What’s that sound? I hear someone spending money!

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H1Z1 was released on Steam Early Access a few days ago, and I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve played it. When I say the time I’ve played it, I mean the time not spent sitting in a queue to enter a server (Which totals at around an hour for me, altogether). I do not mind though, it’s a sign that the game is currently popular and I’m going to end up on a decently populated server.

It’s a good early version of a game, but unfortunately a lot of the discussion on the game has been controversial and surrounding the monetization aspect of the game. You see, H1Z1 is $20 to buy into Early Access but will eventually be Free To Play when it is released. The way they plan to make money is with a few items you can buy with real money. These are as follows:

  • Keys, which open crates containing cosmetic skins to style your items. Crates are apparently earned as you play, and the skins can only be applied to items you have already found.
  • Tickets to special server types, such as Battle Royale. I am yet to do anything along these lines, but I have one or two Event Tickets so I very well may in the near future. The cool part about these is that you can either earn them over time while playing, or buy them for a dollar each if you don’t want to wait.

The final item doesn’t get a dot point, because it’s the focus of this post; air drops. Air drops cost five dollars and initiate a special event on a server provided it has 120 players at that time.
Once an air drop is called, a very loud plane moves slowly over head, deploying a package that descends slowly. That package has beacons on it, and when it hits the ground it spawns a cluster of zombies around it. The air dropped package contains a bunch of items including food, water and weapons.

When the game first released a few days ago, drops were not tweaked properly, and you had people calling airdrops that would fall within 250 metres away. Since they were close, they were able to run, grab the items and have an advantage. To everyone who saw or heard of this, it sounded completely “pay to win”. Now it has been corrected with a whole bunch of changes (including slower descent/deployment, and it can now drop almost three times as far away from the calling player).

People are still crying Pay To Win because to them, the fact remains that you can pay five dollars to deploy these things with food and weapons in the game. I absolutely disagree here.

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Madden gifs are still amazing. And you can’t tell me what to do, mum.

We need to look at this a different way. From where I stand, I don’t see people buying weapons and food. Instead, I see people paying to initiate a major event on the server. An event where you have to fight players and zombies alike to get to the reward at the end.
Think of it like you were playing a game such as World of Warcraft. You’re on a map that is reasonably full, but there isn’t much happening in the way of events. Now imagine you could pay a few dollars to activate a special event everyone could participate in. The players who score or perform the best during that event would be eligible for the random rewards on offer. I don’t know about you, but that sounds awesome.

It sounds awesome, and that very hypothetical situation is pretty much what is happening here. Sure, there is loot on offer if you can get it, but that’s not what you’re paying for. You are paying to create something. Imagine if twenty people see that drop and run over to it, all fighting each other to get to it. Further still, imagine if several groups of survivors ran to it. You very well may have created a fucking bloodbath, as people struggle over a reward that could just contain a bow and torch. You made drama.

I would pay five dollars to see that.

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The real issue in the Street Fighter V exclusivity drama.

The other day Capcom announced Street Fighter V to the masses, and that it would be exclusive to the Playstation 4, and PC. There would be no Xbox One version, apparently ever.

This has caused confusion and speculation galore, with people suggesting it’s because of money, it’s because Microsoft refuse to allow the game to be crossplay, it’s because the Xbox One didn’t sell well in Japan. There’s a lot of suggestions, but we won’t know for sure.

I couldn’t care less about that, as I don’t own either console. I do however own one contender, who seems to be completely ignored.

Interest-in-the-Wii-U-Surges-After-Nintendo-s-E3-Presentation-Report-451910-2Forget about someone?

Where’s my Wii U version of Street Fighter? Where’s my Street Fighter vs Smash Bros. crossover? Nintendo, Capcom, you’re really dropping the ball here.

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Target Australia removed GTA V from it’s shelves.

It’s been a hot topic on the Internet and among gaming communities. I wanted to put my thoughts on it right here, then move on to better things. I might make a hot coffee or something.

The main concern put forward in the petition is that it encourages players to commit violence against women for fun and rewards. People at the forefront of the group who started the petition have said that the game will groom yet another generation of children to tolerate violence against women.
This of course, ignores the fact that GTA V is in fact an R18+ game, and cannot be sold to minors. So those kids who are exposed to the game are only exposed to it because the parents gave it to them.

With that in mind and the other misconceptions put forward in the petition, I find the whole issue to be completely backwards and something I would have expected to happen during the release of GTA III back in 2001. That is well over a decade ago, when we were all a little naïve and Jack Thompson ran rampart protesting about video game violence. We all know what happened there.

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In the end, as much as I disagree with it, I also realize I should not care. I do not currently shop at Target for games, and given this I probably won’t in the future either.
My only desire is that people remember that violent video games do not make people violent.

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I swore it was the end.

I still remember looking at you, wishing I had the will to keep loving you. There was something so inviting about you this time. You promised me so many new things, and delivered on them. I was ready, my body was ready, to embrace you whole-heartedly. I wanted to love you, so why couldn’t I?

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This is the eighth time I’ve let you back into my life.

I was barely able to bring myself to get two badges out of eight in the game, arguably the first “unique” Pokemon in years. It offered rapidly new visuals and mechanics to make the game fun, but it wasn’t enough. It still felt like Nintendo’s version of Call of Duty; near-yearly releases that do not deviate from the tried and true design of it’s series.

Nostalgia

I’ve been a semi-dedicated fan of the Pokemon series of games since the beginning. I remember being given a copy of Pokemon Blue for my birthday. I spent until eleven at night 1 playing, and didn’t get any further than Viridian City. This wasn’t because I was invested in the lore or wanted to experience the game to it’s fullest –though that’s how I passed the time– it was actually because I didn’t pay attention at the start and didn’t realize I was meant to go to the Pokemart to get Oak’s package. I spent four hours in the first area of the game before I realized what I was meant to do.
This of course shows that my being terrible at games is clearly something I was born with, but still. That was my first memory of playing Pokemon. I went on to collect all 151 pokemon 2, and loved every minute of it.

I got older

The games are still great. But as you get older and go through nine iterations of what is effectively the exact same game with a new skin, you start to feel a bit of a grind. Every game, you convince yourself the next one will be different. The evil corporation has different motives! This time your rival is your best friend and it’s just friendly competition! This time there are sixty nine hundred pokemon to catch!
It doesn’t matter what they use to try to lure you, it always feels the same, and it sucks.

Why am I writing about this?

Why indeed. Well, after I found myself unable to bring myself to get past two badges in the last two generations of game (Black 2 and X), I promised myself I wouldn’t spend money on another Pokemon. It just wasn’t worth it if I didn’t plan to play the game all the way through 3.

Of course, then I found out about the midnight release of the latest games, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Next thing I know, we’re at our local store, lining up for a copy. I swore I’d only buy a copy for my sister and partner, but with all the Pokemon remixes blaring in the store and the cosplayers, I got swept up in the hype and ended up with my own copy of Omega Ruby.
I feel bad, because I worry I’m going to find myself unwilling to play the game. It looks cool, but so did the last game. The idea of being able to create my own secret base and share it online sounds great, but will it be enthralling enough?

The final question I pose to myself, is will this game finally be the Pokemon I need, or was I better off spending this money on the season pass for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare?

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1. That was what a kid like me considered “all night”.
2. Yes I even got Mew, then made a business at school of cloning it using a glitch and selling them to other kids for a dollar.
3. We’ll of course ignore that I have finished less than twenty of the 350 games I own on Steam.

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Fixed Camera Survival Horror?

I like Resident Evil 6. There, I said it.

It’s something a lot of people do not, though. It comes from a love of the series old mechanics and gameplay. It doesn’t seem to be purely nostalgia, but a genuine love of how it worked.

RE 2Beautiful, right?

There’s a general dislike for modern games in franchises like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, and how far they’ve moved on from what they were originally. Talking to a friend, a thought crossed my mind that I posed as a question to him:

If the mechanics are so beloved, why aren’t they present and popular in modern games?

We discussed why, covering a plethora of ideas as to how a whole gaming subgenre 1 could be seemingly forgotten, or if it hasn’t why no-one has attempted to fill that niche.

It occurred to me that it obviously must have. There were people remaking the original Resident Evil 2 and putting it in a modern third person perspective. There are people who speed-run or just generally stream these games and have fairly decent sized audiences while they do so. Surely there would be people with an interest in keeping the genre alive.

Well, I looked and it looks like the genre is alive, but for some reason these games just didn’t get that much attention. At least, not enough attention that I was able to notice. If they did and I’m just an idiot, feel free to inform me. Anyway, I thought I’d share the games I found that at least claim to be classic survival horror, released in the past few years.

Blacksoul: Extended Edition

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The game reports to being a third person survival horror game, and reviews claim it is the “answer to the classic survival-horror fan’s prayers”. It references Resident Evil and Silent Hill in reviews, because of course it does. The screenshot above looks like it could play similar and have a decent atmosphere. Other screenshots on the store page look devoid of colour, but it still has potential. For two dollars I’m willing to give it a go, anyway.

Long Night

A Steam game that looks like they’re planning to release episodically. So far there is only one episode of three, but the next is supposed to be released in the next few months (This was claimed in July, so I guess it should be soon?).
Steam reviews are a good way to determine if Long Night is the sort of game that deserves to be on the list, and there is definitely indication from other players that this feels like “old horror adventures” “from the playstation era”. So that’s promising, and hopefully worth a look.

After those two, it’s hard to determine what is actually Fixed Camera Survival Horror without going to a lot of depth and watching videos, which would give away parts of games.
If you read this and know of any games that fulfill what I’m after, please share them!

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1. I feel these games should fall under their own “Fixed Camera Survival Horror” genre, as these games are vastly different to the likes of Amnesia and Dead Space, which also fall under the “Survival Horror” title.

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Age of Empires…Castle Siege?

Age_of_Empires_Castle_Siege_logo

I love Age of Empires. It’s a great series, and one I felt reached a high point with Age of Empires Online. Unfortunately, with the announcement of the closure of Games For Windows Live, AoEO had a premature death. I had hoped it would be saved by the re-announcement that GFWL would stay, but those hopes were quickly crushed when AoEO was closed down anyway.

I love Age of Empires Online and always hope it will make a return in some form. Age of Empires I and II just doesn’t feel as fun as it did a decade ago, and Age of Empires III was downright horrible. While AoEO didn’t have the best launch, with time it improved to become one of my favourite MMO-RTS hybrids. I was sure lessons were learned with it’s development that would be reflected in future titles in the series.

Fast forward to now, and apparently a new Age of Empires has come out. This would normally be a cause for celebration, but I’m here completely dumbfounded by what is presented to me.

First up, it isn’t really presented to me.

Due to the style of game (Which I’ll get to in a minute), the game is only available on two systems. The first is Windows 8.1, and the second is Windows Phone 8. I am surprised and yet at the same time not surprised by this decision. It makes sense that Microsoft would want to push their own products so restricting mobile device, while possibly crippling to overall in-game sales, could be a good decision.
However, I have no idea why they believe restricting the game to a specific operating system is a good idea. So many people still use Windows 7 that restricting to Windows 8 is just mental. I own Windows 8, but due to several problems my hardware has with it, I’ve had to stick with it’s previous incarnation.
As such, I’m apparently unable to play a computer game, purely because of arbitrary restrictions. This really pisses me off as a fan of the franchise.

I am looking for a way to play this on my current set up, but so far it’s been fruitless. As such, everything I write from here on out is based on videos, reviews and discussion from other people rather than my own experiences. Take it with a grain of salt.

Clash of Empires, or Age of Clans?

Perhaps the biggest shock is that they have done away with the traditional gameplay of Real Time Strategy games to go with the Tower Defense style of game familiar to those who have played Clash of Clans or the ill-fated mobile version of Dungeon Keeper. You have a static private map, in which you build a base full of resource-generating buildings, armies and defenses. Resources build up and you click (or tap) on that building to collect said resources.
To fight other players, you choose to fight, and get taken to a random player’s base. From there, you deploy troops you have trained and attempt to penetrate their defenses and turn everything to rubble. The opponent is not actually present, and cannot retaliate, having to hope that his defenses will be enough to hold you off.

72d28c78-4058-420f-a51c-eeec4be5e928Pictured: Originality

It becomes a purely single player experience. Compared to all other Age of Empires and how they handle PVP, it’s different and arguably worse. In previous games, you would be on the same map as your enemy (Games were matches, rather than persistent online worlds). It would be a race of efficiency to build your base, gather resources and build your army. When you felt ready, you would send your army to fight your enemy and try to stop them. The winner was the person who destroyed the other, and it could be a lot of fun, especially if you were playing with multiple people. Alliances would be formed, along with a sharing of resources to help each other out as you attempt to band together to defeat the other players.

It was crazy good fun, and something that is lost with the static gameplay present in Castle Siege.

Isn’t there more?

Really the biggest gripe I have is that it’s an Age of Empires game in name only. If you ignore the brand, I’m sure it is a decent Clash of Clans clone. The graphics and art style look nice, and it is cross platform between Windows 8.1 and the phone version, so while you’re on the bus, you can log in, and collect resources for when you get home and jump on your computer. As a game, it definitely looks polished.
But as an Age of Empires game, it feels like a butchering of the series, especially since it seems like a mobile game with a PC port, rather than the other way around.

I will keep trying to see if I can get this working on my computer so I can form a proper opinion, but I’m going to guess no-one sees it worth cracking.

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Game time.

I’ve run into a problem of which many people experience to a similar extent; I can’t work out what to play. For many people, this is a problem of having too many Steam games in your library and being overwhelmed. This is part of it for me, but not the main concern.

My issue is based on what some games do to encourage people to play. This is things like daily rewards, daily quests and expiring items. Here’s a list of games I play currently, that have rewards or events to claim daily, as well as games that have some other form of bait to get you to return:

  • Firefall
  • Infinity Wars
  • Loadout
  • Warframe
  • Final Fantasy XIV: Realm Reborn
  • F.E.A.R Online
  • Guild Wars 2
  • Marvel Heroes
  • Spelunky
  • Blacklight: Retribution

Now, that is not a big list. It’s only ten games after all. But when you think about it, each of these games requires you to at a bare minimum log in to do whatever it is they require. If you wanted to get everything these games offer, there’s a time investment.
Infinity Wars, Warframe, Firefall and Marvel Heroes all merely require you to log in and claim your reward, then you’re free to just log out and leave them. That takes five minutes, assuming fast loading times for each.
Then you have Loadout, which gives a bonus for the first game of the day.
Spelunky, Realm Reborn and Guild Wars 2 all have daily “challenges” or quests you can do. Spelunky is purely a challenge with a  leaderboard, but the other two are different. Being MMOs, they have daily quests that are crucial to progression if you want to “keep up” so to speak. Guild Wars 2 has a fairly unintrusive set of daily achievements which is nice, but can still take a few minutes to reach. In comparison, Realm Reborn has daily “Beast Tribe” quests and multiple daily dungeons. To make the most of these and not miss out you can be looking at an hour for Realm Reborn alone.
F.E.A.R. Online and Blacklight: Retribution follow another model. They have daily missions, AND “rented” items. Imagine you unlock a new item in your favourite game, only to discover it will only last 24 hours before it disappears. After that, you have to unlock it all over again and have it last another 24 hours. That’s how these games work. You can grind to unlock the item you want for temporary times, or buy it with real money/ingame currency that takes ages to earn. I am not begrudging them for that model, because it’s not the worst out there. However, if you want to make the most of these games and maintain them, you have to play at least a couple of matches a day.

Now I don’t know about you guys, but I spend a fair chunk of time playing video games. Some days that can be an hour, other days I can spend much more. It doesn’t matter how much though, because I have to sit there and contemplate, “Where am I going to invest my time today?” And it’s a tough choice to make without feeling like I’m letting myself down. Do I focus a chunk of time in Warframe, and ignore my daily quests in Realm Reborn? Do I play a couple of matches of Loadout, letting my items expire in F.E.A.R. Online? Do I play Ultra Street Fighter IV with my friend and essentially lose on all these games.

What I am trying to get at, in all this rambling, is it feels like far too many games utilize time-restrictive progression to encourage you to play them. When you are a broad player like myself, you want to play everything, without feeling like you’re losing, or like you have to play this particular game. I don’t feel like playing MMORPGs every day, so why should I feel like I’m falling behind or failing because I don’t play a game for a day? Or a week?
I feel like my situation is best represented by this image, from The Simpsons because they literally have a reference for everything.

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So, with all these games desperate for me to play THEM, they end up getting stuck in a little hypothetical door.
I have nothing against developers adapting this system, because it is indeed a clever way to get people to get into their game at a minimum once a day, and hopefully stay in it for a while. It helps keep player numbers up so the multiplayer will function, and increases the chance in Free To Play games of purchases being made.
However if every developer does this in an attempt to claim my time, no-one ends up getting my time.

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Firefall got it’s official release!

Firefall, a game I played and recorded quite a bit of, got it’s official release a few days ago on Steam.

While they still haven’t implemented PVP again in the same form I was enjoying, Red5 have come a long way with the game. Questing feels better, and it feels like there is actually some things to do.

There’s still quite a bit to learn in it, but Firefall seems to be one of those games that is easy to learn the basics of, but there’s plenty of complicated things in the game if you can be bothered to get deep into it.

Also, the game is free on Steam why aren’t you downloading it already?

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Wolfenstein: The New Order and modding

I’ve been a massive fan of Wolfenstein since the very first game, Wolfenstein 3D. I played it briefly as a little kid before my grandparents decided it was too adult for me and restricted my access.

wolfenstein-3dI doubt kids of this generation would be phased by the pixels.

When I hit early high school, I became reunited with this game, and discovered it’s extensive and at the time large modding community. Over the decades hundreds and most likely thousands of mods were made for the original game, not just changing maps and graphics but pushing the abilities of the engine to it’s limit. Talented programmers converted the game engine to get around memory constraints and added many many features that pushed the game so far that sometimes it’s hard to recognize it as Wolfenstein 3D.

So, we get to Wolfenstein: The New Order. Upon running it for the first time, I was treated to the honour of being forced to agree to a EULA. I skipped through it as 99.9% of people do, but did skim a little bit of it. I saw mention of the following.

If the Software makes available, as a separate downloadable installer, a level editor or other similar type tools, assets and other materials (the “Software Utilities”) that permit you to construct or customize new game levels and other related game materials for personal use in connection with the Software (“Customized Game Materials”), then in the event you access such Software Utilities, the use of the Software Utilities is subject to the following additional terms, conditions and restrictions:

(a) All Customized Game Materials created by you are exclusively owned by LICENSOR and/or its licensors (as the case may be) and you hereby transfer, assign and convey to LICENSOR all right, title and interest in and to the Customized Game Materials and LICENSOR and its permitted licensors may use any Customized Game Materials made publicly available to you for any purpose whatsoever, including but not limited to for purposes of advertising and promoting the Software

So basically, should a level editor or any type of game modding tool get released, any content you create in those tools become the property of the “LICENSOR”, which I assume is Bethesda/Machine Games/id Software.

If my assumption is right, this unsettles me. Modding games is something that has been around as long as games have been. I can almost guarantee that from the moment the first video game came out, people tinkered with it; it’s human nature to do so.
We are at that point where community involvement is nearly crucial to games. Valve rely on community created content for games like Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2. Community created content that gets approved for the game actually goes into an in-game store, which the creator gets most of the money for.
The new game being developed in the Unreal Tournament series, UT4, is being made transparently with actual contributions from the community. Every step of the way, we can see videos of work in progress, offer feedback and ideas, and even view and contribute to programming, map design and any other aspect of the game we’re interested in. After release (Which will be 100% free), there will be a marketplace for the game, in which users can sell their own content created for the game. This can be anything from maps, models, sounds, even full blown game modes and other mods.

So in a world where this is direction we’re headed, it is frustrating to see one of my favourite game developers take such a backward stance. Id Software used to keep modding in mind, and actually encourage it.
The original Doom games were built to use WAD files, so users could create their own campaigns and other modifications and release them in one easily shared file. The result of creating such a classic game and making it with modding in mind is that the game is kept alive, people are still playing it and even creating new content for the game despite it being over twenty years old.

Since then it feels like community has fallen by the wayside for Id Software, possibly due to the acquisition by Zenimax. Rage was released in October of 2011, but it took until February 2013 – 16 months after release – to get the official modding tools up. The game had Multiplayer, but only co-operative missions and a four player vehicular competitive mode. I never played it because it just was not popular enough to find anyone to play with.
I decided, upon writing this piece of word vomit, to look up the wide, vast variety of mods that would have come out in the past year and a half of the game’s release. Except it turns out only one mod is listed on ModDB, which adds a new single player map and a survival map (?) as well as a bunch of balancing modifications.

There could be any variety of reasons for why the game did not have multiplayer game modes more commonly associated with first person shooters. It is questionable whether or not they would have helped the longevity of the game, but in comparison with games like Quake 3, which people are still playing, Rage was a failure.

Wolfenstein: The New Order won’t suffer from that problem with longevity because Id Software didn’t even implement multiplayer this time. This seems like a good decision, given the way other shooters like those in the Call of Duty series are losing any real decent story in their campaigns.
Should we get any modding tools for this game, obviously those mods will need to be singleplayer.
At the time of writing there has been five thousand total players playing the game at the same time on Steam today. There is obviously a player base at the moment, so if any modding tools were released in a timely fashion, we should be able to get some mods out and there will be a sizable number of people to play them. That leads to the original issue though; will players be willing to create content that takes their valuable spare time to make, only for Id Software and Zenimax to look at it and go “That is ours now.”?

I’m willing to guess, probably not.

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The Marvel of 2003 confuses me.

I am almost completely happy with my purchase of Marvel Unlimited, where for the price of around seventy dollars a year I get access to almost all of Marvels decades of comics. The only problem I have with it is that recent issues take six months to come to the service. This is to encourage people to still buy physical copies, but all it means is I have to try avoiding spoilers.

Now, the point of this post is merely to bring you a single panel from an issue of Venom, the Marvel comic that was published in the early 2000s.
If you can explain the artistic direction taken on the anatomy, please enlighten me.

Screenshot_2014-05-07-17-17-43

I don’t understand.

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