A ZELDA FAN: ROBIN WILLIAMS DIES AT 63

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Monday, August 11, 2014


By Jamaal Ryan

Breaking news hit today about Robin William’s death, which has been suspected as a suicide.

This isn’t the first time that we’ve mourned the loss of an acclaimed actor by self-destruction; look no further than Phillip Seymore Hoffman earlier this year.

Though Robin Williams hasn’t taken on such critical roles as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting, and John Keating in Dead Poets Society, he has taken a liking to the gaming community in a series of videos for the releases of Zelda: Skyward Sword, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords with his daughter, appropriately named, Zelda.

It saddens me to hear as a social worker who deals with clients who suffer from depression, presenting that overwhelmingly positive front to compensate for their insufferable pain.


With the passing of Robin Williams, this will be one of my last favorite memories:



By Jamaal Ryan


EA revealed further details about their EA Access program yesterday.

While discussing their early access model, EA clarified that early adopters can expect to play either specific game modes or the full game prior to its release. Better yet, any progress earned during the early access period would be saved for the official game’s release. While this may not make a difference to those that are playing the full game anyway, it would be neat to, say… carry over your progress in Battlefield Hardline’s multiplayer into the full game once it launches.

Though it was safe to assume when EA Access was announced, EA reinforced the point that games in the Vault will stack over time. This is one of the aspects that separates EA Access from Playstation Plus and Games with Gold, and brings it more in line with Playstation Now. At the end of every month, I scramble to connect and hook up my four consoles (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One) to catch any downloads I may have missed throughout the last 30 days. It becomes a bit of a hassle on my part to double back and make sure that I hadn’t missed anything before the month is over. At least with EA Access, I can go back months, probably years down line sifting through a Netflix catalog to see both what’s new, and what’s old.

Now, EA ensures to note that Vault titles can be removed later down the line. However they’ve stated that they’ll make an effort to notify players when titles will be removed from The Vault. While EA is willing to be accommodating about this, it reinforces the hesitancy many gamers withhold about fully committing to digital libraries, services, and market places. Games are becoming less and less of tangible products that are ours to keep, and looking to be more and more gated by the permission of distributers giving us the right to play.

But in the meantime, I can deal with a several month grace period to download a game that’s offered to me for free with a $30 subscription.

Related Write up


EA’s Xbox One exclusive Access program was announced and released yesterday, which will allow gamers full access – ala Netflix – to their Vault of games which will be added to throughout the Access beta and beyond for $5 a month or $30 annually. Currently, that ‘Vault’ is comprised of FIFA 14, Madden 25, Peggle 2, and Battlefield 4. In addition to unlimited access, EA’s program also offers 10% discounts on all digital games and even earlier access (can’t stop saying ‘access’) to new titles. Dragon Age Inquisition will be the first to be available to subscribers 5 days before its official release date.

It’s a model that expands off of their short lived EA Sports Season Ticket program, and further apes the Netflix and Playstation Plus model. But would I be willing to pay for another subscription fee in addition to PSN and Xbox Live?

When looking at it within the context of sheer pricing and numbers, gamers could earn their money back quicker than a Playstation Plus subscription. Of the above 4 games that will be available for the Access beta, altogether, they’re worth more than even an annual subscription price, and rivals the value of a Steam sale if you simply pay for a single month.

EA makes a great case here, even if Sony doesn’t think so; however the library has to speak to me long before I even consider opting in for a 1 month trial. FIFA and Madden cater to a completely different gamer than myself since I don’t give a shit about sports games. Battlefield 4? Hah! Fuck off. That only leaves Peggle 2 which doesn’t stand on its own as being worth it for any level of commitment. As you can tell, discounts and early access doesn’t interest me in the least.

Pigeon holing it into the Xbox One could stymie the appeal of the service with such a limited list of EA releases on the platform. Say if it was also available on Xbox 360 where games like the Mass Effect Trilogy, Dead Spaces 1&2, and Mirrors Edge just to name a few were available in the Vault, and that could garner immediate attraction to a subscription.

Perhaps this may be a bit too early to introduce such a service on a new platform, but what about down the line? Unless EA Access completely tanks, you can bet that such a program would catch on to other publishers just like Games with Gold caught onto Xbox platforms. Imagine if other major publishers such as Ubisoft and 2K created similar models. Even if we’re looking at three different subscriptions ranging around $30 each, and among those subscriptions, Battlefront, Far Cry 4, and Gearbox’s Battleborn become available along with other great games across three different publishers, that alone is an instant return value.

It’s easy to cringe at the thought of EA looking for a financial commitment, especially in the wake of Sony – who leads with the universally favored service – that turned down EA’s offer comparing it to their own free games and discounts service. It’s easy to say that “EA’s just lookin’ for my money!” Well no shit, of course they are. But looking at it within the context of potentially having a large quantity of quality games available for just $30 a year? If both ‘Q’s’ match up – and having more… good games is absolutely essential – then I’m willing to fork over half the cost of a full retail game for multiple. 

TWITCH’S LOOKING MORE LIKE YOUTUBE

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014


By Jamaal Ryan

Winding down towards the end of last year, YouTube’s Content ID was the bane of YouTube broadcasters. Originally, Content ID trolled YouTube auditing videos for copyright material. If certain gameplay footage belonging to a publisher appeared on your video, it was flagged. If licensed music was contained within your video, it was flagged. This was scary for YouTubers because if their videos were flagged, they could cease to receive ad revenue on the upload, syphoning money to the copyright holder instead of the video’s creator. 

Amidst the shit storm, casters looked to Twitch as a haven for producing video game broadcasts which was already hosting streamers that were making a healthy living off of sponsoring viewers. Twitch was relatively free from copyright regulations, at least not to the degree that existed on YouTube.

This “haven” started looking a bit grim when rumors surfaced that Google was looking into picking up Twitch for $1 billion back in May, which was later reported by VentureBeat as confirmed. This sparked an unsurprising uproar, in fear that YouTube’s copyright policies would bleed into Twitch’s service.

Now while neither Google nor Twitch have gone public about the acquisition deal as of yet, Twitch has developed their own copyright policies similar to YouTube. Starting today, Twitch will begin their new form of content id, which will track down third party audio on archived videos (or VODs) and scan in 30 minute blocks. If there are any matches to third party audio within the video – which, as Twitch states, “includes in-game and ambient music”, that entire block will be muted. Twitch warns casters of the potential of inaccurate flagging and muting, and also, like YouTube, offers an appeal process.

This has already taken affect.

Famed American Dota 2 player Fear has had multiple sections of one of his videos muted from what’s assumed to be caused by simply listening to music. Streamer Dansgaming was muted from in-game music that was flagged from Fallout 3, just as Twitch warned.

I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for casters both on YouTube and on Twitch to see such an imperfect and draconian policy operate on what was once viewed as the last resort for video content creators (and when I say content creators, I don’t mean copyright holders). It surrounds them with eggshell ridden platforms that impose a fear of loss in ad revenue and now broken videos with muted audio.

This is also reflective of a larger concern with the all but public Google and Twitch merger. YouTube’s Content ID might have gotten less shitty, and Twitch may be looking towards some much needed improvements under the Google umbrella, but what’s stopping them from imposing further abusive policies without the existence of competition.

It’s like proposed merging for Comcast and Time Warner, there just won’t be much freedom of comfort. 

TRINE 2 REVIEW: A TRICKY TALE

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Reviewed by: Jamaal Ryan

It always seems like taking a risk when discussing tough games in fear of cynical criticism about your lack of skill and comprehension, both in which are delivered in the somewhat dismissive "Get better at video games" statement. I've bitched about Ninja Gaiden's terrible camera and God of War: Ascension's unfair Trail of Archimedes, and got flack for doing so.


I didn't like Trine 2 in the beginning, and I still think that its deliberate obfuscation of its puzzle design hurts the experience. But Trine 2 delivers on a sense of accomplishment that's independent from its challenging nature. I can at least recognize that. Read more.

By Jamaal Ryan


Two digital game service programs are in beta this week, EA Access and Playstation Now. While Access allows players to play archived EA titles along with offering discounts and pre-release access to upcoming games on the Xbox One for a monthly fee of $5 or $30 annually, Playstation Now delivers Playstation 3 games via streaming on multiple Sony devices – including selected televisions – for as low as $2.99 for four hour rentals (fuckin really?) to as high as $30 for a three month rental.

Wait, $30 for 90 days on a single game that I can get at Gamestop compared to $30 for a full year’s access to a number of archived games?

The juxtaposition is disproportionate and undeniable. Though Sony turned down EA’s offer to support Access on their platform – to be fair, Playstation Plus is a more robust and valued deal by far – EA Access seems to have their pricing right in comparison.

But with both programs being in beta, Playstation Now has the leg up on being the better service right out the gate. First off, there are 122 games currently available on Playstation Now. EA Access has a measly four. Secondly, Playstation Now is available on more platforms and devices than Access. EA’s program is locked into one for now; and a new console for that matter which will take quite some time to build any kind of significant library. Third, despite some positive reception on Playstation Now in private testing, what has remained a criticism is their pricing, and Sony’s listening. Sony has the good will of the gamer community in paying attention to what they have to say. Playstation Now’s pricing model, or just plain pricings in general, are extremely subject to change. Plus it’s also fair to assume that the astronomical pricings are a way for Sony to see just what they can get away with. Now they know.

But it’s difficult to see just how drastic Sony can change the pricing model of Playstation Now. EA’s Access program is so far on the other end of the spectrum with the cost a 90 day rental of a PS Now game that could pay for an entire year of service in Access. Another advantage EA has over Sony’s program is the way in which their titles are distributed. EA’s titles are downloaded. Play it from the hard drive and expect a seamless experience. Playstation Now on the other hand is dependent on Gaikai’s acquired servers for streaming, and there are reports of “varying degrees of success” with Playstation Now. Even several years after On Live, there’s still little confidence on internet infrastructures that can handle exclusive video game streaming.

EA has the correct model, but perhaps the wrong platform with such a limited selection of games. Sticking to Xbox One will only allow for a gradual build of appealing titles available. Playstation Now can simply change their pricing model to make its service more attractive. Can they make a full U-turn from game by game to subscription based? Unlikely, but who knows. However there’s still the concern of having a game that’s being streamed from thousands of miles away.

UPDATE: Reports indicate that Sony is also looking to add a subscription model alongside the individualized pricing on Playstation Now. I missed that point while writing the original post (Updated 8/3/2014).
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