Monthly Archives: August 2011

Gamescom 2011, day one impressions

So today was the first day of Gamescom, and probably the most announcement-heavy thanks to the press conferences. I’ll get to a few thoughts on my own stories below, but first a few scattered impressions from stories that I didn’t personally cover.

It seems about the right time for a PS3 price drop, and this only lends more weight to the idea that Microsoft and Sony are preparing for new hardware reveals sometime next year. It’s entirely possible that the Wii U sped this along, but I tend to think the timeline is right for new consoles anyway.

Speaking of Sony, I’m not quite sure what to make of this sans-Wifi new PSP model. I suppose it’s trying to undercut the 3DS price drop, or maybe get more traction against the DS as both systems fade out, but it also seems to undermine their efforts lately to focus on digital distribution. You could still download onto your PS3 and then transfer, I suppose, but that seems like a lot of trouble.

Also, is this waving the white flag to pirates? The system has suffered a lot due to software piracy, and Sony has been combating it (apparently ineffectually) by requiring firmware updates. But if they’re going to put the system out there without wifi, I have to think they’ll stop requiring the latest firmware too. Otherwise you force people to download updates and transfer them, which again, seems super-inconvenient. Besides which, a $99 PSP means pirates can easily pick one up to be their cracked system and have another that updates as a safeguard. I suppose it’s too late to matter now at any rate. This isn’t a subject I’m an expert in — I’ve never hacked my PSP — so I could be misreading the situation.

Unsurprising: Uncharted 3 trailer looks fantastic, Buffy the Zombie Slayer looks fan-bizarre-tastic.

  • Free-to-play really seems to be gaining traction among major publishers lately. So there’s that.
  • EA’s presentation was mostly an RPG sandwich with FIFA as the bread, but they ended on Battlefield 3 for obvious reasons. The co-op didn’t look entirely surprising or unexpected, but including vehicles seems like a cool feature you often see done right.
  • Ordered by my personal recommendation, if you haven’t played one or more yet: Mario Galaxy, Super Paper Mario, Punch-Out. Punch-Out is great, but requires more twitch-reflexes than I have these days, and I love the whole Paper Mario sub-series. I haven’t played Charged, so I can’t really offer a ranking there.
  • As a Resistance fan who also thinks the Vita looks kind of cool, I hate to say that Resistance: Burning Skies did not look that great in the presentation. Maybe it shows better in person, but the demo visuals didn’t seem anywhere near the fidelity of Vita games like Uncharted or LBP.
  • Vampires? Friggin vampires? I know the Infamous world is very pulp and shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but c’mon! I blame you for this, Stephanie Myer! (That said, I will almost definitely play it. I love Infamous. And Sucker Punch.)

Level grinding

I’m replaying Final Fantasy 3 (i.e. FF6) on the Virtual Console, and just got my airship back in the World of Ruin. I grinded out in the Cactaur/Hoover desert for an hour or so last night, and it occurred to me how unbelievably boring this should be. This is not only a repetitive activity, but one that I’ve literally done before. Probably more than once!

I can only conclude that grinding out levels is much more tolerable if there’s some kind of quick-and-easy method. You can spend hours in that desert teaching everyone magic, but it’s relatively quick and you constantly see progress. This is as opposed to most JRPGs, where an hour of grinding might result in a level or two.

So, yet another way that FF6 is one of the best RPGs ever made. They took a crutch that’s still used by the genre, and gave us a shortcut.

  • This is a bizarre Nintendo patent. Not because it’s a bad idea, but because it’s already been done. Quite a bit, actually! There’s even a term for it on mobile devices, like I reference in the story. Asynchronous multiplayer is already a popular trend, so it’s hard to see anyone laying claim to it.
  • EA is offering a pretty good deal on BF3. I’ll probably be renting that one, and I’ve already played ME2 and DS2 (no interest in Medal fo Honor). But still, if you have any interest in these games and a PC that can handle it, it’s hard to argue that they’re not doing right by the customers here. Of course, it’s also a none-too-subtle bribe to bolster Origin.
  • Get ready to groan. Mortal Kombat is (deservedly) making a killing.

Warning: Spoilers follow

Those who watch my Twitter feed obsessively might’ve noticed that I hastily pulled a few tweets today and issued an explanation. To put it shortly, I had some thoughts on the ending of Catherine, and I tweeted with a spoiler warning on the first, but not the other two tweets that followed. I didn’t even realize that the inverted recent-first posting nature of the Twitter site would mean some people would read the spoilers before seeing the warning.

It was pointed out to me by a user, and I apologized, and deleted the tweets. Then I clicked on his name and saw that he’s a senior designer on Mass Effect 3. Holy crap. I didn’t know anyone from BioWare was following my tweets, but this really wasn’t the way I would’ve chosen to find out. Mass Effect is among my favorite current-gen series, so being an annoyance to a team member was pretty embarrassing.

This has gotten me ruminating on spoilers. Funny timing, actually. Yesterday we were considering running a story on this study, which suggests that spoilers don’t actually spoil. (The story got sorted on the low-pri pile, which is the list of stories we get to if all the hi-pri stuff has been covered. I’m pretty certain we never touched it.)

Far be it from me to question their scientific methodology, but I’m not sure this controlled experiment really replicates the experience of being “spoiled.” These were test subjects who were spoiled right off the bat, before they started reading the stories at all. So yeah, if you tell someone up-front, “hey, turns out Bruce Willis is dead” before they ever even heard of The Sixth Sense, maybe they won’t mind. But in the wild, spoilers pop up when someone is already invested in a story. They already have some hope and expectation to be surprised, and that’s taken away from them without warning.

I don’t want to turn this into too much navel-gazing, but suffice to say I felt like an ass about the whole affair. Just be careful when you tweet-spoil.

  • I wonder how long it will take before Nintendo details the rest of the Ambassador games. C’mon guys, end the mystery. Anyway, the features seem understandable, even if I’d like to see restore points in GBA games.
  • I’m sure Joe Danger will eventually become a PS+ bonus, but I’ve been curious about it for a while. Joe Danger: The Movie seems like a cool concept, at least in what they’ve said about it. Also, I enjoy that headline a lot.
  • I was really expecting the comments to blow up more about how this is ruining Counter-Strike for console babbies. My favorite comment, though, is easy: “That’s a terribly fucked up mis spelling of Half Life 3 :/”
  • I never got into Metal Gear Solid series as much as I’d like, but maybe an HD collection will inspire me to go back and finish the one(s?) I never got around to completing.

Are you ready for some fooball? (Answer: Kinda)

So tonight was the first pre-season Ravens game. It was nice to see football again, but parts of it were just a comedy of errors. Aside from constant false starts, though, we did pretty well. It’s not as if we got a face-mask violation that could’ve snapped a man’s neck, like a certain other team that also played tonight. (Hint: The Eagles)

We ultimately lost, thanks to a questionable call. I’m not too incensed about it since this game didn’t matter, but it would’ve been more exciting to see a tied game press to overtime. Our new QB is a lot faster and evasive than Flacco, so he should be a good addition for when we’re up against a team that’s running heavy on the sacks.

  • I never thought I’d Google the phrase “pint of blood cost” to just make sure an off-hand joke is accurate enough to pass muster, but life is surprising sometimes, and here we are.
  • EA got exclusive access for Wimbledon? It doesn’t seem like they’d let one developer hold such a big card single-handedly.
  • Even though I don’t play games very much on the Wii, I’ll say I am curious about Xenoblade. So c’mon, Europe. Buy a bunch of copies. You owe us for World War 2.

Fruit Ninja Kinect first impressions

I don’t own a Kinect. I have no first impressions. I bought this for a $5 discount on Crimson Alliance.

(I know the title is misleading, but I thought this would be funny given my other posts.)

I also don’t have much more to say about Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet yet. I haven’t played it much, due to a lack of time and an odd fascination with From Dust. I wasn’t convinced at first, but it really sucked me in at the end. Since then I’ve been trying out challenges and trying to grow all my vegetation for achievements. I think I can almost perfect rank it, but there’s no way I can go through the whole thing and lose less than five villages. I just don’t have that kind of patience. There were some maps that I lost one village five times.

Toy Soldiers next week. Hoo boy!

  • So Plus members get both Trophy syncing and early access to the AC Revelations beta? As a Plus member I can’t complain, but I feel like basic conveniences like Trophy sync should probably be for all users. I mean, that process is just flat-out annoying right now.
  • Looks like I know how I’m spending my November and December. Or, alternately, looks like I know what’s going on my letter to Santa.
  • I’m glad the Nintendo execs are being so candid about the 3DS problems. At the same time, they’re also kind of stating the obvious. Over and over. But hey, corporate honesty! That’s somethin’.

LA Noire, finale

I finished LA Noire last night, and I can’t say it left me with the same wowee-zowee feeling I had when I first played it. I admire Rockstar for trying new things, and Team Bondi definitely did an amazing job crafting a story — the facial animations sold it. I just wish the game mechanics of this video game worked a bit better.

It seems like they wanted to make a cinematic adventure game, but got nervous mid-way through development. “Oh crap, throw some cars and guns in there!” A straight adventure game, with confidence in its premise and no embellishment, would be great. If it had branching paths so your decisions felt like they had more impact, even better. That doesn’t even mean removing the action bits completely, just making them more rare. Imagine how significant firing your sidearm would feel if you did it two or three times, total, in the entire game.

As for the ending, I don’t really get the controversy. It ended where that plot had to end. Did people expect the game called “LA Noire” to have a happy ending? Anyway, I look forward to my ideas being used in LA Noire 2: Jack Kelso, Private Dick.

  • I’ve actually already pre-ordered SF3 OE, because I am a sucker and taking part in the PSN Play promotion. But when else could you get five PS3 games for under $50?
  • The 3DS is apparently now $170 at Wal-Mart, and you can still get in on the Ambassador program. People, if you even remotely want a 3DS, now is the time.
  • If there’s one thing I like in games, it’s a “New Game Plus” mode. So that possibility in BioShock Infinite is probably the most exciting part of this lengthy, detailed interview with Ken Levine. He didn’t confirm it, but they’re thinking along those lines and coming up with something unique. Plus, I could just listen to that guy talk (or read a transcript) for hours. I left it out of the Shack story, but at one point he just flat-out platforms in favor of gay marriage. And the PlayStation Blog went ahead and transcribed it, included it in the interview, despite the fact that major video game companies tend to shy away from things like that. Know why? Because he’s mother-lovin’ Ken Levine. You don’t say no to this man.

Planet of the Apes, Justified

See, my headline works on two levels. Think about it.

We saw Planet of the Apes this weekend, or more accurately, we saw it Rise. Apparently a lot of the country did too! It’s a bit slow to get the action rolling, but Andy Serkis really stole the show. It has enough brains and heart to escape from being the typical summer action flick, but it keeps us entertained too. Cheers to Draco Malfoy hamming up Heston lines. Jeers to the script not giving Freida Pinto enough to do. Seriously, her lines were just straight-up stating the theme or message of particular scenes.

I also finished the first season of Justified. It was very good. I know I’m late to the party on this one, but if you’re reading this and somehow later to the party, know that it comes with my hearty recommendation.

  • I like the Lantern Run mode in ITSP, but I would like to see something a bit closer to the actual campaign experience for co-op play. But hey, good on them for thinking creatively and making a multiplayer mode that isn’t just shooting each other.
  • The saga continues! This EA/Steam thing just isn’t going away, and I suppose I should’ve guessed earlier that it was all connected to the games we’ve seen pulled lately. I’m still sympathetic to EA here, but it’s really still just creating a firestorm every time we make a post about it.
  • I can understand Justice Kagan’s hesitance, but I’m glad she came out on the right side. Sometimes being a Justice means putting aside your “feelings” for logic, law, and precedence, so good on her. It was a bit of a slow news day, but I dig politics and I followed this story in particular, so I always like running new pieces on it when I get a chance.

Sony listened to me!

At least, that’s what I’ll assume. Today’s announcement of the PSN Play promotion, which is taking some pretty clear cues from Summer of Arcade, is coming suspiciously just after I said they should steal Microsoft’s idea on this very blog. Very clever, Sony!

That said, they’ve got some good ideas here, and hopefully those will cross-pollinate. Giving discounts to Gold members would be nice, extra bits of content for those participating is a good bonus, and little static themes for pre-orders? Sure. Great. Give us some Avatar items or something. Microsoft, Sony has just upped the ante. Will you answer in kind?

(If Netflix being available on Sony’s free online service is any indication, the answer is no. No they will not.)

  • Attention, people. Buy Bastion. If you don’t like or own a 360, it is coming to Steam. The soundtrack is a good investment too.
  • I suppose I don’t get all the hubub over an always-on requirement for Diablo 3, especially considering the hacks that apparently ran rampant in D2, and the fact that those same breeds of hacks would lead to wrecking the in-game economy of the real-money auction house. But surprised? Really, Blizzard? Have you not paid attention to the internet for the last six months?

I already hate Whitney

I haven’t seen an episode of Whitney yet, but every single commercial just bugs me. As far as I can tell, it’s about an obnoxious woman and her resentful boyfriend(?), with no particular reason for them to stay together. Every joke just seems so hack-neyed and stupid. I reserve the right to be wrong, and maybe the show will turn out to be brilliant, but right now every ad is like chewing on sandpaper.

  • I have no particular affinity for Rambo, nor an axe to grind. I don’t think I’ve seen any of his movies, since I was too young when they came out. I am wondering how a shooter starring Rambo would be any more violent or over-the-top than pretty much any other shooter, and that’s kind of Rambo’s thing. That and speaking with an incomprehensible slur. Maybe they can make the Options menu say “OPSHURNS”
  • I do love EA’s catty response to this estimate. Even if the ruling is against them, I doubt it will be the doomsday scenario painted there. That’s really an absolute worst-case thing.
  • I’ve got Resistance 3 on my rental list, and it looks great, but some of the voice acting that trailer didn’t inspire much confidence in me.
  • I’m not trying to be chicken little here, but if I understand this situation correctly, Valve’s policy toward exclusive DLC is new. Already offering exclusive DLC is grandfathered in, but when a new piece hits, that’s when the policy takes effect. So I don’t think I was off-the-mark in my suspicions about The Sims 3, but I guess we’ll see for sure in a few weeks.

I’m still very bad at From Dust

I’m not finished with From Dust — a rough estimate from a glance at the stages makes me think I’m almost halfway through. I’m digesting it pretty slowly, trying to chip through a stage every day or so. Sometimes the AI can be a bit dim, or , but most of the time I figure I’m just flat-out bad at being a god.

In one stage I very slowly built a land bridge over a pretty large mass of water. I feel like there had to be a better way that the designers intended, and I just wasn’t getting it.

Like last week with From Dust, I have a very, very small amount of experience with this week’s game, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. Great art style, solid controls, though I do wish that shots were mapped to the stick instead of the trigger. It’d be a little more twin-stick-like, but I think it would fit.

  • I’d like to play the free-to-play Peanuts game if there’s a “give Charlie Brown a rock” mini-game.
  • There’s probably some truth that the lack of games is to blame for the 3DS sales, but I don’t think you can totally discount smart phone games. They’re incredibly cheap and people are more used to bringing their phones with them everywhere. It’s a pretty serious threat, so hopefully Nintendo figures how to deal with that. I like my handheld systems, so I want to keep getting fresh content for them.
  • The Old Republic looks like it’s shaping up nicely. I’m not sure I’m a crazy enough fan to pay $150, but it might tempt me to really get into an MMO.
  • I try not to be unjustly harsh on Origin, which is why it’s kind of funny that the responses in the Comments seem to think we’re not giving them a chance. Oh well.