A WEEK IN GAMING 6.3.13-6.7.13

Monday, June 10, 2013

By: Jamaal Ryan

Let’s take a looking at a week in gaming from 6/3/13 through 6/7/13

The Gayest Video Game (6/3)

My Ex-Boyfriend The Space Tyrant follows the adventures of Captain Tycho Minogue who seeks to explore other worlds, encounter alien characters, and confront the greatest tyrant in galaxy has ever seen, who happens to be his same-sex love interest.

Posted on Steam Greenlight, ME-BTST has been professed as the “gayest game ever made”. As seen in the trailer, this title appears to be an adventure game casted with all males clad in suggestive outfits. And as we can expect from the internet, it has received a myriad of responses.

Homophobic slanders were abound, using their online anonymity to their fullest extent which surfaced the same attitudes of those who responded to the Dragons Crown kafuffle while others supported this game, calling out that those demanding the game’s down vote would be singing a very different tune if it featured a cast of impossibly proportioned lesbians wearing bikinis.

One gamer didn’t completely appreciate the depiction of homosexuals and stated that as a gay gamer, would be more supportive if the game’s characters weren’t ostensibly written as gay just for the sake of being gay, much like how women are written in games just for the sake of having a female – albeit stereotypical – character in the fiction. To be fair, ME-BTST appears to be a game made by gay gamers for gay gamers. But as a Black man, I can align with this stance, as I won’t just buy Black media because it represents my race; it would have to drive deeper than demographics and stereotypes.  

Though this breed of game is uncommon, I urge those interested to also call their attention to Mainichi, a game that has players deal with the stigma of being transgender.

My Ex-Boyfriend The Space Tyrant might not be a game for everyone, and it’s unlikely meant to be. But just the fact that a title such as this has been developed and supported on Steam Greenlight is promising. And to that gamer, let’s hope that the representation of homosexual sails through a smoother transition than every other minority group misrepresented in video games. You can purchase ME-BTST here.

Welcome Back to Infinity (6/4)

This week, 343 has made some significant changes to Halo 4’s multiplayer which is detailed in their video following community players testing out the tweaks and rebalances.

Kicking off in Infinity, you’ll notice the difference that 10% increased movement speed makes. Halo 4 was already a much faster game thanks to the long awaited sprinting, but now you’ll have to practice better aiming as enemy players move quicker around the battlefield.

Most of the tweaks were applied to Halo 4’s weapons, which will urge players to experiment more with the game’s arsenal. The DMR was the go to rifle for most players as the Battle Rifle didn’t deliver that umph we know so well dating back to the Halo 2 days. Now the BR delivers a 4 shot kill and brings back the 2 shot melee kill from past entries.

The Covenant Carbine also was rebalanced as well, now bringing players down with 7 shots, a significant reduction considering its high firing rate.

The last rifle adjusted was the Light Rifle, which now increases in firing rate when scoped in. It’s an adjustment that I appreciate, though haven’t bothered testing out myself as I’m getting used to some of the other changes.

The Battle Rifle was abandoned on one of my custom loadouts, and I only toyed around with the Carbine once before never returning to it… until now. Thanks to the rifles’ tuning, my loadouts, and likely yours as well, will become more diverse.

Let’s not forget about the automatic weapons which have also been rebalanced -- the Assault Rifle and the Suppressor -- , now downing your foes in three less shots; however the auto aim angle has been scaled down, requiring more work on your part to make up for the increased stopping power. I’ve noticed the difference in targeting my enemies as it’s less sticky, however I find little trouble hitting my opponents with both the Suppressor and the Assault Rifle in small skirmishes, especially when coming from an extensive Call of Duty background.

Lastly, my reactions to the 35% increase on chaingun damage on the Mantis and the Warthog are hot and cold. I’m happy how that I can actually hit something while manning the chaingun on the Warthog, but I perish the thought of having to deal with facing Mantises with more firepower. To be honest, this is likely due to the availability of each vehicle, as Mantises are rare and other players usually get to them before me whereas Warthogs a far more common, giving me the chance to take advantage of that extra 35%.

I’ve recently jumped back into Halo 4 right around the time that this update hit, and the player behavior reflecting the weapons and movement tuning shows. It’s an even more versatile game than before as already one of the very best multiplayer shooters this generation. If I’m not busy writing, working, or reviewing other games, hit my Gamertag up at Mr Jam0 and let’s get a game of Team Action Sack going.

The Novelist (6/5)

Since discovering it a few weeks ago, I showed interest in The Novelist, a game from Kent Hudson which puts you in the role as a ghost in the house of a family of three: Dan Kaplan, his wife Linda, and his son Tommy. As you dart around the living space, avoiding being spotted by the Kaplan family, you peer into the minds of the lot, observing their thoughts and even influencing decisions.

The game’s central theme highlights Dan and his torn allegiance between occupational success as a novelist and putting his family first. As the entity, you poke around for randomly generated clues which can be Tommy’s paintings, Linda’s letters or from her diary, or you can enter their memories to gather more cues to their desires. Fulfilling his role as a husband and a father could compromise his success in his writing, and focusing on his work could jeopardize his relationship with his family.

Parallels to The Shining are inevitable with a writer, a household, and a ghost; but Hudson states that The Novelist will be more of a “benevolent affair” as the conflict presented in the game will be a subject that more mature gamers can identify with.

In an interview with Joystiq, Hudson was asked to discuss his role as an indie developer, coming from working on AAA franchises such as Bioshock 2, Deus Ex: Invisible War, and The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. He puts things into perspective with venn-diagram like dichotomy, stating that while he appreciated the freedom as an indie developer, he can’t deny the resource access available while working on a AAA title.

He also tries to pull himself away from the indie vs. AAA scene, and urges people to remember AAA hit Dishonored, arguably the most successful new IP of 2012.

You can visit the game’s website for more on The Novelist.

Publisher Controlled Used Games, Hourly Online Checks, Kinect Privacy, Microsoft Details (6/6)

After weeks of speculation and weeding through mixed messaging, Microsoft finally rolled out some more details on how it will handle used games and Kinect privacy.
      Owners can’t allow friends to borrow games (theoretically) but they can be gifted so long as those who are being gifted have been on your friends’ list for at least 30 days.
      At launch, Xbox One won’t support game rentals, but Microsoft will consider “explored possibilities”.
      If a game is accessed from another console that’s not your original, that unit will have to check in with the server every hour as opposed to the 24 hour cycle on your home console.
      Up to 10 family members can access your full games library from any console, so long as they’re signed in.
      Kinect can be “paused”, theoretically disabled from listening or observing for that period of time unless you dictate otherwise. While on standby, Kinect will only respond to “Xbox…(whatever)”
      You can give explicit instructions as to what Kinect can and cannot share with the cloud.
      Publishers will have full control over the allowance of used games on Xbox One. Microsoft stated that they will not take a cut on the used games sales.

These details only provide assurance in that we have a better picture as to how much control Microsoft, third party publishers, and we as the consumers have over Xbox One. In my position as a gamer, with little friends who actually play video games, who purchases new games on the regular and couldn’t care less if the internet sees me wanking off, very little of this bothers me; but I’m very aware of the preposterousness of some of these regulations.

Giving full control to third party publishers is frightening, especially knowing that EA recently announced pulling online passes for past, present and future titles. In a conversation with this blog’s original contributor, Ryan Williams, he suspected that it was a sign that EA had other plans for controlling used games. This could very well be it.

While I can understand the narrowly frequent hourly online checks on other consoles makes sense, only being able to gift games to a friends who’ve been on your friends’ list for at least 30 days is puzzling (seems like Microsoft is really taking the meaning of “friends” to heart unlike Facebook’s bullshit representation of friendship).

On paper, being able to control you Kinect’s awareness sounds nice, but this does absolutely nothing for those suspicious of Kinect’s camera and mic facing your home based on the simple fact that remains: it’s still required to be connected for the system to operate.

Sony has been unusually tight lipped all this time while Microsoft takes its licks. While this silence may have little to do with an all-seeing-eye or a required online connection (we can’t be too sure about that yet), you may very well bet your ass that this has something to do with used games. Though my facts were incorrect in my last predictions on 5/24, my hypothesis still remains. As the only console publisher who practiced online passes, Sony cannot afford to lose third party support to Microsoft who’s giving those publishers the wheel on used games.

And if any of you think you’re pissed about these policies, you should check out this guy:

We can look forward to perhaps E3 and the coming weeks after for confirmation on policies on these next gen platforms.

You Probably Shouldn’t Work for Trendy Entertainment (6/7)

Kotaku posted a complete investigation this past week on Trendy Entertainment, the studio behind Dungeon Defenders, who are now working on Dungeon Defenders 2. The investigation began with information from whistle blowers communicating complains on the company’s sexist and belittling mistreatment of their employees, most of which was coming from the studio’s president and co-founder, Jeremy Stieglitz.

Stieglitz was said to run the company through intimidation to the point that some of the employees were too afraid to take vacation. Even one admitted missing his cousin’s funeral in fear of losing his job.

Up to 9 whistle blowers came forward reporting that half a dozen of its members quit in just two months, and that more have claimed that they will leave as well once Dungeon Defenders 2 is finished.

Trendy Entertainment is said to be poorly managed, as crunch time lasted all year round. The company even received $18.2 million from a New York venture capital firm, though none of the pressures within the work environment changed.

Stieglitz, who had fired the lead designer for Dungeon Defenders 2, had allegedly scrapped part of the game’s creative direction, and ordered the team to make it more like League of Legends, beating the “Does League do it? No? Then it's a waste of time” mentality into its developers.

This intent on aping one of the most successful MOBA games came from the same man who said this, “Everyone on the team fondly recalls the old-school days when games were packed with crazy innovative ideas. Nowadays, it seems in many cases that sense of risk-taking innovation and genre-mashup is lost by the major developers, while a lot of the indies are producing titles that are more like pretentious art pieces than practical entertainment. The Trendy team looks to develop original in-house games that are appealingly innovative while being obviously fun for a broad range of gamers.”

The sexism practiced at Trendy ran from the institutional to the interpersonal. For two job seekers looking for the same position, one a man, the other a woman, the man was offered $3,850 a month whereas the woman was only offered $3,000. When it came to interacting with women, Stieglitz was allegedly professionally inappropriate, not looking at them directly and yelling at them while standing outside the room.

Lastly, some Skype logs showed the president describing his preferred physical features in one of his female characters, wanting her to look like a Brazilian super model, having an attractive ass, he emphasized a point about boobs, wanted to display the thong-ness in their pants, and even spoke about a character looking younger than 18 robot years.

Notice the statement “It’s worth waiting for” in pink with the suggestively positioned elf.

It’s truly disgusting and fetish-like behavior that’s made even more disturbing coming from a leadership position.

We have enough studios feeling the pressure under crunch time, and women all over the industry (and throughout the nation) have been subjected to unequal pay, unfavorable disrespect, and – back to the games industry – forced to tolerate sexualized misrepresentation. Trendy Entertainment seems to be the fluster fuck of most of the ills we see in games studios, and it’s time they see a radical restructuring from the top down.

Look forward to our E3 coverage with Ryan William on the show floor, my hands on impressions on Nintendo’s titles, and our reactions to the event.

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