RAISING THE NEXT GENERATION OF SMARTER GAMERS

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Monday, August 26, 2013




With the advances in technology behind video games and the brink of new consoles. I just wanted to take some time and make a statement about the next new era of video games. This words I say are just the cautionary advice for those that want to keep enjoying video games. Video games crafted in the ways we know, and video games crafted with mindset of evolving with the users best interests.


The new terminology that is thrown around in the video game industry is the very first item I want to address.


FREE TO PLAY MODEL


My experience with this model is expect to pay more than $60 dollars for that game. Which is completely fine if that game is everything it promised to become. Hell if I could have given Bungie at the time more than my $180 for Halo 3 (three scratched discs and dlc) I would have. For that game felt like Bungie loved pleasing me. But I would not force it upon all players that enjoyed Halo as much as me to pay $180 for that experience.

But for future gamers I would like for you to look at it from this perspective when playing free to play games. Limit yourself, establish a set amount of money in total that you would give that game. Because more and more, users are shelling out $300+ dollars on single video games.


Fine if the game can complete all your desires there is nothing wrong with enjoying our hobby. Nothing wrong with supporting your favorite developer. But at one point you have to realize there is a publisher behind that developer and that all your money is not going solely into the hands that crafted the game.


I expect in the near future this business model will plague the video game industry. Newer players will argue with the free to play model you get to see exactly what you are getting before you buy. I would counter and say in the past we called those demos. From a demo you can determine if you enjoy a game or not. Most free to play games, place you in a “demo world” void of all the accessories that others around you are using. How do you know if you like a game when you are only allowed access to such a small percentage. That’s when you either cave in or move on. Most cave in and say $10 can’t hurt thus starting the slippery slope.   


tl;dr Free to play limit yourself to only spending what you would on a normal title.


CLOSED BETA


This one is the least lethal of all the terms I want to speak about, but you can still find some flaws. Yes it feels great to see and play a product well before its release. However as a person who has been paid to play numerous games years, months before they came out i’d advise against it.


Companies need testers and if you are doing the job for free they just got over on you. Sure you may have saved them a buck or two but unless they are going to directly pass the buck onto you i’d be as bold to say you got shafted. In game titles and forum badges mean nothing in terms of economy. If you are going to do a business the favor of by passing paying for a service at least demand some in-game monetary compensation.


If a company was developing an experimental cure for cancer and they wanted to test on me. I would not do it for free, because if that cure is a success are they going to make money, yes am I going to see any of it no. I am not being greedy i am simply asking that if I am going to lend you my time and services just consider my efforts with a monetary reward. Say you are testing a new MMORPG the devs can reward you a rare armor for your time, right?


tl;dr If the devs cannot reward you for your time, then they do not value you as person.


OPEN PUBLIC BETA


This one is where the user base is the problem vs the dev. being the problem. I’ll elaborate so hear me out on this one. It’s an illusion that many crafty publishers have been using in recent times. You are not a beta tester, if you are not specifically filling out forms and questionnaire each and every time you have a play experience.


This is where most gamers that participate have it wrong they believe their feedback is valued. At the point of open Beta the company is simply data mining. They are collecting all data they need from their expected user base. If the public has access to it then they are beyond testing. To even make it to the mass market the internal testing team has already factored into the decisions presented to you. Your input is almost purely useless when it comes to public betas.


FOUNDER'S PROGRAMS


Paying for a game sight unseen is becoming rapidly popular. A little bit too popular, to the point now companies are looking at it as a way to cash in big on consumers. They are dining on fans wallets because we are overzealous with our interpretations of what they are actually selling. They can touch on buzz words and we are hooked. Them simply reading out a script of are dream scenario and boom money is being thrown at them to make it. The question is sight unseen can we really trust them to deliver.


If the concept was so unbelievably awesome then why are we not presented with a working demo? As long as you question this you are on the right track. A running presentation of what they have labored at intensely in order to gain our approval should be the normal. Why are they not showcasing an alpha build we are going to be asked to play and test. The answer to that why, people is that they can sell you a dream, and deliver a nightmare once they have your dollars. I'm not painting video game companies as evil, but more and more we can see some bad apples ruining the bunch.

  
Remember as a kid when you asked your parents for money. First thing they asked was what for and you overhyped what you wanted. Well now you are an adult do not overhype things you want to buy for yourself.


JUST BE A SMARTER CONSUMER

For anyone that follows videogames and the newest and latest controversy this was written with Mechwarrior Online's latest issues. Which can stand as an example of how these ideas sound great at first but can wither very very quickly. The overall lesson is that buyer beware exists more than ever in video games. With kickstarter funds popping up for every genre possible. Now we must understand that we must go into these agreements with a list of demands and not blindly throw money at what sounds great on paper. 

I love video games, I just want to continue playing them for reasonable prices, and continue the increase of user/dev communication lines. 

THE STATE OF MULTIPLAYER GAMING




This is going to make a lot of enemies and this is completely fine with me because it needs to be said. Today’s average online gamers skill is probably at an all time low. There I said it and stand by it, and will say it again and again until you kids step your game up. There are many factors that have lead to the decline of skilled players. In my opinion the biggest factor is players attitudes.


I frequent all types video game oriented sites, and enjoy reading the voice of the community. I stumbled across something that disturbed the hell out of me pertaining to the Battlefield series. I screen capped it and here you can just go ahead and view it. The context is a group of BF3 players added a feature to their server.



In a game called Battlefield, where the premise of gameplay is to kill the other team until the round is over. These kids made a fucking surrender feature in a First-Person Shooter. If enough players vote to surrender the match ends and the team immediately takes a loss. Who in their right mind turns on a fps to surrender because the enemy team is beating them. I jumped through the comments and of course there was a great deal of logic there arguing that this system goes against playing “Pure” Battlefield. The whole mission statement that these guys built their community upon.(Playing Battlefield as close to how the Developers designed it to be played) They then go completely against that ideal and create this crap.
They are turning the system of the game against players who are playing the game correctly. Imagine your team is working together like a perfectly oiled machine and all of sudden the game just ends. Instead of being rewarded for spectacular teamwork and gameplay you are disciplined. Taught the lesson that if you are doing a great job at playing the game the way it was designed you are doing it wrong. I absolutely despise this type of gaming and would never ever play on this type of server.


Admin. Abuse


This is the next idiotic feature that plagues online video gaming. If you are playing better than a player they do not have to suffer at all they simple kick or ban you from the server. Simple as that, no rebuttal, no appeal, nothing just a notification saying you cannot play because your skillset is greater than the admin.  This is why video gamers suck at the games they play. As soon as they meet someone who is higher rank they kick them out of the game. Instead of playing against a player of higher skill and taking the good with the bad, they ruin others experience.


I have seen swapping and changing of teams where admins put all the skilled players on their team. Then as soon as a skilled player switches to fight against the stacked team he is instantly kicked. Because he wanted to play fairly and not stack against lower ranked players. This plague of shitty host and cheating admins comes with no consequence in most games and their communities. To me it seems as if the developers promote this behavior because it goes unregulated. Communities ignore this toxic behavior because they are all built upon these shitty tactics.


As much as I hear gamers complain about pay 2 win, admin to win is just a bad. These crappy players are the majority in the community that is why you do not see boycotted servers and players. Instead you have people that join and play mediocre in order not to call attention to themselves that would upset the admins.


How Video Game Developers are at fault


Not only are particular communities, toxic players, and career noobs responsible for skill decline. Developers are also responsible. When you have developers listening to members in the community that have abysmal k/d, few hours in the game, and a slew of suggestion that is where they fuck up royally. Why would they listen to the complaints of the lowest tier players? It would be like a teacher changing test material based on the knowledge of the failing students.


Another issue with developers and publishers is the lack of reading material/instruction booklets included in modern games. Of course this issue is bigger than just the lack of skills players have, but its definitely a factor. Some players may need a booklet to better explain the gameplay to them and for this to be taken away from modern games contributes to the decline in knowledge and skills. On this issue I will offer a solution. Since video game developers want to cut cost in the in-depth tutorials these days. They should look to their top community contributors on social media ahem youtubers. Simply hire them on to do in depth tutorials for their games and offer them exclusive footage, hell even offer them some damn money. Most users go to youtube for tips and tricks why not developers sponsored tutorials.

PIKMIN 3 REVIEW: GARDEN VARIETY

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Reviewed by: Jamaal Ryan
We’ve waited for it for many years.
In these nine long years, skipping an entire console generation, the follow up to Pikmin 2 has become sort of a myth over the near decade – Wii re-releases aside. This aching wait has been ever more painful with the starving library of Wii U titles thus far. But our stomachs needn’t growl any more. Pikmin 3 is finally here, and it’s a well-served entrĂ©e that satiates our appetite both for the long dormant franchise and Nintendo’s struggling platform.
It’s a return to form in an expected way, one that we should have gotten many years ago. New Pikmin equals new types of challenges, and though the three leader system isn’t a revolutionary game changer for the Pikmin franchise, it’s a welcomed addition that makes multitasking more dynamic.
Pikmin 3 feels like the first Nintendo title to take full advantage of the Wii U's HD capabilities. There's a stark difference between the cutesy Pikmin and the explorers, and the heavily detailed vacant backyard environments along with some terrifyingly bizarre and often fascinating beings. It all manages to create this enrapturing, cohesive visual taste despite its clash of different art styles. Lush textured plant life with a smearing rainbow of beaded Pikmin marching afoot on top rain saturated dirt while passing truly perplexing looking creatures is endearing, curious, and even frightening at times. Nintendo's first full HD push looks better than anything the system has released, and arguably anything in the near future.
The backyard we wish we had.
While Pikmin 3 represents what the system is capable of graphically, it sets zero standards when it comes to ergonomics. The pinnacle of Pikmin controls is a thing of the past, remaining in what we’ve seen in the Wii remakes. Pikmin 3 offers two different control methods (three if you want to count the utterly dismissible Pro Controller configuration), none of which are perfect.
The Wiimote works as it should, bringing that immediacy of control Pikmin should have. However when plotting out more complex strategies, you must have the Wii U Gamepad in handy, reaching over to draw a path for companions. I’ve never been a fan of letting go of my controller while I’m playing a game, and this sort of juggling is exactly what the rising trend of “second screen” functionality shouldn’t be.
Moving over to the Gamepad, while your entire range of control remains in your hands, it’s frankly an embarrassment to the Wii U as a console and even to Pikmin 3 itself. It in no way shape or form legitimizes nor evangelizes the near 10 year wait to this platform. The use of a touch screen should be a bedrock of control for a strategy game; however the Gamepad only serves as a convenience so that you don’t have to reach for it. Ideas such as selecting points of interests or enemy targets, and seamlessly picking which Pikmin type or leader you would like to use from the touch screen is nonexistent here; and I can’t imagine this succumbed to the limitations of the antiquated touch surface.
Aiming your reticule is serviceable with the left analog stick, however there will be instances where you’ll fight with the cursor and your leader since aiming and movement are both mapped to the left analog stick. Your choice becomes based on personal preference. Do I sacrifice some control from having to reach over and pick up my Gamepad every few minutes, or do it deal with the limitations and play with an analog stick handicap?
Does Pikmin play like utter shit? No. Not even close. As a matter of fact, within minutes, you’ll get over and forget much of the awkwardness of control (well, maybe not so much when you’re reaching for the Pad using the Wiimote option). But if this is what we’re left with, then this game would have been better served last generation.
The idea of Pikmin, regardless of controls, has hardly changed. You and your intrepid lot of minions and explorers embark on quests of discovery in foreign lands, reaching key items of interest whist gathering and maintaining your Pikmin count and resources along the way.
Pikmin, the titular budded little life forms, hold different attributes and characteristics; Red Pikmin are fierce combatants and are resistant to fire, yellow Pikmin are expert diggers and can utilize their immunity to channel electricity, and blue Pikmin can fully function under uncharted waters. Pikmin 3 adds two new types, Rock Pikmin and Flying Pikmin, whose names leave little mystery to their smashing and airborne specialties.
Your devout subjects.
The key here is to increase, sustain, and manage your Pikmin count, ensuring that you have the right type and quantity for the job, whether that might be holding the right amount of Rock Pikmin to smash an enemy’s crystalized exterior, leading a group of Yellow Pikmin to deactivate an electrically charge gate, or sending off a cluster of Blue Pikmin to wither down an underwater blockage.
This right-tool-for-the-right-job design facilitates Pikmin 3 three leader divide and conquer system. The level design is a bit overbearing for just one captain. And though Olimar is mostly referenced, yet never controlled, you’ll become responsible for three leaders. Tasks become dense in quantity the further you go and depending on how much you want to do which encourages you to divide your party and have each take different responsibilities across the map (this is the deciding factor of which control scheme you’d rather use).
You can have one leader monitoring Pikmin while they chip away at a dirt wall, another standing by as Pikmin pluck and transport special berries that fuel their Spicy Spray energizer, and have the last act as a sweep, hanging by the ship where your Pikmin wait after gathering fruit and creature corpses. The trio can also be used for certain puzzles that require having more than one active leader at a time.
Just as Pikmin's past, the creatures are equally interesting to look at as they are to fight. They're often fusions are real world animals and insects amalgamated with parts and behaviors of others to create interesting encounters. Roaming enemies often call for a specific Pikmin type, whether that may be the Fiery Blowhog or the electrically charged Bearded Amprat. Boss fights – which get a special mention of boasting the most awe inspiring creature designs in the game -- require multiple methods of attack with various stages demanding a quick change in strategy.
Frighteningly gorgeous.
All of your tasks and casual ventures would be so much more fluid of Pikmin weren’t so damn stupid however.
The Pikmin AI isn't the best. They require close supervision as they’ll likely get caught in tight corners and are in need of explicit direction -- leading them around water instead of assuming they would and risk them gleefully gallivanting through it -- to ensure their safety. They’re also quite impulsive. Abandoning Pikmin from your command and leaving them to their own devices gives them free reign to interact with anything within proximity. You'll have to ensure to dismiss them away from objects of interest or they'll act independently which potentially puts them in danger.
It becomes an unnecessary chore to have to always check on your Pikmin count, stop constantly just prior to a sharp turn for peace of mind that they'll follow, and whistle herding Pikimin several times just to literally keep them in line. It's an ever existing concern that shouldn't be; and really distracts you from the fun you should be having.
Get away from there! I only ordered RED Pikmin.
Your daytime venture isn’t only governed by the need to make it back to your ship with Pikmin in tow before sunset, but also your awareness of food supplies which is sustained by the planet’s fruit – the best and most delicious looking fruit you’ll see in any video game. You’ll chip away at your reservoir of blended fruit juices daily. So it's important to prioritize fruit collecting as you'll find yourself making every trip count by finding goodies to sustain your food supply in orbit.
Pikmin 3's biggest draw is its flexible pacing thanks to its excellent sense of discovery. You will always feel like you're accomplishing something given proper planning. Whether it’s collecting fruit just to justify your trip, revealing new areas of the map, the game even allows you to escape a boss fight before sunset and return to finish the job. You're always working towards an objective no matter what pace you're playing at. And the work you put in towards that objective never bores with discoveries that await in each region which require all of your Pikmin's assets.
The final region is a well-designed culmination of all of your strategic pools -- though admittedly Flying Pikmin take a backseat -- that pushes Pikmin's philosophy of multitasking under pressure to its limits. It takes multiple trips to complete this single objective which is exactly what Pikmin 3 is all about. Albeit it's very traditional final boss fight, it's a satisfying payoff to satisfying adventure.
The Bottom Line
Was the wait worth it? Absolutely. The satisfaction of Pikmin 3 doesn’t only exist in the fact that the Wii U’s library is skeleton-thin. It delivers a sense of quality and creativity only seen in Nintendo titles, even as the franchise is so different from anything else Nintendo has ever done. And though it doesn’t always feel like a justification for being on the Wii U platform itself thanks to its cumbersome control options, it justifies the system’s ownership nearly 10 months after launch. But regardless whether this game was to be released during a software drought or a packed holiday season, Pikmin 3 is a beautiful and delightful adventure.
+ Beautifully realized world
+ Uniquely strategic
+ Addicting sense of discovery
- Imperfect control options
- Silly (stupid) Pikmin
SCORE: B
This week I'll discuss some of the highlights of Gamescom 2013 that caught my attention.

EXCITING REVEALS - DAY1


Knee Slide into Blitz Mode
In true Call of Duty fashion, last week’s Call of Duty: Ghosts’ multiplayer reveal teased a sneak peak at a new multiplayer feature at the very end of the debut trailer with a guy knee sliding into a hologram circle and vanishing into thin air. This tease was for their new multiplayer mode Blitz. It’s essentially one way capture the flag where your only objective is to run into an enemy teams’ “zone” where you’ll instantly score a point and get teleported back to your side of the map. It’s a faster and much more instantaneous game without the hassle of holding a flag, avoid dropping the flag, and if so, hoping a teammate picks up the fallen flag before it returns to the enemy base.
Infinity Ward is really embracing the speed of Call of Duty with Crank first shown off last week which forces you to earn kills as frequently as possible or you’ll explode within the countdown clock in between scores. Now with Blitz, it’s essentially about charging into an enemy team’s zone.
With match types such as Crank and Blitz mode, what will be the new Kill Confirmed from Call of Duty: Ghosts?
An inquisitional look into Dragon Age Inquisition
Immediately we get further assurance of the various locations within the new setting in Dragon Age Inquisition. Jungles, baron wastelands, adventurous mountain tops, all divided among multiple nations; Inquisition will not keep you confined in one kingdom like Dragon Age 2.
We get a snippet of what the game will look like as a massive dragon swoops in, its powerful wings whipping at the desert sand as it ascends upon a fallen statue head. It marks its new territory with an echoing roar which scatters the surrounding wildlife. It’s a gorgeous setting with glimmering water, sprouting trees, stacked canyon-red rock formations populated with animals by the already brought-to-life environment. The stone lighting, water detail, and simple movements gives us a look at what the next generation of Bioware RPGs will look like.
Hawke is gone; at least in the sense as the main character. The subtitle “Inquisition” implies you as the Inquisitor. In your choice of class, gender, and now race, you’ll build your Inquisitor in Dragon Age Inquisition. Shit’s gone sideways as they always do in RPGs, how it got sideways is after a protective veil has been breached, it let in all kinds of demons to wreak havoc on your world. As the Inquisitor, you must hunt down the one who’s responsible for triggering this event. To do this, you’ll seize control of an organization which will empower you with assets that the common folk don’t have. Being in control will allow you to send out agents on missions in addition to those you’ll take on yourself. You’ll have that same level of moral quandaries you’d expect in a Bioware RPG: who lives vs. who dies, which village will live vs. which village will die.
Bioware took an ambitious turn with Dragon Age 2, one which was divisively appreciated among fans. I cant wait to see what Dragon Age has become after two very different and very good RPGs.
Tablet Commanders
We got a look at Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare Xbox One exclusive Boss Mode which utilizes the system’s Kinect and SmartGlass functionality. Either by voice command and gestures or the use of a touch surface, players can command and supply units on the battlefield against single player controlled units. Coincidentally, a similar, but much more fundamental feature was revealed alongside its debut in Fable Legends. Up against players who will control 4 different characters and classes, the fifth player will also control units against them, taking on the role as the villain.
This is becoming more and more common for next gen titles, with Battlefield 4’s Commander mode and a Watch Dog’s adversarial mode. Seconds screen gaming doesn’t seem to be something going away anytime soon with the continuation of the Wii U’s Gamepad, Xbox’s SmartGlass, and the Playstation Vita.
Our wood for Titanfall hasn’t softened yet.
The words, “Standby for Titanfall” still gives me goose bumps.
I have no doubt that Titanfall will become one of the most spectated first person shooters of the next generation. Jet packing pilots, ascending and agile Titans, pilots being thrown or blown into a cloud of bloody bits, Respawn’s new and first shooter is eye-wateringly spectacular to watch.
Here we get a look at one of the story-like based missions that Respawn has been bragging about. The mission as the Militia is to extract a drunken pilot named Barker who’s key to the resistance. They are then intercepted by the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation.
This is Attrition Mode.
In the battlefield, you hear the IMC forces demanding Barker, as the hunt you down. All the Titanfall action is here, Titans bullet field catching and returning to sender, pilots boarding Titans seamlessly from any direction in the battlefield, watching enemy pilots jettisoning themselves out of a Titan eject and then hunting them down after their hopeful ascent. Lives are lost, and the battle came to a close as the pilots make a mad dash for Barker and the evac, ending the match.
As much as we would have liked Titanfall to be a Xbox One launch title, we’ll have to wait until Spring 2014.
Viva la Vita
If you’re saying that Vita has no games, then shut your mouth (just kidding). If you think that no games are coming out for it, then look no further than today’s mega announcements. Fez, along with Velocity 2X, Starbound, the sequel to my favorite Vita game this far – Hotline Miami – the indie hit Rogue Legacy, and many more are coming to Vita. But the biggest announcement is Borderlands 2.
Yes the time-sink co-op shooter from last year is coming to Vita, and it’s slated for 2014. Unlike 2K’s other shooter, Bioshock Infinite, after Randy Pitchford stated that he’d like to see Borderlands 2 on Vita, Gearbox has proven that they weren’t kidding.
Vita has waited a long time for a solid FPS to come to the platform. And yes, Killzone Mercenaries is coming this fall, but Borderlands 2 might be that killer app that Vita has been yearning for; and along side Hotline Miami 2, Fez, and Rogue Legacy, Playstation’s powerhouse handheld is now reaching 110% worth its purchase.
Second Son, Second set of Powers
Infamous Second Son takes the idea from Infamous 2 where Cole adopts the powers of his female companions and stretches it to all the conduits Delsin meets. In the latest Second Son trailer, we see him absorb the powers of a purple power based conduit who seemed to be terrorizing citizens. The interesting question is will Delsin’s absorbed powers be based on the decisions he makes? With the patters from the first two Infamous titles, we can very well assume so.
Look for Infamous Second Son in 2014.
The Many Layers of Beyond: 2 Souls
E3’s Somalian trailer of Beyond 2 Souls was confusing, further belittling our assumed understanding of Jodie’s life with Aiden. At Gamescom, we get yet again a different look at Jodie’s relationship with this entity, the strangely father daughter relationship with the government scientist Nathan Dawkins played by Willem Dafoe, and how Jodie’s life contains a battle for normalcy.
A purple and black hair dyed, gothic dressed Jodie has an argument with Dawkins demanding that she be allowed to carry a life of a normal teenager. We also see another Jodie, this time draped in a silky red dress before watching her mirror fracture from Aiden’s aggression, unwilling to allow her to go on her date. It’s a two way struggle as both “guardians” in her life also act as intrusions, interfering with her social life and forming her identity as an experiment, as a dangerous weapon.
I cant wait to spend several days in the life of Jodie Holmes in Beyond 2 Souls.
VITA PRICE DROP, THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE - DAY2
Tuesday’s kick-off of Gamescom 2013 was hefty with announcements and reveals from COD Ghosts’ Blitz mode and Titanfall’s Attrition mode, to a developer look at Dragon Age Inquisition and a deeper look at the quietly anticipated Beyond: Two Souls.
Today was a little lighter on announcements, but nonetheless important.
News technically broke yesterday, but we here in the states got it today. After all the awesome game announcements for the Playstation Vita, we get word that it’ll receive a much awaited price drop to $199. It’s the perfect 1-2 punch that the Vita needs; more games for less money.
Titanfall finally got in the hands of the press, and the word is that it does not disappoint. The mobility and automated actions have been described as very intuitive with “magnetic” sensitivity. Titans have been revealed to have more defensive abilities such as deployable electrically charged smoke for enemy players hopping on their backs and bubble shields after their drop from orbit. Titanfall is being constantly iterated through its pre-alpha stage, and the game already looks like it plays like a dream.
And though this is minor news, Microsoft has stated that Xbox One will “never be sold without Kinect”. This satiates my assumptions that the next gen system could be sold without the Kinect bundled -- even though Xbox One can function without it – to keep it at a competitive price against the PS4. This is reassuring, for strange people like me and I’m sure more so for developers who are thinking of integrating Kinect functionality in their games.
What's this "Automatic payments"?
But what interested me the most was the news that broke about The Elder Scrolls Online requiring a $15 monthly subscription fee. This is unexpected news considering a market where a large portion of the high profile MMOs have gone free-to-play. Their reasoning was to allow them the freedom to make the game that they want. We can assume that he means that the designers don’t have to make accommodations for the structure of the game to focus on incentivizing players to purchase goods instead of playing the game without the constant contemplation of transactions. It’s an interesting and noble stance, but unfortunately this opts me out of getting TESOL.
Like gym memberships and other participation-on-my-part monthly services, I will not always get my money’s worth for $15 a month. The extra expense feels like a dictation that I HAVE to play this game since another $15 has been deducted from my bank account. It’s a shame that Zenimax hasn’t found a way to balance the game in a way that like any GOOD free-to-play game, allows me to pay and play at my own discretion. I was excited to pick up another Skyrim experience next year, but an added expense to my already tight monthly budget? No thanks.
NEW DESTINY REVEALS - DAY3
Destiny had a pretty disappointing behind-closed-doors demo at Gamescom today, with a minor tease of “exploring in a different direction” to retreading the very mission seen at E3 earlier this year. However, a developer video revealed some new secrets about Destiny.
First off is the three weapon system, which in passing sounds insignificant; but when looking at the standard of today’s FPSs and the influence that this very developer had on it, it’s pretty remarkable. It’s strange listening to the developers categorize these three weapon slots into classes, first being an assault styled weapon. The second is more optional, described as a weapon that’s “right for the moment”, be that a magnum, a shotgun or a sniper rifle. The third is used for heavy devastation, a suppression modeled, high damage weapon that causes destruction to a lot of enemies.
The classes of each weapon matters little; it’s more so the fact that we’ll be wielding three weapons at a time. This isn’t done often in shooters at all, few being games like Gears of War which split your arsenal between a primary, secondary and handgun of some sorts. Bungie standardized the two weapons system from a time where old shooters had players juggling through an entire armory on their person. This jump from two to three, giving us a more versatile sense of fire power on the battlefield, is one of the many major changes Bungie is bringing to Destiny.
The second was a glimpse at competitive multiplayer. Destiny’s adversarial mode looks unlike anything Bungie has ever done with Halo. Matches look to be heavily reliant on space magic or “Supers” as the team calls it. Some of them look to be iterations of special equipment seen in Halo such as one that looks like a Bubble Shield and another that looks to be an offensive AOE ability that animates like Armor Lock. But as you can imagine, there are many straight up explosive projectiles seen from the mission demoes such as the Nova Bomb that causes instant devastation to multiple enemies within a certain blast radius.
From the team that defined a generation of competitive shooters, we can safely bet that Destiny will garner a strong competitive multiplayer community… along with a community for every other type of imagined mode and play style in the game.
BEYOND: TWO SOULS: TWO SCREENS - DAY 4
“Second screen gaming” has been a term that has risen within the past year. It implies that while one player controls the primary role in the game, a second player takes a secondary position, either cooperatively or adversarially, in a sort of alter-synchronous relationship with player one.
Beyond: Two Souls adopts a classical second screen design with one player controlling Jodie Holmes and the second player controlling Aiden. But at Gamescom, after the announcement of two player option in Beyond, Quantic Dream co-founder David Cage also announced that players will be able to interact with the game in a different way by taking the PS3 controller completely out of the equation and letting them control the game with just the touch device with a friend.
This is perhaps one of the most unique and important methods of utilizing touch devices in console gaming we’ve seen as of late. Cage’s team’s philosophy follows the phenomenon that followed their last PS3 title, Heavy Rain; the resounding feedback the developer has gotten about players – including myself – having spouses, parents, grandparents and significant others participate in the game as engaging spectators. Quantic Dream’s style of game draws people regardless of gaming experience thanks to their dramatic story telling.
Allowing players to control the game primarily from a touch devise pulls these style of players in, bridging their interactivity with a control scheme that tailors to a level of understanding that is as common as the use of smartphones.
As we see second screen gaming as a tertiary control method to traditional controller based gameplay, there is certainly more than enough room to allow touch devices to gravitate to the forefront. Beyond comes out this October for the Playstation 3, but hopefully this idea doesn’t live and die with that game and system.
By: Jamaal Ryan

Let’s take a looking at a week in gaming from 8/12/13 to 8/16/13. Below are two special features; one covering Call of Duty: Ghosts' multiplayer reveal, and the other discussing gamer on game developer abuse.


We’ve seen a new Xbox One. Will we see a cheaper one? (8/12)



Remember the Xbox One three months ago? 24 hour online requirement, restriction on used games, wasn’t intended to pack in with a headset, indie developers required publishing, it could not work independently from the Kinect sensor; there were many, many features that branded the Xbox One non-consumer friendly. Today, it’s almost a completely different console.

It’s quite interesting how the Xbox One has progressively aligned itself with the Playstation 4. The PS4 has no online requirements or used game restrictions, celebrated indie development at their press conference while sticking to their allowance of self-publishing, will pack in with a headset – a turnaround from the PS3’s lacking accessory, and not only can it work without the Playstation Eye – not that they were ever stupid to consider that it might not, but it will sell separately which puts it at a competitive price of $399.

Nearly all of these features now exist in the Xbox One with the exception of that fact that as of now, it will still come packed in with a Kinect sensor.

As appealing as the Xbox One is today, there are some that have shown a bit of disappointment in the system’s 180, mainly when it comes to their DRM pull. While the DRM reversal is more or less universally a good thing, seeing these continuous 180s makes me concerned that Microsoft will align itself even further, specifically with the packed in Kinect.As consumer friendly as the Xbox One is today, the Playstation 4 still has one major advantage over it, $100 difference in price. Though it may seem unlikely that that Xbox One will pack in a unit that just holds the console itself due to its “All-in-One” advertising and massive push at the reveal event in May, we’ve seen Microsoft pull crazier stunts. The Xbox One still differentiates itself hardware wise mainly because of the immediate access to the Kinect sensor. Developers can be certain that if they design a game using Kinect, all systems will be compatible with it because all of them have one packed in. But now since the console can now operate separately from the Kinect, this Kinect-less package seems a bit more likely.

There are still changes Microsoft can make to sell the console at a cheaper price without taking Kinect out of the picture. Microsoft has experimented with a subscription based SKU of the Xbox 360 with some successAfter reaching 8.5 million viewers at their reveal event pushing the message as an entertainment center, for the casual consumer, it’ll be a hard pill to swallow forking over $500+. A lower entry price point could hit that target audience they aimed for, while keeping the $499 model of us hardcore gamers.

So what will Microsoft change next? Will they find a way to make the Xbox One as cheap as or cheaper than the PS4 (and possibly the Wii U’s current price at $349)? November is just over three months away. 

Sources: IGNPolygonNeoGAF

That Dragon, Cancer coming to Ouya (8/13)



The Ouya has had trouble finding its footing in the games market. Its library is largely made up of Android based games that originated on a cell phone which hardly justify its purchase in an industry dominated by established home consoles, and its games comfortably at home among millions of Android smart phones out there. It’s been branded as having an un-user friendly experience, and it also doesn’t help that among its already available and/or uninspiring games, there are only a few that stand out such as Towerfall.

And while there are hardly any major announcements for the system, news this week reveals a major Ouya exclusive, That Dragon, Cancer. Headed by Ryan Green, That Dragon, Cancer is a game that tells his story, his struggle that he and his family face with his 4 year old son Joel who’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer while have had battled seven brain tumors thus far. It’s a touching two hour point and click adventure game who’s demo has already pulled the heart strings to tears of the press who’ve tried it at this year’s GDC.

"I think playing it in a living room with your family and friends, this experience can be a catalyst for talking about hard things. Bringing it to the living room makes a lot of sense; we wanted to make a one to two hour game, something that could be done in one sitting," Green says. A game such as this differentiates itself from the vast majority of Ouya’s library as it’s intended for a single playthrough; and as a game originally slated for PC, it opens itself up for a collaborative conversation in the living room.

There aren’t many reasons to pick up an Ouya, especially with the next generation of consoles opening up their platforms to be more indie friendly than ever before. But if the Ouya continues to pick up little potential gems such as That Dragon, Cancer, the Ouya might be the ideal little indie game platform it promised itself to be.

Source: Polygon

A Week in Gaming Special Feature (1):
Call of Duty: Ghosts Multiplayer Reveal
Reported on August 14th 2013


If you’re not a Call of Duty fan, it’s likely difficult to win you over. But let’s set aside the fanboy slamming and semi-legitimate claims that the franchise is samey year after year. Call of Duty Ghosts has brought a bevy of changes to virtually every single facet of the game: from movement to how you customize your loadout, to player immersion, and of course, new game modes, weapons, and Killstreaks.

Yes, that Eminem joint Survival was dope.
Game Modes
Infinity Ward is very good at messing with vanilla COD rules to create abominable match types. Game modes like Cranked push the offensive nature of Call of Duty to its limits; pressuring players to keep a kill momentum by eliminating enemy players as frequently as possible or they’ll explode within the initiated countdown clock. Smartly included are earned perks that make you faster each time you get a kill. Low latency 60 frames per second damn well means something here. Search and Rescue adds an element of Kill Confirmed into its game mode where after a player dies, if an ally picks up the tag, then they’re revived; if an enemy picks it up, they’re out for the round.
Soldier Customization
There seems to be this obsession of character customization that I can never understand in first person shooters. I tinker with my Halo 4 Spartan because I spend so much time looking at him in the lobby screen. Call of Duty Ghosts finally gives the option to decorate and alter your appearance as a soldier. I remember watching the Xbox One event edition of Podcast Unlocked, and one of the fans pointed out that she didn’t see any indication that we could play as a female soldier. Well in that case, Ghosts has got you covered with female soldiers.

Infinity Ward shepherded the mainstream use of loadout customization with Call of Duty 4, and though Treyarch took the franchise in an all new direction with the Pick 10 system (which Infinity Ward respectively gave credit to), Ghosts is seeing an even higher levels of customization options. Treyarch went in one direction by offering only a small handful of perks in Black Ops 2, Ghosts gives us a whapping 35 perks to choose from. With a similar idea to the Pick 10 system, you can chose as many or as few perks you want. Perks are now divided into categories such as Speed, Stealth, and Awareness. Each category holds perks that are as cheap as 1 point and can cost as much as 5. Essentially, players can hold up to 11 perks if they free up enough space in their loadout.
Squads Mode
In my mind however, that transitions over to Squads Mode. Give me one guy or gal to look at, and I wouldn’t pay them no mind; give me 10, and I’ll start to diversify. In Ghosts multiplayer, you’re allowed up to 10 characters to customize, each with their own builds and loadouts. This excites me as one who never prestiged and was stuck with 5 loadout slots.
Speaking of prestiging, though it wasn’t explained properly at the event, instead of losing all of your unlocks, prestiging will evidently unlock another soldier in your squad until you’ve reached the full 10. FINALLY, after 6 whole years, we get a Call of Duty where prestiging doesn’t only avoid being a punishing trade off, but it adds to your custom options. Squad members can also be brought into squad based matches that are either solo, competitive, or co-op including Safeguard, a wave based multiplayer mode that’s similar to MW3’s most underrated mode, Survival.
In some of these match types in Squads Mode, you’ll be facing up against AI. Now the AI in Call of Duty has never been the best; in many ways, Black Ops 2’s Strike Force Mode highlighted how piss poor their behavior was. However Infinity Ward claims in Squads, the AI has been programed to use more human tactics such as Drop Shot and Side Strafe. It’s an interesting take on the COD multiplayer that we may not have asked for, but may wonder where it has been in all of our COD careers.
Tons of Weapons
Infinity Ward’s executive producer Mark Rubin boasts about the all new weapon class as being the Marksman Rifles, however such a class of weapons has always existed in Call of Duty. They were simply semi-automatic assault rifles in the assault rifle class. However this time, some, if not all, of the rifles can be modded with a three round burst trigger, taking after Black Ops 2’s weapon behavior attachments. In addition to this, Ghosts comes with 30+ weapons, giving players such as myself well over 100 hours of strictly gun experimentation.
Bring Back the Killstreaks
Infinity Ward is the studio leader when it comes to Killstreaks in the Call of Duty franchise. While Treyarch admirably strives to nerf and balance the streaks, Infinity Ward is geared towards offering us more at our finger tips; in Ghosts, we get over 20 extra Killstreaks. New Killstreaks such as Juggernaut Manic which separates itself characteristically from the offensive and defensive Juggernauts from MW3, and earns its title as a sprinting knife wielding manic; Riley, the featured Navy Seal dog at the debut of Ghosts, will be an accompanying Killstreak that will alert you for nearby enemies and attack anyone within proximity.
I was critical in my Black Ops 2 review of Treyarch ignoring Strike Packages. Thankfully while Ghosts is adopting many of the golden ideas from Black Ops 2 such as Pick 10 and streaks earned by objectives, the Assault, Support, and Specialist packages are back. Now as I’ve mentioned that Infinity Ward looked to giving us more Killstreak options, they have also made efforts to balance it even further by reducing the number of airborne rewards such as a ground based UAV that you can hide and enemy players can destroy without wasting a slot on a launcher, and reducing the lethality of Killstreaks earned in the Support class and instead making them more counteractive to offensive rewards.
My only concern is the very name, ‘Killstreaks’. Though Mark Rubin stated that completing objectives will add to your Killstreak count, he didn’t state whether if extra points earned such as SAT COMM assistance (better known currently as UAV assistance) will contribute to earning Killstreaks as well. The idea behind earning Scorestreaks was the single – and substantial -- improvement that Black Ops 2 implemented into Call of Duty's streak system. I’d hate to see that go away on Ghosts.
Dynamic Maps
I was skeptical of the Dynamic Map system they announced at the Xbox One reveal, but seeing it in action made me a believer. This isn’t your simple minor alteration seen in the Black Ops games, these are level altering changes from toppling gas stations, to triggered traps, to map recreating Killstreaks. This isn’t near the level of skyscraper leveling Battlefield 4, but it’s a major change for the franchise, and adds another layer of spontaneity to this hair-trigger shooter.
Ear Rattling Sound
Audio has always been a Call of Duty strong suit just purely based on its ballistic action. Now, Infinity Ward has taken it to an all new level of immersion with their new engine. The sound dynamically changes based on the environment you’re in. Gun fire will soften in an enclosed carpeted room and echo in a large metal lined space; gates will rattle behind me after a grenade explodes in front of me. Battle chatter has become more and more distinguishing over the course of Call of Duty’s history. While not much of what we’ve seen in this week's reveal was a drastic change such as calling out land marks and snipers, I can’t wait to see what they’ve developed. While they mentioned how players will have better awareness of if enemies are in their space, I’m wondering if we will be able to distinguish between our footsteps and another player’s. At times, I’ve found it difficult to discern the difference when I’m moving.
All New Maneuverability and Control
We’ve heard about the new lean, slide, and vaulting mechanics at the Xbox One reveal, but seeing them in action really shows off how this bakes into the momentum of Call of Duty gameplay. Very few first person shooters use cover smartly other than those such as Rainbow Six, but leaning from cover, though not adding to the speed of the game, strangely un-affects it as we see players pop into cover and carry on. Vaulting looks exciting not only because it'll keep you running, but you can also shoot while mantling over obstacles. I’ve always stayed away from anything I’ll have to climb as it lags you into a brief moment of defenselessness. Sliding can be used in an interesting way. The reveal video showed the player sliding and turning their view 90 degrees to take on players coming from the right in a smooth quick transition. I for one have never seen movement like this in any shooter, and I’m excited to practice using that technique as well as the other new mechanics into my routine.
One thing I did notice however was how the knifing animation has changed. Shanking someone in Call of Duty is – in my eyes – the fastest, most responsive and satisfying melee attack in any shooter. Just a swipe of the arm, and you’re dead. Now, it looks like they’ve drawn the animation out longer where the player plunges the knife into an opponent’s chest and pushes them off. Sure it’s fast, but the extra step of pushing in and shoving off takes precious milliseconds that can you can use to react to events in gameplay. I won’t know for sure how much this will impact the gameplay until I actually get my hands on.
Wrap Up
The amount of additions that Infinity Ward as brought to the Call of Duty franchise is daunting. There’s simply too many new features to comfortably process at this time, especially given that most of us haven’t even played the game yet. Call of Duty: Ghosts ships in just a few months, and I have a feeling that many players will spend more time adjusting to all the changes then they have in a Call of Duty game in many years. See you online on November 5th.
A Week in Gaming Special Feature (2):
Stop Talking Shit to our Developers
Reported on August 16th, 2013
You ever pick up a game and think to yourself, “Who’s the idiot that thought up this idea?” Have you ever been enraged by understatedly inconvenient assets such as an always online requirement, nerfing patches of your favorite weapons, or just feel that a developer is just too damn smug to be speaking his mind?
Did you ever want to direct that frustration in the form of hateful language towards them?
Yeah? Well you should stop right there.
Gamer to game maker hate has been a rising concern seeing recent exacerbation in the past year. Developers have been victims of abuse, an inevitable product of fame gone ramped. Name calling, vicious berating, and death threats have all become a part of consumer abuse.
This seems to be an issue in the games industry for a few reasons. We as gamers are sometimes heavily attached and unknowingly fanatical about the products of our pass time, the characters in our products, the fiction in these titles, and the spaces and specific tools that we use to enjoy our games and have fun. Some of us have a monetary relationship with these games shortly after their inception, participating in crowd funding like Kickstater and Indiegogo. It’s a passion that we can’t measure of a medium that we can argue is the best form of entertainment. If the catalysts of our attachment is f**ked with, we flip.
Gamers also are very much in tuned with social media; the forums, Twitter, Facebook, and message boards. Our passion has led us to knowing our products inside and out and knowing who’s responsible. Pissed off gamer + easy access + having easy access to whom= slandering, threatening, trolling, and other uses of hurtful language.
For many of us, it’s simple anger; sometimes it leads us to join a conversation (conversation is a very generous term for hateful trolling) where the topic and opinion resonates with us. Few of us get so enmeshed in it, that we rot and persist in such vile behavior.
The Cyberbullying Research Center see these actions as triggered by a “disconnect” between who we are and our internet aliases. On an episode of Podcast Beyond, Greg Miller discussed how some raging Twitter followers are profusely apologetic when they’re responded to, not thinking that their message will be read. It’s like shouting I WANT TO KILL EVERYONE only to then quickly clasp your mouth once you realize someone is nearby. On the same subject, Colin Moriarty firmly stated that he’s still waiting for someone to say hurtful things directly to him in person, “because no one has ever had the balls” to say it to his face.
He’s absolutely right. The homophobic and racist chatter in matchmaking lobbies is hardly ever heard in the general public.
But we get so engaged in such a deplorable manner that we don’t realize who we’re effecting. When it comes to game developers, we forget to parse the difference between a AAA studio and an indie developer. Sometimes we know exactly who we’re speaking to, and attack with more venomous language at representing faces of an indie team.
Bioware writer Jennifer Helper was vilified, targeted to take the blame for Dragon Age 2’s radical change in its combat style to the point that she received threats, both via online messaging and phone calls, to her children’s and family’s lives. David Vonderhaar was targeted with similar threats to some simple weapon balancing in Black ops 2. These are people behind large development studios, hardly the face of each company. But people like George Lucas shows that even one of a large entertainment company can be turned away by hateful fans, and we got to see that recently with Phil Fish.
But no matter the victims, big or small, they can be affected by consumer abuse. We’ve seen large studios bend at the sheer volume and will of the consumer with Bioware’s alternate ending to Mass Effect 3. While not a fan of the ending myself, many have noted how frightening it was for the industry that Bioware gave under pressure. They unintentionally made an example out of themselves which can give reason to the inevitable next protest to a game’s creative choice. Indie developers are all the more vulnerable. They do not have the capacity to guard themselves with a PR buffer to moderate the hate. When trolls attack with flame throwers, they’re taking the brunt of the scorch directly.
Bioware’s bend and Phil Fish’s bowing out are only the beginning to what may continue to encourage consumer hate. Developers, AAA or indie, need to prepare themselves for the onslaught of hostile fanaticism. They must ignore, and if possible, impose consequences to those who irrationally threaten their lives. But changing behavior shouldn’t only be about punishment. They should also be directly responsive to those who convey their concerns and even offer their ideas as ways to reward consumer feedback.
We need to encourage keeping the gaming space a healthy and productive community. Give attention to those who deserve it, not to those who demand it.