Archive for September, 2011

Syndicate Trailer: Pros and Cons

Syndicate Agent

I very rarely find myself at a loss for words but when those moments come it typically means one of two things. I’m either in love or I’m very nervous. This was the case with the latest trailer for Syndicate released earlier this week. With a video game that I spent most of my early teen years playing Syndicate by Bullfrog Productions holds a very special place in my heart. Maybe it was the trench coats, maybe it was the flamethrower, maybe it was the ability to amass an army or walking, talking bullet shields.

The trailer that was recently released met with some mixed reviews from many people. Some people loved it, some hated it, however the majority of people saw it with more hope than anything else. In case you haven’t seen it yet go ahead and check it out below.

Now what we see is a typical trailer. They aren’t going to skimp on the action. They want you to buy this game. They want you to fall head over heels in love with it. They want you to watch the Syndicate gameplay trailer and say “You are gorram right I’m going to buy the crap outta this. SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!” But did you say this? If you’re like me you overanalyzed the heck out of it and you’ve arrived at a few conclusions.

Syndicate Announcement Trailer Pros

A Syndicate is nothing without good agents; they are what make the really nasty stuff possible. So when the trailer starts off saying that you’re taking the role of this agent we can chalk this us as a big plus. The nice aspect of this is that agents are upgradable however the extent to which you’ll be able to play is (as of yet) being kept under wraps, but this does give us some hope.

Still has the mission clock and more importantly we get a much better voice than the one in the first Syndicate game. This is a vast imrpovement over the overly mechanical voice from the original Syndicate. However I can’t help but shake the feeling that it sounds like an attempt at a seductive GLaDOS. It is for this very reason that I will refuse to trust that it is not ultimately going to turn on me and test me in some way.

Sydnicate Announce Trailer Ocean Scene

Just look how outside I am!

It is also very apparent that we are fighting rival syndicates. Now this is not really news since that’s really the entire point of the video game. However we do know that they still aren’t getting along. Ultimately this is what leads us to hope that in some way we will have some form of territory management akin to the original video game. This is something that will, again, remain to be seen.

Now 40 seconds into the Syndicate Announcement Trailer you see someone lose control and do the agents bidding by killing the other person in the room and then turn the gun on their own head. This leads us to one logical conclusion. This can only be the work of the persuadetron? What else could allow a Syndicate Agent to gain access to someone and force them to do their bidding. While the ultimate capability of the persuadetron has yet to be released, knowing that it’s in there makes us happy.

Face stomp at 1:03. That’s all we really need to say about that.

The scale of Syndicate looks rather large. Now it’s not large on the scale of Fallout 3 or New Vegas but it does look like the missions may be slightly more grandiose than Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Now before people get angry with me allow me to explain what I meant by that line. I am not saying DE:HR was small. I’m not saying it wasn’t amazing. What I’m saying was that the missions held a certain claustrophobic feel to them. While it was perfect for Deus Ex: Human Revolution it’s nice to see Syndicate stepping up and saying “Here’s a minigun on the side of a vehicle. Have at it. See that window you’re dangling in front of in the open sky? Yeah just whoop that window’s ass.”

Syndicate Announcement Trailer Cons

syndicate-shotgun

Aaaallll byyyy MYseeeeeelllfff

Only one agent. Part of the fun I had with Syndicate and trying to set up traps. Lining up multiple agents with a brutal mix of flamethrowers and miniguns was a simple pleasure to a thirteen year old boy. With only one agent the trapping and luring aspect won’t seem quite as possible. Okay it won’t be at all possible. But I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that what they lack in agent quantity they make up for in agent quality.

While I stated above that the world seems more grandiose it doesn’t (from what we’ve been shown) look to be as open. We see no hint of the aforementioned territorry management that we are hoping it keeps up, nor do we see anything as remotely open world as Deus Ex: Human Revolution. While we’re not looking for them to lay out the entire story in a quick 2 minute trailer it would be nice for a tad more information on what we can expect when we’re not stomping on people’s faces while making others shoot people for us.

While it looks like a very fast paced FPS, it still looks like a fairly standard FPS. There is not much in here that really blows our skirts up. It’s still early though, but since Syndicate is scheduled for release on February 21st, 2012 they should be showing us something to get us excited. However a great game is not always great because it brings something new to the game. Sometimes they do something great by taking pieces of what’s worked before and combining them in a way that is simply mind blowing.

Additional Syndicate Information

syndicate fight

Does his thumbs up mean go for the gold?

Now what good is a video game announcement without a little pre-order information to go with it. If you were so inclined to preorder Syndicate you would get The Executive Package bundled right with it. What is the Executive Package you may be asking yourself? Well let me shed a little light on it for you. It’s enough co-op gold to make Trump jealous. You get solid gold version of all loadout weapons, something called “golden dart vision” and gold Syndicate logos during co-op missions.  They seem to be touting the gold angle.

While “fancy pants gold weapons” are interesting I am more intrigued by these missions themselves. Will they be more akin to the old school Syndicate game where a team of agents work to achieve a goal? That would certainly be an interesting angle to the multiplayer.  Looks like we’ll have to wait to find out a little more though.

What we do know from the trailer is that Syndicate looks like it should be fun to play. We’re pretty anxious to find out more about it on our end. But we’ve given you our take on the the trailer, what about all of you?

VN:F [1.9.11_1134]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

What’s Mine is ‘Mine’: Denouncing DRM

Seems like every time I get online over the last few weeks, I see more controversy over “always online” DRM (digital rights management) restrictions.  Penny Arcade did a comic on the subject, and forums are aflame on gaming news sites from Gamasutra  to Rock, Paper, Shotgun.  The ire most recently stems from controversy over Blizzard’s announcement that Diablo III will require require a persistent Internet connection to play…even in single-player campaign mode.  Does this irritate me?  Absolutely.  Just as it irritated me last year to hear that Ubisoft was doing that very thing with Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and sure, it irritated me more when sure enough, within a month, said DRM requirement backfired on the players.

But here’s the thing that really gets me.  When I saw the quote from Blizzard’s VP that he was “actually kind of surprised” over the backlash, at first I thought, how clueless can this guy be?  But reading the comments attached to the article, I see the problem…the fans lining up on either side of the fence are merely arguing the conveniences of the issue.  The argument of choice for those not offended by this seems to boil down to several variations on “It’s 2011.  If you don’t have 24/7 access to the internet, it’s time to crawl out of your cave, mmmkay?”  Those defending their outrage are actually responding on this level, going into great detail about rural connectivity, monthly data caps on some plans, the reliability of game servers, and whether they can Play On A Plane.

Mass effect 3

You wouldn't pass around an advertisement from Commander Shepard on the Citadel...

Folks…forget those arguments.  They’re valid points, but spending your time arguing about them diminished the reason you should be mad, in my humble opinion.  That reason is, and I want you to say it with me:

“IT’S MY GORRAM PROPERTY AND I WILL DO WHAT I WANT WITH IT.”

I realize my opinion is probably coming from an old-fashioned perception of ownership, and that my outlook is colored by having grown up pre-Internet, buying games on floppy disks and CD-ROM, books made from real trees, music on vinyl records, cassette tapes, and compact discs.  And I am not naive – I recognize the difference between my ownership of a disc and the author’s ownership of the work it contains.  I would not presume to believe that purchasing a CD gives me the right to use it for commercial purposes, or to reproduce and distribute its content to all my buddies.  But that CD – that one, specific CD – that is my property, which I happen to believe I should be able to listen to where and when I like, make copies for my personal use, or install on as many machines as I can cram into my house.

The increasingly intrusive DRM push is based on a lot of fallacies.  I’ve seen these issues raised online before, so I’m not exactly saying anything earth-shattering here, but hey, my soapbox, my prerogative:

1.  Increasingly draconian DRMs stop pirating and don’t punish paying customers.
2.  Piracy is some dread new crisis that will bring the entertainment industry to its knees.
3.  Nobody will pay for art if they can get away with pirating.

Progressively more stringent and frustrating DRM, much like the TSA, reminds me of the saying “closing the barn door after the cows have run off”.  Pirates find a way to hack the copy protection, so technology comes up with a new way to copy protect.  Which – surprise! – pirates are going to find a way to hack.  There is no such thing as copy protection that can’t be cracked.  There is only copy protection that hasn’t been cracked…yet.  And when it is, it is the pirates who have a quality, unrestricted copy of the game, while honest customers are being punished for paying for it.

video game piract

Damn it. We missed "Talk Like a Pirate Day".

Is piracy a new threat?  My parents were rather prolific pirates; you tell me (and while you’re at it, get off my lawn.  And turn that noise down!)  Oh, I didn’t think anything of it at the time…but looking back to the ‘80s, the dozens of games I had for my C64 were largely packed onto floppies with handwritten labels, several games to a disk, with phrases like “Cracked by SuperCoolGuy” on the title screens.  Our sizeable collection of VHS movies consisted of 2 movies to a tape, their titles neatly scripted in my mother’s handwriting, some recorded from TV but many copied over from video store rentals, as VHS was still fairly new and often unprotected.  My folks aren’t bad people…frankly, I think it was pretty common back then because people simply didn’t think too much about it.  Sure, I saw the FBI warning at the beginnings of movies, but my parents never copied and sold any movies or showed them publicly, and it just seemed harmless.  These days, however, every album/movie/game they have is bought and paid for, and I seriously doubt it’s because they don’t know how to make copies anymore; they simply do the right thing, as the vast majority of us do.  And you know what?  Despite the prevalence of pirating I saw in the ‘80s of VHS movies/games/cassettes before copy-protection became standard, the movie/game/music industries still flourished.  Moreso nowadays.

People will pay for what they like.  People can be outright antsy to give their money for what they like.  People will even pay money for something they already got for free – because they know that a dollar is a vote, and because when you’ve really wowed them, they want to say ‘thank you’ with their dollar.  When Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog was released freely on the internet, I fell so ardently in love with it that when it finally became available for sale, I bought it on iTunes…less because I wanted an iTunes copy of it and more because I’d been dying to pay them for what they had created.  And then I also bought a DVD copy as a gift for someone else.  It is also worth noting, however, that this was my first iTunes purchase and will be my last…because I had repeated issues with the “authorizing” the video, first when attempting to put it on my iPod, and again when I got a new laptop and got rid of my old one.  Yes, I managed to fix the issues eventually, but that’s not the point.  The point is that the hassle offended me on basic principle, as it became increasingly clear that I had not ‘bought’ the movie at all, but rather bought the right to borrow it indefinitely, just so long as I checked in with them any time I chose to do anything with it.  And yet we’re supposed to pay $50-60 for a disc we’re not allowed to use when and how we choose.  By requiring the persistent Internet connection, companies are essentially taking your money for a product, but insisting they ‘hold on to it for you’, so they can keep checking your receipt, over and over and over again.

Maybe I’m spitting into the wind arguing about it.  Concepts of ownership when it comes to digital material seem to be changing rapidly whether I like it or not.  But let’s not go quietly.  Don’t let them tell you it’s necessary, it’s inevitable, or that it’s just to ‘enhance’ gameplay.  If buying something does not give you the right to use and enjoy that something, be dissatisfied.  Tell them you’re dissatisfied.  And make it for the right reasons.

VN:F [1.9.11_1134]
Rating: 4.9/5 (8 votes cast)

The Overwhelmed Video Gamer

Okay, okay.  So we all know how incredibly excited I am for The Elder Scrolls: Skryim to come out.  I literally cried a little when I watched those developer gameplay videos.  So yes, I am ecstatic for Skryim.

However.

You know what?  I’m also a little afraid.  Aside from the obvious ‘My social life is going down the drain for a month or so after Skyrim drops’, there’s another issue here.  Sometimes, I feel like an overwhelmed video gamer.

Oblivion's Open World

Over the river, through the woods... Damn, must've taken a wrong turn somewhere.

What exactly is an overwhelmed video gamer?  Well, since we’re talking Elder Scrolls, let’s take Oblivion, for example.  Oblivion, I’m sure, is a great game.  I own it, in fact.  I just never played very much of it.  Sometimes, when I’m playing a game with a massively open world, I get overwhelmed with the amount of sidequests and optional content there is available.  I get distracted.  I get overencumbered faster than you can accuse my character of stealing.  I feel… almost lost.  Directionless.  With no major push towards the main quest, I can look at the game as a whole and go, “Wow, I can’t see actually finishing this”.  So I don’t.  With Oblivion, you don’t necessarily have to immediately begin doing the main quest.  In fact, it’s very open ended.  Bethesda is adamant about not forcing you into doing the main quest.  But to me, in a way, that can be harder to deal with.

Okay, sooooo... where to next... ?

Bethesda is known for making their games open ended.  In Fallout 3, once you escape Vault 101, you don’t have to follow the main mission you were given.  In fact, you could walk out into that deserted wasteland and immediately being exploring the opposite direction of where you’re vaguely pointed to check out in the main quest.  And this would be perfectly acceptable, welcomed, in fact, by Bethesda.  But to me, a “I’ve gotta finish every single side quest” type of gamer, this is actually overwhelming.  I think it’s easier for me to be pushed in some way towards a main goal, and then side quests and additional content seems more manageable.  In Fallout 3, I can get easily distracted by a new quest that pops up.  Continually starting a new quest and finishing (maybe) 1 in 5 can be frustrating.

On the flip side, I feel that a game like Dragon Age: Origins or Mass Effect 2 balances the amount of drive you’re given towards your main goal in the game and still gives you freedom to go where you want, to complete optional side quests.  Despite the epic proportions of those games, I never felt overwhelmed by the amount of possibilities of where to go next, or of how many side quests I was receiving.

The Elder Scrolls Skyrim Logo

This logo strikes both awe and fear in my heart.

I’m like this in real life as well.  I have a tendency to look at the big picture and get overwhelmed by the whole thing, rather than take it and break it down into manageable chunks.  It can be enough to turn me off from large projects.  I would never make a good project manager.  A college report, for example, could be incredibly stressful for me, because all I could think was, “I need to write HOW many pages?!”.  (By the way, let it be known that I am not currently in college; the example is simply that – an example.)

With Bethesda stating that Skyrim will be loaded with additional content, packed into approximately the same size map as Oblivion, I’m scared of getting that overwhelmed, disoriented feeling.  I don’t want to end up frustrated with how many open quests I’ve started and how few I’ve completed.  Hopefully I can push through and keep playing, because Skyrim is definitely going to be incredible.

Anyone else ever feel like this?

-Kat

VN:F [1.9.11_1134]
Rating: 2.2/5 (51 votes cast)

Star Wars: The Old Republic Release Information Extravaganza

star wars the old republic rogue and wookie

In a move that was a long time coming BioWare finally announced the release date of Star Wars: The Old Republic. For those of you who may be a tad curious as to what Star Wars: The Old Republic is (listen there’s bound to be one or two of you out there) let me  break it down for you.

SWTOR is an MMORPG from BioWare and LucasArts. It takes place in a time before the events of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and is a fully voiced story driven MMORPG. In this world you have various custom items like your very own star ship and companions. To get a better idea of everything that went into the game check out the gameplay trailer below:

Given that this is a full tilt boogie MMORPG you’re going to have to pay a little bit, but judging by what we’ve seen it appears to be worth the price of admission.

Star Wars: The Old Republic Release Date

star wars the old republic jedi consular

I could make a dirty joke here, but I will refrain.

Now when the release date was announced a thought struck me. The release date is December 20, 2011. This is just 5 days before Christmas. I can’t speak for everyone out there but if I get my hands on this my family isn’t going to really see that much of me. I’ll be in front of a flickering screen as I take my star ship through the galaxy with my Twi’lek companion kicking ass and taking names. I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of SWTOR for a while now and with this release date the only thing I can think of is that Star Wars hates Christmas. Why else would they pick a December 20 release date. It’s not like it’s going to foster family togetherness.

Now this does not mean that everyone everywhere will taking this approach. In fact many video gamers will be spending lots of time with their families. I for one stated the above in jest however I can almost certainly guarantee that the majority of my conversations will consumed with all things SWTOR and galactic. This makes things tricky since my wife is not a Star Wars fan. In fact my wife hates Wookies. I don’t know how and I don’t know why. If you ask me that’s some BS but she really just can’t stand them. Looks like she’s in for a rough few days.

Star Wars: The Old Republic Subscription Rate

When you pick up SWTOR you’re going to be getting the first month free which is normal. From then out you’re going to be paying around $14.99 per month. Now like all good MMOs they would like to you to sign up for more than one month at a time. To help this they will offer discounts if you pay to play for 3 months and 6 months. The 3 month fee is around $42.00, or $13.99 per month of SWTOR or you could pop for the 6 month which is going to cost you around $78.00 or $12.99 per month. While the savings aren’t massive it’s still going to be interesting to see how SWTOR plays out in the future. If you haven’t put in a SWTOR pre-order already then I would I would do so quickly since EA is limiting the digital and physical copies.

The reason for this is to not bog down systems and create a poor offering. However this is not to say that this is going to be permanent. Once release is done and over they will work to upgrade their systems and make something a little more stable for fans and video gamers to sink their teeth into.

Star Wars: The Old Republic System Requirements

star wars the old republic jedi

This is what you call "A Bad Situation"

Operating System

Windows XP, Vista/7

CPU

AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core 4000+ or better · Intel Core 2 Duo Processor 2.0GHz or better

RAM

Windows XP: 1.5GB · Windows Vista and Windows 7: 2GB · PCs using a built-in graphical chipset, 2GB RAM recommended.

Video

ATI X1800 or better* · nVidia 7800 or better* · Intel 4100 Integrated Graphics or better*

DVD-ROM

8x or better *Minimum of 256MB of on-board RAM and Shader 3.0 or better support.

Now that’s about all the information we have on Star Wars: The Old Republic. But what more could you possibly want? I’m so excited I actually danced a little when I saw the release date. Thank the gods that nobody was home but me and the dogs. They didn’t judge. They just danced with me.

VN:F [1.9.11_1134]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

Game of Thrones: Genesis Preview

game of thrones genesis

Many video gamers have a soft spot in their hearts for the RTS genre of games.  There was a time when real time strategy was everywhere and these were great times. However in recent years they haven’t shown themselves to be quite the mainstay they once were giving way to FPS, RPGs, and the like. That is not to say that there are no good RTS video games still out there being made. I think most people are aware of a little game called StartCraft 2 that came out last year. This is really a shame since many of us assumed that in this culture of online gaming this would be a genre that would have been everywhere. Again, there are still the very popular mainstays and new arrivals but they don’t hold the clout that they once did.

game of thrones genesis the wall

I expected the wall to be a little bigger.

However things may be turning for the better. With the popular series A Song of Ice and Fire and it’s HBO series Game of Thrones it seems only natural that we were going to see a video game adaptation. While some expected a thematic massacre through some open world Action-RPG when we heard RTS we got intrigued. This could very easily do this series justice and help it reach an audience that may not have been able to experience it. I know, I know, but there is bound to be a few people out there that haven’t read it or seen it.

Cyanide Studios has been working with George R.R. Martin (the author of the series) to bring to life a very interesting world of political intrigue and bloody war. OH! Also dragons. CHECK THAT OUT!

While there is a very strong potential for some wonderfully engaging and interesting multiplayer for the moment we are going to be focusing on the single player aspect of A Game of Thrones: Genesis.

A Game of Thrones: Genesis – Preview

In A Game of Thrones: Genesis you choose to start things off by selecting which house you wish to be the head of. Once you select your house you’re off in the world of Westeros. As you play you can determine how you will amass power and prestige. Your actions are not limited to waging a bloody battle. According to the website for A Game of Thrones: Genesis:

In this strategy game, victory does not necessarily result from brute force. You can of course choose to use a military approach and besiege your opponents, but you may also strangle them in an economical war, or use all the dirty tricks possible and subtle diplomacy to politically crush them.

a game of thrones genesis

Who doesn't love spring break on the beach? With an army....

While waging war is always fun it’s nice to see an RTS take a different approach to what strategy really means. There are always other means to do battle and key theme in A Song of Ice and Fire is that a blade is not always the best way to kill a person. Politics is a dirty game and you’re going to have to play it because if you don’t someone else will play it for you. Usually to your detriment.

However there are ways to remove your prestige too. If you’re attacking a castle during peace time, found to be working in some duplicitous plot, or even if you own bastard children start to run amok then you’re going to have to do some additional work to correct what’s going wrong.

This is going to take an interesting turn in the RTS world to take gaming out of just “build a base, build units, align troops, and attack.” What A Game of Thrones looks to deliver is the world of Westeros with all of it’s ups, downs, and quirky assholes. Me personally I’m hoping I get to see the Imp.

A Game of Thrones: Genesis – System Requirements

Now this is a PC only release. This means that there are going to be a few system requirements for you to worry about. However as of right now we really don’t know what they are. Once we know though, we’ll keep this updated for you. What we do know is that you’re going to need a computer. Probably something to interact with the computer (like a keyboard and mouse) and some form of operating system. I know, we really gave you some deep insight there.

edit: Wow, can’t believe I messed up the name of the series. Thanks hearshot

VN:F [1.9.11_1134]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)