Monday, November 7, 2011

News Roundup

There's a few recent events I'd like to mention briefly without going into detail. I usually like to focus on design and general gaming issues, but there are a few things I just can't let go at the moment. So here we go...

Steve Jobs is the "most influential person in gaming"
Stop. Stop. Stop it. Stop it right now. This is rubbish. I will not argue that the iPhone has had a significant influence on the gaming industry in recent history, and has led to a vast increase in games on smartphones and other mobile devices (though remember it's not just iPhones now!). If anyone thinks that Steve Jobs was the most influential person in gaming, then they're an idiot, and I expect a more intelligent response from attendees at a gaming conference. I apologise for ranting here, but it really is that simple. Steve Jobs had a great influence on the technology industry, but his involvement in the gaming was indirect at best. If you want to applaud someone, applaud those developers that jumped on board and made products for smartphones, applaud the people who worked out how to integrate accelerometers and touch screens into enjoyable gaming experiences, applaud the people who are actually in the gaming industry and not someone who marketed products that others realised could be used for gaming. Macs were laughable as gaming devices for decades, and the iPhone only became a gaming device because of the work of talented and imaginative developers, so crediting Steve Jobs with this kind of praise is outright insulting to all the people who have dedicated their lives to the gaming industry. To all those who voted, I have one thing to say: shame on you.

Mass Effect 3 Beta Leak
An early version of the Mass Effect 3 beta was accidentally released to players for a short period. While this got people all excited, some of the options available disturbed quite a few fans: modes referred to as Action Mode, Story Mode, RPG mode.  The essence is that "action mode" would see all dialogue occur without player input, and the Story Mode would make combat trivially difficult for those who have difficulty with the shooter gameplay and are just in it for the story. RPG mode would give "the definitive Mass Effect experience" in line with the content of the previous two games. As I declared my worry in a previous post, this seems as though it's trying to garner new fans, but can we really expect many people to pick something that effectively removes the aspect of choice or the combat gameplay when those two combined features have basically been the selling point of the series? It's too early to tell, but this seems to be an effort to "please everyone", which far too frequently ends up pleasing no one.

Ashley looks like she's had cosmetic surgery

Gears of War 3 DLC
Next is the news that the first Gears of War 3 DLC was shipped on the disc that everyone bought. Logically and from a business perspective, the argument for this decision makes complete sense. In a nutshell, the release date was pushed back by several months in which time developer of the DLC was finished, so to save players a forced download (because even people who don't have it will need it) they put it on the disc. Somehow this doesn't sweeten the deal for players who now know they already "possess" that content, they just have to pay in order to use it. I'd like to discuss DLC distribution and practices at length in a future post, so I'll leave that for now. For the meantime, imagine if Epic had decided to release this content for free to everyone. I'm not sure why the release was delayed in the first place (was it going through certification?), but if the only reason was to extend the life of the product, to force people to wait and then pay for content that was already sitting on the disc seems like a poor PR decision to me.

For starters, there's never a whole lot of people player GoW3 online, at least in my region. If I try to get a game, it's frequently filled with numerous bots and typically a handful of very high level players. I first tried MP a couple of weeks after release, and that's how small the online market was then. I imagine they will have already lost some MP players to Battlefield 3, and I wouldn't be surprised if they lose a few more in this coming week because of the release of some new titles...

Modern Warfare 3 Release
Yes, I suppose I have to mention "the most anticipated game ever" if you listen to Activision's hype. To be honest, I would struggle to care less. Modern Warfare 1 was an excellent title, but MW2 was overblown tripe that made me wonder how the same people could have been responsible for the two games. Killing off a protagonist in MW1 was one of the highlights of the game, so in MW2 they killed off multiple protagonists, and made you think that you'd died pretty much every mission that you didn't. It was as though the makers of MW2 were rabid fans of the first game who didn't actually understand what made the game great and just tried to make everything "biggerer and betterer and more awesomest than before". Instead of taking inspiration from classic movies, MW2 just copied them directly - leading to the shower/cellblock area that was effectively copied wholesale from The Rock. MW3 certainly looks as though it's continuing those trend with its Michael Bay-esque trailers filled with explosions and more explosions and landmarks being destroyed, which is a real pity, because I'd really hoped it would return to the heights of MW1. On the plus side, at least if you pick it up, you'll be well and truly finished the single player component before the release of the next big game...

This worked. Modern Warfare 2? Not so much.

Skyrim Release
Now this one I'm genuinely excited about. Having recently finished Red Dead Redemption, I might be on a bit of sandbox overdose, but The Elder Scrolls series are typically filled with so many little sidequests and story based diversions that it is still possible to gorge yourself on plot-driven gameplay. Players will be relieved to know there are 70 different voice actors for Skyrim compared to a mere 12 for Oblivion, so hopefully you won't be hearing exactly the same few voices over and over again. The little snippets I've seen thus far have looked promising, so I'm hopeful that it will deliver many hours of interesting and varied gameplay.

This will definitely jump to the top of my playlist for my gaming between modding sessions, I'll just have to be dedicated enough to make sure it's not the other way around.

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