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Excited About? September 21, 2011

Posted by Thomas Richards in News & Opinions.
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I wanna blog about the games I want this year;

Batman Arkham City

I have always enjoyed Batman as characters but would have never tagged myself in conversation as a Batman geek.  I considered The Dark Knight my favorite movie but that was just because it was great and had nothing to do with an obsession with B-Man I held before seeing it.  I even watched the animated series quite a bit when I got home from school in the early 90’s, but none of this ever turned me into a Batman geek.

In August 2009 that all changed.  The pretty much unknown Rock Steady released a gem that grabbed ahold of my soul and entertained me in ways I had forgotten video games could (inb4 “that’s what she said”).  The story was perfectly simple, but the characters were interesting which enabled the story to have good depth but stay out of the way of the gameplay.  The environments were amazing and the excellent use of collectables enticed you to search for them for reasons other than just Achievements.  Very few games make the collectibles interesting because of their story elements, interesting because they are cleverly hidden and interesting because they upgrade your character.

As you played through Batman’s one night adventure you actually got to experience the sensations that Batman does of sneaking up onto enemies and making them shit themselves with fear before you jump out and beat the pulp out of them.

Everything in this game connected with me more and more as I played through it, and after completing it I found the joy of the combat challenges.  Oh the combat challenges, what happiness you bring to me.  Never before has a singleplayer action game made my fingers itch to play it the way Arkham City has.  In these challenges you are tasked with taking out a large group of thugs as efficiently as possible thus giving you a high score based mostly on a combo system.  The difficulty of these challenges is perfectly calibrated to make players fully utilize the sublime combat the game offers.

I got addicted to the way batman can flow from thug to thug countering them with well-timed button presses and simple two button moves that all have vastly different uses.  The combat in this game has a perfect skill requirement, so that getting better at the game rewards you visually through combat that looks better as you get better, and mechanically, because you start to get better scores.

The real amazing factor of the combat to me thought is that the game allows you to do amazing moves without ever feeling like the cool shit that happens is just a result of the developer’s plans.

I love the original so much that I am very close to my fourth full complete of all 1000 Gamerscore, so it is no surprise I’m shaking in my pants with excitement for the sequel.

Super Mario 3D Land

I have loved every major Mario released that ever existed, and  for Super Mario Galaxy 2 this is especially true.

SMG2 reminded me why I fell in love with games in the first place.  It was an absolute joy, with its colorful vibrant graphics and fully orchestrated soundtrack I couldn’t help but get immersed.

Combine this with a challenging and creative level design and you have a game that reminded me why Nintendo is still relevant.

When they announced Super Mario 3D Land, I was sold on the 3DS.  They teased about its connections to Super Mario Bros. 3 with the tail on the logo, and showed a few screen shots that were I the graphical style of the Galaxy series, but touted the game as still being evocative of the more old school Mario platformers.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my 3DS so far but in November Mario’s cheerful Mushroom Kingdom will be my second home.

Halo Combat Evolved:  Anniversary

Anybody who knows me knows that I love Halo.  I bought my original Xbox the day that Halo 2 came out so my experience with the classic is a bit limited but I enjoyed every second I had with it.

This game is the remake of the series that has defined my gaming for over five years.  I will be able to traverse the classic campaign in a full new graphic style and immediately switch to the classic look bushed up with HD graphics in an instant.  Other developers need to take note of this because it is the way to please both sides of the “Messing with classic games” argument.

Coinciding with this games release is a massive update to Halo Reach’s multiplayer that includes some maps and the much desired ability to remove the bloom of the DMR from certain playlist in Matchmaking.

If the MLG community gametype designers use this properly we could have the be all, end all competitive Halo experience that people have been dreaming of.  With Reach’s awesome hit detection, the Forge toolset, and the ability to customize the game mechanics as you see fit I’m sure this will make a good chunk of the Reach naysayers migrate back from CoD, Battlefield and Gears.

These are the three main games I’m looking forward to this year and I just wanted to help my anticipation for them by raving about them.  I would love for some commenters to do the same. Jjust shoot us with the games you want and feel free to disagree with me or call me an idiot for ignoring one you love. I would love to hear your onions on this holidays games, after all yammering about games is a hobby of mine…

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This Article is Entitled Bitching September 20, 2011

Posted by Thomas Richards in Rants.
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It feels like all I hear and read from gamers these days is entitled bitching, so in response I’m doing some entitled bitching about entitled bitching.

Every time I visit a gaming forum, I see people bitching about the things they don’t like and the inevitable demise of companies they choose not to align with.

Nintendo is the first company that comes to mind.  The Wii released in 2006 and, as expected, was immediately attacked for differing from the norm of other systems and not supporting HD displays.  As with every system released since I have been old enough to pay attention, beginning with the N64; the Wii had a rough start with software.  Excluding a few great titles, it took about a year to really take off and give us the games we wanted to play.

During the lulls in software that Nintendo gave us for the Wii, the complaints that filled the World Wide Web were justified.  When Nintendo began releasing the games that gamers desired, people continued to bitch about how Nintendo rehashed the same games and never created games for gamers.  In response to the bitching, Nintendo began to pump out some really great software; releasing phenomenal games like Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Donkey Kong Country Returns.

SMG2 and DKCR are exactly what the general gaming community demanded from Nintendo.  Both are great releases of beloved characters and both stick with what made people love the series in the first place, all while still using new design and creativity to take them in completely new directions.  As an even bigger nod to the hardcore members of Nintendo’s audience, these two games were made quite difficult – a surprising turn that Nintendo hasn’t displayed since the SNES era.

Interestingly, these two titles were readily ignored by every single person I know; by those who had constantly claimed they wanted these types of games from Nintendo, and I know from browsing countless forums that most people don’t have the greatest feelings towards these games.  Worst of all, the majority of the people who are complaining have never actually even played them.

If you have played more than 5 hours in either of these games and still have issues with them, you can exclude yourself from the title of “Entitled Bitch” that I give to the majority of people who have things to say about these games.

Lately, Nintendo has been getting a lot of crap for the 3DS.  When navigating the posts of gamers, it is obvious that the general consensus of gamers is that it’s pure shit. I know that Nintendo launched the 3DS at too high of a price point and burned quite a bit of their audience when they dropped the price, but trying to patch your wounds by giving you the 20 free ambassador games was a step in the right direction. I realize the 3DS’ library is lacking as well; I love Ocarina of Time, but the ability to replay a 13-year old classic does not sell systems. As the countless forum trolls would tell you, the lack of software is definitely an issue that must be overcome before the 3DS is a truly great system.

In case nobody has not noticed, the 3DS is not the first system to be released without great launch titles; nearly every new system has this issue.  What makes the 3DS different is we’ve known exactly when the killer apps are releasing; Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, Star Fox, Zelda and Luigi’s Mansion should be enough to satisfy those who complain about a lack of awesome software.

Even considering the amazing software schedule that starts late this year – within a year of the 3DS’ launch, mind you – people act like these games don’t exist.  How in the world can people say the 3DS’ main issue is a lack of software all the while acting like this problem won’t be resolved? Hasn’t this release schedule been staring them in the face for months?

Even more bizarre is the fact that this lineup was already established before Nintendo slashed the price of the 3DS.  I would have thought that this lineup along with a massive price cut and a pretty damn cool digital game store would silence critics, but alas; it has not.

I would bet my measly yearly income that most of the people who claim to have problems with the handheld’s 3D features are full of shit. If they’ve tried it for a short amount of time, the “pain” they experienced was placebo; the mere thought of eye strain produced actual pain. I understand 3D perception is different for everyone, and some can’t even see it; but the people complaining haven’t experienced how much more substantial it makes the games. If the 3D is really a problem, Nintendo has conveniently included a slider on the system to turn it off.

The 3DS is an amazing portable with a great software lineup coming down the pipes, but this is not the issue. The real issue is much harder to overcome; entitled bitching.

If you complain about the 3DS for any of these problems and have not extensively played one, then you are an “Entitled Bitch.” It’s possible for the 3DS not to be an enticing purchase for some, but if the above statements still apply to you then your title remains.

Moving on, anyone that knows me will tell you that Sony is not my favorite company.  I rarely enjoy their games, for some stupid and unknown reason.  However, because I am not an “Entitled Bitch,” I can see the problem that has plagued the PlayStation 3 since it released.

Before the PS3, Sony seemed immune to “Entitled Bitching.” However; as soon as the system released, the symptoms began. Despite the countless amazing games released and new franchises Sony has developed, people still shunned the PS3 for a lack of software. “Year One Syndrome” hit the PS3 hard, but the PS3 just can’t seem to shake the perception that it has very few good games for it.

To make things worse, the PlayStation Network was hacked and people were reasonably concerned about security issues.  Sony responded perfectly to the situation by offering amazing titles for zero cost, yet people still acted like Sony hadn’t done enough to rectify the situation; that their FREE account was unusable for a month.  “It Only Does Offline” was a bad situation, but it’s been blown way out of proportion with the whole “My security has been compromised” bull shit.  It’s damn well known that nothing was stolen out of anyone’s accounts; that the only data stolen were your names and the last 4 digits of your payment info, so just shut the hell up.

If you don’t like the PS3 because you‘re not interested in their games or you simply can’t stop playing your Xbox, then that is reasonable. However, if you find yourself on forums or at social events complaining about the PS3’s lack of games and the security breach, then you’re an “Entitled Bitch.”

I must admit that the Xbox 360 is my favorite current generation platform. What else can I say – I’m in love with Halo!  My passion, however, does not cloud my vision from the fact that Microsoft seems to have protective armor from “Entitled Bitches”.  Like I said I LOVE MY XBOX, but why does a system not get bitched about when it is guaranteed to break forcing you to buy multiple systems?  On another note, why does nobody seem to complain about Microsoft’s abysmal first party support for the system?  I know Xbox has Halo, Forza and Gears of War, but that’s about it.  Seriously if any system deserved “Entitled Bitching” being directed at it, the Xbox does. (In regards to the Xbox I can’t help but admit that my perception that there is a lack of “Entitled Bitching” about the system could in fact be in result of me being so  engrossed in my love for the Xbox that I can’t see how much people are actually bitching.)

I’m not discouraging you from being critical and discerning with your money and opinions, but just take it easy and if you are going to publicly complain about something at least make sure it is objective before you say it, and if it isn’t, do us a favor and admit your bias.

Above all else, avoid jumping on hate bandwagons!  If you don’t like something, fine, but please don’t start spamming about how terrible something is just because everybody else seems to be doing so.  Ask yourself if the thing in question really deserves your negative attention, or are you just joining others in hatred.

Unfortunately, I don’t know if this article will actually cause people to see the “Entitled Bitching” syndrome in themselves, or if I’m contributing the disease by bitching about “Entitled Bitching”.  I guess I just want people to stop complain about EVERYTHING that happens in the game industry and just sit back and enjoy it for what it is, because it feels like it has been ages since we have.

The Death of a Gamer: Health Issues in Gaming August 8, 2011

Posted by Brandon C. in News & Opinions.
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I try and stay current on all gaming news, even that which reaches the eyes of the mainstream media. When gamers are mentioned in the media, it’s usually a negative connotation – video games are the devil de jour right now, and everybody is quick to offer a “professional opinion” on the latest shooting or massacre attributed to video games. We’re demonized quite often, if you didn’t already notice.

However, not every video game related news story brought up by the media is negative, per se. Take for example, last week’s news about 20 year-old Chris Staniforth of Sheffield, England. Chris was a game design student at Leicester University, and an avid fan of Halo. He passed away suddenly from a pulmonary embolism caused by deep vein thrombosis, usually caused by being sedentary for too long. Chris was a “promising young student” with a lifetime filled with gaming ahead of him.

It’s tragic; it really is. Of course, I didn’t know Chris – I’d never heard of him until I clicked a link on Google News detailing the death of a young “Xbox Addict.”

I said earlier not every news piece the mainstream picks up about gaming is “negative.” Unfortunately for Chris and his family, the news of his death is obviously negative. Chris’ family is trying to spin this into a positive for the world, warning young folks about the health risks of being sedentary and long late-night gaming sessions. However, the general tone of these reports is still negative.

Chris is almost never referred to by his name before being called an “Xbox Addict.” The headlines always read something like “Xbox Addict dies from blood clot” and his name is never mentioned before the words “addict.” I have a problem with this.

Is a person that plays basketball all day, every day an “addict?” What about chefs? Are they “addicts?” Musicians, gardeners, and every other hobbyist in the world are never called “addicts” – it’s just a hobby. Gamers, though – oh man, you guys have a serious problem. But, that’s a topic for another article. We’re talking about our health.

Sure, we’re not all living, breathing pinnacles of human health and fitness. Personally, I could stand to lose some weight. A lot of it, in fact. I would be fucking ecstatic to lose the weight of a 10 year-old and be at what some would call a “normal” weight for my height. I’m working on it, albeit slowly, but I’m not an unhealthy person. Ask any of my friends, and they’ll tell you 9 times out of ten I would order a salad at a restaurant instead of a big greasy burger. Hell, I eat leaf spinach raw – why the hell do I weigh 285 lbs?!

Like many gamers in the world, I get very little exercise. My metabolism is slower than a turtle glued to a cement brick. Sure, I’ve lost a significant amount of weight by cutting the soda and junk, but my future weight loss hinges on my ability to get off my fat ass and go running. Other than my weight and the higher-than-average blood pressure that comes along with being a fatty, I’m healthy. Of course, if I stay at the weight I am, I’m at risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and many other nasty ailments I’d rather steer clear of.

Was Chris an unhealthy individual? Not necessarily – but his lack of movement caused a fatal blood clot in his legs, and when that got to his heart, well, we all know what happened to poor Chris. My deepest sympathies go out to his family, and I hope his death was not in vain for the rest of us. We need to learn a lesson from Chris’ condition and apply the knowledge to ourselves.

We, as gamers, have serious health issues. We get less sleep, our diets generally suck and we get less exercise; it’s a bad combination that could wreck our lives forever unless we do something about it. Think about your own habits whilst gaming – do you snack? What do you drink? How often do you take a break to stretch and get out of your gaming chair? Are you forgoing sleep to get that extra level in?

Your health is dependent on all of these factors. If not properly balanced, we become unhealthy and risk a shorter lifespan because of it. Do your gaming habits hinder your health, or supplement it?

HOLY SHIT – Nintendo Drops a Bomb July 28, 2011

Posted by Brandon C. in News & Opinions.
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Oh damn; oh shit oh shit oh SHIT. Nintendo is in some deep shit, and I don’t mean girl-dump-rainbows-and-butterflies kind of shit. I’m talking grade-A, waist deep, fat-guy-after-Pizza-Hut-turbo-dump SHIT.

Nintendo just released their sales data for the past three months, and it’s not pretty. Sales have taken a nice little Sunday stroll right off a cliff. We’re talking bottomless pit type drops here, people; Wii sales down 50% – DS sales down 60%. It wouldn’t be so bad if the 3DS was selling like the hot little handheld should be. Instead, we’re talking under a million units WORLDWIDE. 710,000 to be exact since launch. This is NOT good news for the Japanese console maker.

It’s lukewarm news for gamers, too – Nintendo has decided to tie a pair of concrete shoes to the handheld’s price. August 12th will be D-Day for the 3DS, when it’s price drops almost $100 to only $169.99.

A drop that steep and quick should give you a nosebleed. Obviously, it’s serious “holy-crap-your-pants-belt-tightening” time at Nintendo.

We’ve seen price drops like this on handhelds like the dead-to-rights Gizmondo and the ill-fated Tapwave Zodiac (a personal favorite of mine, by the way,) but never on a handheld from one of the Big Three before. Oops, I’m forgetting the PSP Go and Virtual Boy. Where are those systems now?

Dead in the water. Man, I’m just full of awesome analogies today, aren’t I?

I’m cautiously optimistic with a side of realism about this turn of events. There’s two things this COULD mean for Nintendo, and at this point it could go either way.

The optimistic outlook?

Nintendo’s price drop persuades gobs of gamers to purchase the pretty awesome handheld, bringing an influx of much needed sales immediately. On the games front, developers see said influx of sales and capitalize on the sudden boom in sales by flooding the 3DS’ library with quality titles. Both the problem of lack of games and high price tag are solved. Early adopters are happy with 20 free 3DS eShop titles and a sudden boom of awesome new games to play from first and third-party support lines.

When the holiday season rolls around, consumers are enamored with the 3DS’ awesome tech, low price and library of quality titles; deciding to purchase a 3DS over the more expensive and less of a sure shot PlayStation Vita. Nintendo regains it’s dominance in the handheld market and everything is hunky-dory for gamers and Nintendo. Sony is, once again, seemingly left in the dust.

Now, the pessimistic outlook.

Early adopters feel burnt by Nintendo’s offering of 20 pre-chosen titles from the eShop, and most don’t even download them. Potential buyers are put off by the sudden price drop, and see it as an admission of defeat from Nintendo. Nintendo sees a small influx of sales from said price cut, but ultimately the campaign is less than successful. Buyers instead look at the PlayStation Vita as an acceptable replacement for their handhelds, and the successor to the PSP is a runaway hit during the 2011 holiday season.

Developers perceive the price drop as a lack of faith on Nintendo’s part, and even more games are canceled due to the extreme risk involved in releasing the titles. As the releases dry up, so does the system’s sales, and ultimately the 3DS goes down in history as a massive failure on Nintendo’s part.

Which scenario is more likely? So far, Nintendo is getting a lot of positive support on the web. By far the community’s biggest problem with the handheld has been it’s price, and Nintendo is more than fixing that problem today. The second has been developer support – we can likely expect renewed interest in the 3DS’ capabilities by developers, and maybe even a reversal on the decision by a few developers to cancel certain games (Mega Man Legends 3, OH GOD PLEASE!)

Personally, I hope the best for Nintendo and the 3DS. I own one, so I should hope for the best… I’m looking forward to a bunch of free games from Nintendo in addition to the games I planned on purchasing later this year anyway, games like Star Fox 64 3D and Super Mario 3D. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more Mii’s in my StreetPass queue, and playing a lot more multiplayer with a lot more people.

I really hope Nintendo can stick this – even if it feels very much like a last ditch effort on their part. I hope Nintendo grows from this experience and takes away one crucial piece of much needed humble pie – just because it says “Nintendo,” doesn’t mean people will buy it over something else.

Legends Never Die – A Mega Man Fan’s Letter to Capcom July 24, 2011

Posted by Brandon C. in Uncategorized.
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I am an avid fan of the Mega Man series, and have been since 1990. At the tender age of only 5 years, I was exposed to a game that would shape me and my gaming habits for another 20 years. That game was Mega Man 2.

I was in awe of the amazing graphics, stunned by the challenging gameplay, and totally rockin’ out to the best music I’d been exposed to yet. It was everything I wanted in a video game, and it was just two doors away at a friend’s house.

Then I moved away, and I was left with my own assortment of games I was suddenly having less fun with.

After renting copies of 2 and 3 numerous times from a local video store, I finally convinced my mom to hunt me down my own copy. After months of waiting and the closure of a local Amos store, I was one hell of a happy kid – Mega Man 4 was in my possession. Sure, it didn’t have those freakin’ awesome Metal Blades, but it was glorious none the less. My days and nights from then on were filled with sliding and blasting and jumping and, of course, dying.

Over the next 20 years, I played through each successive series that Capcom could create in the Mega Man universe. There’s nary a one I haven’t played.

Except, now, two – that I will never be allowed to play.

I was disheartened earlier this year when I saw a lack of Mega Man in my Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. I was more disheartened when heard about the cancellation of Universe – I was looking forward to creating many many many of my own levels and challenges. I was disheartened, metaphorically down on the ground, but I was optimistic – I still had Mega Man Legends 3 to look forward to. A sequel to my favorite PlayStation games? I would finally be able to rescue Volnutt from Elysium.

Then, a notice of cancellation for both the prototype and full versions of Mega Man Legends 3 hit me like a wall of bricks. It was like Capcom kicking me while I was down on the ground, as I was struggling to understand why. The news of Ultimate Marvel 3 without Mega Man added to my frustration; like Capcom was kicking dirt in my face.

Now, I’m concerned that the cancellation of not one, not  two but THREE Mega  Man games in a single year will have an adverse  effect of the series as  a whole. Most notably, that the Blue Bomber will  fade into obscurity  as Capcom lets the character stagnate and rust away  in a capsule, never  to be unearthed again.

This message isn’t intended for the North American arm of Capcom, as I’m sure they are just as disheartened as I am, just as hurt and betrayed as I feel. You deny it, but I know why you’ve killed these projects – Inafune-san spoke out about CoJ’s practices while he was with the company, and since he departed they’re “saving face” by purging his projects and methodically kiling his legacy at Capcom.

It’s selfish, bullheaded and unnecessary. You’re not saving face by isolating your fans and consumer base. You’re angering us and shooting yourselves in the foot. We’ll remember the day the house that made Mega Man turned it’s back on us.

Do I want to say these things? NO. I love Capcom just as much as I do Mega Man. But you’ve lost a far greater RESPECT from me this past week. I see a Capcom moving to re-release Dead Rising 2 with minimal new features, a re-re-release of Street Fighter 4, and a re-release of Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 and I see greed and a lack of respect for it’s consumers and fans.

I loved you, Capcom. I really did. I expect more from one of my favorite developers, one that once listened to it’s fanbase and responded with well-developed games and content, not draconic DRM and cheap products.

You’ve wounded me deeply; the hurt is REAL.

But you know what you have to do to re-earn my trust and adoration. It’s more than just releasing Mega Man Legends 3, but that would be a DAMN good place to start. Embrace 21st century distribution technologies to expand a game’s playability – there’s no reason to re-release a game like Dead Rising 2 on disc – release Off The Record as a download for the original DR2, and re-release the game with the included DLC, the same with Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 and Street Fighter.

We want more original content like Dragon’s Dogma and Asura’s Wrath (IF THEY’RE GOOD) and less exploitative sequels. Make GOOD sequels, like Mega Man Legends 3! Know what your fans want, deliver that, and we’ll be happy.

And trust me, a lot of your fans feel the same way I do. We feel like we’ve been exploited and taken advantage of, manipulated and used, then thrown away. You have to respect us if you want us to respect you.

I’ll support Capcom as long as you show me you actually give a damn about me. Until then, I don’t think I feel it’s worth it to patronize a company that doesn’t respect or care about it’s fans enough at the top.

Please, prove me wrong, Capcom! Show me how much you respect my wants in a product to reverse the decision to cancel Mega Man Legends 3! Show me you’re willing to update a product via network connection instead of exploiting my want for said product by charging a premium price for a less than premium product. Show me you want me to love you by showing me how much you love me and not just my money.

Signed,

Brandon Carlson – Servbot #004416, and Mega Man’s #1 Fan/supporter.

The More You Know: Casual Gamers July 24, 2011

Posted by Thomas Richards in Rants.
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The casual gamer has been an oft mentioned subject in the Video Game community for the several years. They are the bane “Real Gamers” everywhere; the methodic destruction of our passion and industry on a steady decline for many years.

The Casual Gamer comes in many forms. The first is what I like to call a “Bro Gamer;” this group enjoys Call of Duty and Madden with their buddies and little else. Bro gamers play video games because they are popular and because it sounds like something fun to do.  You would never catch them playing a game as thought provoking as Portal or Braid, and that is because they would rather play shooters with their drinking buddies because it is “so tight,” while talking about that hot chick they bought drinks for. This group believes themselves to be gamers, but as soon as they are in social circles that view gaming negatively they will never mention the fact that they play them. You will meet this niche online with emblems attached to their overly machismo internet aliases depicting how stoned they are. They can be seen playing Guitar Hero on medium difficulty whilst bragging about their insane skills and talking about how great that last college basketball game was.

Bro gamers like to believe they understand what real gamers are, and talk like they understand when they are around us. This group has no real understanding of the artistic effort that hard working developers pour into the titles real gamers play. Bro gamers will play only the most popular of titles that we play, but never have the level of understanding or appreciation for what gives a title merit. They have never sacrificed anything for the gaming lifestyle; they play only because it is popular to do so. I take solace in the fact that these noobs will be done soiling our lifestyle once they marry their girlfriends that don’t approve of their “waste of time” due to its implied nerdiness. In a few short years, we will be rid of this generation of bro gamers; only for a younger group to take its place. Until then, they give our kind easy kills in Halo and Call of Duty.

“Social Gamers” are the people who will play a game at their next family get-together; the kind Nintendo was so eager to bring into the fold with the Wii.  They will spend hours playing Wii Sports or, in the worst case scenario, they play FarmVille. Once their families light social group disperses or they log off Facebook they will be back to watching Martha Stewart and thinking about their hip sizes.  This group destroyed any potential the Wii might have had, leaving our kind to dig through massive piles of social shovelware crap to find games worth playing. They believe Wii Bowling is God’s gift to gaming, making them easy targets for quick start developers creating titles like “Ninjabread Man” and “Family Sports Fun Time” to cash in and make a quick buck off this ignorant group.  Shovelware becomes so popular to the point that quality titles become obscure and overlooked due to the rush to buy cheap ports of flash games we played in High School.

My entire life I’ve had to explain to non-gamers why I love games so much; I can’t count how often I’ve explained why I would rather play Halo instead of basketball to an Aunt who had never played a game before in her life.  Social gamers have less of an understanding of what makes games such an enjoyable, deep and ever-changing medium than bro gamers.   When the Wii released, I was excited to see that people that once needed an explanation were now trying to understand my passion. I soon realized even though they were trying games for themselves, their comprehension lacked clarity, and they understood our hobby as well as someone who drinks a glass of water could understand surfing.

A lot of the blame the social gamer garners comes from the companies that capitalize on their naivety. For example, when a true gamer offers up a quality title like New Super Mario Bros. for Wii, their reaction is to immediately blow the person off in the same way they would before they began to infiltrate our livelihood.  The Wii’s potential as a great gaming platform has been completely whittled away; even the companies who would have made good games for the system know there is less money to be made in the hardcore market, so they pump out shovelware as fast as McDonalds makes hamburgers.

The “Real Gamer” (aka Hardcore Gamer, True Gamer) is someone who has devoted large portions of their life to gaming.  We are real gamers; purveyors of Mega Man, Mario, Link and Simon Belmont. We know what it takes to get better at a challenging game, and when we reminisce with friends we talk about how much fun we’ve had with the games we’ve played together.  We immediately know when a person is a social or bro gamer, and know they’re not one of us. We have dedicated our entire lives to the pursuit of pwnage, and know that gaming is something we will have our entire lives.  When younger, our parents took our games away from us when we caused trouble, knowing it was a motivating factor in our lives; even so, we’d find a way to play anyway.  We were caught with our Game Boy at school, stayed up gaming until 4 AM even if we had class, and we’ve never been afraid to display our gaming habits anywhere but on our sleeves. We’ll play the same games as social and bro gamers, yet we have a deep understanding of the artistic value held within. We’ll be told by others we “have no lives” or that we’re “wasting our time” and we should “get a constructive hobby,” but there’s never been a doubt in our minds about what we loved, and we’ve always understood and accepted the trials associated with being a gamer.

All we ask is you learn to differentiate us from the rest. We’re gamers; the biggest insult we could receive is being labeled as something we’re not. As for the rest of you, do your best to stay out of our way as we’ll be the ones creating something for you to pass your time with soon enough; best not to piss us off too much.

The Death of a Legend? July 22, 2011

Posted by Brandon C. in Uncategorized.
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It’s been a hard year for classic gamers, and it got worse earlier this week with the news that Capcom was halting production on Mega Man Legends 3 Project indefinitely. It’s been a strange year for Capcom, with the once proud Japanese developer/publisher bogged down with sluggish sales, releasing critically lackluster products and having one of their longest tenured creators – the Father of Mega Man himself, Keiji Inafune – suddenly and unexpectedly depart the company.

Are we witnessing the death of a legend in the games industry? It’s not just a beloved classic character, Mega Man, on the line here – it’s a legendary developer and an entire portfolio of beloved characters and franchises. Capcom has long been a company to hold their games to a higher standard than most in the industry, but the perceived mentality coming from Japan today is too American for it’s own good – sequels, sequels, sequels, no originality and the notion that there’s no room for games geared toward a smaller more traditional demographic.

Capcom is quickly becoming the Japanese Activision, by opening their publishing doors and inking deals to distribute games instead of developing them in the Land of the Rising Sun.

That, and canceling not one, not two but THREE Mega Man titles in one year? Releasing TWO Street Fighter titles within a fiscal year? Add on the news that Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 would be releasing in November, a mere nine months after the release of the original title, and the future looks bleak for Capcom.

You might be reading this article, and saying “Wait, bleak? Capcom is still developing titles and releasing games and making money – how is this bleak?” The answer is simple: Capcom holds a diverse portfolio of franchises and properties from which to develop games for, but that catalog is thinning dramatically. Creation is stagnating. Originality is dying at Capcom, my friends, and that’s no good for anyone.

We’re seeing it happen all over the Japanese industry – cookie cutter games and sequels. Dead Rising 2 is getting a slightly tweaked re-release, Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 is getting a non-DLC upgrade and Street Fighter 4 just got it’s 3rd disc-based update. Back before the rise of networks like PSN and Xbox Live, this was acceptable – how else would you push an update out to fans? Now, we can download an update – there’s no need to go to the store or waste materials on producing a disc.

And what about sequels for the games that deserve it? Where’s Strider 3, Mega Man Legends 3, Mega Man X9, Commando 4, Rival Schools 2, Darkstalkers 4, Ace Attorney Investigations 2, Breath of Fire 6 or Viewtiful Joe 3? All these excellent franchises are going to waste – rotting away. And what about all the fresh and new ideas you could have made into successful titles? We’ve seen greenlit projects like Mega Man Legends 3 get canned, so that must mean there’s at least 20 good ideas that never saw the light of day – can I get some creativity up in here?

Sure, there’s a market for Call of Duty 29 and Madden 3035 and Street Fighter 7 – but there’s just as many that want games like Dark Void and Zack & Wiki. Sure, we’ve got Dragon’s Dogma and Asura’s Wrath coming down the pipeline – both new and untested IPs – but lets look at the facts:

Capcom has released 30 titles across 3 platforms this generation (I’m not including portables due to the extreme amount of re-releases included on that list.) Of those 30 titles, we have 8 games within 6 new IPs, with two more coming – the list includes Zack & Wiki, We Love Golf (actually by Camelot – makers of Mario Golf), Lost Planet, Dead Rising, Spyborgs and Dark Void. The rest are sequels and re-releases. Of those new IPs released, Dead Rising will become a franchise, Lost Planet 2’s lukewarm sales have guaranteed it’s place in Capcom obscurity, and the most original (Zack & Wiki) will go down as beloved by those that played it but lost forever due to a lack of sales.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 and Street Fighter 4 and Dead Rising. But do I want to buy all 3 games again twice? NO. I’d rather pay $15 for the Ultimate DLC Pack for MVc3 that includes 12 new characters and 5 new stages, or the Arcade DLC Add-On for SF4 that costs $10 for 4 new characters and balances, or the Frank West Campaign Pack for Dead Rising 2 that costs $15. Collectively, I’ve saved $100 by getting all this DLC instead of going out and paying full-price at retail. Capcom has saved production costs by not minting discs, printing instruction manuals, and paying for shipping and distribution.

The worst part is it’s not just Capcom – the developers of the world have lost sight of what their consumers want. We like sequels, especially to games as iconic as Mega Man, but we want new stuff too. We don’t want you to pump out mindless quasi-upgrade crap, either – good games deserve GOOD sequels, not re-releases.

So Capcom (and developers all over the world) – what are you going to do about it? We don’t want to have to stop buying your games, we just want some support and understanding, and a promise that you’ll listen to your fan base when it asks for something that isn’t too terribly hard to do. We like buying games from you! We like feeling that our hard earned cash is making its way into better and more exciting titles that we’ll want to buy and play for years to come! So why can’t you do this? Not only for yourselves, but for US?

Rant n’ Rave: The Problem with Project Ten-Dollar July 16, 2011

Posted by Brandon C. in Rants.
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A colleague and I were in the midst of a heated “debate” the other day about Project Ten-Dollar after I pointed out a disturbing trend in the industry today. It’s ignorant to say the used game market doesn’t effect a game’s new sales – I myself have bought used, as have you I’m sure. A good 90% of gamers have taken advantage of GameStop and other used retailer’s trade-in programs to bulk up their game libraries with used titles – it just makes sense to purchase games cheaply after they’ve matured on the shelves for a while.

But the trend we’re seeing that started with EA’s Project Ten-Dollar has grown to an alarming peak – there isn’t a game company or title in sight today that DOESN’T make some use of a “Season Pass” or “Online Pass.”

Now, I’m not against developers making money – Video Games are an Industry, of course. To continue making games, one has to turn a profit to pay employees and other expenses. It’s a business, and to say I’m against it would be hypocritical.

Publishers are large, corporate entities only concerned with turning a profit, and there’s no nice way to say that. Sure, some of their employees are gamers (if you’re not then you’re in the wrong business) and have a great passion for the industry and it’s consumers. Others give off the impression they really don’t give two shits, like Activision’s Robert Kotick. He’s become the de facto bad guy of the gaming industry – the corporate Satan at the top that everyone hates. Let’s be honest – he comes off as a total prick.

He has to make money for Activision, or he’s out of a job as well as the thousands of people his company employs. So he has to find ways to make used market companies like GameStop less cash, and more for his own.

Be that as it may, the disturbing trend I’m referring to is the “Season Pass” or “Online Pass” and the VIP codes included with just about every damn game on the market today.

If you’ve been living under a rock for the past year or so, allow me to explain.

When you buy a brand new, unopened title, chances are you’ll receive a one-time use code inside the packaging. You use this code to unlock content on the disc, like a map pack or some characters. If you purchase a used title at GameStop and the previous owner used the code, you have to shell out anywhere between $5 and $15 to get that content. Some codes, in the case of sports titles and a few miscellaneous titles, unlock online multiplayer.

THIS, right here, is my problem.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to use these codes. Charging customers $10 to unlock a mode that has been included for the past ten years with every damn game you’ve purchased since Unreal Fucking Tournament is WRONG. FUCKING ASS BACKWARDS GODDAMN WRONG.

Games like Battlefield Bad Company 2 use it RIGHT – A VIP code that includes maps for online multiplayer. They’re not required to play the game, instead expanding upon the default experience.

Games like MORTAL FUCKING KOMBAT that require you to use a code to play online is a fucking ripoff and the cocksucker that thought it was a good idea deserves to die in a fire.

It’s a part of the game! It’s like a grocery store charging for plastic and paper bags. I’m not talking about those “reuseable” cloth bags you can buy for a dollar – those are DLC motherfuckers; not a basic part of the goddamn experience you need to take your fucking groceries home.

I understand if you want to dangle a piece of exclusive DLC in front of my face to get me to purchase a new title instead of a used title. It’s business. But it’s BAD business to retroactively charge for a basic service included with games for the past ten years.

And it’s even worse for these companies to charge us for content that’s already on a disc when we buy it. If you’re going to charge for it, we’d better have to download something more than a 1 MB file to use those “DLC” characters – I’m looking at YOU Marvel VS Capcom 3 and SoulCalibur 4…

If it’s on the disc, it’s a part of the $60 we pay when we buy that game; and that includes online play. We’re already paying Microsoft $60 a year for Xbox Live Gold or whatever you pay for PlayStation Plus.

It’s evil, it;s wrong, and it’s a great way to piss off your target demographic and sell less titles. I don’t see the recording industry suing the pants off of the streaming companies for taking their customers away, and last I checked being a big time recording artist still netted you a pretty penny. So why start now, gaming conglomerates? Find a better way to stick it to GameStop and other used market companies, and not your bread and butter – the gamers.

Again I reiterate:

The RIGHT Way – Charging for exclusive maps, downloadable Day-One DLC and special extra features NOT included on the disc.

The NO QUESTIONS ASKED ABSOLUTE WRONG Way – Charging for online play, on-disc characters and content and disc-based unlocks.

Catherine (Xbox 360) Demo Impressions July 15, 2011

Posted by Brandon C. in Impressions.
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I fancy myself a typical American gamer; lots of action, shooting and violence, with the occasional romp through the Mushroom Kingdom. That being said, there’s not many games released that don’t catch my eye for even the briefest of seconds, and there’s not much about video games I don’t know.

Catherine is one of those quirky Japanese titles you hear about all the time, something you’d be surprised to learn has been localized for the US. I’ll admit that I don’t play a lot of Atlus’ titles – games like Shin Megami Tensei don’t pull me to play them. But Catherine has a bizarre pull for me, and I decided “What the hell, it’s a demo. At most it would be a waste of 10 minutes of my time.”

Not so much.

Catherine is described by it’s creator – Shigenori Soejima – as an “erotic” and “adult-oriented” title. Definitely something crazy out of Japan. It’s a hybrid puzzle-platformer-morality-bending RPG of sorts, blending Mass Effect and KOTOR’s morality choices with a dusky murder mystery plot and stair climbing puzzles. What a mess!

Seems our 32 year-old protagonist Vincent is having girl troubles (I feel bad for you, son!) as well as bone-chilling pants-pissing nightmares about climbing stairs. Spooky!

All joking aside, it's definitely not for kids. Strangely enough, I found myself enjoying the demo far more than I expected. Yes, me - the violent American gamer steeped in Halo and Battlefield. The story thus far is nothing hyper-unusual, and very much a dark and gritty drama about being young and carefree and all the haphazard mayhem that comes from the stage in life between living on one's own away from their parents and marriage. Obviously we don't die in reality if we die in our crazy, fucked-up sheep-filled nightmares like Vincent will.

And you will die in this game. Quite often, actually.

While the concept of gameplay in Catherine seems simple enough - climb an oversized staircase as fast as you fucking can before a mysterious black hand stabs you to death with a giant dinner fork - it's a little more complicated than first led on. Still, if you can navigate a Zelda block puzzle then you'll warm up to the basics of Catherine quickly enough. Gamers will find the pace frantic enough to persuade them to fail frequently but learn from their mistakes even more often.

Don't judge a game by it's cover here, because if you did that you'd find two sorely disappointed groups of gamers - the ones that bought the game thinking it was an erotic softcore flick and the others disappointed they didn't pick up this strange title sooner.

Oh, and if I didn't mention it already, the player directly affects the final outcome of the story through morality choices, meaning there's bound to be at least 10 different endings. Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing each one when I play the full offering later this month.

The Catherine demo is available now for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and releases on July 26th.