Monday, 28 July 2014

Impressions: Destiny Beta - Functional but not mind blowing


Since renewing my Playstation Plus subscription recently I noticed that one of 2014's biggest hype fests Destiny was open to all subscribers.  Now I remember watching the E3 footage from last year and seeing what looked to be a shooter with some real potential with a focus on cooperative gameplay and Borderlands-esque loot and shoot mechanics.

After playing the beta and sampling all it had to offer within the space of three hours I am now satisfied that I will not be dropping upwards of £60 on this game.  The reason for this?  Well it just didn't do anything all that next gen.  The basic setup is that you're a dead person brought too life by a piece of alien technology called a ghost.  The ghosts work alongside these people known as guardians who serve to protect the last known city on earth, the titular Destiny.  The city is protected by a massive alien lifeform simply known as the traveller, a large spheroid that helped humanity become far more advanced by it's presence.  However it's gifts also brought along an evil from beyond the stars known as the darkness.  Cue the near destruction of humanity and attacks by alien forces from across the galaxy.

Now it probably doesn't bother most but for me the whole naming thing is so lazy and generic, like they are place holders or something along those lines.  The friendly alien is "the traveller", the enemy is "the darkness", the alien threat on earth are known as "the fallen" or "the hive".  It's just lazy writing really since it gives no depth to the factions or peoples of the world.  Even in character creation we have zero background information when choosing between Human, Awoken and Robot characters.  What exactly is an Awoken? and why do we have sentient machine people?  I assume this is all information on the website but should we have to visit a website to learn these things?  It's my own personal gripe and like I said probably not a big deal for a lot of people out there.  I just can't help but think of games like Mass Effect that at least tried to explain things in game and gave the races proper names rather than descriptive titles.

But what about the game?  Well the game is, in a short sentence, functional but not mind blowing.  The shooting is good, the weapons feel weighty and powerful and getting headshots and other weak points does take a certain amount of skill even with the auto-aim function.  Weapons come in the usual forms from pistols, shotguns, semi auto and fully auto rifles, sniper rifles, rocket launchers and light machine guns.  Presumably in the later stages of the game you get weapons that have more of a sci-fi feel about them, considering the alien forces use lightning guns and energy based weapons.

The problem with the guns is that they look very modern and not really all that futuristic.  Some weapons look like modern MTAR rifles, revolvers and pump action shotguns.  It's interesting that games like Borderlands and Mass Effect had a far more visually varied group of weapons to choose from.  

Probably the most egregious aspect of the game is the size.  It was recently revealed by developer BUNGIE that the game will have roughly four or five locations in total, taking you to Russia, a lunar base, Mars and Venus.  You can move around the Earth location within an hour or less, the Moon is by their own admission the smallest level, while Mars and Venus are yet to be seen.  In the beta you will have seen roughly fifty percent of the entire game's story mode which is bad considering the next gen price tags.  I can't help but feel that you will clear the games story mode within a day or two if not sooner at launch, leaving you with level grinding and loot grinding before jumping to competitive modes.

The PVP is from the beta at least, underwhelming.  6v6 matches on large maps with vehicles makes for some pretty quiet and uninteresting matches.  Maybe later tiers of multiplayer matches will allow for larger team sizes but overall the current offering in the beta is small and not all that fun when compared to contemporary shooters like Battlefield and Call of Duty.

The only real selling point of Destiny is the graphics.  This game is worthy of the moniker 'next gen' for consoles as the visuals are impressive.  The maps look detailed, the enemies look great, the weapons animate beautifully and the maps ooze atmosphere and a sense of decay from decades of abandonment.  The sound design is also good with weapons sounding suitably powerful and meaty.  The voice cast probably cost the developers a small fortune with the likes of Peter Dinklage, Nathan Fillion, Peter Stormare, Lance Reddick and from my guess Terrence Stamp.  The voice work is good but it all plays into that star power thing some developers use to try and get people to buy a game, sometimes to their own detriment.

Overall though I am left feeling that Destiny is a functional game that does everything it's designed to do well enough and nothing more.  It doesn't feel truly ground breaking or epic like the hype would have you believe.  The game looks like it's going to be short on story, short on PVP and will rely on the truly dedicated to keep it alive.  Maybe there is some big downloadable content packs coming in the months after launch but as it is, I would recommend saving your cash until the forlorn hope gamers have experienced it day one.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

2015 Will see the UK government try to educate Internet pirates


Sometimes governments have good idea's.  It's a rare thing granted but it does actually happen.  Examples of good idea's the British government has had include the NHS, creating a metropolitan police force (the worlds first), the benefits system and many more.  Adding to this list is the announcement of a new initiative against online piracy that instead of attacking the pirates with fines, criminal charges or ban's from the Internet now want to educate them.

Let's face it, anyone who has used the Internet will have at some point or another illegally downloaded something whether it be a game, album, film, pictures and numerous other copyrighted materials.  It's been a big issue for some games developers over the years with different publishers making trying different methods of anti piracy control from draconian digital rights management methods to always online connections for singleplayer experiences.  None really work to prevent piracy in the long run and more often than not end up punishing the legal customers who simply want to play a game.

So the new initiative is to instead educate those who illegally download content by sending letters from that persons Internet service provider.  Apparently four letters can be sent a year with the intention to inform the person that they are aware of the activity and would point them to places they can legally obtain the items they are downloading at a fair price instead.  Of course this won't curtail piracy completely, honestly nothing will but it's positive step by the government to reduce it without the monumental task of prosecuting millions of people a year for relatively minor acts of piracy at times. 

It isn't unusual for those who pirate to only want to play the game or see the film because they may not have the money to blow on something that could be bad in their opinion.  Piracy can for some users be a try before you buy method and these new education initiatives I think will have an effect of allowing those people to find what they want online cheaper than they thought it was.  The final cherry on top of this announcement was that even if you did receive four letters in a year, you will never be prosecuted for it, only told they are aware of your actions.  Sometimes knowing that someone is aware of your activities is enough of a deterrent. 

So what do you think about this new UK plan against piracy?

Monday, 21 July 2014

Elder Scrolls Online arrives on steam with pricey DLC


I'll say it now, I don't like the Elder Scrolls Online.  It's not that it looks bad visually or even has broken gameplay it just isn't Elder Scrolls.  When you're in an MMO world you lose that element of heroism when everyone else is doing the same world saving quests you are.  But the issues with ESO are documented elsewhere by plenty of other people from players to journalists on sites like IGN and Eurogamer.

What I want to talk about is the games recent addition to steam and something that was added with it as downloadable content.  Checking through the steam product page I found a couple of entries for DLC, one was the collectors edition upgrade which granted access to a few other bits and pieces like a Imperial playable race, Mudcrab pet and other goodies.  The price is steep at £20 pounds to upgrade considering the normal price tag of £49.99 for a whopping total of £70.  Keep in mind this is for a subscription MMO so you have to keep paying a minimum of £8.99 a month to keep playing so it mounts up quickly.

Expensive and plain looking
Speaking of mounting up, I also noticed the other DLC on the product page for another in game item.  This one was for a Palomino horse which according to the description is no better than the standard horses, requires level 10 to use and requires ESO (which is kind of obvious, but yeah Zenimax probably put it in there in case mentally deficient people try and buy the horse on it's own.)  Looking at it the price is what really gets me and brings back memories of the good old days of Elder scrolls.  You know horse armour?  That controversy?  Well I couldn't help but be reminded of it when I saw they are asking people to pay £10 for it.  Yeah a month's subscription money for a fucking horse that has no benefit outside of unlocking one earlier than if you saved up and bought it with in game cash.

I couldn't believe it when I saw the price, it just baffled me and I am confused as to why other websites haven't seen the listing and called bullshit on this one also.  The special edition upgrade is pricey and all that jazz, but a horse is half the price of the special edition upgrade?  Fuck you Zenimax you money grubbing tossers.  To make this even more of a slap in the nuts, I read that ESO has roughly 770,000 subscribers the exact figure being here http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2014-07-18-elder-scrolls-online-has-775-000-subscribers-report shows the number to be 772,374 which taking the $9.99 subscription fee for US players works out at $7,716,016 a month.  I know development costs are high for MMO's and running them afterwards isn't cheap but come on, £9.99 for a fucking in game horse? 

I can only assume that this is a sign that despite the numbers of subscribers the game isn't making the money back quickly enough so they are trying to grab as many poor saps as possible for their half baked MMO that people would have preferred Elder Scrolls VI too instead of this game.  http://store.steampowered.com/app/313721/ That is the link to the steam store page and the horse shit price.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Video Production ramps up


Video's are now in full schedule for production now.  I have a new company of heroes 2 video going up today that finishes off my western front armies series.  Going forward I will be recording footage for Sniper Elite 3 and posting a video review in the next week or so.  This will be my second video review of a PC game so it won't be the most slickly produced video out there but it should be enough to get the point across.

The major thrust of my video production will be Mechwarrior Online.  I will be making a gameplay video of each 'mech in the game and all 'mechs added going forward.  These will be short match length videos that have me talking about the 'mech, it's pro's and con's and the like.  The other part of the series will be a set again for each battlemech but will have me narrating the in universe information about the battlemech from the original technical readouts.  The clan variants will be from the point of view of the Inner Sphere as written in TRO 3050.

I will try to remember to add these videos to the blog as they go up.  Maybe make a video section with links.  The channel link is here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMpEn1nKT6E_gt75GDK9IJA

Monday, 14 July 2014

Review: Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn


Dynasty Warriors is one of those series that won't light the gaming world with it's sales figures but it does however make a rather nice niche for itself on gaming systems worldwide.  The series has gone beyond it's traditional ancient Chinese war drama to warring Daimyo's of Japan, to post apocalyptic anime in Fist of the North Star, High sea's piracy in One piece and mecha series Gundam.

Gundam is probably the most successful B series of the 'Warriors' franchise with Gundam Reborn being the fourth entry in the series to date.  Like Dynasty Warriors 8 on PS3, this entry is a send off for the PS3 iteration of the Gundam Warriors before going to PS4 and other systems.  In essence the game has made very little in the way of gameplay changes from past iterations, Reborn instead puts it's focus on a revamped story mode and expanded roster of characters and Mobile Suits.

The meat of the game takes place in two modes.  Official mode is the main story mode that follows the series through the Universal Century time line from the original Gundam series up to Gundam: Unicorn.  Oddly a few series are skipped here as we don't get a Gundam ZZ story or any of the post Unicorn series such as Victory and F91.  Instead we get the story of Seed and Seed: Destiny replete with all of their main mobile suits and gundams.  Well nearly all, we don't get the Saviour Gundam for some odd reason and it isn't DLC.

http://www.koeitecmoeurope.com/media/image/3252/3252-Dynasty-Warriors:-Gundam-Reborn.png/The story scenes are mainly played out as talking heads on different backgrounds to expand on the events of each show with odd cutscene or tactical map.  It's not quite as good as Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2 and it's more impressive in game scenes but it's nice to see the series played out in story mode again.  Most levels you will be playing as the hero of said show but on occasion you will be put into the suit of other characters for a brief time, sometimes too brief in my opinion but it's nice to see some levels from another characters perspective in the larger battles.  Probably my biggest gripe with the story mode though is the way Unicorn is handled, with the story just ending on a cliffhanger.  The only way to see the end events of the series is to pay a further £3.99 to download the Full armour Unicorn DLC to get that ending, which is complete bullshit in my opinion.

Outside of the story mode you will have Ultimate mode which is the series mash up mode with every character sharing the same universe and fighting each other.  This time the mode is broken down into operations that take place across multiple smaller levels with differing objectives.  Some operations are quite fun with challenging goals such as protecting a battleship across multiple levels with increasing difficulty and damage that transfers across to each level.  Others have you answering trivia questions via combat or collecting parts to reach a total before progressing further into the story.  Each battle also has a set of medals that are obtained by using a specific suit or completing it within a set time amongst other challenges.



You will spend most of your time in this mode and it's necessary to complete the medal challenges to unlock all of the games content.  Medals unlock cards that grant new characters, mobile suits or resources.  Like any Dynasty Warriors game it will demand plenty of your time to 100% complete but it's not such a slog that you will become burnt out within a month.  The medal challenges keep things varied and the cards make you play basically every suit to unlock them for play.

The game does have some multiplayer functionality.  Local splitscreen play is still available for every level in both story and ultimate mode.  You can send a S.O.S online if you're having trouble completing a level, which acts as a form of invite so another player can help you.  There is no competitive modes or four player mode this time around.  Personally I don't miss it but maybe some of you will.

The combat has a few new wrinkles now with a new charge attack that can be added to any combo.  Holding down triangle will charge this attack and give you a way to cancel out of a move into a new one similar to competitive fighting games.  All characters now have air musou's along with ground ones.  Certain characters also have rank two musou attacks that require a charge time by holding down circle at the cost of two musou bars.  An improved lock on system allows you to keep targets in sight at all times in the chaotic melee.  Finally the partner system allows battleships to be brought in to rain death on a large area killing virtually anything in the area. 

Mobile armours such as the Big Zam are now playable although their inclusion is somewhat lacklustre with an incredibly limited moveset, less than what the AI use when you fight them.  It's nice to see them added but they could have been better or at least have more than one charge attack to use.

http://www.koeitecmoeurope.com/media/image/3248/3248-Dynasty-Warriors:-Gundam-Reborn.png/Graphically the developers decided to go back to the original games graphic style and not use the previous games cell shaded design.  This works better in my opinion as the mobile suits look like animated model kits and have a lot of detail in them.  The animations are great and many suits have transformable modes or extra equipment seen during certain attacks.  A fair number of characters can be on screen at one time and the game only suffers frame loss when a mass of explosions take place but it's only for a split second.  The environments still looks quite ugly by comparison with plenty of low resolution textures but it's pretty much standard now for a DW title.  It's not distracting or anything and the main visuals i.e the combat and effects all look good.

Reborn only has Japanese voice over sadly, probably a sacrifice to allow for more content such as new suits and effects.  Obviously for some this is fine as the original voices will be preferable for some but it does make for a fair amount of background noise when you're playing.  Without stopping to read what was said or taking your eye off the action to read the text most of the well acted dialogue is missed sadly.  It would be nice to see an English dub DLC but that will be highly unlikely.  The combat effects are all true to the series with your beam rifles and sabres all making the right sounds.  It's the same level as previous titles which is great and any suit that had unique sounds has been added here too.  The music is OK, generally it's a mix of original pieces and some remixes of series themes but it's a marmite thing really.

In closing, Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn is a fun title, a love letter to the series on Playstation 3.  It has many hours of gameplay for the completionist out there, lots of mobile suits to unlock and play and if you're inclined there is a bunch of DLC adding more levels and new suits to play already out.  It doesn't blow away previous iterations of the series, but what it does have is solid and extremely fun to sink a few hours into.

SCORE: 7.0/10

Friday, 11 July 2014

Gamestop wants to invest in active game development for a price......


So during my usual website lurking yesterday I read a story on Eurogamer.net about Gamestop wanting to become financially invested in games development in exchange for exclusive content only available from them.

I find it to be a worrying concept really.  Allowing retailers to put money into a popular titles development means they essentially have a say in what is in the game and what they get as part of their arrangement.  The spokesperson from Gamestop said they wouldn't dictate what the developer or publisher created for their store, but let's be honest here.  If anyone invests a significant amount of money into a game then they will want a say in what happens before release.  It's basically what being an investor is all about, you don't invest to sit back and hope the project is a hit.  Gamestop will no doubt have some kind of agreement that would allow them to dictate what they get exclusively.

If this was to come to fruition, imagine the new round of bidding wars and exclusivity deals that pop up.  We as gamers already have to suffer console exclusivity for games along with pre-order content exclusivity, add this on top and things get a lot more frustrating for the gamer who wants a complete experience.  It's already annoying that as a customer if I want to buy Evolve on PC with the Goliath skin pack and extra monster along with the bonus hunter pack, I have to buy it from GAME.  Amazon doesn't have the extra hunters on offer so I have to buy from GAME if I want the extra hunters.  Now imagine if GAME also had an exclusive map that was funded by them for their stores only, or extra hunters or both.  It would be a real pain to have to pay more cash for a version of the game that had more content.

Obviously this is all theory and conjecture but isn't unrealistic.  Brick and mortar stores have been suffering for a while now with the rise of digital distribution becoming more prominent.  Convenience always wins out for the consumer and digital is the best way to play on the day of release since there are no stock issues, wait times or travel involved.  In this regard I can understand stores wanting to increase foot traffic by offering items unique to their company or at least increase online sales.  But it's a worrying idea that our games could become fragmented by retailers investing in the development process.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

TNA/WWE Analysed - What's been going on.


It's been quite some time since I last posted anything about the either TNA Wrestling or the WWE.  Both shows have been busy lately and seem to be going in very different directions with mixed results.

WWE launched it's version of Netflix in the form of the WWE Network, a subscription based on demand service that hosts thousands of hours of wrestling across several decades.  As it stands the system is still being updated on a weekly basis and is only available in North America.  To say it wasn't the success that they had hoped would be an understatement.  Investors were informed that the Network on launch would garner around or on a million subscribers, however they only managed to get around 600,000 in the first month or two.  This caused a massive financial ripple that has led to numerous issues for the company.

So long Brodus, we hardly knew ye
Firstly they fired a number of staff in both the office and show itself.  Wrestlers such as Brodus Clay, Yoshi Tatsu, Drew McIntrye and Jinder Mahal all went amongst others.  New series of shows such as Tough Enough and Legends house has been pushed back and the stock of the company has continued to fall or fluctuate since the launch.  Vince has stated that $20 million has to be cut from the budget to cover the losses so more staff will likely be cut from the show along with other money saving measures.  The network will likely make money when it finally does launch internationally with the untapped markets of Europe and Asia, until then though they will struggle to make the Network profitable.

Programme wise the show has been hit and miss really.  The Shield was split to cover Batista's recent departure to promote the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie, leaving the now solo members of the group running so-so matches but not yet getting the feuds they need to remain top performers.  Daniel Bryan who went from Indie star to WWE champ was injured, forcing the company to take the belt off of Bryan and give it to their default factory setting of John Cena until a new contender can be written to take it off him.  Daniel Bryan's situation was controversial anyway as he was chosen by the fans to be a number one guy, not the McMahons, so he was always booked to be an underdog and ridiculed by the authority figures in the story in a nod to their real dislike of "little guys".

I personally think they have dropped the ball where the Wyatt family are concerned with Bray losing several matches consecutively to Cena for no real benefit to the Wyatt storyline or helping the image of Cena who is already viewed as being death for any up and coming wrestler as he never puts them over.  The main heels of the show are Triple H in a part time wrestling role, Stephanie who is the corporate bitch with muscle in the form of Randy Orton, Kane and now Seth Rollins.  The problem is that Kane isn't a threat these days with how often he veers from monster to push over.  Orton is a competent performer but his character is as bland and forgettable as always and Rollins is a brilliant in ring talent, but I can't help but feel he will be marginalised and used as a jobber for the heels.  Rollins does have the money in the bank briefcase but now that WWE have set a precedent with Sandow failing to cash in, it's likely Rollins will fail to earn a title.

Yep this shit heel is top again
Outside of that the rest of the roster is running a gamut of bland or generally uninteresting stories.  Fandango is in a love triangle with Summer Rae and Layla.  Cesaro has joined Paul Heyman which should have increased his main event status, but has only resulted in him losing more matches and getting no opportunities.  If you put a wrestler with a guy like Paul Heyman then you should be ready to push him as a main event contender.  Heyman can be one of the most powerful personalities on a microphone in wrestling but he can only do so much when the writers backstage don't have any plans to book the wrestler as a credible threat or future main event guy.  Rusev the massive Bulgarian from NXT is running a late 80's/early 90's evil foreigner gimmick replete with pro Putin spokeswoman Lana.  Give it another six months and Rusev will be waving the American flag and professing his love for the US of A.

On the other end of the scale TNA have been trying to copy the WWE's success with Daniel Bryan by pushing their own hard working little guy in the form of Eric Young.  After a protracted feud with MVP who turned heel for no other reason than "evil authority figures are big right now so let's have our own".  MVP formed a heel group and promptly injured himself prior to a major pay per view forcing a change in the story.  Bobby Lashley became the new champion on free Television the night after the pay per view, causing collective facepalms all round. 

TNA has been suffering it's own woes with low attendance at live events and staff cuts to save money.  They have however been a little more successful with a round of tapings in New York that drew larger crowds for TNA domestically for an impact in recent years.  I do have to question their decision to host this years Bound for Glory in Japan since the company probably doesn't have a massive following in Japan.  Still since it's a cross promotion with Wrestle-1 in Japan it saves money for the company.  It does however put the message across that TNA can't host the show on their own as they lack the funds to do so or aren't confident enough in their own programme to make a popular show people would want to see.  Imagine if WWE announced they were hosting Wrestlemania in England in conjunction with All star wrestling it wouldn't exactly beam confidence to your fans.  Sure you get to see some new talent and probably good matches, but the exposure benefits your co-hosts more than you in the long term.

It's sad but true.
So the main plot revolves around MVP and Eric Young feuding over the title.  With TNA dropping the TV title this means the company now has no equivalent of a US or Intercontinental belt meaning the midcard has nothing to aim for.  It's true that these days the midcard belts have become less important but in a company as small as TNA they could do with some feuds running around titles outside of the heavyweight belt.  Dixie is still the evil owner but now mainly feuds with former ECW performers and seems less interested in getting control of her company back from MVP and now Kurt Angle.  Angle apparently somehow arranged to not only take MVP's job as head of wrestling operations but also negated MVP's shareholder status and can order him about.  This makes no sense, but whatever it's professional wrestling.

TNA have tried to get new gimmicks or talent over but seem incapable of pulling it off.  The Menagerie are a wet turd of a wrestling stable.  So far in their month or so of TV showings they have barely wrestled and achieved nothing of note.  Knux is the only one who could be counted as wrestling a match with Crazzy Steve the clown acting odd, The freak standing around and Rebel just being eye candy really.  Probably the dumbest idea they have had is running the Sam Shaw story which had Shaw being a creepy stalker type who obsessed over Christie Hemme.  Anderson beat him in a series of bouts to send him to the mental home.  However after this the booking team decided to have Gunner become his therapist essentially, based on the kayfabe idea that Gunner can treat mental illness because he had a friend who suffered PTSD.  Now the serious side of this is the rather horrible use of a real and debilitating condition as a story angle in a wrestling show that frankly shouldn't be used for entertainment with the recent conflict.  The other issue is the way the booking team just decide that all mental illness is treated in the same way, in this case playing cards, talking and getting said sufferer to simply open up.  Suffice to say this isn't how you treat someone with PTSD or any other mental illnesses.

Magnus was "reunited" with old friend from Blighty Bram.  Bram is for all intents and purposes a fucking psychopath who doesn't wrestle so much as stabs up his competition to end the match in a disqualification and homicide.  I understand heels being heels but why is he a wrestler when he never seems to want to win the matches.  Why not just accompany Magnus to matches and beat the shit out of whoever gets close to him while the ref is distracted.  All of this though is in aid of Willow who despite being a new character is just Jeff Hardy with a shit mask and bad makeup.  He thinks he is being deep and interesting with his odd tonal pitch and weird eye contacts, but continues to come across as a massive twat as always.  Even with the change in theme, costume and character he still uses all of his Jeff Hardy moves anyway so it's just Jeff in a post game completion unlockable costume.  Willow is feuding with Magnus over the whole world title thing but it's become lost in the shuffle and frankly no one cares what happens in this feud since it isn't getting anyone over.

Always the best part of Impact
The only highlight of TNA at the moment is the dynamic between Ethan Carter the third and Rockstar Spud who are always brilliant on screen.  Spud has some of the worst suits in the world which make it all the more fun as he plays the boot licking dogs body to Dixie Carter and Ethan.  Ethan however does a fine job as the jock heel type with his Aunt's money behind him to ensure he wins matches and gets what he wants.  Sadly it means neither of them will achieve major success title wise but for entertainment they are head and shoulders above the rest of the roster.

Yep it's been an interesting few months in both companies really.  However neither are really on fire with good ideas or excellent wrestling.  The two are just in a slump and neither of them seem to be trying hard to improve.  WWE are just running the status quo with no real competition to force them to change while TNA are desperately trying to be relevant with a fifth of the budget and fewer wrestlers compared to the McMahon juggernaut.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Gaming publishers don't need suits running things


Computer game publishers walk a fine line in their life.  One minute they are loved by millions and can't get enough praise, the next they are dog shit in the eyes of the majority and despised across the Internet for all manner of things.  Obvious examples are EA or Activision Blizzard these days.  These Kaiju sized publishing monsters churn out games all year round, producing billions of dollars in profits each year despite their online perception as being assholes.

Publishers no matter how popular will always make dumb decisions that really piss us off, like pushing a game out too early (Battlefield 4), dumbing down for multi platform release (X-Rebirth) or simply making dumb pricing decisions.  It's nothing new in the industry and it will likely never go away as long as corporate suits run the publishers instead of people who know how to make games.

Recently I read about NIS America, who launched their European store for customers bizarrely named NIS America Europe.  NIS stands for Nippon Ichi Software or Japan one for literal translation purposes.  You probably know the name since they are the creators of titles like Disgaea and many other 2D sprite based tactical RPG games over the years.  They had a good thing going with fans until recently, when the Euro store launched with prices that are simply dollar to pound/euro pastes.  So a $50 game on the NIS North American store is also £50 in Europe. 

Obviously this caused quite a stir in social media land when mobs of angry customers hit the companies facebook, twitter and forums to complain and protest against the pricing.  Apparently NIS America Europe think all currency's have the exact same rate as each other.....or more likely they are money grabbing dicks who sidestepped so badly they fell off a fucking cliff.  Fans were even more annoyed about the fact that they can no longer order from the North American store any more for the comparatively cheaper price even with customs and postage, no NIS put a stop to that when they launched the European store to gouge fans.

Now I don't play the NIS releases, but I have to say that actions like this only really end up doing one thing and that's hurt business for publishers.  It also confuses me how a company that could simply look at the records of sales going internationally, couldn't have seen that Europe was a good market (since they launched an EU store) without having to raise the prices so much.  It's their own store, every sale is 100% profit for them, yet they still try to screw people over like this.  Even more galling was the response which was pretty much the most generic and bland PR response imaginable.  The release had nothing to say about the prices, locking out international customers or even that they listened to feedback.

This is a classic case of fans loving a publisher and everything they do, to pretty much shitting on their own doorstep and being confused as to why there is a turd on their doorstep.  NIS America Europe (dumb name by the way) will only LOSE sales because of this.  Fans who once happily paid over the odds for collectors editions and other bonuses direct from the developer will now either find another seller or not buy their product any more.  Who knows maybe NIS will wake up and alter the pricing and things will return to happy joy joy land again, but it just reminds me of the stupidity of the people in charge of these companies.

These are people who have never worked on a game, spoken to fans or even played the games their company makes.  They are business people who don't understand that computer games aren't like other products out there.  People invest time and money into these games and want to feel like they are getting their money's worth out of it because when they do they come back for more and buy your sequels.  These people look at graphs and percentages, they want more profitability out of the company and in the process miss why the company is making money to begin with.

Look at Microsoft and the debut of the XBOX ONE.  It tanked so hard because a bunch of suits thought that all these fans who liked the 360 would suddenly bend over and accept an ass pounding just because.  They tried to make it so people couldn't trade games to their friends, focus on sports television and films and have an always on spy camera in their living room or bedroom.  Microsoft got bitch slapped so hard, Steve Jobs probably briefly resurrected to laugh at their stupid asses.  Microsoft did 180 and reversed all of their decisions and now the console is back in the good books with fans.  If NIS America Europe has one braincell amongst their staff they need to do the same or risk losing a lot of money, fast.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Quick update


It may appear that I haven't been posting for the last 3 or 4 days, but in fact I have.  The new guides for X-Wing wave 4 are being completed.  Currently the Z-95 and E-Wing guides are complete.  Later today the TIE Defender will be finished and the day after will be the TIE Phantom's turn. 

Outside of that I am working on making two new Company of heroes 2 videos that show off the newly released US and OberKommandoWest armies added.  They will be up this week hopefully.

Mechwarrior Online is also on the cards.  I plan to make videos of me playing in each of the new Clan Battlemechs added earlier in June from the nimble Adder up to the deadly DireWolf.  I also intend to make videos of each of the Inner Sphere 'mechs also.  Each video will show me winning so the 'mech doesn't look like shit =p

So yes, sorry about the lack of front page updates but things are happening.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Review: Game Dev Tycoon


The steam sale can be a blessing and a curse at times.  Browsing it's many pages of offerings on the PC you would be forgiven for missing numerous gems out there as you see the next triple A title from the previous year now down 50% or more.  One of those missed gems is Game Dev Tycoon, a simple but highly addictive game from start up developer Greenheart games.

The premise is simple, you begin the game in the 80's working on your own from a garage making simple games for early systems such as the Govodore 64 or PC.  One thing you will notice quickly is the long list of major names in the gaming world with simple changes to avoid copyright.  So Sony becomes Vonny, Nintendo is Ninvento and even developers with the likes of Ubersoft and TGQ.

Making games is quick and simple with a few mouse clicks you can pick a topic, genre and platform for your new game.  After that you pick a title of your own creation, so if you want to try and be the developer of Sonic you can, but honestly you can pick any name you want for your games.  Development time is then allocated for each stage and the game is made.  Afterwards it's sent to the reviewers and the scores come in.  Good reviews mean fantastic sales and money to invest in new technologies and systems.

From humble beginnings
The game becomes more challenging as you progress as you need to research improvements to your game engine which itself needs to be created.  New engines cost money so keeping your finances in check to produce bigger and better games while also researching and paying bills becomes quite the trick.  Other costs include hiring and paying for staff, marketing, games conferences (G3) and other random events such as legal issues, hackers and patching your games.

It gives you the tiniest glimpse into the game development process and shows how hard it can be for smaller and medium sized developers to try and create a game that not only works well, but also competes with the major developers out there.  You don't have to play the game as a indie developer of course, you can instead choose to work under publishers creating games they want you to make.  Make a game that gets the desired review scores and you stand to make plenty of cash.  Fail however and you make potentially far less than you invested.

The game can sometimes be a little vague when it comes to certain genres though.  For example trying to make your attempt at Call of Duty for instance would normally be labelled as a first person shooter, but Game Dev Tycoon doesn't have this as a genre, instead you have to choose action which in itself covers many other game types.  Obviously the small number of genre's keep things streamlined but it would have been nice to have an advanced set of options for more in depth genre choices.  It would have also been nice to check out the competition and see what your rivals are making and try to one up them or see how they are doing compared to you.

Still the game has enough depth that you won't really notice the few minor omissions and the game is fully moddable for those who wish for me content.  Looking at the Greenheart games forums will yield plenty of mods to expand the game beyond it's already generous offering. 

The beginnings of a corporate empire
Graphically the title is simple but efficient with simple animations and bright colours for your development studio.  You will see your staff at their computers taking notes, drinking coffee and working.  The user interface is incredibly simple to use and clean without unnecessary clutter to obscure menu's.  In fact the game is extremely simple to get to grips with, allowing you to very easily create games.

The sound is generally good although sounds are limited overall, reduced to menu pops and tills pinging for game sales.  Still the sounds aren't offensive and certainly add to the games aesthetic feel.  The music is a little repetitive when you pay attention to it while waiting for research to finish or getting review scores, but again it's such a minor complaint in what is overall a great package at the price.

In closing the game is great fun in between those hardcore sessions of other titles you own on PC.  You will squirm when a bad review comes in, curse the name of reviewers and fist punch the air when you hit a group of 9's and 10's.  Very few games have made me feel that tense and for that I salute you Game Dev tycoon.

SCORE: 8/10 - Played it for days