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Mass Effect 3 Aiming for Mass Appeal

Central to my criticism of Dragon Age 2 was that it was a game made by people who didn’t seem like they wanted to be making big Western RPGs. Rather, it felt like they would have been more comfortable making God of War with a flimsy conversation system attached.

At the time, it was disappointing, but we were confident, especially because of some early reports, that Mass Effect 3 wouldn’t suffer the same fate. It’s their “most ambitious title to date”! How could that possibly be disappointing, especially if they’re working in more RPG elements.

Well, leave it to EA to wipe away some good feelings. Eurogamer gave us the potentially bad news, with John Riccitiello saying they are “are purposefully shifting it to address a larger market opportunity.”

If that doesn’t sound like bad news, I don’t know what does.
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Darkspore Open Beta Review

One of the benefits of being a fringe site is that you don’t have to worry about people giving a fuck about your reviews. Major sites can’t really cover the Darkspore open beta on Steam, because EA would throw a fit and demand they review the finished product, not the beta of a game that’s 99% complete. Not so here, folks! As an independent nobody, I can do whatever I want.

I’ll admit, I decided to play the Darkspore beta out of morbid curiosity. I mean, this game is the electronic equivalent of a platypus: a Diablo clone shoehorned for absolutely no reason under the banner of the most disappointing franchise ever launched. And one thing is true: this is obvious, absolute shoehorning; besides using the same character models as Spore did, there is nothing, repeat, NOTHING in common between the two. It is a massive bait and switch.

The irony is that the bait is rancid, but the switch is pretty solid.
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Are Old Games Good?

It’s a question EA bossman Frank Gibeau asked to CVG, and when important people ask questions, then less important people ask the same questions! The salient quote:

“The key thing for us is, if we do bring [any of those] back, the game has got to be good. I don’t know about you but when I look back at GoldenEye, I think of it as this amazing game and the you go and play it and are like, ‘Oh. Really?’. From our perspective we have to manage that element which makes things look nicer in the rear view mirror compared to what you have to do now in the modern day. ”

Of course, Frankie picked the game most likely to get people to say they agree with him, to a ludicrous degree. He ignored the games that “aged well” and that, therefore, we should be remembering.

As usual, he’s half right. Everyone in the fucking universe is half right half the time. He’s half right: old games can suck, but not all of them.
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A New Trend in Pre-order Incentives

EA has been an interesting case when it comes to game marketing over the past year or so. Both of the BioWare games, Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2, completed under EA ownership, have come with the incentive to buy the game new with day one DLC in the case of DA and the ‘Cerberus Network’ updates in the case of ME2. EA has also been doing something similar with its numerous sports properties with its one-time activation code to use online multi-player features. These experiments have clearly been about mitigated used game sales, but what about pre-order strategy? Read the rest of this entry

ME3 Outed, Takes Place/Involves Earth?

The EA store has confirmed what I’m sure we all already know: ME3 exists, and we know this because they accidentally put up a listing for the game up in their store (and took it back down right away, but we have screenshots thanks to Joystiq.) Of particular note would be the description, which reads as follows:

“Earth is burning. Striking from beyond known space, a race of terrifying machines have begun their destruction of the human race. As Commander Shepard, an Alliance Marine, your only hope for saving mankind is to rally the civilizations of the galaxy and launch one final mission to take back the Earth.”

Earth is burning? Could ME3 see is finally visiting Earth? I would assume, if Earth is involved, this guarantees that the Illusive Man is involved…Earth is the keystone for humanity, no?

I will also note that it’s too bad they already used the ‘impossible mission against impossible odds’ trophe in 2, though it’s interesting that they say it’s a final mission….logistically, 3 marks the end of the series but do we have control over whether or not Shepard survives the mission?

Questions! We will probably know more once the VGAs roll around, because I’m going to bet that this is the title they unveil. This would explain why the gun held by the man in the screenshot we’ve all seen looks like a ME sniper rifle: it’s in the ME universe.

Do You Know Your Bioware History?

I don’t. I think that makes me a phony of some sort, considering the uneven coverage of Bioware here at Nightmare Mode, but you know what? Fuck you Holden Caulfield. I’m learning my history right now. And you can, too!

There are probably a lot of things you don’t know about Bioware. For example, not only was it founded by three doctors…its first title was a non-RPG about giant mechs? Hey, there’s even some snazzy infomercial music, too. Watch, below:

Wait, there’s more! That’s just part one…there’s a part two, a part three, and a part four.

It’s also interesting to note how hardcore Bioware seemed to be in the past about its RPGs. Nowadays, fans can’t seem to agree about whether or not they consider certain newer Bioware games to be RPGs at all, or rather other genres with RPG elements. Regardless of what you think, looking at their history, it’s pretty clear that they are no longer quite as hardcore about it as they used to be: but then again, with the exception of The Old Republic, they’re not really developing primarily for PC anymore. Maybe that doesn’t mean anything, but it’s interesting to think about.

Marketing campaign over: Taliban out of Medal of Honor

New contributor Brice followed by an S. commented on the same phenomenon in GT5 yesterday, but today the whole advertising features destined never to be in the game solely for publicity phenomenon got a new confirmed member when EA removed the Taliban from the upcoming Medal of Honor.

Raise your hand if you’re surprised. No, we don’t have any chips. Stop raising your hand, please, WE DON’T HAVE ANY.

Let’s flash back to the history of this development decision. In March, no one gave half a shit about the Medal of Honor reboot except really hardcore BF:BC2 players. Who are the core audience of any DICE shooter. This is a good audience, but not quite Call of Duty size. EA thought, “How do we get more people to play our game?”

“Let’s put the Taliban in!” someone said. Everyone looked at him funny, like he had sprouted wings that were desperately trying to detach his head from his body. “No, not permanently. We put them in the public beta. People play as the Taliban. Crisis reaches fever pitch, we get on Fox News, all the conservative gun nuts see it, think, ‘We buy this game to shoots us some terr’ists’, and get Battlefield to play the beta. Before release, we cut them from the actual game, so no one actually boycotts the game.” Everyone realizes this man is a genius and gives him a medal. Perhaps of honor. I don’t know, I wasn’t there.

So bravo, EA. You set gaming as an art form back about a year and got people to care about your shitty, derivative military shooter (derivative in that it is BF:BC2 but “realistic”). Good job. I’ve got a suggestion for your next step, too: rename the game after a barely related piece of literature. Seriously. Look how many people cared about Dante’s Inferno who wouldn’t have cared about Walkabout in Hell!

Why Are There No New Maps Or Content For The BFBC2 VIP Program?

Though the buy-new incentive ‘Project Ten Dollar’ was implemented for Bad Co 2, Battlefield fans everywhere claim that the VIP program has presented little value for their money. Instead of getting any new content, the program has taken to re-releasing established maps in different modes–and even simple costume changes, which end up being slight recolors of established models, or the only new mode, Onslaught, have cost Battlefield players money. This has set precedent to the feeling that if Battlefield players want to experience new content, they’re going to have to fork over cash to do it. So, what gives? Well, the Battlefield Community manager had the following to say on the subject:

How come you are releasing map packs and not “new” maps?

“The idea of the VIP program was to make sure that we had a continuous flow of content to our players, to keep the Battlefield updated with new places to fight in. We also wanted to make sure these were free of charge to the people with VIP codes. The remixed maps has worked great for this but we clearly also hear the community request for new maps. Naturally these are much heavier to create from a dev stand point and hence the lead times are longer.”

So, there you have it.

Now, at the risk of sounding cynical, I’m going to guess they have little incentive to release new content because not only is DICE working on Medal of Honor, but there’s also a full-fledged expansion–Vietnam–which will be released later this year. Intuition tells me Vietnam will be their response to our cries for ‘new content.’

Interestingly, other ‘Project Ten Dollar’ iterations–like the Cerberus Network for Mass Effect 2–have managed to churn out a lot of new content in a shorter time frame at zero expense to those in the program.

Medal of Honor is a “Creative Risk” From Which EA Will Not Back Down Despite Media Criticism

Frank Gibeau, president of EA Games, told Develop that what they are doing with Medal of Honor is tied to creative vision. “We respect the media’s views,” he said, “but at the same time [these reports] don’t compromise our creative vision and what we want to do.”

More than creative vision–art!

“At EA we passionately believe games are an artform, and I don’t know why films and books set in Afghanistan don’t get flack, yet [games] do. Whether it’s Red Badge Of Courage or The Hurt Locker, the media of its time can be a platform for the people who wish to tell their stories. Games are becoming that platform.”

Hmm. I was under the impression that art provoked critical thought of some sort? How can you claim to produce art when you can also say that you don’t intend to push too hard? Now, I know what you’re thinking. Patricia, that’s a quote from DICE, and they’re just handling the multiplayer aspect. So what? They are still speaking on behalf of the game, but more importantly, we already know that games with multiplayer components do not have to suffer a complete dichotomy from the single-player. Brink has taught us that multiplayer can be completely purposeful and integrated into the main game: hell, there’s no dichotomy between the two modes, there. Am I to believe that EA wanted to give such justice to the subject that they’re fine with providing us a mindless game mode, which only exists to satiate new consumer demands for online multiplayer? There’s really no excuse for it.

So, then, is it any surprise that they’re proud of what they’re doing? “The development teams care very much about what they’re building, and of course a bit of criticism from the media causes some to get demoralised, but at the end of the day we’re proud of what we’re doing. Brining Medal of Honor back was no small feat.”

And why brave all the criticism for this game? Because they want you to see “what it was like to be in a soldier’s position.” Because that experience is completely transferable in an entertainment medium, right?

Medal of Honor Becomes a Missed Opportunity

I have nothing but harsh words for the people over at DICE today. But, before I start firing my guns, I should give you guys some context:

“I think it is a fair point.” said producer Patrick Liu on the latest issue of PSM3 magazine, on whether or not playing as Taliban soldiers may be pushing it too far, “We do stir up some feelings, although it’s not about the war, it’s about the soldiers…We can’t get away from what the setting is and who the factions are, but in the end, it’s a game, so we’re not pushing or provoking too hard.”

I can’t even count the number of things wrong with those statements. Let’s tackle them one at a time, shall we?

Controversy around this subject is to be expected, especially considering that Medal of Honor will depict present-day conflict. The subject isn’t something most of us have only read in history books, this is something that’s happening right now. And we get to use the actual guns on actual enemies while simulating war tactics in our pursuits for killstreaks. Given these facts, it’s not surprising that some people may have issues with what the game depicts. It’s a sensitive issue.

Still, I maintained hope that the direction the game is taking is some sort of artistic choice–it had to be. Why pick the current war? Why pick the current “enemy?” There has to be some intent, some message, a qualifier of some sort, right?

Hmm. Red flag # 1: it’s not about the war. It’s about the soldiers.

And, it’s a fair enough point. Except, if it’s not really about the war, why bother going through so much trouble to make the game as realistic as possible in the “right” way? It doesn’t make any sense to put so much effort into showing current armed conflict if that’s not the point. Why bother consulting all those special forces? To me, saying that it’s not about the war serves as a deflection.

DICE could have avoided this entire debacle if they just abstracted the themes they want to relay in a different setting or context–after all, it’s about the soldiers. Not about the war. So it doesn’t make sense for them to say they couldn’t “get away” from the setting and the factions. Yes, they could have. In fact, it’s becoming obvious that perhaps they should have, considering that they just got done saying that the war itself isn’t the point. Why bother depicting that, specifically, then?

Unless, you know, the setting wasn’t chosen for some artistic reason, or chosen to relay some sort of message. What if the setting was chosen knowing that it would garner controversy and sell more copies?

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