Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why Can't I Be By Myself: The Woes of Playing Destiny as a Recluse

It's taken just under two weeks for me to start my adventure, but I decided to pop in Destiny tonight and give it a whirl. I played the public beta when it was available, and it greatly raised my views of the game. Prior, I had almost no interest in the game, primarily because impressions of the game billed it as "Halo meets Borderlands". While I'm a fan of the former, I can't get into the grove of the latter; that's coming from someone who owns Borderlands 2 across three devices.

Since I had played the beta, I whizzed right through the first mission, met my Lil' Dinklage Ghost, and flew off to the Tower. I did the few bits of loot gathering, equipped what I had, and blasted off into orbit to go off to my second mission. It was here that I found a feature that was either missing in the beta, or something I glanced over: privacy settings.

Sweet Thor, thank you!

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Potential of the New 3DS

If you haven't seen the news yet - or the Facebook feed where I apparently can't shut up about it - Nintendo announced a new 3DS, called the New 3DS.

And you thought I was crazy to liken Nintendo to Apple.

The system launches October 11th in Japan, with the European release to hit "sometime" in 2015 (it's assumed that NA will get it in 2015, as well). The regular 3DS and 3DS XL (LL in Japan) are both getting major revisions: a C-Stick nestled above the face buttons on the right, ZL/ZR buttons horizontally aligned with the exiting L/R buttons, micro SD card support, enhanced 3D that follows your face to reduce blur and enhance the "sweet spot" to view 3D, an ambient light sensor for auto-brightness, colored face buttons that mimic the Super Famicom controller (as opposed to the purple SNES buttons), a beefed-up CPU, and built-in NFC support into the lower touch screen. Yes, you read that right: four shoulder buttons and a second analogue stick.

Just...don't get too excited about the C-Stick. It is an itty-bitty nub that sits in the gap next to the touch screen, the hinge, and the Y/X buttons. Nintendo has even gone as far as comparing it to the GameCube's own C-Stick. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Yes, Pre-Orders are Bad for the Industry. Stop Telling Yourself Otherwise.

Image: Gawker

This started out as an "explain like I'm five" translation of a recent Polygon article on the same subject, but by the time I finished, it felt worthy of a blog entry. Enjoy the copy/pasta:

Companies want to ensure they will get their money back from making the game. Instead of waiting until the game comes out for people to tell their friends about the game, they'll give you free stuff for pre-ordering. To them, waiting until release day to find out their return is sort of like you waiting until payday to know how much you're making for that period (this analogy really only works for hourly employees versus salaried). Unlike us, they are putting money into a product and may or may not get that money back, so they need to find a way to get a fix on what their return will look like.

This guarantees that you, the consumer, gets bonus content (or, rather, added value) to your purchase, and the company has a quasi-guarantee of ~$60 coming their way at a pre-determined time. I say "quasi-" because you can cancel the pre-order at any time (unlike Sony). $60 is a hard pill to swallow for a lot of people, and those people don't see value in the game at $60; that's why they'll wait for it go on sale, buy it used, or - like me - rent it. Adding value to the purchase by incentivizing it with bonus content is their goal, and hoping that, with that content, you will see the value in a $60 purchase, and not wait for a sale.

On the surface, it appears they're giving you free stuff for being a loyal fan. Deep down, this is their way of ensuring investors that the games they're investing millions of dollars into will be successful. Moar pre-orders == happy investors == happy CEOs. This also locks you into a particular retailer - Amazon, Best Buy, and GameStop - and makes you a loyal customer, because they'll dish out bonus reward points for pre-ordering. You'll have a pool of reward points, and you can only use them at that retailer. Here’s the important bit: you're not a “loyal customer” to that chain; your wallet has become a slave to that company.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

[E3 2014] Third-Party Predictions

I'll be breaking up my predictions into platform specific (Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony), along with a post dedicated to third-parties. I don't have a schedule, but expect all four posts to be published before E3's start. Check out the hub for other prediction posts as they're published.

While the Big Three will most likely have some third-party action on stage, every major player is going to have their own announcements to make, most of which will have their own press conference. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

[E3 2014] Sony Predictions

I'll be breaking up my predictions into platform specific (Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony), along with a post dedicated to third-parties. I don't have a schedule, but expect all four posts to be published before E3's start. Check out the hub for other prediction posts as they're published.

First things first, Sony is riding high into this year's E3, still rolling off of success after success. Their head is high, their horse is brushed pristinely, but it's going to be fairly easy for them to stumble this year; last year's E3 was a high point in the house of PlayStation.

Since launch, the PlayStation 4 has outsold the Xbox One month after month, even during March when Titanfall launched. They launched Infamous: Second Son to very solid reviews (and even better sales, even though it's here in software sales that Titanfall won), they have the - purported - best version of Watch Dogs to play, The Last of Us: Remastered is up for a summer release - as is PlayStation Now - and it's only May.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

[E3 2014] Microsoft Predictions

I'll be breaking up my predictions into platform specific (Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony), along with a post dedicated to third-parties. I don't have a schedule, but expect all four posts to be published before E3's start. Check out the hub for other prediction posts as they're published.

Microsoft has to run a marathon next month. They've teased the future, but haven't shown anything tangible. They've announced two key pieces for their future: offering the Xbox One without Kinect for $100 less (which I've covered in great detail), and Halo 5: Guardians is a real thing, but not until next year. The hype train is about to leave the station for Microsoft, so all aboard.

The Expected

We should be getting (in the very least) a proper trailer for Halo 5: Guardians on stage at E3, but how is Microsoft going to go two years without Halo on the Xbox One? Frankly, they're not. That's why Halo 2 Anniversary Edition will be announced for a 2014 release. This isn't speculation, this is grounded in reality; 2014 is the ten year anniversary of Halo 2. Bonnie Ross, GM of 343, had said last year "in 2014, Halo combat will truly evolve and your journey with Halo on Xbox One begins." Yes, that was last year, but she remained adamant during the Halo 5: Guardians announcement that Halo on Xbox One starts this year, and it's good to know; this would come to be the second holiday season without Master Chief. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

[E3 2014] Nintendo Predictions

I'll be breaking up my predictions into platform specific (Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony), along with a post dedicated to third-parties. I don't have a schedule, but expect all four posts to be published before E3's start. Check out the hub for other prediction posts as they're published.

I've already said my peace on what I expect from Nintendo. While it was a bit outlandish, at the core, it speaks the truth: new franchise entries (Metroid, Zelda, Star Fox), exclusive titles, both new and old (Bayonetta 2, for starters), Majora's Mask 3D (just so that corner of the internet can shut the fuck up), overhaul of what Nintendo Network is capable of doing, and a massive Virtual Console flood of titles, with better pricing. Despite my wet dream being outlandish, there's a lot grounded in reality, and quite a bit of it is what I fully expect from Nintendo next month.

They need to show they're not fucking around anymore. They keep saying they're not directly competing with Microsoft and Sony, but you're in the same business. You cannot rest on your laurels, because those achievements - while respected industry wide - are not doing shit for you now. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

[E3 2014] Your Speculation Destination

I'll be breaking up my predictions into platform specific (Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony), along with a post dedicated to third-parties. I don't have a schedule, but expect all four posts to be published before E3's start. Keep your eyes here on the hub for each prediction post as it's published.

[UPDATE 4] Your final update is here; third-party predictions are live, and not a moment to spare!

[UPDATE 3] Well, shit, that was fast. Sony predictions are up!

[UPDATE 2] Microsoft predictions are live!

[UPDATE] Nintendo speculations are now live! Check the link at the bottom of the post.

We're just a few weeks away from the start of E3, the first of the eighth generation where all three major players - Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony - have their newest systems out in full force. While the Xbox One and PS4 are not even a year old, Nintendo is in the second year of the Wii U, but has the most work to do. The PS4 has already over taken Nintendo in sales by a million and a half, but Microsoft is still trailing behind. Way behind.

And here you thought that Titanfall was going to help.
Even two months after Titanfall and Microsoft giving it away, they are still trailing behind Sony by 3 million units. Nintendo is in a stride, clocking in a respectable 6.2 million units, two and a half years after it's release. While several million sounds nice, they're going at about 350,000 a month, whereas Microsoft is more than double that, and Sony adding a "1" to the front of that number. 

E3 has always been a time where the big boys show off what they have in store. We've seen some promises of some key franchises, or at least them alluding to them, but nothing has been concrete. 

I've said that Nintendo has the most to earn at E3: a lot of their key franchises have yet to hit the system after this long (or even be announced), their online infrastructure sucks, and their DRM is pathetic. They need to earn gamers and consumers back to the Wii brand by educating them on what the system does, prove it has games to play by actually showing games - ones that people will want to play - and by overhauling what the system is capable of. They need Santa giving out blowjobs again (yes, the link is SFW). 

Sony, on the other hand, has the most to lose: they're in the lead, still running off of Jack Tretton's E3 2013 steam, with a 3 million unit lead on Microsoft. They need to come out swinging, again, with reveals of new IPs and new entries in established franchise. Not only that, but show the future of what the PlayStation systems (both the 4 and Vita) can do, and what they can do together.

Microsoft, however, has the most to prove: they're in the biggest rut, still making repairs from Don Mattrick's horrible attempt to make repairs since last year. They need to prove that they've been listening to gamers - those they lost to Sony - by showing off what the Xbox One is capable of, and what experiences they've been working on. 

What do I expect from everyone? A lot, actually.

Nintendo - Now Available
Microsoft - Now Available
Sony - Now Available
Third-Parties - Now Available

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Microsoft Disconnects Xbox One and Kinect, Drops the Price by $100, and That's a Bad Thing

Microsoft finally did what the gaming community asked it to do since E3 last year, and have removed Kinect from the Xbox One system bundle, and dropped the price by $100. While this doesn't begin until June 9th, it's happening.

Phil Spencer came out and announced it all in video form (also announcing that media streaming apps are no longer locked behind the Xbox Live Gold paywall). The June 9th date is a prominent one - being the first day of E3, and Microsoft's press conference - and removing the Kinect from the bundle to drop the price was the last thing that needed to be done.

The Kinect is a vital selling tool of the system. It's also a development tool for the system. While I am not a fan of the Kinect and what it does - I would go as far as saying "I hate the Kinect" - it's important to the experience of what the system is. I hate the voice control aspect, and my initial issues during my limited time of using the system - unresponsive, unrecognized commands, unable to focus on me, the only person in front of it - are shared by others in the industry (Note: for the record, no, I do not own an Xbox One. There's not a game on the system that I want to play, and it's something I simply cannot afford at this point. It's just a matter of when I will own one.)

That's John Drake, director of publishing and PR at Harmonix. He doesn't sound thrilled. At all.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

[REVIEW] Knack

Release Date: November 15, 2013
System Reviewed: PS4
Plays Like: Jak & Daxter, Your Worst Nightmare

Ed. Note: Reviews aren't back (seeing as the last one I did was November of 2012). It's just...goddamn, this fucking game.

Holy fucking hell, one game should not be this infuriating, this difficult, this...insanely designed to the point of making me want to shout from the roof tops: 

"Mark Cerny should be forbidden from making games forever."

Knack is exactly that. It's one game that has so many flaws, it's remarkable to believe it came from the same man who worked on franchises known industry wide. Where Knack falls apart is the horrible combat and platforming segments; essentially, what you do as the player in this game.

The controller uses only three buttons: cross, square, and circle. Jump, attack, and invoking your special attack, respectively, are the only things you are allowed to do in this game. Your special attack is merely a modifier, in that it opens up to use square, circle, and triangle for some pretty devastating attacks (whirlwind, shockwave, and ranged attacks, in that order). While Knack's attacks are simple and straight forward, the actual "fighting enemies" bit is disastrously broken.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How PlayStation Now Could be the Game Changer For This Generation

When it was announced Sony acquired Gaikai, we knew immediately how it would turn out: streaming PlayStation games. What we didn't know is how and to what. With Sony finally announcing it as the PlayStation Now service, and that we can stream PlayStation 1, 2, and 3 games, all to your PS4 (and the collective to your Vita), it blew open what was originally conceived as "being backwards compatible," something that we've taken for granted since the PS2, and have lost with the newest generation of consoles.

What PSNow offers is to make the catalogue of PlayStation games available anywhere, on your two main devices. What we've yet to learn is pricing, and structure. This is where Sony can take their mistakes - Microsoft and Nintendo's, included - and completely shit on everyone.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Nintendo's Unified Hardware Division May be for a Nintendo OS

I know, I know, don't let me hear it. I've been absent from posting OC for months, then come full-force in January with nothing but Nintendo-related articles. Hell, if it weren't for my nickname, you'd think I was a fanboy. It's only because Nintendo is the only company of the Big Three that's making headlines with what they're doing internally.

Last year, Nintendo made headlines when they merged their handheld and console divisions into one, solitary unit. Rumors were a flurry about what Nintendo was doing with this, but nothing until now has shown up. Polygon's article today highlight an investor call from last week, in which Iwata stated it's become possible for Nintendo to "achieve a fair degree of architectural integration." Considering that the first article linked mentioned that the new building's projected completion was to be towards the end of last year, it's only good news that we're already hearing something.

What does this news mean, though? Think about how the experience is between your Wii U and 3DS, and the Nintendo Network. Done? Good.

There is none.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My Nintendo E3 Wet Dream

Building off of today's announcements, Nintendo is already leading 2014 in an incredibly strong way, and they need to keep this momentum up. They need to continue with the advent of news, but they shouldn't wait until E3. Last year broke tradition, and Nintendo held a series of press conferences across a few days, focusing on various aspects, rather than strain themselves to release an onslaught of news within an hour and a half.

Now, E3 is five months away, and we've had this discussion ever year before. This year, Nintendo really needs to get the lead out, stop fucking around, and get their shit together.

Back in 2012, I wrote a huge five-piece editorial on what Nintendo can do to help their image and their next generation. I've yet to hear back from them about what I wrote, so it's doubtful they took anything to heart. Looking forward to E3 and Nintendo's second full year in the market with the Wii U, they need to pull out their guns, drop the fucking bomb, and let loose on the industry to show they're here for a long time.

Well, Today Was Fun for Nintendo

We've seen the stories about how terrible the Wii U is doing. Looking at sales information, it's sold a respectable 5.5 million units since it's release in November 2012; that's about 400,000 per month. In that same chart, the Xbox has sold 3.2 million (Microsoft says 3.9) and the PS4 has 4.6 million of itself out there. These systems came out just two and a half months ago. The Wii U is getting spanked in sales.

Who's fault is it for a system performing this poorly?

"It must be the third parties, since they're not releasing any games on it; why would we pay for a system with nothing to do?! Surely it's not Nintendo's fault; they're releasing games on it constantly!"

This argument is heard too often, it's almost deafening. The lack of third party games isn't something that can be used as fodder; three high-profile games were released for the Wii U this past holiday, Batman: Arkham OriginsAssassin's Creed IV, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. In two months time, Watch Dogs hits the system, despite the flurries of mistakenly cancelled pre-orders. Soon enough, Donkey Kong makes his way back to a home console, with Mario Kart sometime this spring, and a new Zelda game and Smash Bros. 4 hitting both the Wii U and 3DS this holiday.

The system has support, but no one's buying. One story that's been making the rounds in the past few months is Nintendo's stubbornness to assist third-party developers in times of need. And not just being stubborn, but the inability to break down language barriers when assisting overseas developers. Take a gander at this excerpt:

"After about a week of chasing we heard back from the support team that they had received an answer from Japan, which they emailed to us. The reply was in the form of a few sentences of very broken English that didn't really answer the question that we had asked in the first place. So we went back to them asking for clarification, which took another week or so to come back. After the second delay we asked why it was taking to long for replies to come back from Japan, were they very busy? The local support team said no, it's just that any questions had to be sent off for translation into Japanese, then sent to the developers, who replied and then the replies were translated back to English and sent back to us. With timezone differences and the delay in translating, this usually took a week!"

...carry the 6, multiply by 3....drop the zero...that's about 3 weeks to get an answer from Nintendo. On the other hand, Microsoft (despite criticism on how they handled indie developers) and Sony are nothing but pleasurable when speaking with, in regards to development woes. Fuck, Sony even has an in-house team dedicated to building relationships with their third parties, called, get this, Third Party Production.

I have yet to hear of any effort from Nintendo about strengthening their absolutely awful relationship with outside developers, until today.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

[UPDATE] Just what is Going on with Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition's Release Date?

[FINAL UPDATE] Best Buy has updated their site to show January 28th. I confirmed with an employee, as their inventory system shows January 28th as a release date, and my order is already placed.

[UPDATE 2] Get this shit: Square has lifted the street date and review embargo, so it's flooding the gates. So far, GameStop is selling what they have now, but Amazon still shows January 28th, while Best Buy still shows February 4th (and calls to a few stores show don't even have them in stock). I guess an obligatory "YMMV" applies.

[ORIGINAL STORY] With the marketing campaign in full swing with the impending release of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition's release date, I started to look into the best place to pick it up from. Since I have some rewards racked up through Best Buy - and the Gamers Club Unlocked 20% discount - I looked there first. I know the game comes out at the end of the month; I mean, the advertising says so.

I go to the site, go to click on "Add to Cart", but something was amiss. It just didn't add up:

Wait. "2/4/2014"? Why does Best Buy have the game listed for a whole week after the actual release of January 28th. I decided to look around. What I started to see was just downright fucking weird[UPDATE 1] I went to a local Best Buy store to check with them, and even crazier, the game doesn't even show in their inventory system. Now that is just downright fucking strange.

I jumped over to other places I either frequent, or go to only in only times of true desperation. Amazon and GameStop, respectively, both have the game listed as released on January 28th, but GameFly has it for January 30th, a Thursday; what kind of heathen releases video games on a Thursday?

I honestly can't find a reason behind this. I checked over upcoming major releases: Thief still has a release of February 25, and Infamous: Second Son is still showing up on March 21, and, hell, even Titanfall still has March 11. So what gives on a week delay for Tomb Raider? Did Best Buy piss off a distributor that much?

See beyond the break for screenshots of Tomb Raider on other sites.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

What Broken Age is Trying to Say

After almost two years of waiting, we finally have Broken Age, the hot-mess of a Kickstarter campaign that earned 825% of it's original asking price. About a year after development, Schafer announces that they're having to split the game in half because they ran out of money. They would release the first half on Steam's Early Access program, then use proceeds of the sales from the first half to fund the second half, to be released for free for those who have the first half. Just a few days before launch, they change it from Early Access to a Season Pass, but still split.

People weren't necessarily pissed about the release schedule of the game, but rather, outright enraged. Tim's "business practice" of taking in nearly $3 million more than what he was asking, eating it all up for a point-and-click, then asking for more money through the sales of the first half of the game. To all, it was very questionable; why take all this money, then need more? As a recent (selective) admirer of Tim - since BrĂ¼tal Legend - I've never noticed it before, but apparently, this shit happens all the time with him, which is why no big publisher wanted to touch this game: it was rife with potentially bad karma.

If you keep reading beyond the break, please keep in mind that I spoil the fuck out of this game, so if you read further, you're either a complete badass and just don't give a shit, or you've beaten the game. Either way, you've been warned.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Destroyed Controller's Best of 2013

Regardless of how infrequent I post, I still play the shit out of my video games. I'd rather not drag this out any further than I need to, so I'm just going to give you a handful of my favorite games of the year, in order of release (except for the coveted Game of the Year), plus a few things worth mentioning.

Favorite Games

Tomb Raider
Released: March 5, 2013
System Played: Xbox 360

Say what you will about reboots, I really do believe that the re-imagining of who Lara Croft is struck a cord with me. I have a confession: I never liked Lara Croft. Never did. There's only so many women in games, and when you think of powerful, stand-out, female power-houses, Lara is towards the top of the list (only below Samus Aran, who I feel to be the most powerful female figure in gaming). I only started playing with 2006's Tomb Raider: Legend, but seeing as the reviews for every game since Tomb Raider III have been on a constant downswing (until Legend came along, then started the downfall all over again) - and sales being relatively strong (Legend, the first one after "holy fuck, what the shit is Angel of Darkness?!", scraped by with 1.5 million, Anniversary pulling in 2.3, but a soaring 3.3 million for Underworld) - it was time.

When Square decided to announce the reboot, things were shaky. The last few games weren't all that bad; hell, I enjoyed them, and they were my first Tomb Raider games. I didn't mind for the reboot, but a lot of people just moaned and groaned: "ugh, another fucking reboot?" Square had it in their right mind to do so. Tomb Raider games haven't been great. Thing is, I walked into the reboot with low expectations. I watched a few gameplay videos, I watched a trailer, and I was following the purported "rape" controversy (even though this is coming from a man, there was nothing "rape-y" about that scene). I walked out pleasantly surprised and felt wanting more of this new Lara.

The entire game was fantastic. It made me care about Lara, and while some of the pain she suffered was too over-the-top for someone to keep going (see: rebar), the reboot was a success to gamers and critics. Tomb Raider launched March 5, 2013. Square's fiscal year ended March 31. They considered 3.5 million sold in 3 weeks to be "weak" to the point of re-releasing it on new-gen systems. You can't deny that the game was a blast to play.