Monthly Archives: November 2010

BFBC2: Vietnam Release Date Revealed? Plus, Get Vietnam 3 days Early

Update: figures they would officially announce the release date literally a minute after I post this. DICE says the date is the 21st, but that those participating in the three day headstart can get their hands on the game on the 18th–the date that Steam was listing.

Looks like Steam has let the cat out of the bag: it’s listing the release date for the upcoming Battlefield Bad Co 2’s expansion. What would that date be, you ask? December 18th, of course. On that day, you will be able to purchase Vietnam for 14.99–15 bucks for 4 new maps with “foxholes, tunnels and dense jungles from where the enemy can launch surprise attacks”, 15 new weapons, and a 60’s soundtrack to boot.

Or, you can pre-order off of the EA Store and receive access to the expansion 3 days earlier than everyone else: the “three day headstart” is their preorder incentive. So, if Steam is to be believed, that means people preordering from the EA Store could start playing Vietnam on the 15th.

Advertisements

Black Ops Mythbusters

Ever wondered if you could put C4 on an RC Car? Shoot down a Valkyrie missile? Shoot down a care package? Well, wonder no longer–here are some myths about CoD: Blops, tested out for your viewing pleasure.

Players who are sick of getting killed by RC cars will probably  benefit from knowing that the flak jacket is resistant to the RC explosion.

Alan Wake Writer Blames Ludonarrative Dissonance on Game Expectations

Ah, ludonarrative dissonance: we’re all familiar with it. It’s the disconnect between the narrative and ‘play’ aspects of a game. Think, for example, how Nathan Drake is characterized as a likeable good guy and yet we spend all game killing dozens upon dozens of people: the narrative would suggest Nathan is not capable of that.

Anyway, in an interview with Game Sugar, Remedy studios writer Mikko Rautalahti has the following to say about storytelling in video games:

“I think it can be difficult to tell stories in video games. There are all these conventions – you are expected to have a certain amount of combat, a certain minimum number of gameplay hours, etc. These conventions aren’t really engineered with storytelling in mind. So a lot of the time, you end up kind of glossing over some of the details in your head – I mean, if you’re playing the lone hero, in terms of the story, does that guy really rack up a four-digit body count? Does he really get repeatedly shot with high-caliber weapons and mysteriously heal himself? And if you really get stuck at a difficult part, does that really mean that the hero also spent an hour just running around in frustration and then quit. Probably not, you know?”

Perhaps it is time that game developers start breaking convention for the sake of the medium, then, no? We know we can achieve technical/mechanical decency, now it’s time to take that one step further and achieve ludonarrative harmony. And it’s time we stop being appeasers about this all, too, stop giving game developers reasons to skimp out on the narrative. They have no reason to take narrative a step further if we’re happy with experiencing the same shoddy conventions over and over again.

Reminiscing with ilomilo

Childhood. The memories seem so far away, but they all come rushing back to me while playing ilomilo. The splendor of being impossibly tiny in a huge, magical world. The music, a theme which all my old stuffed animals can march to with animated gusto.

Everything about the title brings me back to that place. The premise is simple: you want to meet up with your friend. So off we go, with a tiny dog backpack in tow, off to a world only my friend and I know.

Adventure.

At first, the task is incredibly easy…but we don’t care. We’re too busy marveling at it all–the huge submarine booming overhead, the teacups in the distance, the sock puppet with a dislike for toy cubes, creatures meant to give us piggyback rides. It’s a dreamworld, and it’s all ours. And yet faint rasp of my feet hitting the ground as we approach each other is a reminder of just how tangible and tactile this world is.

When I was little, I kept a box. Inside this box, you could find a teal toothpaste marble from the local glassshop. An intact univalve shell, found on an SF beach. A chunk of quartz, accidentally found when I split a rock into two. A tiny sunflower button, which fell off a dress. Items collected by virtue of beauty, meant to be kept safe. I thought of this box as I collect tiny trinkets in ilomilo…when you collect enough, snippets of a memory between ilo and milo are revealed. And sure enough, every time I open the box I think of things that are otherwise lost to me. Even the saftkas remind me of a something kept in the box: tiny but colorful voodoo dolls, depicting me and my sister, brought to me by a latin american psychic. The way I they follow me everywhere reminds me of the years where I would refuse to let go of the right arm of an old teddie bear, given to me by my father on the day I was born.

“So, where to?”
“Let’s meet at the giant pinwheel.”

Perfect.

Marvel Vs Capcom 3 Combo Montage

Unsurprisingly, what this video confirms is that Marvel Vs Capcom 3 is one flashy motherfucker. The game emphasizes style, and it has it in spades. It’s just plain…cool looking. Everyone looks like they’d be fun to play, except for maybe She-Hulk, who looked boring.

I can’t wait to get this in my hands and not be able to do most of these combos.

Are We Ready For Catherine and Real Life?

“Oh, you’re looking at that again.”

It’s said with such disdain, you’d think I was looking at dead orphans or something, but no, it’s my friend, and I’m looking at Catherine trailers. Commonly known as “The Sex Game That Patricia Wants,” Catherine has become rather…infamous amongst my friends. Incidentally Persona games are often seen as “dating simulators,” instead of the high school simulators with dungeon crawling RPGs they are–fact is, the second that a game showcases a semblance of sexuality, it’s like being back in kindergarten and discovering cooties. But can we see past that?

I do not mean to belittle Atlus’ choice to focus on the sexual aspects of Catherine: a big part of Vincent’s problems deal with sexuality. Sex is a healthy and normal part of our everyday lives, and it is paramount that they adress the subject to show an accurate portrayal of an everyday life. Moreover it’s refreshing to see a game that wants to address sexuality in a meaningful way.

Still, most people will look at a trailer of Catherine and come to the same conclusion: it’s “the sex game.” And, sure, it is…but that’s not all it is. The marketing for the game, however, would tell you otherwise. The issue I have with Atlus’ choice to focus on the sex of the game instead of the Things That Actually Matter is that a good deal of players may feel too uncomfortable in giving Catherine a chance. The idea of playing a game where sexting is a mechanic, for example, may seem too “sleazy” to take seriously, despite it being a real, everyday practice. But if players are sometimes too embarrassed to play “kiddie games” because of what it might reflect on them, how will people feel about playing a “sex simulator”?

If there is a time when our distinctions between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ are pronounced, it’s when dealing with sexuality…in that sense, I suppose I can’t blame anyone for feeling uncomfortable exploring the subject of sex in a virtual place. If intimacy has a place in our society, it’s not considered to be found within a joystick…but that’s exactly why exploring it in this medium might be an interesting and revealing exercise.

Still, let’s not even think about the sort of bad press the game might get if mainstream media gets a wind of this game.

Maybe, the gaming community isn’t particularly ready for game that seriously deals with sex: what we experience in games are one-note caricatures of ‘love’ and lust. Not only that, we tend to be appeasers…it’s okay if a game falls short of exploring anything meaningful if it plays well, so games do not need to take risks in making meaningful experiences if we’re satiated with technical/mechanical decency. However, Atlus has to rely on the sex to get people to take notice..more on that in a second.
Read the rest of this entry

Play ilomilo on XBLA Early

As in, “right now” early. Y’see, while ilomilo–the cutesy puzzle game–is not officially released on XBLA, there is a super duper secret way of unlocking both the trial and full game. All you have to do is head on to this website and, provided you can use Captcha, you will be given a code to input on the XBL marketplace. This code unlocks the trial version of ilomilo, but should you become overtaken by the cuteness that is ilomilo, you will also be able to purchase the full game.

If you need a reminder for what this game is, just check this trailer out:

Download it, I dare you not to be charmed.

 

PSA: Absurd Steam Sales

If you don’t live under a rock, you know it’s almost Black Friday. Which means ridiculous sales everywhere, and absolutely, fucking ridiculous sales on Steam.

Case in point: today only, you can get the Indie Story pack for a ludicrous $5. Included is acclaimed platformer And Yet It Moves, Gish (featuring Gish! Of Super Meat Boy fame), Jolly Rover, Telltale’s Puzzle Agent (which is supposedly mediocre), and, my personal favorite, present #3 on my game of the year tally, Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale. How ludicrous is this? This would function as a 50% off sale for any of the first four games, and a whopping 75% off of Recettear. And Recettear is easily worth its full $20, and I would have posted about this even if it were on sale by itself.

But no! You get 4 free games with it. Personally, I just bought it for Gish, and I still feel like I just ripped someone off. If you’ve not played Recettear, while I never reviewed it it’s definitely near great, at least, and I would recommend it at 75% off. 75% off with 4 free games is just ludicrous.

Oh, there are other games on sale, too. You should throw best tower defense game ever Defense Grid in with that pack if you’ve never played it, because it is the best game on sale today. You could also get Audiosurf for cheap, or Batman: Arkham Asylum (which I’m not a particular fan of, sorry to say) for pretty cheap. Or, if you have 10 friends, you can buy 10 copies of Puzzle Quest 2 for 34$. I would have preferred one copy for $5, but what can you do?

IMPORTANT EDIT: Cheapassgamer, those clever gents, have figured out that there’ll be a pack a day until you are satisfied. Which is Cyber Monday. Here are the packs by the numbers:
– Indie Air Pack: Altitude, DogFighter, Flotilla, Gratuitous Space Battles, Plain Sight
– Indie Clever Pack: Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time, Eufloria, Iron Grip: Warlord, VVVVVV, World of Goo
– Indie Pulse Pack: Audiosurf, Beat Hazard, Bit Trip Beat, The Polynomial, Rhythm Zone
– Indie Puzzle Pack: Cogs, Droplitz, Puzzle Dimension, Shatter, Tidalis

Personally, I’m in for…well, all of these. 5$ is enough of a discount that buying the Indie Air Pack for *just* Gratuitous Space Battles. Everything else has at least one game I own, but I’ll still plunk down 5$. And then have absolutely no need for new video games for the next metric century. If you want to be cheap, the Clever Pack and Air Pack are my most recommended. Clever has my present #1 game of the year VVVVVV, as well as some other neat stuff and your fifteenth copy of World of Goo, while the Air Pack has Flotilla, a fantastic little space explorer, as well as Altitude, a cool multiplayer plane combat game.

Mass Effect 3, By The Numbers

In light of recent discussion regarding metrics fetishism, I’ve tried to parse Destructoid’s newly revealed Mass Effect 2 statistics with some perspective. We all know these numbers aren’t just random trivia: they will be part of the basis for changes in Bioware’s game development. Some numbers of note, along with complete speculation for what these numbers might mean or imply, as well as questions they elicit. I will state in advance that I will happily take being proven wrong on some of these speculations–designing solely by the numbers is stupid. But, let’s indulge in this thought experiment for a second.

  • 82 percent of players play as a male character

Despite Jennifer Hale’s critically acclaimed performance as FemShep, the likelihood of us seeing any marketing campaign giving FemShep the limelight is slim. This, too, holds true for other Bioware games: we see Garrett Hawke’s face plastered everywhere, not…whatever FemHawke’s name is (I don’t even know her name!) One part perpetuation of our little boys club, one part “catering to your audience.”

Moreover, it may influence how much effort is put into love interests–the vast majority of players are maleShep/maleWarden, so the love interests need to cater to them. I can’t be the only one that feels like the females in Bioware games get slim pickings for love interests, while the males get highly eroticized, completely idealized versions of women (who are literally perfect–like Miranda).

  • Garrus is one of the more popular choices for squad members

This one is a toughie: does Bioware bring Garrus back as a party member by virtue of popularity? Does Garrus even warrant the attention of three games? Do they take this, and instead of bringing Garrus back they form an archetype around him, since he’s proven to be a favorite (and we all know Bioware loves it some character archetypes)? Do they bring him back simply for fanservice, but don’t make him a party member (think of how they handled love interests from 1 in 2)?

  • 50 percent of players have fully upgraded the ship by the end of the game

Where some RPG aspects of the ME franchise were stripped back, streamlined, or removed, the upgrading of the ship was one of the only new additions with an RPG-like aspect. So, here’s another toughie: what does Bioware do with a stat like this? Do they keep building more systems which are governed by the same principles (upgrading vs resource management), or do they see that sort of thing as a waste of their time because only half of the users took complete advantage of it? Sure, we might not see ship upgrades in 3, but the numbers attached to the “success” of the ship upgrade system may influence how other mechanics work–most likely, in regards to their complexity. The issue here would be evaluating the statistic in a wider context: just why did only half of all players fully upgrade their systems?

  • 14 percent of all crewmembers die at the end of the game

I’m glad to hear that, for the most part, players tend to experience at least one death in their suicide mission…but then again, we must also remember that this 14 percent only applies to half of all ME2 players, since only half ever finish the game. Anyway, experiencing the death of a crewmember is paramount toward showing just how dangerous the mission actually is. After all, just how much of a suicide mission is it if most players manage to get all the crew back? Still, this means that most players only had one or two characters die out of about a dozen: does this mean Bioware made the suicide mission too easy? Do they think players actually get the gravity of the situation with that number of casualties?

This statistic is interesting to think about in the scope of ME3, if only because 3 will be when (ideally) everything falls into place. Players will, hypothetically, engage in situations that are equally high risk, if not more so. This statistic may be useful in determining to what degree Bioware molds the experience. To what extent do they give players control over their fate? How do they balance their vision and message for the game with player control? 14 percent can either be seen as a failure to properly balance player control versus vision–the player has control over too much of the system–or a success, because most players experience a death no matter what they do.

  • 36 percent of players choose the renegade option at the very end

A statistic like this might dictate how Bioware chooses to unfold the story. Yes, they will probably not issue a ‘canon-choice’ but if an overwhelming number of players choose the paragon option…well, what do you do? Do you put an equal amount of effort into crafting the consequences for both options, despite the fact that one will hold the most relevance to most people? Do you cast the importance of this choice aside because of how uneven the turnout is?

And then, the real biggie: only 50 percent of all players have finished ME2. This is probably the trickiest of them all, and perhaps the most controversial of the stats. You’ve got to wonder, just what is causing this? Disinterest? Difficulty? Both? All one can hope is, they don’t take this as an opportunity to make the game further streamlined, if not easier.

We’ll have to wait until ME3 is released to see just how much, if at all, Bioware worships the numbers. If 2 is any indication, it’s probably quite a bit.

The Elder Scrolls V is (Probably) Happening

You’re surprised. Act surprised. I’m going to start this post over again.

OH MY GOD THE ELDER SCROLLS V: BONESTORM IS HAPPENING I AM EXCITED.

My favorite part of today has, obviously, been how the games media are acting like the Elder Scrolls V is newly announced even though most of them know Todd Howard already mentioned it a million years ago as a thing and there’s no concrete information except in that interview. Well, except that it might be a “direct sequel”. Of course, Oblivion was a direct sequel to Morrowind, too. Lots of NPCs talked about the events in Morrowind the PC from the previous game was involved in. Well, lots of NPCs with one voice, at least.

Though, to be frank, the Elder Scrolls V would be *the* game. Oblivion was a game, but it was a very flawed game, due to the scaling and due to the complete lack of voiceover actors in the game (besides the esteemed Patrick Stewart). It sounds, from the above interview with Todd Howard, that this will still use Gamebryo, but a very, very modified version, fixing a lot of the old one’s problems. They say it will be a dramatic leap forward. Hopefully, this means they’ll fix the character interaction problems, iron out a collection of bugs, and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD not scale everything. Or, if they do scale everything, make the leveling system not hair-pullingly awful in conjunction with it.

Really, though, this is just an excuse to post the Morrowind speed run, which is hilarious and fantastic.