The face of Infinity Ward, Robert ‘FourZeroTwo’ Bowling has resigned from the developer and Activision today. Serving as the creative strategist for Call of Duty and lead at Infinity Ward, Bowling announced his resignation via Twitter.
Activision had this to say about his departure:
“We sincerely thank Robert for his many years of service. He’s been a trusted and valued member of the Infinity Ward team. We wish him all the best on his decision to pursue future opportunities.”
Bowling has yet to announce where he will be going next.
After releasing a couple of weeks agoon Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, developer Demiurge’s 2D run-and-gu platformer Shoot Many Robots is heading to PC. Currently set for release only on Steam, the game will be available on April 6. Ubisoft has also added some Valve-themed pre-order bonuses to sweeten the deal.
Those who purchase the game between now and launch will recieve a set of gear which will allow the main character to become Half-Life‘s Gordon Freeman while some robots will be replaced with Portal 2 turrets. Also included will be a backpack item for Team Fortress 2 which can be equipped by the Pyro and Medic calsses.
The game will cost $10 when released. There will also be a “Buy 3, Get 1 Free” promotion for the game which will surely encourage many to spread the love and pick up a few extra downloads for their friends.
Xbox Live’s latest update adds some premium streaming video content from HBO Go, MLB.tv, and Comcast Xfinity. The update, which was announced via Major Nelson’s blog won’t replace cable as users will need a cable subscription to access the features.
Gamers can use their Kinect to control the Xfinity and MLB.tv apps with their voice or hand motions. Kinect can also be used with HBO Go to control the service’s entire catalog with your voice.
Comcast users who are worried about their bandwidth cap will be happy to know that the company has announced that Xfinity on Demand on Xbox will not count against bandwidth caps:
“Since [Xfinity On Demand] is being delivered over our private IP network and not the public Internet, it does not count against a customer’s bandwidth cap. XFINITYTV.com and the XFINITY TV app stream content over the public Internet and count toward the customer’s bandwidth cap,”
Users can now head to Xbox Live to download all three of these premium content apps.
Beamdog has revealed to Kotaku that the iPad version of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition will cost $10 or less and support multiplayer. Talking to Kotaku, Beamdog COO Cameron Tofer didn’t confirm a final price for the app but did note that a price ”past ten dollars doesn’t make sense.”
Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is set for release on PC and iPad later this year.
Co-founder of Bioware Ray Muzyka has finally spoken out over the Mass Effect 3 ending controversy. However, his opinion of the subject may be a controversy in itself. According to the Bioware co-founder, the company will be looking to add “more clarity” to the ending of the game by altering or adding to it in a way that maintains the story’s artistic integrity.
“Casey Hudson and the team are hard at work on a number of game content initiatives that will help answer the questions,” he said, ”providing more clarity for those seeking further closure to their journey. You’ll hear more on this in April.”
We will have to wait until April to hear what Bioware’s exact plans are, but the co-founder did make it clear that these new ”content initiatives” are seperate from the company’s pre-existing plans to continue the Mass Effect universe’s expansion. The real question is, will these “content intiatives” be free or paid?
The official Facebook page for Dark Souls has a new app titled “an announcement is incoming”. Currently, the app is just a static image that will likely be replaced with an announcement once the page reaches enough likes. This has many speculating that the announcement is that of a PC release for the title.
Adding fuel to the fire is the April issue of PC PowerPlay. An image from the magazine has popped up on NeoGaf which shows that the game will be featured in the magazine one way or another.
We will have to wait and see what comes of this announcement.
Rumors about the existence of Epic Mickey 2 have been floating around for a while. Finally, the media has seen the title and the Associated Press has the first details on the title.
The developer, Junction Point Studios has revealed that they are focusing on improving the game’s camera, which was a weak point for its predecessor. Also being added are voices for the various characters. The title will be also taking a slightly odd turn as it is set to be a musical.
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two does not currently have a release date.
According to a report on ArsTechnica, Draw Something developer OMGPOP has been purchased by Zynga for around $200 million. OMGPOP’s latest title Draw Something has become quite popular, having been downloaded over 35 million times. So far 1 billion drawings have been produced, with a rate of about 3,000 per second at the game’s peak.
OMGPOP has revealed that with Zynga’s backing, the company will be adding many new features to the game. These include chat, galleries, and the ability to draw your own avatar image.
In what is becoming an alarming trend lately, Electronic Arts is once again shutting down the servers for a number of their games. Previously, this meant that these games would live a multiplayer-less life, but on this latest list there are a handful of titles that require a paid online pass to activate. EA has revealed that the reason for the shutdown was that “less than 1%” of EA customers will be affected by this latest action.
The following games will go dark on April 13:
BOOM BLOX Bash Party
EA Sports Active
EA Sports Active NFL Training Camp
The Godfather II
Need for Speed ProStreet
The Saboteur (Midnight Club access)
As well, EA will be shutting down online services on March 31 for the following iPhone games:
Battlefield 3: Aftershock
The most shocking title being affected by this latest server shutdown is Burnout Revenge. The classic racing title will hopefully live on through its single-player modes, but things will never be the same again.
Despite the impending launch of Blizzard’s Diablo 3 on May 15, Runic Games is standing strong with their development of Torchlight 2. Originally planning a release before Blizzard’s monster action-RPG, severe delays have put Torchlight 2 in a bad place.
“We know a lot of you are worried about us. We’ve heard what you’re saying, and sure we’ve had similar discussions,” said a note on the Torchlight 2 site. “But we began making the first Torchlight in 2008 when development on Diablo 3 was already underway. We didn’t let that be a reason that we couldn’t make an RPG.”
“There will be unforeseen challenges along the way, no matter what business you’re in. We’ve chosen to stay small with a total team of 32. We’re pretty sure that we want this game out more than anyone (not just so that we can resume a normal sleep schedule!) — but we are going to do it right. That’s our commitment to you, and to ourselves.”
Torchlight 2 does not currently have a specific release date, but we can expect it sometime before the end of 2012.
Gaijin Games has confirmed that the release of the latest in the Bit.Trip series Bit.Trip Presents Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien has been delayed to November. Originally set for release in “early 2012″, Gaijin Games artist Mike Roush told Eurogamer that “We’re close to half-way.”
Roush also revealed that the developer plans to bring their latest to the Wii U. “Everyone at Gaijin is a Nintendo fanboy,” Roush revealed, “so we will most likely continue that relationship in the future.” Roush also added that “We’ll make one game and cross-platform it to the best of our ability.”
Sega has announced that the recently console-exclusive release of Binary Domain will also be making its way to the PC. The publisher has cited fan reaction as the reason for the PC release.
“As well as the excitement generated by Binary Domain in the console press we were seeing increasing numbers of players asking for a PC version,” said Sega marketing boss Gary Knight. “So we listened and we delivered.”
No specific release date has been given, but we can expect to see it sometime in April. The PC version will have both a digital and retail release.
Obsidian Entertainment is reportedly the latest studio to be hit with layoffs. The studio’s forums and Twitter messages are helping to relay the total damage from the layoffs, but much is still uknown.
A tipster wrote the following to Joystiq:
“Another project canceled, this time for a future next-gen project and the layoffs impacted that team, plus the existing South Park team. Approximately 20-30 people from all disciplines, including one person who started yesterday, as well as one who started last week.”
“We are always happy to talk about our announced projects, gaming and the industry as a whole. However, it is our policy to not comment on
stories regarding our staff,” Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart told Joystiq this afternoon.
Activision’s own One of Swords has reported that the Modern Warfare 3 DLC Overwatch is set to hit the PS3 on March 29. This pack will be available for premium Call of Duty Elite subscribers.
Later, multiplayer map Black Box and two Spec Ops maps, Black Ice and Negotiator, will be available on the platform “on or around April 12.” The date of this release will all depend on Sony’s Playstation Network posting schedule.
I’m not envious of the folks at Biart Company, developers of Deep Black: Reloaded. Third person shooters are hitting an unprecedented level of polish this generation, with Gears of War 3 and Dead Space 2 especially setting the bar. With DB:R, Biart touts the game’s underwater scenarios as its signature flavor (not to mention its budget price), but too many issues sink the promising elements. Despite the triumph of making underwater combat fun for once, DB:R is plagued numerous issues which prevent its rise above mediocrity.
DB:R opens with a simple cinematic that sets up the major players involved in the title. It’s nothing more than quick biographies set across quick cuts, but it’s an economical way of informing the player. Set in 2047, most governments are gone and replaced with mega-corporations. You command the role of Syrus Pierce, an operative of CHARON, a beautifully complicated acronym for “Chief Amphibious Reconnaissance Operational Network.” You’re tasked with infiltrating a base owned by terrorist group Al-Azrad, giving Syrus a chance to extract vengeance from old-wrongdoings. Within the first act, you find that your mission falls into the category of “not what it seems.” The pieces are in place for a decent, if not predictable, near-future-political-thriller, but the narrative doesn’t paint a convincing enough picture. The VO work ranges from average to unintentionally silly. The various cut-scenes look like they were scripted straight out of 2001, with stiff character animation and generic camera work. And while it doesn’t shine, the story has the decency to include a satisfying ending that tastefully teases out future possibilities for the series. It’s just a shame it wasn’t better, because the game desperately needs bright spots.
Considering the dominance of Unreal Engine, it’s unusual to see a small developer to create their own. DB:R uses Biart’s biEngine to power the game, and it’s nothing if not competent. The visuals won’t impress, but they’re generally appealing. Character models look presentable and textures are sharp with great lighting effects. The engine handles land to water combat very well, and along with the occasional wide-open arena. A few instances challenged the efficiency of biEngine, especially when large enemies made an appearance. The frame-rate would drop, and character animation would chop up badly. I don’t have the most powerful rig around, but it could max out Dead Space 2 and Arkham City with no issue. Thankfully, despite performance hiccups, the game wasn’t made harder because of them.
If there’s any element that excels, it’s the sound design. Weapon effects give loud and sharp reports and explosions are speaker-filling. The game only features a handful of music tracks, but they’re somewhat catchy and fun to listen to, even though they’re often tense, classical-sounding arrangements. As mentioned before, the VO work contains some ridiculous back-and-forths (i.e. “This is the culo that launched 1000 ships”), not to mention bizarre death sounds. It always makes me smile when an enemy sounds like he angrily stubbed his toe, despite the fact that he took a bullet to the head.
Since DB:R is a third-person shooter, all it really needs is satisfying combat mechanics to make up for narrative short-comings. Unfortunately, that is largely absent too. Movement on land is stiff and slow. The game allows you to take cover, though it’s no where near as fluid as a Gears game. You’re given a decent selection of weapons, ranging from rifles and shotguns to mini-guns and rocket launchers. The game’s signature appeal is the strong focus on underwater combat, with around a third of the game’s campaign taking place in watery depths. Oddly, this is the only game (perhaps ever) where I was despondent about having to head back onto land. Not only can you easily move easily within 360° of space while underwater, but your amphibious armor is equipped with a jet boost allowing for fast movement. You can still take cover while submerged, and your reticule locks onto enemies. You can even use your harpoon to pull unwitting soldiers from the surface into the water, ending them as a bloody, gargling mess. Even though most of the game takes place on land, its best moments are spent underwater.
These elements work well enough, and the game provides no shortage of tense shoot-outs. But unlike GoW or even Dead Space, the overall polish and fluidity of movement is lacking. Snapping into cover works inconsistently, while character movement is ridiculously slow when creeping in cover. I learned very quickly that progression means deliberate, slow movement. There’s simply no way to reenact the beefy gymnastics seen in GoW. I would almost be okay with that if the game wasn’t so obtusely difficult. Even on Normal, all enemies are sharpshooters, with mid-game grunts able to take you down in a handful of shots. Far too often, encounters are impossible on the first try, as enemies will wreck you unless you’re in the right place at the right time. The game eschews traditional melee combat for a QTE when an enemy gets close. Tapping ‘F’ has Pierce perform a violent, instant takedown that looks cool but leaves you completely open to gunfire. All too often, I was killed by far-off enemies, because one solider decided he had to get a really good look at me.
On the plus side, the game integrates the Xbox 360 controller well, and even features support for the Razer Hydra motion controller. For those of you who have it, there’s also support for nVidia 3D Vision. The game includes multiplayer with regular Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. However, I never came across another person playing it, and no one ever joined my lobby. Given the rest of the game, it’s safe to say this would have been a fun distraction at best.
There’s a promising core within DB:R, but it’s marred by numerous issues. While there are a few, genuinely interesting experiences, there’s dozens of others that will infuriate you because of the difficulty. The game is definitely above average when it comes to visuals and audio, but the gameplay just isn’t up to snuff. And while the story wraps itself up, it’s not engaging enough to make you ignore the other shortcomings. There’s genuine promise here, but unfortunately, it did not deliver.
Deep Black: Reloaded was provided for review by the publisher. The game was completed in roughly 15 hours. Multiplayer was not accounted for in this review. Deep Black: Reloaded will release on XBLA and PSN later this summer.
I’m a great fan of comedy in video games, intentional or otherwise. This time around, though, we’re looking at quotations of a very different sort. 2004 PC RTS Rome Total War provided something I’d never seen before in this area, and still enjoy now.
In the game, you move your armies and agents across an expansive map of the ancient world, in an attempt to secure dominance for your chosen people. Your forces were represented by a single soldier, the general of that army. When you came across opposition, your view would revert to the battle map. From here, of course, the conflict would play out. Thrilling as it was to command your army in realtime in this way, the events before the battle are the most notable.
Your general will make a rousing speech to his troops to inspire them. What’s interesting is that this monologue will change dramatically depending on the scenario. If facing a nation he has fought often before, the general will assure his men that he’s familiar with these guys and their tactics. If his own side have an advantage in numbers, he will boast of it. If the reverse is true, he will advise caution. Then there were the more specific remarks. Such as my favourite:
“The enemy are strong in cavalry, and this will require inventive thought today, as we lack enough spearmen to counter them.”
In short, actual tactics and skill would be required here. Which is bad news for anyone I’m controlling, as I’ve always been awful at the battle strategy Total War demands. He’s essentially saying we’re pretty well doomed. Try not to make this too embarrassing, eh guys?What precisely he was suggesting, I don’t know. But if inventive thought meant anything other than select all infantry at once and charge, it was all going to go pear-shaped rather swiftly on my end.
My lack of skill aside, this whole concept really impressed me. It contributed hugely to the immersive quality of the game, seeing the members of your ruling family develop individual personalities, virtues and knowledge. It meant that, in Fire Emblem fashion, there was a real pang of regret associated with seeing a character die. For me at least, the speeches from the generals really lent an air of realism to the proceedings. It felt somewhat like being a real Emperor commanding real men. Which, after all, is the intention.
Mass Effect 3 has so much weight in expectations on its shoulders. Leading up to this point, the previous games have done their job in cultivating a rabid but harsh fan base. Everyone has their own opinion on what BioWare should be doing with their most iconic franchise and just like any other great piece of entertaining fiction, it simply will not please everyone. Like Mass Effect 2 to the original, it takes a different approach in design that will no doubt have fans in an uproar. Mass Effect 3 may come off as predictable to some, maybe even arbitrary in spots. – you will not find yourself in disbelief or surprise around any corner you take. Whether or not you view that as a negative or positive thing may tell you how much you’ll enjoy this third game. New players will likely find themselves scratching their heads over much of the story, contrary to what EA may say. Despite not doing a great job of pulling newcomers in, players who have completed the previous games will likely find Mass Effect 3 to be a rewarding experience.
There are some good lookin' environments, again.
The galaxy is at war and this time the heart of the war is located on Earth. The Reapers are invading, and in true, heroic form Shepard is forced to abandon his home world in order to pursue a greater solution. The way you go about this is by uniting the galaxy’s intelligent and capable life. Usually you’ll find yourself in the middle of ancient squabbles between species while doing so, unfortunately many of the ways that you’re allowed to handle these situations can be very short sighted; more like you’re throwing over-sized darts at a dartboard from 40 feet away than carefully placing your shots. The broad-strokes approach is understandable given the time-frame Shepard supposedly has to work in while his/her home world is being completely destroyed, but suspension of disbelief can fail if you over analyze some of the solutions all parties deem acceptable.
Largely, these types of things are what you’ll be doing in Mass Effect 3. Your goal is to build a team on a much larger scale this time, and you’ll encounter some old friends along the way. Mass Effect 3 being true to form, who you encounter and under what context is completely up to your choices in previous games. It’s in this continuity that the heart of Mass Effect remains intact and beating at a healthy rhythm. Sometimes these old friends will be able to join your efforts in uniting the galaxy, and sometimes they’ll have their own business to take care of. The love and care that these specific story threads receive is unmatched by most other writing in the game, and while that’s great news for those of us who adore observing these characters develop over the course of the last two games, it can leave a sour taste when the writing takes a disjointed turn in other important areas.
Flashlights! For whatever reason.
The uneven writing isn’t the only aspect of Mass Effect 3 that has the potential to leave a poor impression – side quests have seen better days. You acquire a good majority of side quests by simply eavesdropping on conversations while on the ever-changing Citadel. People will be having conversations with one another or even on their space cell phones and like an altruistic stalking lunatic, Shepard will then be able to go out and acquire or fix whatever the quest has for him/her. The way the quests themselves are handled is as shallow as how they are acquired. At times you may already have whatever it is the person needs as you overhear them, but the game doesn’t have an inventory system. Keeping track of such things lies squarely upon your shoulders. If you don’t have the item or information in question, you’ll typically find it by doing the main quests in the story. Other times you’ll be scanning planets haphazardly while the galaxy is under siege.
That leads me to one of the main issues I have with this game. You may expect to feel a sense of urgency while the Reapers are ravaging the galaxy near and far. This is not the case in most circumstances (one circumstance withholding). It left me disconnected with the story and the world, so much so that I ended up ignoring the urgency of the one single mission in the game that demands it. Unbeknownst to me, I received a less than favorable outcome for that blunder. Aside from this one instance the game never pressured me to be punctual.
Kaiden is better than space grand wizard Ashley.
There is no mining for minerals in Mass Effect 3, but you can still scan the galaxy and discover hidden resources. Some of these resources will be fuel, some will be credits and the others go directly into the war effort. You’ll find alliance warships and the like which go into your “war assets” bag. Each time you complete a quest, you’ll usually be given some sort of war asset to add to the rest. These assets exist strictly in icon form and will add to your Effective Military Strength progress bar, a new addition that will give you an idea of how successful you will be against the Reapers should you choose to engage them. I didn’t find this system particularly interesting. It’s almost as if someone pulled back the curtain on treadmill game design and put a nice big progress bar center stage.
The combat mechanics are more polished this time around, and objects used for cover are more organic. Weapon mods have made a return, allowing you to quickly slap them on before any mission for extra stats or capabilities. The squad system remains in-tact and friendly AI gets in the way less than earlier games, but it’s still not ideal. The guns finally feel right and have a satisfying pop to them. Leveling works the same way it always has, but this time you start at level 30 if you import a level 30 Mass Effect 2 save. There is a higher level cap in this game, however skipping ahead 30 levels made combat engagements too easy.
You got your Battlefield 3 in my… seriously?
Mass Effect 3 has multiplayer support in the form of a four player co-operative, horde-style mode. You’ll team up with other players and fight waves of enemies in a single locale. I enjoyed my time with the co-op and I think it’s decently executed. You’ll find much of what you’d expect out of a horde inspired mode, ammo caches are strewn about and there is plenty of cover to hide behind. The leveling system found in the single player carries over into the multiplayer which does add depth. There are also different races with their own ability templates to play as. The bronze, silver and gold challenge levels provide more difficulty but enemy spawn locations are static. The predictability of enemy spawns can make the multiplayer boring after a few rounds on each map, but the sheer difficulty that gold challenges provide drew me in. Surprisingly, single-player is also affected by your multiplayer success. As you complete each wave, you add to the “Galactic Readiness” multiplier found in the single-player campaign. This multiplier will take the war assets you’ve acquired and make them even stronger, allowing you to see the third ending of the game if you wish. You do not have to play the multiplayer at all to see this ending but doing so can make it easier on you if you do not wish to complete all of the optional tasks in the campaign.
The whole of Mass Effect 3 is good, fun and interesting to explore and see. The shortcomings and underdeveloped ideas will provide contrast against the well-polished and well-developed areas of the game, and this led me to disconnect with the game world at times. I played the PC version and had a relatively good experience with it although the textures and models look absolutely no different from that of which you’ll find in the console versions. Along with the lack of high-res textures is a lack of game pad support, and I did encounter some very weird bugs. During some key cut-scenes character models completely disappeared, character poses broke in hilarious ways mid-conversation and even had some dialogue cut out completely.
If you are invested in the Mass Effect universe, you’ll want to see how it all ends. If you’re new to Mass Effect, you may not want to start here as the most meaningful parts of the game are how certain parts of the story end, and Mass Effect 3 does not give you much history of the Mass Effect fiction. The dialogue found within is on point, but many plot threads are ignored during the final sequence of the game. Mass Effect 3 is a good game with an ending that left me unsatisfied.
The story is always moving forward
Strong voice acting with some exceptions
Interesting use of multiplayer to affect single-player
Gun-play is at its best
Most of the new characters are interesting
Scanning planets gets dull
Glitches and bugs can ruin some important moments
Some choices are meaningless in the big picture
Co-op could use a little more character
Some important plot threads are ignored during the ending
Most side quests are poorly done; lack of inventory can make them a chore
According to a report this morning from MCV, the next Xbox will be download-only when it is released in 2013. Despite the lack of a disc drive, the report does say that the new console will offer “compatibility with some sort of interchangeable solid-state card storage”.
The report currently pegs the system for release in 2013. The announcement timing is not clear, but it could be announced at E3 in June.
Microsoft has refused to comment on the report but did offer the following statement:
“Xbox 360 has found new ways to extend its lifecycle like introducing the world to controller-free experiences with Kinect and re-inventing the console with a new dashboard and new entertainment content partnerships. We are always thinking about what is next for our platform and how to continue to defy the lifecycle convention.”
Capcom has revealed a new title in the Onimusha series. Titled Onimusha Soul, the game is a browser-based strategy RPG, which of course strays slightly from the series’ roots. This browser-based take on the Onimusha series will be released on desktop and mobile devices.
Continuing with the series’ historical settings, Onimusha Soul is set in the Sengoku era. The game will have a focus on “social” elements as players become warlords and battle for control of Japan. The game will be of the “free to play” variety, but will of course incorporate micro transactions.
Onimusha Soul will hit desktops on June 28 and smartphones in the fall.
Despite none making the NPD Top 10 last month, many 3DS titles have placed in last month’s NPD Top 25. The NPD revealed to Joystiq that the following 3DS titles just missed the Top 10:
Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure
Mario Kart 7
Super Mario 3D Land
Lego Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars
Lego Pirates of the Caribbean
Resident Evil: Revelations
Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games
These high sales are showing some definitely love for Nintendo’s latest handheld, even in the face of the newly released Playstation Vita. As for that handheld, the only title to make it was Uncharted: Golden Abyss which placed in the Top 20.
Japan’s Phantasy Star Online 2 will no longer be PC-exclusive. Sega has announced that the MMO will be making its way to Sony’s latest handheld. There are currently no plans for an international release.
The Playstation Vita version of Phantasy Star Online 2 will work very similar to its PC counterpart. Both versions will share the same servers and your characters will be cross-platforming, meaning you can be immersed in the Phantasy Star Online world for even more hours of the day.
Konami has revealed that Metal Gear Solid HD Edition Vita will be released in Japan on June 28. The game, which features Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, will also incorporate special Vita-only touch controls.
Despite this being a pretty boring announcement, it’s the best we’ve got from the Playstation Vita Game Heaven event, which was a colossal disappointment.
Naughty Dog has revealed dates and pricing on a new piece of Uncharted 3 DLC. Titled Co-op Shade Survival Mode, the DLC will be released on March 13 and feature a battle with the Djinn, which are “demonic specters able to teleport and catch fire”.
On March 13 Uncharted 3 players will be able to pick up the DLC for $5.99. If you’re in the Fortune Hunters’ Club, you will of course be able to download this for free.
John Riccitiello has revealed that Mass Effect 3 has shipped a total of 3.5 million copies worldwide since its release. Even more impressive is that the game sold 890,000 copies in North America in its first 24 hours on sale. This info came at a Media and Telecommunications conference at Wedbush Technology where Riccitilleo said “we anticipated it doing well, so we’re happy”. He also announced that a large amount of download codes for the From Ashes DLC were purchased alongside the game, saying “the tie ratio at the register is the highest in their history”.
Finally, it was confirmed that Bioware’s MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic curretly has 1.7 million active subscribers. Riccitiello described the game as “the most successful MMO through this period in the history of the industry.” He also promised a slew of new content will be coming every quarter along with tutorials, upgrades, and expansions.
Alan Wake PC to be distributed at retail by Legacy Interactive
Remedy’s psychological thriller will be heading to PC via retail in North America thanks to Legacy Interactive. The publisher has been awarded the rights to publish a boxed copy of the PC version of Alan Wake‘s first adventure starting April 3.
“We are thrilled to be bringing such an iconic title to North American retail.” said Steve Wall, Vice President of Legacy Interactive.
“I have been a longtime fan of Remedy’s work. Max Payne was a true masterpiece and Alan Wake follows in its footsteps as a brilliant feat of storytelling and innovative gameplay.”
“Alan Wake is a great product and we are proud about being able to take it to the North American retail customers. In Legacy Interactive we have found a partner who will give the product the focus it deserves, and also ensure best possible market penetration for the PC retail versions,”
commented Egil Strunke, Vice President at Nordic Games. Just like with the digital release of the PC version of Alan Wake, this retail release will come packaged with the game’s two pieces of DLC. It will also have some additional PC-only features such as stereoscopic 3D and multi-monitor support.
It’s no real secret that over the past few years gaming has teetered further into an approved social spectrum. This has affected a number of elements, the types of games produced, the way in which they’re marketed, and something that may have slipped by a number of people: the way in which a user is taught to play the game.
Now that a product is being sold to a larger commercial audience, there’s a good chance that the player hasn’t played that type of game before, or is relatively new to the whole scene. Back in the days of Pacman and the heyday of Nintendo, the adage was “easy to play, hard to master.” However, with newer games with more complex control schemes and more elements to learn and keep track of, the onus now is on teaching a user without alienating them or triggering a violent response where they ground their system into dust.
The emphasis on “pick up and play” is prominent in handheld games more than consoles and PCs, due mostly to their intended audience and marketability. However, consoles more than anything have suffered from a clunky tutorial system because they are the technological middle ground, casual taken up by handhelds like the DS, Android, and Iphone, and the other end of spectrum taken by PC gamers.
Years ago (whimsy incoming), when I was still a kid and surrounded by the SNES and Amiga consoles, I never remembered sitting through a tutorial for any game. Probably because I would’ve flung the clunky system out of the window if I was greeted with a tutorial stage after inserting my tenth, and hopefully final floppy disk into the console. Reflecting on a game like Super Mario World, I don’t recall reading a manual, or having to participate in a tutorial stage or wall of text, I just pushed “A” a couple of times and I was dropped in the first level.
Playing around with the buttons I found what made the little plumber jump, and what made him spin. Sure, I died a couple of times when I didn’t jump over an enemy or were flattened by the giant bomb. In response to this, I didn’t throw a hissy fit and demand my (parent’s) money back or need to engage in a lengthy time-out session in the corner. I picked up the pad and tried again until I got the hang of it. Just look at the intro video to Super Mario World, it teaches the player all they need to know in under 30 seconds with basically every mechanic covered.
That method was how I learnt to play all of my games in the twilight of my youth. Like most things in life, you learn best by “doing” rather than being instructed. This didn’t just go for platformers, but games like Streets of Rage, Paperboy, Puzzle Bobble, Street Fighter. I learned through a combination of playing (which is the whole point), watching, and listening to my friends. I didn’t require a special stage, or a help menu, it was taken on by osmosis. However, we’re not in simple, rose-tinted times anymore. Everything is more complex now, and you’d have a hard time trying to learn and progress through a game without some internal help.
It’s not always the designers fault, as games did used to come with not so much a manual, but a gaming booklet you could easily use as a doorstopper. Things were a little easier back in the day, but times change. Firstly, the human brain may only be able process around 7 “things” at a time. In George A. Miller’s “The Magical Number Seven” he discusses the seven elements and without getting bogged down in the minutia of human memory, when we’re going through a tutorial we’re using our “working memory.” This deals with temporary storage of information that still allows us to pay attention and manipulate it. And like everyone, our concentration can waver if we find something tedious. These are a couple of things that work against making a game enjoyable and in my experience, really detracts from a game if I’m spending half an hour in a tutorial stage as well as being assaulted by new mechanics to keep track of.
A gamer has to be willing to learn, and equipped with enough commonsense to know that this giant, next-gen extravaganza isn’t something they can wing it through. When games were simpler in their control schemes, designers could get away with simpler interfaces, and newer designers have taken this into account. Take first person shooters for example, it’s pretty well established that we move with the left analogue and aim with right, and shoot with the right trigger. That’s no mistake, that facet of muscle memory is a key feature in getting the basic controls out of the way so you have a more streamlined experience.
A game with an effective tutorial
Bethesda usually have their head screwed on straight when implementing a tutorial system. In The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion we start in familiar territory, a nameless individual whose committed a crime or arrived from somewhere. From the get go we’ve established a plausible way of both creating and naming a character, but also leaving them with nothing but their rather fetching prison attire.
After getting used to moving about, we’re dropped right into the story with Professor X who comes to our cell (minus the wheelchair). We’re treated to some quick dialogue and get used to action buttons as we follow him through the under croft. Here we slowly build on our knowledge of our stats and action movements like jumping, attacking, magic, and artillery.
The flow of information is stymied by different choke points so as a player we’re not overwhelmed with information. This is sometimes referred to as the “gauntlet method,” where a player learns a new skill, is given time to get used to it and then taught another. This method could be considered one of the most effective because it doesn’t bog down the flow of action or experience, it uses them as a device to tell the story and play the game. In theory, in the first 15-30 minutes of the game, you are schooled in the core mechanics that allow you to complete the game.
Infuriating things tutorials do
This enrages me to no end. You’ve started playing a game, but before you can gain any real momentum you’re assaulted by a digital seizure of rectangles flying at your screen like a drunken drive through a box factory. Everything you do triggers a box with spurious information. I know “x” is attack, I don’t need to be told a list of combos and pressure buttons on my first enemy, just let me get the hang of it first. I know I need to jump over that ridge or I’ll die, there’s a great pit of black beneath me. I get it.
Dragging me outside of the world
When I play a game I like to be transported to another world, this holds particularly true with Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball, I have the bikini and everything. This may be a little gripe, but I hate seeing characters, and by that I mean someone inhabiting the game world, telling me to “push a button to attack.” It sucks me right out of game, why can’t we just have a non-entity say it, a little bit of text doing the job for us? A much loved game of mine, Tales of the Abyss, does this to wall-banging effect.
Any tutorial where I’m reading a wall of text or watching a video is not engaging. I have to read/watch and then act. Things like this a rarely mutually exclusive, you can have succinct prompts on a screen informing me what to do, rather than saddling me with a lecture.
I’m fine with a choice whether to watch/engage in a tutorial, but when I’m locked in it for a length of time like a cell, I get a little peeved. This turns every tutorial experience into the infamous owl from The Ocarina of Time and makes me want to drop kick my TV.
There have always been issues with how to teach a player, and it should never be shrugged off, or looked at with condescension. You need to imagine the player as something close to toddler, the motor functions are there for the most part, they just need to be developed so they stop banging their head against the table. I find one of the most satisfying things in a game is that moment when I finally finish it, and stare off into the middle distance reflecting for a moment on how much I used to suck at it. If a player makes it that far, then for the most part, you’ve done your job.
When Counter-Strike: Global Offensive was announced, Valve aimed for the game to have a cross-platform feature. This meant that PC, Mac and PS3 players would be able to play with one another regardless of platform they’re playing on. Well, now it seems that feature has been taken out.
Their reasoning for taking it out was due to the team over at Valve wanting to frequently update the PC version and it causing more harm than good in regards to its console brethren. I think it’s best we let Valve’s Chet Faliszek explain it.
The beta has proved we want to update not just the beta, but the game itself post-launch frequently on the PC. To do that we need to separate the platforms so one doesn’t hamstring the other. So for that, we have removed the idea of cross-platform play — essentially make all platforms stronger by not mixing them.
Well, this certainly isn’t good news. Would you rather have the game feature cross-platform play at the expense of stability or did Valve do the right thing?